The Butler, Butlers Brand, and how to peek into one of Those Houses

Just saw that I last blogged in mid June. Whoa. Summer sure has a way of getting away from me (which is probably the opposite of how our guests feel, i.e., getting away for the summer).

But here’s a taste of what the summer sky looked like last week:

colorful sunset over boats in a marina
So under the heading of What’s New and Exciting: In addition to welcoming awesome guests from near and far, Chris has been active in a new venture called Butlers Brand Concentrated Cleaning Solutions.

butler being filmed demonstrating a cleaning product in a large white upscale kitchen
The butler on the set

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.

Smiling man holding cleaning product for sale at local farmer's market
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 website with online ordering capabilities and has so far debuted the product locally. If you’re visiting, it’s available at Fork & Rosethe Southampton Chamber of Commerce Farmer’s Market, and here at A Butler’s Manor.
picture of high end bathroom at Designer Showhouse featuring freestanding tub
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…
Large, bright, pale yellow bedroom with white and yellow furnishings at designer showhouse
Coastal Living Showhouse, Master Bedroom

 

kitchen with large island and teal colored tile throughout at designer showhouse
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!

Are you ready for a getaway that will leave your soul refreshed? Join us at Southampton’s #1-ranked bed and breakfast and let us pamper you!

Ready for my close up: part 2

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.

presenter and camerawoman setting up in kitchen for TV segment on breakfasts
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.
Owner Kim and TV personality woman discussing recipe to be featured on TV segment
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.
Owner Chris with TV personality chatting in A Butler's Manor living room
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.
photo of blintz breakfast with warm cherry sauce

ZUCCHINI-CHEDDAR BLINTZES 

 

4-5 servings; 2 blintzes each
1 cup baking
mix or pancake mix
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup grated
zucchini (about half a medium squash)
1 cup grated extra-sharp
cheddar cheese
1 tsp. vanilla
Filling
8 oz. cream
cheese, softened
3 oz.  vanilla Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
 
Sauce 
1 cup cherry
preserves (I like Bonne Maman), warmed up
Combine filling ingredients until smooth; set aside.
In large
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.)

Spread
a thick coat of cream cheese on each blintz and roll up. Top with warmed
preserves.

Until the street lights come on

Back in what seems like the proverbial olden days now, we were allowed to play outside after dinner until the street lights came on, which signalled the day’s end and time to come inside. This weekend marks the end of Daylight Savings Time, which means those street lights are going to come on an hour earlier.

It’s nearing time for A Butler’s Manor to have its bath, get into jammies, and go to bed.

For us, “bath” means making the necessary upgrades or repairs, refreshes, and general maintenance that we don’t want to do while guests are in residence trying to relax. (Believe me, we’ve tried to do it before with guests in residence. Among other things, it’s a mighty slow process when your available workday is roughly 11 AM to 3 PM.)  We know that someone wielding a power sander on the shingles outside the house or a chain saw on errant branches doesn’t make for a very Zen-like experience to someone inside.

 

The gardeners among you might appreciate Chris’s wheelbarrow full of plant trim as he goes about cutting back those plants whose foliage doesn’t overwinter well, and pulling the bulbs from the beds, cleaning and drying them for their winter storage. Others might find the fallen leaves and dried seed heads as architecturally interesting as I do. But it’s time to shut down the sprinkler system, put the winter blanket on the pool, take down the umbrellas, and bring in the patio furniture.
We’ll be taking care of this sort of business beginning next week, November 3 through November 20,
Join us for A Butler’s Manor’s last hurrah of 2014 when we reopen for the last ten days of the month of November. Kick off the holiday shopping season and support Small Business Saturday (November 29) by shopping Southampton’s eclectic little shops. You’ll find the elves (a.k.a. the Village Parks Department) will have installed and decorated the parade of Christmas trees that line Main Street and Job’s Lane. and created the wonderland of sparkling white lights that outline the deciduous trees and buildings. The village’s annual Parade of Lights and Tree Lighting will be held about 5:00 PM at Agawam Park, complete with carolers and refreshments afterwards. A good, crisp late autumn chill is almost guaranteed to be the weather forecast; a perfect time to wrap a scarf around your neck as you wander hand in hand with someone you love. Come on back to A Butler’s Manor where we’ll have a wood fire burning in the fireplace in the living room.
Then it’s time for beddy-byes, as we close on December 1, 2014 for our winter sabbatical.
It’s been a great year. Thank you to all!

