The latest status game? King of the hill. Trading in your Range Rover for a bulldozer. It used to be intimidating enough to have your own tennis court or indoor theater. Now you have to literally move the earth. Or, have it moved. Helmut Lang put in a hill. Richard Meier trucked in several tons of rubble to transform his plot of land into a miniature Matterhorn. After all, the famously flat landscape of the East End may be perfect for potato fields, but it can look awfully midwestern for a fabulously exclusive beach resort.
So in the spirit of this new bulldozed-landscape ethic, New York has remapped the Hamptons, so to speak: Though the newly assigned 631 area code is most commonly broken down by township, it is more and more a landscape of tribes traveling in their own spheres, not to mention in their own planes.
And where will they be traveling? While many of last summer's favorite watering holes, sporting pursuits, and clothing emporia have been held over by popular demand, there are more new kids on the block than ever -- restaurants, fashion boutiques, furniture dealers, upscale food marts. Wring your hands if you must, but think: Now, what would summer in the Hamptons be without some new bodies to dissect?
There are those among us who think nothing of taking Monday off. Of taking Friday off and driving out to the beach on Thursday. With the top down. Or even the top off.
Ah, to be young and single, with a summer share out on the East End -- parts of which are beginning to bear a striking resemblance to that other seasonal migratory destination, Fort Lauderdale. In a fleet of shiny little black Porsche Boxsters and perfectly battered Ford pickups, they bomb around the back roads (thanks to the new edition of Jodi's Shortcuts, the indispensable guide to avoiding Traffic Hampton) like a demented Matchbox rally. They will zip from a tanning-and-scoping session on Sagg Main Beach up to a cocktail party at the Bridgehampton Polo Club (where it seems like the VIP entrance is oddly larger than the entrance for the non-VIPs), off to dinner at Sen in Sag Harbor. Later, perhaps a Southampton stop at a roadside carnival -- isn't that Tiffany Dubin on the Tilt-A-Whirl? -- then to Jet East or out west for the super-packed pickup scene and an overpriced Cosmopolitan at Cyril's, all before crawling down to that nightlife stalwart Conscience Point for a little something to toast the rosy-fingered dawn, which, just like Sean "Puffy" Combs, should be here any minute.
But that was last year. Luckily for novelty-seekers, there is a bumper crop of new pit stops, even -- horrors -- a Starbucks soon to open in Bridgehampton.
This summer's greatest expression of the sacred trend in the Hamptons -- a place that looks authentically local on the outside and resembles Manhattan on the inside -- opens shortly at the historic 1770 House on Main Street in East Hampton. Cerulean, the place is called, as in the color of the Caribbean (not the North Atlantic) or as in Cerulean Villa, a boutique hotel operated by the same people in Anguilla, who have imported their chef, Cybele Cuzon, to do her magic with tropical Asian fare here. Cerulean aims to be this year's Maya's -- scene-wise, at least. Maya's, you may remember, was last year's St. Barts-to-Wainscott transplant, which burned so red-hot that the owners ran screaming back to their island paradise after only one summer.
And opening in Maya's (once Sapore di Mare's) stead, a new casual Italian restaurant-lounge (with the accent on lounge) called Saracen. Launched by, of all people, the scion of the family that owns Angelo's in Little Italy, Saracen promises to be more hip nonstop hangout than power-dinner scene. Famous last words; that's what Maya's was supposed to be, too.
Over in once-sleepy Sag Harbor, nightlife is keeping the sidewalks rolled out later and later. For those who have decided that they will no longer stand and wait for the scene at Sen, there's Phao, right across the street, a new Thai restaurant just opened by Sen's creator, Dean Golden. There's also a new place opening around the corner at 21 West Water Street. A hybrid of a barbecue joint and a sushi bar, it's called Sushi-Q. So you can have your spare ribs and yellowtail-scallion rolls all at once. And if you're thinking of sarcastically ordering "pork sushi," do it soon. That joke will be dead by Memorial Day.
There's even a new club to break the tedium: the A-Lounge on North Sea Road in Southampton, which promises to be a Jet East scene right down to its VIP terrace.
What to wear? Well, the guys can get all their gear at the Polo Country Store in East Hampton, where the fresh weekly shipments of vintage T-shirts and pin-neat khakis can turn anyone into a picture-perfect prep, summer edition, with one quick credit-card transaction. But there's a good way to update the old-school look: Springer's, just around the corner on Newtown Lane, has a shipment of Jack Spade courier bags, guaranteed to brush up even the lamest Hawaiian-print shirt.
