Sep 19 2011

Book Review: Savoring the Hamptons

Savoring the Hamptons: Discovering the Food and Wine of Long Island’s East End, by Silvia Lehrer, 2011, Running Press Book Publishers, 2300 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103-4371. ISBN 978-0-7624-4023-8.

This is a book I wish I had written. It’s really a cookbook with a smattering of recipes provided by local chefs, but what I like best is the profiles of the small producers, restaurants, chefs and wine and cheese makers of Long Island.  Stories of changing markets and the challenges of preserving farmland in the midst of the some of the world’s most valuable real estate are presented with candor and understanding.

Over the course of the past 11 years my job has taken my husband and me to the Hamptons where we discovered a surprisingly rural landscape. Less than 100 miles from Manhattan, the two-lane main road from Hampton Bays to Montauk is dotted with endless farm stands, tiny locavore restaurants, organic vegetable farms and vineyards, like the Halsey family’s Green Thumb stand in Water Mill that displays a sign proudly proclaiming:

Family farmed since 1644!

Raised beds behind Estia's Little Kitchen restaurant. photo.

Not much farther along the road an antique Farmall tractor painted pink alerts you to another farm stand.

It’s hard to counteract the public perception of the Hamptons as a hang-out for uber-rich celebrities in seaside mansions, but this book does a pretty good job of depicting the down home feel of the area and the family farms and organic community that co-exist with that other reality (though to be precise the book is as much about the North Fork as it is the Hamptons). In this alternative world, the average person is just as likely to encounter Paul McCartney and Alec Baldwin at a local mom-and-pop restaurant as on a red carpet.

One of our favorite breakfast hangouts profiled by Lehrer is Estia’s Little Kitchen—a tiny, 36-seat restaurant on the side of the road featuring an impressive vegetable and herb garden around back. Another is the equally tiny Beacon overlooking the marina in Sag Harbor.

Savoring the Hamptons paints a delicious picture of the other face of the Hamptons and is worth reading not only for the recipes, but also as a portrait of small producers and the many ways they can thrive.


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