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A HAMPTONS SUMMER: MY FAVORITE SPOTS

Jennifer Mejia

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Summertime in The Hamptons can be wonderful! The beaches and landscape are stunning. Many of the homes and gardens are simply breathtaking and what dreams are made of. And while many of the rich and famous do, in fact, summer there, it is possible to enjoy The Hamptons as a "normal" person. The Hamptons stretch from Westhampton out to Montauk at the end of Long Island and also north to Shelter Island. If you remember only one thing from this post it's that you should never make an attempt to hit all of the hot spots along that stretch during one summer visit. Hamptons traffic from Memorial Day to Labor Day is absolutely horrible. After Southampton, Route 27, aka Montauk Highway, becomes one lane each way. And although it's only about 13 miles from Main Street in Southampton to Main Street in East Hampton, if you travel at the wrong time, that trip could easily cost you an hour. 

For that reason, many of the places featured in this post aren't too far from our home in Southampton Village. Call us lazy and impatient...guilty as charged. But I prefer to spend as much time as possible relaxing versus sitting in traffic, so we usually stay closer to home. Fortunately for us, the main reason we chose to purchase a home in Southampton is because we love the town and beaches, so we don't really feel like we're missing out by not traveling much farther east. If you want to see all of The Hamptons over a long weekend, I'd recommend visiting before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. September may actually be the best time in The Hamptons, as the weather is still beautiful, but most of the summer rental crowd has departed for the season. 

BEACHES

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Cooper's Beach

The one really annoying thing about The Hamptons if you're a day-tripper or even a weekender is that most of the beaches require a resident permit. These have to be permanently affixed to the window of your vehicle. You obtain one only by owning a home or presenting a lease to Town Hall or Village Hall, showing you're officially "living there" for an extended period of time. But in Southampton, you can visit Cooper's Beach for the day by paying a $50 fee (it was $40 last year) upon entering the lot. This gives you in and out privileges for the day. Cooper's Beach is beautiful, and it has clean bathrooms, showers, a beach "shack" (a nice one) with provisions, and the ability to rent chairs and umbrellas. Lifeguards are also present. This is probably the most compelling reason to choose Southampton if you're visiting only for a day or weekend.

EATS

There is no way I could capture all of the wonderful places to eat in The Hamptons in one blog post. You'd be reading for days. So I'm going to share a few of my tried and true, as well as a few newcomers that I believe are worthy of a visit. 

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Red Bar's Small Outdoor Patio, Image via Red Bar Website

Red Bar Brasserie. We are regulars at this bistro in Southampton. The ambiance is wonderful. It's an inviting space with a cozy, bustling bar. And when Glen greets us, he always makes us feel at home. The food is outstanding! The menu is fairly diverse with something for meat-lovers, pescatarians, and vegetarians. The restaurant features nightly specials, which is a nice treat for those who have already sampled just about everything on the menu. Celebrity regulars at this happening spot include Howard Stern and his wife, Brooke Shields and husband Chris Henchy, and to keep things exciting, a few of the Real Housewives of New York. Red Bar is open nightly for dinner during summer months and accepts reservations. 

Red Bar's sister restaurant, in the heart of Southampton Village, is Little Red. Count on the same caliber of tasty food, with a slightly more casual ambiance and menu. They also have an outdoor tented patio, which is heated or cooled, depending on the temperature outside. They do not take reservations, and seating is first come, first served. But the bar scene is also bustling, so having a drink while you wait isn't the worst thing in the world. Little Red is open for lunch and dinner.

Wolffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor (there is another location in Amagansett) wants you to know they are just as serious about food as they are their wine. Situated downtown on Sag Harbor's quaint Main Street, Modern American cuisine with a Mediterranean influence is on the menu, as are most of the delicious and famously Hamptons Wolffer wines. Reservations are accepted only for parties of six or more, but there's plenty to do and see on Main Street if have to wait a bit for your table. The restaurant is open for lunch/weekend brunch and dinner every day during summer months. 

