Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hitting the Hamptons

As a teenager growing up on Eastern Long Island, I spent my share of time in the Hamptons. I even did the summer weekends as a young adult for a while. As the years went by, I wasn’t out there as much as I’d like, so when the opportunity came up to write for Hamptons Magazine on a weekly basis this summer, I figured it was a great excuse to get back in the habit of going out there.

Trip number one was with my friend Lynn. Wordhampton, a public relations firm that specializes on Long Island, set up an incredible schedule that would allow us to taste my way around the east end for three days. I don’t suggest a non-professional attempt this. Instead, make plans to visit these places (all great) when you have a chance to spend more time at them.

Stop one was at Little Red in Southampton and we were scheduled for a full lunch.  This is a cute little place in town, just off the water. They serve lots of seafood and Paninis, as well as salads and main dishes.  We sipped a few good cocktails, such as the Silver Tulip and the Southampton Sour, and enjoyed some salads, my favorite of which was the Roasted Beet, with Roquefort and goat cheeses in a port wine reduction.

When our “grilled cheese” arrived, we weren’t sure what it was, but we soon learned that the slow roasted duck, braised cabbage, Dijon and brie on sourdough was as good as it tasted. We finished up with some bites of two perfect desserts – Vanilla Cream Caramel and a Toasted Pecan & Honey Tart.

We left Southampton for East Hampton and checked into The Maidstone.  This beautiful old mansion had rooms in all directions with Norwegian touches (it's own by a Swedish company). I especially loved our “Out of Africa” room, modeled after the book written by Danish author Karen Blixen.  It truly looked like it was in the middle of an African safari, but had modern touches (like an IPod docking station and Wi-Fi).

After we changed, it was off to restaurant two, Muse on the Harbor in Sag Harbor. The place is brand new and they’ve got quite a bit to offer for their first season. We walked into to the sounds of Long Island’s own Billy Joel singing “Only the Good Die Young.” The décor was modern, bright and comfy. The bar is large and complete – they even make their own infused vodkas, as well as some unusual offerings (try the Basil Raspberry Beret).

We had some yummy Apple Smoked Pulled Pork and then were blown away by the day’s vegetarian special (chef/owner Matt Guiffrida has a vegetarian dish each night).  It was a Mushroom Parmigiana, a cutlet made from mushrooms that was breaded, pan-fried, covered in marinara sauce and mozzarella and served with a salad made from arugula, artichokes and gigante beans.

As much as we wanted to finish that dish, it was time to head off to Almond in Bridgehampton. The atmosphere there was totally different, with the restaurant on the main road and much more classic, complete with Nat King Cole playing in the background.

We sat at the bar and took a taste of “Fire in the Hole,” a drink made with jalapeño puree that was much too spicy for me, but a favorite of many customers. The Ruby Kiss was a bit milder and fruitier, with Ruby Red Absolute, grapefruit juice, lime, cranberry juice, St. Germain and a bit of simple syrup. We also tasted three incredible dishes – Brussels Sprouts Two Ways, La Gran Mac & Cheese (with black truffle and lots of cheese) and Goat Cheese Ravioli.

We got a bit lost trying to find Fresno, but that gave us a chance to digest before the next food (and also see a great sunset over the water).  When we walked into this cozy restaurant we were surprised to be greeted by Diego the bartender, making us a Cucumber Caipirinha in the style of his native Brazil!

The drink and Diego were the only things at Fresno that are from South America. The menu leaned toward the French, as illustrated by the asparagus and poached egg in truffle oil with shaved parmesan we first ate. The menu is filled with seafood (which both Lynn and I are allergic too), but we also were told the French fries here are famous and agreed. We passed on trying any as we were off for dinner, though we weren’t quite sure how we’d get through a full meal.

Dinner was at The Living Room, a beautiful fine dining room at The Maidstone.  We didn’t end up finishing our meals, but certainly not because we didn’t like them. The mushrooms on toasted brioche with a brandy cream sauce were full of flavor, as was the Ricotta Gnocchi, in a garlic broth with Swedish lamb meatballs (that were also stuffed with ricotta).  The Ginger Vanilla Crème Brulee was also something we hated to leave, but we were as stuffed as the meatballs!

By the time we were done eating dinner, we barely made our way up to our rooms before falling asleep. It had been a really long day and we had another one ahead of us. I had neglected the Hamptons for two long and it was time to make that up. 

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