All Things Downton

Chris and I saw Downton Abbey: The Movie the other week and were immediately catapulted back into the great series we’d enjoyed and missed. We find many visitors are also fans of the program and are interested to know how the story compares to Chris’s real-life experience as a butler and estate manager. How does the story measure up to reality in today’s times?  So we thought: Let’s dedicate a weekend to the spirit of Downton Abbey and the reality of personal service, then and now.

Downton Abbey Weekend begins Friday, December 13 with a champagne welcome and continues until Sunday, December 15. On Saturday afternoon, Chris will give a talk about life as a butler and what it takes to serve the rich and run an estate –or several estates — in the latter part of the 20th century and beyond.The presentation will take place over a proper English afternoon tea (yes, scones, finger sandwiches and all) here at A Butler’s Manor.

During the weekend, you’ll also visit Southampton Historical Museum’s exhibit “High Style in the Gilded Age: Southampton, 1870-1930,” where you can enjoy contrasting how the Earl of Grantham and his family compared to his “peers” on this side of the pond.dinner party setting with an autumn themeWe’ll prepare a special gourmet breakfast each morning (sorry, no kippers), AND guests will take home a signed copy of Chris and Kim’s book “A Butler’s Life: Scenes From the Other Side of the Silver Salver” as a souvenir of your weekend! Cost: $125 per couple plus the rate of your favorite room. Want the details? Click here to book now. Join us for this fun event!

In other news: We’re continually freshening and updating the house and gardens here at A Butler’s Manor and most of it is, as it should be, pretty unnoticeable. But this past week, we did something that was relatively dramatic, because if you’ve stayed with us before, you can’t miss the difference: We repainted our cranberry dining room walls a warm, creamy mushroom color.

multi-tabled dining room with cranberry-colored walls
Before

 

multi-tabled dining room with creamy mushroom walls
After

What do you think?

Meals and Deals in the Hamptons Off Season

food picture of lamb chops over a display of sauteed vegetablesLong Island Restaurant Week is coming up in a couple of weeks, which is always a great time to hit up Nick & Toni’s where a reservation during the summer is nearly impossible to come by. But here’s a secret: You can get similar deals on almost any weekday offseason at dozens of restaurants in the Hamptons–without the hype or the crowds. And chances are, you’ll have better service, more choices of entrees, and a far better experience.

Here are some of Chris’s and my favorites:

Plaza Cafe (Southampton) As much as I love Chef Doug’s signature Seafood Shepherds Pie, I can never finish it. So I love that Plaza is offering Half Portions/Half Price during the week! (Besides, if I’m really hungry, this option allows me to try two different entrees!)

Le Chef (Southampton) Famous for its Prix Fixe option. I never miss the chance to have their housemade Country Pate with toast points.

Bistro Ete (Water Mill) SO glad to see that Chef Arie is doing a prix fixe in this lovely restaurant. Especially love his escargot! AND the fruit-filled square ice cubes that grace the water glasses. A class act!

Bell &Anchor (Noyac/Sag Harbor) This lovely place, off the beaten path on Noyac Road overlooking a marina, is always a wonderful experience. The Duroc Pork Chop on the Prix Fixe menu is exceptional, but I also love their fish.

Fresno (East Hampton) Another restaurant “off the beaten path” behind East Hampton train station, and well worth finding. On a recent visit, Chris and I both had a stellar orecchiette that was so good, it was dinner the next night too. And this was Chris’s yummy wedge salad:

food picture of salad with tomato and cucumber garnish

Bobby Van’s (Bridgehampton) Prix Fixe menu with eight entree options offered all night Sunday through Thursday, and Chris orders the 21-oz ribeye Every. Single. Time. It’s a killer deal at $32.

Rumba (Hampton Bays) One of the most fun, laid back, Island Time restaurants on the whole East End. But take note: “Island Time” as it relates to the midweek Prix Fixe ends at 7:30 PM. So, to quote Rumba’s tagline, “Get here fast…then take it slow.”