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Beauty Inside Elaia

Elaia Estiatorio opened last July, so this is their first full season in The Hamptons. Serving authentic Greek cuisine just south of Montauk Highway, this Bridgehampton spot is one you don't want to miss. The beautiful, U-shaped bar is the hub of the restaurant, and this joint takes its ambiance and decor as seriously as its food. Every evening feels like an occasion to celebrate with owner Sofia Crokos, who is also a special events planner, decorating the space with fresh flowers, fresh bread, desserts, and accessories that will transport you directly to the Greek Isles. Open for dinner Wednesday through Sunday.

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Silver's in Southampton is open only for lunch. Situated amongst the many shops on Main Street, you'll want to stop by for one of their $60 lobster rolls. Yes, they're amazing, as you would expect for that price. As you might have guessed, it's a place better-suited for an adult-only meal. Closed Tuesday. 

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Topping Rose's Chic Bar

Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton is a Jean-Georges restaurant and has wonderful food and a happening bar and restaurant scene. During our first meal, we dined next to Christie Brinkley, and it's also a favorite of Ina and Jeffrey. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton is a great casual diner, but we like to go for ice cream and milkshakes. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner...or ice cream and shakes to go!

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Waiting for a Table at Canal Cafe...not so bad

Canal Cafe in Hampton Bays is a meal with a view. The food is actually fairly good, but you really come for the view and to literally sit on the water--many of the tables are on a deck that is an extension of the boat docks. They don't take reservations, but you can have a drink at the bar or one of a few outdoor picnic tables while you wait. Closed Tuesday.

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Ice Cream Outside The Southampton Fudge Company

For a cold treat on a hot summer night (or day) in Southampton, visit The Southampton Fudge Company for ice cream (and fudge and other candy) or Sant Ambroeus for gelato. The Village of Southampton has plenty of benches on which you can enjoy your sweet treats.

NEWCOMERS

Il Mulino is opening in Wainscott this summer. It wasn't open on Memorial Day weekend, but check back to see when you can visit this longtime favorite of NYC, now in The Hamptons.

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A Salt Drift Farm Creation, Image via Salt Drift Farm Instagram

A friend turned me on to Salt Drift Farm, a casual dining spot with indoor and outdoor seating. Think gourmet food truck grub in a relaxed and rustic cozy setting. I can't wait to visit!

 

FUN EVENING ENTERTAINMENT

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Sunset While Waiting for the Drum Circle Performance to Begin

Drum Circle festivities at Sagg Main Beach in Sagaponack begin every Monday during the summer around 6 pm. The drum circle musicians don't appear to be on a strict schedule, beginning somewhere around 7 pm. Bring your beach blanket and chairs, wine (AND cups to conceal it), and any food you like for an evening picnic. The kids will enjoy the company of other kids who are running in the sand, dipping their toes in the water, jumping from the lifeguard chair, flying kites, and dancing to the beat of the drum circle. To park in the lot next to the beach, you'll need a sticker on your ride. Otherwise be prepared for a parking ticket.

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Winestand Evening Picnic Crowd, Image via Wolffer Website

You might think you need to ditch the kids to go wine tasting. Not in The Hamptons. Make your Friday or Saturday evening a treat for all at Wolffer Winestand. From 5 pm to sunset, it's a "picnic" like no other. Bring your blankets and beach chairs and find a spot on the grounds right alongside the vines. The Winestand sells wines by the bottle, cheese platters, and other lite bites that you can enjoy with friends while your kids run, frolic, dance to the live music, and roll down the small hills into the vineyard.

WHEN YOU'RE THE CHEF

We are definitely not the Hamptons people who go out every night. I'm a real housewife of NYC, but I'm a real housewife of NYC, so I'm used to cooking. But truth be told, I love entertaining and welcoming people into my home. I enjoy visiting local farm stands and markets, and cutting fresh herbs from the herb pots that my kids and I plant every summer, to create something special for our guests. And it's sort of nice to come in from the pool or beach, have a glass of rose, and hang out with family or friends without getting all gussied up every night. So if you're the chef, here are a few of my favorite spots to procure goods for cooking at home. 

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North Sea Farms

I love to visit North Sea Farms for fresh chickens when I'm making beer can chicken. In addition, they have all the fresh produce you could want, including organic corn that's wonderful on the cob or in my simple but delicious summer corn salad (recipe to come in a few weeks). My favorite thing about this local farm stand is that they have a sign every day detailing what is organic and what is conventional, and this is terrific if you're like me and are finicky about what you feed your family.

