Pumpkin Season (and EASY Pumpkin Cake Recipe)!

stack of pumpkins and gourds on brick porch

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.)

rack of cut firewood contrasted with beach chairs on wooden porchAnyway, 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

pumpkin spice cake with apple cider glaze

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

Soothing the stressed soul, part 1

Picture this: A warm afternoon. A shaded deck overlooking a vanishing perspective of grapevine rows. The sun, softened by afternoon sky, warming the cascaded fruit tucked beneath the copious green leaves. An occasional warm sigh of breeze stirring your hair. A comfortable deck chair. The smooth slender stem of a cool glass of wine in hand. The fat doughnut notes of a mellow saxophone grounded by a rumbling standing bass.
Relaxed yet?
This is one of my most favorite ways to end a summer day. 
I love that many of our local wineries have developed an experience more likely to engage all of your senses than simply a wine tasting, and that tasting rooms are increasingly open later on weekend nights. Here on the South Fork, weather permitting, Duck Walk Vineyards in Water Mill features live music on the back patio Friday night 5-8 PM, where you can catch a sunset over the vineyard (!!) and toast the end of the workweek, as well as on Saturday and Sunday afternoons 1-5 PM. Chris and I often suggest Duck Walk’s weekend jazz afternoons as a great option for the end of a day spent rambling round the Hamptons, since it’s a scant 3 miles from A Butler’s Manor. Bring your new favorite wine back to enjoy on the patio around the pool before changing for dinner.
Wolffer Estate Vineyard features two venues: their gorgeous main tasting room on Sagg Main Road in Sagaponack, where Twilight Thursdays are held each Thursday 5-8 PM, and the Wine Stand, around the corner on Montauk Highway, for Sunset Friday and Saturdays, 5-8 PM. Both locations feature the option to purchase wines by the glass or bottle, as well as cheese and charcuterie plates. Live music is featured at both locations. Thursdays hew closer to a jazz format whereas the weekends feature a more eclectic blend.
Hey, but I’m visiting midweek! you cry. What’s going on when I’m there?
Through the end of June (so far!) Wolffer also has extracurricular events on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Main Tasting Room. On Tuesdays, become a local at Locals Night, when 4-8 PM, glasses of wine are half price and for a small fee between 6-8 PM you can participate in the following activity:
  • June 10:  Chocolate Paired and Made with Wine 
  • June 17: Wine-Themed Poetry Night
  • June 24: ROSÉ WEEK: Rosé in the Raw–Wolffer rosé wines paired with shellfish, at the Wine Stand. ($25 per person in advance, $30 at the door)
On Wednesdays between 6-7 PM, educate yourself on all things oenophilian. For a small fee, enjoy a themed tasting led by knowledgeable experts:
  • June 4: The Wines of Alsace and the Loire Valley
  • June 11: Sparkling Wines
  • June 18: Tasting Techniques
  • June 25: Special Edition: Big Rosé World ($25 in advance, $30 at the door)
And lastly, a summer weekend offering that teams wine tasting with bicycling through the beauty of the backcountry between these two South Fork vineyards:  Pour and Pedal offers a 4-5 hour tour (and they supply the bikes!) which begins at Wolffer and ends with lunch at Duck Walk. How virtuous would you feel after that tour?
steady stick wine holders From RedEnvelope.comOkay, for those of you who’d prefer to unwind at little farther from the madding crowd, here’s a variation to picture: Beachside in a sand chair with a mansion at your back and the surf before your toes. A cold bottle of wine in these cool holders. Your fave chill-out tunes on your iPod…
So aren’t you just THERE, already, in your mind? I sure am.
Quote of the Day: There’s never enough time to do all the nothing that you want. –Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes

Hamptons International Film Festival Returns

We’ve been enjoying a wonderful, temperate Autumn season here at A Butler’s Manor. Though we closed the pool for the season this week, the garden is still showing lots of colors, including dahlias, roses, and fall anenome. It’s been warm enough the past few days that we’ve been able to serve breakfast on the patio, usually unheard of in October.

Last weekend was Septemberfest in Southampton Village, well attended and much enjoyed. Especially enjoyable was the music! I spent part of Saturday afternoon passing out schedule information in front of the Chamber of Commerce, and got to enjoy Nick Kerzner’s classic rock and original solo material. Friday’s kickoff party featured our old “Rhythm & Twang” favorites The Lone Sharks, and two other favorites were part of the line up on Saturday and Sunday: Mashup band New Life Crisis and smooth jazz Certain Moves. The chowder contest had run out of samples by 1:30 PM, with a closely contested victory declared for a Manhattan-style chowder from Paul’s Italian Restaurant (#6 for those of you who had mugs!). The Southampton Center opened with its first exhibition of Charles Addam’s work featuring his classic Addam’s Family cartoons, and the Maniac Pumpkin Carvers had created a display of all things Addams Family (look closely and you’ll see that Uncle Fester, on the left, has a glowing light bulb in his mouth) — brilliant!
Coming up beginning Thursday, October 10 and running through Monday, October 14, is the Hamptons International Film Festival. Now in its 21st year, The HIFF was founded to promote the vision of independent filmmakers from around the world. It’s always a star-studded occasion, drawing local film actors and directors such as Stephen Spielberg, Alec Baldwin, Mercedes Ruehl, Martin Scorcese and Renee Zellwegger, as well as those from Hollywood and abroad. While most of the venues are in East Hampton, there are two screens in Southampton’s theatre, as well as Sag Harbor’s one. Coolest thing: One of the featured films, Louder Than Words, is inspired by a true story that one of our repeat guests was a part of. They will be staying with us again, and are eager to see how the movie turns out (and see the actor who plays him)!
A big draw on the East End in autumn is agri-tourism; our pumpkin farms, corn mazes, wineries and farmstands are all in high gear. Particularly busy over on the South Fork is Hank’s Pumpkintown, located on Montauk Highway in Water Mill, right across the street from Duckwalk Vineyards.  Hank’s keeps getting bigger and better each year, with pumpkins, slides and all manner of climb-aboard things for the kids, as well as food, apples, and much more. If you’re visiting us and aren’t planning on sampling either, let us know so we can route you around the traffic!
I’m recovering from foot surgery, so will miss out on the corn maze this year, and miss seeing our guests in the next week or so until I’m cleared for takeoff. Chris is running the Manor with the help of Kristen and Deb while I’m off my feet, so you know you’re in good hands!
Quote of the day:  It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you watch them on screen. –Anthony Burgess