Sundays on the Bay (Hampton Bays) One word: LOBSTER. Sunday’s “Twins” special, Monday – Thursday all day, is renowned: Two 1-1/4 lb. lobbies, plus a veg, for $32. On the nights we can restrain ourselves from eating everything on our plates, I bring home the leftovers and make my own yummy lobster salad (a far cry from neighbor Loaves and Fishes famous $100/lb. lobster salad).

Caveat: Offseason, few restaurants are open seven days a week. However, they tend to stagger days off so that there’s always a place to eat! Double-check online, or ask us when you arrive, and we can give you the most up to date information on what’s available during your stay.

So score your favorite room at A Butler’s Manor (check out our our FALL20 special) and join us offseason when there are wonderful deals to be had, and meals to enjoy!

Our top 6 reasons to visit the Hamptons out of season

couple and dog on a beach watching the sunset
Early Spring is an excellent time to come to the Hamptons as a relaxing getaway. Here are our favorite reasons why:
Large mansion overlooking a pond on a misty morning
1) If you enjoy seeing beyond the hedges at the big estates in the Hamptons, this is your chance. Most of those privet hedges are deciduous… which means that now they’re bare and won’t leaf in again in full until sometime in May. And chances are you’ll spot a few deer grazing on those estate lawns where no one is around to chase them away.
2)The trendy seasonal restaurants haven’t come to town yet, but our award-winning year-round places such as Plaza Cafe, Bistro Ete, 1770 House and Pierre’s are open and won’t be crowded. (Now’s your chance to get into Nick & Toni’s.)
Large house on a sand dune3) Nope, there’s not a whole lot of nightlife, though you can catch a set at Steven Talkhouse or a concert at Bay Street Theater on weekends. And while the summer shops are still polishing their pop-up retail spots for the Memorial Day reopening, you can still check out some of our best, such as Hildreth’s, Rumrunner, Topiare and Sylvester’s for great household finds, or D.J Hart, J. McLaughlin, Chico’s, Tenet or Jildor for clothing. Or, even better, check out off-season prices on consignment couture at Collette’s.
4) Bundle up and take a long walk on an empty beach, and pick out your fantasy beach house. Picture the parties you’re going to have in it in the summer.
couple holding hands across a dining table in a restaurant, small wrapped package beside her plate
5) Oh, and wine! Nearly all of the wineries on both forks are open every day, all year. Without the crowds, it feels like you’re having your own private tasting.
6) Most of all, the quiet season is a time to renew, recharge your batteries and most of all, reconnect. Has it been way too long since you’ve had the chance to look into each other’s eyes and really mean that “I love you?”

Now’s your chance! And to sweeten the deal, we’re offering a Spring Fling special: Stay for any two nights in April 2019 and we’ll take 20% off your room rate! 

At A Butler’s Manor, we look forward to being your restorative getaway. Call to make your reservation today!

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Happiest in the Hamptons–Spring!

Backpack with "Happiest in the Hamptons" written on itEarly spring is always such a tough call. The weather may be clear and cool, as it was earlier this week, or it can be drizzly and chilly, as it was today. Or sometimes, we even get a heat wave! In our first year of operation, 2002, we were serving breakfast in the garden this week because temps had spiked to near 80 degrees.
Chair and sofa with sidetable set with whiskey glasses before a fireplace surrounded by white bookshelvesIt was the first day of the Spring Sidewalk Sale in Southampton Village, and the merchants on Main and Job’s Lane gamely battled the periodic drizzle. Thankfully, the weather seems poised to clear tonight, so that tomorrow’s Sidewalk Sale should be a warmer experience! Saw this cute display of merchandise on a recent walk down Main Street, Southampton. Bet this line will sell out fast!
In the meantime, our wood burning fireplace is creating a great place to return to after exploring the area.
Got word of an article just published in Architectural Digest that listed nine of America’s most beautiful golf coursesAt the top of the list, of course, is Augusta National in Georgia, where the annual Master’s Tournament was recently held. But how gratifying is it to learn that THREE of the remaining eight courses are located right here in the HamptonsShinnecock Hills Golf Club and National Golf Links, next door to each other here in Southampton, and The Bridge in Bridgehampton. Pretty impressive! (And no, sadly, we don’t have an in at any of them to get a tee time, alas.)

