Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Full bloom at the Summer Solstice!

There are many aspects of my new job as an Innkeeper that I’ve been enjoying, but none as much as the awakening of the garden and how it seems to be in sync with the awakening of the Hamptons.

When we arrived in early April, there wasn’t much visible life in the gardens outside my window. I felt the same way when I went out to explore the villages and hamlets that make up the Hamptons. I was surprised to find quiet streets, shuttered storefronts and farmstands that seemed to be abandoned. Thank goodness most of the wineries were alive and kicking!

Having lived in the Colorado Rockies for the past eight years, part of the reason Ralph and I took this assignment was to spend some time on the East coast again and meet wonderfully
interesting people. We also wanted to experience a change of scenery and have some fun with the Hamptons “scene.”

We didn’t have to wait long before we spotted Alan Alda dining at Bistro Ete, a small, French-inspired dining spot in Water Mill. We’ve marked our calendars to attend the annual Artists and Writers Celebrity Softball Game in East Hampton, hoping to get a glimpse of Alec Baldwin and Bill Clinton while they slug it out to benefit local organizations that provide vital human services to the East End. And there’s nothing stressful that can happen in a day that taking a walk on Cooper’s Beach can’t cure, so the salty air has been a calming balm on our busy days.

In the meantime, like the area itself, the garden has sprung into full bloom. The roses made their appearance last week, following several weeks of multicolored iris, alliums, azaleas, and peonies! And our vegetable garden is producing much that we're using in our healthy breakfasts, including asparagus, swiss chard, and lots of herbs. Bliss!

When we’re not watching others engage in playing sports, Ralph and I are fiercely competitive with each other playing ping pong. So when we learned that the 324 Lounge in East Hampton was hosting ping pong parties every Friday night, we got really excited. We’re used to playing in our cold and damp garage in Colorado, so upgrading to a chic, hip, hot spot in the Hamptons is an exciting night out for us! Loser buys lobster rolls at Bostwick's on the Harbor!

Between hosting guests from around the world and exploring our new surroundings, the time is flying and it’s hard to believe we’re almost halfway through our season with A Butler’s Manor.

Looking forward to meeting and sharing our Hamptons fun and experiences with you at A Butler's Manor, our Southampton bed and breakfast...and your home in the Hamptons!

Warmest regards,

-- Dina

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Taking the reins!

Hi, Dina here!

Six weeks into our new experience as Innkeepers at A Butler’s Manor and Ralph and I are finally feeling as though we’re getting in our groove. We arrived on April 1st enthusiastic, energized, a little nervous and oh, so na├»ve!

Kim and Chris were handing their “baby” over to us. Their pride and joy – the spectacular English gardens that Chris is deeply devoted to, their immaculate home which they have lovingly opened to guests for the past 17 years and just as precious, the guests themselves (brand new and frequent fliers) who we planned to take care of as though they were our own family. Gulp.

First, a bit of history about how we wound up as Innkeepers for 6 months...it’s something I’ve always wanted to do (hasn’t everybody?). Ralph wasn’t quite as eager as I was, at first. An introvert by nature, he wasn’t sure how he’d fare with the constant flow of people in and out of the house and daily meet and greets, but we agreed that I’d take on the lion’s share of cooking and hosting and he’d be back of the house, managing the administrative part of our new responsibility and tinkering in the garden, keeping the grounds immaculate.

Now I often find him chatting it up with guests in front of the fire, telling stories about what it’s like to own restaurants in New York and curiously asking guests to share a bit about their lives in England, Australia, Germany, New Jersey or wherever they’re from. I notice him wandering out into the dining room offering to refill coffees, just to have an excuse to ask them about their dinner the night before. He’s a natural.
 
Together we agreed that we’ve always wanted our lives to be a series of adventures. We’ve lived up to that promise to each other, sometimes going out on a limb to help the other follow a dream. In the end, it wasn’t hard to convince him that living in the Hamptons for 6 months, hosting interesting people and being part of their Hampton’s vacation experience was going to be fun and would satisfy our craving for something new.

