End-of-Summer and Early Fall Island Getaway – The South Fork

T-Bar Southampton ©T-Bar, Photo: Courtesy of T-Bar

You may have missed the summer’s premier foodie events in the Hamptons, Dan’s GrillHampton and Dan’s Taste of Two Forks tasting showcases, but there’s still much to sample as the summer winds down and fall sets in. For many, this is the perfect time for a weekend to the East End of New York’s Long Island. 

Taste of two forks, Photo: Meryl Pearlstein

Starting with Art and the Great Outdoors

The Hamptons have perfected the art of the garden. And while most of the mansions have theirs hidden away behind their unfriendly privets, the Peconic Land Trust has created one that’s open to the public at any time. Bridge Gardens on Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton is the kind of oasis among the Hamptons scene that will make you rethink your plans, even on a sunny beach day. In this decidedly uncrowded setting of multiple flower and vegetable gardens you might feel that you’re in an English garden, one hidden and exclusively yours. In fact, you might have the gardens entirely to yourself, a rarity for New Yorkers. It’s a beautiful place to Zen out and ignore the Hamptons traffic.

Hampton Garden, Photo: Meryl Pearlstein

Take Me Indoors, It’s Still Too Hot

Museums also offer a respite from the heat, traffic and crowds. The Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill is one of the country’s finest, with a collection of art from local artists. The permanent collection is enhanced by frequently featured exhibits. You’ll want to check out the colorful collection of watercolors painted by abstract artist Helen Frankenthaler during her summer in Provincetown is on display through October 27. A café and bookstore are welcoming and creative as well. In Southampton, the Southampton Art Center offers changing exhibits as well as other performing arts programming. 

So You Must Be Hungry

Dining is one of the pleasures of the Hamptons.  Each town has its local favorites, some with outdoor dining.  For a quick lobster fix, the Shinnecock Lobster Factory in Southampton, Ed’s Lobster Bar in Sag Harbor, and Canal Café in Hampton Bays have the best lobster rolls around.  At each, you can choose to enjoy your sandwich outdoors or indoors.  

Ed’s Lobster Bar, Photo: Meryl Pearlstein

If you like Italian food, you can go family-style at La Parmigiana or the casual Paul’s Italian Restaurant in Southampton, where the heroes are large enough to be shared and pizzas by the slice include interesting versions such as Buffalo chicken. Or choose to go a bit more elegant at Tutto Il Giorno in Sag Harbor or Southampton or at Doppio la Spaggia in Sag Harbor and East Hampton, each serving up crudo, pasta, carpaccio and other Italian favorites with a special farm-fresh twist. Note: sit outside if you’re sensitive to noise. The North Fork has two Italian eateries worth traveling for: Grana in Jamesport is a rustic, inventive trattoria which plates whatever vegetables are freshest of the moment. Chef Marco Pellegrini of Caci has brought his Umbrian savvy to Southhold to a setting on a farmstead. Here, Chef has a kitchen entirely devoted to pasta making. His green basil tagliatelle is as close to Italian perfection as I’ve ever eaten. Wines, if not from Italy, are all from the North Fork and menus proudly list the local purveyors of the proteins and produce.

Hamptons Standard, Photo: Meryl Pearlstein

For breakfast, two standouts are Hampton Bay’s The Hampton Maid, an inn with a restaurant that only serves breakfast; nearby Azao Cafe adds a bit of Latin American spice to the dishes at this homey restaurant. Estia’s Little Kitchen in Sag Harbor is a popular choice for breakfast and lunch as well with Mexican-inflected dishes. Check their schedule as they serve dinner, too, on select evenings. And there are two new kids on the block for a morning feast. Hamptons Standard in Hampton Bays, is a sleek, inviting coffee bar, shop, restaurant, and outdoor dining area with gluten-free as well as vegan choices and fun distractions like an oversized Connect Four board for the kids. And, Silver Lining Diner, newly re-imagined in white and yellow tones and now open in Southampton, comes from the skilled folks at Bay Kitchen Bar and Restaurant in East Hampton.

For a restaurant experience that’s more sophisticated, lunch at Sant Ambroeus,Le Charlot or Silver’s in Southampton is casually elegant with Italian, French, and American cuisines respectively. A true splurge and for the best water views, Le Bilboquet in Sag Harbor has cuisine that’s just as wonderful. Or, go the opposite super-casual route, at the new Union Burger Bar, adjacent to Union Cantina, also in Southampton.

Among the newest restaurants in the Hamptons, Calissa in Water Mill, Elaia Estiatorio in Bridgehampton and T Bar in Southampton will keep you satisfied with their Mediterranean and American/steakhouse flavors, respectively. At New York City’s Hamptons T Bar, the outdoor garden offers choice seating in a setting so lovely you’ll hope the warm weather lasts into November. Save these for a splurge, as the prices are as high as the quality. Book late for Calissa so you can dine to live music.

Wolffer Estate, Photo: Meryl Pearlstein

If you love wine, the Hamptons are New York’s answer to the West Coast. The North Fork has 43 vineyards, many of which offer daily tastings. Wölffer Estate Vineyard and Channing Daughters Winery on the South Fork offer two gorgeous settings where you can tour, taste, or enjoy an open-air yoga class.  Pick up a bottle of Wolffer’s acclaimed “Summer in a Bottle Rosé” at their Wine Stand if you’re short on time or plan to spend the afternoon at their vineyard and enjoy a charcuterie and wine lunch. Their newest chilled red from the finca in Mendoza is a blend of Torrontes and Malbec grapes. Wölffer also has two restaurants, Wölffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor and Amagansett, where you can sample their many varietals as well as enjoy their farm-to-table expertise. 

Photo: Meryl Pearlstein

Don’t feel like driving? Have a taxi bring you to The Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton. The hotel offers a charming Scandinavian-influenced setting on the town’s historic mall. Here, you can spend the night, drink some fabulous wines and Aquavit, and enjoy the cozy hotel restaurant, all without worrying about joining the car parade on Montauk Highway. And where else but there could you enjoy Swedish meatballs next to a fireplace while in the Hamptons? You can bring your puppy, too, as they even have a doggie dining area.

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