Where to eat, stay & Play in New York state’s exclusive Beach region & beyond
By Karen Holly Berliner
Up the Northeast coastline and at the farthest reaches of Eastern Long Island, an unexpected Spring treat awaits you; the spectacular towns of Southampton, East Hampton, Westhampton and Bridgehampton, which along with its neighbors including Amagansett, Montauk and Quogue, are known collectively as “The Hamptons.”
Sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and some of Long Island’s wealthiest real estate, this region has been long revered as an ideal escape, thanks to its quaint village appeal and close ocean proximity, but pay this “summer only” reputation no mind. As the tired adage of only wearing white after Memorial Day has phased out, so too should waiting till the summer months for a jaunt to the Hamptons.
Shaped much like a dual pronged fork geographically, this region is surrounded by miles of jagged edged beaches, unspoiled farmland and acre upon acre of vineyards. And while you’ll always find the yacht-filled harbors, sophisticated fêtes and celebrity face sightings here, you will also find charm and understatement as the locals make sure to maintain a humble and casual vibe via roadside farm stands, local flavor and untouched natural scenery. The South Fork section is upscale, yet unpretentious and what you most likely think of as “The Hamptons” proper, itself comprised of hamlets and villages; each with their own distinct personality. This southern prong commiserates with The North Fork region in making certain that all vacation itineraries are covered, no matter your personal taste.
Crisp air, spring florals, ocean strolls, winery tours, wild life refuges and rich history ensure a magnificent spring season getaway. Chic international and local boutiques, galleries, antique shops, museums and premium restaurants add cultural dimension.
Historical homes, palatial estates and sprawling retreats blend beautifully with coastal scenery expressed in beige sugary sand beaches and endless fragrant wine vineyards, generously offering you a unsurpassed Northeastern escape.
THE BEACHES After a long and difficult winter, the Hamptons await visiting sunbathers, so why not get a head start working on your tan here? Some of the prettiest sandy spots the country has to offer can be found, all pristine, wide and set off by patchy wild dunes. Finding a beach is as easy as turning down any street off of Route 27 (the main drag) and following it toward the water. Worthy of first mention are Coopers Beach in Southampton and Main Beach in East Hampton, both enjoying the accolade of being routinely ranked among the top 10 beaches in the U.S. While Coopers is officially only 500 feet long itself, it extends for seven miles beyond to the delight of beach strollers, whereas Main provides the perfect blend of nature and built environment and is a notorious beach for star-spotting. Mecox Beach is the best choice in Bridgehampton, and farther down the coast is Gibson Beach, a small stretch with a low-key vibe. Georgica Beach has a particularly prestigious location In East Hampton, close to the mansions of Lily Pond Lane and Georgica Pond whereas youthful, fun Ditch Plains is the surfers’ beach of choice in Montauk.
Take a drive, a walk or even rent some bikes and tool around, taking in the beautiful vistas.
Craving a quieter privacy? Floating in the bay between the forks and accessible only by ferry is Shelter Island with its crescent shaped beach on miles of crystal blue coastline. In the distance sail boats pushed by sea breezes glide on calm waters, and the opposite shores are lushly green. Feel like staying put? The Pridwin Hotel is right there on the island and guests staying there can alternate between the beach and the pool, tennis courts, bay views and naturally unsurpassed sunsets.
PRETTY IN PURPLE | THE LOCAL VINEYARD & WINERIES Long Island continues to gain respect from the wine world with over 50 vineyards now on its East End. Long Island’s wine country boasts a microclimate similar to that of Bordeaux, France. A day traveling from vineyard to vineyard, learning about wine making and tasting is a day well spent. Although the North Fork is best known for its wineries, the South Fork contributes its fair share as well. Duck Walk Vineyards in Water Mill, for example, makes a number of varieties including merlot, pinot grigio and Chardonnay. Check out their live music on the veranda every weekend from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. through October. Such fun!
Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack is a Tuscan-style winery offering tours and tastings. If low on time, stop by their wine stand right on Montauk Highway, where you can sample their wines on a patio overlooking the vineyard.
For wine connoisseurs or even those folks who just plain enjoy a nice glass of wine, Bedell Cellars in the North Fork is the venue for you. Owned by Michael Lynne (former co-chairman and co-CEO of New Line Cinema), they proudly produce wines from grapes grown on their three vineyard sites. A chic tasting room adds appeal, done up in matte black and white walls with a bold splash of red, much like a big Pinot Noir! On a beautiful spring afternoon, enjoy the new outdoor grand tasting pavilion, offering visitors a sweeping view of the sprawling lush vineyards. Try award-winning Merlots and Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Bordeaux-style blends. Additionally, the Corey Creek Vineyards, also grown and produced by Bedell Cellars, is renowned for its small batch varietal labeled wines like Gewurztraminer, Rosé, and a Late Harvest Riesling.
