Monday, December 22, 2014

European Christmas Markets: Festivity and Tradition


In my last article, I told you about one fabulous Christmas market in the US. In this one, I’ll highlight some of the Christmas markets that impressed me most during my recent visit to Europe.

In Paris, the Christmas market along the Champs-Elysee on the Right Bank stretches almost the full length of the boulevard on each side. It’s a bit of a challenge to explore all of the side-by-side booths, but it’s definitely worth it. In addition to food vendors hawking beer tastings, oysters, hot wine, and sausages, you’ll find a bungee jump, a skating rink, and great arts and crafts as you walk towards the iconic Arc de Triomphe or the puzzling Ferris wheel, both strikingly lit at night.  









Looking for a place to stay that won’t break the bank? Leave the Right Bank and explore the lively Left Bank filled with its many restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. The cozy and charming Hotel le Senat at the corner of the Luxembourg Gardens is a great choice. Its breakfast room and lobby are intimate, and you can get a room with a balcony that overlooks the roofs of the city. Caring service by staff members, an uber-comfortable bed, and thoughtful touches like an honor bar and late-morning breakfast set-up in the lobby complete the experience. C’est vraiment magnifique. Another choice if you prefer a boutique, designer-ish feel is the Hotel Madison  on Boulevard Saint Germain des Pres. More expensive and with more attitude, the hotel offers a winning location across from the church, just steps from literary landmarks like Café Deux Magots and Café de Flor.

In Vienna, you have a choice of small to large Christmas markets around the city center and off the Ringstrasse. Across from Stephansplatz and near the Austrian National Library, you’ll find two charming markets, each filled with booths of beautiful snow globes (they originated in Austria) and other crafts, as well as Glühwein (spiced red wine), mini donuts, and other goodies. The best, however, is the market by the Rathaus (City Hall), which extends for rows and rows with booths and booths and booths of treats. Here you can try a palatschinke (a rolled up pancake) to go with your Glühwein (you pay a deposit and you can keep the ceramic mug), the perfect snack combo to enjoy as you stroll along with the crowds.






Where to stay? The best, in my opinion, is the Hotel Imperial on the Ringstrasse. In a great location to experience Vienna's sites, the hotel is five-star when it comes to service, accommodations (gorgeous, gorgeous rooms), and dining and beverage. You’ll pay for the privilege of staying here, but it’s worth every euro. And if you’re a music fan, you’ll love that the hotel sits right next to the Wiener Musikverein where the Vienna Philharmonic play. Also appealing is that the Haus der Musik, an interactive museum explaining music from classical to contemporary, is only a five-minute walk.
 
Budapest offers a chance to experience a lovely Christmas market indoors, out of the cold. At the five-star Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace, the hotel's first-ever Christmas market lasts through December 30 and includes cheery red-and-white striped booths filled with the likes of local porcelain and crystal, Hungarian chimney cakes and more. Set in the lobby of the palace hotel, the market welcomes you at the door with a holiday drink cart that doles out hot mulled wine, apple cider, chocolate, coffee and tea. If you’re still hungry after your shopping, you can walk to the end of the hall and enjoy the hotel’s acclaimed afternoon tea, done with panache on china made expressly for the Gresham Palace. Or, plan ahead, and reserve at the elegant Gresham Restaurant which offers modern takes on Hungarian and international cuisine. 





Photos courtesy of Four Seasons Gresham Palace


And, of course you need a place to stash all of your purchases. This one is a simple choice: the elegant Four Seasons Gresham Palace. In addition to offering some of the most beautiful accommodations in Budapest, along with top-rated service and dining, the Four Seasons is located in the best location in the city, just across from the lovely Chain Bridge connecting Buda (and its castle district) and Pest (where the hotel is located). You’ll also be near the pedestrian walking area of shops and wine bars, which leads to the massive Central Market Hall and the waterfront. (Don't miss taking a night cruise on the Legenda to see the dramatic cityscape lit up along the Danube River.) From the hotel, it’s a short walk to the Jewish Quarter, the fascinating ruin bars, and Andrassy Avenue, the city’s monumental shopping boulevard. A short taxi ride away, the famous New York Café in the stunning Boscolo Budapest Hotel is a wonderful choice for a meal any time of the day, or for live piano music to accompany a pastry and coffee.

