Summer 2013 Preview: The Year the Hamptons Grew Up

With Memorial Day weekend charging down at us like a set of double overhead barrels at the now slightly less comfortable Ditch Plains, there’s little time for us to wax poetic about every little detail that’s happened in the Hamptons since our pre-preseason breakdown back in March, and there is even less time for you to read it, because nobody wants to be mincing about on the internet during the best long weekend of the summer. Not even us. So let’s get into it shall we? (Click on any bolded venue name for the BlackBook Guides review.)

All the cultural metrics that we’ve pored through point to one overarching theme: this summer, the Hamptons will be a little more mature. Not in a bad way, mind you. There will still be moments where the new threads you bought that day are soaked down the front with jungle juice before the sun has even gone down, and you’ll still find yourself in a circle goading a shirtless 20-something in board shorts and a starter cap who seems to have a Kool-Aid mustache to do something massively risky/painful/hilarious. Rest assured those moments will still happen, even if Town Board fun-sponges don’t want it happening at Indian Wells Beach.

The real difference is that last season the Montauk bar and restaurant scene blew up like a grow-in-water toy placed in pint glass of 151 and then put in a microwave. This year that model of insouciance and everybody’s-gone-wild attitude seems to have shifted. Who knows, maybe we’re all still a little hung over.

Rather than new Montauk restaurant bars with sailor tattoo flash painted on the walls and miniature buoys for cocktail swizzles, the restaurant scene is catering more toward those of us who want a great meal but don’t want to wait 40 minutes to use a port-a-john.

So what defines a more “sophisticated” restaurant opening? Delmonico’s of Southampton has moved into the old Savanna’s space on Elm Street. Bringing out some of the classic fare from their old-boys club in the Financial District (Est. 1837), the Hamptons outpost will be supplementing their traditional menu with more locally-sourced seafood dishes to suitably lighten the repertoire for summer in Southampton.

Longtime local favorite the New Paradise Café has been replaced by a new venture by Michael Gluckman called Madison & Main, a moderately priced, self avowed kid-friendly restaurant that has a new outdoor back deck and a raw bar (take that, American Hotel). Throw a couple dry aged steaks or a split lobster on their wood-fired grill and we’ll be there in a heartbeat.

A little farther down Main Street in Sag Harbor, Jeff Resnick and his partners Tora and Jesse Matsuoka have rebranded Phao into the nouveau American gastropub the Cuddy that does exactly what a traditional gastropub should: couple pub-style comfort foods with a high level of culinary execution. The redesigned interior and hand-crafted cocktail list enhance an atmosphere that swaddles you with reclaimed wood, artisanal cocktails, and food that’s at once recognizable and familiar, yet refined and delicate. Kind of like a ‘70s-era Ford pickup, but with a modern interior from Bentley.

What we have literally been drooling over is Fresh, the new spot by chef/owner Todd Jacobs. Jacobs, whose resume includes the American Hotel and Tierra Mar, has opened a restaurant that will have the most locally obsessed farm-to-table fanatics—be they vegans or carnivores—swooning. Everything they serve is as organic as ocean air, and you can build dishes to your own tastes and even control portion size. Even Michael "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" Pollan would be thrilled.

Out in party central Montauk, lemonade/juice kings Sweet’tauk has partnered with Brooklyn’s Red Hook Lobster Pound in a total beach-treat paradise that (gasp) doesn’t even serve alcohol. This joint venture will reopen the rapidly vanishing niche of “places I’d go for lunch in Montauk with my spouse and our three small children without having to worry about overhearing some loud and filthily intriguing conversation regarding last night’s festive romp.” Also, although we have no issues with them, a little friendly competition might incite a lobster roll gap with The Lobster Roll and The Clam Bar. This we’d like to see.

Before moving on to the few instances of jeroboams, sparklers, and, in one wildly hyperbolic bit of insanity (or brilliance), parachutes, there is this thing we heard about.

