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 FALL20 special) and join us offseason when there are wonderful deals to be had, and meals to enjoy!

How will you spend your Southampton Summer?

 

I’m writing this blog post on the first rainy day we’ve had in a long time. I must admit, it feels good to have a break from the blazing sun and hot and humid days, and the plants and flowers are certainly grateful.

 

View of patio seating in a rainy garden

 

After so many weeks of outdoor dining, it feels unusual to serve breakfast in our formal dining room. Although fine dining certainly has its unique charm and our guests love it, serving their breakfast outside while listening to the birds sing, and watching the rabbits and squirrels frolic has become a favorite part of my day. 

 

What I love most is guests sharing with me their experiences of the night before – some loving the Hamptons nightlife, alive with busyness, star gazing, fancy clothes and late nights. And others enjoying the quieter places, hanging out at a local’s bar or picking up dinner at the gourmet market Citarella which is an easy walk from A Butler’s Manor, and enjoying a beach picnic or a bottle of wine with their take-out at the pool or in the English garden.
Woman on a bike in front of large Colonial house

 

From there our conversation typically leads to the plans for the day ahead. Guests exchange ideas that range from taking advantage of PedalShare, a bike-riding share program in Southampton Village (bikes are available in our car park!) to see the sights on two wheels, to asking Ralph for a lift to Coopers Beach in the “Butler Mobile,” a service we offer at A Butler’s Manor to avoid sand in their cars and the steep parking fee.
couple in beach wear ready to climb into a station wagon for a free trip to the beach

 

Summer goes by so quickly. I feel the main reason for this is simple. Summer is short! Why not maximize every minute of every day? Wake up to birdsong in our king-bedded junior suite Villefranche, or enjoy Eton Court’s shower from which you can view the garden and pool to jump-start your day. In the Hamptons, it’s possible to enjoy an early morning beach walk, breakfast al fresco at a fine café or here at A Butlers Manor, followed by more fabulous options to spend your days than this page allows! Round out the day with a glass of rose, a scrumptious dinner and the most magnificent sunset you’ve ever seen. 
Sunset view from A Butler's Manor

 

Does life get any better than that?
 
See you at A Butler’s Manor!
–Dina

Taking the reins!

Hi, Dina here!

Plate with an egg on avocado toast, with fresh fruit and a flower

Six weeks into our new experience as Innkeepers at A
Butler’s Manor and Ralph and I are finally feeling as though we’re getting in
our groove. We arrived on April 1st enthusiastic, energized, a
little nervous and oh, so naïve!

Kim and Chris were handing their “baby” over to us. Their
pride and joy – the spectacular English gardens that Chris is deeply devoted
to, their immaculate home which they have lovingly opened to guests for the
past 17 years and just as precious, the guests themselves (brand new and
frequent fliers) who we planned to take care of as though they were our own family.
Gulp.
First, a bit of history about how we wound up as Innkeepers
for 6 months…it’s something I’ve always wanted to do (hasn’t everybody?). Ralph wasn’t quite as eager as I was, at
first
. An introvert by nature, he wasn’t sure how he’d fare with the
constant flow of people in and out of the house and daily meet and greets, but
we agreed that I’d take on the lion’s share of cooking and hosting and he’d be
back of the house, managing the administrative part of our new responsibility
and tinkering in the garden, keeping the grounds immaculate.
Smiling group of people in garden with cherry tree in bloomNow I often find him chatting it up with guests in front of
the fire, telling stories about what it’s like to own restaurants in New York
and curiously asking guests to share a bit about their lives in England,
Australia, Germany, New Jersey or wherever they’re from. I notice him wandering
out into the dining room offering to refill coffees, just to have an excuse to
ask them about their dinner the night before. He’s a natural.
close up of bleeding hearts flowers in garden
Together we agreed that we’ve always wanted our lives to be
a series of adventures. We’ve lived up to that promise to each other, sometimes
going out on a limb to help the other follow a dream. In the end, it wasn’t
hard to convince him that living in the Hamptons for 6 months, hosting interesting
people and being part of their Hampton’s vacation experience was going to be
fun and would satisfy our craving for something new.
Living in a ski town in Colorado enticed many of our friends
and family to come visit often, so we are natural hosts and enjoy the
experience. This adventure is a genuine extension of who we are and Kim and
Chris have masterfully equipped us with all of the tools we need to succeed.