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Eye Candy at North Sea Farms

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The Green Thumb's Wooden Train

The Green Thumb in Water Mill is a short drive from Southampton and a reliable place for quality produce. They also sell fresh herbs in pots so you can plant your own for the season. Most weekends, they sell pies prepared by local bakers. They're delicious, even if they are on the expensive side. And outside of the farm stand is a wooden train that your kids can play on while you're shopping, and it's right next to a small chicken coop that also houses a beautiful peacock.

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Round Swamp Farm Stand in Bridgehampton, Image via Round Swamp Website

Round Swamp Farm has two farm stand locations, one in Bridgehampton and the other in East Hampton. It has a reputation for two reasons. First, they have amazing baked goods, fish, meats, prepared foods and produce. But second, many of the items for sale (especially their prepared foods) don't have a price tag, which is sort of obnoxious and one of the reasons The Hamptons gets a bad rap. So be sure to pay attention when you're checking out. Thanks to a friend of ours who appears to be a grill-master, we visited Round Swamp to purchase burgers from Pat LaFrieda, a meat purveyor that used to pack meat in our old 'hood, The Meatpacking District. The burgers are the best I've purchased and grilled in The Hamptons. 

If fish is on your menu, be sure to visit the Clamman Seafood Market in Southampton. They have every kind of fish you could imagine, caught daily, plus more live lobsters than the waters of Maine (well, not really, but you get the point). And if you're not in the mood for cooking, they have a fantastic and reasonably priced takeout menu with everything from fried clams and oysters to grilled fish. 

Peconic Prime Meats is right next door to the Clamman. Any cut of meat you could want, along with housemade sausages, are available for the best cookout of the summer. 

If you've never made it inside its location in New York City, you may want to try Levain Bakery in Wainscott to get a thick slice of their chocolate chip banana bread or one of their killer giant cookies. They have lots of other flatbreads, breads, and pastries, but I just named my favorites. This location is open Friday-Sunday.

Ye Olde Bake Shoppe in Southampton is the best kept secret in The Hamptons. Stop by and get one of their to-die-for cinnamon rolls. Really. Don't leave without buying one. You will thank me later.

HAMPTONS SPECIAL EVENTS

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Taking in the Scenery at the The Hamptons Classic

The Hamptons Classic is a horse show that happens every August in Brideghampton. The kids will love watching the jumping competitions, as will you. And because it's in The Hamptons, it's sponsored by wonderful brands who bring lots of extra stuff for the family to enjoy. There is typically a kids tent with loads of arts and crafts activities like cookie decorating from Citarella, an area with farm animals, pony rides, and even playground equipment. For the adults, food trucks, cars on display from luxury automotive companies, and a shopping tent and mobile shopping trucks from brands like M. Gemi.

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July 4th Parade Musicians

The Southampton July 4th Parade is the quintessential small town holiday parade. Residents bring their beach chairs to line Main Street and watch old cars, marching bands, and the like stroll by. 

The Southampton Carnival seems to come and go a few times throughout the summer. Picture your typical small town carnival with a huge potato sack slide, a small roller coaster, games, candy apples, and the whole shebang. The carnival sets up shop on County Road 39 as you're driving into Southampton. 

 

FUN SHOPPING

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Kite Flying on Cooper's Beach (Kite from Kites of the Harbor)

Kites of the Harbor in Sag Harbor is a must if you're in The Hamptons and have kids (or just like kite flying). The beaches usually have a nice breeze, perfect for this pastime. The best thing about the shop is that the employees know which kites are easiest to fly and those that are more difficult so that your kids won't be disappointed on even their first attempt. The shop also carries fun costumes, toys, and gadgets and is located on the town's quaint Main Street.

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Joy in a Canister at Topiaire

Topiaire Candy Shop in Southampton Village is reminiscent of the old penny candy shops that I frequented as a child to purchase Mary Janes and Squirrel Nut Zippers. It's a charming spot and will delight kids and adults alike with the candies from our younger days, as well as giant gummy sharks that my kids seem to enjoy.

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One King's Lane has a wonderful store in the old Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton. Stop by to see some of the beautiful things that you typically only see online. 