Planting ahead

PeeGee Hydrangea in full Fall glory!

It’s been so lovely to feel Fall come in, to take my early morning walk at o’dark thirty increasingly when it IS still dark and need a jacket and even — yikes! — gloves. And then there’s today, when at 6:00 AM a light cloud cover increased the temperature 20 degrees over the previous day: 65 vs. 46. No jacket on my walk. And for the next couple of days, maybe my last chance to wear flip flops.

Perfect weather for starting a new garden.
As I’ve explained to nearly everyone who knows us, Chris is the gardener and my only contribution is to point and suggest. To that end, we have been discussing for a few months now how to do a long border garden opposite the pool.This past weekend began the digging and clearing of miles of ivy. We’ve been the beneficiary of a load of small buddleia (butterfly bushes) which will form anchors in the garden. Existing Annabelle and lacecap hydrangeas, a smoke bush, and a backdrop of forsythia will remain. To this we plan to add more groups of rudbeckia (black eyed Susans), grasses great and small, and a host of cannas, dahlias, and roses in shades of yellows and oranges, with touches of deep blue. Here’s the space.

(sigh.) We’ve got a looooong way to go!

On a different note: I’ve written before about times when it seemed all the guests were from the United Kingdom, or Australia, or otherwise international. Well, this week, the tables turn — all of our guests are from, or have ties to, Southern California. A foursome traveling from Arizona met while at Chapman College (now Chapman University) in the City of Orange, my home town. Another guest now lives in Northern California but grew up in Orange too…only a couple of miles from me. Another couple arrive today from San Clemente, on the southern tip of Orange County. And another guest lived in Huntington Beach and La Jolla for years and years. So this will be the week of the “non-accent” that folks from the East Coast still swear is recognizable as West Coast, ha! (What accent, dude?)

A recent guest from Australia shot this photo of us against our autumn mantle. I should have dressed to match the season better…

Speaking of the season, as the weather cools, our tastes begin to crave the comfort food associated with fall and winter. Now is the time for the scent of cinnamon and cloves and ginger, and so I am making and serving breads, muffins, french toasts and pancakes with ingredients such as pumpkin, apples, pears. cranberries, and egg nog. This truly is my favorite season of the year.

Happy Fall!

Quote of the day: Work is love made visible.
And if you can’t work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you
should leave your work and sit at the gates of the temple and take alms of the
people who work with joy. —-Kahlil Gibran

The Piano Man, and other musical notes

The one antique at A Butler’s Manor to which I can trace the entire provenance is our 1912 Chase & Baker player piano, which has been in my mother’s family since the year it was built. It spent its first forty years in the Chicago area where my mother grew up, journeyed to Los Angeles when she married and dominated our family room there for the next forty years before coming to me in 1999. I worried originally that its elderly parts, perhaps desiccated by arid California climate, would crumble amidst the seasonal changes and frequent humidity of the East End. Instead, I found to my delight that the old girl obviously relished the change of scenery; her tone only grew rounder and more mellow once transplanted to the Hamptons.