As they handed over “the baby” and headed west, we felt like
new parents slowly learning to rely on our own instincts and putting
procedures in place that helped us function as real Innkeepers. Once a guest
asked me if I felt like I was “playing house.” I smiled and replied, “Yes,
that’s exactly how it feels!” And I don’t mind one bit foraging the garden in
the pouring rain for flowers to decorate my breakfast plates . . .

Woman in a rain slicker cutting flowers from the garden
It’s early May and still off-season, quiet and calm, but not
for long. The calm before the storm as they say. Because we’re still new at
this, the Manor has felt busy, but we know better. Very soon, the Hamptons will
be in full swing as tourists flock to enjoy the pristine beaches, charming
villages and renowned art galleries. They’ll spend their afternoons enjoying
the scenery at the festive wineries or at the Montauk Music Festival.
They’ll spend their evenings reveling in the top-notch restaurants and the
brand new “pop-ups” shops and eateries that make cameo appearances during the
busiest summer months.
stone steps to a sparkling pool, cherry blossoms in the foregroundOur phone is ringing off the hook as people secure their
accommodation at this sweet spot, using it as a haven to return to after their full
and fun days of driving out to Montauk or the North Fork or using this
cool article
as a guide to fill their days, Memorial Day weekend and well
into the summer.

 

We’re grateful to Kim and Chris for their trust and for this
unique opportunity. We’re eager to make new friends, explore this fabulous area
and make  A Butler’s Manor a home for ourselves as well as our guests for the
summer.
We look forward to meeting you when you visit our Southampton bed and breakfast!
–Dina Ferrante, Manager

Expanding our team and your experience!

A Butler’s Manor opened for the season on April 1, and the following day we toasted Dina and Ralph, ABM’s new managers, who will take the helm here for the 2019 spring and summer season.

Smiling couple enjoying wine near the fireplace

It’s been a jam-packed, intense couple of weeks as we’ve been training them in all aspects of running ABM. But it has truly also been a lot of fun. We find the four of us are very simpatico and training flows from early morning coffee service into shared dinner preparations, underscored by continual conversation. We joke that we’ve been living a communal life these past two weeks (“Wait! Whose apron is this?”…”I think that was my coffee cup…”) but amazingly, despite the close quarters and the level of detail, I think I can speak for us all that it has really been a fun, enjoyable experience.

Woman holding plates of breakfast for displayDina has lots of fresh ideas for yummy, healthy breakfasts. Ralph is all about making things run smoothly and efficiently. Both are interested, engaged and on point…and both have the passion for creating awesome guest experiences.
Which is why we are so pleased to hand over the reins to Dina and Ralph for the next six months, absolutely confident that our guests will have every bit the same careful, personalized experience during the spring and summer of 2019 as they have had throughout our previous seventeen (!!) seasons.
couple in front of front door, wavingI can’t wait for you to meet them! Join us at our Southampton Bed and Breakfast and see what we mean!

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!

A New Year and New Faces at A Butler’s Manor!

Smiling couple on a sailboat
Ralph and Dina, on one of their many adventures!

Chris and I are excited to announce that we are expanding our team at A Butler’s Manor!

Meet our new Innkeeper Managers Ralph Landi and Dina Ferrante. This dynamic couple has had a long and varied background in restaurant ownership and management, construction management, life coaching, and more.
Dina has owned her own yoga studio and still does worldwide retreats. Ralph is an accomplished restauranteur, currently a partner in two restaurants, one of which is in NYC. They have spent much of the past eight years in Colorado raising their now college-age son, and as you can imagine from living in such a locale are avid outdoor enthusiasts. They love to travel, love new experiences (ask them about running a treehouse inn in Costa Rica!) and love providing a nourishing experience, not just culinarily, but for the heart as well. Spend a little time talking to them and you are going to want their life!Just to be clear, Chris and I still own and operate A Butler’s Manor and will be in and out, but we are stepping away from full-time hands-on management. But should your visit dovetail with Dina and Ralph’s tenure, we are certain you will experience the same welcoming and relaxing experience that has been Chris’s and my mission to provide since 2002.

We all look forward to your visit!