The Old Town in Prague is home to an elaborate Christmas market that attracts visitors from both sides of the Charles Bridge. In Old Town Square near the astronomical clock at City Hall and the ironic Hard Rock Café, you’ll see booth after enticing booth filled with Bohemian crystal, scarves and gloves, and other trinkets. Stop a moment and indulge in one of the Czech Republic’s traditional trzednik, a churro-like creation that will warm you against the wind coming off the river. It goes especially well with a cup of Glühwein. Or, grab a traditional pilsner to help you soak up the lively holiday spirit. The Christmas market here and the one in Wenceslas Square are both open through January 1, 2015. You can get detailed information and concert schedules from Czech Tourism, www.czechtourism.com





Photos courtesy of Czech Tourism

The Mandarin Oriental in the historic Mala Strana quarter (lesser town) of Prague is the perfect place to escape the crowds and regroup. The atmospheric setting of this five-star hotel, built in a former Dominican monastery, is quiet and pampering, with each room a different configuration. Food and drink are superb, as is the service. The Mandarin Spa, built in a former Renaissance chapel, defines luxury. From the hotel, you can stroll to the constantly repainted John Lennon peace wall which attracts hippies and rock ‘n rollers of all ages. Also nearby in Kampa Park is the eerie babies monument, a sort of aliens-meet-Jeff Koons sculpture installation set by the river. If this kind of art doesn’t strike your fancy, you can walk up historic Nerudova Street, with its creative house markers, to the Prague Castle and enjoy some of the city’s most amazing views. For a fabulous meal, take a five-minute walk from the Mandarin to the charming boutique Aria Hotel, where every floor is themed to a different type of music. Coda Restaurant, just off the lobby, offers two indulgent tasting menus: one a Czech version and the other a more eclectic selection of five-star cuisine from talented chef David Sasek.

Berlin, not surprisingly, is filled with Christmas markets, a serious tradition throughout Germany. Two, in particular, are worth noting. Close to the S-Bahn, the U-Bahn and the designer shopping area of Mitte, the smallish one that evolves from the Hackescher market is a great place to get your feet wet when it comes to navigating a Christmas market. It’s personal, manageable, and not overrun with people. Ready for more? You can walk to the larger Christmas market at Gendarmenmarkt. Here, your first stop can be a food break where you’ll feast on currywurst, strudel, and Glühwein, all in a covered tent. You’ll also get a ceramic mug to take home (your deposit covers that). Since the market is set right in front of the Konzerthaus, there’s lively music on-stage to keep your mood festive while you walk among the booths. Enjoy the crystal, holiday clothing, and merriment as you dance your way to the tunes of a traditional band.   






You could stay at one of the city’s more lavish hotels like the Alden Kempinski or the Ritz-Carlton near the Brandenburg Gate and Potsdamer Platz, or revel in being in the East Berlin area of Mitte at the trendy, well-located Amano Hotel. On weekends, the hotel turns into one massive DJ party, with the buzzing bar often overflowing into the hotel’s lobby. It’s sort of a W hotel, Berlin style. Berlin’s well-connected mass transportation system is easy to access from the Amano, with stations ten minutes away at most. But you just might want to stay where you are, as Mitte is the city’s buzzing center for dining, restaurants, sleek cafes and unusual tributes like the Ramones and John F. Kennedy museums.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Markets in the US - First Stop, Bryant Park, New York City

Christmas markets are the rage throughout Europe, a tradition that brings people together to eat, drink gluhwein (hot spiced wine), and shop for local trinkets from now through the end of the year.  After returning from visiting these markets in five cities, I was eager to check out the ones in the United States.