As anyone who has visited A Butler’s Manor knows, the upright piano with its original black walnut case anchors the two parts of our living room (once two separate rooms, a front parlor and back parlor). Guests are invited to play if they know how (please, no Chopsticks!). Once in awhile someone takes us up on it and its plummy notes pour forth, the acoustics of the wood balanced by the brick-over-wood floor and the large, open space. The music will draw me from my office in the back of the house as surely as a bee to pollen (or–a timely analogy–as a wasp to orange juice).
Once, we were thrilled to be hosting a professional classical pianist who was in town to perform at a benefit. I was almost afraid to offer her my little old upright piano, but she was happy to have a piano available and practiced one of her numbers that afternoon prior to her recital. It was magical. 
Occasionally, guests take an interest in the old player and either Chris or I pull forth a piano roll (I have about 100 of them) and demonstrate. The player piano is activated by pedals that you pump, sort of like an elliptical machine. (And oy, is it a workout! Once upon a time, I could pedal that piano all night, but now? Hah. If I played a roll or two every day I’d probably be in much better shape.)
So even though I don’t (yet) play myself, it is important to me that the piano remains as tuned as a 100+-year-old piano can, and that task we entrust to Mike Scianetti, owner of the Piano Barn in Water Mill. In addition to being a business owner, Mike is a professional musician, singer, and songwriter.
Watching Mike tune the piano is fascinating. First, he lifts the top lid which allows him to gently pull the faceplace away, exposing the tuning pins and string (wires), dampers and hammers. You can see below the box in the middle where the player piano roll is inserted, and below it, the brass tracker duct, cut with 88 tiny diagonal holes, each representing a key on the piano keyboard. Behind the box is a pneumatic that feeds the bellows that somehow (engineering not being my strong suit) transfers the impetus caused by a roll of paper pricked with thousands of holes (that represent notes) into action which depresses the keys and produces… music. It still amazes me.

What the pictures don’t show here is that he also pulls away the face frame located below the keyboard, which exposes the bellows necessary to transfer the pedal action to the spool box. My engineer father mended one of these bellows when I was an adolescent, but otherwise they, like the rest of the piano’s works and case, are completely untouched and original. On a recent visit, Mike told us the bellows could use a little attention…an operation that will require flipping the piano onto its back and hence won’t be done until winter, when the quiet season allows us the possibility of turning the entire front parlor into a piano operating theater.
My favorite aspect of getting the piano tuned is that Mike plays it as he works to check his machinations. He uses all or as much of the keyboard as possible, to check the veracity of both the low and high ends of the sound spectrum. To this end, he’ll play a selection of pieces ranging from classical to ragtime (my request always) to popular works. His tuning sessions feel like a mini-concert. I know today’s modern keyboards are phenomenal pieces of musical engineering, but to my ears, the sound of a hand-crafted wooden piano has a richness and depth incomparable to its modern counterparts. Listening to the pure, sonorous notes reignites my desire to learn to play other than with my feet.
And speaking of concerts and of classical music, we are in the midst of the annual month-long Bridgehampton Music Festival. This series is about as different from the casual Concerts in the Park series or weekly live entertainment at the Wine Stand at Wolffer Estates as one can get in the Hamptons, proving that, especially in the summer, there are opportunities for everyone’s musical tastes. Most of the Bridgehampton Music Festival concerts are held at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church (wonderful acoustics!) and all events are ticketed in advance. (Act fast! Only a few dates left!) I’ve been to a couple of the concerts, and they are masterful.I’ve always found that classical music has a special ability to soothe the soul.
On that note (ha!), maybe I’ll pull out one of the classical piano rolls and get a physical workout along with a mental de-stress….maybe Franz von Suppe’s Light Calvary Overture…
Quote of the Day: “If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.” ― Albert Einstein

Five percent — Eton Court twins

One of the joys of creating A Butler’s Manor was the decorating of it; unlike a boutique hotel, in a bed and breakfast like ours nothing is purchased en masse but instead is individually selected. And especially since we were “theming” the rooms to suggest the real life estates that Chris once ran as a butler, each aspect of each room needed to have its own story.

We describe the room we’ve named “Eton Court” as a king bedded room which can, which prior notice, be configured as two twins. All our website pictures show the room set up as a king bed because literally 95% of the time that is how guests request it. But because today is part of the other five percent of the year, I thought I’d share a picture of what the room looks like set up with two twin beds, since it is cute that way.

When the room is set up as two twins, it’s often to accommodate a girlfriend’s trip, a mom/daughter weekend, or a pair of siblings whose days of sharing a bed are long past. Tonight, it happens to be reserved for two colleagues visiting the area on business.

The twin beds in question are antiques, with wooden rails and large iron “hooks” that slot the pieces together. We purchased them in early 2002 at a Bridgehampton antique store owned by a courtly gentleman named Lynne St. John called the Bulls Head Inn. We met Lynne St. John in the early 1990’s, and Lynne and Chris had once discussed our purchasing the Bull’s Head Inn and restoring it as an inn, but the project was too big for our budget. Fifteen years later, it is now the site of the new restaurant, inn and spa called Topping Rose House.

