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Wherein I Crash Yet Another Highfalutin' Hamptons Event...

For a certain type of Hamptons resident, summer means a social calendar chock-full of elegant galas, balls, and soirees, all benefiting various local charities. With admission for some running into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, these events are wisely priced to take advantage of the influx of one-percenters during the summer season . . . and to ensure that the Forbes 400 don't have to rub elbows with the likes of me and Angel. But sometimes, the joke's on them: Perhaps you remember that time I crashed the $500-a-head Rock the Dock Bash in Sag Harbor? I'm sorry, but when the DJ plays "It's Raining Men," and 25 guys in pastel pants hit the dance floor simultaneously, I just can't help myself.

And so, when I found out that tickets to the Hamptons foodie event of the summer, Dan's Taste of Two Forks, were going for a hefty $225 per person, I immediately sent out some feelers (okay, begged) to see if I might be able to get in for free. Happily, a friend had some extra tickets, and she astutely surmised that if anybody was going to get their money's worth at an all-you-can-eat event featuring 40 restaurants and 20 wineries, it would be me.

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We decided to dress up a bit on the theory that it's always better to be overdressed when (1) the event is co-hosted by famed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and fashion designer Nicole Miller, and (2) you're planning to behave like a Tasmanian devil set loose at a BBQ. That theory turned out to be correct: You know it's a chi-chi event when the Porsche is the one slumming it between the convertible Maserati and the Bentley.

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And both of those are slumming it next to this guy.

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And you know it's exclusive when Dan Rattiner of Dan's Papers -- who is both the founder and namesake of the event -- still needs a wristband to get in.

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Once we got inside, we realized that not only were we dressed appropriately, but potato sacks might have been preferable to some of the getups we encountered. It is a brave woman who dares sport long-sleeved gold lamé on a humid evening in July. At least burlap breathes.

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The memo about the white dresses and checkered shirts must have gotten lost in the mail along with my media pass.

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Once we entered the tent, it was exactly like those horrible dreams you have where there's a vast, limitless buffet of every single one of your favorite foods, only you wake up before you get to eat any of it. Oh, wait, you don't have those dreams? Anyhoo, I literally didn't know where to start. My head said to be orderly and work my way down one side of the aisle and up the other, but my heart suggested that I dive headfirst into the wine booths in the center aisle, Slip 'N Slide style, and start chugging. Decisions, decisions.

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Reason won out and we started on the left, where the first booth we encountered was for the excellent Amarelle. Tucked away north and west of the Hamptons in the small enclave of Wading River, Amarelle first came to our attention at the Long Island Food & Wine Festival back in 2010. That's where Amarelle's chef, the lovely Lia Fallon, managed to outcook every single person at the festival by making . . . a salad.

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Not just any salad, of course, but one made with butter lettuce, frisee, arugula, sun-dried cherries, toasted almonds, white balsamic with vanilla-bean essence . . . and cocoa-dusted goat cheese. The play of sweet and sour, bitter and tangy, chewy and crunchy made this salad a real knockout. And it was, until Lia somehow managed to outdo even herself by making this:

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That is a savory goat cheese cheesecake made with local Catapano Dairy Farm goat cheese, lemon oil, sea salt, and presumably some crack. Lia mentioned how difficult it was to make 1,700(!) of these come out perfectly, but I don't believe her: This ingenious creation's creamy, lemony goodness bested virtually everything else we had that evening.

Next we made our way over to Rumba, which will come as no surprise since we spend a good part of every weekend making our way over to Rumba. For Taste of Two Forks, owner David Hersh brought out the big guns: His Dominican ribs. You know these are good when they are a huge hit at an event where almost everyone got the memo about wearing white.

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Over at Sarabeth's, which is located in Manhattan but apparently summers in the Hamptons, I couldn't understand why these were labeled "Morning Cookies." Aren't all cookies morning cookies?

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These are Grana's miniature wagyu beef meatballs with organic stone-ground wheat buns, imported 24-month Parmigiano-Reggiano, and local arugula. Also known as the Mini Meatball Slider That Was Almost Too Cute to Eat But You Already Know How This Ends.

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Next up was Anke's Fit Bakery, which had the good sense to serve these gorgeous tomato and mozzarella toasts instead of something healthy.

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I am ashamed to admit that I originally dismissed Banzai Burger in Amagansett as one of those fusion places that tries to do several cuisines at once (in this case, burgers and sushi) and ends up succeeding at none of them. And I was partially right: When your burger is this good, you don't need sushi. Or even plates. I will still show up, and I will still banzai the hell out of your amazing burger.

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Next up was Plaza Cafe's seared local scallop over sweet corn polenta with organic shiitakes. The chef at Plaza Cafe, Doug Gulija, is one of those people that you want to hate because they're so insanely talented, but you can't because they're also so damn nice. As for that polenta, let's just say that I'm booked at Plaza Cafe next weekend and there's a plate full o' cornmeal there with my name on it.

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At one point I realized that I only had about 2 hours left to stuff down 30-odd dishes, so we had to move quickly. And so we had, in no particular order, Georgica's excellent soy-ginger tuna tartare...

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A refreshing chilled raw sweet corn and cashew bisque from Babette's in East Hampton...

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The Riverhead Project's Polish Town lobster pierogies with red wine and onion marmalade and sea beans, which managed to erase decades of this Pittsburgher's sauerkraut pierogie aversion in one fell swoop...

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Nobu's miso black cod on butter lettuce, which was so delicious that I might be willing to brave the 6-foot-tall models and the 5-foot-tall men who chase them at Nobu in order to get some more...

