Friday, October 16, 2015

Pumpkin Season (and EASY Pumpkin Cake Recipe)!

It's mid October and we're in full pumpkin season. The farms have Pick Your Own apples and pears, corn mazes and an abundant harvest of winter squashes, cabbage, kale, homemade jams and pies and so much more. We even have a new term, Pumpkin Traffic, which describes the stop-and-go that unsuspecting east-bound drivers passing through Water Mill encounter due to the wild popularity of Hank's PumpkinTown, which is located directly across the street from Duckwalk Winery. (If you're not packing children intent on visiting the wonderful playground at Hank's, ask us for the secret detour around this traffic jam.)

Anyway, with a little sadness, but also a sense of anticipation for sweaters, scarves, and boots (!), the rack on the back deck that during the summer held beach chairs got filled today with wood for the fireplace. The days are still lovely, with clear blue skies, no humidity, and a tighter range of temps between high and low (today, for example, the high was 62 degrees F, the low 54). Still, I expect the fireplace will inaugurate Late Fall at the Manor this weekend, with blazing logs crackling a cheery welcome to guests returning from their days in the cooler air.

Fall gives me the opportunity to cook with all things associated with autumn, like fresh apples and pears from the farms, cranberries, pumpkin and lots of cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg and ginger...Something I consider the epitome of autumn is a recipe I adapted after finding it first on the Weight Watchers website and since have seen all over Pinterest. I made it this week and four guests asked for the recipe. It's so unbelievably easy, and it's worth a share:


1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Spice Cake
1 can (14 oz) Libby's Pumpkin

Yep, that's it, just those two ingredients. Don't add anything the cake box tells you to. Mix together, by hand or using a mixer until it comes together into a stiff batter. Spread into a greased 7"x 11" x 2" Pyrex pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven. Cool in the pan 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile make the glaze. (Ah, I cheated! I added a couple more ingredients!): Whisk together:

1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or approx. 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, plus a dash each of ground nutmeg. ground ginger, ground mace, ground cloves, and allspice)
3 tablespoons apple juice or apple cider

Invert slightly cooled cake unto a serving platter. Pour glaze all over the top. Cut into 24 pieces.

This is major-league yummy! (And for the Weight Watchers among us, it's 4 PP per piece. Worth it.)

Get your scarf and boots on, and come visit a corn maze followed by a wine tasting, while you watch the vineyards harvesting their bounty for coming years. I wish you a slice of Pumpkin Cake before a roaring fire!

Quote of the day: I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion.---Henry David Thoreau

Friday, September 18, 2015

Yoga, salt, chowder, music and more

It's about that time of the year where I remind people that a lot continues to happen in the Hamptons post-Labor Day.
Crowds on the beach are gone!

This year, we have some intriguing new options. First, tonight begins the first Hamptons YogaFest, a weekend of sessions and classes and music and events all centered around yoga. It's being held on the grounds of Hayground School in Bridgehampton, and features local and international teachers and practitioners leading programs for everyone in the family. Check out the schedule

Just ran across this neat story: Shannon Coppola has just converted a space on West Lake Drive in Montauk into a salt cave comprised entirely of Himalayan salt. It's said that halotherapy (therapy using exposure to the salt) has healing properties especially for respiratory issues. You can book a 45-minute respite in a zero-gravity chair in the salt cave, which will, Ms. Coppola says, be open year-round for relaxation, prevention or treatment of respiratory and skin conditions and "post-Tumbleweed Tuesday ailments including seasonal depression." (Ha ha, yeah, in case you really miss all those crowds.) But I'm intrigued, and plan to check it out soon, coupling the trip with a visit to the Lobster Roll (a.k.a."Lunch") now that the traffic to Montauk has eased.

Other more conventional fun festivals scheduled in the near future include Southampton's SeptemberFest next weekend (September 25-26), which just keeps getting bigger and better each year. Sited in the center of the village, it features a farmer's market, art fair, crafts, the Harvest Day Fair at the Historical Museum, music, special events commemorating Southampton's 375th Anniversary, chowder tastings (get there early!! It sells out fast!!) and much more. One of the new additions in 2015 is the addition of rides on the Agawam Lake Ferry, which launches from the new boardwalk just south of the Veteran's Memorial on the south side of Agawam Park, and motors a mile across the pond to Gin Lane. This is something I've waited all summer for a chance to do, so look for me in the queue!

And in Sag Harbor, catch the 5th annual Music Festival next weekend (Sept. 25-26). This is not one of those huge Woodstock-like events, but rather a cool weekend of concerts ranging from Jazz to Folk to Global and more, held in restaurants, churches, art galleries and outdoor spaces, with proceeds going to support local school music programs and free live music performances throughout the year.

