March 2008

Shakespeare should’ve made the line in Julius Caesar, “Beware the end of March,” because though the “ides of March” happened fifteen days ago, this end-of-March-but-it’s-still-really-cold thing is what we really have to look out for. So much worse. Sure, we changed the clocks early but in NYC it’s still struggling to get past the mid-40s but that’s not even counting the wind chill factor. Brutal. Brutus?

The one (only?) thing that has helped make the summer seem at least a teeny bit closer is the fact that my friends and I just signed a lease on our summer house in the Hamptons. It’s a totally cute traditional saltbox style two-story house with a pool and an outdoor shower (my fave) halfway between East Hampton and Sag Harbor, the same street on which I’ve been doing a house the past two summers. Though one could accuse me of being a creature of habit, I could argue that I already know how to get everywhere via backroads, expertly circumventing Route 27, which as my fellow Hamptonites know is HUGE.

So now I’m counting down the days, minutes and seconds until Friday, May 23rd. That and another important day on my calendar this year: Tuesday, May 13th, the day a little project that I like to call LoveHampton will be published. Now that’s an “ides” I can look foward to!

Food & Drink:

Best Place for Sunset Dinner: East Hampton Point, East Hampton
Book reservations for the main dining room or take your chances waiting for a table outside on the deck, which serves a more casual bar menu, for stunning views of the marina in Three Mile Harbor, whether you’re inside or out. Go early Sunday nights to catch the live reggae band (kids love it!).

Best Place for Sunset Cocktails: Montauket, Montauk
Parking can be a challenge and unless you’re already pretty far east, it’s a bit of a schlep to get there, but the view of the sinking sun from the lawn on the cliff high above Fort Pond Bay—along with the casual, decidedly un-Hamptons vibe—can’t be beat. Stick with simple drinks, such as a beer or two ingredient cocktails.

Best Breakfast: Babette’s, East Hampton
Lots of delicious dishes, generous portions with a variety of healthy options, including tofu, tempeh and whole grain breads and pancakes. They don’t serve red meat, but otherwise it’s not vegetarian: you can get chicken, turkey or seafood. There’s usually a wait for tables outside, but there’s no better vantage for people watching on Newtown Lane.

Best Steak: The Palm, East Hampton
East-end outpost of the famous New York City steakhouse. Start with a martini at the cozy old-school, wood-paneled bar, then order the Porterhouse and a side of the famous “Half & Half”—cottage fries and fried onions. Prices are not cheap, but since you shouldn’t need another meal for at least 48 hours, you could think of it as a bargain.

Best Lobster Roll: Lobster Roll (“Lunch”), Napeague
Located on the ocean side of the long, dune-filled stretch of Montauk Highway between Amagansett and Montauk, this roadside seafood shack, famous for its lobster rolls (hence the name), has a dedicated following. Also go for the steamers, chowder, raw shellfish and fried seafood if you must. Kids menu and crayons available for your munchkins.

Best Sushi: Sushi Zuki, Water Mill
Big portions, creative combo rolls and fresh fish make up for the less than thrilling interior. Insiders order the oddly-named “Tuna Sandwich”—it tastes a lot better than it sounds.

Best Pie: East Hampton Gourmet Foods, East Hampton and distributed to various local markets
After tasting these naturally sweet-tart pies, you too will want to join the newest religion sweeping the east end: Pientology. Three berry and strawberry rhubarb rule in early summer, blueberry peach is the one to have later in the season.
Best Light Lunch: Hampton Chutney, Amagansett
Order a Dosa—a light, crispy sourdough crepe made from rice—filled with your favorite sandwich ingredients garnished with one of their fresh signature chutneys and a cardamom iced coffee at this healthy, Indian-inspired takeout. Then score yourself a spot at a picnic bench outside in Amagansett Square to watch the cute yoginis coming out of Mandala Yoga Center across the way.

Best Sandwiches to Take to the Beach: Espresso—The Little Italian Market, Sag Harbor
Your belly may pooch out over your bikini bottom after even just half of one of these awesome freshly-baked focaccia sandwiches, but you’ll be too delirious to notice.

