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Seasons 52 (Return)

26 Mar

Spring has sprung, both in the weather and food industry here in Indianapolis. I had the pleasure of attending a media dinner to preview the Spring menu for Seasons 52 (which is now available!) which included a webcast with the Director of Culinary, Chef Clifford Pleau, and Master Sommelier, George Miliotes. After the filling Fall menu preview, I anticipated a night of delights in both food and wine. That, and extraordinary service, were exactly what I received.

I arrived to a glass of Zardetto Prosecco with strawberry kir royal – a drink to get anyone in the Spring mood. It was not as sweet as I was anticipating, bringing out the natural strawberry sweetness of the strawberry infused bubbly. To compliment  the drink, a few appetizers were being passed around. These included a tomato flatbread, artichoke & goat cheese flatbread, and artichoke-stuffed artichoke leaves. I had a bite of each, my favorite being the tomato flatbread. Roasted garlic brings a deep, earthy flavor to the tomatoes, a freshness of basil elevates it with the salty Parmesan cheese melted on top. And I was impressed to see that the flatbread was crisp, not soggy from the toppings. I can’t say the same for the artichoke and goat cheese, though I still liked the flavors. Anything with creamy goat cheese will win me over, but I really enjoyed the flavor of the balsamic onion that was part of the flatbread. The other appetizer, artichoke-stuffed artichoke leaves, though beautiful in presentation didn’t do much for me. It was difficult to eat while standing and the texture was mushy. A combination of Parmesan, peppery arugula and rich, reduced balsamic glaze worked well in flavor, just not texture. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of any of these due to the atmosphere. There are some other appetizers I would really be interested in on the menu, including a chicken chile relleno and goat cheese ravioli.

We sat down and began the webcast. It was really great to see both Pleau and Miliotes showcase the ingredients and explain the pairings for the meal in a casual yet professional presentation. You could see their passion in the concepts, which carried over into the food that we ate that evening prepped by Executive Chef Partner Bill Erath and the local Seasons 52 team.A friendly banter between the two was a breath of fresh air, not stuffy by any means, and I appreciated them taking the time to answer questions via twitter from Seasons 52 across the country.

We began with a perfect Spring salad, tomato and Haas avocado salad. Creamy avocado was cut into large chunks with a tomato that tasted like it just came out of a garden. A spicy arugula seemed to season the two vegetables perfectly while a beautifully reduced balsamic glaze brought the dish together. There was a sherry vinegar toss that made the dish even more creamy by breaking down the avocado just slightly, creating a perfect dressing for the salad. All of this was perfect when paired with the grilled bread – a perfect crisp char gave it a crunch that was welcomed with the otherwise creamy dish. A glass of Aveleda Vinho Verde added a crisp, clean taste to freshen and cleanse the palate with each sip.

The parade of entrees began soon after. All smaller portions were served to us, but the chef did prepare what a regular portion would look like for us to see. Here is a recap of the three entrees we had:

  • Columbia River Steelhead Trout served with Botani Moscatel – this was hands down my favorite dish of the evening. Trout , cooked with skin on to ensure all the flavor stayed with the fish, flaked perfectly with a fork. An Asian flavor combination of lemongrass infused vegetable broth made the dish light and refreshing. A clean and beautiful presentation, a bed of basmati rice was also cooked with the lemongrass broth. Perfectly crisp edamame and snow peas mixed into the rice keeping with the Asian inspiration. And finally, I really enjoyed the light, citrus flavor from the grilled lemon, which produced much more juice than I could anticipate. I hesitate to say I would have liked a few more cremini mushrooms, but really, this dish was fantastic. I’d order it again in a heartbeat. And the sweeter in smell than in taste wine paired great with the dish.
  • Lamb T-bone Cops served with Allegrini Palazzo della Torre Corvina Veronese – this is a dish where you would say “is this really under 475 calories?!” due to the richness, steakhouse feel of the dish. It is something many Midwestern taste buds would throw down for (yes dad, you would love this!) The lamb was cooked perfectly to a pink, medium rare with the char 52 spice blend adding the perfect spice and crunchy crust to the meat. And if it wasn’t decadent enough, the mashed potatoes elevated with a dash of truffle oil brought even more luxury to the dish. A deep, red wine reduction took it up one more notch and played nicely with the crisp yet tender asparagus. I like to think this is what Seasons 52 is all about – showcasing healthy and flavorful food that proves you don’t need to add a lot of fat to get one amazing dish. A bold, peppery glass of red wine left a slight dryness on the tongue, standing up to the lamb on it’s own feet was served rightfully so with the dish.
  • Spicy Snow Peas & Shitake Mushrooms served with Lioco Indica Rose – An Asian BBQ was the star of this dish. Tangy and robust with toasted sesame seeds, a spicy chili sauce complimented the crisp snow peas and ‘meaty’ in texture shitakes. I really liked the crunch of the roasted almonds. The rose was better than anticipated as it was refreshing and only semi-fruity in flavor. Worked perfectly to balance the spicier than anticipated side dish of veggies.