But for les demoiselles, surprise, surprise, it's not so simple. Not only are last year's hot spots -- Calypso and Scoop in East Hampton -- stocked and ready to rock, but the hunky designer Tracy Feith has opened his own boutique around the corner behind the surf shop. Feith's miniscule string bikinis promise to be the essential daytime look of the summer, for those who can pull it off (and get it on). And for those who still labor to maintain a single shred of dignity, Feith's sultry, floaty dresses still manage to bare plenty.
Whatever the others might imagine, going to the Hamptons with one or more of the must-have Manhattan accessory -- a child -- isn't as easy as it looks. Indeed, perhaps your idea of socializing means leaving the kids with your honey pie and buzzing over to do some grocery shopping at Loaves and Fishes in Bridgehampton.
Sound dispiritingly domestic? Well, add a velvet rope, ignore the toddlers, and it's Studio 54-year-old. All the boomers are there at 10 a.m. to round up breakfast and lunch for everyone back at the ranch and put their names down for a couple of roast chickens for dinner (they'll all be spoken for by noon). You've never seen grown adults so happy to be standing in a bread line. After delivering the goods -- muffins, juice, coffee, and the Times' cute little Saturday edition -- it's off to load up on kids' stuff at Calypso and at Penny Whistle Toys in Bridgehampton (and check on when and if babyGap is opening across the street, as rumored), and go in for a well-earned round of air-kissing. Then it's off with the tots for a nature walk in East Hampton, or to the Sag Harbor Bridge to go crabbing.
Now, to add to the heady greengrocer scene (which also includes the Red Horse Market and Barefoot Contessa in East Hampton and The Green Thumb in Water Mill), the West Side's venerable Citarella just made its debut in Water Mill. And speaking of potential scenes for the married-with-children set, let us not forget that Kmart has arrived in Bridgehampton. Stock up on Hamptons-ready Martha Stewart outdoor furniture, pastel sheets and towels (for the kids' rooms), and a cornucopia of brightly colored water-squirting toys that will carpet the once-pristine lawn for the next three months. (Hey -- better outside than in.)
For the exhausted post-beach crew, the charming, beloved Snowflake Café between East Hampton and Amagansett has gotten the East End face-lift, courtesy of Hal Zwick of the Paradise Café in Sag Harbor. It'll still be serving the same fifties-era summer fare as the good old Snowflake -- burgers, soft-serve ice cream, onion rings, etc. -- but will also be currying the grown-up palate with espresso, salads, and homemade desserts. As for dinner -- well, how many times can you take the kids to Turtle Crossing in East Hampton for ribs (though thankfully, it's just started serving Sunday brunch) or out to Gosman's Dock in Montauk?
But thanks to The Seafood Shop in Wainscott, there is good news for the people (and many in number they are) who are loath to venture into the competitive restaurant scene but who are too lazy, or too lousy with a skillet, to cook. Already beloved for providing wonderful ready-made lunches, the shop has extended its hours and is now putting together delicious seafood dinners as well. And across the way, Breadzilla now has the most delicious homemade ice cream around.
As for venturing out into the wild, wild wilds of restaurantdom, the spanking-new Riccardo's Seafood House -- from Riccardo Traslavina, ex of 95 School Street and The Laundry -- on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton hits just the right mix of a nice upscale ambience that's good enough for adults but not too daunting, (price-, menu-, or ambience-wise) for the younger generation.
Or you can do what you do back in town: Leave 'em home with a pizza from World Pie in Bridgehampton and a video from BookHampton, where they have an alarmingly large selection of kids' tapes. Hey, that's what you got the au pair for, isn't it?
The Sporty Set
Then there are those who are more likely to get up at 5:30 a.m. than to be just getting home. After all, that's when the sun's just peeking over the horizon, the wind hasn't come up yet, and neither have the Hampton hordes. All is right with the world if your idea of relaxation is to strap on the running shoes, get the sails down, and shake out the wet suit.
Yes, for some people, the status symbol of the summer isn't the new Hermès see-through watch or the latest low-heeled Manolo Blahnik mule but, say, a windsurf board or a bicycle. Take the Trek Lance Armstrong Signature Edition, a limited edition of the mighty yellow-and-blue two-wheeled chariot that Armstrong rode to glory in last year's Tour de France. For a mere $3,900, it can be special-ordered (although delivery takes a week) through Cycle Path in Wainscott. For those who want to take the cyclist look one step further, Vinnie's Barber Shop up the way in Amagansett will shave your head for next to nothing.
