The Fall Menu at Sage is a Seasonal Celebration

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Pictured: The mole Caesar salad on the fall menu at Sage is a complex, earthy take on a classic. Photo by Kevin Allen.

Sage is back from its late-summer hiatus, the new fall menu is here, and my advice is this: make your reservation now because you’re going to want to repeat the experience.

There’s so much to love about fall. The break from the heat, the changing leaves (elsewhere, of course), and the revisiting of your fall fashion favorites all conspire to create a certain nostalgia. What I love most about fall, of course, are the flavors. Chef Christopher Covelli has created an altar at which to worship the potential of root vegetables, slow-cooked and braised meats, and all those beautiful spices (looking at you, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, rosemary and … ugh, pumpkin).

The dark mole Caesar salad with cacao-parmesan tuile was a lovely surprise. The mole, packed with 30 ingredients, was rich, yet subtle enough to simply complement the dish rather than steal the spotlight. We also tried the seasonal apple and capicola tartlet with a tarragon foam. It was so good, and the natural sweetness of the apples burst through so wonderfully and melded so easily with the flaky tart crust that I felt like I was doing something wrong and eating dessert before my meal.

Sage is synonymous with craft cocktails, and we took advantage. Into the Wild is a Bear Face Canadian whiskey drink with Angostura bitters, a cacao nib-infused sweet vermouth and hints of maple. There’s a bit of theater, too, as our server torched a cocktail smoker at the table to infuse it with a smack of campfire. Bar manager Clio Padilla-Flores has somehow made a cold cocktail feel like a warm toddy sipped in front of a smoldering fire.

Like the overture of a great musical, our appetizers and cocktails set the tone for the fall flavor explosion that continued.

My main course was a braised, triple bone-in bison short rib with sunchoke puree, Szechuan carrots and roasted mushrooms. The short ribs are topped with a demi glace of the braising liquid and they sit atop the sunchoke puree, which carried just a hint of nutmeg with it. In a bold dish like this, the carrots could get lost as an afterthought, but they held their own, thanks largely to the Szechuan peppercorn that pulls them forward.

When it comes to seasonal menus, diners want chefs like Covelli who take risks, who build a journey centered around a particular theme. In this case, it’s hearty, vegetal, and yet, because it’s Florida, there’s still a lightness to it.

It’s earthy and elegant. A comfy flannel shirt over a pair of breaker shorts and boat shoes. It’s so wonderfully Sage, and as my wife, Janet, so succinctly put it, “This meal made me happy.”

Sage, 1216 1st St, Sarasota, (941) 445-5660, sagesrq.com

Pictured: The mole Caesar salad on the fall menu at Sage is a complex, earthy take on a classic. Photo by Kevin Allen.

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