Review: Using locally grown, sevenstrong creates unconventional dining experience in Northampton
MassLive, April 20, 2017, by Fran Bellamy
At sevenstrong, a downtown Northampton eatery that opened in September 2016, the idea of “local” seems to be equal parts ideology and business strategy.
Co-owner and executive chef Jonathan Adler has committed sevenstrong to using only that which is grown or produced locally, and the result is one of the region’s most unconventional dining experiences.
“Eclectic” is a word we’d mostly retired from our review-writing vocabulary, but in the instance of sevenstrong it’s the ideal adjective to describe the house style, both decorative and gastronomic.
The restaurant’s furnishings and decor are an engaging assortment of thrift shop gleanings paired with locally produced fine art, while an open kitchen arrangement offers behind-the-scenes glimpses of the culinary staff’s on-the-job intensity.
Since it’s dependent on the seasonality of local sources, the menu at sevenstrong is a perpetual work-in-progress. The agenda in force during early April included “small plates” such as Rutabaga Spaghetti with meat ragu ($16) and an Open-Faced Corned Beef Sandwich ($15). Grilled Butterkin Squash with steamed cabbage and sage honey ($29) was one of the larger, entree-style offerings.
House-made charcuterie options included beef and pork terrines (each $9), while locally sourced cheese selections include a Great Hill Blue from Marion, MA and a semi-soft Pawlett from Vermont (both $9 each).
We began one meal by sampling Adler’s Chicken Liver Mousse ($9). Sealed under a thin layer of grape jelly, the mousse had an elegantly silken texture and an earthy liver character. The jelly layer added hints of fruity sweetness as we spread the mousse onto the house-made crackers provided.
A small portion of grilled sauerkraut – it had a subtle, lactic acid character — was offered as a flavor foil.
For our next course we ordered Crushed Potatoes ($13), one of the listed small plates. A “bowl” style presentation, it featured “smashed” spuds and chunks of white fish; thin-cut leek and house-prepared potato chips garnished the main elements of the presentation. A poached egg contributed richness, while a dusting of leek ash served to spice the presentation.
We moved on to a cheese course of Harbison ($9), a soft-ripened variety from Vermont. Served with house crackers and a ramekin of not-too-sweet strawberry jam, the cheese reminded us of a Camembert.
For a second main event we focused on Pork Roulade ($31), a “large plate” effort. It’s sevenstrong’s practice to buy whole animals and “use it all,” so the roulade reflected that philosophy, employing pork skin as a wrapper for thick, house made sausages.
Steamed and sliced, the sausages were arranged on a plate, topped with dressed arugula, and garnished with pickled-on-premises carrot flowers.
The roulade proved to be a dish about which we had trouble becoming enthusiastic. The pork reminded us of canned luncheon meat, albeit somewhat less dense in texture and “cleaner” in flavor, while the pig skin wrapper had a fatty intensity that quickly became cloying.
However, the pickled carrot flowers, sweet and delicately crunchy, were a pleasant surprise.
Neither salad nor bread comes with plates large or small at sevenstrong. A share-able loaf of first-rate, made-there Bread ($3) is available; it’s paired with a smoked “brown” butter.
Fully licensed, the restaurant offers a carefully curated wine list as well as cocktails and beer.
Sevenstrong creates all its own desserts, offering options such as Cranberry-Buttermilk Pie ($3), Blueberry Lavender Cream Puffs ($6), and Lemon Verbena Ice Cream ($7) garnished with wild berries and fresh herbs.
A Ginger Parsnip Cake ($6.50) used its namesake vegetable to create a moist, mildly spicy experience for which carrot cake had been the obvious inspiration. Topped with buttermilk icing and garnished with streusel, it made for a suitable finale.
A likeable maple mousse was the prime element in our Maple and Milk ($8) dessert. Dusted with finely shaved ice milk, drizzled with syrup, and garnished with toasted whole grain, the presentation was an equally successful way to end a meal.
In addition to his a la carte creations, Chef Adler offers four- and seven-course tasting menus, as well as a custom-designed, by-reservation-only, extended tasting.
Address: 7 Strong Avenue, Northampton
Telephone: (413) 341-3395
Hours: Dinner served Wednesday through Sunday 5 to 9 p.m. (Bar open nightly from 5 p.m. to 11p.m., later on weekends)
Entree prices: $12- $31
Credit cards: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Handicapped access: Step at entrance, restrooms equipped for wheelchair use