Seasons 52 – Dieters Delight

| April 5, 2014 | 0 Comments

Dieting is difficult. Very few people like to do it. At its best – and maybe at its worst – it requires motivation, self control, and self deprivation of many of one’s favorite foods. The difficulty is perhaps why our country has one of the world’s highest obesity rates.

But, now there’s help. A relatively new restaurant concept has opened in San Diego where no item on the menu exceeds 475 calories. Amazingly, reduced calories do not require reduced taste. The dishes are full of flavor.

Seasons 52 is a relatively new restaurant concept that has grown in less than 10 years to more than 35 locations around the country. It is owned by Darden Restaurants, an enterprising company which creates or buys exciting dining concepts and develops them into major brands. Some of the local brands owned by Darden include Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Yard House.

Darden’s marketing research showed that there was a great reservoir of demand for dining on fresh, seasonal ingredients that were prepared and presented with fewer calories. The concept was born. The company recruited Clifford Pleau as executive chef to develop recipes and train staff, a job he loves.

Pleau is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (the “other CIA”). He has directed kitchens in restaurants at major hotel chains, including Ritz Carlton. He has also worked for Disney. He helped open the EuroDisney theme park and the Disneyland Hotel in Paris. He once helped open 65 different restaurants, each with a different theme, with a staff of people from all over the world … and all on the same day. Later, he also worked with Bradley Ogden at Lark Creek Inn.

When creating recipes, Pleau focuses on freshness and quality. He goes right to the sources — the growers, the farmers, the fishermen. The meat and seafood are fresh – the veggies are picked at points of peak ripeness. To keep things fresh, the menu is changed seasonally, four times a year.

Pleau loves to teach and mentor. He enjoys helping younger chefs grow and develop in skill and expertise.

So much for the focus on taste. Then, preparation methods were developed and portions sized to meet the calorie requirements.

Think of it, wonderful food, guilt free! What could be better!

Well, there’s wine pairing. To add to the dining experience, the restaurant offers 100 wine selections, with 60 available by the glass. Wines offered are carefully chosen from a worldwide review for quality. Wine flights of three pours allow diners to choose, sample, and try something new.

Seasons 52 opened two locations in San Diego. The first, in La Jolla at UTC, has developed a strong following, given the delightful menu, the shopping and entertainment opportunities around the corner, and the acres of free parking.

The second location is at The Headquarters, a new entertainment complex so named because it is the old headquarters of the San Diego Police Department. The restaurant itself is located in the former police garage that was once filled with police cars and motorcycles. It has dramatic high ceilings, arches, brick and beams, creating a remarkable ambiance for dining. On some evenings, entertainment is offered on a rotating bar located in the front corner of the interior. A large patio offers outdoor dining while caressed by cool breezes off the bay that is only a couple of hundred yards away.

The restaurant also offers a “chefs table” experience and three private meeting rooms. Audio-visual equipment is available.

The Headquarters is just east of Seaport Village, with its own unique shopping opportunities and acres of parking. Seasons 52 offers validation for parking, only $3 for two hours.

The local managing partner is Corey Halcomb, who brings lots of experience to the task. The executive chef at the location, responsible to bring Pleau’s and his own culinary ideas to life, is James Woodfork.
Woodfork’s background includes the CIA and works locally at Lou & Mickey’s Steakhouse and Maggiano’s Little Italy.

The restaurant was full of diners enjoying their meals when I arrived. Seated within view of the open kitchen, I was immediately delighted by the lobster flatbread that was presented. The crust was thin, wonderfully crispy and had a deep lobster flavor.

The dinner menu is presented on a single page, with dishes described clearly. Some of the favorite dishes include cedar plank roasted salmon, caramelized sea scallops, wood-roasted pork tenderloin, mesquite-grilled garlic shrimp and saffron risotto, grilled lamb T-bone chops and the oak-grilled filet mignon.

The salmon was fresh and beautifully prepared, singed on the outside and moist on the inside. The maple glazed all-natural roasted half chicken was presented with a bouquet of winter vegetables, tasty, crisp and meaty. Chicken is chicken; but this was CHICKEN!

The meal’s coup de grace’ was the dessert. I wondered how good a dessert can be when limited to 475 calories. The answer — terrific. Five desserts are brought to the table in a five cup holder. Each cup contains a different offering, such a tropical cheesecake, key lime pie, and Belgian style chocolate rocky road (nut free). Again —- dessert without guilt. The portions are small but satisfying.

Seasons 52 is great for calorie conscious diners but its appeal transcends to all who are looking for tasty, seasonal quality dining with possible great wine pairings. Yet, for all that, prices are surprisingly moderate.

Reservations are recommended. Seasons 52 at The Headquarters is located at 789 West Harbor Drive. Call (619) 702-0052 for information and reservations. Seasons 52 at UTC is located at 4505 La Jolla Village Drive. Call (858) 450-1252 for information and reservations.

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Category: Health & Fitness, Local News

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