Seasons 52 Opens in Chestnut Hill

Monday, November 18, 2013

Seasons 52 - a fresh grill and wine bar with 36 locations in 16 states - opened in Chestnut Hill, MA this week. The restaurant is situated within the newly redeveloped Chestnut Hill Square on the south side of Route 9. It's part of the Wegman's development (which is set to open in Spring 2014).

I took part in a small gathering of local food & wine writers to learn about what Seasons 52 has to offer. We were treated to a Chef's Table dining experience which provided an opportunity to enjoy many of their signature dishes along with wines paired specifically for the occasion.

Pro Tip: If you're coming from points east of Chestnut Hill a new dedicated left turn lane for Chestnut Hill Square now eliminates the need for a U-Turn.

Seasons 52 features:
  • Fresh seasonal dishes served in a casual sophisticated environment 
  • Every dish on the menu has less than 475 calories
  • Over 100+ wines on an international wine list, 64 of which are available by the glass
  • Wine list features 26 varieties from 14 countries
Master Sommelier George Miliotes (@TheWineExpert) and Senior Director of Culinary Clifford Pleau were in town to help the restaurant open and personally presented each course. What a pair of talented individuals.

Here's what we tasted...


Blackened Steak & Blue Cheese
 cremini mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions

Lobster & Fresh Mozzarella
roasted sweet peppers, slivered scallions, lobster sour cream

Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne, Champagne MV

Miliotes said he selected the Chartogne-Taillet as an example of his commitment to grower Champagne. Producers need to be large enough to service all of the restaurants in the Seasons 52 collection but small enough to answer his phone calls. It was a terrific start to the evening. Light with appealing fruity aromatics.

The flatbreads were an enjoyable start to the evening. I thought the lobster was particularly well prepared.

Lump Crab and Haas Avocado
Aveleda Vinho Verde, Portugal 2012

"A good Vinho Verde can be served any time to anyone and they say 'Wow - that's good.'" was how Miliotes described this simple but enjoyable pairing. It's hard to argue with such a delightful aromatic wine alongside crab meat and seasoned avocado. Nice stuff.

Organic Salmon and Lemongrass Sea Scallop
roasted on a cedar plank
Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Central Coast 2011

This was a really attractive dish and it tasted great too. The Mer Soleil Chardonnay is one of two Chard options from the Wagner family (Caymus, Belle Glos, Meiomi, Conundrum). Mer Soleil sees time in oak barrels. They also offer an unoaked Chardonnay in a ceramic bottle.

The comparison point offered here is the unoaked Vinho Verde to the oaked Mer Soleil. The weight of the salmon supports the more full bodied oaked Chardonnay nicely and makes for a delightful pairing. The Wagners make wines that are hard not to like.

I especially enjoyed flavors the salmon picked up from the herbs it was prepared with, and the roasted vegetables provided an excellent accompanying taste as well.

Baby Spinach Salad
caramelized Bosc pears, walnuts, Gorgonzola cheese

Casillero del Diablo Viognier, Casablanca 2012

Here, Miliotes shows his ability to select a wine from an unusual category that appeals to many at an affordable price point. Chile isn't exactly known for Viognier and it's not like Viognier in general has a large following. But they can offer it for a relatively inexpensive cost per glass and it's a fruit forward white wine that's sure to please.

The pear preparation as described by Chef Pleau was as simple as it comes: Cut the pears into wedges and roast them. They become remarkably sweet and delicious without any additional intervention. We did this just last night and it they made for a terrific addition to a salad.

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli
harvest vegetables, black mushrooms, roasted onion jus

Retromarcia, Chianti Classic 2010

The Retromarcia is a custom blend made to George's specifications. It's made in a classic style (which is to say it's not to be mistaken for a new world fruit bomb). Oak influence is minimal.

I don't think I've ever met a pillow pastry I didn't like and this one is no exception. Terrific.

Oak-Grilled Lobster Tail and New Zealand Venison Chop
truffle mashed potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, red wine demi glaze

De Toren Z, Stellenbosch 2011

This course was a star of the night both for the food and the wine. The lobster was prepared absolutely perfectly and the venison reminded me of a lamb chop in a good way.

If there was one wine Miliotes humbly hung his hat on as having discovered and brought to the US market, it was The De Toren Z - a mostly Merlot driven Bordeaux blend from South Africa. It was terrific but I had a hard time concentrating after a bottle of Alto Moncayo showed up on the table.

I'd been blabbing all weekend before the event on Twitter about how Robert Parker rated a couple recent vintages of Alto Moncayo 100 points. The wine is a blockbuster and at ~$40 it's a Spanish Garnacha worth seeking out. I have a feeling Miliotes was listening and added the Alto Moncayo as an act of hospitality. I said, "George - you heard Parker rated this 100 points, right?" He just shrugged and said he included it in the lineup because he thought we'd like it.

Alto Moncayo sells for $45 retail, and is $91 on the list at Seasons 52.

As an aside, the 2010 has been even better for me than the 2009 Parker rated 100 points. Parker rated the 2010 "only" 92 points but if you're buying for near term consumption purposes the 2010 is every bit as good if not better than the 2009. More on the 100 point Alto Moncayo here.

Mini Indulgence Desserts

Selbach-Oster Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Auslese, Mosel 2010d

Keeping with the health conscious focus, desserts are presented as "indulgences" in moderate portions. I went for a pecan pie driven treat and a strawberry cannoli indulgence. A terrific finish to the meal.

Miliotes chose a German Riesling to pair with dessert, which is a move I'd highly recommend for holiday celebrations. Related to this, he mentioned Riesling is his go-to wine for consumption at home. Its moderate alcohol levels, food friendliness, and suitability for all sorts of weather make it a super grape variety to have on hand.

Me (left) with Master Sommelier George Miliotes (right)

Discussion & Conclusion

There's no doubt I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Seasons 52 and I'll look forward to visiting again. But there's one thing I'm still thinking about: What occasion is appropriate for a visit to Seasons? What's the crowd like? Who is this restaurant for?

I appreciate that the menu offers lower calorie options. I left thoroughly satisfied. I have to admit - as much as I love The Capital Grille (review) I sometimes overindulge there. But Seasons 52 isn't defined by this characteristic in my view.

To gain a little more insight into the Seasons 52 demographic, I reached out to my mother-in-law who lives in Florida for her thoughts. She lives in a community with a Capital Grille and Trulucks so I asked her how Seasons 52 compares to other dining options. She responded:
The decor is unique at Seasons 52. It feels more geared towards women than men. The bar service is excellent and they have a piano player in the center of the bar. It doesn't seem as pricey as The Capital Grille. If I was going out to dinner with my girlfriends I would probably go to Seasons 52. However, if I was going out to dinner with a date I think I'd prefer The Capital Grille. 
Based on the vibe I got from the Chestnut Hill location I can definitely see this location being especially popular with singles and couples who enjoy the social aspect of dining at the bar. Seasons 52 has really thought about this style of dining and has executed it very well.

As part of Darden and boasting 30+ Seasons 52 locations, the restaurant was already operating efficiently. There's something to be said for experience and I wouldn't hesitate to try this location early in its operating cycle.

Overall, Seasons 52 is a welcomed addition the dining options along the revitalized stretch of shops and restaurants along Route 9 in Chestnut Hill. With its fresh, healthful, delicious, and seasonally rotating menu I'd highly recommend a visit.

Further Reading:
Check 'em out:
220 Boylston Street
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
(617) 558-1152

Question of the Day: Have you been to Seasons 52 in Chestnut Hill or other locations? If so, what did you think?


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