Starting with New York City, my favorite is the Winter Village at Bryant Park. It may not be as large as the one by Columbus Circle or the one at Union Square but it gets my vote for its variety of attractions.  When you’re tired of shopping, there are many eating outlets, a convenient restroom, and there’s an ice skating rink that’s FREE. (Take that, Rockefeller Center!). 



Another plus: pretty much every form of transportation is nearby, from myriad subway lines to the bus down Fifth Avenue, and easy access to the trains from Grand Central Terminal. Among my favorite shopping booths, there are the unusual ones like “Don’t Chew” for all forms of melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, things made out of coins, and Brazilian home décor. You’ll also outfit yourself to the nines with everything warm with flannel pajamas, scarves, gloves, and hats galore.  I also love the fact that Sabon has a branch here so I can do some quick shopping without having to find a storefront, and that you can stare up at the Christmas tree with a backdrop of the skyscrapers on Sixth Avenue. 


Food choices are pretty varied with Waffles and Dinges for those craving a sweet fix, or grilled cheese, arepas, and 'wichcraft sandwiches to keep you satisfied.  Although I didn’t find the alcoholic gluhwein that’s ubiquitous at European Christmas markets, there was a Bavarian stand with Sigmund’s Pretzels and another that sold a non-alcoholic version of hot wine and hot apple cider.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Shake It Up in Harlem with Some Free Jazz and Cheap Eats

Harlem is the spot for dining and jazz.  The Lenox Lounge may be changing, the Red Rooster and Ginny’s Supper Club are a bit sceney, and Minton’s is a pricy evening, but there’s another spot that conveys the real spirit of Harlem’s jazz tradition at a fraction of the cost.

American Legion Post 398, Harlem
American Legion Post 398 on 248 West 132nd Street was organized in 1922 by Colonel Charles Young with a mission to honor and serve veterans, their families and their community. With 200 hundred members today, it still actively attends to its mission of service. “The Post,” as it's known, is run by its members as perhaps the most authentic jazz/blues bar in Harlem, with live jazz on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday and a DJ on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.

You'll “hear” your way to the brownstone with the music. Head downstairs, ignore the sign that says “Only Members and their Guests Allowed,” and enter this special place. There’s no cover charge, but you must sign the guest book.

Sunday night is the best night for live jazz. You might hear the amazing sounds of the Harlem Groove Band, including a tenor sax that will blow your mind and an electric guitarist who really smokes. Surprising guests may be top musicians from Europe or local singers, all great – and loud, of course.

It’s cash only, and the drinks are cheap and strong.  Airline mini bottles served neat, beer or mini wine bottles are the way to go. It’s also a soul food joint. $10 gets you a meal cooked up in the kitchen in the back. I recommend the “fish fry” if it’s available: a big piece of whiting plated with a couple of sides like greens and mac & cheese. There’s a feeling of community in these tight quarters. Old timers from the neighborhood and actual veterans mingle with “new friends” who have made the trek from Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan to hear the jam. Everyone’s there for the same reason, to have a good time, together.

Definitely meet Commander Eddie Randy Dupree, the host and spirit of the place; the veterans who keep the place humming; and Karen the bartender. You’re so close to the band that you’ll be able to chat them up as well.

48 West 132nd Street, between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. (7th Ave.) and Frederick Douglass Blvd. (8th Ave.), 212-283-9701. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

A Day Trip to the Bronx

The Bronx, named after Jonas Bronck who settled there in 1639, is often overlooked as a destination for a day trip. Yet, it’s a pretty quick subway ride, with, perhaps an Uber connection if your feet get tired. And you can fill a day or two, easily, eating and exploring your way through the borough: the Bronx Restaurant Week, known as “Savor the Bronx” runs through November 14, with 25 restaurants participating. Lunch is only $16.41 and dinner is an amazing $20.14. www.savorthebronx.com.