GOOP MRKT is a Goop Pop-Up in Sag Harbor this summer. There are so many wonderful shops in The Hamptons that I can't list them all. But many of them, like MONC XIII, are in Sag Harbor, so if you can only shop one day, make it the day you visit this beautiful town that is reminiscent more of Nantucket than the rest of The Hamptons.

Serena & Lily only has a handful of brick and mortar stores throughout the country, so be sure to visit their Beach Market location in Wainscott. They have lots of fun events with cocktails and book signings throughout the summer, so be sure to check their Instagram and website if you'll be in the ara.

ON A RAINY DAY

On a rainy day, there is still lots to do in The Hamptons. Long Island is home to wonderful wineries on the North and South Fork. Near Southampton alone are Wolffer, Channing Daughters, and Duck Walk. The Parrish Art Museum is a wonderful place to visit and get some culture. Just don't go on a Tuesday because they are closed.

If you have young kids, they'll enjoy The Children's Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton. Or take a short drive to Riverhead to Safari Adventure, an indoor play area with bouncy slides, arcade games, and a multi-level human crawling maze, complete with slides, that even adults can enjoy. You can also hit the Long Island Aquarium to feed stingrays, see sharks, be entertained by a live sea lion show, or walk around with a butterfly on your head in the butterfly conservatory. This aquarium is truly worth a visit.

There is so much to do in The Hamptons during the summer and off-season. Perhaps I'll type one more post before the summer is over to capture everything I missed and some new places I have yet to discover. Happy Summer! And if you're not up for a visit to The Hamptons between Memorial Day and Labor Day, September is a wonderful month to still enjoy everything these beautiful towns have to offer.

BE THE HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST

Jennifer Mejia

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(Somehow Traci knew I'd use this goofy photo someday.)

I recently hosted a small party at my home, and I was thrilled that so many expressed gratitude for a wonderfully fun and delicious evening. Unfortunately, I didn't take one photo because I was too busy drinking, talking, and laughing, as a host should. One of my dear friends, whose opinion I value tremendously, gave me the greatest compliment when she said, “Barefoot Contessa doesn’t have anything on you.” I also found that amusing because Ina is my idol, and I have taken so many pointers from her over the years. But I’ve also taken tips from my mom, stepmother, sister, and grandmothers. And they all have a few things in common. They make you feel welcome in their home, they make you glad you came, and they make you want to return again and again. When all is said and done, that’s the key to being a great host, no matter how you choose to do it. 

I ran into my friend this morning after school dropoff, and I spoke to her again on the phone this evening. She was kind enough to articulate a few of the reasons she loves coming to our home. With that, I thought I’d put together a post on how to be the hostess with the mostest. Whether it’s an intimate dinner with a few friends, a party, or hosting people overnight, there are a few things that will ensure your guests enjoy themselves, leave with a smile, and want to return. 

1. Begin with the mindset of what I said earlier—you want to make them feel welcome and ensure they have a pleasant visit. To accomplish this, you need to have fun because as a host, you will set the mood. So that means…

2. Do as much as you can before your guests arrive. Remember that your guests came to see you. As much as they might like your cooking, drinks, and the entertaining and wonderful things in your home, they want to spend time with you. And as a host, it’s no fun at all to hear about the wonderful time they had with your spouse and kids after the fact. 

3. Have a clean and tidy home. At least the parts that they see.

4. If they are dinner or party guests, think about the presentation, but keep it simple. 

·       Display fresh flowers but not any that are too fragrant. You don’t want to trigger any allergies or offend or overwhelm your guests (fragrance is very personal). 

·       For serving dishes, white is always right because it allows the food to be the star of the show. But feel free to mix in other serveware that complements the white and/or goes with the tone or theme of the party. Home Goods is a terrific place for beautiful and inexpensive serving dishes (and many other things!)

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Photo via Ina Garten Instagram

·       If you can, use real dinnerware, flatware, and glasses, i.e., avoid using paper and plastic. If you have a larger party, I think paper napkins are fine…but use pretty ones. For a small dinner party, cloth napkins are always a nice touch. You want them to enjoy dining at your place as much as they enjoy all of the elements of a nice restaurant. 