Of course, no dinner is complete at Seasons 52 without a mini indulgence – or in our case, tastes of many mini indulgences. Out of the variety available, I was able to get my hands on a pecan pie with vanilla mouse (SO delicious – crunchy, creamy, sweet, savory, all the flavors of a dessert one may want!), key lime pie (tart in the most perfect way, creamy and refreshing), Mejer lemon (a little too much for me, it was more subtle than I anticipated and almost fake in flavor) and a bite of the Belgian chocolate rocky road (overdose of chocolate – this is any chocolate lovers dream, though it wasn’t my favorite). Also available are the mocha macchiato, chocolate peanut butter mousse, carrot cake, and fresh fruit. We were able to enjoy a sweet dessert wine, Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling, with each sweet nibble.

Yes, the food was very good. I do have to say, the service was also pretty fantastic. We had the pleasure of enjoying the company of Chef Erath, Barbara Rafalowski (managing partner), and Rokeena Williams (sales manager). All three stayed to answer questions after the dinner. I was impressed with their professionalism and knowledge of the restaurant and the industry. The three women who were the servers (I apologize for not having all their names) were absolutely wonderful. My fault entirely for not grabbing their business cards as I thought I had so I can’t give them all the credit they deserve. Make a note of that – if you have great service, you should grab the servers card because you can request them for when you return (which I’m sure you will). I have been to Seasons 52 a few times now and each time the service is absolutely perfect, always knowledgeable and never overbearing.

Hoping I can get back to try a few more items of their Spring menu before it goes away. Anyone else been lately and try their new seasonal menu? Would love to hear what you thought!

Note: though the meal was complimentary, opinions are honest and all my own.

Seasons 52 * 8650 Keystone Crossing * Indy, 46240 * 317.677.2589

Seasons 52 on Urbanspoon

Late Harvest Kitchen

16 Mar

A nice, weekday meal is sometimes all one needs to get through the week. And when you have something like Northside Nights to entice you, it makes it a treat to try something we may normally save for the weekend. Hubs and I ventured out to Late Harvest Kitchen on the Northside, located in a mini-mall at Keystone at the Crossing. It has been open since November and I’ve seen it a few times driving through the area – Northside Nights provided the perfect time for us to try it out.

Before I start, I have a confession. Prior to entering the restaurant, hubs and I almost didn’t enter. We were casual – he in jeans and a polo while I was in khakis, top and jean jacket. From outside, we saw a lot of dresses and suits. This put me off – I knew it said ‘fine dining’ that day when I read more about the restaurant, but I guess it didn’t register. We decided to give it a go anyway – glad we did. No one even flinched when we were in the restaurant not matching the attire around us. Once seated, we were fine and more relaxed, but there was that first few minutes of “oh man” feelings on our own account, not by the patrons or staff. Just a note when you try it out (because after you read, you’ll know why you have to go.)

On top of that, we were early for our reservation. However, the hostess greeted us warmly and sat us promptly at a half booth table combination. I loved the decor – sleek and modern. Dark wooden tables and simple leather chairs, blues and grays. There was a level of clean, modern simplicity to the restaurant. No fluff, no gimmicks – it was about the food. And that was made apparent when our server approached us and immediately explained the food on the menu. He seemed to really know the food well, being trained spot on and having tried much by the way he described taste and texture. Hubs had a glass of Goose Island’s Matilda and I a glass of Cabernet in hand very quickly as we perused the menu.

