Saturday, April 22, 2017

Happiest in the Hamptons--Spring!

Early spring is always such a tough call. The weather may be clear and cool, as it was earlier this week, or it can be drizzly and chilly, as it was today. Or sometimes, we even get a heat wave! In our first year of operation, 2002, we were serving breakfast in the garden this week because temps had spiked to near 80 degrees.

It was the first day of the Spring Sidewalk Sale in Southampton Village, and the merchants on Main and Job's Lane gamely battled the periodic drizzle. Thankfully, the weather seems poised to clear tonight, so that tomorrow's Sidewalk Sale should be a warmer experience! Saw this cute display of merchandise on a recent walk down Main Street, Southampton. Bet this line will sell out fast!

In the meantime, our wood burning fireplace is creating a great place to return to after exploring the area.

Got word of an article just published in Architectural Digest that listed nine of America's most beautiful golf coursesAt the top of the list, of course, is Augusta National in Georgia, where the annual Master's Tournament was recently held. But how gratifying is it to learn that THREE of the remaining eight courses are located right here in the HamptonsShinnecock Hills Golf Club and National Golf Links, next door to each other here in Southampton, and The Bridge in Bridgehampton. Pretty impressive! (And no, sadly, we don't have an in at any of them to get a tee time, alas.)

Chris and I are busy planting, painting, and rearranging to add new touches to A Butler's Manor. In the next few weeks, look for some tweaks in our dining room, Goose Creek, and Villefranche. Watch this space for details!

And here's our new take on the doors to our rooms, playing up our butlering background. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize the ubiquitous bowler worn by the venerable Mr. Carson. Make sure you take a selfie in the bowler hat when you visit! Extra credit for posting it to Instagram and or Facebook! #abutlersmanor #bowlerized 

This past Wednesday, I had an opportunity to demonstrate some of our signature breakfast dishes at Rogers Memorial Library. The theme I chose was entrees that can be prepared the night before and baked off in the morning. We featured one savory dish and one sweet dish, and our Raisin Bran Muffins. Chris came along to serve out the samples and charm everyone and generally play magician's assistant. It was a lot of fun!

Speaking of creativity in the kitchen, I've been having some fun making some breakfasts I can only really do when the house isn't full...menus that are just too labor-intensive for a full house. This is what was on the menu this morning: Orange Ebelskivers --a filled pancake--with fresh strawberries and Nutella...looks yummy, no? One of the perks of offseason visits!!


Spring is a great time to explore the Hamptons and the North Fork before the crowds get here, and where you stay is an important part of your Hamptons experience. Click here to check out our available rooms. 

Hope to see you soon!





Friday, April 7, 2017

Welcoming Spring 2017!

We opened for the 2017 Season this week. It's early Spring, and that always makes us excited for the new experiences to come. I'm looking at paint chips and ideas for the guest rooms, while the garden has had its spring cleaning, and Chris is happily planning and planting.  He's got himself a little temporary greenhouse in which to start his seedlings, which should be an improvement on previous years when flats occupied floor space all over the office until size and weather permitted their replanting outdoors.
Beginnings of the vegetable garden!

Sydney and Kim in Palm Springs, en route back to the Manor

You'll find a new addition to the staff at A Butler's Manor: Chris and I adopted a dog over the winter. Her name is Sydney, and she's four years old, rescued from a shelter in Mexico! She's probably some mix of breeds, but she's definitely of the hunter class (perhaps Nova Scotia Duck Toller Retriever?) because she is a sweet, mellow little girl...until she goes outside.And then -- if it moves, she chases it. With Sydney on patrol, we should have far fewer squirrels and rabbits in the garden. (Chris figures she earns all her goodies just for that service.)

The first guests of our new season were a lovely couple from the Philly area. John Stango is an artist and he's out here to transition between galleries. His work is fairly large in scale, so the art dealer met them here in the living room to inspect his canvasses. They are fun, bright pop-art pieces and he joked that we could redecorate the Manor with them. What do you think?





In other news, it's always interesting watching transformations in the village. To that end, we're scheduled to try out one of the latest restaurant changes tomorrow night: Job's Lane Gastropub, a completely new endeavor by Billy Oster, who has operated the prime corner of Windmill Lane and Job's Lane as Tuscan House for the past 13 years.  Gastropub promises to offer the best of the Tuscan House plus "Euro-American pub fare." Watch this space for the report!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Butler, Butlers Brand, and how to peek into one of Those Houses

Just saw that I last blogged in mid June. Whoa. Summer sure has a way of getting away from me (which is probably the opposite of how our guests feel, i.e., getting away for the summer).

