Hearty dishes and fall flavors flourish at Seasons 52

With the shortened days and cooler temperatures, the Seasons 52 restaurant in Rockville, Maryland serves up a welcoming menu resplendent with cremini, oyster and shiitake mushrooms in rustic dishes designed to ward off the cold.

Fall-inspired plates at Seasons 52 are filled with savory flavors and cold-weather vegetables and herbs, offering a parade of aromatics to chase the chill from the air.

Mushrooms take center stage in this creative and lush menu filled with fall’s savory flavors. Hearty meat-like mushrooms infuse the welcoming dishes, sharing their earthen, meaty flavors and deep aromas in a variety of dishes designed to stimulate the fifth taste sense, umami.

As the menu proclaims, foods that are “Good Now” include a creamy butternut squash soup filled with a soul-satisfying flavor. The heat of the soup releases the earthiness of the sliced shiitake mushroom. The soup retains a creamy texture despite its mere 200 calories per serving. It’s satisfying but not heavy.

Pair the soup with a “Trio of Roasted Mushrooms” flatbread that is crunchy and savory. The flatbread shimmers with sautéed mushroom tossed with green onions and goat cheese, lightly dusted with fall’s favorite flavor – truffle oil.

The “Artisan Cheese Fondue” is another comfort food full of warmth on a cool fall evening. It combines cave-aged Gruyére and white cheddar, served with an assortment of crisp breads and soft rolls, perfect for dipping.

Or enjoy the “Kabocha Squash Ravioli,” pillows of pasta gently tossed with cubes of butternut squash, crunchy walnuts and browned butter. Revel in the smell of crisp fried sage before the plate hits the table.

As a special treat, sample the full fall flavor of Australian lamb, available only through November. Seasons 52 offers a generous shank of naturally grazed in Tasmania, Australian lamb.

The meat, presented on bone, is marinated and braised in Mediterranean herbs, tomato and onion, creating a rich, flavor-layered entrée. The lamb is served with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and crisply braised greens, including Brussels sprouts and late fall green beans.

Another fall menu stand-out is the Seasons 52 “Roasted Manchester Farms Heirloom Quail” from Columbia, South Carolina. The full flavor is worth the care one must take over those “little bones” that are perfect for nibbling. Compliment the chef and pick them up with your fingers to enjoy every morsel.

Seasons 52’s roasted quail is very moist with sweet meat and savory fall flavors, thanks to the mushroom risotto stuffing piped in prior to roasting.

Chef Daniel Hartman serves his roasted quail over a mélange of leaf spinach, well-rinsed and braised in a balsamic demi-glace, with crisp bacon and layers of fresh pearl onion.

A side for the table that works with both dishes is the “Truffle Mac ‘N’ Cheese en Brodó.” Mr. Hartman explains that “en Brodó” means that equal amounts of cheese and stock are placed in a sealed bag and submerged into boiling water.

The cheese curds separate, allowing the creamy flavors to form a rich hearty stock that becomes the base of the recipe. Straining the stock liquid from the curds, the curds are set to the side to be tossed with panko and baked to create the Mac ‘N’ Cheese’s crumbly topping.

The noodles are then cooked in the liquid, which is once again reserved after draining. The stock now has the starch from the pasta and when blended with a cauliflower puree creates the creaminess and flavor in this ages-old favorite comfort food that is light and savory with truffle zest.

Dinner at Seasons 52 is never complete without a flight of their mini-desserts. Celebrating the season, they add a delicious spiced pumpkin mousse with fresh cream and a dark crisp ginger snap that begs for milk or coffee.

Also offered are pecan pie, “Chocolate S’Mores,” and “Peanut and Raspberry Crème Brûlée.”

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

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