Door to guestroom with bowler hat hung on it above silver frame with room nameChris and I are busy planting, painting, and rearranging to add new touches to A Butler’s Manor. In the next few weeks, look for some tweaks in our dining room, Goose Creek, and Villefranche. Watch this space for details!

And here’s our new take on the doors to our rooms, playing up our butlering background. Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize the ubiquitous bowler worn by the venerable Mr. Carson. Make sure you take a selfie in the bowler hat when you visit! Extra credit for posting it to Instagram and or Facebook! #abutlersmanor #bowlerized 


couple preparing breakfast in a community demonstrationThis past Wednesday, I had an opportunity to demonstrate some of our signature breakfast dishes at Rogers Memorial Library. The theme I chose was entrees that can be prepared the night before and baked off in the morning. We featured one savory dish and one sweet dish, and our Raisin Bran Muffins. Chris came along to serve out the samples and charm everyone and generally play magician’s assistant. It was a lot of fun!

Speaking of creativity in the kitchen, I’ve been having some fun making some breakfasts I can only really do when the house isn’t full…menus that are just too labor-intensive for a full house. This is what was on the menu this morning: Orange Ebelskivers –a filled pancake–with fresh strawberries and Nutella…looks yummy, no? One of the perks of offseason visits!!

plate with ebelskivers (round filled pancakes) drizzled with Nutella and strawberries
Spring is a great time to explore the Hamptons and the North Fork before the crowds get here, and where you stay is an important part of your Hamptons experience. Come visit us at A Butler’s Manor, your Southampton, NY Bed & BreakfastClick here to check out our available rooms. 
Hope to see you soon!

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Open for the Season!

Frozen Lake Agawam

No snow on the beach!

South of the Highway tagger with a sense of humor

The sky is blue today and the forecast clear as we open A Butler’s Manor for the 2015 season!

It was by all accounts a brutally cold and snowy winter here on the East End, which Chris and I missed entirely while on sabbatical in Southern California. We came home with suitcases of sunshine, though, and the snow has been melting ever since. (Maybe in another week, we’ll be able to see the pool?)

Apart from the snow, all is well. Roads are clear and the year round shops and restaurants are open and welcoming. If you’ve never taken a walk on a winter beach you are in for a treat…the sand is firm underfoot and the empty beach is absolutely pristine.

Long Island Winterfest–Live on the Vine, is a six-week, midwinter music festival that takes place in the North Fork winery tasting rooms, historic theaters, hotels and other venues through the end of March. A total of over seventy different events, featuring a diverse lineup of jazz, folk, rock, blues, world music, and more are scheduled Fridays through Sundays. Check out their calendar of events here.

Back at A Butler’s Manor after a day out exploring, you’ll find our crackling fireplace a welcoming place to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine.

We look forward to your visit!

Quote of the Day: There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you. . . In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. —Ruth Stout
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March 9, 2015: Until the flowers in the garden start to bloom….

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.var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));try {var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-8775946-1”);pageTracker._trackPageview();} catch(err) {}

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!

You mean the Hamptons are still busy after Labor Day??

