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.


ANITA'S RHUBARB WALNUT BREAD


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

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sentimental gentlemen

One thing that makes owning a bed and breakfast so rewarding is having repeat guests, especially those who celebrate special occasions with us and allow us, in a tiny way, to share in the joy of their lives.

Every so often, we get especially sentimental ones such as J, whose first trip with T was a weekend three years ago at A Butler's Manor. Among their favorite recollections was their dinner at Tuscan House, one of our favorite Italian restaurants here in Southampton. The following year they celebrated their "anniversary of dating" with us, and this weekend they returned again on the same date. And over dinner Saturday night at Tuscan House, J proposed. 

It's special to see some relationships grow over time. Through their repeated visits, we've followed several couples from dating to engagement to marriage to the birth of their children, with all manner of life events in between. We've followed the lives of others whose children start and then finish college, as they plan the weddings, or welcome the first or the fifth or the tenth (!) grandchild. We've cried with folks who lose the spouse we've come to know...and rejoice to welcome some of them back with a new love in tow.

Proposals are especially exciting. Sometimes, as I've written on this blog before, the man enlists our help in setting up a location or decorating the guest room. Other times we enjoy the surprise along with the bride. Once, a couple who got engaged on the beach came across a large double clamshell that resembled a heart, and asked if we would boil it clean for them to take home and incorporate into their wedding.

Chris and I are big believers in celebrating all the milestones, even ones you invent just to make things cheers-worthy (first day of spring! got all the hostas divided!). We celebrate our anniversary of dating too, our wedding anniversary, and our half-anniversary (which falls on St. Patrick's Day; that's a story in itself), and all of the many milestones we've shared since opening A Butler's Manor. 

What a ring!
So I have a soft spot for the romantics. I love the folks who are celebrating the new job...getting into (or out of!) medical school...the last-chance-as-a-twosome "babymoon" prior to becoming parents...passing the bar...seeing the last child leave home....re-connecting with a long-ago love after a high school reunion.

Celebrate life, in any big or little way you can, as often as you can. Come see us--we'll help you do it!

Quote of the day: A good life is a collection of happy moments.---Denis Waitley


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Building that summer home in the Hamptons?

A recently-built "cottage" overlooking Halsey Neck Pond,
viewed from the pavillion at Cooper's Beach
Many of our guests at A Butler's Manor love to wander through the estate districts and look at the mansions on their large manicured multi-acre lots. These "south of the highway" neighborhoods--south of Montauk Highway, a.k.a. ocean side--are definitely the dominion of the so-called 1%. And early spring is an especially good time to traverse the wide, tree-lined streets and gawp at what a few tens of millions of dollars can buy you, because the ubiquitous European privet hedges that enclose most of them are deciduous and are only now starting to bud out with leaves. Which means you can actually see some of these incredible, enormous summer homes.

Older Shingle-style "cottage," more traditional to Southampton area,
Cooper's Neck Lane
(Somehow I don't think the estate owners who ordered the hedging to be planted considered that for year round privacy, they'd be better served with the evergreen variety --the common name of which, I was amused to find out, is California privet.)

Assuming the economic slowdown of the last half-dozen years even affected the very wealthy, judging by the amount of construction underway on the oceanfront and some of our tonier streets, it is in their rear-view mirrors now.

I took a drive around town today and was interested to see that after years of "new traditional" shingle-style building (here's an example), it seems modern design  in the Hamptons is making a comeback. These necessarily are complete teardowns, and some of the ones I cruised by today were in full frenetic construction mode, presumably because their owners hope to enjoy this summer in the house.
This house, located just east of Cooper's Beach, is reportedly 1/10 of a mile long

Front view of new house under construction, Meadow Lane,
immediately west of Cooper's Beach



Same house, from beach. (Note all the workers.)
 Of course, housing design is part personal style and taste and part trend, and trends are often cyclical (can we say "platform shoes?"). There was quite a rash of modern houses built in the Hamptons in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the south-of-the-highway Bridgehampton/Sagaponack area, as farmers sold off tracts of land, opening the area to what some feel was a period of unrestricted development. (The concept of unrestricted development was the primary reason tiny Sagaponack became an incorporated village.)
A beach house from the last "modern era?"
And truthfully, at a certain income level, you are able to build your house to more closely reflect your taste and personality. Calvin Klein tore down this bizarre, oceanfront castle

 to build this:

Calvin Klein's new digs
The state of oceanfront building in Southampton has hit some snags, as FEMA regulations following Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy have imposed rules that new construction be raised on pilings, stilts, or other such forms. Net result: the mansions previously capped at 35 feet above the original grade in the flood zone now threaten to be much higher, thereby impeding the views of other homeowners in the area. The house being built on Meadow Lane, pictured above, will reportedly be 53 feet above grade upon completion. Or witness the imposing house in the photo below, currently under construction on the bay side of Meadow Lane. The land in the distance, on the other side of the water, is the Shinnecock Indian Reservation.

But I digress.

As you see, even though I've lived here twenty-three years, I too love to rubberneck in the estate district. I love the rolling green lawns that spread from the hedges to the houses, set far back on deep lots. I love the stately gates and long driveways. I love the specimen trees that dot the landscaping. And I love what I imagine the views from their windows must be.

Ah, to view the vast array of extreme residences and dream of winning the lotto, or discovering that you are distantly related to one of these billionaires and may figure in their will...

But until that happens, remember you always have a home in the Hamptons at A Butler's Manor!

Quote of the Day: If a man happens to find himself, he has a mansion which he can inhabit with dignity all the days of his life.---James A. Michener