The finer things in life can be found in abundance in the swank Hamptons. Although the eastern end of New York’s Long Island has an uberexpensive reputation, it is possible for a family to enjoy this beachy haven without spending the children’s entire inheritance. As the season winds to a close, here are a few of the discoveries we’ve made during our first summer as part-time Hamptonites.
Ours is an ice-cream-every-night on vacation kind of household, so we were quick to find that the otherwise pricey restaurant Sant Ambroeus (30 Main Street, Southampton) sells gelato to go—two generous scoops—for $4.50. My favorite is the Gianduja, a luscious milk chocolate hazelnut confection. There are numerous benches on Main Street to watch the parade of beautiful people, and their dogs, as you indulge. On the subject of frozen treats, it’s hard to miss Big Olaf Ice Cream Shop in Sag Harbor (Long Wharf), where the scent of Belgian waffle cones taunts patrons as they wait in a line that snakes out the door and around the corner and sometimes down the block. A mini waffle cone stuffed—and that means totally filled—with ice cream costs $5.50. The caffeine in the Coffee Mud Pie keeps me awake at night, but the intense flavor and creamy texture makes sleeplessness worthwhile. Here it’s fun to stroll or find a seat along the water and try to guess who owns the super-yachts parked in the nearby harbor
If you are searching for a different type of cool, stop in at the Parrish Art Museum (25 Jobs Lane, Southampton) between now and September 4, 2012, when the museum closes to prepare for its move to a new 34,000 square foot building in neighboring Water Mill. The two current exhibitions, “The Landmarks of New York” and “Liminal Ground: Adam Bartos Long Island Photographs, 2009-2011,” provide contrasting perspectives on the New York metropolitan area (a detailed description can be found in this magazine under the Arts and Culture/Exhibitions tab). Suggested admission is $5.00 and children under age 18 are admitted free.
Wolffer Estate Vineyard (139 Sagg Road, Sagaponack) is a mandatory stop on Long Island’s South Fork Wine Tour. Three- or four-wine tastings start at $12 per person and children are welcome to sample their excellent grape juice. The outdoor terrace of this elegant Tuscan-style winery, set among manicured vineyards, is a comfortable place to laze away an hour or an afternoon, rain or shine. Long-term residents rave about Twilight Thursdays (5 to 8 p.m. between May and October), when live music adds to the buzzing atmosphere. The knowledgeable staff will be happy to serve a plate of cheese or charcuterie to accompany the wine. Or sip a single glass if you prefer—Wolffer is known for its dry rose. Tastings are also offered at their nearby roadside Wine Stand and both locations offer bottles for purchase. Other vineyards with tasting opportunities dot the region if the mood for further exploration strikes.
For a casual meal or snack, it’s hard to beat Sip N’ Soda (40 Hampton Road, Southampton), where the house phone rings in a telephone booth, the food is simple, and the BLTs excel. Still craving ice cream? Theirs is homemade. The Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton (2391 Montauk Highway) has a similar diner/ice cream shop vibe. As an afternoon pick-me-up, the chocolate malted comes highly recommended. Other touristy lunch spots abound, but the one not to miss en route to Montauk is the Lobster Roll Restaurant, nicknamed Lunch (1980 Montauk Highway, Amagansett). Yes, it’s a splurge, but the lobster rolls—$23.95 with fries, $20.95 without—deserve their reputation as the best in the region. Chunks of lobster and mayo are mixed in ideal proportion and mounded onto a buttery toasted roll. The combination is sloppy perfection. Service and seating are casual and accommodating.
A visit to Montauk Lighthouse State Park, home to the oldest lighthouse in New York State, is in order after this mouthwatering meal. We found the lighthouse entry fee ($9 for adults) a little steep after the extravagant lunch, but the park’s walking paths offer such spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the lighthouse that a budding photographer will be thrilled. A stroll around Montauk’s shopping area—T-shirt and surf shops predominate—is an alternative way to work off the seafood.
Need I mention the world-class beaches and natural beauty of the region? Hamptons days often included a walk with the dog. Ours is not a fluffy pocket pooch or other purebred canine of the variety that promenades along Main Street Southampton in a jeweled collar, but rather an aging beagle mutt who bounces to her feet when the leash appears and leads with her nose to the ground. While meandering near a pond, we saw egrets, blue herons, and osprey. At the bay beach, there were gulls, oystercatchers, and plovers as well as such incomparable sunsets that our family eventually tired of photographing them all. On the wooded road bordering a golf course, rabbits and deer watched our progress from behind bushes and between trees. They seemed undisturbed by our presence. Those simple walks, not the celebrity sightings or fancy restaurants, revealed the magic of a Hamptons summer to us.
New York Arts Correspondent