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:


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

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

Taking a breath

Chris and I just returned from a four-day hiatus in Savannah GA with some friends. Our first day off since mid-April of this year, it was a chance to draw a breath, slow down, and sleep in a little. (!!!) This was our first trip to Savannah, and we loved all of it: the peaceful, tree-filled squares that so nicely define the downtown, the wonderful architecture, the slower pace of life of the Deep South. Savannah is reputedly replete with ghosts, so visiting so near Halloween was quite the ticket. Weather was beautiful for most of our stay, and we had fun wandering the historic neighborhoods, touring some wonderful houses and exploring antique shops and walking the riverfront. And oh yes, enjoying Low Country cooking, including taking a cooking class by local celebrity Chef Joe Randall, where I got some great ideas (whoever thought of using grits as a spread, much like hummus…?), though nothing I anticipate incorporating into breakfast. Of course, we stayed at a B&B — the Eliza Thompson House on Jones Street. It is said that there is even a ghost of a Confederate soldier in the house who haunts the room we’d chosen (the R. Bruce room, one of the original bedrooms of the 1847 house) — but if he dropped by while we were there, Chris and I were too exhausted to meet him.

Back home now and back in the groove at A Butler’s Manor. It’s a great time of year. People smile around here as they don their sweaters. Last weekend we had a full house of anniversary celebrants — all five rooms! Though it shouldn’t surprise me; because we so often enjoy perfect autumn weather this time of year, it’s a prime time to get married. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had well over a dozen couples celebrating their anniversaries. In fact, we were among them. Chris and I celebrated our twenty-third anniversary in September.

Fall means that the farm stands are hopping, as are the pumpkin patches like Hank’s Pumpkintown and the corn mazes. (And if those popular attractions were NOT what drew you out for a visit this time of year, Chris and I can show you routes around them.) One particularly good corn maze — called a “maize” — is at Fairview Farm in Bridgehampton. More than just entertainment for the kids, upon entering the maize at Fairview Farm, you choose a card with your favorite trivia category. Thereafter, when you reach a point that requires a choice of directions, your answer to your trivia question will determine whether you make a right or a left turn.

Fall also means the wineries are beginning to harvest their grapes, and their tasting rooms are extra busy, especially over on the North Fork, and often feature live entertainment on weekends. Local restaurants take advantage of the bountiful harvest to season their menus with fall fares like butternut squash ravioli and all sorts of yummy soups…yikes, I’m getting hungry!

With fall in the air, and a more relaxed pace to the Hamptons, it’s a chance to tidy and spruce things up before winter sets in. As I write, foliage is still green and temperatures are in the 60’s during the day…typically, the East End doesn’t experience full fall color until after Halloween. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be painting woodwork and trim in the upstairs hallway, as well as tidying up the garden where the annuals are fading, though our prolific dahlias and roses continue to bloom merrily, providing lovely color. The fire is laid in the afternoons to guests returning after a day enjoying the season.

We welcome fall as it gives us a chance to breathe a little, gear down from the frenetic pace of summer!

Quote of the Day: There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been! — Percy Bysshe Shelley