Just wanted to say I LOVED your Marine story last week!
My little brother is a Marine and is over in Afghanistan right now! Good work, loved it!
Thanks, Nadine, and to your brother for his service. -SM
HAMPTONS SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR SOUTHERNERS
You’ve seen it on Entertainment Tonight and The Barefoot Contessa. You have read about it in People and Us. Now, you have the opportunity to visit the location that the glitterati (Billy Joel, Seinfeld, Nora Ephron, Alec Baldwin, Kelly Ripa and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name only a few) have selected as the weekend retreat of choice. The Hamptons has long been a second home to the charter members of the lucky sperm club, but in recent years has become the “in” vacation spot to anyone in Manhattan that feels comfortable in Madras trousers, and anyone else around the country that wants to walk in the footprint of the stars.
Since the first thing you need to do is get there, it is appropriate that the first survival technique discussed is driving etiquette in Long Island. You will probably arrive at J.F.K. or LaGuardia, where you will rent a car for your drive to the Hamptons. Within five minutes of leaving the rental car agency you will realize that the term “driving etiquette” is an oxymoron. Prior to leaving the rental car agency, ascertain that the most important accessory is functional – the horn. Driving on Long Island is not a means to get from point A to point B; it is a highly competitive sport, and without the horn you are at a total disadvantage. If you are not prepared to do 90 M.P.H. in the left lane of the Hamptons Autobahn (Route 27), move over or be run over. The cacophony behind you will be your first indication of your violation of the rules of the road. If you don’t accelerate from the red light within a nanosecond of its turning green, the horn behind you will notify you. If you aren’t going fast enough on a two-lane road, once again, the horn will attest to your slacker habits. While in the south it is against the law to use the horn except in cases of emergency, on Long Island it is absolutely obligatory.
Next, where will you stay? As you plan your trip, the first order of business is to locate a generous friend who owns a house on the water and is willing to give you the house, as well as the automobile he leaves there full time, gratis. Once you have done this, be aware that it would be pushing the envelope to inquire about the boat keys. If you don’t have the aforementioned friend, there are numerous places to rent by the month. I saw an ad for one lovely oceanfront mansion to let for July and August for $300,000.00, but that was the exception, most of them were more expensive or had the “price on request” that you normally see only at Harry Winston. Your other alternative is the plethora of 1950s motels dotting the highway with scenic overlooks of the filling station across the road.
Once you are unpacked, the next order of business is where to eat. There is an adage in cattle ranching that in order to stay afloat financially, you must be born with either the land or the cattle. To have to purchase both is a formula for financial ruin. In the Hamptons, it is likely that you can afford to dine there or find accommodations there, but highly unlikely you can afford both. While the most casual café appears to be inexpensive, tappetizer, that second round of drinks (you are on vacation), an entrée and dessert (you only live once) can push even a luncheon check in the lowliest of places into the stratosphere. One recommendation I can make is, prior to your trip, have your wife examined by an ophthalmologist for a rare visual disorder I discovered my wife suffers from (it seems to only afflict women), known as menu myopia – the inability to focus upon anything in the right hand column of the menu. The practical effect of this disease is that foie gras and French fries appear to be the same blurry price. Following is a list of the restaurants we tried and my comments.
Scotto’s Pork Store (not a restaurant but an Italian deli). Superb for takeout. An excellent selection of meats, cheeses, sauces and other prepared foods, as well as exceptional bread. Try the crusty semolina with sesame seeds.
Canal Café. Tucked away in a marina is this gem, whose printed menu offers the usual burgers etc. (the lobster roll is a must, but split it with someone – it is enormous), but whose chalkboard specials offered up everything from mussels in a red Thai chili sauce to grilled octopus. You will have the privilege of dining on this lovely fare on paper plates with plastic utensils but you won’t care, because the food is so good.
Inlet Seafood Company (Montauk). This was the site of our setting the new indoor record for a luncheon tab, but there was nothing we ordered that was not of the highest caliber. The oysters were harvested that morning from Lake Montauk, visible from the restaurant, and I can say that they traveled very well.
Squiretown Grill, a casual elegant bistro in Hampton Bays that we enjoyed. Not to show my age, but the early bird special, if you want to dine before 7 p.m., was really a bargain. Good selection, good portions and good preparation.
On a general note, we found that everywhere we went the French fries were excellent, possibly because they were made from the freshest of local potatoes, but for whatever reason, don’t pass them by.
For groceries, the Shop & Stop is good, but Citarella is worth a visit just to see where the Barefoot Contessa shops for prime meats and seafood.
We didn’t make it to Goldberg’s for bagels, but were intrigued by The Bagel Doctor down the road and were tempted to take a bagel from Goldberg’s to The Bagel Doctor for a diagnosis. Just what service does a bagel doctor perform and does your HMO cover it? We will find out on our next visit and report back.
Wineries on the North Shore have the highest concentration. We visited Duckwalk to save you the trouble. We enjoyed Osprey and Wolffer Estates. As a general rule, ignore the reds – they just aren’t up to par with California or Oregon, although they aren’t shy about giving themselves a variety of local awards. Stick to the whites and you will be pleasantly surprised. There is good wine produced on Long Island. Wolffer had the nicest tasting room, as well as a very good champagne. There is a small tasting room on the main road, but go to the main tasting room around the corner. They also have a barn you can tour, by appointment, if you have the equestrian bug.
Hopefully this guide will help you enjoy your stay as much as we enjoyed ours.
Harry S. Kuniansky, P.C.