- - Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WASHINGTON— Escape the boring barbeque and salad fare and indulge in the robust seasonal menu at Seasons 52.

The eatery, with more than 40 locations nationwide, including Tysons Corner, Bethesda and Columbia, says it selects only the top seasonal fruits and vegetables to build its unique summertime selection.

The menu is filled with seasonal ingredients from fresh corn to watermelon, with recipes that showcase rather than overshadow the summer flavors. The delicate layering allows each ingredient, each flavor, to work with and alongside the other.

There’s nothing frozen or freeze-dried on this menu.

Combine those ripe flavors with simple heritage cooking techniques, and the true taste of summer bursts through.

“The seasonal ingredients that we use are the heroes of our menu,” said Dane Scott, managing partner of Seasons 52 North Bethesda. “We believe that it is O.K. for a carrot to taste like a carrot, or a tomato like a tomato. The secret is that we are able, due to our buying power, to get the absolute freshest and best-tasting fruits, vegetables and proteins for our guests.”

The dining experience began with an amuse bouche of thinly sliced ahi tuna served with a tropical salsa and dressed with the crisp, fragrant chervil that appeared throughout the meal.

Chervil, a French herb that is a relative of parsley, provides dishes with hints of crisp, clean aniseed or licorice flavor that effectively works to offset the sugars found in produce that comes to age beneath a warm summer sun.

The tropical salsa, with its vinegar base, adds the perfect acidic pop to the dish. Take note that the salsa is around, not on the ahi tuna, which is firm and sweet, perfect to nudge into the salsa to add that sweet-and-sour flavor profile.

While hot soup may not immediately come to mind as a hot weather dish, the fresh corn soup married with cream and topped with fresh chives and bacon moves easily onto the summer table.

The dish arrives with the fragrance of corn wafting from the steam coming from the bowl. The chowder is neither too smooth nor too thick. Instead, it is a silken potage with the robust flavor of summer corn, highlighted by diced chives and crumbles of crispy bacon.

The pieces of corn throughout the soup maintain a just sliced-from-the-cob freshness and sweet flavor.

No summer menu is complete without watermelon, and there are many different salad recipes — served in slices on the rind, sometimes charred on the grill or in cubes topped with melted cheese or balls tossed with feta.  

The watermelon salad at Seasons 52 offers a new presentation with three towers of summer-sweet, bright-red watermelon resting on tomato rounds.  Fresh creamy feta is offset with rings of flavonoid-rich red onions. Chervil appears again alongside freshly milled black pepper.

A light lemon aioli adds a bit of citrus to pop the sweetness of the watermelon.

This dish requires a carefully constructed fork in order to combine each of the flavors to their fullest. Take your time and savor this large-enough-to-share dish.

With a traditional wood-burning oven, Seasons 52 creates gourmet flatbreads, a wonderful appetizer or, paired with a salad or soup, a hearty lunch. The lobster flatbread worked wonderfully with the corn soup combining fresh roasted sweet peppers and chunks of sweet lobster, garnished with lobster sour cream and slivered scallion.

Sticking with gifts of the sea, an entree of caramelized grilled sea scallops is generous enough to share. With this dish, the summer sweet corn returns, but this time as a risotto that is creamy enough to be a potage but with the firmness necessary to support the large, sweet scallops on top.

Bringing bursts of color to the dish, as well as an explosion of summer flavor, are the cooked-to-perfection snap peas and toy box tomatoes, which are cherry heirloom tomatoes that despite being warmed are firm, super sweet and loaded with sun-kissed flavor.

A delicious and summer light, non-alcoholic Watermelon Agua Fresca is a combination of cubed watermelon fruit, sugar and water, lightly blended (so as not to lose the color), strained and mixed with fresh lime juice.

If you are looking for something with a bit of summer kick, choose the Maker’s Mark Peach Bourbon Smash combining bourbon, peach nectar and mint, a drink garnished with a crisp wedge of summer peach.

Despite eating a full meal, due to the quality of the ingredients, and the lack of unnecessary fats and fillers, there is room for dessert.

Order a selection of the desserts, each served in its own square shot glass, and marvel at the artfully created Pecan Pie, Belgian Chocolate S’More, Mocha Macchiato, Chocolate Peanut Butter Torte and Raspberry Chocolate Chip Cannoli. Seasons 52 added a classic Crème Brûlèe with dark, sweet and tart Traverse City Cherries for the summer menu.

Whether you are already among the gourmand class, or just someone seeking good food in a great atmosphere, Seasons 52 hits all the marks.

The only complaint? The salt and pepper mill on the table. The idea of altering the flavors so carefully constructed with even the tiniest bit of salt or pepper is simply a crime.

• Jacquie Kubin is an award-winning travel and food writer and travel editor at Communities Digital News.


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