SSHH (second in a series): All Buildings great and small

Sagaponack Village's Establishment sign in front of the office
Settled in 1653, Incorporated in 2005 – in self defense.
No, this isn’t a post about the massive summer “cottages” here in the Hamptons (although that in itself is always a great tour). It’s about a few more of the places to be found on our Selfie Scavenger Hunt of the Hamptons (SSHH) that was the subject of my last blog. SSHH is our tour game highlights some of the cool and interesting places off the beaten path that aren’t going to be found on some gossipy click-bait article titled “10 Top Things To See In The Hamptons (That You Can Then Brag About).”
Today we’re in and around the greater Bridgehampton area. 
So to begin, here’s irony for you: The village that contains the largest house in the Hamptons also features the smallest of schools. Tiny Sagaponack  and its neighboring hamlet Wainscott each boast operational one room schoolhouses.
Red, barnlike building that houses Sagaponack School, a one-room schoolhouse
Sagaponack School dates back to 1776, though its current building, housing 14 students in grades K-4 was built in 1885. Sagg School’s earlier structure, constructed in the early 1800s was moved to Wainscott, where it still is in use for its 20 students in grades K-3.
Small shingled buidling that houses Wainscott School, a one-room schoolhouse

Probably 90% of the school taxes for Sagaponack School (and a substantial portion of those higher grade schools it feeds into) are paid through the property taxes of this behemoth:

An enormous (66,000 square feet) private house behind beach grasses
Yep, that’s one house. The rough unpaved road is intentional.

Sagaponack School’s original 500 square feet building is probably the equivalent of one guest bedroom in this 64,000 square foot mansion owned by junk bond billionaire Ira Rennert. Called Fair Field, it is one of the largest private houses in the country and sits on 68 acres of oceanfront property. In addition to the main house, there are several outbuildings, bringing the total of structures on the acreage to over 110,000 square feet.

A huge hue and cry was raised by neighbors when Rennert began building the complex. Though they were unsuccessful at halting the construction, the lawsuits did result in new, stricter restrictions on house size in Southampton Township…and to the incorporation of tiny Sagaponack as a separate village rather than just a “Hamplet” of Southampton Town.

(Perhaps as poetic justice for those appalled locals, a federal appeals court ordered Rennert to pay a $213 million judgment, upholding a lower court decision that found him guilty of looting money from one of his mining companies in order to fund the construction of Fair Field.)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) {}

Heading northwest from Sagaponack, past potato farms interspersed with horse properties, polo fields and a golf course, you may happen upon another house on a substantial plot of land that certainly doesn’t look like any other house in the Hamptons. Maybe even the world:

Two odd-shaped houses, one with a red zigzag door, one round with bright blue sides
This is called the Elliptical House, and yes, it is a residence. The house, barn, and dozens of oversized sculptures sit on the grounds of Novas Ark Project, the creation of the late artist Nova Mihai Popa. Situated on 95 acres and fronting an agricultural preserve, the property (though not the house) is often rented for large events and weddings. Chris and I call it “More Input, Stephanie,” because we think it resembles the robot featured in the movie “Short Circuit.” "Short Circuit Need Input" robot from movie "Short Circuit"
Finally, as you enjoy the drive on Scuttlehole Road through the middle of the South Fork, keep your eyes peeled for buildings that may not look as though they belong here, but oh, they do:
potato barn traditionally half-buried in an earthen berm
These are potato barns, and they’re purposely designed partway underground because they act as an enormous root cellar, keeping the potatoes naturally cool until they are shipped. Very occasionally you might spot a house that once began as a potato barn and was converted to a private residence. (Extra SSHH points if you do!) To me, potato barns are wonderful iconic structures, and as much part of the Hamptons charm as the villages that draw our visitors. 
So got your cellphone? Ready to explore? Come visit A Butler’s Manor, Southampton’s best boutique inn, and we’ll help you see parts of the Hamptons that most people miss out on!

SSHH…best kept secrets in the Hamptons!

a tranquil duck pond with a bowler hat on a fence in the foreground
Respite from too much shopping in East Hampton Village?

We get two main types of leisure (as opposed to business) visitors here at A Butler’s Manor: those who live within about a 100 mile radius and return, often year after year, for a few days each summer, and those for whom a visit to the Hamptons checks off a bucket list item. Long ago, for these latter guests Chris and I compiled an itinerary to aid first-timers in maximizing their visit to our area. It remains popular and we go through several hundred copies each year.