Got 50 G’s sitting around in your sock drawer? Love wine? Well hot damn, you’ll love this: billionaire owner of the Houston Rockets Leslie Alexander is opening a wine club/storage cellar/rich-folks-need-hobbies-too club in Bridgehampton called Société du Vin. $50,000 (or £32,000, FYI) will allow you access to the 630-square meter facility, which was designed by Hollywood set designer–and Gerard Butler’s Manhattan loft designer–Elvis Restaino. See how that works?

Why, you may ask? Apparently Mr. Alexander felt that none of the other doomsday billionaire wine bunkers provided a convenient way to engender both storage and the ability to share with friends. Seriously? For around $10,000 we could install a really big wine fridge in our office and pay for a dedicated “wine line” to call our friends and invite them over. In any case, we’re pretty sure this won’t encourage the 1% to come East and start filling funnels with Chateau la Tour.

So what about those of us without scads of money who still want to visit the Hamptons and get filthy on overpriced bottles of vino? Well for you kind sirs and gentle ladies, we have Sienna Restaurant & Ultralounge. Picking up where Beaumarchais left off in the multipurpose club space/restaurant that is 44 Three Mile Harbor Rd. Sienna is bringing the UES’s TBar Steak & Lounge, sprinkling in a dash of the boozy brunch we all know so well, and adding it in equal parts to a Pink Elephant cocktail after 11pm. If you think we’re being snarky, consider this: all jokes aside, Pink Elephant’s David Sarner and Robert Montwaid really do know how to throw an awesome party, so while it’s fun to mock that poor, bewildered girl with smeared eye makeup rummaging through her broken Fendi bag asking everyone for a ride home or a cigarette, we can only do so with confidence because we’ve been in her shoes, possibly more than once. But we’re not on trial here.

We mentioned parachutes earlier. This is good. Day & Night is going to be back at Gurney’s Inn four times this year: Memorial Day, July 4 weekend, August 3 weekend, and Labor Day. On Memorial Day (we’re not kidding at all by the way) a member of the Dual Groupe family will personally deliver a magnum of Dom Perignon to a lucky table from 13,500 feet… by parachute. That’s right. This bottle will be chilled not by liquid nitrogen, or the whirling palm fronds of a thousand belly dancers, but rather by a 13,000-foot free fall through the sky. There is nothing more we can add to this than the litany of thoughts that have already passed through your head.

What else… The Crow’s Nest expanded and added some private bungalows, a bunch of Swedish chefs (we know) will be hosted at the Living Room c/o Maidstone Hotel this summer, and the Standard Hotel is joining the list of hotels that are offering sea plane service to the Hamptons this summer through StndAIR, (potentially at a discount as well, which has us totally interested).

So close that zip file, drop the mouse, and set that chair a-spinning for your first weekend in the new, more mature Hamptons. And if a bottle of Dom happens to alight upon your head from somewhere in the sub-stratosphere, consider yourself blessed. 

[Related: BlackBook Hamptons Guide; Hamptons 2013 Pre-Preview; The Hottest Hamptons Hotels for Summer 2013; More by Colin M. Graham; Follow Colin on Twitter for more Hamptons scoops; Download the free, GPS-enabled BlackBook City Guides for iPhone and Android; Reminisce on beach day’s past with last year’s Hamptons 2012 Preview and Post-Season Wrap-up]

Don’t Be Caught Unprepared: This Year the Hamptons Aren’t Playing Games

The vast and multifaceted preparations that we here at BlackBook make for you, our dear and highly educated readers, in composing our pre-season Hamptons coverage call to mind the eponymous fable about the ant and the grasshopper. Like the ant, we spend the off-season amassing little morsels of knowledge while you, like the grasshopper, flit from Aspen to St. Barths, living in the moment, drinking cocktails with friends, enjoying haute cuisine here and there, and indulging in various pleasures of the flesh. Suddenly, you wake up in a cold sweat filled with an unspecified sense of dread like the kind you felt that morning after you had a few too many at the Boom Boom Room. Spring is literally here, if only in a celestial sense, and you’ve been so engrossed in your winter to-do’s you totally dropped the ball on planning your summer escape. What to do? Where to rent? Who closed? Who’s opening? What’s the unifying theme of Hamptons Summer 2013? Don’t worry, we put together a pre-preview of sorts to make sure you won’t be left out in the col… well, left out. And unlike the ant in the story, we’re not going to be morally superior dicks about helping you out.