Hubs decided to stick to the Northside Nights menu, choosing gumbo as his appetizer. I couldn’t help but wander off the path, especially after our server was describing the delightful menu. I settled on a few of the small plates as hubs and I decided to split whatever was put in front of us. I began with the brussel sprouts salad, which was delivered very quickly with hubs gumbo. His gumbo was lackluster, which was disappointing as I was really anticipating something great. There was a rustic taste, but it was lacking salt. And at a restaurant like this, salt and pepper are not on the table. But, the serving was very large which was quite a pleasant surprise to both of us.  The andouille sausage was spicy and the shrimp still tender despite simmering in the thick gumbo liquid. Not a total loss by any means.

The brussel sprouts salad was absolutely fantastic. The sprouts were shredded and raw having a great crispness and natural depth to them. They were lightly dressed with a citrus tang, which really complimented the earthy almonds spread all over. A hard boiled egg added a slight creaminess to each bite, while a sprinkle of pecorino cheese gave a slight seasoning to the dish. It was also a very large portion and could have easily been shared as a side or starter by four people. I would easily get this over a starter salad any day – something different and very much appreciated.

After a very casual and relaxed beginning, our entrees were served in a timely fashion. They definitely had the timing down as we never felt rushed and still never waited for our food. Hubs had pork cheeks which he really enjoyed. I only had one bite, and that bite was tender and succulent. I didn’t try the risotto with it, and hubs didn’t really comment on it. But I do know he really enjoyed the dish. I apologize for the photo – it doesn’t do the dish justice. Believe me on that.

While hubs enjoyed his pork, I was enjoying my own pork belly and brandade. I was (once again) surprised by the large portions of elevated comfort food we were receiving. The pork belly was thick, tender and luscious. The fatty layer provided so much flavor, though the fork (even spoon tender) pork could have easily stood on its own. Covered with slices of radish, the slight bitter crisp was welcomed to cut the rich flavors of the meat. However, this was not the star of the evening. That can only be credited to the brandade. This warm, comfortable, homey dish made me smile with each and every bite. I’m a lover of cod, but brandade takes it to a whole new level. Salted cod is poached in cream, taking the simple flavors to a different level. Seasoned simply and pureed to the consistency of pureed potatoes, the dish has a slightly crisp top after being broiled. And Late Harvest tops the flavor palate by adding the best piece of toasted bread as the vehicle for the fish. It was slightly toasted, crunching as you broke it, but buttery and tender all at the same time. I couldn’t stop eating it – this is a must order if you like cod. By the end, I was eating it by forkfuls forgoing the bread.

Our stomachs were sated, but with hubs Northside Nights menu, he was still anticipating a dessert: sticky toffee pudding. I was so glad we were sharing because I definitely ate my half of this sweet dessert. Initial crunch of sugar dissolved quickly with the tender cake. A great nutty sauce was soaked into the spiced cake, making it one of the most tender yet composed sticky toffee desserts I ever had.  A dollop of simple whipped cream really added the perfect subdue to the sugar. A great way to end a great meal.

The menu is seasonal, giving a nod to local ingredients while embracing comfort food with an upscale twist. The plates I ordered were clearly meant to be shared family style, while the main dishes are what you would expect for one individual. The desserts nodded towards sharing as well, something we both embraced with open arms. And if you go with a group, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want to pass around bites of the delicious food being brought out of that kitchen. Not to mention the menu changes daily, though I’m sure some of those items (like the brandade) will stick around due to an overwhelming successful flavor.

I loved the decor, the service was spot on, but appreciated the main focus being on the food. This was made apparent in the service, in the presentation, and mostly in the taste. There was a lot of love in those dishes. A pride in sharing the great flavors with their guests, chef and owner Ryan Nelson (formerly of the Oceanaire) is delivering it all. I can’t wait until the patio opens – that will be a gem.

Late Harvest Kitchen * 8605 River Crossing * Indy, 46240 * 317.663.8063

Late Harvest Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Taste of Carmel – Recap (Special Event)

6 Mar IMG_0737

I hope some of you were able to make it out to the Taste of Carmel event this past Thursday evening at the Ritz Charles. For those who weren’t able to join us, you missed out on a tasty, and completely reasonably priced, evening. Even without the deal that was promoted, $25 allowed a guest to enjoy over 40 restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries. I meandered my way through the crowd with hubs and two friends as we filled our stomachs with some great food and drink.

