The Hamptons for Foodies and Farm Enthusiasts
The farm-to-table lifestyle is easy out east
Long before eastern Long Island became the preferred seaside escape for wealthy urbanites fleeing Manhattan, it was a flourishing fishing and farming community. Much of the verdant farmland has given way to multi-acre private estates, but preserving land for agriculture is still a priority.
Vineyards and farms, and the field-to-table restaurants they supply, are all hallmarks of the bounty of the Hamptons. Aside from being the place to see and be seen, Hamptons restaurants are bustling in the high season—and with good reason.
The abundance of fresh seasonal produce and catches of the day lures accomplished chefs and discerning diners.
Louisa and Alex Hargrave planted the first vineyard in 1973 and named it Hargrave Vineyard, which was purchased in the late 1999s by Ann Marie and Marco Borghese and is now Castello di Borghese. The first vineyard was planted in 1973, and the area has since flourished to become one of the country’s most up-and-coming wine regions.
“There are many fine wineries on the South and North Forks that have developed and refined their wines over the past three decades. There are also some wonderful farms like Quail Hill, where people become members and go daily to pick vegetables,” said Andrea Ackerman, an agent with Brown Harris Stevens.
Maggie LaCasse of Discover Long Island says there are around 70 wineries on Long Island, three of which are on the South Fork. Although a smaller wine-producing region than the North Fork (just a short drive from the Hamptons), the South Fork vineyards—Duck Walk in Water Mill, Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack and Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton—have all produced award-winning regional wines.
"Winemaking is at the heart of all we do at Wölffer,” said Alison Tuthill, marketing director at Wölffer Estate. “Vineyard Manager Richie Pisacano meticulously manages our 55 pristine acres of vines. We grow merlot, chardonnay, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and small lots of trebbiano, pinot noir and vignole,” she said. They also use sustainable farming practices. “All our wines are made using estate-grown or locally-sourced fruit, and our dry white and rosé ciders are made from New York state apples, sourced from the Halsey Apple Orchard and other growers that meet the Halseys' high standards,” Ms. Tuthill said.
Nearly two dozen farm stands and farmers markets can be found in the villages running from Southampton to Montauk at the tip of the peninsula. Opened in 1945, North Sea Farms in Southampton sells eggs and seasonal produce from its family-owned farm on Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Bridgehampton locals load up on local jams, herbs, produce and baked goods at the Hayground School Farmers’ Market and the Montauk Farmers Market where regional growers gather on weekends from June through September.
Opportunities to taste the just-plucked goodness seem to pop up at every turn.
"Many of the local farms are on very valuable property, yet they still choose to farm and are very proud of that,” said Susan Breitenbach of the Corcoran Group. She recommends the family-owned Mecox Farm, where they make their own cheese and other treats, such as homemade pies stuffed with seasonal fruit like peaches, blueberries or rhubarb.
“Shop for organic produce at the Green Thumb Farm, and pick-your-own seasonal produce—from strawberries and blackberries to apples and pumpkins—at local farms,” she said.
Tasting rooms at Duck Walk in Water Mill, Wölffer Estate in Sagaponack (which also distills gin) and Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton offer opportunities to taste the local vintages. “There are many events at wineries, including live music on Friday evenings throughout the year at Wölffer Estate,” Ms. Ackerman said. Later in the season, Ms. Breitenbach noted, there are the annual harvest party in October and the December lighting of the vines charity event hosted by Wölffer Estate.
As for where to dine, “Wolffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor and Amagansett serve farm-to-table cuisine as well as their own wines from their vineyard in Sagaponack,” Ms. Ackerman added. “Other notable farm-to-table restaurants are Topping Rose in Bridgehampton, whose executive chef is Jean-Georges. Also, Nick and Toni’s in East Hampton and Estia in Sag Harbor pick their own vegetables.”
As to be expected in this high-profile area, there are food-focused celebrity residents. “The most famous foodies on the eastern end of Long Island are Martha Stewart, Ina Garten and Jack Bishop of America's Test Kitchen. Many other celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Alec Baldwin, also support the farm community,” Ms. Ackerman said.
Looking to rub elbows with other locavore-loving Hamptons homeowners at farm-to-table dining events this coming year? Here are a few properties of interest on the market.