Some hints: a chef or owner with passion and personality, decor that envelops without feeling stuffy and perhaps hosts who love the area as much as diners do.
Framed by the roar of the Atlantic on one side and the ripples of Long Island Sound on the other, the Hamptons deliver more than scene and celebrities.
There are century-old farms battling the real estate wolves, young food producers who have recently settled there and artisans who work with these ingredients and produce marvels.
Move over eggs and bacon! For breakfast - available all day - head to Carissas the Bakery, tucked away behind the main thoroughfare in East Hampton.
Carissa Waechter has been baking bread since she moved to the area in 2009 - the same year a farm named Amber Waves was established in nearby Amagansett to bring wheat cultivation back to the area.
With this wheat, which she mills herself, and a starter dough from 1965, Waechter bakes the best breads on the East End ($6 [R90] to $12), but the story doesn’t stop here. Waechter apprenticed with World Pastry Champion Michel Willaume and worked as a pastry chef in New York City for a decade.
For breakfast, beside chubby croissants and other viennoiseries ($5 to $7), she offers polenta cakes with peaches and crispy crumb ($8), avocado toasts topped with quail eggs ($13) and ricotta toasts with seasonal fruits ($6). Snag the chairs in the front and dig in.
Let’s face it, no one wants to interrupt a perfect Hamptons day for a formal multicourse lunch. Now, chef Jason Weiner and business partner Eric Lemonides, who recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of their Franco-American restaurant Almond, have opened L&W Market next door.
Their special blend of rustic chic is on display with lavender plants on the metal high tables and a mosaic tile floor, as is their personal way with food.
Devilled eggs zing with mustard ($2 a piece); feta cheese is smoked and marinated ($7); the banh mi sandwich features sriracha-laced mayo ($13). Charcuterie ($9.99 to $14.99) gets smoked in the magical basement, where oils are infused with basil, chilli and curry ($12.99). Local vegetables evolve into pickles ($14.99) and many products are bottled by Almond co-chefs Jason Weiner and Jeremy Blutstein, under the brand name #kimchijews.
At dinner in Sag Harbor, don’t be fooled by the café-style tables spilling onto Main Street or by the perched Manolos sipping cocktails.
Lulu’s Kitchen & Bar is a true restaurant and it dispenses both regional and Mediterranean fare. Start with a shot of local in the form of Montauk Pearls ($18) - deliciously crisp oysters - or a cold chickpea soup redolent of tahini and paprika ($14).
Then, allow yourself to be drawn by the powerful flames jetting from the open kitchen, where the huge wood-burning oven and grill presides. Go with anything grilled.
The artisan pizza ($18) could well be the best pie in the Hamptons - a chewy but somehow crispy bite that you’ll still think about next winter. Grilled cauliflower roasted whole, Israeli style ($22), emerges charred and sweet, and serves two or three.
The branzino ($38) reveals a bouquet of fresh herbs, while grilled buttermilk chicken ($32) retains tenderness.
Stop eyeing your neighbour’s skillet mac and cheese ($10); there’s always tomorrow.
- The Washington Post