Seasons 52 has a spring cocktail with a surprise for your tongue Tammy Paolino/Courier-Post
As the MidAtlantic hunkered down for Stella the Storm on Monday, I skipped the milk and bread lines and went straight to the spring cocktail.
Seasons 52 has spring on the brain, and the focus-on-fresh restaurant at the Cherry Hill Mall is offering something more than buzz-worthy.
It’s a cocktail with an actual, buzz, and I don’t mean the kind that will get you pulled over in the parking lot.
In fact, this is a slow sip treat that conjures the best of spring flavors and is best enjoyed slowly (and responsibly) with one of the new items on the spring menu.
The Botanical Buzz began as a “secret’’ item on the bar menu, but now it’s available for all as we kick this weird winter to the curb.
The cocktail features Prairie Organic Vodka, house made honey simple syrup and fresh lemon juice, topped off with a Botanical Button, or Szechuan Button.
A dry and tiny yellow flower, Szechuan Buttons were once used by dentists in the days before anesthesia to lend some numbness to the mouth prior to an extraction.
Indeed, popping the bloom and a bit of the stem into your mouth creates a slight carbonated feel on the tongue, followed by a mild numbness that lasts about 90 seconds or so. Sipping the cocktail after tasting one is a pleasant combination, as the “buzz’ enhances the tastes of lemon and honey. (Think of the best cough drop of your life, but way more fun.)
Sara Polis of Mount Laurel is a bartender, server and sales assistant at Seasons 52, and she mixed my the cocktail I tasted.
“The Botanical Buzz would pair well with our sea scallops or our cedar-planked salmon, to pair with that extra lemon,,’’ Polis says. “It’s good because it’s healthier, so you don’t pack on the pounds.’’
Prairie Mules and Hawaiian Pineapple Cosmos are other refreshing libations on the cocktail menu this spring.
Polis has worked for Seasons 52 parent company Darden (Olive Garden, Yard House) for five years, working first with Yard House in Florida. When her husband took a management job with Yard House in Moorestown, Polis accepted the position at Seasons 52 nine months ago.
This is the first time Seasons 52 has offered a secret cocktail, she says. “They were trying to start a buzz,’’ she says with a laugh.
Behind the bar, Polis is also serving a Strawberry Basil Martini made in house with Prairie Organic Vodka-infused strawberries. “We add fresh basil leaves and some agave syrup,’’ she says. “No additives or other stuff. We squeeze the fresh strawberries to get the extra juice out.
“We are also doing a Gin Ricky, similar to the Botanical Buzz but with lime and a little bit of thyme and some soda water,’’ she says.
“It’s has just a fun, little buzz to it. I’ve never seen an edible flower, so to me it’s a little different. If you actually bite the stem or flower, you get a buzz in your mouth. It gives you that lemony zing to it. It’s very refreshing, like a lemonade stand.’’
Indeed, the overall effect is like having the air conditioning turned up for a minute in your mouth.
Faced with the storm predictions, Polis sighs as she stirs the spring cocktail and plops in the Buzz Button.
“I was ready for spring, and flowers blooming.’’
Seasons 52 hosts happy hours from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, with small plate specials for $5 (seek out lamb chops or shrimp scampi), as well as select specialty cocktails and discounted wines and house drinks.
On Monday, Sous Chef C.J. Fratz of Lumberton was enthused to show off the restaurant’s spring and Easter menus.
A seasonal flatbread creation is prepared with a 50/50 blend of mozzarella and Parmesan, smears of Camembert, topped with asparagus chips, crispy Proscuitto, and chervil dressed in lemon juice.
“Part of our servers’ creed is to talk about asparagus, lemon and spring peas right now because they are all throughout the menu,’’ says Fratz, who has been with the company for seven years, serving as sous chef in Cherry Hill for just over a year.
He’s excited by the possibilities of asparagus, in particular.
“In my family at home, asparagus is reserved for frittata on Easter morning,’’ Fratz says, recalling his grandmother’s post-church dish of sweet Italian sausage, eggs and asparagus.
At Seasons 52, he is excited about the Crispy Green Tomato and Burrata Board, a seasonal app featuring breaded tomatoes that get roasted in the flatbread oven before being paired with the milky cheese.
Also look for pea tendrils to make an appearance on your spring plate.
“One of the other things we’re finding more uses for are the pea tendrils, miniature pea shoots similar to micro greens. We are mixing them in the spinach salad now, and they go in the arugula and shaved asparagus salad, and they are a garnish on our Meyer Lemon Ravioli.’’
All Seasons 52 locations will offer Easter brunch on Sunday, April 16. It will feature new items like Braised Beef Short Rib Hash and an Orange Marmalade Parfait Mini, in addition to brunch classics like Brick Oven Brioche French Toast and Shakshuka, poached eggs in tomatoes and chili peppers.
Seasons 52 takes the same great care with hand-crafting its brunch cocktails, and will feature the Shrubby Mary, a twist on the traditional Bloody Mary made with Crop Organic Tomato Vodka, house-made tomato-celery shrub and a hint of sriracha.
To see more information on the menu items above, or to view the full Seasons 52 Spring menu, visit our website at www.Seasons52.com for more information.