We opened for the 2017 Season this week. It’s early Spring, and that always makes us excited for the new experiences to come. I’m looking at paint chips and ideas for the guest rooms, while the garden has had its spring cleaning, and Chris is happily planning and planting. He’s got himself a little temporary greenhouse in which to start his seedlings, which should be an improvement on previous years when flats occupied floor space all over the office until size and weather permitted their replanting outdoors.
Beginnings of the vegetable garden!
Sydney and Kim in Palm Springs, en route back to the Manor
You’ll find a new addition to the staff at A Butler’s Manor: Chris and I adopted a dog over the winter. Her name is Sydney, and she’s four years old, rescued from a shelter in Mexico! She’s probably some mix of breeds, but she’s definitely of the hunter class (perhaps Nova Scotia Duck Toller Retriever?) because she is a sweet, mellow little girl…until she goes outside.And then — if it moves, she chases it. With Sydney on patrol, we should have far fewer squirrels and rabbits in the garden. (Chris figures she earns all her goodies just for that service.)
The first guests of our new season were a lovely couple from the Philly area. John Stango is an artist and he’s out here to transition between galleries. His work is fairly large in scale, so the art dealer met them here in the living room to inspect his canvasses. They are fun, bright pop-art pieces and he joked that we could redecorate the Manor with them. What do you think?
In other news, it’s always interesting watching transformations in the village. To that end, we’re scheduled to try out one of the latest restaurant changes tomorrow night: Job’s Lane Gastropub, a completely new endeavor by Billy Oster, who has operated the prime corner of Windmill Lane and Job’s Lane as Tuscan House for the past 13 years. Gastropub promises to offer the best of the Tuscan House plus “Euro-American pub fare.” Watch this space for the report!
The company was founded by former butler colleagues who saw the need for a completely scent-free, non-chemical, yet highly effective green cleaning product to be used in the estates of the rich and famous…and in the homes of the hoi polloi (that’s the rest of us). Chris is a spokesperson for the product, helping to launch it at a “soft opening” about a year ago at the DEMA (Domestic Estate Managers Association) conference in Florida, and contributing blog material, tips, and expertise.
At the Farmer’s Market last Sunday
We’ve been using Butlers Brand Universal Cleaner at A Butler’s Manor for over a year now. Admittedly, our housekeepers were wary of a product that didn’t have any odor (“how can you tell it’s clean if it doesn’t smell like [bleach, PineSol, Murphy’s Wood Soap, Lysol–name your poison]?”) and so we eased into the change by adding a couple drops on doTerra “On Guard” essential oil. The universal cleaner, which comes with a wonderful, heavy duty aluminum spray cannister, is great on hard surfaces such as granite, marble, tile, wood, and stainless steel.
Due to a recent media request for information and video content, Chris spent much of this past Thursday in front of a video camera, shooting short segments about cleaning and maintaining a well-run, healthy home. While some of the shoot took place here in our gardens, much of it took place at the Hamptons Designer Showhouse, shown above. (Yeah, I WISH I had that kitchen too.) I’m looking forward to seeing the completed videos, and will post them when they’re up. Exciting!
Butlers Brand has launched its websitewith online ordering capabilities and has so far debuted the product locally. If you’re visiting, it’s available at Fork & Rose, the Southampton Chamber of Commerce Farmer’s Market, and here at A Butler’s Manor.
Coastal Living Showhouse, Junior Master Bath
Speaking of showhouses! With all the usual activities that people visit the Hamptons for in the summer, this is one that might get overlooked since it’s an indoor activity. (Perfect for that odd overcast day!) For those of us who would love to take a peek into some of the estates here and see how the other half live, a few hours spent wandering through the rooms of a showhouse is about as close as you can come without an invitation to cocktails behind the hedges. And this year there are two showhouses to drool over, both located around Sag Harbor.
The annual Hamptons Designer Showhouse,which benefits Southampton Hospital, features a cadre of talented designers and decorators who each take a room or a space and transform it. (It is now all the cleaner for having the Butlers Brand crew visit it.)