On Labor Day, one of our guests stopped by
the kitchen at 11:05 to say she would be checking out late, after she’d had her
run and a shower. I assured her that we had downstairs facilities for her to
shower and change, but she needed to have her bags out of her room at our standard 11:00
AM check out time because we needed to clean it for arriving guests.
Her eyebrows went up. “You mean you have people coming in today?”
There is a common misconception among many of our summer
visitors that somehow the Hamptons roll up like a yoga mat, put away until next
Memorial Day. That the oceans somehow turn arctic cold on Tumbleweed Tuesday,
and that all the shops and restaurants close and move to their winter locations
in West Palm Beach.
Ah, but you and I know differently. With the advent of
autumn, the Hamptons become an entirely different type of destination. Summer
lingers on through September with temperate weather and still-warm oceans and
bays. And correspondingly, different types of visitors come to appreciate our
unique beauty and charm.
First of all, the oft-forgotten former economic engine of
the Hamptons – farming – revs its motor as the leaves begin to turn colors.
While summer guests appreciate our farm stands, it is fall where they really
shine as the harvest gets underway. Corn, zucchini, sun-ripened tomatoes,
potatoes, greens, squash and much more overflow their bushel baskets. And
speaking of squash, beginning mid-September, nothing can beat our East End
farms for agritourism. Pumpkin picking? Bring the family and grab a red wagon and
spend hours at Hank’s Pumpkintown…the kids enjoying the slides and forts and
climb-aboard tractors before picking out the perfect enormous pumpkin in the
field. Or opt for an elegant cream or sage-colored pumpkin from the flatbed
parked at the Milk Pail, where you can choose to do your picking from one of the Halsey family’s twenty different varieties of apples in the adjacent orchard and pick up
a container of the freshest local apple cider available. You don’t have to be a
kid to enjoy a corn maze, and one of the best is to be found on Horsemill Road at Fairview Farm, where the “maize” (a pun on Indian corn) is carefully cut each year into a
design that, viewed from the air, is a work of art. Choose from almost a dozen
different trivia categories to help you navigate the maize. Questions are
multiple choice; your answer will determine whether you should turn right or
left when faced with such an intersection.
Fall means cooler temperatures, when outdoor activities
often benefit from a bike ride is a perfect outdoor choice. And with beach
traffic nonexistent, a perfect cycling excursion might be to wend your way through the
estate districts where wide, tree-lined streets are almost empty of drivers. Rent
a boat from Strong’s Marine and spend a day exploring Peconic or Shinnecock
Bay, or hire a kayak and paddle through places like Georgica Pond or Northwest
Creek, where your only company may be the egrets and ospreys. Fall is also the
perfect time to hike Mashomack Preserve, the Nature Conservancy’s vast 2100-acre
property that comprises nearly a third of Shelter Island.
And then, of course, there are our wineries. The harvesting of grapes is a big event (Wolffer Estate’s Harvest Party sells out every
year) and all the East End wineries are in their full glory. Look for wine tasting
events, weekend entertainment in many of the South Fork’s three and the North
Fork’s almost fifty vineyards.
For well over 100 years, artists have flocked to the East
End to paint, and with the fall comes that season of light where you can
completely understand their motivation. The sun, lower on the horizon, casts a
peerless golden glow over our farm fields and dunes. It’s Mother Nature’s
blessing on the East End.
Fall means festivals, notably SeptemberFest in Southampton
(September 26-28), the Montauk Seafood Festival (September 13-14), Harborfest, the celebration of Sag
Harbor’s whaling history (also September 13-14), and the San Gennaro feast in Hampton Bays (October 4-5). Check out the Arts and Crafts fair in Westhampton Beach (October 11-12), the Fine Art show in Bridgehampton, or the Chili Cookoff in
Hampton Bays.All feature events and activities for the entire family. 
And oh yes, our restaurants are still open. As are our
shops. Parking is easier, and so is traffic, compared to steamy August
weekends.
In short, whether you’ve experienced the Hamptons during our
summer heyday or never before, the season of plenty is a wonderful time to visit!

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Christmas in Southampton!

Wanted to share a lovely video that captures the holiday spirit present in Southampton this time of year!var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));try {var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-8775946-1”);pageTracker._trackPageview();} catch(err) {}

Thanksgiving week

It’s late fall and the season is winding down, which gives Chris and me the opportunity to do some maintenance and home improvements. The first two weeks in November saw the complete renovation of the bathroom in Oak Knoll, as well as installation of central air conditioning in each of the guest rooms — yeah! We finished the former just in time to welcome guests in Oak Knoll this past weekend. Whew!

