Learning what's new at Seasons 52

Oftentimes restaurant managers are so busy running their restaurant that you don't get to have time for a good conversation. But when you get the chance, it can be very informative. Such was the case this week when I went to check out Seasons 52's new winter menu.

all to ourselves!

After a bit of holiday shopping at Arden Fair Mall my BFF and I stopped in for dinner. I had met Managing Partner Andrew Byers before and discussed that the dining room lighting was not really conducive to good food pictures and so this night he and his Service Manager, Patrick Volner, set us up to dine in the Sonoma Room, one of the two private dining rooms they use for group bookings. We had the whole dining room to ourselves and we loved it.  Should  you need to book a private room, both the Sonoma and Napa rooms come fully set with A/V capability should you need media.

The last time I wrote at length about Seasons 52 was when they first opened in 2013. At that time the menu items had a 475 calorie limit which was accomplished by using whole ingredients and healthier cooking techniques such as grilling and steaming. This might have inadvertently created an assumption that it was a diet restaurant instead of a healthier fine dining one.

Almost a year ago they decided to allow for higher calorie items. "We wanted to offer some items for people who were not concerned about calories and wanted to indulge a little bit more," said Byers. "We wanted to make sure that we had something for everyone and not just guests looking for a healthy eating place. The majority of the menu is still under 475 calories and the items that are over are not over by much. We still pay strict attention to how we prepare those items and not to over indulge in the recipe making."

highly recommend the Brussels sprouts

A good example would be something like the Lobster Pappardelle on the winter menu. While it's over 700 calories, that's considerably lower than a 1000+ version you might find at a competitor restaurant because Seasons is taking steps to create an indulgent dish, but on the healthier side with less fat. 

The menu keeps changing as well. Normally Nantucket bay scallops and Dungeness crab would have been added by now, but due to prolonged closures of their respective fisheries, these items are on hold until available. 

Sacramento is luckier than other Seasons 52 locations because we are in such a great climate area where we have seasonal produce all year long. I did have to ask why the Nantucket scallops then. Byers explained that sometimes they do like to ship in the best quality items that will draw customers in that are familiar with them. In the case of the Nantucket scallops, one of the few items flown in to Sacramento, their reputation is so good that they are prized by scallop fans.

We are also blessed by being in wine country. The Sacramento Seasons is the only location that has wine on tap, direct from the winery. As Volner explained, this is how the wine is intended to be tasted, without having been exposed to air. There are two wines on tap at a time. Currently they were a Matchbook Chardonnay and a Crusher Petit Syrah, which my BFF enjoyed immensely.

We started with an amuse bouche tasting of the Butternut Squash Soup. It was creamy with a distinct caramel flavor.

My BFF chose the Beef Short Ribs which come with cheddar grits and horseradish crema. It was wonderfully succulent and was made even better by their excellent caramelized Brussels sprouts side dish. It paired well with the Petit Syrah.  

I chose the New York Strip Steak. This is always on the menu, but how they prepare it (sides, topping) changes with the seasons. Currently it has soy garlic marinade, charcoal roasted vegetables, Yukon mash, and a 15-year aged balsamic drizzle. Byers explained that often a restaurant will say X ounce steak only for you to trim off an ounce or two in fat and gristle. This NY Strip was 13 ounces of meat because they trim it down to a 13 ounce size. It was perfectly cooked to medium rare and the accompaniments meant that I didn't need to use any salt or pepper.

During the course of the meal we had been served by Bryan. When I asked how long Bryan had been with Seasons he surprised me with his answer — since it opened and he transferred from the Seasons in Miami! Turns out it is very easy to transfer among Darden restaurants and Bryan had been in the mood for a change. He was happy to sing the praises of the Seasons group, saying that he's worked at several restaurants but stays and loves Seasons because the management is so good. He mentioned that they take care to hire quality staff with great personalities and that is what makes service so great for guests.

Finally it was time for the Mini Indulgences, an assortment of mini parfaits. Guests can choose one or more and the small size is meant to allow them a way to indulge their sweet tooth without an excess of calories. I questioned why, if they were upping some calorie counts now, they didn't have a few full size desserts. Byers said, "People have enjoyed getting to choose their own dessert as opposed to having to get one large dessert and share with others. We find that it allows people to get exactly what they want and the possibility of sampling more than one dessert, not having to choose just one thing."

If you are in the Arden area and looking for fine dining, then check out Seasons 52.