Very few guests who book Eton Court as a king even realize that it doesn’t, in fact, have a king-sized mattress. Instead, there is a foam converter piece down the center of the two twin Sealy Posturepedic mattresses as well as a 3″ king-sized memory foam topper over the top, all encased by the mattress pad. All this ensures there is no way you’re going to fall into the center of the bed, or indeed, even know it is there. We often get raves about how comfortable the bed in Eton Court is.

Come check it out!

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Jim’s Magnolia

When Chris and I first viewed the house that would become A Butler’s Manor, it was in September 2001. At that time, the back yard was mainly grass, though the rose garden under the large Sycamore Maple tree was there…we both have a very vivid memory of the owner deadheading the roses while the Realtor showed us around.

When we eventually went into contract, it took four months to close.This meant that when we finally took possession the end of January, it was the dead of winter and we really had little idea what was growing in the yard, other than those roses. But we were hard at work in the house, furnishing and decorating and creating marketing materials and recipes for our bed and breakfast, so we didn’t much pay attention until Spring. And then…surprise! On the left side of the garden, near the gate, a large Saucer Magnolia came into bloom…the variety that sets an entire tree of pale pink blossoms before it sets a single leaf. And that’s when I knew for certain that it was meant to be that we bought this place.

In the house that I grew up in, my father, Jim Burton, planted a magnolia in our front yard. It was a Grandiflora, commonly known as a Southern Magnolia, the evergreen kind with the waxy green over brown leaves and the large white flowers that grow well in warmer climates. Ours was supposedly a dwarf tree version, and Dad’s only disappointment was that it managed to stay the same size for the whole 35+ years he lived in that house. Of all the plantings in our yard, we all knew that magnolia was Dad’s favorite.
So when he passed away in early Spring 1999, Chris and I decided to plant a magnolia in our yard in his memory. We wanted to plant a saucer magnolia not only because it was a variety that grew well in the Hamptons climate, but because it flowered right around the time of year he’d died, and we liked the reminder that he’d never really left us. The problem is that such magnolias not only bloom but are best planted in early Spring, and thus are only available then. So we missed out on the planting season two years in a row, and then we were searching for a bed and breakfast and it didn’t seem like a good idea to plant a memory tree at a house we would soon sell.
Fast forward to A Butler’s Manor, April, 2002, and here, in the same relative position vis-a-vis the house that we would have planted Jim’s Magnolia, was…Jim’s Magnolia. The first tree to welcome the Spring, and by extension, I thought fancifully, welcome us and our guests as our season began.
Then in July, when we were running like mad at the height of our first summer season, a curious thing happened. Jim’s Magnolia rebloomed, just a little. Maybe a dozen flowers. And interestingly, you could only really see them from where we sat in our office. Now, magnolias of this type don’t rebloom normally. So we decided that it was just Dad checking in when we were at our most stressed, sending us a little bloom of encouragement.
This happened every summer for the next eight years.
And then something happened to the tree. Perhaps it was Hurricane Irene. But the following Spring, only about half the tree set blooms, and later leaves. We deep-fed it, removed the climbing tree hydrangea that had been using it as partial support, got the tree gurus out to check it, waited another year. No good. We had to take it out last fall. It left a literal hole in the landscape and a big figurative hole in our hearts.
So last week we planted another magnolia for Jim. It’s little, but it will grow. It’s blooming still, as I write. 
I don’t expect it to send a “hang in there” message with a rebloom in the summer, but you never know…
Quote of the Day: It’s said that when we die, the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – dissolve one by one, each into the other, and finally just dissolve into space. But while we’re living, we share the energy that makes everything, from a blade of grass to an elephant, grow and live and then inevitably wear out and die. This energy, this life force, creates the whole world. –Pema Chodron

Bed buzz!

