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Seasons 52, Orlando restaurant - Healthy Dining Never Tasted So Good!
Orlando's Seasons 52 Offers Exciting and Healthy Cuisine

by Rachel L. Miller

Seasons 52 dining room.

"A healthy restaurant?" scoffed my friend Leigh-Anne. "Interesting. I guess we won't be finding any steak on that menu."

Her skepticism was understandable. Being raised in the Midwest on a hearty diet of meat and potatoes, we both were a bit apprehensive on hearing the Orlando restaurant at which we'd be dining was known for being "nutritionally balanced", with each menu item under 450 calories.

"Guess it'll be salad for both of us," she quipped as we pulled into the driveway of Seasons 52, an innovative restaurant that calls itself a "fresh grill and wine bar."

"Grilled salad," I added with a grin.

So, yes, our skepticism was understandable. However, it turns out that not only were we completely wrong in our prejudice, we ended up being fans of the restaurant's approach to food.

With a menu that changes every few weeks to reflect the freshest seasonal products (hence the restaurant's name) and an extremely extensive wine list, Seasons 52 even became a dining destination for our next visit to Orlando. As a city that immediately calls to mind family-friendly buffets, gargantuan portion sizes and quantity over quality, Seasons 52 has been a breath of fresh air in this sprawling citrus-infused tourist Mecca.

The dining area - every table completely full - was softly lit and carried an air of sophistication without feeling stodgy or formal. The bar area was lively and clotted with gorgeously groomed individuals, making me wonder if we had the good fortune to have stumbled upon the trendiest, most happening place in the city.

Our waitress appeared brandishing a glass cylinder of imported Norwegian water and carrying her trusty PDA, with which she places orders and uses to swipe customer's credit cards right at the table when it's time to pay the bill (great for those of us who have heard the horror stories of shady restaurant employees stealing credit card information once out of sight).

Sesame glazed salmon chops.

As we scanned the impressive menu filled with seafood, salad, sandwich and poultry options - and yes, there was even a filet mignon entrée - we decided to try one of the restaurant's flatbread appetizers. With seven grilled flatbread variations offered, our group of four gave in to temptation and chose two: grilled steak and Crimini mushroom flatbread and a vegetarian option topped with artichokes, goat cheese and fresh herbs.

We celebrated with a glass of '02 Perrone Moscato Di Asti, an Italian sweet champagne that was recommended by our helpful server. The wine list, by the way, is arranged from lightest to boldest in each category, a helpful feature for those of us who can't pinpoint a wine's taste by name alone.

The flatbread appetizers were excellent - feeling substantial without being greasy or heavy - and the four of us managed to eat most of both varieties.

Our entrees arrived promptly and we were all immediately pleased with the plate presentations. As promised, the portions weren't out-of-control - in fact, my grilled Florida black grouper was just enough to be filling, and when paired with a grilled summer vegetable ratatouille and roasted corn cakes, it was more than satisfying. Leigh-Anne, by the way, didn't have salad; instead, she devoured her salmon entree with its accompanying asparagus. It was a healthy, delicious experience that left both of us wondering why more restaurants don't follow the lead set by Seasons 52.

A tray of the mini desserts offered by Seasons 52..

You'd think a restaurant that prides itself on healthy options and nutritional balance would shy away from a decadent dessert menu. The approach taken by Seasons 52 is quite revolutionary - with $1.95 individually-sized desserts (each one fits in a tall shot glass), you can try one or two without feeling guilty. Our table sampled a variety (there are eight choices of "Mini Induglences" altogether) and found them all to be fresh and delicious. My favorites including the carrot cake (with rum raisin sauce), the blueberry lemon cheesecake and the banana foster sundae - and I didn't feel guilty because I only had a few spoonfuls of each.

And at the end of the meal, we sat back and smiled. We had just eaten a healthy, balanced meal - and instead of feeling overstuffed, we felt fulfilled. And isn't that what good, gourmet dining is all about?

Entrees start at $7.75 and run to about $20. Seasons 52 is located On the Lake at Plaza Venezia, 7700 Sand Lake Road in Orlando. Open daily from 4:30 p.m. Reservations welcomed, but not required (judging from the crowd we saw at the restaurant, I'd be safe and make a reservation). 407.354.5212.
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