ITCHING FOR MORE LOCAL PRODUCTS? FORGET THE FLEA MARKET! 3 LOCAL GOTTA BUYS!

It’s not as glamorous as it sounds but I was recently driving back from Philadelphia to the Hamptons.    I know, I know… the Outerbridge Crossing is New Jersey’s answer to the Pacific Coast Highway.  But alas, I’m straying off point.   While taking said drive I stopped  at the Long Island Visitors Center in Dix Hills which in case you didn’t know is the first non-disgusting place to stop after Trenton.    It’s also the home of a little store called “A Taste of NY.”   The store features all locally made foods and products from area farm, vineyards and bakeries.    This had me thinking, while we all know about the bigger local products like Tate’s Cookies and Wolffer wines.   There are some other great local products that you might have missed.    Lucky for you, I’m here to share a few of my favorites.

vsc bolo

Vine Street Cafe’s Mushroom Bolognese Sauce – A hearty alternative for your vegan dinner guests, this stuff is just as good as visiting the restaurant.  Seriously, this is not like buying Emeri’s stuff which is more like Ragu with a different label!  I’ve always loved this dish at the restaurant and this is pretty close to dining out.    While VSC has other sauces including a basic tomato and vegetable to go,  this one is IMHO the winner.   It doesn’t taste like a real bolognese (sausage, veal, etc.) but it is rich, hearty and doesn’t make you feel like you’re missing anything.  It’s thick rich and awesomely flavorful.   The sauce retails for about $12.00 and you can buy it at Vine Street on Shelter Island, Cove Hollow Tavern in East Hampton, Harbor Market in Sag Harbor or order it online by clicking here.

Nounos

Nounos Greek Yogurt – Real greek yogurt made right here in Southampton!  Don’t let the fancy packaging intimidate you, this is like a trip to Mykonos without the hangover or Lindsay Lohan.  This stuff is incredibly rich, flavorful and it’s low-fat!  Nounos according to their website is all natural, hormone and anti-biotic free.   If you’re going to try one, I suggest the blueberry blend or mixed berry.    You might have seen Nounos around town in places like the Golden Pear but probably didn’t know it’s local.  Well it is and it’s good and you need to try it.    A 5+ ounce container retails for about $4.00.    If you don’t see it around town you can visit their website to find local sellers.

Hamptons Salt Company Black Truffle –  When I was growing up my Lithuanian Grandmother used to love to cook for me.  I always wonder if she actually liked me based on her stew.    She would cook for my family more than I cared to admit and food had two flavors, salted or really salted.   Anyway, real chefs know the

Hamptonssalt

seasoning is as important as

the actual cooking and there is nothing more crucial than the salt.    I discovered this stuff at Red Horse Market in East Hampton and it was love first shake.    My personal favorite recipe is slightly blanched brussel sprouts covered with a light olive oil and the Hamptons Salt Company Black Truffle seasoning.  Awesomeness!   They also have a variety of salts including rosemary,

ghost pepper and even lime.   Prices range from about $10 for a basic sea salt to $29 for the truffle.    If you want more information or where you can buy HSC click here.

So now you know why I haven’t blogged in a long time.  I’ve been cooking…. and eating.  Now time to hop on the Peloton and burn off all the extra calories.  Hopefully I’ll be back again soon.

 

DISCOUNT DINING ON THE EAST END… PLUS, WHY YOU DON’T HAVE TO WAIT TILL EXIT 70.

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s starting to look a lot like spring in the Hamptons.    Are the trees budding?   Have the lilies bloomed?   NO!   Traffic is picking up.   There are more cars today than there were last weekend and probably more next week.    One of the other rites of spring is also here, “RESTAURANT WEEK.”     From March 26th to April 2nd, a select number of eateries will be celebrating “East End Restaurant Week.”   I’m not sure how this IS different than “Hamptons Restaurant Week”….. but…..  many of the names are similar.   Fresno, Nick and Toni’s and Service Station in East Hampton, Le Charlot and Union Cantina in Southampton and Page, Wolffer Kitchen and Barons Cove in Sag Harbor are a few of the participating eateries.

zuccini chips
Zucchini Chips at N&T’s!

For a complete list of where to chow you can click here for the details. For a complete list of where to chow you can click here for the details.

Speaking of Union Cantina in Southampton..  I recently stopped by for dinner and was pleasantly surprised.   I went when they first opened and was initially underwhelmed.

UNION CANTINA 2
Deconstructed Enchiladas

Luckily, I decided to give them another shot.      You should too.    We started with what I assume are the homemade chips and guacamole,  very solid.   After that,  I had the “deconstructed” enchiladas, house salad and tortilla soup.    All were delicious with a little heat but not overwhelming.      The service was good… not great but good.   It could be that I was there on a snowy night and nobody really felt like working.   I know I didn’t feel like cooking on a snowy night!    We all love a snow day.    Anyway, I would say try for yourself and let me know if you agree.    Oh, the margaritas are definitely worth trying too…. not too sweet with a good kick.

