Friday, May 25, 2012

We've got the beaches!

Little Plains Beach, Southampton
In 2010, Dr. Stephen Leatherman (a.k.a. Dr. Beach) named Southampton's Coopers Beach the #1 beach in America, making all us residents very proud. And now, the venerable National Geographic has seconded Dr. Beach's recommendation: In a recent article, National Geographic listed the beaches of the Hamptons as #4 in the WORLD, and the best in America, beating out even Hawaii!! (See the complete article here.)

Okay, you ask, where in the world are there better beaches? According to NatGeo:

1) Seychelles
2) Maldives
3) Bora Bora (Tahiti)

Okay, I can live with that.

Speaking of the beach, we sure hope the clouds clear out for this weekend, the official start of summer, as so many visitors to the Hamptons hope to start their summer tans on Memorial Day. (Check out the live webcam of Coopers Beach here to see if you need your bathing suit or a hoodie!) But whether the sun is shining or not, one event on Cooper's Beach promises to draw a crowd. More than 1,000 people are anticipated on Saturday afternoon at Kites For A Cure, the annual family kite fly sponsored by the nonprofit organization Uniting Against Lung Cancer to benefit lung cancer research. For $30 donation, participants receive a high-quality kite that can be decorated on-site with drawings, names of loved ones, perhaps wishes or messages to be flown over the ocean. All proceeds go to Uniting Against Lung Cancer's national lung cancer research program. How much fun is this, and you're benefiting a worthy cause?

(By the way, this native Californian tips her hat to Dr. Beach's 2012 winner of the best beach in America: Coronado Beach, in sunny San Diego...Congratulations!)

Quote of the Day: Everyone can reach back to one summer and lay a finger to it, finding the exact point when everything changed. That summer was mine.”   ― Sarah Dessen, That Summer

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Balloons

One of the things Chris and I ask guests when they book here at A Butler's Manor is whether they are celebrating a special occasion while visiting. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a proposal. Interestingly, we have had two proposals since then, the most recent involving two guests who visited last weekend from Sweden! (Guess this is termed a Destination Proposal?) It gives a certain kind of joy to be able to witness these happy little episodes in peoples' lives.


Given that we only have five rooms, I guess it shouldn't surprise me when we have multiple celebrations in house, as we often do. But today we hit a new record: We have a bridal couple who will spend their first night as man and wife here...an anniversary...two birthdays...and a babymoon! This is what my flower arrangements for the rooms looked like this morning, before I took them to their respective rooms. Lots of happiness in house here!

And, speaking of flowers...I spotted the first rose of the season this morning, a bright pink "Queen Elizabeth" next to the fountain on the patio. A rose for Mother's Day!...a month earlier than usual!

Out on the town, a.k.a. our foodie report: Chris and I have been doing our bit to sample some of the new restaurant crop here in the Hamptons. Last week we journeyed to Three Mile Harbor to Andrra, the harborside property formerly occupied by the Boathouse (and, for years before that, Bostwick's on the Harbor). Far from the funky/casual fish house over the marina the restaurant used to be, the owners of Andrra have renovated the second-story spot to create a sleek, stylish lounge and dining room that can be utilized year round. The food highlights a Meditteranean take on seafood and chops redolent of owners Sami and Noti Krasniqi's heritage - this is not your Hamptons' Usual. The Toskan BBQ shrimp was beyond yummy!  You need the finger bowl they provide because it is finger licking good! And the atmosphere...even without the second-to-none East Hampton sunset...is sublime. Gorgeous steel blue walls and white trim, a lounge seats and even a fireplace...I predict that this will become a major late night hangout for the club set. Alas, that won't include Chris and me, because we're long abed by the time the entertainment warms up, but we'll be there for sunsets and "Stars of the Sea!"

Speaking of Meditteranean, we had lunch at in Southampton this week at Nammo's Estiatoria. Whole fish is a specialty here, and obligingly, I had the dorade, which was beautifully sauteed in a light lemon sauce. The staff was happy to serve it already filleted so as to save the less dexterous of us the trouble of  dealing with all those tiny bones. Chris had a steak salad done over warm spaghetti. Wonderful, warm Mediterranean flavors and spices in the scungilli and fried zucchini and eggplant appetitzers too. I can see enjoying these treats on a warm summer night, out on Nammo's extensive patio.

Word is just out that our friend Tim Burke (230 Elm) has signed the lease to take over the Lobster Inn, the venerable fish house on the inlet at the top of County Road 39, just as you come off Sunrise Highway. Will it still be called Lobster Inn, or something else...? Stay tuned. One thing we know or sure is that Chef Randy is going to keep those lobster specials intact...Bring on the steamed corn on the cob, melted butter, nutcrackers and the bibs...Is it summer yet??? I'm ready for lobster!!