Best Fish Tacos: La Fondita, Amagansett
Perfect as a post-beach snack with a cold beer or before getting on the road for the long drive home on Sunday night. This reasonably priced, no-frills roadside authentic Mexican joint is primarily take out is but it’s much nicer to eat your tacos at a picnic table in the beautifully landscaped backyard by the pond.

Best Cheese: Cavaniola’s Gourmet Cheese Shop, Sag Harbor
Huge selection of yummy-delicious cheeses of all flavors and knowledgeable (and nice!) owners to help you navigate the myriad choices.

Best Coffee: Hampton Coffee Company, Water Mill
Long lines on the weekends are worth the wait for this delicious java. You might spot some celebs; more likely bleary-eyed hung-over share house people.


Best Place to Score a Last-Minute Party Outfit: Blue & Cream, East Hampton and Southampton
You don’t have to be a star, baby, to shop in this store…though you might find yourself combing through the racks next to a celeb or two. This trend-driven boutique is stocked with the hottest designers, from Temperley London to Zac Posen. They can outfit you with everything from sexy club duds to flowing dresses appropriate for any event on the thriving summer charity circuit. An array of hip-hop meets skater boy inspired men’s clothes, too.

Best Quintessential Hamptons Style: Calypso, East Hampton, Southampton, Westhampton and Montauk, and Tory Burch, East Hampton
Hit Calypso, which has an outpost in every major Hampton (including Greenport on the North Fork), for Christian Celle’s signature flowing, Indian-inspired beach cover-ups and flowing, pastel dresses and tunics. Socialite-turned-fashion-designer-powerhouse Tory Burch’s clothes are considered a (winning) combination of preppy-bohemian—“Grace Kelley meets Edie Sedgewick”—perfect for sultry summer days and nights. The line, originally best known for its embroidered tunics, has recently become synonymous with its Reva Ballet Flats for the trend-chasing masses, but savvy fashionistas opt for her mod-inspired sequined mini-dresses.

Best Men’s Bathing Suits: Vilebrequin, Southampton
Beaucoup pricey but these Saint-Tropez suits strike that perfect combo of sporty and stylish without being too “Euro.” Decidedly manly boxer short cuts—long and short—with an array of colorful whimsical prints manage to get even the most die-hard dudes to don starfish, flowers and koala bears. Daddies will melt hearts at Flying Point by dressing Junior in their signature matching mini trunks.

Best Bargain: Shoe Inn sale, Amagansett
This annual sale, held during the last two weeks of August at the American Legion Hall, is a shoe-lover’s dream come true. Prices are usually $125 and lower, helping to justify the purchase of strappy sandals despite Labor Day looming. Be prepared to dig through three layers of boxes on top of as well as underneath long tables, but at least the designer goodies are organized by size.

Best Home Store: Homenature, Southampton
A mix of mid-century modern vintage and new stylish furniture as well as home accessories, such as pillows, candles, jewelry, bowls and table linens to funkify your summer rental. Also a great place to pick up hostess gifts if you’re planning to do a lot of mooching.

Best Bookstore: Book Hampton, East Hampton, Southampton, Sag Harbor and now in Amagansett
Local independent chainlet not only satisfies cravings for beach reads and bestsellers but also a great selection of children’s and young adult titles, ideal for keeping the progeny entertained on a rainy Saturday, and coffee table books perfect for gift-giving. Check the calendar for author readings and signings for when your melting brain matter is craving some intellectual stimulation.

Best Surf Shop: Main Beach Surf & Sport, Wainscott
Tons of boards and gear for real surfers plus cute (and cheap!) clothing and accessories for the surfer girl and boy wannabes from well-known surf labels. The store also rents kayaks and canoes as well as provides moonlight tours and watersport lessons.

To Do:

Best Beach: Georgica, East Hampton and Flying Point Beach, Water Mill
Unless you’ve been born into royalty, a.k.a. a resident of East Hampton Village, you’ll have to try to score one of the 2,600 $250 non-resident parking permits that usually sell out before Memorial Day to hit this popular beach, situated near the celebrity-infested Georgica Pond enclave. For those in the Southampton area, Flying Point Beach (Town Parking Permit required but slightly easier to procure) is the place to see and be seen—or enjoy 250 feet of sand and surf.