But here's a taste of what the summer sky looked like last week:


So under the heading of What's New and Exciting: In addition to welcoming awesome guests from near and far, Chris has been active in a new venture called Butlers Brand Concentrated Cleaning Solutions.
The butler on the set
The company was founded by former butler colleagues who saw the need for a completely scent-free, non-chemical, yet highly effective green cleaning product to be used in the estates of the rich and famous...and in the homes of the hoi polloi (that's the rest of us). Chris is a spokesperson for the product, helping to launch it at a "soft opening" about a year ago at the DEMA (Domestic Estate Managers Association) conference in Florida, and contributing blog material, tips, and expertise.

At the Farmer's Market last Sunday
We've been using Butlers Brand Universal Cleaner at A Butler's Manor for over a year now. Admittedly, our housekeepers were wary of a product that didn't have any odor ("how can you tell it's clean if it doesn't smell like [bleach, PineSol, Murphy's Wood Soap, Lysol--name your poison]?") and so we eased into the change by adding a couple drops on doTerra "On Guard" essential oil. The universal cleaner, which comes with a wonderful, heavy duty aluminum spray cannister, is great on hard surfaces such as granite, marble, tile, wood, and stainless steel.

Due to a recent media request for information and video content, Chris spent much of this past Thursday in front of a video camera, shooting short segments about cleaning and maintaining a well-run, healthy home. While some of the shoot took place here in our gardens, much of it took place at the Hamptons Designer Showhouse, shown above. (Yeah, I WISH I had that kitchen too.)  I'm looking forward to seeing the completed videos, and will post them when they're up. Exciting! 

Butlers Brand has launched its website with online ordering capabilities and has so far debuted the product locally. If you're visiting, it's available at Fork & Rosethe Southampton Chamber of Commerce Farmer's Market, and here at A Butler's Manor.

Coastal Living Showhouse, Junior Master Bath
Speaking of showhouses! With all the usual activities that people visit the Hamptons for in the summer, this is one that might get overlooked since it's an indoor activity. (Perfect for that odd overcast day!) For those of us who would love to take a peek into some of the estates here and see how the other half live, a few hours spent wandering through the rooms of a showhouse is about as close as you can come without an invitation to cocktails behind the hedges. And this year there are two showhouses to drool over, both located around Sag Harbor. 

The annual Hamptons Designer Showhouse, which benefits Southampton Hospital, features a cadre of talented designers and decorators who each take a room or a space and transform it. (It is now all the cleaner for having the Butlers Brand crew visit it.) 

The second, which we had an opportunity to sneak off and see the other (rainy) day, is sponsored by Coastal Living Magazine. Unlike the Designer Showhouse, Coastal Living Showhouse's team has coordinated their decorating efforts under one designer to produce a more harmonious finished product that looks all of a piece. (Theme, of course, is beach house.) One of the takeaways? Wallpaper is back in vogue...
Coastal Living Showhouse, Master Bedroom

Coastal Living Showhouse, Kitchen
 Meanwhile back at the ranch... Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, Italian peppers and rhubarb are in full swing in the vegetable garden, so I'm making much use of all of them when planning menus. Our neighbor across the street has taken to putting up a small table of his excess produce with a little sign inviting people to take some...free...but take only what you need. Sweet!






Saturday, June 11, 2016

Ready for my close up, part 3: The result!

We had a pretty crazy week here at A Butler's Manor, and thus it slipped my mind that this was the week when the segment "East End Bed & Bites" on the Fios1 show Restaurant Hunters: Long Island would go live. Then this afternoon I was checking in some repeat guests, a sweet couple from upIsland, who said "Hey! I turned on the TV yesterday and saw Chris!" -- and I had to run off and find the finished product of the filming that took place a few weeks ago.



I truly didn't expect that we would have much more than a mention, so am thrilled with the episode!

Here it is!


Sunday, April 17, 2016

Ready for my close up: part 2

Update on the shoot for "Bed and Bites," the episode of "Restaurant Hunters" on Fios 1 New York that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

Thursday, April 14: Day Of.

The garden has had its full Spring clean up and the pool is even open. The sky is a bright cloudless blue, so the flowers in bloom look all the more wonderful. It should make great establishing shots, as they say in the biz.  


In the kitchen, we've decided to feature our Zucchini/Cheddar Blintzes with Cherry Sauce, because a) they're different, b) the dish is colorful and should look good on the plate, and c) it is really freakin' yummy, so much so that I am glad there are almost never any leftovers when I make them. 