Quote of the Day:  Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive – Howard Thurman.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A better way to stay

A Butler's Manor is a proud member of PAII, the Professional Association of International Innkeepers, an industry group that has lately launched a series of video ads touting bed and breakfasts as "A Better Way To Stay." (Check out one of their videos below.) Yes, bed and breakfasts are a special type of experience, and this week we were reminded again of yet another way staying at a bed and breakfast such as A Butler's Manor is not your average hotel experience. If I sound like we're tooting our own horn, please believe me, we can take no particular credit for the stories below.

Early May, and while the flowers and trees are all in bloom (early! --we had lilacs the last week of April!), the weather can be iffy. Much of this past week has been drizzly. While there are lots of things to do here in the Hamptons and beyond that don't require the sunshine (wine tasting comes to mind), some definitely do require transportation. And among our five rooms of guests this week was a pair of  German girls who had arrived by train and weren't planning on hiring a car during their three-day visit.

Now, if you've followed this blog for awhile you'll recall that late last Fall, Chris and I made a pilgrimage to both East Hampton and the North Fork via our public bus just so we could direct such guests. And actually, these girls had done their homework and already had researched the bus and train schedules. But over breakfast -- one of those fabulous mornings where the entire table of guests enjoyed hanging out and conversing long past the time we'd cleared their plates -- one of the discussions for a rainy day option was a visit to the Tanger Outlet Mall in Riverhead, about a 25 minute drive from Southampton. And the upshot was that another couple, visiting from Australia, offered the German girls a ride up to the outlet mall with them. Sweet!

Throughout this entire week our guests seemed particularly simpatico. A few nights later, several were enjoying some wine before the fire and discussing options for dinner. When two of the couples learned they were both planning on dining at red bar brasserie, they decided to dine together.

We've had instances where we drop off a carload of guests at the beach at the same time, and they decide to set up their towels and hang out together. I love things like this.

Granted, that's not always what you're looking for when you get away. Often, you just want a little downtime away from the madding crowd. But to unexpectedly meet others whom you enjoy enough to extend your conversation beyond our communal breakfast...well, it takes a certain kind of place. And, if I may say so, one Chris and I are very proud to offer.

Quote of the Day: A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.--Wilfred Peterson

Friday, May 4, 2012

Not one of my better recipe ideas

For all of my loyal guests who have come to believe that I can't put a foot wrong while cooking breakfast, today would be the day that I dispell those illusions.

I love to create new entrees for our breakfast guests, and I get ideas everywhere. And I'm continually thinking of how to present these entrees for maximum "pretty." Today, we had four guests for breakfast. Asparagus is in season in the garden, and I'd found a yummy-looking recipe for asparagus frittata which included sauteed onions and artichoke hearts. To my mind, however, this combination would have very little color, all of it pale grey-green. So I decided to add some roasted red peppers, some ham, some feta, and a little grated Parmesan to the frittata.

The problem is that frittatas are usually made in a pie plate or a sauté pan, and the smallest diameter of either that I own is 9" which would result in a pretty flat frittata--even, I thought, with all those ingredients. Then I had a brainstorm: I have a 7" Springform pan I rarely use. Why not bake the frittata in that? That way, I could just release the exterior of the pan, and cut the resultant puffed concoction into four lovely pieces, et voilà! The recipe called for a baking time of 15-20 minutes, but because I know frittatas hold well and actually are a little better if rested once baked, I put the dish in 40 minutes in advance of our 9:30 breakfast.

Well. This is an example of why you should try out such experiments on yourself before you try them for company. One does not make a frittata in a cake pan. First of all, some of the egg mixture ran out under the springform sides of the pan. (Fortunately, I'd anticipated this possibility by putting a cookie sheet under the pan.) Then, the high sides blocked the heat necessary to bake it evenly. When the alarm went off at the 20 minute mark, the frittata was still uncooked in the middle. I baked it for the full forty minutes, and still it wasn't completely done.

So at 9:25, we had a game change, and I made a Tuscany omelette on the stove with all the above ingredients except the asparagus (no time to harvest, clean, and steam it). Why I didn't just do this in the first place is a mystery. The guests loved it, and never knew it wasn't what I'd originally planned.

I baked the frittata in the oven another five minutes and let it rest ten minutes. The result, freed from the springform pan, is what you see in the picture here. Chris and I ate it for breakfast and it was very tasty but, cooked or not, the result looked like a mishmash. Chris described it thusly: "Tastes great, but it looks like the dog threw up."  (!!!!! See what I put up with!?!)

So, lesson learned: Cake pans really are only for cakes. Next time, I'll use a square Pyrex dish.

But I'm still going to keep trying new things...


Quote of the Day: Are you casting asparagus on my cooking?? -- Curly Howard