Carrying out our fine tradition of dining well on someone else’s dime (Pile ou Face, RIP), Casey took me out for a boondoggle dinner at Country on Friday night. Last year Bene and Carrie took me out to the downstairs café for some birthday drinks and apps. We enjoyed the food, the people-watching – Life Partners Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins were in attendance – and the overall vibe, which managed to be warm and sophisticated at the same time. That’s no small feat in a city where restaurants increasingly fall in one of two categories: either sanctimoniously rustic (eg, Cookshop, much as I do like their food) or obsessed with novelty for its own sake (“do you know how our menu works?”) Happily, Country is neither.

The room is spectacular (Tiffany skylight, ornate chandeliers enclosed in frosted glass cubes) and the food was very, very good, but by far the best thing about the place was the service and overall feeling of being cosseted. “It’s padded!” Casey exclaimed when she sat in the velvet and leather dining chair and that’s pretty much what the whole experience was like: padded, no sharp edges, insulated from any unpleasantness. We selected our aperitifs (18 yr Macallan for Casey, NV Ruinart Rosé for me) from a ginormous rolling cocktail tray. When the waiter nearly poured me a glass of sake (or, as Paul and I call it, “fermented horse sweat”) and saw the look of panic in my eyes he whisked the bottle away and produced a glass of 2006 William Fevre Les Champs Royaux Chablis instead. (Excellent match with my hamachi with crosnes. Note to self: drink more Chablis.) Each little touch – our fried frog leg canapé was served on a teeny silver dish in the shape of a lily pad – added up to irony- and vulgarity-free luxury.

Would I go back? Definitely if someone else were paying — the tab came in at $400+ — and probably if I were looking to celebrate a special occasion in style.


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