For starters, if you’ve been looking to rent this summer it’s time to stop dawdling and get it together. Summer rentals have already started to move, and the fulcrum this season seems to be sliding farther east, with Amagansett lighting up the big board of must-have properties. There isn’t much of a surprise here. Folks are hedging their bets by setting up camp in a village with standalone hotspots like The Stephen Talkhouse, Indian Wells Tavern, and The Meeting House, but is also equidistant from Montauk’s white-hot social scene and East Hampton’s jet-set tested, celebrity-approved epicurean oligarchy. The only downside is that rocking a ‘Gansett rental puts you a bit farther from Sag Harbor than I personally like to be, and there are a few changes happening out that way that you’re not going to want to miss. Regardless, to really wring all the sweet juices out of a summer in the Hamptons, some travel will be required. Good thing the cab companies now have to post their rates. Of course, you could always gambol about in a seaplane

The great circle of restaurant reincarnation has spun again, and there were a few notable openings in the shoulder seasons this year, most notably the long awaited Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. Co-owners Bill Campbell and Simon Critchell have teamed up with culinary Jedi Tom Colicchio to bring you a place that would be over the top if it wasn’t just so damn luxurious, kind of like Dubai with wainscoting, an awesome barn/event space, and a frickin’ one acre farm whose bounty plays a leading role in the menu. The 75 seat restaurant has been winning hearts and minds since the fall, and the first call you should make after securing your rental is to the restaurant (631-537-0870) to get a table. The rest of the hotel is slated to open in May.

Moving in a northerly persuasion from there we have a couple of morsels from our friends in the Harbor. Love him or hate him, we have it on good authority that Michael Gluckman has bought into the New Paradise Café, which is getting a makeover and reportedly will try and capitalize on the hole left in Sag’s life-at-night-scene by the unceremonious implosion of the Cigar Bar. The restaurant will be getting an update and it’s doubtful there will be indoor cigar smoking, but we’re always supportive of an enhanced after-hours bar mingle. Here’s hoping for a great new late night hangout, but this time we can do without all the gang banging, bathroom blow-fests, and police blotter reports of people getting beaten with tire irons for which we all remember the old Cigar Bar so fondly.

Further on down Main St., Page at 63 Main has just begun what is to be a monthlong interior renovation. When the butcher paper window wrapping falls away, expect a brighter interior, a new bar to replace the old crenellated gothic mahogany monolith they had going on back there, and a few new menu items. So far we hear the name will remain the same.

The biggest change will be at the space formerly known as Phao. Owner Jeff Resnick plans to reopen the restaurant as The Cuddy, an American-comfort gastropub with a warm, traditional interior: think cuddy cabin, which is a small ‘cozy’ berth on a boat. No menu as of yet, but we hear that Doug Barker, veteran Hamptons culinary wiz, will be taking the helm back in the kitchen. We’ll have pictures as soon as they pull off the painter’s tape and details for you as soon as they are decided. Yeah, that’s how we roll for you.

Over in Sagaponack, The Old Stove Pub is ready for its first full summer season operating under the Grecian management team that brought Nammos to Southampton via Mykonos last year, and over the past two weekends things have been packed over there.

Same goes for Highway Diner and Bar in the old Rugosa space. You know, the only restaurant in the Hamptons with a bonafide tank in the parking lot? I’m sure like everyone else who’s been stuck in traffic on that stretch of highway you’ve fantasized about firing that baby up. With a bright and welcoming interior and food that does a good job of walking the line between comfort and sophistication, it will be interesting to see if Highway can hang on longer than its predecessors.