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Southampton Social Club's sesame-crusted ahi tuna on a lotus chip with wasabi caviar sweet soy reduction...say that three times fast...

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Navy Beach's delicious something-or-other, which I'm sure I'd remember if I hadn't been so busy plotting to steal admiring their beachy weathered "Montauk" sign...

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And Lunch's lobster and shrimp salads.

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Wait, there's a restaurant called, simply, "Lunch"? Sort of. It's actually called The Lobster Roll, but the huge blue "LUNCH" sign outside earned them the nickname, and it just stuck. I guess they should be glad no one ever noticed their "PARKING" sign.

And then there was the parade of ice cream cones. I'll let you guess which one contained Bay Burger's cool, creamy mint ice cream, and which ones contained fluke and steak tartares.

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Eventually the heat became too much and the overflow crowd moved outside for a bit.

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Back inside, we had so much wine that we were grateful for some help aiming the food at our mouths.

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In a sea of wine, Tito's Vodka dared to be different with a deliciously refreshing drink of vodka, lime, and ginger beer called Tito's Kickin' Mule.

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In case you're wondering if that name is hyperbolic, ask yourself this: When's the last time you had a drink that inspired you to stick out both your tongue and your leg (in a stumpy parody of Angelina Jolie) for all posterity?

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After that, it was time for a palate cleanser: Strawberry-cucumber margaritas, of course.

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It was also time for some sweets. We started off with these adorable Guinness stout cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream frosting.

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That's where we ran into this woman cheekily trying to make off with the entire tray. She gamely posed by flashing that beautiful smile, while tanning bed manufacturers everywhere gave each other high-fives.

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Another of our favorite stops of the evening was Love Lane Kitchen, which went in a completely different direction from every other booth and served up . . . breakfast! These are homemade griddle cakes with sausage.

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Yes, I know what those little sausages look like, and no, it doesn't help that they're on a paper plate. But trust me: These pancakes were decadently moist and sticky, and I can now confirm that when you're trying to balance a wine glass, a cup full of Tito's Vodka, a camera, a strawberry-cucumber margarita, and two camera lenses, etiquette dictates that you may eat pancakes and syrup by picking them up and folding them in half like a burrito.

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One of the few restaurants at Taste of Two Forks that we've never visited was Greek Bites, a new spot in Southampton that opened at the end of last year. I'm not a big fan of nuts and produce masquerading as dessert -- I'm talking to you, almond biscotti, carrot cake, and rhubarb pie -- but if Greek Bites' delicious baklava with rice pudding dipping sauce is any indication of the rest of their menu, I might be willing to overlook a rogue nut or two.

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Speaking of rogue nuts, below is Chef Joe Isidori of Southfork Kitchen in Bridgehampton, whose boss is the indisputably nutty Bruce Buschel. That's because Mr. Buschel spent nearly three years chronicling, in a New York Times blog, his decision to open a restaurant in the Hamptons with absolutely no business or restaurant experience, and then submitted to weekly online floggings for not having enough money, having too much money, being too hands-on, being too hands-off, not knowing the first thing about lighting/seating/flooring, and (this is the part where the Internet exploded) deciding to hire Chef Isidori without ever tasting his food.

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Luckily for Buschel o' Nuts, Chef Joe makes a mean smoked trout salad.

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Another of our favorite dining spots is the North Fork Table and Inn in Southold. Chef Gerry Hayden's foodie credentials include being presented with the inaugural Two Forks Outstanding Achievement Award for his dedication to the local community and commitment to native Long Island produce and ingredients. Oh, and he ran the famed New York City restaurant Aureole before, er, buying the farm.

This is North Fork Table's summer vegetable-stuffed organic zucchini with tomato emulsion and goat cheese. Forget cotton candy: Next time I go to the circus, I want some tomato foam.

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On our way out, Taste of Two Forks presented us with a small parting gift, a tiny corn muffin from the gourmet market Citarella.

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Although the muffin was delicious, might I suggest a lightly chilled Pepto-Bismol digestif for next year?

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Next up, the bucolic North Fork, where my potato sack will blend right in! Subscribe here to be notified by email when a new post is published.

Posted by TraceyG 06:36 Archived in USA Tagged hamptons bridgehampton taste_of_two_forks dans_papers Comments (5)

Summer in the Hamptons: Don't You Know Who I Am???

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.

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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.

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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 . . .

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Or their Bentleys . . .

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Or flying their seaplanes.

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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.

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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.

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The food at B's is light and healthy, ensuring that you don't waste precious stomach space on food instead of tequila.

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B's also boasts a prime location right on the marina, where some of the world's largest yachts drop anchor for the summer.

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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.

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At least he was able to scrape together enough pocket change to hire a cleaning crew.

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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.

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At least it comes with incentives. Heh-heh.

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Really, the only downside to Sag Harbor is all the communists.

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This is the iconic "Sag Harbor" sign, which graces the town's only movie theater.

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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.

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Rub-a-dub-dub, 50 lobsters in a tub.

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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.

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In addition to B. Smith's, another great spot in Sag Harbor is Beacon, a tiny restaurant at the Sag Harbor Cove Yacht Club.

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I know what you're thinking, and I don't know why they let me in, either.

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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.

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We also love their fish, whether squished into a taco or luxuriating on a bun.

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Bartender, she'll have a double.

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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?

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The houses in Sag Harbor aren't the only things reminiscent of a bygone era.

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Really bygone.

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Even the burger joints are old-school.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Even Hawkeye likes it.

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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.

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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.

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Posted by TraceyG 17:47 Archived in USA Tagged hamptons bridgehampton sag_harbor almond Comments (4)

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