The second, which we had an opportunity to sneak off and see the other (rainy) day, is sponsored by Coastal Living Magazine. Unlike the Designer Showhouse, Coastal Living Showhouse’s team has coordinated their decorating efforts under one designer to produce a more harmonious finished product that looks all of a piece. (Theme, of course, is beach house.) One of the takeaways? Wallpaper is back in vogue…
Coastal Living Showhouse, Master Bedroom
Coastal Living Showhouse, Kitchen
Meanwhile back at the ranch… Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, Italian peppers and rhubarb are in full swing in the vegetable garden, so I’m making much use of all of them when planning menus. Our neighbor across the street has taken to putting up a small table of his excess produce with a little sign inviting people to take some…free…but take only what you need. Sweet!
We had a pretty crazy week here at A Butler’s Manor, and thus it slipped my mind that this was the week when the segment “East End Bed & Bites” on the Fios1 show Restaurant Hunters: Long Island would go live. Then this afternoon I was checking in some repeat guests, a sweet couple from upIsland, who said “Hey! I turned on the TV yesterday and saw Chris!” — and I had to run off and find the finished product of the filming that took place a few weeks ago.
I truly didn’t expect that we would have much more than a mention, so am thrilled with the episode!
Update on the shoot for “Bed and Bites,” the episode of “Restaurant Hunters” on Fios 1 New York that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.
Thursday, April 14: Day Of.
The garden has had its full Spring clean up and the pool is even open. The sky is a bright cloudless blue, so the flowers in bloom look all the more wonderful. It should make great establishing shots, as they say in the biz.
In the kitchen, we’ve decided to feature our Zucchini/Cheddar Blintzes with Cherry Sauce, because a) they’re different, b) the dish is colorful and should look good on the plate, and c) it is really freakin’ yummy, so much so that I am glad there are almost never any leftovers when I make them.
I agonized over how much to prepare in advance. While the segment is all about food, it isn’t a cooking show, per se. So I didn’t figure I needed to have all the pre-measured ingredients in little ramekins like on the Food Network that you hold up and say “Add two tablespoons of chopped garlic…”
On the other hand, grating a zucchini by hand doesn’t make for very scintillating TV.
(Okay, you ask, why not use a food processor? After all, the Barefoot Contessa does. Answer in general: The recipe calls for a cup each of the cheese and zucchini, not a quantity that generally requires my hauling out the Cuisinart. Answer specific to today: Because unlike Ina’s kitchen, we don’t have electrical outlets on our kitchen island, so using a machine would mean I turn into a wall to work. I’m telling you, this is the sort of stuff that I worry about.)
Just in case, though, I did have my blintz filling and my grated ingredients prepared and pre-measured. And it’s a good thing I did, because the Fios 1 team was really pressed for time. In only 2-1/2 hours, they had to set up, shoot bits of the whole house and garden, interview Chris about the origins of our name, do the cooking segment, eat, and tear down. Had I chosen to feature an entree that required baking (which is most of my repertoire), I’d have had to do the Martha-Stewart-voilà!-instant-food move of assembling the dish, putting it in the oven, then turning and taking an already-finished perfectly cooked version out of another oven.
Because the blintzes are filled, rolled and sauced just before serving, it’s a good choice for show and tell. For the same reason, it’s something I tend to make off-season or midweek if we don’t have a full house.
I think it went well. Host Amanda Price and camera wizard Danielle raved over the cherry-sauced blintzes (when they finally got to eat them). But I admit to being nervous about being observed under the microscope, so to speak, while preparing the food. Especially under the tight time constraints. I’ve decided I’m NOT auditioning for a food show in my next life.
I’m not sure when the episode will air; watch this space for updates. But in the meantime, here’s the (simple!) recipe I prepared on camera, which can also be found in A Butler’s Manor: The Cookbook.. It is very yum, if I do say so myself.
4-5 servings; 2 blintzes each
1 cup baking
mix or pancake mix
1 cup milk
1 cup grated
zucchini (about half a medium squash)
1 cup grated extra-sharp
1 tsp. vanilla
8 oz. cream
3 oz. vanilla Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 cup cherry
preserves (I like Bonne Maman), warmed up
Combine filling ingredients until smooth; set aside.
bowl, combine zucchini, cheese, pancake mix, milk, vanilla & egg with a
wire whisk; mix thoroughly.
Drop batter by quarter-cupfuls (blintzes will be about 4”
diameter) onto a lightly-oiled preheated griddle. Turn over when blintzes began
to dry along edges. Cook approx 2 minutes longer, then transfer to a warm
plate. (Mix will make approx. 10 pancakes.)
a thick coat of cream cheese on each blintz and roll up. Top with warmed
So the other day Chris answered the phone to someone from FiOS1 News Long Island, who are planning a segment called “East End Bed & Bites” for their show “Restaurant Hunter”. And they want to feature A Butler’s Manor’s breakfasts.