courtesy Julie Larsen Maher WCS
Not Just for Kids: The Bronx Zoo has something for everyone no matter the season. “Boo at the Zoo” was a big hit last month but you can watch the penguin feedings any time of the year or duck into the World of Reptiles to escape the cold and marvel at the gigantic pythons and the tiny dart frogs. And there’s much more. Upcoming events include an ice carving week in late December, with professional carvers creating sculptures of wildlife from the Amazon Rainforest. Also, the holiday carolers, a tradition at the zoo, will be returning. Other faves are JungleWorld, an Asian-themed warm-climate space where otters, gibbons and 800 other animals roam; Tiger Mountain and Madagascar! General admission tickets are $16, with reduced rates for children. Open daily from 10am-4:30pm. 2300 Southern Boulevard, 718-220-5100; http://bronxzoo.com 


Stop and Smell the Chrysanthemums: No trip to the Bronx is complete without a visit to The New York Botanical Gardens. Year-round exhibits and programs encompass more than 50 landscapes and gardens within the 250-acre space. With more than a million plants, the diverse collection draws large crowds for the upcoming Holiday Train Show and the Orchid Show in February. Fall walks in the forests and gardens are particularly invigorating. Tuesday through Sunday, 10am–6pm. Check the website for ticket pricing. Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Road, 718-817-8700; http://nybg.org/



Eat, Eat, Eat: Restaurants up and down the Bronx  offer their fare at great prices all year long, not just during “Savor the Bronx.” A surprise to both NYC residents and visitors alike, City Island is a 1½- mile strip of land that offers a variety of seafood restaurants in a boat-friendly residential area. If you close your eyes, you just might think you’ve arrived in a New England fishing village. Well, almost. Try Sammy’s Fish Box Lobster House, a fixture since 1966, with a menu as large as the portions. 41 City Island Avenue, City Island 718-885-0920; https://sammysfishbox.com/ 

Mario's Arthur Avenue

Arthur Avenue is the real Italian neighborhood of New York City, a thriving hub of Italian food and culture. Distinctive from Manhattan’s Little Italy where Albanians and Chinese have largely taken over the formerly Italian residences and restaurants, this area is populated by generations of Italians with deep roots to the mother land. Arthur Avenue is considered more “authentic” throughout and the place where Italian restaurateurs and local families shop. Check out the many food stores and the indoor retail market building with vendors selling breads, pasta, gelato, sauces and fresh meats from Italy. Restaurants like Mario's are family-friendly and serve copious portions Many, like the ever-popular Dominick’s, have no menus – just ask for your favorite dish or let the server surprise you with the evening’s specialty. A definite go-to is Mike’s Deli where you can stock up on items to prepare at home or put together a meal to eat on the spot with cured meats, sweets, olive oil, bread and other Italian specialties. 2334 and 2344 Arthur Avenue, http://arthuravenue.com/.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall in The Berkshires: Elegant, Serene and Colorful


Garden Gables Inn, credit: Meryl Pearlstein

Garden Gables Inn, credit: Meryl Pearlstein
I just returned from a quick trip to the Berkshires, to Lenox, Massachusetts with a stay at the peaceful Garden Gables Inn, dating from 1780. Classic New England and a great base for soaking in the colors of October’s finest foliage, the inn reminded me of my many summers and falls in this beautiful corner of Massachusetts and made me fall in love with bed and breakfasts all over again.

I welcome back guest blogger Judy Nayer who has just spent a month in the same area, making her home in the nearby town of Hillsdale.
The Inn at Green River
If you're looking for the perfect place to stay while exploring the upper Hudson Valley and the Berkshires, I suggest you visit The Inn at Green River in Hillsdale.  Just a 2 ½ hour drive from New York City and located in a scenic, pastoral setting 25 minutes from either Hudson or Great Barrington, the inn is one of only three Select Registry inns in the Hudson Valley.

