Seasons 52, located at the University Town Center Mall, reminds us that there are not only 52 weeks in a year, but 4 different seasons worth celebrating. And every time the seasons change, the menu at Seasons 52 changes accordingly, keeping some of their perennial favorites, while featuring seasonal fair in a section called “Chef’s Suggestions.”
The Chef’s Suggestions portion of the menu features dishes that embrace seasonal harvest schedules, highlighting those fruits, vegetables, and seafood that are at the very height of their growing season or migratory pattern. Floridians have long known when Stone Crab season occurs, but did you know that artichokes are best when harvested between March and May? We didn’t!
Our recent visit to Seasons 52 was quite the learning experience. Our server, Michael “H”, offered numerous tidbits of information on why seasonally focused cooking results in better tasting meals. But first . . . an Amuse Bouche of lump crab with fresh guacamole and cilantro.! What a treat!
We ordered a few of Seasons 52’s craft cocktails to start out our meal. Mart ordered the Prairie mule made with prairie organic vodka, ginger beer, and lime and served in the traditional copper mug. (Ginger beer always adds such a “zing” to a cocktail. I was drawn to the Bourbon Berry Bramble, which was proportionally boozy and fruity, and totally refreshing!
Michael “H” took some time to suggest a number of dishes off the Chef’s Suggestion menu, which we happily agreed to try. First off was an out-of-this-world Meyer Lemon & Ricotta Ravioli cooked in brown butter with dices of roasted red peppers and English Peas. Not only beautiful to behold, the ravioli was cooked al dente and then slightly toasted on the grill, adding a little smoky taste to the dish. And the Meyer lemon just pops inside that ricotta filling. I’m totally in love with this appetizer!
Mart was over-the-moon happy with Seasons 52’s Wood-Grilled Artichokes appetizer accompanied by a remoulade seasoned with mustard seed, lemon, dill, and chives. Easily one of the best artichokes Mart’s ever tasted, he declared it one of the best dishes he has tasted in months! The smoky finish on the sliced artichokes was ideal, and I’m pretty sure we’ll never order them any other way from now on! Thank goodness we dropped into Seasons 52 while they’re in season!
Asparagus is also at the height of its growing season, so Michael suggested the Asparagus Soup, which Mart had already had his eye on. Topped with a lemon chantilly cream, this luscious, creamy soup is silly-good . . . meaning it’s so good it’s silly! Fortunately, it’s available in either a cup or a bowl, leaving the option of ordering one as an entree or a starter.
I was in the mood for some fresh greens, and happily ordered Season 52’s popular Spinach Salad from the regular section of the menu. This salad features spring strawberries, pea tendrils, toasted almonds, Gorgonzola cheese and a white balsamic vinaigrette. A 15-year-old balsamic glaze striped over the top of the salad, which Michael so kindly split between Mart and me.
“I didn’t get any pea tendrils,” I said. Michael explained that they were on the top of the salad when he divided it up. “You must have given them all to Mart,” I answered. And within seconds Michael was back with a plate of pea tendrils . . . No one gets slighted at Seasons 52, that’s for sure!
Noticing how many menu items featured wood firing, I snuck over to the open kitchen where I saw Season 52’s Managing Partner, Brandon Kulpeksa walking by the pass-through, personally checking the food coming off the line. Solid management, don’t you think? And, I’m happy to report that there really is a wood grill inside the kitchen, steadily shooting up sparks and flames to kiss a hint of smoke into whatever is grilling just above it.
Seeing that our entrees would be coming up soon, Michael suggested two nice dinner wines to compliment our meals. Mine was a 2015 Schug Pinot Noir (spot-on pairing, Michael!) and Mart ordered a 2014 Glenelly Cabernet Sauvignon. Even though we ordered by the glass, Michael was kind enough to pour from the bottle at the table. Nice touch!
The real show-stopper of the night was the Kona-Crusted Rack of Lamb that was served in the center of the table and quickly claimed by Mart. Kona is a coffee from Hawaii, which is ground into a rub that helps break down the lamb and make it extra tender. Served with sauté vegetables, Yukon Gold mash potatoes, and a balsamic demi-glace, Seasons 52 delivers a real “WOW” with this dish. The lamb was so tender and flavorful, every bit as amazing as the photo would indicate.
I noticed a number of the seafood entrees mentioned the fish was handline caught, meaning the fish wasn’t scooped up in nets. One of the oldest methods of fishing, handline fishing insures there is no bycatch, meaning other fish aren’t sacrificed when my tuna was caught. This is good for the ocean, so I gave myself a quick pat on the back for ordering the Wood-Grilled Handline Tuna as an entrée. Cooked to a pink center, my tuna sat on a bed of nutty black rice and topped with kohlrabi slaw and a sesame-peanut vinaigrette. I loved the combined flavors of the slaw with the tuna.
Seasons 52’s menu excites me. As I read through it I saw so many dishes I couldn’t wait to try. I also appreciated how many of the guests appeared to have stopped by after shopping at the mall, while others appeared to be on dates or celebrating with their family. The decor is contemporarily elegant and unpretentious.
Not ready to let us leave without spoiling us a little longer, Michael presented the Dessert Tray, featuring six mini desserts that sell for $3 each . . . meaning we could try one or two, or the entire tray. Guess what we did?
Looking at the dessert photo as if it’s the face of a clock, the dessert at the 12 o’clock position is the Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte, with a peanut tuile on top. Proceeding clockwise, the next dessert was a Pecan Pie with a vanilla bean mousse, followed by the Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli. At 6:00 is the Belgian Chocolate S’more, featuring a chocolate-dipped graham cracker on top. To the left of it was my favorite of the night . . . the Savory Cheesecake, made with goat cheese, thyme and toasted walnuts. This offered a real surprise flavor after sampling the various chocolate desserts. At the 10:00 position was your classic Key Lime Pie and at the center of it all was a delicious Mocha Macchiato with a caramel sauce.
My suggestion? You may want to get a little crazy and order dessert first!
Some restaurants can be predictable, which works for some diners, but true foodies like seeing inspiration pouring out of the kitchen. The seasonal twist on the menu at Seasons 52 is certainly not predictable. However, you can count on their well-trained staff and attention to detail, both in the dining room as well as the kitchen, to provide an experience you can count on. Although it’s located in a mall, Seasons 52 is somehow able to offer that intimacy you’d want for a date night, the space for family celebrations or the jovial atmosphere you want for a night out meeting friends at the comfy lounge. It’s the total package tied up in the all the delcious flavors of the seasons. Yum!