Montauk made a pretty big push last summer with heaps of new openings. So far this year the biggest news we overheard is that the ownership over at Navy Beach might be considering adding some rooms, but whether or not they will, or even can, has yet to be confirmed. It would stand to reason that with so many spots seeking to cash in last summer on Montauk’s newfound status among the young, the hip, and the cooler than cool, supply may finally be exceeding demand. However, in correlating the yearly trend as a function graphed over time, accounting for meteorological variables, bikini fabric-to-skin ratios, marginal increases in commodities like organic hops, juniper, ginger, citrus, and drink umbrellas…carry the one, and we can say with a high degree of empirical precision that yeah, this summer’s going to be a big one out there. Profligate even. Science said so.

In fact, there has already been an effort by the local municipalities to put a bit of a kibosh on what was made out to be a season where taking things to excess seemed to get a bit, well, excessive. Specifically, what had been seen as an unadulterated shit show at Indian Wells Beach. Most of the indignant talking points regarding “unchecked alcohol consumption” and “booze-fueled partying” sound like the rallying cry of a town on the verge of banning teens from dancing, but what do you think people are going to say when folks are bringing kegs down to the beach in the morning? Seriously? Whoever thought that would fly must have been smoking something. Side note: that is also not recommended on a crowded beach.

Before we go back to the Sisyphean task of making sure that you are virtual paragons of Hamptons knowledge, I would like to make an appeal to all of you out there in the ephemera. Until renovations are complete, permits secured, and owner-approved PR photos available, most of what we find out comes from industry insiders, a few trusted local sources, and from the professional savvy of yours truly. Things might get overlooked this early in the game. After all, the strip of golden sand and pine trees known as the Hamptons is 120-plus miles long, and there is much to cover. If you source a juicy tidbit in your travels, please keep the circle of trust flowing and send some of that love our way. And be sure to keep checking out the Blackbook Hamptons Guide for freshly baked listings. We want you to be well prepared for Memorial Day. After all, spring is here, and summer is coming soon.

[For the latest Hamptons openings and events, sign up for the free BlackBook Happenings email newsletter, which will launch for the 2013 season soon. Need info on the go? Download the GPS-enabled BlackBook City Guides app for iPhone and Android. Check out last year’s Hamptons Preview and Post-Season Wrap-Up; Follow Colin M. Graham on Twitter at @hamptonswriter

Despite the Naysayers, It Was the Best Season Out East In Years

At the start of every season in the Hamptons a pall of despair, cast by bellwethers of doom, predicts that this will be the year it all falls apart. This will be the summer that the septic system in Montauk finally succumbs and fills Fort Pond with raw sewage. The year that the East Hampton Town Board pawns their power for a fat check from Ralph Lauren and absconds to Argentina. The year the piping plover finally falls victim to rising oceanfront real estate prices and cashes out of this world forever. And every season, Labor Day slips by with about as much ceremony as a wet fart, leaving locals slack-jawed and staring at each other with glazed eyes, like six-year-olds after a Pixy Stix binge. 

