One of the things I enjoy most about writing a travel blog is all the interesting people I've met as a result. Well, that and all the free food.
And so, when I received an email from Carol -- the manager and resident den mother at East Hampton's posh Huntting Inn and the former co-owner of Mango's Seaside Grill in Anguilla -- inviting me and Angel to be her guests at the Huntting Inn for a weekend, I jumped at the chance. Because what could I possibly enjoy more than some lively conversation about two of my favorite places?
East Hampton is believed to be the first English settlement in the state of New York, built on land purchased from the Montaukett Indians in 1639. Through strict zoning and preservation laws, the town retains much of its colonial history today.
It also maintains a little bit of its natural beauty, too.
The Huntting Inn is the quintessential country inn and the place to stay in East Hampton.
Occupying a prime spot on the village's chi-chi Main Street, the Inn was built in 1699 for the second Presbyterian minister of East Hampton, Reverend Nathaniel Huntting, who raised 10 children there with his wife Mary, who presumably died of exhaustion.
Today, the Inn has the comfortable, worn-in feel of your grandma's country house, with beach chairs and umbrellas lining the halls, magazines and restaurant menus piled high near the cozy couches and on the covered porches, and board games resting on the hearth of the centuries-old stone fireplace, awaiting the occasional rainy day.
A bright breakfast room serves up fruit, pastries, and fresh-squeezed juices in the morning.
Outside, the manicured grounds are dotted with inviting benches and other places to enjoy the sunshine.
I just wish someone had told us to bring the Rolls or the Bentley.
The rooms are spacious, done up in soothing shades of sea and sky and sand, with large ensuite baths and plenty of thoughtful touches, like fresh-cut flowers from the Inn's garden, and dark-colored towels for removing makeup.
We typically drive out to the Hamptons after work on Thursday or Friday and return to the city late on Sunday, so the drive takes about an hour and a half each way. But on this particular weekend we departed mid-afternoon, and apparently so did all eight million people who live in this city, since the normally 90-minute drive took a whopping 240 minutes. I'm no mathematician, but that's 15 miles an hour . . . for FOUR HOURS.
If that isn't enough to drive you to drink, I don't know what is. And so you can probably understand why we needed to make a pit stop in Bridgehampton before continuing on at our snails-are-passing-us pace.
One of our year-round favorites, Almond restaurant in Bridgehampton boasts 100-year-old tin ceilings, classic white subway tile, and on-trend "bottled" cocktails, which allow the mixologist to fine-tune a particular concoction and bottle it, ensuring that it's perfect every time.
Though a lemongrass-infused Cosmo with house-made cranberry syrup is pretty much perfect all the time.
Of course, you couldn't really blame anyone for wanting to be in the Hamptons that weekend. It was late September, that heavenly sliver of time between summer and fall when the ocean is at its warmest, temperatures hover in the low 80s, and the sky turns a deep cobalt blue. Late-harvest tomatoes compete with pumpkins and squash for bin space at the farm stands, red and gold mums start popping up in window boxes, and in the villages, shop windows gradually transition from sundresses and espadrilles to chunky sweaters and cashmere wraps.
After checking in with Carol and settling in to our room, it was soon time for dinner, so we made the short walk down Main Street to the 1770 House.
The 1770 House actually dates back to 1663, when it was built as a private home; over 100 years later, in 1770, it was converted to an inn. Today, the inn is known for its famous "Tavern Meatloaf," which East Hampton's Ina Garten, also known as the Food Network's Barefoot Contessa, has been raving about on TV for almost as long as I've been raving about cheeseburgers on this blog.
But this isn't just any pub grub, and so the Tavern -- located, speakeasy-style, down a dimly-lit, narrow flight of stairs -- is guarded by a gate, and an always-full reservations book.
Seating is in a cozy, low-ceilinged room with comfy, pillow-strewn banquettes.
We started off with a salad of local heirloom tomatoes, then moved on to the main event -- the famous meatloaf with garlic sauce for me, and the succulent short ribs for Angel, which you know are good when they can distract me from a meatloaf.
For dessert, we couldn't resist the local berry crumble.
The next morning we decided to walk off last night's meaty excesses along the East Hampton Village Nature Trail, which is just steps from the Inn.
The Nature Trail ended not far from the Huntting Inn, but the day was so gorgeous that we decided to keep walking, past famed Further Lane and the other wide, tree-lined streets near the beach.
Of course, when you're part of the one percent, massive hedges aren't enough; you're going to need a guard dog, too.
But not just any dog.
Or even just any dog.
We finished our walk by making a wide loop toward the ocean.
East Hampton: Where the huge mailboxes are sized proportionately to the bills deposited into them.
We'd worked up quite an appetite after all that walking and stalking, so we made the short walk over to Cittanuova in the village for lunch. Blending sleek European style with a beachy Hamptons vibe, Cittanuova's glass pocket doors merge the airy indoor space with the shaded garden out back.
We settled in at a cozy table near the soothing fountain, then tucked into two orders of the panzanella, which turned out to be the best I've ever had . . . including the ones I've had in Tuscany.
Then it was on to a simple but satisfying spaghetti with San Marzano tomatoes, garlic, and basil for me, and the panini with prosciutto San Daniele, stracchino cheese, arugula, tomato, and white truffle oil for the Ange.
After lunch we milled around the village for a bit, taking in the sights.
