Favorite Hamptons Pit Stops

Long time no see! I know it’s been a minute, but I won't get into a litany of excuses for this procrastination. I’m glad to be back here writing about the spots I’ve visited so far this summer, so without further ado, enjoy!

Because I live so close, I try to head out to Montauk and the Hamptons as much as I can during the summer. Whether it’s for a weekend or just a day trip, I’ve learned that half the fun really is getting there, and some of my favorite road trip memories have been on Montauk Highway, either speeding down the empty road if we’re lucky, or more often than not, stuck in miles and miles of stop and go traffic. I usually stay and hang out the most in Montauk, but there are a couple of pit stops I love making along the way.

On one of my most recent trips out east, my friend Shelby and I were determined to stop at Wolffer Estate Vineyard for a glass of wine and a bite to eat. I’ve fallen in love with their rosé, but have never actually gotten to see the vineyard. You can imagine the deep, dark hole of despair my heart sunk into when we found out it was closed for a wedding that day. Boo.

Photo  [via]

Photo [via]

Luckily, Wolffer has a small shop and eatery right off Rt. 27 simply called “The Wine Stand”, and it turned out to be exactly what we wanted. As you walk up to their small shop right up against the vines, you pass the Rosé Drive Thru outside - their “adult” take on a lemonade stand. It’s ADORABLE, but you actually can’t buy anything from them out there. Instead, you have racks upon racks of wine, cider, and even their new rosé gin to choose from inside.

After picking up a bottle of their rosé table wine to bring home, we ordered two glasses of their new Dry Rosé Cider and sat out on their patio next to the vineyard. Of course, it was only 1 PM so I ended up leaving with a nasty sunburn, but all in all, so worth it.

It really is a great place to relax and get the whole “Wolffer experience” without going up the road to the main estate itself. Quick tip - summer weddings are BIG at Wolffer, so if you plan on doing a tour or visiting their tasting room, definitely call ahead and check if it’s even open.

If you’re a seafood lover like me, our next stop is something of a pilgrimage: The Lobster Roll in Amagansett. Recognizable by its gigantic “LUNCH” sign nestled atop the tiny restaurant in the middle of nowhere, some say it’s where the dish by the same name was pioneered.

The iconic restaurant is a casual eatery with some seating indoors, a covered outdoor area, and an open patio in the back. While some places in the Hamptons and Montauk have become posh - and dare I say pretentious at times - this holds onto the same cozy, no-frills feel that I remember from visits out east when I was a little kid.

There are paper menus, plastic cups, dogs sitting at the patio table next to you, and the smell of the most delicious, fresh local fare wafting from the kitchen behind you. I usually get a lobster roll when I come here, but I decided to change it up and get the fried oyster po'boy which did not disappoint.

To say this place is beloved wouldn’t even really scratch the surface, and it is, in my opinion, a national treasure. Also in case you were wondering, they serve lobster rolls both hot and cold here - the cold is a traditional lobster salad with mayo, veggies and seasonings, and the hot is simply steamed lobster with melted butter drizzled on. Both are incredible, so, you know, go at least twice. Okay I think I’m done fangirling now.

This is more of a no-brainer for any drive through the country, but I really wanted to give farm stands an honorable mention before wrapping up my favorite Hamptons/Montauk pit stops. I love the way they can sneak up on you, and most often have different products every single day - you know, actual farm fresh food (what a concept right???). Aside from great fruits and veggies, I’ve scored some delicious jams, honey, plants and pies depending on the time of year and location. My favorite by far is definitely Bhumi Farms in Amagansett.

Photo  [via]

Photo [via]

Not only is it arguably the most instagram-able stand ever (I mean just LOOK AT IT), but they always have a wide variety of produce and the most gorgeous sunflowers! I’m also a big believer in supporting small businesses, and visiting family farms and farm stands like this is a great way to do that.

The road out to Montauk has so many great things to see whether they’re scenic, historical, or just fun, and I love exploring more every time I drive out there. Which ones did I miss, and which ones are your favorites? Let me know, I’d love to do a Part II!

Meet Me at Serendipity

Ah yes, Serendipity. Nothing says star-crossed love and rom com magic quite like a gigantic goblet of a frozen concoction with 14 different types of chocolate, ready to send you into a diabetic coma. I’m of course talking about the legendary Serendipity 3 on NYC’s Upper East Side and their equally iconic menu staple, the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate.

If you didn’t get my quippy reference in that first line (shame on you), then allow me to explain. Once upon a time (2001), there was a movie that was the epitome of everything most people hate about romantic comedies.

A clandestine meeting of two very unavailable people in a department store at Christmastime sparks an unlikely love story complete with two gorgeous stars du jour, John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, implausibly good jobs/nice NYC apartments, obscure literary references, predictable character arcs, a cosmic misunderstanding and - you guessed it - a short resolution and a happy ending. It’s ridiculously cheesy and has every rom com trope you could possibly think of, but you better believe I watch it EVERY time it’s on one of the movie channels…

Anyway, a major plot point centers around the time they spend together towards the beginning of the movie at Serendipity 3, a cafe who’s been pretty well known since its beginning in 1954. Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O were known to frequently visit and enjoy their different extravagant desserts, but it was the 2001 movie that thrust it moreso into popular culture, attracting visitors from everywhere, looking to have the same experience as Jonathan and Sara.

I hadn’t been to Serendipity 3 in a few years, because I’ve only ever gone when people were visiting New York, so I figured it would be the perfect experience to write about here. Because I didn’t have my own clandestine department store meeting with a handsome stranger, I dragged my friend Liz along to help me eat dessert (and split the bill). Such a trooper!