After breathless predictions that when the rising tide of excess, self importance, and big city ‘tude finally breaks the East End will be a desolate wasteland of empty Moët bottles, snapped stilettos, and the acrid smell of precision-engineered German rubber lingering over still-smoking patches in the westbound lanes of Route 27, one can almost hear the wah-wah of a muted trombone over the collective sigh of service and retail industry personnel headed to newly-deserted beaches with their pockets full of Benjamins. 
The Hamptons are embodied by hyperbole: big houses, big bank accounts, big events, and big personalities. Because of this, for the three months and change that the Hamptons are, well, the Hamptons, they personify everything we love to hate, and perhaps more tellingly, hate to love. These dour perennial premonitions stem from the fact that the Hamptons represent something special to everyone—whether it be as a home, an escape, a party, or another notch on the social ladder—and when it appears that something is about to change that sacred place we all hold dear in our collective unconscious, it kindles the irrational, almost xenophobic the-end-is-nigh fear that fosters overblown rants about zoning laws, the fluoridation of water, and insidious plots from the far right.
Truth be told, this season ranks as one of the best. After a few touch-and-go years, Montauk’s social scene emerged from its chrysalis as something far more fun, yet far less reckless, than the whistleblowers foretold. The Surf Lodge had a solid season with its summer concert series, with no repeat of the potential septic nightmares and stack of citations of last year. Montauk Beach House committed no heinous offences and certainly did not herald the undoing of the sleepy fishing village aura some in the town have tried so hard to preserve. We’re not about to embark on a discourse of the problems facing small scale commercial fisheries in this economy, but seriously, nobody is really complaining about having dingy and dying business give way to popular new sources of revenue, even if some visitors don’t know how to clean up after themselves. 
Moby Dick’s was a seriously chill, laid back spot that popped up this summer and somehow stayed somewhat under the radar, and when Swallow East finally went live, the place was a hit (the end of season employee party featured tattoo artists, and no one gets tattoos to commemorate an awful summer). And the first public incarnation of SUPERBURGER was an end-of-summer coup de grace. Trust us, we were there, glistening, greasy, fat, and happy, reveling in the August sunshine. Let’s not forget Momofuku: please, please come back next summer, we promise to eat so much pie.
Elsewhere, things were business as usual. Sag Harbor got a few new restaurants, the yachties kept doling out their owners’ loot on Main Street, chef Matthew Guiffrida found a new home with his restaurant Muse on the Harbor and David Lowenberg’s new venture The Bell and Anchor kept the North Haven celebrity quotient suitably stuffed. 
Heading south to Bridgehampton, the big news was that the Polo Classic toned down the spectacle, um, debacle, under the VIP tent into something that actually resembled a VIP tent and not a slightly damp, champagne fueled upscale bacchanalian frat party with a horse thing happening somewhere. 
With so much focus on Montauk, the two Hamptonian juggernauts—East Hampton and Southampton—were almost forgotten in the social media grist mill. Even though the venues change, it all really stays the same. Southampton Social Club kept things social, no big news there, and Nammos repping the luxe Mediterranean vibe in place of Nello’s made sure the Euro set had a place to spend 15 bucks on a beer.
Even in East Hampton, boozy brunches on Three Mile Harbor Road barely raised any eyebrows or tongue clucks from the village fun police and the jeroboams of rosé kept coming at Beaumarchais, but the real party, as revealed by the ladies at Guest of a Guest, was down at Indian Wells beach, where a week after their story ran, nervous nellies started reporting about nudity and people drinking hard alcohol on the beach. Well, um, that’s kind of what happens on a beach, in the summer, populated by young people who are mostly nude to begin with. What a shocker.
Now that another tumbleweed Tuesday has come and gone, plans for the postseason get underway.  The weeks after Labor Day aren’t quite like most people imagine, with sheets of plywood in short supply as business owners close shop and McMansions are locked down for the winter months. September is quite easily the best month to be out East, especially if you’ve been working the whole summer, you know, making hay while the sun shines. The ocean is as warm at it ever gets, the crowds are gone, and everything is on sale and up for grabs. It’s sort of an inside wink among those who slog, heads down, working through the summer months while the rest of the world is on vacation. Hotels have vacancy, tables are available for 7pm dinners almost everywhere, but it certainly isn’t desolate. It’s still the Hamptons, just a little bit more reasonable. It’s also far from over, the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton has yet to open its doors, and we are interested in what Tom Colicchio will be putting on the menu.
So where does this leave us? New stores and restaurants have opened, Montauk’s nightlife scene turned it up to 11 (but was considerate enough to turn it back down after 2am) parties were had, charities funded, share houses shared, and at the end of it all, there were fewer tears (and code violations) than in years past. Despite the traffic, the crowds, and the near-record level of DUI traffic stops, the sanctity of the Hamptons has emerged intact. Thanks for a great season. Now leave us alone, we have a beach to enjoy. 
For a complete rundown of all the hotspots, check out the BlackBook Guide to the Hamptons

A New Burger King Emerges Triumphant at SUPERBURGER

This year’s SUPERBURGER wasn’t so much a Burger Bloodbath, as it was formerly known, but more than a few chins were glistening in the mid-afternoon Montauk sun, anointed as they were with plenty of sweet, sweet burger nectar. My chin included. 

