Hardly a summer weekend goes by that Angel and I don't find ourselves inventing reasons to make the 35-minute drive from our cottage to the lovely village of Sag Harbor. "Yeah, we need, um . . . spark plugs! And kumquats! Oh, and toenail clippers!" Whatever the item, we convince ourselves that the best -- nay, the only -- place to get one is in Sag Harbor.
Which might not be entirely untrue.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and set along a miles-long shoreline fronting Noyac Bay, Sag Harbor is midway between the Hamptons and the North Fork, both in distance and sensibility.
Founded in 1707 as a colonial-era whaling port, today Sag Harbor is known for its artsy residents, funky shops, and distinct lack of attitude -- which in the Hamptons means that the millionaires drive beat-up Volvo station wagons instead of Rolls Royces.
Well, except for when they're driving their Maseratis . . .
Or their Bentleys . . .
Or flying their seaplanes.
The friendly locals and natural beauty are nice, but the real reason to visit Sag Harbor is for margaritas. Not just any margaritas, of course, but the supremely tasty watermelon margaritas at B. Smith's, a chic waterfront restaurant that exudes a summertime vibe with its crisp navy and white decor.
B.'s uses only fresh watermelon juice in its margaritas, so they taste a bit different every year based on the quality of that year's watermelon crop. Ahh, 2008. Now that was a great vintage.
The food at B's is light and healthy, ensuring that you don't waste precious stomach space on food instead of tequila.
B's also boasts a prime location right on the marina, where some of the world's largest yachts drop anchor for the summer.
This is the yacht "Kisses," which is owned by the billionaire Norman Braman. "Kisses" ranks as #47 on the list of the world's largest yachts, which, in the world of billionaires, must be like driving a Hyundai instead of a Mercedes. Poor Norm.
At least he was able to scrape together enough pocket change to hire a cleaning crew.
Spending a lazy Saturday afternoon lounging on the deck at B.'s with a watermelon margarita in hand, the sun on my face, watching the sailboats glide by . . . kinda makes you wanna punch me, right? Look, it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
At least it comes with incentives. Heh-heh.
Really, the only downside to Sag Harbor is all the communists.
This is the iconic "Sag Harbor" sign, which graces the town's only movie theater.
In 2004, the owner of the theater planned to replace the sign with something new, but the townspeople gathered up their pitchforks decided they didn't like that idea and actually paid for a replica of the old sign instead. You know how people hate change.
Another landmark in Sag Harbor is the Dock House, a tiny seafood joint on Long Wharf that serves up fresh lobster and other seafood.
Rub-a-dub-dub, 50 lobsters in a tub.
Also happening on Long Wharf? Setup for the Rock the Dock Summer Gala Benefit Bash, which I, er, attended in a most spontaneous manner last year.
In addition to B. Smith's, another great spot in Sag Harbor is Beacon, a tiny restaurant at the Sag Harbor Cove Yacht Club.
I know what you're thinking, and I don't know why they let me in, either.
One of the things Angel likes best about Beacon is that when we share an appetizer, they automatically split it in the kitchen and serve it on two separate plates. That way, he at least has a fighting chance of getting a taste of it.
We also love their fish, whether squished into a taco or luxuriating on a bun.
Bartender, she'll have a double.
Given Sag Harbor's laid-back air, I'm sure you're thinking that having a midget buddy wouldn't be necessary here. But you'd be wrong: Who else could fit in these tiny little houses?
The houses in Sag Harbor aren't the only things reminiscent of a bygone era.
Even the burger joints are old-school.
Are there two more beautiful words in the English language than TWINKIE MILKSHAKE?
Just down the road from Sag Harbor is the hamlet of Bridgehampton, a visit to which is only slightly more enjoyable than a trip to the dentist. Sure, Bridgehampton is beautiful, but some of the people there can make you wish it were legal to ping someone in the forehead with a BB gun. I hate to generalize almost as much as I hate to leave uneaten food on my plate, but many of the folks in Bridgehampton are the kind of people who will force you into the street rather than move over a bit when they approach you on the sidewalk. They are the kind of people who won't say "thank you" when you hold a door open for them. They are the kind of people who cut in line and then say things like, "But don't you know who I am?" BB, meet forehead.
That's new money for you, I guess. Me, I'd like to think that if I ever got really rich on bad mortgages Wall Street, I'd still remember the little people. Pun very much intended.
So why would anyone who wasn't itching for a fistfight ever be caught dead here, you ask? Well, luckily Bridgehampton has at least one thing besides good manners to recommend it. That reason is Marder's, an over-the-top garden center that is something like visiting an enormous, meticulously maintained botanical garden where everything happens to be for sale, albeit at prices that make your first car look like a real steal.
Boasting a whopping 33-acre main campus and 10 acres of growing fields, it's easy for plant murderers like me to feel like a kid in a candy store.
In addition, the garden shop at Marders, housed in an antique barn, offers all sorts of tools and accessories that a Hamptons gardener might need. You know, like $40 candles.
Upon realizing that it was difficult for some folks (okay, me) to spend hours wandering the grounds without a bite to eat, last year Marders opened the Honeybee Cafe, which serves tasty treats such as olive oil and rosemary cookies, goat cheese and mushroom tartlets, and miniature brownies.
Another reason to stop by Bridgehampton is for dinner at Almond, a chic French bistro that recently relocated to new digs in the village. During their pre-summer renovations, the owner of Almond posted a few "teasers" of the new space online, including a photo of their new wallpaper: zebras being shot with arrows!! Apparently I'm not the first to appreciate its, uh, charms.
Even Hawkeye likes it.
Fast forward to the other night when, finding ourselves unexpectedly without dinner plans on a Friday evening, Angel and I stopped by Almond to see if we could get in for dinner without a reservation. It was only 7:00, so we figured there might be a chance, even though we were sadly sans midget. We noticed a number of empty tables and approached the hostess, who told us she'd "have to check" to see if they could fit us in. As she sized us up to see if we were worthy, the owner was saying his goodbyes to a patron, who thanked the owner for a great meal and told him how much he liked the zebras-being-shot-with-arrows wallpaper. I of course chimed in (with a secret soupcon of sarcasm) that I just adored the wallpaper, too, to which the owner replied, "Oh, everyone loves that wallpaper!" I replied, "Yes, but I'm the only one who ever put it on her blog."
A pause, and then his face lit up with recognition. And then he smiled, gave me a high-five, told me how much he liked my blog, declared how adorable he thought I was . . . and ordered the hostess to seat us at the best table in the house right away.
And that, dear reader, is how I successfully executed the old "Don't you know who I am??" in Bridgehampton.
BB target practice on my forehead to commence immediately.