For the actual exercising -- which is the whole point here -- there are the miles of Montauk bicycle paths, away from the slow crawl of the Montauk Highway. But the newest hard-core trip is actually biking the 90-some miles out from the city while your significant other charges on ahead with the bike rack strapped to the roof of the Pathfinder. And hey, if traffic is bad, you could actually beat him or her there. The best route to take? Over the Brooklyn Bridge, south to Route 27, take a left, and straight on till morning. After all, 27 not only is the Route 66 of Long Island but will also keep you in intermittent contact with Long Island Rail Road stations should you run low on steam or chutzpa.
For those not short on either, there is the Mighty Montauk Triathlon in June, followed three months later by the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon in Southampton. While the Hamptons aren't generally held to be the extreme-sports capital of the world, both contests draw a great number of athletes who are training for Hawaii's legendary Ironman competition in October -- along with some local talent. Colorist Louis Licari did Montauk last year and lived to tell the tale.
Fitness maniacs can make their way to Lotte Berk in Bridgehampton, the largely women-only exercise spot whose workout classes on Saturday and Sunday morning have become as indispensable as botox injections. For those with a more spiritual side, Naturopathica Holistic Health in East Hampton is back up and running. Same old yoga but several new spa treatments, exercise fiends will be glad to note. And at the extreme-workout specialists, Radu and Alex in Bridgehampton, there are two new workouts -- an easier one and a harder one. Speedfit is a full-body regimen done on treadmills paced for a general audience, and Boot Camp Track involves military exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, running, and other G.I. Joe activities. Crew-cut not included.
Golf enthusiasts might finally have a few new holes to play. This may just be the summer that the Stony Hill Golf Course in Amagansett wins its decades-long struggle with zoning, but then again, it looks like it'll have to open sans clubhouse, over which there is a new battle brewing.
For those athletes more inclined to work up a social sweat, last year's inaugural Paul Annacone Tennis Classic was such a hit that it's back for a second year, with Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw among the sponsors. Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger have also come onboard -- they'll be hosting the grand-finale dinner -- and talked the tournament into benefiting the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial in addition to its other charities. (It's just not summer without the Kennedys.)
As the active set, exhausted from the weekend's activities, wends its way back to the East Deck Motel -- the ragged-around-the-edges overnight spot for every serious surfer on the coast -- those with an appetite can stop in at Pacific East in Amagansett. After all, even athletic extremists have to eat, and it's just opened a sushi bar. What could be healthier?
And then there are the boys of summer who like the other boys of summer. From the Memorial Day kickoff of the Miracle House Benefit at the Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club to the weekly rounds of cocktail parties (and the occasional twirl around the concrete dance floor at The Swamp in Wainscott), being a gay man in the summertime Hamptons can be as breakneck a life as any social aspirant, gay or straight, could hope. After all, the halcyon, non-networky days of Fire Island Pines are behind us. Extreme partying for gay men in the Hamptons means staying out Sunday night to go to the groovy triple-D scene (that's drinks, dinner, and dancing) at Tsunami in East Hampton and driving back into town early Monday.
The beloved Paradise Diner in Sag Harbor has now become the super-tony Paradise Café, so those who used to frequent it will have to find a new spot or get used to coughing up a bit more for dinner. But then, anything can happen: More and more, gay men are slipping out of their tank tops and sandals into something less comfortable -- a blazer, a Range Rover, and the upper-middle-class mainstream of Route 27. Even Rowdy Hall in East Hampton has become a gay scene at brunch.
Still, on the beach many gay men are old-fashioned -- old-fashioned in these circles meaning a Speedo or nothing. That, among other reasons, is why there's been a branch of Speedo Authentic Fitness in the Bridgehampton Commons for years. But some may be tempted by the nylon trunks at Tracy Feith's new store, which the designer promises are a briefer and closer-fitting version of the popular surf shorts. ("I hate relaxed-fit anything," says Feith.) Feith also has other cool threads -- in his trademark far-out fabrics -- for non-beach moments. And, luckily for all concerned, the clothier Sean, that fashionable SoHo stalwart, has also opened a branch in East Hampton, bringing the house's sleek and smart brand of menswear cool to points east.
But it's not just about looking good in person; there's the house to think about. For the house-proud -- almost everyone, in other words -- working at turning the cottage into a letter-perfect getaway worthy of chronicle in Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, or Wallpaper* (depending on the generation) is paramount. And believe it or not, size doesn't matter. It can be major, like Scott Bessent and Will Trinkel's place on Further Lane -- where the after-party for the Empire State Pride Agenda Benefit is being held this year -- not only the ultimate Hamptons address because of all the protected dunes but the ultimate gay address to boot, since it abuts Two Mile Hollow, the East Hampton gay beach. There's been many a near-miss at the intersection resulting from a two-driver, high-speed once-over.
