The fall menu at Sage is a seasonal celebration

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Pictured: Sage’s fall menu taupe Caesar salad is a complex, earthy take on a classic. Photo by Kevin Allen.

Sage is back from its late summer break, the new fall menu is here, and my advice is: 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 to worship the potential of root vegetables, simmered and braised meats, and all those lovely spices (looking at you, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, rosemary and… ugh, pumpkin).

The black mole Caesar salad with cocoa-parmesan tuile was a nice surprise. The mole, packed with 30 ingredients, was rich, yet subtle enough to simply complement the dish rather than steal the show. We also tested the seasonal apple and capicola tartlet with a tarragon mousse. It tasted so good and the natural sweetness of the apples burst so wonderfully and blended so easily with the flaky pie 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 of it. Into the Wild is a Bear Face Canadian whiskey drink with Angostura bitters, cocoa-infused sweet vermouth and maple notes. There’s also a bit of theatrics, as our server torched a cocktail smoker at the table to infuse it with a campfire twist. Bar manager Clio Padilla-Flores has somehow made a cold cocktail feel like a hot toddy sipped in front of a smoldering fire.

Like the opening of a great musical, our bites and cocktails set the tone for the explosion of autumnal flavors that continued.

My main course was a triple braised buffalo rib with Jerusalem artichoke mash, Sichuan carrots and roasted mushrooms. The short ribs are topped with a demi-glace of the braising liquid and they sit on top of the Jerusalem artichoke puree, which carried only a hint of nutmeg. In a bold dish like this, the carrots might get lost after the fact, but they held their own, thanks in large part to the Sichuan pepper pulling them forward.

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

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

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

Pictured: Sage’s fall menu taupe Caesar salad is a complex, earthy take on a classic. Photo by Kevin Allen.

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