5. Food. There is a rule (I can’t remember who I heard it from first) that you should never make something for the first time when you are having guests. I have a slightly different version: For the main course and/or the majority of what you serve, you should offer things that are foolproof and tried and true for you. As long as you know your guests will really enjoy a few things, I think it’s okay to experiment a little and use them as your guinea pigs, especially if they know you like to cook and bake. That could actually make for a little fun. But be sure to taste it before you serve it. Don’t experiment if that makes preparation too stressful. 

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, find out what your guests like and don’t like and what they can and cannot eat. If someone is a vegetarian or pescatarian, don’t serve chicken or beef. If they have food allergies, don’t serve something that is or contains an allergen. You don’t want to make your guests uncomfortable when they have to politely decline your food, and you don’t want to make them feel like a problem when they have to ask for something else to avoid anaphylaxis.

Try to have a nice mix of things. For example, have something hearty, something light, and something sweet and indulgent. I always try to serve something that is special or unique--something my guests probably wouldn’t have anywhere else and/or something I know is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. And as my friend said, she loved the way all of the colors of the food and dishes complemented each other and seemed very cohesive. She enjoyed feeling that a lot of thought went into preparing for her arrival and that of the rest of my guests. If it’s a party, try to serve finger foods. Don’t make it difficult for people to juggle holding a glass, a plate, and a fork. Finally, not everything needs to be made from scratch. Head to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or your favorite local market to procure meats, cheese, crackers, and fruit for a beautiful platter that you simply assemble before your guests arrive. And if cooking just isn’t your thing, order from a catering company.

6. Alcohol and Beverages. Make it festive and have a variety. With a small group, as with food, find out what your guests like and don’t like. If they aren’t wine drinkers, get their favorite spirit and mixers so they can enjoy their favorite cocktail. For a party, keep it simple and set it up so your guests can be self-sufficient. You don’t want to play bartender all night, although it’s nice to pour them a drink when you can. For my gathering last week, I served two of my favorite Wolffer roses, a festive sangria, LaCroix lime sparkling water (with cute straws for the cans or glasses), and a beautiful pitcher of ice water with lemons. 

7. If it’s a party, try to have everything where your guests will congregate most of the time, but have it organized into stations if possible. For my recent gathering, I used our étagère in our dining area to create a beverage station. It had wine and highball glasses on a shelf above all of the beverages and ice bucket. On the island that is open to the dining area, I displayed all of the food. The appetizers were in front/on the dining room side, and the desserts were on cake stands behind the appetizers/on the kitchen side. Ideally I would have brought desserts out later, but I wanted to enjoy my guests’ company, so I opted to put everything out at once and present it in the order it would likely be consumed (not that having dessert first is a crime!)

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8. The party I had last week was a gathering to celebrate the launch of my blog. I invited all women. I served a few of the recipes that have been featured on my blog. But I’m also a busy mom, and all of the women I invited are busy with kids and/or full-time jobs. That means we really don’t have a lot of time to shop and indulge. So I added the option to shop Stella & Dot and transformed my dining table (in between the drinks and food) into a jewelry and accessory department. In addition to the fact that she loved the jewelry, my girlfriend expressed that she liked that there was a common activity that sparked conversation between people who entered the party as strangers. After all, women usually dress for other women (contrary to what many think), so it was fun for her to shop and share opinions in a fun and comfortable setting. So whether it’s jewelry or a game or a wine tasting, try to have some activity to get the party started, especially when people aren’t from the same crowd. 

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Photo via Pinterest

9. And finally, a few tips for overnight guests. Make their room a cozy retreat. Last summer, we hosted many people at our home, and the guest room was far from decorated and complete. But I tried to make it cozy by adding a nice candle and fresh flowers to the nightstand. If you have the space, try to give your guests a dedicated bathroom so they can make themselves at home without having to pack up and clean up each time they use it. Make sure they have plenty of clean towels (bath, hand, and washcloths). Have shampoo, toothpaste, and a few of the basics in the bathroom in case they forgot to pack omething. And make sure they know they are welcome to anything in your home. They can go into the pantry or refrigerator at any time and they are welcome to whatever they need (assuming it’s not your chicken marinating for tomorrow’s lunch!)

Having a beautiful home means nothing without people to share it with. So do everything you can to make your guests feel welcome and leave counting the days until their return.