Peach cosmopolitan

Busch's Grove, 9160 Clayton Road, Ladue;

Aug 16, 2006 at 4:00 am
Oh, those summer days in the rolling hills of Prosperity, where kids play capture the flag behind majestic mansions, run Slip 'n' Slides through wildflower meadows, throw water balloons at Cadillacs. And the ponies? We ride them through dewy grass, past rainbows and waterfalls, as purebred puppies frolic at our feet.

Swim team in the morning at the country club, followed by whatever we damn well please. Our money's no good there — we just sign for everything, and Dad pays it off later. After snacks, tennis or golf or maybe Nerf tag in the pool. Again, who cares? We walk on gilded sidewalks through grade school, glide through high school with nary a scratch, spend four years in the Ivy League. Then we go out into the world to build on the family fortune, and soon return to Ladue to settle into the graceful autumn of our lives. Where's the harm in that?

And at the center of the world has always been Busch's Grove, where we celebrate our anniversaries with soft-shell crab and chardonnay, and finish with molten chocolate cake and 30-year port. Graduations, birthdays and reunions surrounded by bored bluebloods and lucky ducks. Used to be it was a relatively modest (if pricey) affair: summer dinners in screened-in bungalows amid the crickets and the tree frogs. But a (reported) $10 million refurbishing has turned the once-rustic restaurant into a polished diamond deep in the heart of Fancyland, and the most beautiful dining experience in St. Louis.

Enter the restaurant by grasping $15,000 door handles and you're greeted by a billion-dollar maitre d' who'd probably brush your teeth for you if you asked. He leads you to your table on a golden chariot, and within moments a server has presented you with a peach cosmopolitan, which is the fleshy-pink color of pickled ginger, the result of the transformative splash of cranberry. Combined with Absolut Apeach vodka, a touch of triple sec and the same amount of sweet and sour, the peach cosmo, like Busch's Grove, is elegance personified.

Busch's Grove drops a little chunk of dry ice into the their martinis, a nice touch. It keeps the drink chilled as smoky bubbles pop in the middle like volcanic lava. As you sip, you feel like you're somewhere special. You are. Proof is a seamless entrée of pan-seared sea scallops — which look like perfectly toasted marshmallows — coupled with a disc of potato fennel hash, a frisée salad with Granny Smith apples and caviar butter.

For dessert, tangy lemon pudding, blueberries and ice cream. The restaurant's brilliant sommelier, Darin Link (formerly of Tony's), recommends the perfect finish: Alvear Pedro Ximenez Solera 1927, a Spanish sherry that Robert Parker blessed with a stunning 96-point rating. "Huge and viscous," he writes, "yet neither cloyingly sweet nor heavy, it is a profound effort priced unbelievably low." True, but who cares about cost? It's vulgar to talk money over dinner. It's better to settle into Busch's Grove as you would the backseat of a limousine, and let the restaurant take you for a ride. Next stop, Wonderland.