This beautifully restored 1830 property combines the upscale elegance of a small country inn with the warmth and hospitality of the best of the bed & breakfasts. Each of the seven guestrooms is lovely and true to the website photos, and the breakfasts served in the sunroom and dining room are memorable. Among my favorites was the poached pear with goat cheese followed by very thin pear pancakes made from local artisanal flour. Also topping my list was the roasted plum with Greek yogurt and a local honey drizzle which preceded mini frittatas with tomato and spinach and a slice of polenta. Homemade scones, locally made jams and fresh fruit accompany each meal, leaving guests smiling and ready to begin their day. 

The mastermind of all of this is owner/innkeeper Deborah Bowen whose talent and commitment to excellence began 25 years ago when she opened her doors to guests after renovating and expanding this Hudson Valley gem. Deborah is passionate about her guests, and it shows.  From the moment you walk through the door she makes you feel as if you are at home. She helps you plan your days with suggestions for local outings and dinners (and maps how to get there), and always has a batch of homemade ginger molasses cookies and tea in the afternoons, perfect for relaxing in the living room, library, or outside in a hammock.  We all crave authenticity in our lives, and here it is evident in myriad details: watercolors painted by Deb’s grandfather, sterling silver napkin holders that were Deb’s grandmother’s, lampshades handcrafted by Deb, a book collection well curated over time—just to name a few. There is nothing staged here. Even after 25 years, Deb’s labor of love is as obvious and passionate as ever and generously shared.
The Inn at Green River
The setting is so lovely you may be tempted not to leave the inn at all, but there’s a lot to see and do. True to its name, Hillsdale is an area of rolling hills, with beautiful vistas at every turn, and Columbia County is blessed with more farmland than any other Hudson Valley county. The excellent farm-to-table restaurants have located here to take advantage of the relationships between chef and farmer in the state. Visit the farms, wineries, and bakeries throughout the region, and check out the local calendar for festivals and farmers’ markets. In this area, growing food while preserving the land is a passion. In Ghent, the Hawthorne Valley Farm is a biodynamic farm that spans 400 acres and includes a farm store and restaurant, and the Hudson-Chatham Winery is known for its award-winning wines. I really enjoyed the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, where you can see farmers make fresh cheese and yogurt. 
Olana, courtesy: Wikipedia
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the many opportunities for hiking, biking, swimming, and skiing in the area, including the trail system at Taconic State Park. Take the mile-long hike to see a dramatic waterfall at Bash Bish Falls, and in the winter, enjoy cross-country and downhill skiing at the Catamount Ski Area. This area is also rich in cultural and historic attractions. Plan a visit around Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony, and don’t miss the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Hancock Shaker Village, and the Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox. A little further, in Williamstown, is the renowned and recently renovated Clark Museum. And not to be missed is Olana, just outside of Hudson, the home of Hudson River Valley school painter Frederick Church. A guided tour will take you through a mansion that looks like a Persian palace, and outside around the grounds you will see some the area’s most spectacular scenery with breathtaking views of the Catskill Mountains.


When you are hungry after all this touring there are a great many options. Closest to the Inn at Green River, and my favorite choice for dinner, is the Old Mill Inn, with delicious fare and terrific hospitality. Sit at a table in the bar section and you will feel like a local within minutes, or enjoy the elegant dining room. I loved the organic salmon with crispy horseradish crust, parsnip puree, and beet coulis on one occasion, and returned to splurge for a classic filet mignon on another. If possible, save room for one of the decadent desserts. Nearby, I had an excellent dinner at John Andrews: A Farmhouse Restaurant, which emphasizes local seasonal ingredients. For lunch, right in Hillsdale is the Crossroads Food Shop, with baked goods and grilled sandwiches. The town of Great Barrington has many dining options. My favorite was Bizen, an organic Japanese restaurant that competes very well with the best in New York. When you visit the city of Hudson, go to Baba Louie’s Organic Sourdough Pizza Company for lunch (also in Great Barrington), and don’t miss Mexico Radio for the best fish tacos this side of the border. Among a plethora of restaurants here, I recommend the Italian Ca ‘Mea and the French bistro Café Le Perche, and there are dozens more to try. Plan your time so you can explore the numerous galleries, antiques, and boutique shops of this city—it has been undergoing a major revival in the last few years.




