Lobsters and Lottery dreams

I love my early morning walk…it helps clear the sleep from my mind and gives me a chance to plan the day. Yesterday I was walking one of my favorite routes — from A Butler’s Manor through Southampton Village south into the estate district — when I happened upon a discarded scratch-off lottery card in the street outside of one of the large mansions on South Main Street, and had to giggle at the irony: the game was called “Set For Life,” and evidently nothing matched up. I could just imagine the disappointment of the person who’d tossed it away. Guess he won’t be purchasing a house in that neighborhood THIS week.

Speaking of Southampton’s estate district, if (like us) you’re not fortunate enough to be a member of the Meadow Club over on First Neck Lane (36 grass tennis courts and a pedigree that spans centuries) and therefore not able to partake of their Lobster Feast every Tuesday during the season, there is now an alternative right in the village. Jean MacKenzie Koster, who owns both the popular fish market The Clamman and Four Seasons Caterers, has renovated the old John Duck’s restaurant into a lovely catering facility with a large, airy dining room flanked by terraced private gardens. This summer, Four Seasons is opening its dining room on Tuesdays, 5 – 9:30 pm, for a classic clam bake. There is an all-you-can-eat buffet which includes some yummy pasta dishes, fresh salads, corn on the cob, mussels and clams, as well as finger-lickin’-good barbecue chicken and the sweetest lobsters Chris and I have had in a long time. A dessert bar completes the price-fix menu. For a small additional fee, a raw bar offers peel and eat shrimp, clams and oysters. And on top of it all, there is live entertainment to enhance the experience, and even a firepit on the lawn from which you can enjoy the fireflies as they twinkle amidst the garden borders. AND it is stumbling distance from A Butler’s Manor…no need to drive! Works for us!

Actually, early in the week is a great time for classic lobster dishes — lots of deals on those messy, crack and peel whole steamed crustaceans, served with a plastic bib and lots of paper napkins, corn on the cob and maybe a potato, and a vat of melted butter –yum! These casual eats are best found at some of our waterfront restaurants, like Sunwater’s Grill, Tiderunners, and Oaklands in Hamptons Bays, or Bostwick’s in East Hampton, but you can get it just a bit more upscale (as in a cloth napkin and interior seating) at Indian Cove in Hampton Bays or even Bobby Van’s (Tuesdays only) in Bridgehampton. When it comes to summer, if it means a lobster and –bonus! –a waterview, we’re all for it!

Yes, waiter, I’ll have the lobster, please.

Quote of the Day: The world is my lobster. —Henry J. Tillman

First sunset!

After what seems like endless days of drizzle or rain, the other day the sun made a welcome appearance, and Chris and I took the opportunity to go out to one of our favorite places, Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton, to have dinner with a sunset.

We have a couple of favorite places there: Harbor Bistro and Bostwick’s, and since we hadn’t yet been to either of them since the summer season opened, we decided to have an early dinner at Harbor Bistro, then enjoy the sunset over drinks at Bostwick’s (which they are justifiably famous for).

At Harbor Bistro, we opted for a couple of appetizers apiece: Chris had the toasted corn and jumbo lump crabcake was large, handmade, and delicious, with so much fresh crab and sweet corn that, especially with the addition of the sunshine over the marina, you could believe it was truly summer. I had a yellowtail poke with avocados (this California girl loves anything with avocados!) and a Mediterranian Shrimp-Quinoa salad, which was marvelous with a light lemon vinaigrette. Chris also had the slow-cooked duck and mushroom crepes, which I thought were yummy, but he was dismayed to find was made with tarragon, a herb he happens to dislike. Still, overall the food was marvelous and the setting restful and sun-warmed, and just what the doctor ordered. Afterwards, we journeyed up the road a half-mile or so, and had a margarita in the always-lively bar at Bostwick’s. Longtime bartenders Fran and Bill commandeered everyone’s attention as the sun went down, and we all clapped and cheered…almost like the impromptu party for the same reason each night at Mallory Square in Key West. It seems like it’s the first real sunset we’ve seen this season!

The US Golf Open has been upIsland at Bethpage Black this week, and a couple of our guests have tickets. While it isn’t close by (about an hour and fifteen minutes or so away), the guys have been enjoying the opening rounds (and tomorrow, the final) during the day while their wives have been enjoying the Hamptons.

Speaking of sunsets, because the weather cleared up on Friday, Chris and I took the Mini over the Meschutt Beach in Hampton Bays, where each Friday night between 5 PM and sunset, there is an impromptu classic and muscle car display….bring your own, or just enjoy the sight of a few dozen beautifully-restored (or incredibly hot-rodded) old vehicles. There were some spectacular old Camaro z28 and SS muscle cars there last night, a pristine old Ford Country Squire Woody wagon (with all three seats and a longboard surfboard on the roof!), and many more beauties. Live music plays at the Beach Bar until sunset, and parents enjoy it with a beer or some beach food while kids and dogs have a great time on the beach. We stayed only an hour or so, but enjoyed it (and a sunset!) immensely. And then came home to see the first fireflies of the season!