And while you're there, want your own little break from the stress of real life? Book a reflexology session at Happy Feet in Sag Harbor. In the subdued light and the strains of gentle Asian music, relax in a big squashy recliner while an expert in Chinese reflexology soothes your entire being through the soles of your feet. At $35 an hour, this is one of the best deals in the Hamptons. (Hint: Appointments are scheduled on the hour. Don't be late or you'll miss out. And tip well--these guys really deserve it!)

Quote of the Day:  Slow down and enjoy life. It's not only the scenery you miss by going too fast--you also miss the sense of where you are going and why. --Eddie Cantor 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

I've written before about how cool it is to have guests who come back often, whom you get to know year after year while sharing a tiny part of their lives, watching them grow and go on to new opportunities. It's sort of like having kids.

Speaking of kids, if you've been reading this blog for a while, you remember Zach, who first visited us as a twelve-year old equestrian competing in the Hampton Classic Horse show. Over the years, we've watched Zach grow up, moving from Children's to Junior to Adult Jumper Class. We saw him turn 18, then 21 (the Classic often intersects with his birthday). We missed him the year that freshman orientation at his college interferred with Hampton Classic Week and knew how disappointed he was about that. We've seen him choose a career that will keep him involved with the show horse world, even if he doesn't himself show anymore. And this year he returned for his 13th Classic Week with us, bringing with him his beautiful fiancee.

And a big blow up swan floatie for the pool, which they are enjoying like the kids they still are, in my mind.

I love this business.

Actually, there's a lot of romance here at A Butler's Manor this week. Besides our affianced couple, we've had a pair celebrating a mini-honeymoon and, tonight, a bride and groom. The bride is upstairs getting ready as I write. So love is definitely in the air here.

(Though not on the roads. Traffic in town on this gorgous, oh-no-it's-almost-end-of-summer Saturday is diabolical. It's a great day to be at the beach.)

In other Hampton Classic news, we are proud of another guest of ours competing in the Adult Jumper class. Look at all these ribbons!! Congratulations, Deb!!

It seems strange to have the Classic finishing up and still have another week until Labor Day. It's a long summer this year: Memorial Day fell on the earliest date it can, May 25, and Labor Day will fall the latest day it can, on September 7. But hey, we think a longer summer is better than a blue moon!!

Quote of the day: Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the starts. To sit on a branch and study the clouds. --Regina Brett  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Recipe: Rhubarb Walnut Bread

Ah, the dog days of summer.

Someone asked me the other day how many recipes I had. Huh. I know I have over 50 featured in A Butler's Manor: The Cookbook (available here at A Butler's Manor, or I'll happily sign and mail you one), but I also have a 4"-thick binder of recipes solely for breakfast that I am continually adding to. (What an addiction!! And don't even get me started about my "Recipes to Try" board on Pinterest!

Following the conversation, I flipped through the binder and was amused to note that just a little under half of the recipes are for baked goods.  Ha! Can you tell where my heart is? Bread + sweet = yum yum yum. 

My baked goods, as those of you who have visited us know, fall into a couple of catagories--muffins, breads, scones, or coffee cakes. Over the years, I've gotten pretty good at anticipating the quantities required each day for each type.

Except for one.

Last year, at the Water Mill Community Club's annual dinner dance, I met a woman called Anita and we got to talking about A Butler's Manor, what I generally made for breakfast on any given day, and how I endeavored to use whatever I could out of the vegetable garden Chris plants every year. We discovered we had a joint love of baking. She said, "If you have rhubarb, I have the best recipe for you." 

Oh yeah, we have rhubarb. Which I delight in bringing, in the form of a strawberry rhubarb crumble, to any dinner party we're asked to during the summer. But for breakfast?

The following day she sailed into the kitchen at 9:30 AM while I was serving out breakfast and dropped off a recipe. "You'll LOVE this," she predicted.

Okay, I thought, I'll bite. I made it that day.

Oh boy, was she ever right. I make a number of types of bread and they all go down well, but when I make Anita's Rhubarb Walnut Bread, I go through 50% more than any other baked good I offer.


1-1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup salad oil
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk, OR 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. white vinegar added to it
2-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups sliced rhubarb, cut fine
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts

Mix all ingredients in order given. Pour into two greased 9x5" or 8x4" loaf pans. Blend:

1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste

Sprinkle topping over rhubarb mixture. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove to a wire rack, cool, remove from pans and cool completely.

Freezes well; stays moist when wrapped in wax paper and foil. Yields 2 loaves.

Watch this disappear faster than you can explain to folks what rhubarb is.

Did you know? 
* Rhubarb comes in both green and red versions.
* The stalk, which resembles celery, is edible, but the large leaf is poisonous to humans.
* Rhubarb is one of only two vegetables that are perennial--i.e., they come back year after year. (Jeopardy! answer: The other is asparagus.)