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Music Photo Exhibit Rocks in TriBeCa Gallery

I'm headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this month, but I can get my fix now at a new exhibit of photography by Mick Rock at SUMO gallery in New York City. Titled EXPOSED, the exhibit does just that: it exposes the often haunting and legendary images taken by the British photographer of famous rock musicians. (Don’t you just love the fact that Rock shoots rock? BTW, Rock now resides in Staten Island.)
David Bowie
Photo by: Mick Rock
At the two-floor exhibit in TriBeCa, which runs through October 19, you’ll see photos of Syd Barrett, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Queen, Blondie, Mick Jagger and other seventies icons.  These are the photos that earned Rock his place in the music photography hall of fame.  But there’s more.  On the second floor, his PhotoArt covers the years following the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Studio 54 and CBGB years with interpretations of photos of Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury and Paul McCartney as well. There are also images of current musicians including Snoop Dogg, Lady Gaga and Pharrell Williams.
Rock in Roll Mick Rock
Photo by: Mick Rock
You’ll recognize some of the photos from record covers. Others will have you reminiscing about the music scene over the years.  All in all, you’ll see why Mick Rock is called one of the most iconic photographers of our time, “the man who shot the seventies.”  All photos and art pieces are for sale.
The gallery is in the heart of TriBeCa, open 11am-7pm, Tuesday through Sunday. (Subway stops: 1 train to Franklin Street; A or C trains to Canal Street)
SUMO, 37 Walker Street, New York, 917-450-5634,www.sumotribeca.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

NYC's Fall Culinary Calendar is Buzzing -- September - October Mega-Events

As much as I like to write about dining in other cities, New York City still tops my list in both restaurants and food events. Take a look at four of my favorites coming up in the next two months: three food benefits and a beer festival. 


Village Voice Brooklyn Pour 
Brooklyn Pour Craft Beer Festival, September 27; Here’s a festival you don’t want to miss if you love beer. At the Village Voice’s fourth annual curated Brooklyn Pour craft beer tasting event, you’ll sample more than 100 craft beers from New York and beyond. Seasonal, micro and reserve brews will be featured. To make the event even more enjoyable, there will be live music, a food court, and your own tasting souvenir glass. Doors open at 2pm, but you can come any time until 6pm. Tickets are priced from $55-$85. Location: Skylight One Hanson, One Hanson Place, Fort Greene, Brooklyn. http://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/643263

Gohan Society Aki Matsuri, October 9; At this delicious evening, The Gohan Society invites all to sample exciting Japanese-inspired dishes as part of their mission to foster an understanding and appreciation of Japan’s culinary heritage in the U.S.  You’ll enjoy cuisine from twelve of New York’s finest restaurants: All’onda, Blue Ribbon, Boulud Sud, Gramercy Tavern, Hakata Tonton, Jean Georges, Morimoto, Nobu, Park Avenue Autumn, Ramen Co. By Keizo Shimamoto, Red Rooster Harlem, and The Sea Grill. The annual fundraiser also includes a silent auction with many culinary items. 6:30pm – 9:30pm. Location: Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N 11 Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. http://gohansociety.org/event/akimatsuri/

Meatopia, Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival
Food Network New York City Wine and Food Festival, October 16-19; The four-day food extravaganza invites you to select from a broad range of events hosted by some of the country’s greatest chefs, food writers, editors, winemakers and food personalities. Programs range from dinners and tastings to seminars, panels, and master cooking classes. Presented by Food & Wine magazine, this is the only event that brings together legendary culinary icons from around the world and America’s favorite television chefs. Proceeds benefit the community-based, hunger relief programs of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign and Food Bank for New York City. Locations vary. http://www.nycwff.org/


