Groundhog Be Damned! Seasons 52 Launches Spring Menu

Posted by on Mar 21, 2012 in Dining, Jacksonville | One Comment

In Florida, spring routinely swings our way weeks early, regardless of what one overhyped furry creature in Pennsylvania might sometimes suggest. So you might expect that, to a bunch of jaded Floridians getting sand between their toes in February, this vernal equinox thing is a a month late and some sunscreen short.

But if you’re a foodie like me and you score an invite to the Seasons 52 Spring Menu Launch, the equinox means something. Think artichoke and lambchop glamour shots and lighthearted hashtag harassment among your fellow diners (via Twitter). All in good fun, and as Darden’s newest concept in Jacksonville proves without reproach, all in great food.

So on March 20, about 15 self-professed food bloggers, food lovers (I’m in some limbo contest between those first two) and news media types converged on spring, and the changing of Seasons’ menu, with a fair-and-balanced assessment in the Jacksonville restaurant’s Napa Room. This multimedia-equipped private dining area also connected us to the Flagship Orlando restaurant via webcast, where Master Sommelier George Miliotes and Culinary Director Cliff Pleau navigated our group (and several other not-quite-as-cool-as-us Seasons’ tasters) through the hows and whys of the spring sampling. Think virtual press conference, with us hungry media people lobbing our tweets at the podium some 150 miles away.

Artichoke-Stuffed Artichoke Leaves and Flatbread shared the opening stage for us hungry foodies at Seasons 52's Spring Menu Launch.

Of course a video feed alone wouldn’t pacify this unruly group. Only plates of exotic bites tinged with garlic, truffle oil and arugula would do. And our attentive wait staff didn’t leave us hanging, delivering porcelain and stainless platters chock-full of family-style morsels. I started my evening with the Zardetto Prosecco, an engaging, vibrant white that was like a Taser to my sweet tooth. It set the stage for my palate to progress to Seasons’ signature flatbreads (Ripe Plum Tomato and Artichoke & Goat Cheese), where basil, balsamic onion and roasted peppers perfectly balanced the sweetness with mature zest. Then arrived the Artichoke-Stuffed Artichoke Leaves, sleds loaded down with you-know-what in fields of coarse Parmesan and balsamic glaze. I practiced my vertical stacking of these now-empty sleds in a move that surely would have embarrassed most conventional dining companions (but foodies, like the celebrated honey badger, don’t care).

Next up was the salad, and a plethora of “good fat” in the Tomato & Haas Avocado Salad. Think of oversized chunky salsa tossed about a torrid sea of organic arugula, balsamic glaze and grilled bruschetta. If you prefer your veggies finely chopped and pureed to insignificance, let this dish pass you by. I would have opted for a tad-bit more spice (read: jalapenos), but as presented it was thoroughly enjoyable.

Kick it up to 88 in the DeLorean and we’re approaching the entrees – Columbia River Steelhead Trout and Lamb T-Bone Chops. The former was a solid contender – mild but not as flavorful as I would have liked. Blame it on Mrs. Paul or the Gorton’s Fisherman while I was growing up, but I still can’t get used to skin-on filets. The accompanying spring vegetables were crisp and delightful, as was the basmati rice and lemongrass sauce (although I would have liked some more kick in the sauce). The lamb chops were divine, simple as that. From tenderness to flavor to portion size, this was the big-screen star to beat this evening, along with supporting actor Oscar nominations for the asparagus and truffle mashed potatoes. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “I’ll be back.”

The stars of the show: Lamb T-Bone Chops with Asparagus and Truffled Mashed Potatoes

Aside: The Spicy Snow Peas & Shiitake Mushrooms with roasted almonds were a welcomed addition to my plate, offering a sweet and spicy balance the entrée plate needed.

And last, but never least, all of us skimped on a seventh lamb chop (excepting our No-Meat March participants … God bless you) to stretch our stomachs for Seasons’ signature Mini Indulgences. The restaurant pioneered the concept of tasty treats in shot glasses nearly 10 years ago, and the original formula does not disappoint. If you’re a chocolate lover, by all means, go for the Rocky Road. Other noteworthy MIs include the mango cheesecake, key lime, red velvet, strawberry shortcake … and five others that make my stomach ping me in a readiness posture. For the record, I did consume one of the fresh fruit MIs, which unfortunately garners ire and neglect from most of our sugar-happy brethren. They don’t know what they’re missing. I’ll be missing a mile or two from my run tomorrow because I swayed from the sweet side momentarily.

Of course no meal at Seasons is complete without a parade of Mini-Indulgences.

Our hosts paired each of the above courses with an appropriate vintage, so there was no lack of whining at our tables. I don’t gravitate toward the grape in most situations, though, but for those who do, Seasons does an admirable job of seeking out small-production vineyards and “before they were famous” labels, often offering them exclusively at S52.

It goes without saying that our wait staff was impeccably trained (the Darden way), well-mannered and eager to remove plates, replace silverware at every course and ensure we were ready to “reload.” Executive Chief Partner Stephen Hicks joined us to fill in the gaps when George and Cliff were offline, and Field Sales Manager Amy Drafts was an engaging hostess as always.

Spring at Seasons 52 is a special time, with special people devoted to creating special moments for their diners (no matter what that silly groundhog sees). Visit the Seasons 52 website for the complete spring menu, and call 904.645.5252 for reservations.



1 Comment

  1. Devon
    March 21, 2012

    Light-hearted hashtag harrassment? Yes, yes indeed.

    But thanks. This post now makes me feel like a massive slacker in the food blogger department. Great photos though!