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

Hamptons: Top 9 Outside Eats on the East End

For those of us already dreading the fast-approaching month of September, take advantage of the final weekends of summer on the East End with some fresh air and fresher fish. Bring sunscreen, ban any mention of Fashion Week, and savor the sunset as much as you do your lobster roll.

The Crow’s Nest Inn & Restaurant (Montauk) – Sean McPherson’s sceney revamp of this local favorite makes up for no reservation policy with fine dining and a damn fine lake view

Duryeas Lobster Deck (Montauk) – Dock-dining, no-frills BYOB with fresh fish and the best sunsets on the East End.

Gosman’s Topside (Montauk) – Seaside staple perched atop Gosman’s cafe has been serving up local catches and lobster rolls since 1947. (Pictured above)

Gurneys Inn (Montauk) – Montauk’s spin on the classic country club, where the beach is more impressive than the food, but the bartender boys keep those cocktails coming.

The Restaurant at the Surf Lodge (Montauk) – Well-thought out and unpretentious beach chic livens up Montauk on the hotel, dining and nightlife fronts all in one bundle.

Montauk Yacht Club (Montauk) – Yacht club with roaring ’20s roots set on 35 acres of water-front property brings back beachy luxe.

Clam Bar (Amagansett) – Roadside shack keeps it extra local on the desolate stretch between Amagansett and Montauk.

Joni’s (Montauk) – Healthy, fresh sandwiches and bites by the seashore. Eat in, or load up for the beach.

La Fondita (Amagansett) – Stylish taqueria with shrimp tacos good enough to make you forget you’re in The Hamptons.

Summer Preview: How the Hamptons Spent Its Winter Vacation

The off-season on the East End was nothing so much as an elaborate game of musical chairs, where restaurants swapped locations, switched bays and changed towns, and when the music stopped, one of the only people sans chair was, of course, Jean Luc. Read on for our detailed round up of what’s moved and shook on the island over the winter, and be sure to check out all the latest openings and perks on our comprehensive Hamptons Guide for the iPhone. Enjoy!

Last year’s Southampton daytime-drinking party-starter Day & Night, following the trend, has moved further east. For the season ahead, kicking off with the Memorial Day bash this Saturday, the bros. Koch describe a circus that features everything short of a French dwarf running around screaming “De plane, boss, de plane.” But give them time, plans do, in fact, include a seaplane (“We’re working with V1 Jets to offer packaged seaplane flights from NYC directly to the venue,” Daniel Koch tells us) and jet skis shuttling guests from boats in the harbor to the party. It all sounds like great fun until you realize that the boys aren’t playing in the Pink Elephant‘s sandbox anymore, that jet skis are prohibited in Three Mile Harbor (that goes double for seaplanes), and that the East Hampton PD once carted a gallery owner who had been in the town for three decades away in a police cruiser because she served wine at an art opening without a permit. Then it gets more fun.

RdV. East (from the crew behind the Meat Packing District’s Bagatelle, Kiss & Fly, and, of course, RdV) takes on the Tavern space (which previously hosted La Playa) and promises to perk up what has become a dwindling club scene. With Pink Elephant sunk in a legal morass, RdV East joins Dune and Lily Pond as the only legitimate club options this side of the canal.

The Montauk locals and watchers of the inexorable crawl of Hamptons glam toward the ocean have been buzzing about the next nail in the coffin of The End’s homespun charm. Sean MacPherson (who with Eric Goode has ridden the Maritime Hotel, Bowery Hotel and Graydon Carter’s Waverly Inn to near obnoxious success and The Jane Ballroom to notoriety) purchased the ever-so-slightly dilapidated–err, homey–inn and restaurant The Crow’s Nest. The acquisition came too late for him to do anything other than run it as is this season, but next year he promises to open a “new and improved” version.

Of course, the inevitable alarms have already sounded, to such an extent that you nearly expect villagers to meet Macpherson with pitchforks and torches when he finally does a Surf Lodge on the complex (also known as, making it a place people might actually want to stay). MacPherson certainly has, by all accounts, a prime spot, just across Lake Montauk from the newly revitalized Montauk Yacht Club (boasting its own revamped restaurant, The Gulf Coast Kitchen). It still remains to be seen if neighbors won’t complain as vociferously as they have about the Surf Lodge, situated on Fort Pond. There’s no reason to believe they won’t.

