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An abundance of art, food, and nature make the Berkshires an idyllic (and interesting) country escape, just a few hours north of New York.

The Berkshires, a rural highland region that’s a catchall for the western parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, extends from the Northwest Hills to the Green Mountains of Vermont, and encompasses a portion of the Appalachian mountain trail.

Mark Firth started Diner and Marlow & Sons in Brooklyn before packing up and opening a farm-to-table restaurant in the Berkshires. The place is fun and lively and reliably packed. Go early and have a drink at the bar—it’s a great scene.

The woods don’t hold twilight for long — brief gold shafts through the trees gave way to a heavy night that blackened the windows around the dining table in Southfield, a storybook of a town tucked into the Berkshire mountain range.

GREAT BARRINGTON — It's 7 p.m. on a recent Thursday at Prairie Whale and restaurateur Mark Firth has already clocked at least a mile, escorting guests to tables, carrying drinks from the bar, and hustling in and out of the kitchen with full and finished plates of rustic, farm-fresh food. Although lots of New England restaurants claim to be seed to plate, Prairie Whale in Great Barrington is the real deal.

This has been good month for veteran restaurateur Mark Firth, not least because it has involved two of his favorite things: oysters and soccer. FIFA World Cup craze has been sweeping the nation, but between soccer games Firth has been multitasking on his latest restaurant, Grand Banks, set to open off the coast of Manhattan this week. Located on a renovated oyster fishing schooner called the Sherman Zwicker, the joint will specialize in the mollusks it was originally dispatched to catch.

A restaurant, and a restaurant group, is more than just the sum of its recent reviews, or its current set of chefs and servers. Like a child, or a neighborhood, it's as much a product of its creators, its DNA, the nature side of the equation, as it is the scrum of customers, the changing neighborhood, the nurture of everyday business.

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: "Prairie Whale" is an old name for a pig; by the mid-19th century, rendered lard was beginning to replace whale oil in lamps. Restaurateur Mark Firth chose the phrase to rename his year-old Great Barrington establishment, formerly the Bell & Anchor, after he got a cease-and-desist order from another Bell & Anchor in Sag Harbor.

HUDSON, N.Y. — In 2011, the New York City restaurateurs Zak Pelaccio and Mark Firth bumped into each other at a friend’s house near here, two hours north and a world away from the city.

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A man walked into a Bar. Lucky B*****d!