Quote of the Day:

 Image result for quotes about rhubarb

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hidden pockets of beauty

One of the great satisfactions of living in or visiting this beautiful area we call home is finding little hidden corners of special beauty. Here are some of my recent finds.

The Southampton Village Beautification Committee always funds the planting of red, white, and blue flowers at the train station, Agawam Park, and in scores of planter boxes lining the village center, and many other merchants often supplement the efforts with their own planters. But for sheer specialness, my favorite is the traffic barrier that defines the driveway between Main Street and the off-street parking lot behind Herrick's Hardware. The barrier is planted each summer, but this year it was done by the shop Club Monaco, which is located on the near side of the barrier. Like their shop, the border is done in shades of white and silver and features many fragrant herbs.

This is the perfect route to take to our Sunday Farmer's Market, which sets up behind the Southampton Arts Center (formally the site of the Parrish Art Museum).

Down at the beach, the rosa rugosa and beach plums are in full scented flower, adding that magical smell to the crisp salty sea air as you cross the dunes to the ocean. How can there be a prettier approach to a beach?

Rosa rugosa beachside
At A Butler's Manor, we pride ourselves on being one of those "little corners of hidden beauty," especially when it comes to Chris's garden, which is having a pretty incredible year. Incubated over a harsh winter and fed by spring (and summer!) rainfall as well as hours and hours of loving care, the gardens seem especially lush and full this year. Welcoming you in the front yard is our spectacular smoke bush in full fuzzy glory:
As anyone who gardens can tell you, it is an ongoing project. Last fall, we cleared a lot of ivy-covered ground surrounding a stand of forsythia on the south side of the pool terrace area. Chris has been replanting the space with grasses, roses in hot colors, black eyed Susan, and many other goodies. A sinfully comfortable Veneman Opal Lounge is now tucked under an umbrella next to this garden, and today, he finished construction on our newest water feature! I'm looking forward to soon hearing a bass line of croaking frogs added to the chorus of birdsong!

Come find your favorite little pockets of beauty in the Hamptons this summer. We look forward to your visit!

Quote of the Day: Beauty is hidden in everything, just learn how to observe.--Unknown

Monday, June 8, 2015

What you need to know before you visit the Hamptons

In an attempt to mitigate disappointment and/or sticker shock during your visit to the Hamptons, here, culled from years of overheard comments from visitors (ours and otherwise) is the lowdown of what you need to know:

Yes, it is expensive here. That applies to lodging, dining, drinks, transportation, and tickets to summer benefits. Shopping is not necessarily more expensive than, say, NYC, though our guests have reported cool finds and occasional great deals. Yes, there are a lot of shops that also can be found on Madison or Worth Avenues or on Rodeo Drive. If you aren't in the market for a Cartier watch this weekend, hey, that's what window shopping is all about.

Occasionally it rains here like anywhere else (except California)--even sometimes (gasp!) on weekends. On drizzly days there are still things to do that don't involve the beach. (My personal favorite is to go wine tasting.)
Image result for long island wines

Taxis rip you off because they aren't metered and there are no set pricing rules. And Uber just got banned in East Hampton Town unless the operators live in town. If you don't drive, be sure and budget for this. And be prepared to call for a quote from a taxi company before hiring it. (If you are staying with us at A Butler's Manor and plan to arrive by train or Hampton Jitney, make sure to let us know so we can pick you up from the station and save you the taxi fare...recently quoted at $12!!) 

There are no "early bird" dinners. Occasionally--mostly out of high season--there are some restaurants who do prix fixe menus before, say, 6:30 PM midweek. Never on Saturday nights.

No, you can't get a reservation at Nick & Toni's on a Saturday night unless your name regularly appears in boldface type in the Shiny Sheet mags or is synonymous with high box office returns.

All the restaurants here do fish. It's what we grow here. (Exception: Salmon, found on nearly everyone's menu, does NOT grow here.) It's a matter of style or cuisine or both how they prepare it.  Do you want a whole branzino, a glazed piece of cod, a casual lobster with the plastic bib and crackers? We can help direct you.

Image result for long island fish"I just want simple food." Just plain grilled fish/chicken/whatever is on almost no one's menu. (Here's an exception.) Most restaurants can make it for you if asked. Let's face it, with limited space on a menu, chefs prefer to spotlight their more complicated presentations.

Many restaurants, and all the trendy ones, are loud--on purpose. And often dark. And the tables are often very close together. The apparent thinking is that noise equals an exciting, happening place. If you'd rather enjoy your own conversation over that of others, we have some suggestions for places that are quieter. You probably won't run into a boldface name there though.

Image result for upscale dining"Who has a house out here?" Yes, there are celebrities here. More in East Hampton than in Southampton. No, they don't want to take a selfie with you. Thanks to the papparazzi, there are now online lists of where they live so that folks can stalk them. It's unfair because everybody deserves to have some time off, but I guess the media's fascination with celebrities has determined they shouldn't get that break.