Living in a ski town in Colorado enticed many of our friends and family to come visit often, so we are natural hosts and enjoy the experience. This adventure is a genuine extension of who we are and Kim and Chris have masterfully equipped us with all of the tools we need to succeed.

As they handed over “the baby” and headed west, we felt like new parents slowly learning to rely on our own instincts and putting procedures in place that helped us function as real Innkeepers. Once a guest asked me if I felt like I was “playing house.” I smiled and replied, “Yes, that’s exactly how it feels!” And I don’t mind one bit foraging the garden in the pouring rain for flowers to decorate my breakfast plates . . .


It’s early May and still off-season, quiet and calm, but not for long. The calm before the storm as they say. Because we’re still new at this, the Manor has felt busy, but we know better. Very soon, the Hamptons will be in full swing as tourists flock to enjoy the pristine beaches, charming villages and renowned art galleries. They’ll spend their afternoons enjoying the scenery at the festive wineries or at the Montauk Music Festival. They’ll spend their evenings reveling in the top-notch restaurants and the brand new “pop-ups” shops and eateries that make cameo appearances during the busiest summer months.

Our phone is ringing off the hook as people secure their accommodation at this sweet spot, using it as a haven to return to after their full and fun days of driving out to Montauk or the North Fork or using this cool article as a guide to fill their days, Memorial Day weekend and well into the summer.


We’re grateful to Kim and Chris for their trust and for this unique opportunity. We’re eager to make new friends, explore this fabulous area and make  A Butler’s Manor a home for ourselves as well as our guests for the summer. 

We look forward to meeting you when you visit our Southampton bed and breakfast!

--Dina Ferrante, Manager

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Expanding our team and your experience!

A Butler's Manor opened for the season on April 1, and the following day we toasted Dina and Ralph, ABM's new managers, who will take the helm here for the 2019 spring and summer season.

It's been a jam-packed, intense couple of weeks as we've been training them in all aspects of running ABM. But it has truly also been a lot of fun. We find the four of us are very simpatico and training flows from early morning coffee service into shared dinner preparations, underscored by continual conversation. We joke that we've been living a communal life these past two weeks ("Wait! Whose apron is this?"..."I think that was my coffee cup...") but amazingly, despite the close quarters and the level of detail, I think I can speak for us all that it has really been a fun, enjoyable experience.

Dina has lots of fresh ideas for yummy, healthy breakfasts. Ralph is all about making things run smoothly and efficiently. Both are interested, engaged and on point...and both have the passion for creating awesome guest experiences.

Which is why we are so pleased to hand over the reins to Dina and Ralph for the next six months, absolutely confident that our guests will have every bit the same careful, personalized experience during the spring and summer of 2019 as they have had throughout our previous seventeen (!!) seasons.

I can't wait for you to meet them! Join us at our Southampton Bed and Breakfast and see what we mean!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Our top 6 reasons to visit the Hamptons out of season


Early Spring is an excellent time to come to the Hamptons as a relaxing getaway. Here are our favorite reasons why:

1) If you enjoy seeing beyond the hedges at the big estates in the Hamptons, this is your chance. Most of those privet hedges are deciduous... which means that now they’re bare and won’t leaf in again in full until sometime in May. And chances are you’ll spot a few deer grazing on those estate lawns where no one is around to chase them away.

2)The trendy seasonal restaurants haven’t come to town yet, but our award-winning year-round places such as Plaza Cafe, Bistro Ete, 1770 House and Pierre's are open and won’t be crowded. (Now's your chance to get into Nick & Toni’s.)

3) Nope, there’s not a whole lot of nightlife, though you can catch a set at Steven Talkhouse or a concert at Bay Street Theater on weekends. And while the summer shops are still polishing their pop-up retail spots for the Memorial Day reopening, you can still check out some of our best, such as Hildreth’s, Rumrunner, Topiare and Sylvester’s for great household finds, or D.J Hart, J. McLaughlin, Chico's, Tenet or Jildor for clothing. Or, even better, check out off-season prices on consignment couture at Collette’s.

4) Bundle up and take a long walk on an empty beach, and pick out your fantasy beach house. Picture the parties you're going to have in it in the summer.

