the seasons are changing! all 52 of them. they have now changed over to “summer mode”, also known as “nightmare mode” in florida. out with the free love and other hippie ideals of spring, and in with the scorching heat and stifling humidity of summer. not to mention, delicious summer foods! yes, summer is filled with distinct flavors. much as the pumpkin serves fall as its special bitch-fruit, summer has the watermelon! instead of winter’s irish hot cocoa, we have tom collins! but nowhere is the changing of the seasons more evident than at seasons 52, chain restaurant/place of worship, where they rework their whole menu to correspond with the current season, and to PLEASE THE GODS OF OLD. our local chapter was kind enough to ask me to come sample their new dishes.
we were, as last time, treated to a live web-cast of seasons 52 chef clifford pleau and wine enchanter george miliotes. it was, yet again, magical, and they walked us through the entire menu that we were about to sample ourselves. also, we learned that the chef likes wine for breakfast**!! omg you guys, seriously he said this lolololll.
**consumption of alcohol may lead to better dancing, increased socialization, and temporary happiness. despite this, tampabayfood.com does not endorse alcohol for breakfast. these guys can help: alcoholics anonymous.
so that was fun. OH AND WE WERE GIVEN A SPECIAL SENDOFF BY A CERTAIN POPULAR AND TOTALLY RELEVANT CELEBRITY:
(they’re not screaming about enrique, but that’s what we were all like, and probably what you’re doing right now.)
YES. if you weren’t already sold on seasons 52, now you have a b-list celebrity’s endorsement to convince you! you have to love it now! but, if you’re some lame stickler who only cares about how the food tastes, not who claims to enjoy it, let’s take a look at the menu.
we began with wine and flatbreads. this time, they unveiled the amazing barbecue chicken flatbread, which kicked the other ones’ asses. probably because barbecue chicken feels more substantial than plum tomato or artichoke and goat cheese. the sauce and chicken were really good, but it was not too heavy, so it still retained its light appetizer feel. their flatbreads are good, though not the most amazing thing in the universe; don’t believe enrique’s lies.
we also were treated to some delicious cocktails before our meal, which didn’t happen last time. this, combined with all the wines we got (a glass per course) resulted in more intense inebriation by the end of the meal, and probably a higher opinion of the food. it was clearly a genius move on their part, and i love them for it.
the first was the watermelon refresher, which was, according to my notes, “SO FUCKING GOOD!” made with a white rum, this thing was like drinking a watermelon. it was juicy and sweet, with a lightly fruity flavor like a real watermelon. you would be tasting the same thing if you mashed a watermelon with your fist and licked its wet remains. except this is gonna get you krunk.
the watermelon refresher was quickly followed by the strawberry lemon cocktail, which was made with a darker rum than the watermelon. it was a very different drink. this one featured muddled strawberries, and as a result was a much more substantial drink, and far fruitier. it was a little bit tart. basically, it was like drinking a strawberry.
both drinks totally hit the mark and were delicious. choosing between them comes down to which fruit you like more.
the actual meal began with the very light lobster and shrimp spring rolls. the lobster and shrimp were excellent, very fresh. the rolls served as a conveyance for the three types of sauces they came with: the green, a very light, barely there sauce tasting of fresh cilantro and mint; the yellow, a buttery, creamy, lemony sauce; and the red, a sweet chile sauce with a hint of bite to it. all the sauces were good, and i kept alternating between them as i ate. the red was probably best, but really they all stood on their own.
the rolls were served with the hirsch #1 grüner veltliner, some kinda white wine. thing. it was a light, fresh, bright and bubbly wine with a bit of a spice to it that really complimented the rolls, and a lingering acidic burn. the overall impression of the dish was clean and refreshing, perfect for that 125° summer weather.
a nice arugula salad with watermelon was also served with the wine and spring rolls. the salad was great, served with a soft goat cheese, watermelon slices, and pistachios. there was a noticeable spiciness from the arugula, and the pistachios provided a good nuttiness. the watermelon was good, though it did seem kind of just chucked in there for “summersies”. but that cheese! jesus, it was so soft, so smooth… a perfect cheese. incredible. i would make sensual, quiet love to this cheese.
the wine played well off of the spiciness of the salad, bringing it back out a second time.
next was an interesting dish, the vegetarian tasting, which consisted of several individual parts, all with a bit of a latin flair. these were served with the honig sauvignon blanc.
there was “the grains of life”, which is a terrifying title and possibly the basis of an indiana jones movie, but actually consisted of quinoa and farro, which are grains presumably grown in hell. the dish was served cold, which was a bit surprising and almost off-putting, but once we were warned, it actually seemed like the right thing to do. it was sweet, almost dessert-like, like a rice pudding. the wine brought out a bit of nutty flavor in the dish.