By late afternoon the sun was hot and our wallets were empty, so we decided to stop by Main Beach for a bit, using the beach passes provided by the Inn.
While there are an unlimited number of beach passes for those lucky enough to own property in East Hampton, for non-residents -- those who can bear to part with upwards of $900,000 to rent a house for the summer -- the town issues only 2,900 coveted permits each season. And so stories of bribery, threats, tears, and extortion abound, involving everyone from federal judges and Congressmen to actors and hedge-fund moguls.
Which is why, for just the briefest of moments, I giddily contemplated auctioning that beach pass on eBay.
The ocean breeze made us thirsty, so we headed off to Bay Kitchen Bar, which overlooks East Hampton's Three Mile Harbor.
I'd heard that Bay Kitchen Bar had added juleps to their cocktail list, so we snagged two water-view seats on the upper level patio and ordered up a Blackberry Julep with muddled mint, blackberries, bourbon, agave, and lime, and a Root Beer Float Julep with vanilla vodka, root beer, bourbon, and vanilla extract.
We moved down to the Adirondacks on the lawn as the sun began to go down.
There, we were joined by this friendly speckled chicken? miniature turkey? No wonder the locals call us citiots.
That evening we had reservations to take Carol to dinner at the Huntting Inn's Palm steakhouse.
The place was packed, and even with all of Carol's pull, we still ended up waiting over an hour for our table to be ready.
That turned out to be a lucky break, as it gave us plenty of time for chatting and laughing and wine-drinking, and although I had brought my camera along, I respected our lovely hostess's protestations that she was feeling somewhat camera-shy.
What I can tell you is that Carol has lived enough life for at least two or three people, and she recounted much of it in hilarious detail, regaling us with stories of her former life as a nun, her years of being relentlessly pursued by her eventual ex-husband, the late Mango Dave, and her stint operating one of Anguilla's best-loved restaurants, Mango's (including through Hurricane Luis, which destroyed the restaurant shortly after it opened).
Finally, our table was ready, and we wasted no time in ordering up a feast of steakhouse favorites: Fried calamari, veal parmigiana, filet Oscar, macaroni & cheese, creamed spinach, and cheesecake for dessert.
Best of all, we didn't have far to go to crawl into bed afterwards.
The next morning we stopped by Round Swamp Farm, which you might recognize as the market where celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay, Eric Ripert, and Geoffrey Zakarian like to get their produce when they're out east.
But of course I wasn't there for the celebrities, and I definitely wasn't there for the veggies. I was there for the fried chicken.
And maybe some other stuff, too.
Soon it was time for lunch, and again the day's weather dictated that we spend it outside. So we decided to make the short hop over to Montauk for lunch at the Montauket.
Perched high on a bluff overlooking Fort Pond Bay, the Montauket is one of the last holdouts of the old fishing-village era of Montauk, which is unfortunately being rapidly replaced by a trendy young crowd looking to expand ever eastward from the Hamptons. (One can only hope that they eventually keep going and fall into the ocean end up on Block Island.)
The Montauket's vibe and décor are genuinely old-school, which provides a nice change from all the hipster spots in Montauk that have spent thousands of dollars and hired teams of architects, designers, and consultants in an attempt to look . . . genuinely old-school. But despite those efforts, I doubt any of them have one of these:
Lunch was good, but it couldn't compete with the fantastic view.
After lunch we headed over to one of my favorite spots to while away a sunny afternoon, the Montauk Yacht Club on Star Island.
Originally built in 1929, MYC underwent an extensive renovation a few years ago and now boasts everything from a surf camp and sailing lessons to nightly bonfires and S'mores during the summer. Done up in spiffy navy and white for the boating set, it's the perfect spot to take in the view while enjoying a cocktail or glass of wine.
Or some truffle fries covered in flurry of Parmigiano-Reggiano slivers.
The afternoon passed in a happy haze of sun and sea.
Before we knew it, it was time to head over to Montauk Harbor, where we planned to take a private sunset cruise.
The captain had told us we could bring our own beverages, so we made a pit stop at Lynn's Hula Hut for a couple of Hula Juices to bring aboard, then grabbed some sweatshirts from the stash we keep in the trunk, just in case. (It's the Hamptons: You never know when you might find yourself at an evening clam bake, a bonfire on the beach, or frozen out by an air conditioner set to 60 degrees because some socialite showed up to dinner in a fur . . . in July).
Montauk Harbor is actually the northern part of Lake Montauk; a cut allows boaters to access Block Island Sound and, beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean.
Although it was early evening when we set off, the cloud-speckled sky was already giving us an inkling that that night's sunset was going to be a good one.
As the sky turned a rosy pink, we plied the waters of Montauk Harbor and were treated to the sight of the fishing boats returning with the day's catch.
And as predicted, the sunset was spectacular.
Soon it was time to head home, but not before a pit stop at one of our favorite Mexican dives, La Superica in Sag Harbor.
Of course, because this is the Hamptons, that dive has a water view and plays host to sailors from the Breakwater Yacht Club after their Wednesday night races, but you know us: We're not too picky.
Besides, is there any better way to end the weekend than with frozen margaritas and overflowing platters of enchiladas?
I don't think so, either.
Want more Hamptons? Click here for my A to Z rundown of everything to gobble, guzzle, and gaze at on my favorite little strip of sand!