5) Oh, and wine! Nearly all of the wineries on both forks are open every day, all year. Without the crowds, it feels like you're having your own private tasting.

6) Most of all, the quiet season is a time to renew, recharge your batteries and most of all, reconnect. Has it been way too long since you've had the chance to look into each other’s eyes and really mean that “I love you?”

Now's your chance! And to sweeten the deal, we're offering a Spring Fling special: Stay for any two nights in April 2019 and we'll take 20% off your room rate! Find the details on our website here!

At A Butler’s Manor, we look forward to being your restorative getaway. Call to make your reservation today!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

A New Year and New Faces at A Butler's Manor!

Ralph and Dina, on one of their many adventures!
Chris and I are excited to announce that we are expanding our team at A Butler's Manor!

Meet our new Innkeeper Managers Ralph Landi and Dina Ferrante. This dynamic couple has had a long and varied background in restaurant ownership and management, construction management, life coaching, and more. 

Dina has owned her own yoga studio and still does worldwide retreats. Ralph is an accomplished restauranteur, currently a partner in two restaurants, one of which is in NYC. They have spent much of the past eight years in Colorado raising their now college-age son, and as you can imagine from living in such a locale are avid outdoor enthusiasts. They love to travel, love new experiences (ask them about running a treehouse inn in Costa Rica!) and love providing a nourishing experience, not just culinarily, but for the heart as well. Spend a little time talking to them and you are going to want their life!

Just to be clear, Chris and I still own and operate A Butler's Manor and will be in and out, but we are stepping away from full-time hands-on management. But should your visit dovetail with Dina and Ralph's tenure, we are certain you will experience the same welcoming and relaxing experience that has been Chris's and my mission to provide since 2002.

We all look forward to your visit!


Monday, May 28, 2018

SSHH (second in a series): All Buildings great and small

Settled in 1653, Incorporated in 2005 - in self defense.
No, this isn't a post about the massive summer "cottages" here in the Hamptons (although that in itself is always a great tour). It's about a few more of the places to be found on our Selfie Scavenger Hunt of the Hamptons (SSHH) that was the subject of my last blog. SSHH is our tour game highlights some of the cool and interesting places off the beaten path that aren't going to be found on some gossipy click-bait article titled "10 Top Things To See In The Hamptons (That You Can Then Brag About)."

Today we're in and around the greater Bridgehampton area. 

So to begin, here's irony for you: The village that contains the largest house in the Hamptons also features the smallest of schools. Tiny Sagaponack  and its neighboring hamlet Wainscott each boast operational one room schoolhouses.
Sagaponack School dates back to 1776, though its current building, housing 14 students in grades K-4 was built in 1885. Sagg School's earlier structure, constructed in the early 1800s was moved to Wainscott, where it still is in use for its 20 students in grades K-3.

Probably 90% of the school taxes for Sagaponack School (and a substantial portion of those higher grade schools it feeds into) are paid through the property taxes of this behemoth:

Yep, that's one house. The rough unpaved road is intentional.
Sagaponack School's original 500 square feet building is probably the equivalent of one guest bedroom in this 64,000 square foot mansion owned by junk bond billionaire Ira Rennert. Called Fair Field, it is one of the largest private houses in the country and sits on 68 acres of oceanfront property. In addition to the main house, there are several outbuildings, bringing the total of structures on the acreage to over 110,000 square feet.

A huge hue and cry was raised by neighbors when Rennert began building the complex. Though they were unsuccessful at halting the construction, the lawsuits did result in new, stricter restrictions on house size in Southampton Township...and to the incorporation of tiny Sagaponack as a separate village rather than just a "Hamplet" of Southampton Town.

(Perhaps as poetic justice for those appalled locals, a federal appeals court ordered Rennert to pay a $213 million judgment, upholding a lower court decision that found him guilty of looting money from one of his mining companies in order to fund the construction of Fair Field.)