Mom didn’t allow us to jump on the bed.  But once when my sister Lisa and I were small, shortly after we’d graduated to twin beds, we risked trying it anyway. We were supposed to be taking a nap. The beds were new and they had so much bounce. We started off quietly enough on our respective beds, but our exuberance grew as we flew higher and higher, closer and closer to the ceiling. And then I jumped over onto Lisa’s bed and, just like a trampoline, my weight wrong-footed her and bounced her into the rough-coat plaster wall. She left some skin and some hair on the wall, and  her shrieks brought in the calvary in the form of our mother.  The damage caused by the scrape into the wall was nothing compared to the trouble we got in for breaking the rules. I haven’t jumped on a bed since. (I can’t vouch for my renegade sister.)

Today, though, I was sorely tempted. Yesterday, we had delivered wonderful new beds for all the rooms at A Butler’s Manor — sumptuous Sealy Posturepedic Titanium 800 coil mattresses that are as thick and yummy as a fine custard. (Okay, sorry about the metaphor; I’m writing this near dinner time.) Lovely plush mattresses, made up with our heavenly Comphy sheets…oooh, I could just crawl into one of them now.
But before we made them, I went into Oak Knoll (with its nice high ceiling) with the intention of kicking off 45+ years of ingrained “thou shalt nots” and trying the bed for bounceability but…nope. Can’t do it. Can still hear Mom’s voice in my ear. I probably require years of therapy.
Trampolines are made for jumping; beds like these are made for wonderful rest and rejuvenation. These ones are sublime. To paraphrase George at the Men’s Wearhouse, “You’re gonna like the way you sleep. I guarantee it.”
Come check them out!
 
Quote of the Day:  Sleep is the best meditation. –Dalai Lama

Special occasions and seasonal rebirths

One of the truly joyous things about owning a bed and breakfast is when we get to participate, in a small way, in a special life event of our guests.

Such is the case today. Matt and Nicole are visiting from Canada, and somewhere in our fair village (or–chances are–the beach), Matt is planning to propose. So, in anticipation of a positive response, we’ve set up in their room a celebratory display of champagne, roses, and our seasonal favorite daffodils to welcome the newly affianced couple back. We’ll have the fire going just in case they feel like enjoying their champagne in front of it…We love days like this!

Speaking of the village, Spring is springing wonderfully here in the Hamptons. Here in Southampton, lots of stores and a couple restaurants are undergoing facelifts in anticipation of the summer season, including BookHampton, 75 Main, and Plaza Cafe. We visited with Chef Doug Gujila over dinner and love the cool new blue look of the main dining room…With handmade fish art by local wine merchant John Rist, it feels a little like the Caribbean.
Relocating from Water Mill, Muse has sailed over to moor on Main Street in Sag Harbor, and is now Muse In The Harbor. Chris and I went with friends to visit with Chef Matt Guffrieda and check out his shiny new digs, complete with a huge fish tank acting as a central room divider. I love Matt’s creative takes on food: my Tilapia Wienerschnitzel was scrumptious, and do not miss the Zeppole for dessert. Yum!
As usual, spring heralds the arrival of some new faces to our restaurant scene. In the old Post House location that housed Nello’s Summertimes is now Nammo’s, reportedly owned/operated by the folks who have run Trata in Water Mill these past few years. And over the canal in Hampton Bays, Chef David Hersh of Rumba fame plans to open a second, larger restaurant reportedly called Cowfish in the large, canal-front location that has housed Indian Cove for decades. I expect we’ll be one of the first in line to visit and sample his new menu.
So…waiting eagerly for the return of our young couple…will she say yes??
Quote of the Day: April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. ~William Shakespeare
UPDATE!!! Matt writes: “Everything went great … she said yes!  Thanks so much for all you did to make it so special for us,  We’ve had a great stay here to say the least.”

Alternative wheels

Thanksgiving seems to be the perfect time to spend an hour in the shoes of another.

During the summer here at A Butler’s Manor, we offer complimentary shuttle service to Cooper’s Beach in our roomy Buick Roadmaster (a.k.a. the Butlermobile), which saves our guests the price of parking ($40 per day). And as many of our guests come from Manhattan and don’t have a car, we also pick up and deliver from the Hampton Jitney terminal and the Southampton train station. Because we are an easy walk into the center of Southampton Village, for a weekend visitor from the city this is probably all the transportation they need. For a longer stay, or if they wish to wander farther afield, they generally rent a car.