Standing in a fenced off section of lawn on Star Island, feet from the Mega Yacht docks of the Montauk Yacht Club, was to be in a microcosm of the perfect summer get-together: lithe, long-legged beauties accompanied bottomless taps of Amstel Light and Amstel Wheat; games of ping (or beer) pong popped up at branded tables; and the pervasive aromas of hot coals suffused with the sizzling scent of ground meat drippings wafted gently through the air. This is how outdoor grilling is meant to be. 

Despite the fact that all were present to witness or to partake in what was to be a competition between masters of the culinary craft, very little about the event carried that charged, emotionally volatile atmosphere that comes with your standard cook-off. All the chefs were focused, no doubt, but affable and genuinely having a great time talking with friends and fans alike. 

“What more could I want?” said a smiling Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly of the West Village’s Fedora. “I’m here with friends, and this is a good balance between work and play. We’re just here to have fun. Winning is just, whatever. It’s not about that.”

Then what was it all about, I found myself asking. Is it just about standing around on a beautiful summer day, pushing yourself to consume as many insanely delicious meat-bun-condiment concoctions within a three-hour period? Well, as it turns out, yeah pretty much.

“The goal is to celebrate summer and have some good burgers,” said event organizer and progenitor Ben Leventhal, who first started the event six summers ago. “It’s a fun thing to bring the best of these great chefs together and watch them do something different. I think this is by far the strongest field we’ve ever had. The average quality of these burgers is very, very high. These are at least eights and nines, all of them.” 

Even head judge Kate Krader from Food & Wine magazine was smitten by the entrees. “So far, three years in, this is the best year ever,” she opined, speaking between bites into a heavily greased microphone.

The tune of the day seemed to be sticking to tradition, with each chef adding at least one personal twist to their creations, ranging from the somewhat simple (bacon grease for Jesse Gerstein and Dan Aldworth) to the innovative (chorizo and refried beans on Alex Stupak’s Mexican Hamburguesa) to the off-the-beaten path (Zak Pelaccio’s Lamb Burger). The judges were apparently looking to see who could best capture the essence of the consummate ‘Beach Burger,’ which the crowd and myself were blissfully unaware of until the very end. 

For my money, the absolute standouts were Pelaccio’s lamb burger (or lamburger, as it is pronounced à la mode Parisien) with Lady Jayne’s barrel-aged worcestershire sauce, sheep’s milk cheese, salted chilies, and aioli; PJ Calapa’s Butterfly Burger, which came straight to Montauk via Texas with French’s yellow mustard, white American cheese, and, hands-down, the best buttery, toasty bun in the game; and Stupak’s La Hamburguesa, a short rib patty with chorizo, refried beans, Chihuahua cheese and lime mayonnaise. 

Alas, I am no burger judge, and those select few saw things differently. Perhaps my judgment was clouded by Momofuku’s Christina Tosi’s Grasshopper Pie with basil mint foam, or merely by the fact I was unable to take one bite of each burger and throw the rest away for fear of hurting feelings or receiving a reprimand for wasting food. But when the judges cast their lot, the cards fell as followed:

Rated on a 100-point scale, with the points awarded as the judges see fit, first place was decided by a margin of only .4 points while third was a mere 1.2 points behind second; margins that are, as judge Josh Capon so eloquently phrased it, "very small numbers.”

Third place with 82 points was last year’s runners-up Jesse Gerstein and Dan Aldworth, one of two amateur groups in the event. Second place came in at 82.4 and was Harold Moore of Commerce.

And the winner of the Amstel Light SUPERBURGER Trophy and a spot in the New York City or Miami Food and Wine Festival was Seamus Mullen of Tertulia with his Hamburguesa Ligeramente Ahumada; a lightly smoked beef burger topped with smoked American cheddar, caramelized onion jam, and nora pepper ketchup. It was, to be sure, a most excellent burger; the first one I sampled, in fact, and more than worthy to bear the savory mantle of SUPERBURGER.