And, if you can believe it, the Memory Motel in Montauk narrowly missed being turned into a “a cool little box hotel” by reality TV couple Bob and Cortney Novogratz of Bravo’s 9 By Design. As the couple told, “we missed the deal by a week.” While the landmark escaped that fate, owner Artie Schneider told us that he did indeed make a deal for the hotel portion of the property with someone else (though he’ll retain the bar immortalized by the Rolling Stones in the song of the same name). Changes could come in as little as a month or so, he said.

New casual coastal restaurant Navy Beach opened early and well on a distant stretch of road along some of of Montauk’s prettiest bay beaches, down the sand from what had long been a naval base. The nautical theme carries throughout, from the reclaimed wood from the base in the interior, to the flags over the bar spelling “drink” in maritime code, to the seafood on the menu (though one menu item far from seafaring has been winning raves: the burger).

New this year to Bridgehamton will be Southfork Kitchen, the restaurant opening Bruce Buschel has been chronicling in the New York Times. His list of “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do” stirred a shit-storm and garnered him a Facebook “fan” page calling for a boycott before his spot even had a name. Southfork Kitchen says it is set to serve “local and sustainable” seafood, and if you want to read how cute and fun it is to come up with names and logos and menu items and rules for servers you can read Buschel’s blog.

Ed “Jean Luc” Kleefield once joked that he would auction off the right to smash the sign from his restaurant in East Hampton. It looks like someone has finally taken him up the offer (though without the auction). The sign for Prime 103, his steakhouse on Montauk Highway now lies shattered.

And in Sag Harbor there are signs of life at the former JLX. The “Help Wanted” signs in all the windows prompted a burly passerby with dreadlocks down his back to stop and marvel. “What? So, he’s going to open it back up now?” he said incredulously. “This guy owes me $2,000 bucks, literally.” The passerby will have to get in line, but, in fact, it isn’t Jean Luc reopening the restaurant. A part of the team from the successful Trata in Watermill will make a go of it in Sag Harbor. There’s no name yet, but word is that the spot will be a French-inflected bistro, as it had been.

Now for the others who found new chairs: Mezzaluna AMG packed it in after one season, but Tim Bando of The Meeting House quickly moved in with his sleek and sexy Exile Bar. And Serafina has now taken the former Matto location in East Hampton, offering the same fare served at its midtown stalwarts. The Lodge in EH also closed, but owner Micheal Gluckman moved on up to the Springs with the Boathouse, a two-level seafooder overlooking the water. The Boathouse displaced local favorite Bostwick’s, which promptly, dressed down a bit, moved down toward Montauk Highway and opened in the former Cherrystones as Bostwick’s Chowder House. Also in East Hampton, Wei Fun said sayonara and has been replaced by The Grill on Pantigo, a sort of more casual and modern younger sibling to the 1770 House. Finally, a restaurant called Race Lane is set to open in the former Lodge spot. The owners say Race Lane will hark back to the days when the restaurant was The Laundry (which had moved to a new location a few years ago and closed this winter).

Got all that?

Industry Insiders: Franklin Ferguson, Montauk’s ‘Navy’ Seal

Freshly shorn of the mountain man beard that kept him warm throughout the desolate Montauk winter, as he worked to painstakingly remake a former bayside dive into a beachfront restaurant retreat, Franklin Ferguson now sports only a couple of day’s worth of stubble. After months of hands-on hard labor he’s looking much like his soon-to-open project, comfortably weathered but ready for the sunshine. “I wouldn’t mind if I never touched another paintbrush,” says Ferguson, who himself moved from Manhattan to Mountauk to oversee reconstruction of the Sunset Saloon, transforming it into his new venture, Navy Beach.

When the property, sitting on a pristine and remote stretch of Montauk beach alongside what had been a Naval base with a rich history dating to World War II, presented itself Ferguson and co. couldn’t pass it up. But, after signing the lease in late December, they had to move quickly to make a May opening (hence his winter regimen): “We came out, took a look at it, and six months later, we’ve got a restaurant.”

