Located in a small, red brick strip mall, with windows looking out on one of Appleton’s sadly pervasive parking lots, The Seasons restaurant near the Holiday Inn presents visitors with an unassuming facade. Inside, however, The Seasons offers a highly polished and pleasurable dining experience.What most struck me at The Seasons was the staff’s impeccable sense of timing and attention to detail. When my dining companion and I arrived, our waitress immediately led us to a secluded corner table and offered to take our coats to the coat check. Another server filled our water, garnished with a slice of lemon, and continued throughout the night to fill our cups well before we had finished them. Each course of our meal arrived just in time for the previous course to have settled in, but before either of us noticed the time. Even the general manager stopped by more than once to make sure that we were fully satisfied with our meal.
The atmosphere at The Seasons is classically modern. Paintings reminiscent of Italian renaissance sculptures adorn white textured walls, and dimly lit sconces provide a quiet glow throughout the restaurant. Although the exposed, black-matted ductwork on the ceiling reflected the sounds of the restaurant’s many conversations, noise at The Seasons was not an annoyance. The jazz duo of John Harmon and John Gibson played throughout our dinner, and without this background music, The Seasons may have been too loud for a quiet party of two. I had not enjoyed listening to the Harmon/Gibson duo at a restaurant since their old gig at the late China Palace, so hearing them at The Seasons was a real treat.
The complimentary bread basket at The Seasons includes about eight different kinds of breads, including a hearty slice of whole grain bread, slender and crispy bread sticks, and lightly salted sesame flat bread. Each piece of bread was freshly baked and had its own subtle flavorings.
With selections like escargot with burgundy cream, grilled quail with artichoke mushroom ragu and rosemary cream, and crab cakes with barnaise sauce, the list of appetizers at The Seasons showcases the chef’s gourmet repertoire. Our appetizer, baked brie in an herb lavosh cup with sweet roasted garlic and thinly sliced red peppers, arrived only a few minutes after our having placed our order. Garnished with a bed of slivered and glazed scallions, the plate was a pleasure to the eyes as well as our taste buds. Although the brie could have been more boldly seasoned, the small dish pleased us thoroughly.
Our salads were fresh and also aesthetically pleasing. My companion ate a mixed green salad with cucumber noodles and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. I tried the spinach and radicchio salad with almonds, orange segments, and granny smith apples. Although I was wary when our waitress said that my salad came with a warm onion vinaigrette dressing, by ordering it on the side I was able to add some of it without compromising the delicate flavors of the almonds and shredded apple.
The main courses were likewise superb. The Seasons menu changes periodically, but usually includes one vegetarian selection, several seafood dishes, and a range of meats including veal, lamb, and filet mignon. My companion ordered grilled salmon on roasted corn and pepper jack spoon bread with red pepper jicama slaw and tomatillo salsa, which she enjoyed very much.
I ordered lemon-herb seared scallops on asparagus risotto with roasted vegetables and tarragon beurre blanc. The scallops were not only tender, but somewhat flaky, and the light sauce did not overpower their taste. I found that the asparagus, being slightly overcooked, combined with the overall consistency of the risotto only too well, but the blended flavors of the tarragon sauce made up in taste what the risotto lacked in texture.
With my main course I had ordered a glass of Malbec, one of approximately fifteen wines available by the glass, and it tasted as fine as expected. The Seasons also offers a full selection of desserts and coffees, and after dinner I drank an espresso. The coffee tasted excellent, and that it was served with a fresh slice of lemon rind again caused me to reflect on the close attention paid to detail at The Seasons.
This week The Seasons has changed its menu to its spring offering, and has replaced the angus New York strip and grilled salmon dishes with seared duck breast and grilled halibut, among other small alterations. Despite The Seasons’ pricey menu, with appetizers ranging around eight dollars, salads at four dollars, and entrees for about twenty-two dollars, I wholeheartedly recommend The Seasons to anyone who wants to enjoy an evening of fine dining and select service.