Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Enjoying the Seasons

Unlike many of my peers, I had a rather uneventful Spring Break this year, with home as my vacation destination. After three straight days of zoning out in front of the TV in my pajamas, however, I decided that I needed to do something somewhat productive with my precious time off from school. Since eating, (as opposed to extra studying), has always counted as a productive activity in my book, I opted to gain some new and exciting culinary experiences in the Atlanta area.

Seasons 52 focuses on fresh, seasonal food that's low in calories and fat
photo from restaurant's official website

One of the places I discovered was Seasons 52, a restaurant chain based in Florida. Before you judge though, let me make it clear that Seasons 52 is not just another Applebee’s or Red Lobster. Seasons 52 distinguishes itself from the pack as a casually upscale grill and wine bar. When I first walked into the restaurant, I sensed a relaxed and unpretentious, yet quietly sophisticated, ambiance. The interior design featured a blend of rich mahogany and cool slate, subdued wall lighting and foliage accents, which provided an intimate and contemporary feel to the space. The restaurant was divided into three main sections - piano and wine bar, dining area with tables and booths and kitchen behind glass dividers. The live jazz music coming from the piano bar, coupled with the bustle from inside the kitchen, created a relaxing yet sophisticated atmosphere.

Another distinctive feature of Seasons 52 is its commitment to serving market-fresh, seasonally-focused meals without sacrificing flavor or nutrition. The “Seasons” part of the name touches on the changing of the menu that coincides with the seasons, while the “52” refers to the weekly switch of soups and vegetables. This is hardly a new concept in restaurant dining, but certainly an innovative undertaking for a chain establishment.

Something else unique about Seasons 52 that you definitely would not see at another food chain - or at any other restaurant, for that matter - is that no menu item contains more than 475 calories! Instead of cracking out the deep-fryer and slathering on the butter, Seasons 52 focuses on cooking techniques such as grilling over open fires and sprinkling generous amounts of herbs and spices to enhance the food’s natural flavors, but not its calorie content. To be honest, I was a little skeptical as to how the food would taste, so I was prepared to be a little unsatisfied, but to my delight, the food made me feel just the opposite.

The first dish that my friend and I sampled was the plum tomato flatbread with fresh basil, roasted garlic and melted Parmesan. All the ingredients were bursting with flavor, without being too overpowering, and the melted cheese on top perfectly balanced out the other flavors. The flatbread wasn’t too greasy or salty, which is usually the problem when I order similar items at other restaurants; this flatbread was the perfect balance of crunchy and chewy without the oily mess.

scallops with sundried tomato pearl pasta from Seasons 52
photo from restaurant's official website

For our entrees, we ordered the roasted crab stuffed shrimp and the caramelized sea scallops. For less than 475 calories, I was expecting child-size portions, so I was surprised to see that each dish was actually what I would expect a healthy, moderate-portioned meal to look like. The shrimp was sautéed with a medley of asparagus and peppers in a light garlic sauce and then stuffed with oven-roasted crabmeat. The chef definitely did not skimp on the crabmeat, as each shrimp was thoroughly and properly stuffed, which cannot be said about food at even the more upscale restaurants. The shrimp and crab were delicious - perfectly cooked, popping with flavor and fresh-tasting. The dish was accompanied with a wedge of grilled lemon, which I squeezed over the seafood; the fresh lemon juice added a pleasant “zing” to the shrimp and complemented the garlic flavor from the sauce.

The other dish we ordered was the sea scallops. They were grilled and served over a bed of roasted asparagus and sundried tomato pearl pasta. The scallops were fantastic - juicy and a little smoky from the grill. The pasta, with the pieces of sundried tomato, was also a standout and went very well with the scallops. All the vegetables featured in both dishes were fresh, crisp and vibrant, which added to the simple yet beautiful presentation. And nothing was drowning in sauce, which was a pleasant change; for once, the flavors of the dish came from the actual food, and not the sauce covering it.

Even the desserts are guilt-free “mini indulgences,” which come in three-ounce shot glasses that contain no more than 300 calories. The menu includes everything from strawberry cheesecake to key lime pie. We settled on the mocha macchiato and pecan pie, which were both rich and creamy and completely satisfying with only a few bites, which is how dessert should be enjoyed.

My experience at Seasons 52 was completely refreshing as it is not everyday when you come across a restaurant where good food and healthy food are not considered to be mutually exclusive. And what about those in the Philadelphia area that are dying to have a taste? Well, good news - Seasons 52 just opened up a new location in Cherry Hill, NJ, which is definitely a feasible - and worthwhile - trip!

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...