So of course we say “Sure!” like it’s no big deal that they want to come film me making something yummy.
And then panic sets in.
WTH did I just agree to?!?
A long-ago photo by a guest of breakfast preparations in progress
It’s not the filming, I don’t think…I’m not particularly camera-shy. I’m the extroverted oldest child who is used to mugging for the camera. Though I freely admit I truly don’t like cooking for an audience. (My confreres in the bed and breakfast biz who have an open kitchen plan whereby guests can watch them cook? Aaiiiiieeeee.) In all of my creative endeavors, I’m the one who likes presenting my art fait accompli, rather than sharing the stumbling process.
Mostly, I am cowed by who else they plan to feature in the segment: the 1770 House in East Hampton, and the Bridgehampton Inn.
As far as accommodations go, both are roughly the same size as we are–i.e., less than ten rooms. But the big difference? Both of them have full-scale RESTAURANTS that serve not only breakfast, but dinner as well.
Which means they have professional chefs. In fact, the Bridgehampton Inn’s late owner Anna Pump was a chef, and cookbook author who also owned the popular Loaves and Fishes, a wildly-successful gourmet takeout shop. These guys are pros. With kitchen staff to back them up.
Then there’s me. The littlest of little guys.
Making Eggnog French Toast (with staff of one)!
So to say I’m a little intimidated is an understatement.
The shoot is April 14th. I’m still working on what I should make. What’s your vote?
It’s mid October and we’re in full pumpkin season. The farms have Pick Your Own apples and pears, corn mazes and an abundant harvest of winter squashes, cabbage, kale, homemade jams and pies and so much more. We even have a new term, Pumpkin Traffic, which describes the stop-and-go that unsuspecting east-bound drivers passing through Water Mill encounter due to the wild popularity of Hank’s PumpkinTown, which is located directly across the street from Duckwalk Winery. (If you’re not packing children intent on visiting the wonderful playground at Hank’s, ask us for the secret detour around this traffic jam.)
Anyway, with a little sadness, but also a sense of anticipation for sweaters, scarves, and boots (!), the rack on the back deck that during the summer held beach chairs got filled today with wood for the fireplace. The days are still lovely, with clear blue skies, no humidity, and a tighter range of temps between high and low (today, for example, the high was 62 degrees F, the low 54). Still, I expect the fireplace will inaugurate Late Fall at the Manor this weekend, with blazing logs crackling a cheery welcome to guests returning from their days in the cooler air.
Fall gives me the opportunity to cook with all things associated with autumn, like fresh apples and pears from the farms, cranberries, pumpkin and lots of cinnamon and cloves and nutmeg and ginger…Something I consider the epitome of autumn is a recipe I adapted after finding it first on the Weight Watchers website and since have seen all over Pinterest. I made it this week and four guests asked for the recipe. It’s so unbelievably easy, and it’s worth a share:
TWO INGREDIENT PUMPKIN CAKE
1 box Betty Crocker Super Moist Spice Cake
1 can (14 oz) Libby’s Pumpkin
Yep, that’s it, just those two ingredients. Don’t add anything the cake box tells you to. Mix together, by hand or using a mixer until it comes together into a stiff batter. Spread into a greased 7″x 11″ x 2″ Pyrex pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 28 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not overbake. Remove from oven. Cool in the pan 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile make the glaze. (Ah, I cheated! I added a couple more ingredients!): Whisk together:
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or approx. 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, plus a dash each of ground nutmeg. ground ginger, ground mace, ground cloves, and allspice)
3 tablespoons apple juice or apple cider
Invert slightly cooled cake unto a serving platter. Pour glaze all over the top. Cut into 24 pieces.
This is major-league yummy! (And for the Weight Watchers among us, it’s 4 PP per piece. Worth it.)
Get your scarf and boots on, and come visit a corn maze followed by a wine tasting, while you watch the vineyards harvesting their bounty for coming years. I wish you a slice of Pumpkin Cake before a roaring fire!
Quote of the day: I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than to be crowded on a velvet cushion.—Henry David Thoreau
It’s about that time of the year where I remind people that a lot continues to happen in the Hamptons post-Labor Day.
Crowds on the beach are gone!