Meatopia, October 19; Included this year as part of the New York City Wine and Food Festival, Meatopia is the world’s pre-eminent meat happening.  Starring the country’s greatest meat chefs, the Carnivore’s Ball will be held from 4pm-7pm on the last day of the festival. Location: Esurance Rooftop at Pier 92, 52nd Street and West Side Highway, Manhattan. http://nycwff.org/event_detail.php?id=163

Friday, September 5, 2014

Where to Eat in the Hamptons Now that the Hordes Have Left

I like to roam all over the Hamptons and with the plethora of farms, vineyards, and water there, you have a wide range of choices with a wide range of prices. Now that it’s past Labor Day, you have a better chance to score a table at these favorites.

Noah’s, Greenport – Noah Schwartz has brought his farm-to-table expertise from his days in Sonoma County.  Here, adding sea-to-table expertise to his repertoire, and a sophisticated knowledge of wine pairings, he brings the North Fork’s best and freshest to the table in this airy waterfront restaurant.  If you’re visiting from the Southern part of the island, you can take a ferry from Sag Harbor to Shelter Island, and a second ferry to Greenport.  You’ll feel like you’ve taken a vacation for the day. Be sure to try whatever crudo is on the menu, any shellfish (as fresh as you’ll ever have it), the BBQ duck on polenta, and filet mignon sliders. Try some local wines like Coffee Pot, which can be ordered in 3 ounce or 6 ounce pours. http://www.chefnoahs.com

Fresh Hampton, Bridgehampton – It’s so wonderful that someone finally came up with a menu that lets you graze through a menu of the freshest of the fresh.  The name of this restaurant, helmed by Chef Todd Jacobs, tells you what to expect: everything fresh, local, and seasonal. Most of the ingredients come from the restaurant’s own garden, supplemented by produce from neighboring farms in Sag Harbor.  You can try a small portion of skate, steak, or chicken, or arrange a full medley of veggie dishes and skip the proteins entirely. All are delicious. The vibe is casual and buzzy. No reservations mean a democratic, but sometimes lengthy wait for seats.  It’s worth it. http://www.freshhamptons.com



Bay Kitchen Bar, East Hampton – You couldn’t ask for a more picturesque setting than at this open-air restaurant, seemingly set at the end of the world.  All seats have an oceanview of Three Mile Harbor from the blue-and-white dining room and bar. Come early for sunset and join the group at the bar and then move to a table for a seafood feast. Recommended are the dishes featuring local catch, like the super-fresh ceviches and crudo. Try the tastings of each. The lobster roll simply dressed with mayo on a roll is a worthy exception – only Maine lobster should ever be in a lobster roll anyhow.  Cocktails are well thought out. Served perfectly chilled in a metal cup filled to the brim with ice, the blackberry julep adds a Long Island twist to this Southern fave with macerated blackberries, a touch of mint, and agave. Desserts are scrumptious – if you can only order one, try the strawberry shortcake made Hamptons-style with strawberry rhubarb compote. http://baykitchenbar.com

The Lobster Roll, Baiting Hollow -- And while on he subject of lobster rolls, I suggest you head North to The Lobster Roll in Baiting Hollow for the finest the area can offer.  The slightly more refined twin of Lunch in Amagansett, the restaurant doesn’t take reservations but it’s worth the wait. Begin your meal with creamy lobster bisque, add a palate cleanser of cole slaw, and finish with the piece de resistance, a lobster roll filled with fresh lobster and crunchy celery bits. A nice selection of North Fork wines is offered which you can also enjoy at the tasting room next door. Finish with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie - there’s even a sugarless version. Pure heaven. http://www.lobsterroll.com