But a distinct segment of our visitors from abroad, particularly the UK or Australia, come for several days and may not be comfortable renting a car and driving on the “wrong” side of the road. In most cases, this trip to the Hamptons will be their only one, and as much as I love Southampton village, I want our visitors to see all of the Hamptons and beyond…to really experience the entire area. And therein lies the rub. Unlike NYC, we don’t have a large, well-integrated public transport system. We have the Long Island Railroad, but there are only three or four trains per day. And the train stops in Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Amagansett and Montauk, but you’ll never see Sag Harbor that way. Taxis are expensive and not necessarily geared to a general tour of the area. Limo services such as East End Limosine, which can provide a general tour, are lovely but even more expensive. There are a couple of van/limo tours geared specifically to the North Fork wineries, and we particularly like Vintage Tours, but it is often difficult to get them to come over to the South Fork to pick up only two guests. And not all of our clientele want to spend their money this way. We do have a public bus, which currently runs every day except Sunday. Needless to say, Chris and I have never ridden it.

Until last Tuesday. After our guests checked out that day, we had the entire afternoon and evening free. So we decided to see how our wheel-less guests would experience the East End’s public transportation.

It was a grey, dank day, with showers threatening when we picked up the S92 bus near Roger’s Memorial Library in Southampton. You need exact change, but it doesn’t have to be coins — there is a bill inserter, which on our adventure, I saw that everyone used except me. My first impression was favorable: busses are new, clean, and well-maintained. Okay, so the seat could use a little more padding. But hey, for $2, you’re not likely to get the Hampton Luxury Liner’s posh leather seats.

We rode through Bridgehampton, then north on the turnpike to Sag Harbor, then southeast down Rte. 114 to East Hampton and disembarked near the train station there, a journey of about 35 minutes–not bad for probably a 20 mile trip. After wandering in town and enjoying a coffee at Starbuck’s, we boarded again, retracing our same route, then continuing through Hampton Bays, up through the county seat of Riverhead, and out to the North Fork. You can’t get to Tanger Outlet Mall directly (though you could with a transfer) and it’s not a particularly impressive tour of Riverhead. But once beyond the county seat, the bus journeys straight up Rte 25 through the Long Island Wine Trail, all the way to Orient Point. With the many wineries side by side especially in Cutchogue, you could actually go wine tasting on the bus. Hmmmm.

The journey to Greenport from East Hampton totaled about 2 hours and 15 minutes, and we decided to hop off there and have an early dinner before heading back home. Upon reboarding, we found a photographer from Long Island’s Newsday newspaper on the bus, working on a story, though she didn’t say what it was about. She was enchanted with our little adventure to ride the bus from one end of the route to the other in order to be able to advise our guests, and snapped a few dozen photographs of me and of most of the others who subsequently boarded the bus for points east.

The following morning, a friend called us up. “Kim, is that your picture in Newsday today?” Sure enough, there I was…headlining an article about a potential fare hike and its impact on those who rode the bus, quote, “often, the poorest of the poor.”

So I just became the poster child for the poorest of the poor? Well. I guess we need a second job! Too bad. We think ours was the far better story!

Our adventure taught us that we could safely recommend the bus for wheel-less guests looking to head farther afield than our village…one can easily journey to any of the points mentioned above, and with little effort, transfer to other lines that will go all the way to Montauk or other places. Busses run about an hour apart, which seems dreadfully infrequent when compared to NYC busses (or, yikes, the subway!), but when compared to three trains per day, is a veritable abundance of transportation…an easy, clean, safe and inexpensive option for sightseeing when you don’t have your own car. And the people watching is definitely interesting. Students going to class, people taking their laundry to the laudromat, mothers with small (remarkably quiet!) children, people en route to work, or to the store…regulars who knew the bus driver and chatted with him as he drove, others plugged into their iPods and enjoying downtime. It was a truly interesting day.

But oh, how Chris and I gave thanks that evening for the blessing of having our own transportation!

Quote of the Day: A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it. — Unknown