Or it could be a minor place in what has been described as the Chelsea of the Hamptons -- the several blocks of cute little cottages north of the East Hampton train station. No wonder that Jean-Yves Legrand, whose well-regarded shop of modernist furniture, Neo-Studio in Miami, has opened an outpost in Sag Harbor, so that everyone who couldn't find anything at Sage Street Antiques can be assured of locating a bona fide treasure (and be assured it will cost a bona fide fortune). And Jonathan Adler, the retro-ceramics maven whose go-go pots, pillows, and lamps have won the hearts of designers everywhere, has just opened a store at 1 Main Street in East Hampton. Likewise, the design shop Comerford Hennessy at Home, which opened last summer in Bridgehampton, is still chicer-than-thou, but it's no longer small. This year, it has more than doubled in size and is now stocking everything from Jean-Michel Frank club chairs to Chris Lehreche lamps. And then there's the landscaping, which involves other decisions: One has to choose between the Hamptons' four most hunky -- and talented -- landscape designers: Mac Hoak, Madison Cox, Brian Sawyer, or Miguel Pons. Or don't decide: Let your budget do it for you.
In the Money
And then there are those who would probably lump the above gangs together under two words: amateur hour. For a not-so-select few, the East End is a playground for the same game of acquisitions that they play all week at work. In the Hamptons, just as on Wall Street, it's all about numbers: of acres, feet of beach frontage, Sub-Zero refrigerators, full-grown willow trees, house staff, Tod's loafers, commutes out and back by helicopter, the number of minutes spent on David Holmes's massage table, and the number of minutes spent waiting for a table at the newly refurbished Nick & Toni's. In the latter case, the wait just got more difficult, since the renovation has put a window in the kitchen, so diners (and those waiting) can watch the raw material turn into delicious stuff.
They've got the house -- a six-bedroom, 15,000-square-foot shingle-style number designed by Francis Fleetwood (or perhaps just "school of"), nicely situated on 4.3 acres of an erstwhile potato field in Wainscott that ran them a mere $5.2 million. They've got the cars, the new Audi TT Roadster convertible, a '57 Corvette convertible -- red and white and mint all over -- and, last but not least, an SUV for the help. It would appear that they have everything, but that would be missing the point. There is always more to be bought. Or at the very least, more to be delivered. As anyone who has braved the nightmare of the hordes knows all too well, the ultimate luxury automobile is this: which-ever one the delivery guy is driving.
To that end, the Red Horse Market has taken delivering one step further, offering what it calls "Room Service" -- Sunday brunch delivered to your house, free of charge as long as you're in East Hampton; further than that, it's a $15 charge. You fill out the order form at the store the day before (true agoraphobes can do it via fax). And for those who become addicted to the service, the Red Horse does have personal shoppers -- just like at Barneys -- who will fill a basket from a phone order and have it sent over.
Availing yourself of such cushy service does have a downside: It implies that you don't have a private chef, which is summer's only true, must-have kitchen appliance. That way, one need never sully one's reputation by being seen in the Red Horse or Barefoot Contessa -- unless you're just dropping by to place a special order at the meat counter; very chic -- on your way to the East Hampton airport to pick up your friends from Hollywood. Their luggage, of course, contains the reels of whatever film is due to open in three weeks, which will be shown that very night in your private screening room.
Getting the perishables delivered, of course, leaves time to shop for the important things: trees and clothes. Marders Nursery on Snake Hollow Road is the place to be seen purchasing the former. But if it's London-plane trees you're after, you're not alone. Ira Rennert, he of the Sagaponack megacompound, just bought 250 of the trees -- all the stock in the area -- for his grounds, for a rumored $5,000 apiece. And for the clothing, there is finally a luxe shop for high-end designer wear. Georgina East, on Main Street in East Hampton, which opened last month, stocks all the threads of the moment: Michael Kors, Jean Paul Gaultier, Dolce & Gabbana, and shoes from Celine and Sergio Rossi. Both Kors and Randolph Duke will be in the store for trunk shows, as well. So the mister can drop off the missus and take a nice long drive into Southampton for an espresso and a perusal of the cigars at Doug & Besim's big new digs at 46 Jobs Lane. By the time he makes it back, in three hours or so, she'll be ready to go.