Are we there yet??????  Are we there yet?    Well, I’m already here …. out of the traffic suckas!    But while you haul your buts… or is it butts… out here in the

Whale
This just screams fun!  Unlike Sea World where there are just screams.

next few weeks there’s something new along the LIE!   I know…  excitement on the expressway!   No longer do you need to ignore your kids and spouses and declare they, “hold it in until exit 70.”     You now have the Long Island Visitors at Exit 52!   That nearly 18 exits sooner!!!  Yes, I’m good at math… I took Calculus 101 twice!     Anyway, “THE” answer is yes… they are clean bathrooms.    Plus, they have a a market featuring long island specialties and some fine cups of coffee too.    But for me, I had a whale of a good time just walking into the place (see photo).   It’s almost as fun as Sea World but nobody gets eaten by the giant fish!

 

 

Are Short Term Rentals Harming The Hamptons… and I FINALLY got to Topping Rose!!

So the Hamptons are more crowded this year than last.  But yet, everyone from shop keepers and especially real estate agents (talking rentals) are saying that business is off.   One thing I always do when I take my stroll around town trying to look better dressed than the next guy, I always ask shop owners “how was your season?”   The response I keep hearing “not great.”    But it’s so crowded, which leaves me wondering what gives!?     Well some folks are blaming the increasing popularity of those short term rental websites for the problem.       For example, you can rent a house in Southampton from a website called Marquis for a nightly rate of $1,100 a night even though this is in violation of town code which requires a minimum of 14 days.     So, according to some there lies the problem.    You have a house which advertises an occupancy of 12 people each essentially paying $100 per person, they’re not the types who are going to be spending money about town in the shops and restaurants.     By the way, I like that the Hamptons are becoming more accessible to folks who wouldn’t normally be able to visit but by allowing overcrowding in houses it’s more like a spring break location than quiet escape from city living.    What do you think?

Finally,  I got the chance to visit the new Topping Rose by Jean Georges last night and I can say is it was worth the wait.  Although the reservation lines need some fixing… about 45 minutes of holds, hang ups and transfers… the total experience was great.   The menu is unpretentious with everything from an amazing mini pizza to a terrific kale salad and a really solid cheese burger.    Service was solid and entrees arrived within a half hour of ordering.  I had the penne with meatballs and thought they were over the top awesome.   My dinner guests ordered the burger and the salmon, each earning a thumbs up from each.   I also recommend the heirloom tomato salad which right now is on the tail of being in season so go try it now.    This is a huge step up from last year’s outing by Tom Colicchio.

Salsa… Soros… and more!

I’ve griped forever about how there isn’t a good Mexican “sit down” restaurant in the Hamptons.    I’ve complained and complained.  Yes, I like La Fondita and Sabrosa but I can’t really see having a nice quiet dinner at either location.     But this summer, it seems we finally can get the whole enchilada and enjoy it too!

First in Southampton is Union Cantina.   Located at the site of the former Southampton Public House,   the “Cantina” opened in mid-June and has been packing it’s tables ever since.   So far, the reviews have been pretty good.   I haven’t yet been but FOHC (Friends of Hamptons Chatter) have been telling me the foods pretty solid… not outstanding but good.    The standouts according to my sources are the enchiladas, roasted peach glazed pork and the freshly made salsa.  While the prices are certainly not Taco Bell they’re not exactly Nello either.    So based on the word of mouth around town it seems Union Cantina is worth a visit.    If you’ve been, let me know what you think.
Secondly,  The Blue Parrot in East Hampton has long been a punch line for bad food and bad service in my book forever!  I went a few years ago when it first opened under the new management which includes Jon Bon Jovi and the girl from Jerry Maguire who has a name I can’t spell.   The food was overpriced, lousy and served with a snarl from the surly staff.      If that wasn’t bad enough they used to have a bouncer there which would have lead you to believe, folks were clamoring to get inside…. and they weren’t.   Anyway, for whatever reason I decided to stop by for a visit last week after a hiatus of close to three years.      The first thing I encountered was a friendly staff and no bouncer!     I had to wait while my table was being prepped so I sat at the bar and had a really great margarita… at $15 bucks it was no bargain but the pour was generous and the mason jar/drinking glass was filled pretty high.
I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I like you!!!

After about 5 minutes, the table was ready and I sat down as fresh tortilla chips and salsa were being dropped off at the table.      That was followed by the house Oaxaca salad and Lime Chipotle fajitas.  While I know fajitas aren’t exactly gourmet and probably not the best way to judge the cuisine, I have to say they were really good and served with fresh made corn tortillas.     By the way, yes you can make bad fajitas I should know, I worked at a Chi Chi’s in college (for those of you who don’t know, it was the Mexican Olive Garden of the 80’s).     My partner in crime Peter had the fish tacos which which also garnered a big thumbs up.      The final verdict is that I take back all the negative things I’ve said in the past about Blue Parrot.    The snarky Go Fund Me page for the chef to take cooking lessons has been taken down and my mea culpa is complete.     So ,  if you’ve not been to The Blue Parrot in years, take my advice and give it another shot.

Finally, just in time for August some good news about what makes the Hamptons such a fun place to live.    According to sources, billionaire investor George Soros made a stop with a few friends at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor.   While that’s not anything to set rumors flying what happened when the check was delivered is the interesting part.  Apparently Mr. S. (as I call him) paid his hefty check with 4 figures not including cents and added on a 100%+ tip for the staff.     While I haven’t been able to confirm this Christmas come early gift from the tight lipped staff at the hotel… my sources are pretty reliable.     Besides, what’s so wrong with being nice!?