Best Dancing: Saturday nights at Madame Tong’s, Southampton
After 11:30 on Saturday nights, the tables are moved out of the main dining room so that the dance party can commence. A DJ spins a groove-worthy mix of hip hop, dance, rap, and remixed R&B with a little disco thrown in for good measure. Cool off with a drink at the outdoor bar in back. Great for those folks who want to shake it without having to deal with the nightclub scene.

Best Nightclub: ?
The Hamptons nightclub establishment shuffle is happening as it does during every off-season, but I’ve been hearing some buzz about a new hotspot opening. Stay tuned…

Best Place for Live Music: Stephen Talkhouse
One of the last holdouts for live music on the East End. Small, authentically divey venue attracts local talent and big names. Stay after the show for the thriving share house singles scene outside.

Best Singles Charity Event: Love Heals at Luna Farm, Sagaponack
This themed dinner and dance party held in late June under a huge tent on a stunning private horse farm in Sagaponack is the place for young singles to mix and mingle while supporting a good cause: Love Heals—the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education.

Best Work Out: ZoneHampton, East Hampton
You have to be just a little bit hardcore to spin at “ZH”—not because the classes are so hard, but because for summer weekend morning classes, you need to book your bike online at noon the Wednesday prior since classes fill up in less than a half hour. Fans swear by spin classes with owner Marion Weil, Abigail Koplik, and the hunky, yet more Zen Gregg Cook as the best way to sweat out the fast-paced summer lifestyle.

Best Yoga: Yoga Shanti, Sag Harbor
Make reservations in advance for classes with either of the two owners, Jessica Bellofatto or Colleen Seidman, or the challenging yet cheerful Erika Halweil. Internationally-known celebrity teacher, Rodney Yee, occasionally teaches workshops out of this intimate studio. Be prepared for mat-to-mat contact on the weekends.

Best Waves: “Trailer Park,” Montauk
“The Ditch” at Ditch Plains Beach is probably the most famous surf spots on Long Island, but surfing insiders opt for an area down the beach called Trailer Park, named for the upscale trailer home enclave along the beach where the starting price for homes is $1 million dollars! Parking is in a dirt lot fifty yards past the Ditch Plains lot. Ideal arrival time is between 5:30 and 6:00am when parking is a cinch, the water is less crowded, and most importantly, before the wind has picked up, allowing for cleaner waves (blown out waves suck). When shredders need a break but don’t want to give up their prime parking spot, they grab a bite at the Ditch Witch food truck that sells healthy wraps and smoothies.

By Sherri Rifkin

As a veteran (or shall I say, survivor) of many Hamptons Summer Shares of all shapes and sizes over the years, I’ve picked up some tips for selecting the right house and sussing out the wrong ones. Since there are no refunds or mid-summer cancellations, it’s crucial to assess the situation fully before you write the check—unless you’re desperate to nail down a plan, any plan, which I was one fateful summer…c’est la vie. Finding a great share can lead to new friendships that last way beyond Labor Day; a dynamic, fun-filled summer; or even love. But if you dislike or worse, don’t get along with your housemates or can’t stand the house itself, then your summer—and your money—will be blown faster than the corn can grow knee-high by the Fourth of July.

Network: Ask friends and colleagues (whom you like) if they know people who are running a share house or have joined one that have spots open. You can also query your Facebook friends and ask them to pass along the request for a slightly broader reach. It’s far better to have a personal connection to the house, even if it is several degrees removed, than going in with complete strangers.

Buddy Up: If you must cast the net beyond your social circle, pair up with a friend or two. That way you not only will have someone you know with whom you can share a room, but also you’ll have a guaranteed wingman or wingwoman for the summer in case everyone else turns out to be lame or annoying.

