A Vegetarian in Miami - Seasons 52
Who doesn't like a little excitement? I love to be excited about food. Not just excited at the prospects of satisfying hunger, but excited by the potential of the experience of eating itself, and then being excited by the process in many aspects. I remember well the thrill of the smell and the intense flavor of a well-cooked meat. I can easily say that such fervent emotion is not as easy to come by as a vegetarian. The passion I have for being a vegetarian is profound. However, often I find I'm not easily titillated by quickly prepared meals of my own, and even less often by what I find in restaurants.
Today my excitement was aroused in anticipation of and in the process of eating a simple lunch while on a quick trip to Miami. I'm here in Miami now just after a weekend conference of the Ocular Melanoma Foundation with my husband, Joe. After the charge we got with our very first Uber ride from the hotel near the airport to the beautiful city of Coral Gables, we took the advice of Joe's local cousin to try out Seasons 52. The inside and outside of the place is inspiring. My eyes were comforted and delighted by the abundance of mahogany, stone, and deeply-colored cloth. The acoustic environment was perfect for quiet conversation. We sat in a booth near the bar and perused the menu. Our very helpful waiter, Nathalie, directed our attention to the Miami Spice week special tasting menu. Joe ordered that with a flatbread Margarita pizza, and a steak salad. There was no vegetarian entree with that, so I had the Autumn Vegetarian Tasting Plate. I ordered an appetizer of Blistered Shishito Peppers. As Joe was eating his pizza I feasted on a bowl of these little peppers I picked up by the stem. Nathalie said that I might be lucky and get a hot one. They were like green pepperoncini with thinner skin. The taste was mild and pleasing, which complimented the covering of Sonoma goat-feta cheese, lemon aioli, and sumac. The salt grains were on it, delighting the tongue rather than flavoring the dish. I was tickled that one of them was hot, kind of like a poblano. After munching on all the peppers I ate the roasted corn in the bottom of the bowl, which was bathing in the melted cheese and aioli. Nathalie called it "succotash." It was an exciting experience. Rich and flavorful. A constantly interesting mix of spice and texture.
For my main course I experienced a tender fennel-roasted onion. It did indeed remind me of the way I often steam fennel, then grill it to just char the outer layer. This onion was coated with savory breadcrumbs. Next on my plate was a kohlrabi steak. Nathalie verified my suspicion that it was a round of kohlrabi that had been marinated (for four hours in a cilantro marinade) and cooked (baked) then grilled on the fire. The texture was perfect, just resisting the tender slicing of my fork. I need to make this at home. It was draped in asparagus that was perfectly cooked and crisp. It was definitely something from the earth, not a can or a bag. On that was a delightful salsa, just hot enough with a complexity of spice and texture. Finally I made my way to a small cast iron dish of vegan paella. Soft, warm, spicy, and delicious. I guessed that the bottom of the pan was layered with a spicy seitan. I was wrong. Nathalie checked with the chef. It was Chorizo Tofurkey.
I had to have dessert. I chose Peanut Butter Torte. This was a small glass of chocolate cake, chocolate bits, peanut butter mousse, peanut tuile, and peanuts.
This whole meal appeared to me to be well thought out, with the diner in mind. The experience was a progression from one delight to the next. Oh, what a little forethought and spice can do! I will definitely check out another Seasons 52. I was excited to learn they are located throughout the country.
Seasons 52 is at 321 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL, www.seasons52.com