I joined a bunch of friends at this old NY state resort for the New Years Eve weekend - the kind of place that stopped decorating in 1965. Cool place, very unpretencious atmosphere. It had another thing going for it too, located in Rosendale NY it was a quick 20 minute drive from Krumsville - and the Country Inn. Larry has been gone for a year now, seeing how Pete - who was the one who made the cut to buy the bar - was doing a year in was an irresistable excursion. It was Saturday, January 1st, and we just made it!
We pulled in at 4:40 to find 30 or so cars parked there - an impressive crowd at an early hour for such a sparsely populated area. I discovered inside that the bar was a hour from closing for the entire month of January, I asked if this was the reason there was such a crowd and Pete said no, that this was pretty much how it is later Saturday afternoons. Most of the taps were dead in preparation for this extensive down time but there were still some quality beers available - Lindemanns Framboise, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Fullers Poter, Paulaner (I think) Wiesse and maybe one or two others. The list of empty taps was very nice, the Country Inn has always been known as more of a bottle bar with 12 or 15 quality taps, that had not changed.
The legenary wall of beer was also very intact, there were a few blank spots but it was effectively as unchanged in calibre as the tap list. My second round was a hard to pronounce Finnish Porter and an Aas Bock. A very busy Pete connected with the order immediately and emmerged quickly with two bottles, one of them as requested. The Aas Bock was out but he brought another beer from the same brewery and asked if that would be OK, a good judgement call. When Pete started he was not (by his own admission) a beer guy, I met him on a transitionary day a year before and he was openly anxious to educate himself. I'm happy to say there is every indication this on-going effort has gone well. The only way this great bar has diminished was that when Larry was there you could be pretty sure special, rare beers would be stashed somewhere and would be opened if you made inquiries. This is not Pete's strength, but that might change. I made a bunch of new friends, real beer maniacs! A great crew of involved and passionate enthusiasts. One, my new bud Frankie, assured me that Pete had access to lots of obsessed beer people as committed to maintaining the quality of the Country Inn as Pete is. They connect him with the latest and greatest - and maybe in some cases the oldest and greatest - and Pete is as delighted as he was day one to accept the help.
In short, an experience at the Country Inn is almost entirely the same as it was a year ago. Almost.
There is one really, really impossible to miss change - Pete really knows food. There was a buffet table with items like an onion and potato fritatta (essentially a crustless quiche), mussels, beef stew, pulled pork hors d'ouvres, some great cheeses - those sorts of things. Under Larry there was always food available but it had a dinerish character to it. The food offered up by Pete is superior by orders of magnitude. In another month or so I need to get back there - and well before 4:40! And next time I need to discover what the kitchen can produce beyond a free buffet table. So if you used to like the Country Inn but have not returned because of Larry's retirement, absolutely go back and keep your expectations high. And this time, go hungry.