And with their brand-new accessories -- her pumps and his stogie -- the two of them will be ready for a little dinner at the Beacon, the hip nouvelle restaurant recently opened in Sag Harbor, which has radically revamped its menu and gone where even nouvelle has feared to go. To wit: Among the offerings are poached duck foie gras tourchon on a warm fig pancake with muscat gelée and curly endive; lobster-vegetable ravioli in lemongrass nage and edamame beurre blanc; mango upside-down cake with ginger ice cream and rum-coconut anglaise. It makes Nick & Toni's look like a clam shack.
Or maybe, more importantly, these newly minted millionaires will be off to a soirée in honor of the First Lady, if high-visibility DNC member and Babette's owner Barbara Layton has her way. Layton's throwing at least one fête at her own place, but you can bet she'll be helping spearhead others. See, Hillary's got the Hamptons spirit, too: She's counting on lots of people to deliver.
Last but not least, there are the old-liners, the Wasps. Of course, anyone who has been coming to the Hamptons for more than fifteen years at this point qualifies, since the chief activity of the old-liners is watching in dismay as the East End goes to hell in an overpriced wicker handbasket (from Ruby Beets in Bridgehampton).
What to mourn this summer? First off, the fact that Jodi's Shortcuts has ruined the back roads -- Scuttlehole has turned into the L.I.E.
Second, the fact that the Village of East Hampton has taken to putting one-hour parking meters in the town's central lot. Who has quarters lying around when you're used to putting everything on the house charge?
Third, the fact that Red Marq, a beautiful little card-and-stationery shop on Main Street in Bridgehampton, not only disappeared without a trace last year but that no one seems to have noted its passing. You can bet that if The Golden Pear closed down, there'd be obits for days.
Fourth, the fact that the long-cherished Southampton Showhouse, which has in the past gotten the summer off to a nice start, has been discontinued since the Rogers Memorial Library (the Showhouse's beneficiary) is having a July 8 gala instead.
Fifth, the demise of the eminently dreary Bayberry and Concorde motels in Southampton, which have been gutted and totally revamped by Jeff Salaway, Mark Smith, and David Waksman. The same trio opened the Atlantic last summer, transforming an old motel into luxurious rooms; now they have done it again to two more, creating the Capri and the Bentley. A room will cost from $220 to $390 on a summer weekend. And why is that such bad news? Because a hotel can only mean one thing: no invitation.
Sixth, the brand-new stoplight in Water Mill that is making every old-Volvo driver on 27 dream wicked off-road fantasies of plowing through all of the town's cute little new stores. One way around it, of course, is to make a dinner reservation at this year's latest incarnation of Station Road (with its accompanying bar, Le Club Car) at the old Water Mill train station and wait it out. Though the longtime Station Bistro -- a stuffy favorite of the Fine French Furniture crowd -- has vanished, the new place has been charmingly reinvented as a lavish Asian-cum-Continental by the Hamptons über-restaurateur Dean Golden, and is sure to win over some of the Waspy set -- at the very least the Chinese Chippendale contingent.
But the old-liners have always known what the rest of the Hamptons is just discovering this year: If you can't beat 'em, avoid 'em. Which is why the country clubs -- Shinnecock Hills, Southampton Bathing Corporation, The Maidstone -- still thrive while city clubs flounder.
And there are other evergreens that have not yet been cut down. Shippy's restaurant in Southampton -- favorite of the Nan Kempner gang -- is one; the Mecox Gardens shops, with their ultrarefined House & Garden knickknacks, is another. And thank Heaven for Ruzzetti & Gow, whose giant silvered sea shells (mail order, 212-643-0096) are the apotheosis of upper-crust summer décor. There is, of course, endless grocery shopping -- a favorite Wasp activity even if the end result is pallid -- to take advantage of and grouse about at the same time, e.g., "Why doesn't the Barefoot Contessa sell Triscuits?" And while Sag Harbor Clothiers in Sag Harbor and the Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton both stock Lacoste shirts, the real trick is to not pack a bag for the weekend and just drop by the boutique on Madison and 54th on your way to the Jitney stop at 59th and Lex. A couple of polos in celery, light yellow, and peach, a pair of tennis shorts, and you're ready for your court. (If the club policy is tennis whites-only, the light yellow always passes muster.)
The Monogram Shop in East Hampton -- it really lives up to that name -- is still turning out its preppy merch to the letter. Even if the show house is no more, the Parrish Art Museum Benefit is forever. Old-liners will be glad to see that Bill Bonbrest Jr. is back as the host of the Laundry in East Hampton, a happy sight, since Bonbrest Sr. originally ran the Hamptons institution. And for those who really find that there's nowhere to turn, nowhere to find other blue-blooded Wasps, well . . . there's always Nantucket.