We didn’t get to try everything. A few things I easily passed because I knew what exactly what I would get, like Jet’s pizza. Not that it was necessarily bad, but I just knew what I would be getting from the bite (or in that case, the whole slice of pepperoni pizza). The portions weren’t small either: full sliders, half an enchilada, half glasses of wine. Even if you wanted to go back and get more, there was plenty for you to nibble on.

Here is a recap of a few of the things we ate:

The best thing of the evening was from a new found favorite, The Local. A crisp beet chip with the sharpness of bleu cheese finishing the bite; a tortilla chip with tender, rare sirloin and spicy serrano pepper bringing the bite all together; and a bite of salmon with creme fraiche (though this was a bit lackluster). That beet chip was so fantastic: crisp and creamy, earthy yet sharp. It was a great bite that the whole crew agreed upon.

My second favorite of the night was from Pizzology. One of the reasons I loved it so much was that they featured something other than their pizza: polenta. The polenta had a creamy bite to it, working perfectly with the rich pulled pork that was on top. A sprinkle of Parmesan on top brought a perfect saltiness to the dish.

Though Happy Everything Catering didn’t have the chicken salad I love, they did have other simple foods on hand. A great hummus and tabouli combination (though a few more chips would have been helpful to finish eating the dips), a tortilla Mexican wrap contained cream cheese with basic Mexican flavors, and then a really great meatball. Not dense in texture, it had a rich sauce that was so subtly sweet. Sunny Chinese Kitchen was also there, showcasing her cooking talents with demonstrations, leaving us to have all the great bites that were produced, including this great potsticker. Pan fried on the outside left a crisp crust that was stuffed with a great mix of veggies and meat – not to mention, made to order as it was steamed and fried on-site.

A few other items we tried included Bub’s Cafe & Season’s 52 desserts, Eddie Merlot’s rich and creamy pasta, Cooking Greek’s Mediterranean collection (mmm, cinnamon rice pudding – see above), Taste of Sensu’s sushi, Sullivan’s lobster bisque and cheese steak egg roll (shown above, bottom right), Woody’s Homestyle BBQ pulled pork and brisket, and Daddy Jack’s Asian coleslaw with shrimp (top right). We also sampled wines from The People’s Winery, Cooper’s Hawk Winery, Harmony Winery (sparkling wine shown with Kincaid’s dish), Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co., and Sun King Brewing.

Among all the food, there was also entertainment from Shane Rodimel, chair massages by Rangeline Chiropractic, and of course, the silent auction that included a variety of packages. It was a tasty evening with good friends and a fun environment. Kudos to all the men and women who made this event possible; I hope Orchard Park benefits greatly from the event (I’m sure they will!) I’ll definitely be heading back next year, and maybe you can join me! If you were there, what did you like best?

Northside Nights: Spring Edition (Special Event)

2 Mar

It is that time again – another restaurant week is approaching. Northside Nights, a version of Devour Downtown but on the North side, will be up and running March 8-18 for the Spring eating edition.

There are quite a variety of restaurants available; almost all are local or local chains. I’ve been to most, but for a few, it has been quite a while. I think I may have to try to the restaurants I’ve never been to, including some chains, like Ruth’s Chris. Yup, never been. Here are the others I may need to try:

  • Bella Vita
  • Hellas Cafe
  • Ruth’s Chris
  • LA Cafe
  • Michael’s Southshore

I’m most curious about Michael’s Southshore as I haven’t heard of them prior to this. From a quick look at their menu, I really wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up there. Though, I did discover this 2 for $57 deal which also included wine. This does leave the debate of ‘wine vs. dessert’, but another option to consider.

Another great thing about Northside Nights? Daily giveaways. Be sure to register to win gift certificates – and you can do so everyday!

Save the date for these other events this year too:

  • Devour Downtown: July 30-August 12
  • Chow Down Midtown: June 11 – 24
  • Northside Nights & Savor the Southside: September 11-23

Where are you looking to try, or where will you return to? Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts!, as well as how your experience was.