Around the village, most of the leaves have blown off the trees. Here in the garden, only the hornbeams are still hanging onto their fading summer foliage. Walking through the Southampton Village this morning, we saw the village crews putting up the annual display of Christmas trees that line Main Street and Job’s Lane. Additionally, this year, a number of the deciduous trees have been strung with tiny twinkling white lights, magical at night. With or without snow, Southampton will be a winter wonderland this season. And there are so many events planned for it, beginning next weekend!

Thursday, of course, is Thanksgiving, and this year Chris and I will be enjoying traditional turkey fare at Seasons of Southampton, the pretty catering facility literally steps away from A Butler’s Manor. (We’ll join friends for a late Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday.) In the meantime, the official kick-off of the holiday shopping season begins the day after Turkey Day with Black Friday. But as residents of a small resort town with no big box stores or malls and owners of a small business ourselves, we are especially excited about Small Business Saturday, a promotion to encourage shopping at local, small businesses. American Express is doing the promotion of this nationwide event, offering a $25 credit to the first 100,000 shoppers who shop a participating (i.e., American Express card-accepting) small business. I doubt I’ll get out to the shops in time to qualify for the credit, but I’ll be there. Our wonderful small shops are too precious to lose to the chains and the malls and the Internet, and need our support.

So as guests enjoy the fireplace instead of the pool, as hot tea rather than iced beckons after a walk on the beach, we settle in and enjoy the calmer quiet of late autumn season in Southampton. Still beautiful and, to many, even more appealing than during the hectic summer days.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Quote of the Day: I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton

Ragamuffins on Parade

Yesterday was Halloween, and in the village of Southampton, the Chamber of Commerce sponsors an annual “Ragamuffin Parade” of little (and not so little!) children in costume, followed by a Pumpkin Trail of local merchants who hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters. In recent years, the event has been joined by a doggie costume parade sponsored by Little Lucy’s on Job’s Lane, a boutique that features the wardrobe of clothing, costumes, and jewelry your favorite pooch never knew she wanted. Not being parents, Chris and I haven’t attended the event before, but our neighbors Lynn and Gary’s 14-month-old twin girls were planning on participating, along with their two king Charles Cavallier spaniels, so we had to see them in action! Little Pearse and the Blenheim (reddish) dog were bumblebees, while Gigi and their King Charles (black and tan) dog were ladybugs. Are they cute, or what?

And…wow! Main Street was swarming with families, more crowded than on the busiest August weekend. There was barely room on the sidewalk to stand and watch the children collect their treats from participating merchants. After a while, Chris and I repaired to Silver’s and selected a seat in the window where we could watch the action from the warmth of the restaurant while enjoying an elegant lunch …something we never have an opportunity to do in August.
The weather is currently picture-perfect Autumn, with clear, bright, chilly days and a breeze to help blow the leaves from the trees. Out in our garden, Chris spends his free time digging up the bulbs that require overwintering (e.g., acidanthus, dahlia), while I am cutting the very last of the dahlias and roses for our rooms, augmenting the arrangements with the brush heads of ornamental grasses. The leaves on the Japanese maple at the back of the pool have turned their autumnal burnished orange, but the gigantic sycamore maple still has most of its leaves, all mostly green…it’s always a late-season holdout.
There’s still lots to do in the towns…birdwatching walks, weekend entertainment at many of the vineyards on both the South and North Forks, plus Long Island Restaurant Week, which starts this Sunday (three courses, $24.95!!). This Friday, the Parrish Museum’s Business Council will host its annual Friday night jazz event, which we hope to attend, pending arrival time of our check-ins.
Autumn is my favorite season of the year. The fire is crackling in the fireplace, and the pumpkins adorn the front porch. Come enjoy it with us at A Butler’s Manor!
Quote of the Day: For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad. —Edwin Way Teale