Over breakfast this morning, Phyllis and Debbie, mother and daughter from Connecticut and Maryland respectively, were talking with Grant and Michele, from Kansas City…and they learned that all of them had lived in the same town in Oklahoma at the same time, only a few blocks apart!! What are the odds!?

Quote of the Day: If I can put one rosy touch of sunset into the life of any man or woman, I shall feel that I have worked with God. —G.K. Chesterton

Tweets (not the Twitter kind)

June is popping out all over, to quote the old song from Carousel. All of the birdhouses around the garden are occupied with nesting families of varying types of birds, and several more who prefer “roughing it” to moving into a premade house are guarding nests in the shrubbery or trees. (One Papa Robin whose family is secreted in a yew bush outside our office, cannot seem to learn that he is not seeing a rival in the window, but his own reflection in the glass…even though we now have an entire window of little robin footprints to mar the clarity of that reflection.) Walk through the garden and you’ll hear the occasional chorus of little tweets and peeps as the baby birds let their parents know they are HUNGRY! If you look closely at the pictures above, you’ll see one of the baby starlings peeking his beak out, waiting for his next meal…and then home delivery of the meal by one of the busy parents. Sweet. They will be fledging soon.

And the roses are in bloom! Their scent is in the air over the whole garden, but especially as you walk across the grass and mount the steps towards the pool. I cut dozens of blooms for the guest rooms this weekend, set off by lemon-yellow sprigs of lady’s mantle flowers, which also proliferate this time of year. The peonies are just beginning to open.

The flora and fauna of the garden have enjoyed the rain showers we’ve had this past week…we humans were less appreciative. So far, the weather hasn’t been very cooperative for the guests who are looking for a relaxing day at the beach. It’s great that we have other options…Peconic Bay Winery, over on the North Fork, has a lively schedule every weekend of live music in the afternoons, with wine by the glass and even local cheese and sushi for sale while you enjoy! And closer to home, Wolffer Vineyards has added another event to its roster of things to do: Every Friday evening at their farm and wine stand on Rte 27 just east of the winery, they have a TGIF wine-and-jazz event from 5 – 7 PM, again, with free artisanal cheese and wines for sale by the glass. Chris and I haven’t made it up there yet to try it out, but I expect it is especially popular with visitors arriving from Manhattan and points east after what can sometimes be a long slog through traffic.

Yesterday, there was a Classic Car show and auction in Bridgehampton that drew a lot of traffic (yeah, pun intended)…Chris went off to enjoy it for a couple of hours in the afternoon, and I guess I’m counting myself lucky we don’t now own another classic car! (The deal we have is one at a time!)
Quote of the Day: There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before. —Robert Lynd

Exotic cars

A couple of weeks ago, we took an online reservation from a gentleman named Tom, who was looking forward to showing his girlfriend the Hamptons. “Hello,” he wrote, “I will arrive with a bit of an exotic car, and am a little concerned about parking. Any reassurance you can give me?”

I followed up to see what, specifically, his concerns were. Was it the safety of his car? Whether we had on or off street parking? Clearance issues?

The latter, he wrote back. His car was very low slung and in fact had never spent a night outside a garage before. “It wouldn’t even recognize the moon,” he laughed.
We’ve had a few guests with sporty low clearance cars, but this was the first time a guest had ever thought to mention it when booking, and I was happy that he did. We have off-street parking here at A Butler’s Manor, with a driveway apron of cement and Belgian blocks leading into a bluestone gravel car park. Tom’s concern is understandable, because time, wear, and weather will take a toll on the relative smoothness of a gravel driveway. No worries, I told him, you’re in good hands here. In addition to Chris’s Mini (with a whopping 7″ of clearance), we corrected just that sort of problem last summer, and have been watching it ever since.

Last summer, Nick and Denise arrived in a gorgeous red Ferrari. They had friends who lived nearby, and spent the evening with them. But the following morning, Chris was concerned to see the Ferrari missing from the car park. Had they taken a cab home from their party? Or had something happened to the car? As soon as Nick came down, Chris asked him.

No, everything was fine, he assured us. It’s just that the car is so low slung that it sort of “bottomed out” going over the transition between apron and car park, so he’d left the Ferrari at their friends’ house, and instead drove his buddy’s car home.