Delmonico’s, Southampton -- For a meat fix that perfectly accompanies a starter of raw Montauk oysters and Peconic little necks, the sister restaurants to Manhattan’s downtown legend is the place to go.  Easy to reach from the Southampton train station, the restaurant sits in a tasteful house surrounded by lush gardens. Enjoy a trio of oysters drizzled with a tart mignonette sauce to start. Go for steakhouse perfection with a Caesar salad, the signature Delmonico steak, served sliced with grilled onions and a side of creamed spinach. The Southampton sibling adds a few special Long Island touches like seared scallops with corn pudding. The wine list is extensive so ask the sommelier for the best pairing.  Dessert is a no-brainer: the dish created by the restaurant, Baked Alaska. http://www.delmonicosrestaurantgroup.com/southampton/

Wolffer Estate and Wine Stand, Sagaponack -- Sometimes all you want is a great bottle of wine and a picnic. If that’s your mood, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, Wollfers’ Estates in Sagaponack transforms the evening into a night in Tuscany… or maybe Provence. Music, wine, cheese and charcuterie all in the vineyards.  Come casual or barefoot. Bring a blanket and enjoy a gorgeous sunset along with Wolffers’ crisp Summer in a Bottle rose. http://www.wolffer.com

Race Lane, East Hampton -- Race Lane in East Hampton welcomes you into its casual environment, a combination of tables, a bar, and even a sunken fireplace area for drinks and appetizers. Seafood preparations are glorious. Grilled branzino exemplifies the best of the Hamptons, served with a side of rich lobster mac ‘n cheese.  Scallop crudo, drizzled with yuzu, is refreshing and delicious in its simplicity, as are the Montauk pearl oysters served with a blood orange granita.  http://www.racelanerestaurant.com

Sen, Sag Harbor -- Sen in Sag Harbor takes no reservations but you can spend your wait time watching the nightly passeggiata or walking the small town yourself. Friendly service, masterfully prepared sushi and Japanese selections are the attraction. Start with a plate of lightly salted, blistered shishito peppers, grown locally, a more interesting opener than the usual edamame. Follow this by a miso-glazed cod, also locally caught, and a selection of creative maki. If soft-shelled crab is on the menu, try it in any roll offered. A lovely selection of sakes is offered including a cold, unpasteurized Masumi. http://www.senrestaurant.com

Pierre’s, Bridgehampton -- Pierre’s in Bridgehampton is a casual but refined French bistro with a lively, in-the-know feel. The menu gives carnivores and non-seafood eaters something to cheer about, too, with duck, pastas, and a cheesy Alsatian tarte flambé. Try to meet charming host Pierre Weber if you can. Be sure to look around the room, as this is a favorite haunt by both “out there” and undercover celebs. http://www.pierresbridgehampton.com

Bell and Anchor, Sag Harbor -- I know I’m sounding a bit redundant when it comes to seafood recommendations, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Bell and Anchor, sister restaurant to Sag Harbor’s wonderful Beacon and Southampton’s Red Bar. The nautical dining room is the setting for a lively evening of seafood dining. Clams, lobster, calamari, pretty much every kind of seafood is on the menu and it’s all delicious. http://www.bellandanchor.com/#oysters-to-start

Crow’s Nest, Montauk -- Another restaurant with a no-reservations policy, Crow’s Nest actually makes your waiting time a desirable experience. You can sit by the beachside bar and watch the sunset while eating oysters on the half, washed down with a specialty cocktail like a watermelon cooler or a gin concoction aptly named the Summer Rental. If it’s chilly, there’s a fire pit to cozy around. The dining room has lovely views of the harbor and a small, handwritten menu of dishes ranging from pasta with sea urchin and chilies, to locally caught striped bass and Montauk fluke crudo. The busy restaurant manages to keep a very cheerful tone with a rustic, yet polished feel.  To avoid the wait, arrive by 7:15, especially on a weekend when everyone seems to want to be in Montauk. http://crowsnestmtk.com



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