This year, we have some intriguing new options. First, tonight begins the first Hamptons YogaFest, a weekend of sessions and classes and music and events all centered around yoga. It’s being held on the grounds of Hayground School in Bridgehampton and features local and international teachers and practitioners leading programs for everyone in the family.
Just ran across this neat story: Shannon Coppola has just converted space on West Lake Drive in Montauk into a salt cave comprised entirely of Himalayan salt. It’s said that halotherapy (therapy using exposure to the salt) has healing properties, especially for respiratory issues. You can book a 45-minute respite in a zero-gravity chair in the salt cave, which will, Ms. Coppola says, be open year-round for relaxation, prevention or treatment of respiratory and skin conditions and “post-Tumbleweed Tuesday ailments including seasonal depression.” (Ha ha, yeah, in case you really miss all those crowds.) But I’m intrigued, and plan to check it out soon, coupling the trip with a visit to the Lobster Roll (a.k.a.”Lunch”) now that the traffic to Montauk has eased.
Other more conventional fun festivals scheduled in the near future include Southampton’s SeptemberFest next weekend (September 25-26), which just keeps getting bigger and better each year. Sited in the center of the village, it features a farmer’s market, art fair, crafts, the Harvest Day Fair at the Historical Museum, music, special events commemorating Southampton’s 375th Anniversary, chowder tastings (get there early!! It sells out fast!!) and much more. One of the new additions in 2015 is the addition of rides on the Agawam Lake Ferry, which launches from the new boardwalk just south of the Veteran’s Memorial on the south side of Agawam Park, and motors a mile across the pond to Gin Lane. This is something I’ve waited all summer for a chance to do, so look for me in the queue!
And in Sag Harbor, catch the 5th annual Music Festival next weekend (Sept. 25-26). This is not one of those huge Woodstock-like events, but rather a cool weekend of concerts ranging from Jazz to Folk to Global and more, held in restaurants, churches, art galleries, and outdoor spaces, with proceeds going to support local school music programs and free live music performances throughout the year.
And while you’re there, want your own little break from the stress of real life? Book a reflexology session at Happy Feet in Sag Harbor. In the subdued light and the strains of gentle Asian music, relax in a big squashy recliner while an expert in Chinese reflexology soothes your entire being through the soles of your feet. At $35 an hour, this is one of the best deals in the Hamptons. (Hint: Appointments are scheduled on the hour. Don’t be late or you’ll miss out. And tip well–these guys really deserve it!)
Quote of the Day: Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast–you also miss the sense of where you are going and why. –Eddie Cantor
I’ve written before about how cool it is to have guests who come back often, whom you get to know year after year while sharing a tiny part of their lives, watching them grow and go on to new opportunities. It’s sort of like having kids.
Speaking of kids, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you remember Zach, who first visited us as a twelve-year old equestrian competing in the Hampton Classic Horse show. Over the years, we’ve watched Zach grow up, moving from Children’s to Junior to Adult Jumper Class. We saw him turn 18, then 21 (the Classic often intersects with his birthday). We missed him the year that freshman orientation at his college interferred with Hampton Classic Week and knew how disappointed he was about that. We’ve seen him choose a career that will keep him involved with the show horse world, even if he doesn’t himself show anymore. And this year he returned for his 13th Classic Week with us, bringing with him his beautiful fiancee.
And a big blow up swan floatie for the pool, which they are enjoying like the kids they still are, in my mind.
I love this business.
Actually, there’s a lot of romance here at A Butler’s Manor this week. Besides our affianced couple, we’ve had a pair celebrating a mini-honeymoon and, tonight, a bride and groom. The bride is upstairs getting ready as I write. So love is definitely in the air here.
(Though not on the roads. Traffic in town on this gorgous, oh-no-it’s-almost-end-of-summer Saturday is diabolical. It’s a great day to be at the beach.)
In other Hampton Classic news, we are proud of another guest of ours competing in the Adult Jumper class. Look at all these ribbons!! Congratulations, Deb!!
It seems strange to have the Classic finishing up and still have another week until Labor Day. It’s a long summer this year: Memorial Day fell on the earliest date it can, May 25, and Labor Day will fall the latest day it can, on September 7. But hey, we think a longer summer is better than a blue moon!!
Quote of the day: Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy. To do nothing and have it count for something. To lie in the grass and count the starts. To sit on a branch and study the clouds. –Regina Brett
Someone asked me the other day how many recipes I had. Huh. I know I have over 50 featured in A Butler’s Manor: The Cookbook (available here at A Butler’s Manor, or I’ll happily sign and mail you one), but I also have a 4″-thick binder of recipes solely for breakfast that I am continually adding to. (What an addiction!! And don’t even get me started about my “Recipes to Try” board on Pinterest!)