Image result for ina gartenAnd finally, sorry, Ina isn't filming the Barefoot Contessa show for the Food Network in her garden today, and if she is, sorry, she already has her guest list planned for lunch. And sadly, the Barefoot Contessa market closed a number of years ago.

Now that you know what to expect as you pack your bags, we look forward to helping you enjoy your visit in the beautiful Hamptons we call home here at A Butler's Manor!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

We're on the tour!

Whew. With Memorial Day receeding into the rearview mirrors of our guests, we are now looking ahead to this weekend, when we join six other historical properties for the Southampton Historical Museum's 6th Annual "Insider's View: Tour of Southampton Homes."

This is a fabulous tour--almost all of the properties are in Southampton's Estate District. The only other non-residential property is the iconic St. Andrew's on the Dunes Church, which features a number of Tiffany windows and has an extensive history worth the visit.
The Windmill House
Here is a list of the properties on the tour:

The Windmill

This elegant property is located on six acres on an open expanse of waterfront on a scenic bay. The massive 12 bedroom, 10 bath mansion is approached down a gravel drive to a four-story windmill that stands between its two private entry gates. Wide manicured lawns with mature trees lead to the Georgian-style 1900s residence with ornamental columns, pediments, balusters, wainscoting, lead pane windows and steam radiators. Covered verandahs and decks stretch across the main house with views of a heated Gunite pool, flowering gardens and the bay. Designed originally by architect, W.E. Brady, the house retains many of the original features.

Tuscan Villa

Tuscan Villa
An enchanting Italian-style villa sited on 2.7 acres with a Back Bay view is included on the tour. This Tuscan villa is somewhat formal with its living and dining rooms overlooking the mature grounds and water. Its screened in porches; intimate library and sunny chef's kitchen make this property unique.

Village Cottage

This 1920s cottage located near the historic village center was renovated by a local architectural firm well known for their updated classic designs. By rethinking the Cape Cod style dwelling with bold new architectural features – a pedimented front entry, wide shed-roofed attic dormer, overhanging eaves and monumental brick chimney – the architects have given the house an imposing presence on the street. The picket fence and manicured hedges are a perfect complement to this picture-perfect village residence.

Hill House

The 19th century farmhouse has just recently undergone a major renovation which features unexpected contemporary art styled with traditional architectural details. It originally oversaw potato fields that once surrounded Southampton Village. Facing Hill Street in the heart of the Historic District, the house is well sited on a newly graveled forecourt, while the glazed porch serves as a welcoming entry. The lanterns surmounting the fence posts and vertically boarded gates provide hints of the transformation that awaits inside.

Lake House

This extensive mansion with sweeping views of Southampton’s most picturesque lake is steeped in history. It was built as Southampton was becoming a fashionable resort at the turn of the 20th century. Situated on Lake Agawam the house was a hub of social activity and host to many lively gatherings. Unique in its design, the residence boasts many wrap around porches, bay windows and other gracefully undulating projections. The current owner has decorated the house for a modern family with all the same comings and goings as its original owners highlighted with many beachy nautical details.

A Butler’s Manor
This luxury bed and breakfast was originally constructed in 1860 as the home of William Jagger, a descendant of an early settler of Southampton, and is now designated as a New York State historic property.  A Butler’s Manor is located close to the center of Southampton Village. The present owners undertook the painstaking restoration that has preserved one of the village’s most treasured landmarks. Refreshments for Insiders View ticket holders will be served at Butler’s Manor from 1:00 pm to 4:30pm.

St. Andrew’s Dune Church
The Church is located at the foot of Lake Agawam and is one of Southampton’s most picturesque landmarks. Originally built as a life-saving station, it was acquired by Dr. T. Gaillard Thomas and donated as a church in 1879. A local carpenter was hired to create its beautiful rustic interior, which is filled with treasures, not the least of which are its 11 Tiffany windows. The church has come under assault from raging seas on several occasions, including in 1938 when it was nearly destroyed by that year’s terrible hurricane. It was lovingly restored and has twice been 
moved back from the sea. Though it is non-denominational, its summer services are organized under the direction of Southampton’s Episcopal Church.
Entrance to our garden
In our case, only the ground floor and our gardens will be on the tour, so as not to disturb guests in residence. We are hosting the refreshment stop, so I've been baking hundreds of our signature Chocolate Chip/Oatmeal/M&M cookies in anticipation of 200+ people.
Columbine, ajuga, and viburnum in bloom
Snuggle into our "Opal Lounger," a two-person outdoor couch

Cookies await!
As of this morning, rooms here at the Manor and tickets for the event are still available. Come out for the weekend and visit them (and us)!

Quote of the Day: A face is like the outside of a house, and most faces, like most houses, give us an idea of what we can expect to find inside. ---Loretta Young