After serving in senior beverage posts for China Grill, Sushi Samba and others, Ferguson, a member of the International Sommelier Guild for six years and an instructor for four, takes the helm at Navy Beach, along with partner Frank Davis and a team that includes his fiance Leyla Marchetto of Scuderia (which sits across the street in the West Village from her father’s Da Silvano). Ferguson says he has been doing openings for about ten years, and that Navy Beach is his seventh. He sums up his role in past as openings simply: “I’m the guy who gets stuff done.”

While in the past his challenges were more on the order of the logistics behind trying to get an elephant into Times Square for an opening, he found the problems posed by the outer limits of Long Island in the doldrums of the dead season more mundane if no less daunting. “UPS and Fed-Ex, for freight, deliver here once a week. That’s it. Regardless if you pay for two-day shipping,” he says. “You can’t go to the store and just buy a butane lighter.” The experience was his first taste of the area, but as a brand-new year-rounder, he seems to have eased into its rhythms, and used it as an excuse to grow that beard.

“Basically what we tried to do was build something like a 1950s yacht club, and super-impose it into today,” he explains, cautioning he doesn’t mean the yacht clubs of ascots, white loafers and toy poodles, but more of a casual easygoing feel. Vintage bathing suits pinned to the walls, and framed photos of era celebs like Marylin Monroe coupled with nautical touches capture the mood. Then there are the beams, made of salvaged wood from the former Naval base just a few seagull swoops from the restaurant’s deck.

When looking for a meal in the dead air that is January to March in Montauk, Ferguson, with his months’ growth of facial hair and paint-spattered clothes, found comfort in local go-to spots O’Murphy’s and Shagwong. “If you’re feeling like you want a really nice dark room and a massive calamari salad then you to Shagwong. If you want to talk to [O’Murphy’s owners] Chet and Jan [Kordasz], then you go to O’Murphy’s and hang out there.” He also calls out the Chowder House, which he says “has great oysters–and they’re cheap–and the bartenders are great.” Besides these, and the occasional barbecue run to Townline, Ferguson’s main local nightlife and dining option has been the IGA supermarket, from where he’d procure the fresh Florida corn he roasted up on the grill in his backyard in the snow. Quite a change from New York, where besides Da Silvano he frequented the Gramercy Tavern (“The bartenders are second to none; Jeremy and Ashley take care of you”), and La Pizza Fresco (“The best Neapolitan pizza I’ve had in my life, smokin’ wine list, and the gnocci is like the tears of Zeus”).

In Montauk friends and family means something entirely different than it generally does in Manhattan. The friends and family previews for Navy Beach were full of the local tradesman and craftsman who helped with construction, Ferguson says, “and the guy at the hardware store, and the guy at the drugstore and the guy at the liquor store.”

New to the area, Ferguson was not well-versed in Long Island vineyards, but as soon as the weather perked up, they certainly found him. “People started showing up like crazy, like at the front door, and I’m sitting here in carpenter’s clothes looking like a woolly mammoth. So, we are doing a bunch of local wines,” he says. But the focus of the wine list, which is concentrated on $100-$70 and under bottles, is to provide an esoteric selection from around the world (to complement the coastal cuisine) alongside local selections from Bedell, Macari, Lieb and others. Ferguson says his goal was to find “little gems.” “You may not recognize nine of the grapes in the wine,” he explains of one such ideal, “but it tastes fantastic, goes well with the food, and is $28.”

Which is not to say the beer list has not come in for some careful consideration as well. And again, it is nothing if not eclectic. Brooklyn and Peroni on tap anchor a lineup that includes Chimay, Pacifico, Corona, Heineken, and the local’s favorite. “You have to do Bud Light,” says Ferguson. This became clear “after debates with the people at Liars’ Saloon about alienating the locals … If you go anyplace that’s packed on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, it’s all fishermen and locals and it’s Bud Light across the bar. Bottles, never tap. And they always put it in a glass.” Then he says, getting his Midwest up, “I’m a Miller guy.” So High Life will be represented as well.