Chris went out and looked at the driveway. Sure enough, rain and traffic had worn a sort of dip under the apron. That didn’t make it welcoming for the Ferrari…and as we well know, car aficionados consider their babies part of the family! Well, that would never do. Chris told him that when they came back in the afternoon to bring the Ferrari home, because that issue with the car park would be fixed. And then he got on the phone and called our neighbor, Perry Delalio, who has a gravel business. Perry sent a couple of his guys and a few yards of replacement bluestone gravel right over, and they leveled that driveway in two hours flat. (Pun intended!) And when Nick and Denise came home that afternoon, that car purred straight into the car park without a problem.

When Tom and Tomoko arrived yesterday, his sleek little baby glided over the apron just fine, and everybody was happy. And, since it was almost full last night, it’s now met the moon! Success!

So bring it on…Aston Martins, Jaguar E-types, Ferraris, and more…they’re welcome here!

Quote of the Day: The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers. —Dave Barry

Press Matters

It’s been exciting around here, publicity-wise; we’ve been fortunate lately to have caught the attention of some of the local media. Just before Memorial Day, writer Cathy Meinhold did a profile on A Butler’s Manor for On The Jitney magazine (a classy little mag that is distributed on the Hampton Jitney coach service between Manhattan and the Hamptons). A week later, we were listed (with a photo!) as a Southampton Bed and Breakfast “worth the splurge!” in Long Island’s Newsday. And today, writer T.J. Clemente from Dan’s Papers came by to interview Chris about life as a butler…and how that has led to opening A Butler’s Manor. Chris is a difficult interview, determined that it is not cricket to identify former employers (as any good butler would agree), but the stories are always fun, even without the “name” behind the name. And an hour after the interview, the Master Butler was back to his alter ego as the Master Gardener (above, tying up his lilies).

Speaking of gardening, I’ve posted a June picture of one of our more unusual perenials: This is a form of allium (onion family) called Sherbertii. I call it the Firecracker Allium, because in full bloom (in the photo above it isn’t quite there), each of its stick-like stalks sport a tiny star-like flower…sort of like one of those aerial fireworks where each of the exploding rays of color then launches a secondary sparkler. The blue flowers that surround the Sherbertii are Johnson Blue geraniums, happily in bloom (and probably loving the rains we’ve had this past week).

We’re enjoying catching up with returning guests this weekend — three of five of the rooms are repeat guests, each having been here at least three times before.

And yay! the weather warmed up enough to warrant trips to the beach, and laps in the pool!

Quote of the Day: Success is getting what you want. Happiness is liking what you get. —H. Jackson Brown

Group hug

We love it when guests enjoy themselves while visiting A Butler’s Manor. We especially love it when guests enjoy themselves over breakfast. And when guests make friends with other guests, laughter rings from the table, and everyone lingers long past the plates being cleared away, that is the best thing of all.

Today we had eight for breakfast (menu: Banana Decadence French Toast) — a young pair from Italy, eager to explore the beach on such a sunny day, two from Pennsylvania, celebrating an anniversary, a couple from the UK who were checking out after a week long stay, and a Long Island couple on a two-night “staycation” (a recently-coined term for a local getaway, as in: Need a break, no time to travel very far…how about a Hamptons B&B?). In spite of the promising day, six of the eight lingered over breakfast, sharing stories, laughter, and information. When they finally rose from the table to begin their respective days, the local couple had helped the British couple plan their last day on the Island…with suggestions for “upIsland” attractions en route to Newark Airport, from which their flight was to go out later tonight, and all of the guests had exchanged email addresses…and hugs! I love it!!

VILLAGE EATS: Featherstones, a new casual restaurant, opens this week on Job’s Lane in the space that most recently accommodated Birchwood on the Park (and before that, for years, Buckley’s Irish Pub). Scuttlebutt is that the owners have given the place quite a facelift. The menu promises to remain in the pub style of both previous iterations: burgers, appetizers, sandwiches, a variety of beers on draught — a great option for laid-back, casual dining. Also coming soon is a new organic market/cafe called Annie’s, on Nugent Lane across from the Post Office, where the much-missed George Martins used to be…The Driver’s Seat, on Job’s Lane, is finishing up a physical face-lift on the front of the restaurant…For the more trendy set, Sant Ambroeus and Savannas have reopened for the season; the former offers outdoor luncheon dining on Main Street (as well as their much-sought-after espresso bar and gelato counter in the front of the store)…Thyme & Again, on Windmill Lane, has vacated its village presence and joined its sister establishment Wild Thyme out on Noyac Road…The Village Cheese Shop is now The Village Gourmet Cheese Shoppe, under new ownership. I’ll be wandering in this week to see if I can find a nice Morbiere…

Quote of the Day: Some people weave burlap into the fabric of our lives, and some weave gold thread. Both contribute to make the whole picture beautiful and unique. — Anonymous