Following the conversation, I flipped through the binder and was amused to note that just a little under half of the recipes are for baked goods. Ha! Can you tell where my heart is? Bread + sweet = yum yum yum.
My baked goods, as those of you who have visited us know, fall into a couple of catagories–muffins, breads, scones, or coffee cakes. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating the quantities required each day for each type.
Except for one.
Last year, at the Water Mill Community Club’s annual dinner dance, I met a woman called Anita and we got to talking about A Butler’s Manor, what I generally made for breakfast on any given day, and how I endeavored to use whatever I could out of the vegetable garden Chris plants every year. We discovered we had a joint love of baking. She said, “If you have rhubarb, I have the best recipe for you.”
Oh yeah, we have rhubarb. Which I delight in bringing, in the form of a strawberry rhubarb crumble, to any dinner party we’re asked to during the summer. But for breakfast?
The following day she sailed into the kitchen at 9:30 AM while I was serving out breakfast and dropped off a recipe. “You’ll LOVE this,” she predicted.
Okay, I thought, I’ll bite. I made it that day.
Oh boy, was she ever right. I make a number of types of bread and they all go down well, but when I make Anita’s Rhubarb Walnut Bread, I go through 50% more than any other baked good I offer.
ANITA’S RHUBARB WALNUT BREAD
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup salad oil
1 cup buttermilk, OR 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. white vinegar added to it
2-3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cups sliced rhubarb, cut fine
1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts
Mix all ingredients in order given. Pour into two greased 9×5″ or 8×4″ loaf pans. Blend:
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
Sprinkle topping over rhubarb mixture. Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove to a wire rack, cool, remove from pans and cool completely.
Freezes well; stays moist when wrapped in wax paper and foil. Yields 2 loaves.
Watch this disappear faster than you can explain to folks what rhubarb is.
Did you know?
* Rhubarb comes in both green and red versions.
* The stalk, which resembles celery, is edible, but the large leaf is poisonous to humans.
* Rhubarb is one of only two vegetables that are perennial–i.e., they come back year after year. (Jeopardy! answer: The other is asparagus.)
One of the great satisfactions of living in or visiting this beautiful area we call home is finding little hidden corners of special beauty. Here are some of my recent finds.
The Southampton Village Beautification Committee always funds the planting of red, white, and blue flowers at the train station, Agawam Park, and in scores of planter boxes lining the village center, and many other merchants often supplement the efforts with their own planters. But for sheer specialness, my favorite is the traffic barrier that defines the driveway between Main Street and the off-street parking lot behind Herrick’s Hardware. The barrier is planted each summer, but this year it was done by the shop Club Monaco, which is located on the near side of the barrier. Like their shop, the border is done in shades of white and silver and features many fragrant herbs.
This is the perfect route to take to our Sunday Farmer’s Market, which sets up behind the Southampton Arts Center (formally the site of the Parrish Art Museum).
Down at the beach, the rosa rugosa and beach plums are in full scented flower, adding that magical smell to the crisp salty sea air as you cross the dunes to the ocean. How can there be a prettier approach to a beach?
Rosa rugosa beachside
At A Butler’s Manor, we pride ourselves on being one of those “little corners of hidden beauty,” especially when it comes to Chris’s garden, which is having a pretty incredible year. Incubated over a harsh winter and fed by spring (and summer!) rainfall as well as hours and hours of loving care, the gardens seem especially lush and full this year. Welcoming you in the front yard is our spectacular smoke bush in full fuzzy glory:
As anyone who gardens can tell you, it is an ongoing project. Last fall, we cleared a lot of ivy-covered ground surrounding a stand of forsythia on the south side of the pool terrace area. Chris has been replanting the space with grasses, roses in hot colors, black-eyed Susan, and many other goodies. A sinfully comfortable Veneman Opal Lounge is now tucked under an umbrella next to this garden, and today, he finished construction on our newest water feature! I’m looking forward to soon hearing a bass line of croaking frogs added to the chorus of birdsong!
Come find your favorite little pockets of beauty in the Hamptons this summer. We look forward to your visit!
Quote of the Day: Beauty is hidden in everything, just learn how to observe.–Unknown