It's about time. And that's a personal statement.
For a market that is consistently rates as one of the healthiest and thinnest and smartest communities in the country, I am surprised it took this long for this concept to appear in Denver. Well, the wait is over as Seasons 52 Fresh Grill is opening on the north end of the Park Meadows Retail Resort in Lone Tree.
Seasons 52 is a restaurant concept that specializes in properly proportioned dishes, using only fresh, in–season ingredients, prepared and served in rustic and artistic ways in a stunning and natural environment...including a couple live trees in the middle of the dining room. And, appealing to you number crunchers and ab crunchers alike, no dish on the menu has more than 475 calories...not including a bottle of wine, of course.
Darden Restaurants, the operators of Seasons 52 as well as over 1500 other restaurants, have been around the Denver market for years with such successful (and some not-so successful) concepts as Olive Garden, Yard House, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, the Capital Grille and Eddie V's. Now, some of you may say, "Hey, just another chain restaurant," and you would be right. But, as there are difficulties of chain operations, there are also benefits, like freedom to experiment with concepts and dishes, buying power of unique ingredients, a talent pool to attract the best and brightest, and efficient restaurants service and operations. For Seasons 52, I choose to focus on the later.
I'd also like to focus on their wine list. Yes, I could report in depth on the food and service experienced during a scripted VIP preview dinner (it was really good), but to focus on the wine is something that can't be fudged by salt, olive oil, dark lighting and truffle cream...and eight different glasses of wine. No, I didn't finish them all.
Master Sommelier George Miliotes (one of only 250 or so Masters Somms in the world) has put together a constantly rotating wine list focusing on what he calls his "drink them before they are famous"small grower campaign, often choosing smaller and more modest vineyards and wine making operations that can oversee all aspects of their wines. Offering over 90 bottles, over 60 of which are poured by the glass, he also has the freedom and power to scour the globe to find wines that are best for the food offered, not simply with the best label and mark-up. Not your average wine snob, George still passionately beleives that food is king in the restaurants and would rather serve a merlot from Slovenia at $9 a glass if it is superior to those at the same price from Bordeaux or the Napa Valley.
He is also the type to buck tradition and suggest red wine with salad, as long as it is an organic pinot noir from Robert Sinsky in Carneros, served with a salad drizzled with the aforementioned truffle cream. The richness and depth of the truffles, the truffle oil and the truffle cream, not to mention the parmesan, paired perfectly with the bright acidity of this small batch pinot. Did you know there aren't truffles in truffle oil? Now you do. That's me...bringing the knowledge.
Other fun pairings included an Aveleda Vinho Verde from Portugal with a seared scallop and shitake amuse bouche; the Retromarcia Chiianti Classico with Sonoma goat cheese ravioli and harvest vegetables; the De Toren Fusion V by Stellenbosh in South Africa with their version of surf and turf; and the German Selbach-Oster Reisling to accompany a series of petite dessert selections. Of course, there were more, including a Central Coast Chardonnay, Spanish Gamay and Champaign service with a selection of flatbreads in their "Chateau" wine room, where up to 15 guests can reserve a private wine tasting and chef-inspired wine pairing experience that is, unfortunately, still pretty rare in Denver.
Wine and food go together. They have to. Seasons 52 is a great addition to the Denver area, with a population that is health conscious, environmentally friendly and more and more willing to explore unique and seasonal offerings. As for the wine, with a Master Somm choosing wines that compliment the food, and visa verse, and a staff that have all been through the introductory sommelier training and receive continued wine education, you can be comfortable that your server at least has some skill at suggesting a wine pairing that drifts toward proper rather than simply profitable.
So, go get 14 of your best friends and reserve the Chateau. Hang with the wines. Taste a few. Eat some perfectly paired foods and pay for only what you consume. It's the way it should be.