Ah, serenity in the Hamptons. With celebrities and Upper East Side coteries hibernating in their penthouses and luxury in-home gyms, this venerated coastal stretch of hamlets and villages is all yours, at a third of the price. Winter discounts, special menus, and wait-free services open up to you; the towns acquire the holiday warmth and charm of It’s a Wonderful Life; and without the leaf-covered trees, those multi-million dollar, vacant mansions are suddenly visible from the street. So, go ahead; dine on farm-to-fork fare without a wait, cozy up to the B & B’s wood-burning fireplaces, party in the pubs, and peer into a 1,000-square-foot kitchen or two. For the season, the Hamptons is your playground and you are just one lucky kid.
Fresno: Fresh Montauk fish, farm poultry, and local winter produce epitomize the three-course, $30 menu at this cozy and airy dining destination. You won’t notice the charming skylights and outdoor pergola as you sit, blissfully enamored by your orecchiette with local butternut squash and sweet sausage, or your mussels with shallots, garlic, and thyme in white wine broth, or your white bean and roasted garlic hummus. Oh! And the warm chocolate cake with nutella-fluff center and hazelnut gelato. I almost forgot.
The Tuscan House: If you can’t make it to Tuscany this year, just come to the Hamptons (Did I just say that?). Homemade, shoelace-thick pastas are coupled with local oceanic, poultry, and produce delights and follow such appetizers as crème-filled mozzarella burrata with grilled figs on crostini, and roasted butternut squash pasta with sage butter sauce. With such a following, chef/owner Billy has started inviting a handful of patrons to accompany him on a winter gastronomic trip to Italy. Ah, la vita è bella. Wear sweatpants.
North Fork Table: Rated by Zagat as the top restaurant in the Hamptons (scored a 29!), you can happily evade the crowds this winter while still feasting on the same locally-grown, organic produce and fresh seafood that the summer folk waited 60 more minutes for. Set in celebrity-free, bucolic North Fork, much of the restaurant’s ingredients come straight from the neighboring farms, wineries, fields, and waters. Feast on Atlantic sea scallops, duck confit strudel, grass-fed beef, and desserts from former Gramercy Tavern pastry chef Claudia Fleming. Three-course, $68 prix fixe menu available. Want it at noon and night? Grab a midday lobster roll and one of Claudia’s cookies at the Lunch Truck out back.
La Plage: Another Zagat favorite, this unassuming creative little French-American spot sits right on the Wading River’s beachy shore and serves fish, produce, and poultry that is brought in fresh every day, still kicking. The menu changes daily, so this is certainly a “just-wing-it-you’ll -love-it” place. Signature dishes include their melt-in-your-mouth duck leg confit with risotto, caramelized sea scallops with gnocchi, and Black Angus filet mignon with buttery Yukon gold potato puree. Stop in for their three-course, $25 prix fixe lunch (which includes a glass of wine) and check out their Mother’s Day special menu. BlackBook tested, Mom approved.
Buckley’s Inn Between:
Sick of the frou-frou nonsense? Just got to have a burger, greasy fingers, and a juice-stained napkin? Stop into this family-friendly Irish pub and restaurant and salivate as you attempt to choose from 14 different kinds of burgers, all under $10 (fries, coleslaw, and pickle included). With homemade chicken pot pie, barbecued Buckley wings, and the fanciest option on the menu being the “Zinfandel Vinaigrette” salad dressing, you’ll find this spot as refreshing as the crisp Long Island air.
Mill House Inn:
A weekend at this luxury B&B is a study in the art of a good breakfast. You’ll wake up to such unusual offerings as whole-grain pancakes with ricotta, lemon, and dried cherry; lobster frittata with five onion marmalade; and eggnog brioche French toast. And the detail! Every room has a fireplace, marble and glass shower for your 40-minute I’m-on-vacation wash-ups, and mini-sailboat-stocked shelves. Child-friendly and dog-friendly – so friendly that it offers canine treats. Classic Rooms start as low as $225. Extraordinary Suites, equipped with a mini-bar, start at $495. For more discounted deals, see here.
The Baker House 1650:
Leave your horse, carriage, and city cynicism at the gate at this historic English cottage-French manor B &B. Built in 1648 and renovated in 2005, the House is full of surprises; flat-screen TVs, Bose radios, and in-room whirlpools supplement the outdoor terraces, 200-year-old wisteria, and wood-burning fireplaces. Breakfast on lemon pancakes before a wood-burning fireplace, or receive your meal in your room and fuzzy robe, delivered with your morning paper. Oh- and there’s a state-of-the-art spa facility, complete with a lap pool, sauna, steam shower, and spa tub. Why leave? Prices start at $247 with 10 percent off until March. Au revoir, stress.
The 1770 House:
An inn with a basement tavern with a fireplace? Sign me up! Built in 1663 and operating as an inn since- you guessed it – 1770, this tiny B & B features six rooms, most with fireplaces, and all equipped with flat-screen TVs, plush duvet covers and linens, and snacks by Dean & DeLuca to nibble in bed after your nightcap. Make crumbs, go crazy. Prices start at $295.
Take a seat at this normally standing-room-only intimate live music club. Known to attract musicians like Billy Joel and Paul McCartney for impromptu jams, Talkhouse’s covers range from $5 to $100 depending on the act, which varies from local stars to international chart-toppers. Hip, wild, and unpretentious since 1970.
According to Hamptons lore, this English pub/ French bistro got its name from church-going locals who would pass the still-rowdy guests on Sunday mornings, declaring the place a “Rowdy Hall.” Proudly, it remains so today. Packed with a wood-burning fireplace, an extensive seasonal and British-inspired beer menu, and a post-drinking indulgent menu, you’ll make friends with your fellow revelers in no time.
Adored by Liv Tyler, Meg Ryan, Julianne Moore, and potentially you! What a line-up. This holistic spa offers a 20 percent discount on their skin care products during the holidays, and a special discount on facials and massages that varies monthly. Scrub off itchy dry skin with their “Moisture Drench Facial,” and glow in the snow.
Do you like to look at the ocean while you’re soaking in the nation’s only indoor heated seawater pool? No? Then don’t go here, since this newly renovated and venerated inn and spa sits right on the water, guaranteeing ocean views with every mud wrap and ocean radiance treatment. Purchase a $30 day pass for access to the heated seawater pool, bubbling Roman baths, sauna, and steam room. Algae and seawater treatments (locally sourced, of course), facials, and massages also offered. Channel the holiday spirit with the candy cane-inspired peppermint thermalism body treatment. Soak it up, live it up.
East Hampton Trails Preservation Society:
Put that chocolate cake with nutella-fluff center and homemade cannelloni behind you with a free hike. Three-to-seven-mile rambles along the coasts, ponds, and bluffs are offered on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and monthly 10+ miles cater to superhuman vacationers. For a good chance of a seal-sighting, take a walk along the Montauk rocks in January or February.
Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum:
So you’ll have to take another trek outside for this obligatory landmark visit, but this could be your only chance to see New York’s oldest lighthouse, especially without the background cries of a gaggle of snobby, 5-year-old kids hankering for a cookie and fresh juice smoothie. With a 110-foot climbable tower that overlooks the rocky coastline, get that camera ready, flash a smile, and make this trip impossible to forget.