In the mood for an on the spot food and wine pairing? The Comtesse Thérèse Bistro in Aquebogue showcases Comtesse Thérèse wines, herbs from the restaurant’s garden, local duck, seafood and vegetables. This historic house sits right in the center of multiple vineyards and farms, and features a 28-seat bistro with Chef Arie Pavlou at the helm.
For a once in a lifetime wine experience, Sannino Vineyard Bed and Breakfast offers a luxurious Tuscan style suite located right on a vineyard with unique amenities such as a private balcony and king sized bed, a dining area and living room. A wine and cheese platter awaits you upon check-in to be enjoyed on the balcony and a full breakfast will be delivered to you — in bed — each morning. Your stay also includes a tour and tasting at their winery, Bella Vita Vineyard. A double bicycle is yours for the day to tour the local color.
WINING AND DINING ON THE EAST END New York’s renowned summertime Riviera can be low-key or high-octane, and the same goes for its culinary offerings, from intimate dining rooms to alfresco patios and roadside shacks. No matter your pleasure, you’ll be sure to eat well here thanks to the region’s abundance of fresh seafood and locally grown produce. Here are some of our favorites:
In North Fork, Chef Deborah R. Pittorino offers Cuvée Bistro & Bar at her lodging spot, The Greenporter Hotel, where local seasonal fare is cooked in a sustainable kitchen with international influences. This minimalist space features a zinc and oak bar with brushed steel chairs, vibrant lime green walls and hanging teardrop lamps. Outdoor dining is available on their deck as well. The menu here features tasty dishes such as their calamari provençal (a corn-dusted calamari with red pepper aioli) and the les moules indochine (mussels in a spicy saffron lemongrass broth). For the meat lover, the steak au poivre is consistently delightful. Cuvée’s menu is tastefully complimented by their wide selection of North Fork wines.
Also in Greenport, Noah’s blends tapas with fresh entrées, a diverse drink menu and a well stocked roster of wines featuring local gems. Look out for their extensive oyster menu featuring popular varieties such as Blue Point, Beau Soleil and Pipe’s Cove. Their Crescent Farm duck confit with fingerling potatoes, wild mushrooms and frisée salad is outstanding. From the small-plates side of the menu, the grilled sardines with piquillo peppers, lemon aioli and basil is a simply created masterpiece.
The Portly Grape and Restaurant offers a formal dining room, a grille room and a hip martini lounge rendering all sorts of dining possibilities. The menu is vast and the choices delicious and fresh. Try the Serrano ham wrapped sea scallop, Greenport Ale braised short rib or their hogs neck bay oysters —roasted with bacon and leek sabayon. Of course, make sure to pair it with a local fabulous wine.
On the South Fork, the quaint and comfortable Living Room in the historic Maidstone Hotel is a great pick. Adorned with the new owner’s antique and modern Swedish furnishings as well as a color scheme of earthy mosses and blues, candlelit ambience, a white wooden staircase and floral wallpaper, this dining room coaxes you to linger. For a real treat, Chef James Carpenter’s special fixed-price wine dinner features top wines matched with his signature slow and contemplative cooking, all gleaned from local resources, and includes savory house-cured salmon tarte flambée with crème fraîche and capers, and Swedish inspired choices such as toast skagen, a savory Swedish classic of sautéed shrimp on bread. More than 200 vintage wines and a variety of microbrews are also on hand.
In Southampton, the Red/Bar Brasserie showcases local New American cuisine, including hog neck oysters and foie gras terrine. For the meat lover, an heirloom pork chop or their slow-braised beef short ribs are both good choices.
The Hotel Indigo East End in Riverhead offers a new in-house restaurant, Bistro 72. This casual dining space features a farm-to-table menu by Chef Lia Fallon, with emphasis on fresh produce, poultry and local fish. Fabulous menu choices include a lobster roll with fresh tail and claw meat in a citrus tarragon cream on a grilled potato bun or a Crescent Farms duck breast with sweet potato brulée and country bread crostini in a cherry balsamic sauce. Feel like après dinner partying? Stay put! Late nights, this dining spot doubles as a lounge with live music.
The Navy Beach restaurant in Montauk is positioned on a 200-foot private beach offers seating in the sand and some of the best sunsets in the Hamptons. Executive Chef Paul LaBue features regional coastal favorites with an emphasis on fresh seafood and local produce. Their signature Lobster Pot Pie is heavenly. Take note that boaters and sailors are welcome to anchor here, which makes for a unique treat.
Feel like roughing it instead? Try a Clambake for Two. Stop at Wines by Morrell, get a nice crisp Chardonnay and then head over to Claws on Wheels in East Hampton and create your own feast with clams, lobster, mussels, corn and new potatoes. Add some sides of corn bread and chowder and a Spring rainbow sunset and you’re good to go.
Great way to end the day.