We came for a late lunch around 4:00 and surprisingly only waited around 10 minutes for a table, which is unheard of as far as I’ve seen. I’ve heard of people waiting up to 3 hours for a table there, which, in my opinion, is just dumb.

Fun Fact: Serendipity has also been featured on numerous food and travel shows since 2007 for introducing the Guinness World Record holding "Golden Opulence Sundae" that will only set you back a meager $1000. 

I won’t spend a ton of time on the lunch itself, because honestly it was nothing super crazy. I knew that I couldn’t just drink a milkshake for lunch, so I got their BLT, because most of their other entrees and sandwiches were just a little too pricey to eat two days before payday (money was tight that day, folks).

It was definitely good, but I was there for the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate. Oh baby. I’ve only had it once before, so I was excited to rediscover their iconic dessert. After lunch, Liz and I immediately regretted getting our own separate entrees because we barely had room for dessert. But we pulled through…#fortheblog.

Lucy Baker at Serious Eats once described the Frrrozen Hot Chocolate as “the love child of a milkshake and a slushy” and I couldn’t have said it better myself. We paid $11 for a fishbowl sized chalice of chocolate that could’ve easily been split with another person or two, so we were definitely satisfied.

Serendipity 3 is one of those places you might, at first mention, roll your eyes at, but there’s absolutely something to it. The inside is cozy and quirky, filled with vintage tchotchkes and Tiffany lamps that set it apart from the other restaurants in that area of the city that boast a more subdued, sophisticated, or refined kind of look. It's homey.

The wait and the crowds may be unbearable for some, but I would be lying if I said I’d never go back for one of those ridiculous, amazing, gut-busting Frrrozen Hot Chocolates.

The Not So Little Italy

To brush up on my knowledge of Little Italy before I embarked on my latest mission, I just thumbed through some travel articles and Youtube videos before writing this to get a good sense of what people’s initial impression of the neighborhood would be. It was a mix of visitors running excitedly for a cannoli at Ferrara’s and people in their 60’s and 70’s wistfully lamenting their former stomping grounds.

It was clear that Little Italy has become a place to simply pass through - sure you could sit at one of the streetside cafes, have and espresso, do as the Italians do, but the atmosphere is more comparable to the pedestrian plaza at Herald Square. A once expansive neighborhood has boiled down to, primarily, Mulberry St. between Spring and Canal, a mere 6 blocks in Lower Manhattan near the 6 train.

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I joined these hordes of people late one Thursday afternoon to take some photos and sit down for some, ahem, “authentic Italian food”. Around Spring and Mulberry is where it all really begins, and where you routinely witness people narrowly escape death as they try to get the perfect shot of the “Welcome to Little Italy” sign spanning the width of the street.

In this tiny area, the competition to get people to eat at your restaurant is fierce, simply because there are dozens to choose from. Seriously. I was walking with a friend down Mulberry, not planning on sitting down anywhere quite yet, and were descended upon by at least five or six different hosts, all toting pretty much the same thing - happy hour, homemade pasta, fresh sauce, yadda yadda.

They were extremely deliberate in their pursuits, and while I’ve gotten used to shooing people away on the street, I can easily see how an out-of-towner could be roped into sitting down for a $28 plate of penne vodka (which is ludicrous).

I think that was the one thing that really ruined the atmosphere for me. I was happy to take in all that Little Italy had, to stroll through souvenir shops and look at the weird things for sale, to stop in for a pastry at one of their many bakeries, and just explore.

But often with looks of desperation in their eyes, the restaurant hosts and store owners started to resemble auctioneers, frantically screaming at anyone to come in the door and give them business not because they had something spectacular to offer, but because they just had something to offer.

Seeing as I’m doing the whole “tourist” thing, I decided to sit down and try the food at the place that gave me their best spiel. The lucky winner was Caffe Napoli - the guy outside was nice and didn’t curse at me in Italian when I hesitated. My friend and I decided to split a plate of gnocchi pomodoro that we were promised was fresh (it wasn’t). Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible at all - in fact the sauce was homemade and pretty delicious. But it was exactly what I feared about the gimmicks and the facades of many of these “authentic” Italian eateries.

For anyone who says Little Italy has lost all its identity as an Italian cultural center, I can tell you from experience that is absolutely not true. A lot of the same establishments still exist, so do the same markets where you can buy fresh mozzarella and olive oil from the counter,  and the same pastry shops that serve up incredible cannolis and Neapolitans.

What’s changed is the major transition from being a simple neighborhood, an alcove where Italian-Americans lived together and functioned as its own little center of commerce within itself, to a cut and dry tourist destination.

If you’re from New York City, or any of the surrounding suburbs like Long Island or New Jersey, Italian food is NOT a commodity. Most of us know where to get a great dish like linguine with clam sauce, and know exactly how to pronounce words like “gnocchi” and “calamari”.

Little Italy, however, is not for these people. It has it’s purpose, and kind of saddens me to say that it’s not the authentic, tradition filled experience you’ll often see in shows, in articles, and in the retellings of people that knew Little Italy in years past. I was met with the cultural dilution that I sort of expected, but was disappointed nonetheless. I can’t really say it wasn’t worth the trip, because it really is an interesting little microcosm just blocks away from SoHo - but my advice to anyone visiting is to adjust your expectations, and appreciate it for what it once was in spite of what it is today.