there was grilled tofu with a mango chutney, which had a good saltiness and spiciness to it. the mango didn’t do much for me and was kind of unnecessary here, though obviously the tofu is not going to stand on its own. there were tomatoes with cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette, which were extremely fresh tasting, with a good cheese.
finally, the last two parts were the most familiar: the chile relleno, and a taco. i love chile rellenos, and was a bit surprised by what we got here. usually they are fried chiles, and in fact that is what was shown to us during the webcast; however, this was not fried on the outside. it shocked and confused me, but instead of walking out, i decided to eat it anyway. it was good, and there was an almost meaty quality to its innards despite their being vegetarian (mushrooms, spinach, and cheese), but it wasn’t what i was expecting. the taco, with a nice, delicious guacamole, suffered from featuring black beans, something i personally just can’t get behind. others like it. i do not.
all in all, this dish has a lot of variety, and it’s really a lot of fun. it’s quite substantial for a vegetarian course, and i would get it again.
next was everybody’s favorite, the wild alaskan copper river salmon. this was just a simple and beautiful dish, as salmon tends to be. it was soft, delicious, buttery… smooth and glorious. just slightly peppery. i could spend hours just eating this, growing fat and disgusting, without a care in the world. it’s good fucking food. it was served with a corn risotto, which always tastes like down home love to me. sweet and creamy. the whole meal was satisfying in the same way steak and potatoes is; a good, hearty meal.
it was served with the chehalem inox chardonnay, a sweet and syrupy wine that was prepared, rather than in wooden casks, in metallic ones, resulting in a completely unique flavor. it allows the fruit to stand on its own, and provided us with a lightly sparkly, acidic wine that worked well with the meal, especially the risotto.
finally, the piece de resistance, the piedmontese bone-in strip steak. bonin’ strip steak. aww yeah. so the joke with seasons 52 is that everything is super healthy. i don’t know the ins and outs of that sort of thing, as i do not fully understand how to assess even basic nutritional information, but apparently everything is within a certain “healthiness range”. and somehow, making use of all sorts of pacts with various gods, seasons 52 has delivered unto us a full 11oz steak that is somehow not supposed to cause you to die young. these “piedmontese” cattle, apparently named after a [seperate??] breed of cattle from italy, is so healthy that you can eat the entire cow and only suffer a mild stroke.
the steak is served with a red wine reduction sauce and mushrooms, with asparagus and “fingerling potatoes” on the side. these potatoes are tiny and weird and will haunt my dreams. the steak is great – straight up grilled beef. it’s not breathtakingly tender, but it’s a solid steak. well prepared, nice and pink on the inside. the mushrooms and sauce are non-intrusive, and compliment the beef well. this is a hearty meal, and i think the main draw is the fact that you have a gigantic chunk of meat that won’t put you in your grave. i don’t know what any of this has to do with summer, but it’s awesome.
the wine, the markham cellar merlot, was ridiculously smooth, warm, with a big flavor and legs for days. it needs the food to work properly, but there’s a nice fruity flavor waiting in there.
and once again, we were treated to a giant fucking carousel of dessert shots. the mini-indulgences, as they’re known, come in a variety of flavors. i went with a couple fruity dairy types, starting with the blueberry cheesecake. this featured an almost upsettingly rich cheesecake base, which is quite possibly too rich to stand on its own as a cheesecake (luckily there wasn’t too much of it there). it was accompanied by perfect little blueberry dudes.
…and the raspberry cannoli, which is a new indulgence for seasons. this thing was perfect. i love cannolis, and this had great, sweet, creamy filling that wasn’t actually filling the shell at all. i dipped the crispy container into the cream, eventually demolishing it in a sugar-induced frenzy, and was forced to use a spoon like a heathen. it was incredible. and the fresh raspberries were a perfect touch.
the desserts were all served with jam jar moscato, a light, bubbly, drinkable, but definitely sweet wine. its alcohol does play against the sweetness of the desserts, which is nice. it’s a bit much for me, as sweet wines often are, but it was good.
and that’s it! whew! yeah, they threw a lot at us. by the end, we were all toasty, and the resulting DUI i received is a testament to that. totally worth it. the menu is solid, and, though at times stretching to be “summer-tastic”, was superb throughout. and the pairings, though not necessarily as illuminating as last time, still provided us with several outstanding, unique wines i’d never have had elsewhere. if for nothing else, checking back with seasons 52 every menu change for the wines is completely worth it. this place is great.