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.
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.
Long 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:
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!
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.
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.
Now 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.
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 . . .
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.
Our 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
We look forward to meeting you when you visit our Southampton bed and breakfast!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.”
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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!
At A Butler’s Manor, the Fourth of July holiday generally brings out a fairly “local” crowd for us — meaning most of our guests are from the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Most have been to the Hamptons before and are out here to enjoy the beach, shopping, and parties, so chances are they won’t be sampling our latest endeavor to help new visitors explore and appreciate “our” Hamptons.
Many years ago, Chris and I developed an itinerary to help new visitors find their way around the villages that comprise the collective “Hamptons.” With today’s propensity for cell phones, tablets, and social media, we decided to take it a step further, and make it even more fun. So we created the Selfie Scavenger Hunt of the Hamptons–a tour of the area that takes in some of the iconic sights and adds many more whimsical ones, those little corners of the area that make it special. Know this: There is far more to the Hamptons than the beaches and Montauk Highway!
The idea behind the Selfie Scavenger Hunt is that you follow the clues, find these locations and take a selfie of yourself there. (Double points for those posted on Instagram or Facebook and hashtagged #abutlersmanor!) Find as many locations as time and interest permit, and you’ll return with not only a much greater understanding of this beautiful area, but you’ll have an exemplary photo journal to look back on!
A sample of the clues:
There are two one-room schoolhouses in the area, both still operational. Find one of them
Find the enormous house off Daniel’s Lane that looks like a hotel complex (hint: best seen driving west)
Find the historical marker on South Sagg Road with an arachnoid reference
Take a pic of the price of lobster salad at Loaves & Fishes Stand and post it to our Facebook page with a comment!
Near the corner of Madison and Henry, find a very large sculpture that’s perhaps making strides in the art world
Road sign that might indicate a depressing place to live?
Find the sign “Wino Way” at Wolffer Estates Vineyard
Here are some of the visuals of the locations on the tour!
Are you intrigued yet? Doesn’t that sound like fun? Come join us at A Butler’s Manor, Southampton’s #1-ranked Bed & Breakfast, and make sure you ask for a copy of the Selfie Scavenger Hunt for a chance to see the Hamptons the way we locals do!
It always feels like High Spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. Chris is busy putting in all sorts of vegetables, while Sydney crashes through the bushes on squirrel patrol.They are both sooooo happy to be out in the garden.
I was talking to our guest Karen today who wondered if there were any houses or gardens that were open to the public, like the mansion tours you find in Newport, RI. (Or the Downton Abbey tours of Highclere Castle in Berkshire, England.) Sadly, that’s not a Hamptons thing; all the houses that aren’t historical properties are in private hands, and the only time you’ll find them open to the public is for a charitable cause.
With one exception! THIS FRIDAY, May 12, is National Public Gardens Day, and therefore, three of the most beautiful public gardens in our area are offering a free one-hour guided tour. The participating gardens are Bridge Gardens(Bridgehampton)–10:30 AM, Madoo Conservancy (Sagaponack)–1:00 PM, and Long House Reserve(East Hampton)–3:00 PM.
As to those tours for charitable causes, there are a few of them coming up:
Saturday, June 3: The Southampton Historical Museum’s “Insider’s Tour” of private homes in Southampton’s finest neighborhoods runs between 1:00-4:00 PM, followed by a champagne reception at the Museum’s Rogers Mansion. Tickets are $95 in advance, $110 on the day of the tour. For info or to purchase tickets, call 631.283.2494 or visit southamptonhistoricalmuseum.org
Saturday and Sunday, June 10 & 11: Parrish Art Museum’s “Landscape Pleasures” weekend kicks off with a Saturday morning symposium, followed by Sunday’s self-guided garden tour of East End gardens and properties. Tickets for the two-day event start at $175 and may be purchased by calling 631-283-2118, ext. 133, or visiting parrishart.org
Saturday, June 17: Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF)’s 31st Annual Garden Tour will feature a self-guided tour of 6+ gardens around East Hampton. Tickets are $85 for the tour, or $175 which includes a pre-tour cocktail party on Friday, June 16, at a private residence. Tickets are available by calling 631-537-0400 or visiting arfhamptons.org
Friday, July 7: Join the annual Friends of John Jermain Library house tour of area home in Sag Harbor between 11:00 AM and 4:00 PM. Tickets are $45 in advance, $50 the day of the tour. More info: 631-725-1396.
Friday, July 14: Westhampton Performing Arts Center’s annual house and garden tour and luncheon at the Westhampton Beach Country Club from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM features homes in Westhampton, Quogue, and East Quogue. Tickets are $85 (tour only) or $125 (including the luncheon). Call 631-288-2350 for tickets, or visit whbpac.org.
So grab your idea sketchbook and your garden party hat and make your plans now to come visit us at A Butler’s Manor, your Southampton, NY Bed and Breakfast. Take a tour and benefit one of our great causes, then return and spend all the time you like in our English garden, without the crowds…we’ll have the tea ready for you!
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.
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 websitewith online ordering capabilities and has so far debuted the product locally. If you’re visiting, it’s available at Fork & Rose, the Southampton Chamber of Commerce Farmer’s Market, and here at A Butler’s Manor.
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…
Coastal Living Showhouse, Master Bedroom
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!
Whew. With Memorial Day receding into the rearview mirrors of our guests, we are now looking ahead to this weekend, when we join six other historic properties for the Southampton Historical Museum’s6th Annual “Insider’s View: Tour of Southampton Homes.”
This is a fabulous tour–almost all of the properties are in Southampton’s Estate District. The only other non-residential property is the iconic St. Andrew’s on the Dunes Church, which features a number of Tiffany windows and has an extensive history worth the visit.
In our case, only the ground floor and our gardens will be on the tour, so as not to disturb guests in residence. We are hosting the refreshment stop, so I’ve been baking hundreds of our signature Chocolate Chip/Oatmeal/M&M cookies in anticipation of 200+ people.
Quote of the Day: A face is like the outside of a house, and most faces, like most houses, give us an idea of what we can expect to find inside. —Loretta Young