Craig’s List: Like with everything on Craig’s List, you want to research carefully before committing. If a share house has taken to post available spots on Craig’s List or another public site, chances are it’s for a house that’s being organized by the owner or share house manager to make money, in which case you should prepare yourself for a party house with a large, random mix of people (and possibly unsanitary conditions by Sunday morning). You can also check out

Important Questions: Whether you’re meeting up with the house manager one-on-one or going to a social get-together to check out potential housemates, be sure to find out the answers to the following questions:

1. Money: Not only what’s the cost but when are payments due (often half to secure your spot and the balance about a month before Memorial Day Weekend) and what that gets you:*

Full Share: every weekend of the summer between Memorial Day to Labor Day Weekend, 15 weekends total*

Half Share: half the summer weekends, usually every other weekend for easy/fair scheduling*

Quarter Share: one quarter of the available weekendsAlso ask if house expenses (utilities, services such as weekly house cleaning, lawn care, pool maintenance, garbage collection, etc.) are included in the cost of your fee or are tallied up at the end of the summer, requiring an additional payment. Sometimes house managers include your portion of the security deposit in your initial fee and deduct your slice of the expenses from the deposit before your returning your balance after the summer.

2. Room Allocation: Do you/can you have your own room (if that’s what you want) or at least the same room every time you come out (good for leaving some stuff out there)? Will you be paired with the same person each time? Are bigger rooms, e.g. with en suite private bathrooms, more expensive than rooms that have twin beds or have to share bathrooms?

3. Pictures: Ask to see photos of the house. These days, there’s no excuse for house managers not to have photos readily available for viewing online, via email or at the very least, on their digital camera or phone.

4. Schedule: Especially for half and quarter shares, is the schedule flexible or strictly every other weekend? Is swapping weekends with other house members acceptable? How are holiday weekends divided (since there are three and July 4th is often a four-day weekend)?

5. Guest Policy: Are weekend guests allowed and if so, how are they handled? You may not care about bringing guests of your own, but you’ll care about the policy when your housemates bring guests, especially if the amount of guests per weekend is unlimited and they’re allowed to crash in common spaces or someone brings the same non-paying friend multiple times.

6. House Demo: Knowing the age, occupations and origins (where they live) of your housemates is the best way to figure out if you’ll be spending the summer in the company of like-minded people.

7. Vibe: If some of the people have shared houses together in the past, ask them what the atmosphere has been like: die-hard partiers? Health-nuts who love to get up early and bike to Montauk and train for a triathlon? Couples? Singles? People who are working out there on weekends who keep irregular schedules (you’d be surprised…)? Average age is often a bit of an indication, as is house location, but are not guaranteed gauges, so go as deep as you can to get a better picture.

Run Your Own Share: If you have enough of your own friends who want to spend the summer at the beach, then think about renting your own house. Smaller houses with two or three bedrooms are available but get snapped up quickly. Summer rental price tags aren’t exactly cheap, but if you have friends who can and are willing to pay to have a room to themselves for the summer, it won’t take as many people to fill it.

Dealing with Realtors: Many realtors, especially at the bigger real estate agency chains that now dominate the Hamptons market, are not allowed by most homeowners to rent to “groups.” Some towns even have ordinances that won’t allow more than four unrelated people to rent a house. So if you want to rent with a small group of trustworthy friends and won’t be drawing attention to yourselves by disrupting the neighborhood with parties and late-night shenanigans, then the workaround is for one or two couples—real or faux for this purpose—to handle the house search and sign the lease. Be specific about your criteria—whether it’s a town, price range, pool, proximity to the beach or town, a clean, non-tzotchke-filled house (there are more of those than you might think). Ask for HREO ( ID numbers so you can scope out the houses your agent recommends online before you make the trek east. While house hunting with your agent, resist exclaiming things such as, “We could fit eight people per weekend if we use the pullout couch and bring an air mattress!”

Best time to search: the earlier the better. The best houses—south of the highway, the ones with pools, those within walking distance to the villages, or the ones that are semi-reasonably priced—go fast. January is optimal; February is doable; March works, especially if there’s a recession happening. Avoid the winter holiday weekends because your competition will be stronger and the agents busier. Some people swear by waiting until May or even June to score a bargain on properties that have yet to be rented, but just like in Manhattan, deals are few and far between.

Happy hunting!

“A refreshing crackup read that had me engaged from page one.”

“An inside peek into the playground of the rich and richer known as the Hamptons in the summer.”

“Hilarious and poignant.”

“Brilliantly done!”

“Dazzling… Hotter than a sand dune in August, cooler than a mojito in South Beach (or Southampton), this book will appeal to Sex and the City fans and summer beach readers alike.”