We were on our winter sabbatical in California and attending a Jaguar car rally where you were tasked with navigating via landmarks (we won, by the way, yay!), when it occurred to me that it would be fun to go beyond the itinerary and offer folks who were so inclined an opportunity to discover some of the fun and funky corners of the Hamptons that make it special to us. And to do it in a way that created a personal photo album of the trip in the process.

So we created A Butler’s Manor Selfie Scavenger Hunt of the Hamptons (hereafter SSHH). The idea is to find as many of the locations as you can, take a picture of yourself at each, hashtag it #abutlersmanor and post it on social media if you desire…but regardless, experience a broader view of the area than just Montauk Highway and our famous beaches.

Chris and Sydney were out and about in East Hampton last week, so Chris took one of our bowlers and stopped by some of the SSHH locations. Here’s a small sampling of his trip that I’ll title “Who’s Who Who Was (or is) Here.”

Smiling man wearing a bowler hat in front of the plate glass window of the East Hampton Star newspaper
Chris is here!

I wrote about Jackson Pollock and the Pollock/Krasner House a few years back (read it here). Many people know that Jackson Pollock lived–and was killed in an automobile accident–in the Springs in East Hampton, but you may not know that he is buried here too (as is his wife Lee Krasner). Following his death, Green River Cemetery became famous as an artists and writers cemetery–many of the headstones are works of art in themselves.

Boulder with brass plate that is the headstone for artist Jackson Pollack, with a fluffy orange dog in the foreground
Sydney at Jackson Pollock’s Grave

LongHouse Reserve is a 16-acre sculpture garden founded by textile artist and collector Jack Lenor Larsen. Located in Northwest Woods, there are magnificent lawns and border gardens and a pond, all created with an eye to the display of contemporary sculpture. The Japanese-inspired main house is serene and in harmony with the surrounding gardens. It’s open to the public for a small fee on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, or by appointment.

concrete sign for LongHouse Gardens, with a bowler hat perched atop it
LongHouse Reserve

Lion Gardiner was an English soldier who established the first English settlement in what would become the state of New York. Predating the 1648 founding of East Hampton, Gardiner purchased in 1639 an island off the coast of what is now the Springs and Montauk from the Montaukett Indian tribe. The King of England granted Lion Gardiner a Royal Patent “to possess the land forever,” and until the end of the American Revolution, it was not connected with either New York or Connecticut but was an entirely separate and independent “plantation.” Nearly 380 years later, Gardiners Island is still owned by his descendants, one of the larger private islands in the USA.

Highly detailed stone crypt with a carved knight in armor laid to rest within; the grave of Lion Gardiner
Lion Gardiner’s Crypt, with recumbent effigy

So, does this whet your appetite to find some of the lesser-known corners of East Hampton? Come visit A Butler’s Manor, our New York Bed and Breakfast, and we’ll set you up with the goods!

Early September fun!

As I write this, we’re in between threatened thunderstorms (nothing compared to the folks anxiously watching Hurricane Irma’s path through the Caribbean), but the weather report shows the skies clearing and we’re on tap for a glorious weekend. And that’s good because there’s a lot on tap over this weekend!

Busy streets of Sag Harbor village, many people walking on sidewalks
Sag Harbor’s Harborfest begins Saturday morning, September 9 and runs through Sunday. Described as the largest block party extending out over the water, Harborfest celebrates Sag Harbor’s maritime and especially whaling history and incorporates an arts and crafts fair, games, food, history, and fun for the whole family.
Further east, Montauk’s Seafood Festival also begins on Saturday and runs through the weekend. Featuring local fish and shellfish, local wines and craft beer and live entertainment, it’s billed as a great family friendly event.
And, closer to A Butler’s Manor, Saturday also is the grand opening of Hank’s Pumpkintown, which grows larger and larger each year with more attractions on the farm for the kids. (And for those of us who want to avoid the traffic that this spectacle entails, just ask–we’ve got a map that will get you around it.)
A large field of pumpkins
In spite of the pumpkins, it ain’t fall quite yet! At a forecasted 72 degrees this weekend, after checking out the festivals above, the beach is looking mighty appealing…at A Butler’s Manor, we’ve got your beach chair and beach bag ready to go. Book your visit to Southampton’s top-rated boutique inn and spend some down time in the Hamptons!