I agonized over how much to prepare in advance. While the segment is all about food, it isn't a cooking show, per se. So I didn't figure I needed to have all the pre-measured ingredients in little ramekins like on the Food Network that you hold up and say "Add two tablespoons of chopped garlic..." 

On the other hand, grating a zucchini by hand doesn't make for very scintillating TV. 

(Okay, you ask, why not use a food processor? After all, the Barefoot Contessa does. Answer in general: The recipe calls for a cup each of the cheese and zucchini, not a quantity that generally requires my hauling out the Cuisinart. Answer specific to today: Because unlike Ina's kitchen, we don't have electrical outlets on our kitchen island, so using a machine would mean I turn into a wall to work. I'm telling you, this is the sort of stuff that I worry about.)

Just in case, though, I did have my blintz filling and my grated ingredients prepared and pre-measured. And it's a good thing I did, because the Fios team was really pressed for time. In only 2-1/2 hours, they had to set up, shoot bits of the whole house and garden, interview Chris about the origins of our name, do the cooking segment, eat, and tear down. Had I chosen to feature an entree that required baking (which is most of my reperoire), I'd have had to do the Martha Stewart voilĂ - instant-food move of assembling the dish, putting it in the oven, then turning and taking an already-finished perfectly cooked version out of another oven. 

Because the blintzes are filled, rolled and sauced just before serving, it's a good choice for show and tell.  For the same reason, it's something I tend to make off season or midweek if we don't have a full house.

I think it went well. Host Amanda Price and camera wizard Danielle raved over the cherry-sauced blintzes (when they finally got to eat them). But I admit to being nervous about being observed under the microscope, so to speak, while preparing the food. Especially under the tight time constraints. I've decided I'm NOT auditioning for a food show in my next life.

I'm not sure when the episode will air; watch this space for updates. But in the meantime, here's the (simple!) recipe I prepared on camera, which can also be found in A Butler's Manor: The Cookbook.. It is very yum, if I do say so myself.

ZUCCHINI-CHEDDAR BLINTZES 


4-5 servings; 2 blintzes each

1 cup baking mix or pancake mix
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup grated zucchini (about half a medium squash)
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp. vanilla

Filling
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 oz.  vanilla Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar

Sauce 
1 cup cherry preserves (I like Bonne Maman), warmed up

Combine filling ingredients until smooth; set aside.

In large bowl, combine zucchini, cheese, pancake mix, milk, vanilla & egg with a wire whisk; mix thoroughly. 

Drop batter by quarter-cupfuls (blintzes will be about 4” diameter) onto a lightly-oiled preheated griddle. Turn over when blintzes began to dry along edges. Cook approx 2 minutes longer, then transfer to a warm plate. (Mix will make approx. 10 pancakes.)

Spread a thick coat of cream cheese on each blintz and roll up. Top with warmed preserves.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Getting ready for my close up

So the other day Chris answered the phone to someone from FiOS1 News Long Island, who are planning a segment called "East End Bed & Bites" for their show "Restaurant Hunter". And they want to feature A Butler's Manor's breakfasts. 

So of course we say "Sure!" like it's no big deal that they want to come film me making something yummy.

And then panic sets in.

WTH did I just agree to?!?

A long-ago photo by a guest of breakfast preparations in progress
It's not the filming, I don't think...I'm not particularly camera-shy. I'm the extroverted oldest child who is used to mugging for the camera. Though I freely admit I truly don't like cooking for an audience. (My confreres in the bed and breakfast biz who have an open kitchen plan whereby guests can watch them cook? Aaiiiiieeeee.) In all of my creative endeavors, I'm the one who likes presenting my art fait accompli, rather than sharing the stumbling process. 

Mostly, I am cowed by who else they plan to feature in the segment: the 1770 House in East Hampton, and the Bridgehampton Inn.

As far as accommodations go, both are roughly the same size as we are--i.e., less than ten rooms. But the big difference? Both of them have full-scale RESTAURANTS that serve not only breakfast, but dinner as well. 

Which means they have professional chefs. In fact, the Bridgehampton Inn's late owner Anna Pump was a chef, and cookbook author who also owned the popular Loaves and Fishes, a wildly-successful gourmet takeout shop. These guys are pros. With kitchen staff to back them up.

Then there's me. The littlest of little guys.
Making Eggnog French Toast (with staff of one)!
So to say I'm a little intimidated is an understatement. 

The shoot is April 14th. I'm still working on what I should make. What's your vote?

I'll keep you posted. Wish me luck! 


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:

TWO INGREDIENT PUMPKIN CAKE




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