Heading northwest from Sagaponack, past potato farms interspersed with horse properties, polo fields and a golf course, you may happen upon another house on a substantial plot of land that certainly doesn't look like any other house in the Hamptons. Maybe even the world:

This is called the Elliptical House, and yes, it is a residence. The house, barn, and dozens of oversized sculptures sit on the grounds of Novas Ark Project, the creation of the late artist Nova Mihai Popa. Situated on 95 acres and fronting an agricultural preserve, the property (though not the house) is often rented for large events and weddings. Chris and I call it "More Input, Stephanie," because we think it resembles the robot featured in the movie "Short Circuit." Short Circuit Need Input

Finally, as you enjoy the drive on Scuttlehole Road through the middle of the South Fork, keep your eyes peeled for buildings that may not look as though they belong here, but oh, they do:

These are potato barns, and they're purposely designed partway underground because they act as an enormous root cellar, keeping the potatoes naturally cool until they are shipped. Very occasionally you might spot a house that once began as a potato barn and was converted to a private residence. (Extra SSHH points if you do!) To me, potato barns are wonderful iconic structures, and as much part of the Hamptons charm as the villages that draw our visitors. 

So got your cellphone? Ready to explore? Come visit A Butler's Manor, Southampton's best boutique inn, and we'll help you see parts of the Hamptons that most people miss out on!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

SSHH...best kept secrets in the Hamptons!

Respite from too much shopping in East Hampton Village?
We get two main types of leisure (as opposed to business) visitors here at A Butler's Manor: those who live within about a 100 mile radius and return, often year after year, for a few days each summer, and those for whom a visit to the Hamptons checks off a bucket list item. Long ago, for these latter guests Chris and I compiled an itinerary to aid first-timers in maximizing their visit to our area. It remains popular and we go through several hundred copies each year.

We were on our winter sabbatical in California and attending a Jaguar car rally where you were tasked with navigating via landmarks (we won, by the way, yay!), when it occurred to me that it would be fun to go beyond the itinerary and offer folks who were so inclined an opportunity to discover some of the fun and funky corners of the Hamptons that make it special to us. And to do it in a way that created a personal photo album of the trip in the process.

So we created A Butler's Manor Selfie Scavenger Hunt of the Hamptons (hereafter SSHH). The idea is to find as many of the locations as you can, take a picture of yourself at each, hashtag it #abutlersmanor and post it on social media if you desire...but regardless, experience a broader view of the area than just Montauk Highway and our famous beaches.

Chris and Sydney were out and about in East Hampton last week, so Chris took one of our bowlers and stopped by some of the SSHH locations. Here's a small sampling of his trip that I'll title "Who's Who Who Was (or is) Here."

Chris is here!


I wrote about Jackson Pollock and the Pollock/Krasner House a few years back (read it here). Many people know that Jackson Pollock lived--and was killed in an automobile accident--in the Springs in East Hampton, but you may not know that he is buried here too (as is his wife Lee Krasner). Following his death, Green River Cemetery became famous as an artists and writers cemetery--many of the headstones are works of art in themselves.
Sydney at Jackson Pollock's Grave


LongHouse Reserve is a 16-acre sculpture garden founded by textile artist and collector Jack Lenor Larsen. Located in Northwest Woods, there are magnificent lawns and border gardens and a pond, all created with an eye to the display of contemporary sculpture. The Japanese-inspired main house is serene and in harmony with the surrounding gardens. It's open to the public for a small fee on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, or by appointment.
LongHouse Reserve

Lion Gardiner was an English soldier who established the first English settlement in what would become the state of New York. Predating the 1648 founding of East Hampton, Gardiner purchased in 1639 an island off the coast of what is now the Springs and Montauk from the Montaukett Indian tribe. The King of England granted Lion Gardiner a Royal Patent "to possess the land forever," and until the end of the American Revolution, it was not connected with either New York or Connecticut but was an entirely separate and independent "plantation." Nearly 380 years later, Gardiners Island is still owned by his descendants, one of the larger private islands in the USA.
Lion Gardiner's Crypt, with recumbent effigy

So, does this whet your appetite to find some of the lesser-known corners of East Hampton? Come visit A Butler's Manor, our New York Bed and Breakfast, and we'll set you up with the goods!