Last fall, when my partners in Dan’s Papers from Manhattan Media began to think about doing some big event out here in the Hamptons, they turned to me, as if I were the big guru of everything Hamptons, and asked me what I thought would be worth doing. I would guide them.
It wasn’t as if I was actually to come up with the idea. Being from Manhattan and being my senior partners, they had all sorts of different ideas. Some involved bicycles. Others involved art and antiques. One idea involved fashion. Then there was this idea about food and wine. It was ultimately they who made the decision.
I mention this because leading up to the event we held on Saturday night, Dan’s Taste of Two Forks, I had helped with the marketing, written some stories and did a few other things, but ultimately I just watched from the sidelines until the day of the event when I found myself standing under a tent in a field inside of which more than a thousand people—ultimately 1,600 people passed through the doors—who were munching happily on samplings of food from more than 40 restaurants and glasses of wine from more than 20 wineries, and I fielded questions about the idea for this event from members of the media.
“We’re told this was your idea, all this food and wine. It’s an amazing idea. How did you think of it?”
They look for sound bites, as you know. I thought about giving them the long explanation. Then I gave up. So what they got essentially was a sort of “aw, shucks.”
I thought I’d set the record straight here. I did vote for food and wine. After all the residents and visitors come to to eastern Long Island for its amazing bounty from the sea and the land, and I thought they would leap at the chance to come to an event devoted to sampling how all this largess could be prepared by the masters.
But how to make it something other than just the same old, same old? I have long advocated that people holding events in the Hamptons come up with things that veer off from the same old, same old. But in general, nobody pays any attention to me.
What same old, same old usually is is valet parking, an A-Z reception table at which you get your wristband, waiters serving cocktails and people making speeches, a “thank you for coming,” an explanation of what the party benefits, a silent auction, an hour of networking, round tables for eight with numbers on them in random order at which everybody is told after a while to sit down in chairs facing, after which dinner is served by a caterer either by buffet or waiters, people start dancing and then everybody goes home, but with a goodie bag of stuff on the way out.
Since there are probably 50 of these parties during the 10 weeks of the summer that need attention, it can get pretty monotonous.
There are exceptions. And I look forward to them. Robert Wilson’s Water Mill party is one of them. It is largely performance art delivered by actors dressed as elves and other creatures who interface with you as you walk through that place’s vast woods. The Southampton Hospital annual party is another, though not so wild. At that benefit, there is a theme, and they do it up to the nines. Could be an ocean liner or South Pacific or Ipanema. The interior decoration would blow away any junior prom. As for the rest, mostly they are all just gestures. I went to one fundraiser earlier in July at which the theme was supposed to be Marrakesh, but consisted of only one thing out of the ordinary—a big sign that said HARRY’S BAR.
I’m sure we could make things more entertaining. How about THIS? How about a “debt ceiling” theme where you get handed a stick and get to bash at giant pinatas filled with pennies hung from the ceiling? It would be every man for himself. That would be nice.
And so it was that this amazing group of party planners, hundreds of them, led by Bob Edelman, our Publisher, and Ellen Dioguardi, our marketing guru here at Dan’s Papers, together with COO of Manhattan Media Joanne Harras, ultimately in charge of the event, and Event Director Joanna Virello, who worked diligently with Compass restaurant owner Donny Evans as restaurant liason and KB Network’s Karine Bakhoum, Mary Blanton and Kylene Sullivan (on PR) and Agency 21’s Lisa Furst and Brett Friedman (experts in this area) and put this all together. It was an entire city—Dan’s Taste of Two Forks—a completely unique event never done here before, and let me tell you, what we had last Saturday night was without a doubt the best place to eat in the Hamptons that night. You could get ANYTHING, a taste of it anyway, all prepared at booths from restaurants, manned by the chefs of the very best establishments in the area. You could get gazpacho, you could get shrimp in a blanket, you could get barbecue ribs from a top Zagat restaurant, you could get deviled eggs with caviar. Each portion was somewhere between a pre-dinner nibbley on a tray and a half portion on a plate.
The trick was to go to the booths to try to mix and match your food so it made sense, or so it didn’t make sense. It was up to you. You were dealing with artistry. And you were your own personal artist, and your taste buds were the critics. And all could be washed down by maybe 80 different types of wine, all of which was served to you directly by the owners and employees of the wineries where the wine was made.
About an hour into this, it was apparent that among those booths with very long lines was LT Burger, the new restaurant in Sag Harbor. Imagine this! People come to a place and pay $225 VIP or $150 Regular to eat at the area’s top restaurants, and they stand in line for a hamburger! Must be good. It surely was. There were other long lines, notably at Starr Boggs, Turtle Crossing, Sarabeth’s and Pisco Porton, which served up drinks with rose petals in them.
The people parked in a giant lot, walked to the event, got the tickets that had their name on them at the door, and came into this evening of eating and drinking.
There were no tables under the giant tent at which to sit. There was a “living room” area way in the back created by Props for Today, where you could go and they had lots of couches and some tables there in the sunshine in the back where you could sit down—sort of a patio to the tent area—but for the most part, you walked around with a plate and spoon, ate and drank, talked to people, and then got something else. And, in the end, you knew you were helping with a donation to Have a Heart Community Trust and all the local food pantries.
Here’s how it began. The crowd strolled in. The Greg Ruggiero Trio played, and our hosts welcomed our guests. Speeches were made by our host, Marcus Samuelsson from the Red Rooster Restaurant in Harlem, emcee Roseanne Scotto of “Good Day New York,” and Mark Feuerstein from “Royal Pains,” the TV show on the USA Network. At the end of this, I proposed a toast.
Then everybody went off to get something to eat.
In the end, leaving the event—there was an after party at Georgica—something occurred to me. Joanna Virello and her team at Manhattan Media had come up with the idea of the logo for the event, which consisted of two forks crossed and the words Dan’s Taste of Two Forks superimposed over it. I had been looking at this logo for weeks and weeks. I thought they were crossed to symbolize the meeting of the Two Forks.
Now something else occurred to me. They were forks. For eating. Oh.
In the past, Dan’s Papers has held events in the Hamptons—our Dan’s Potatohampton running race, our Dan’s Kite Fly, our Dan’s Papers Best of the Best Party. And I would put one person in charge and the staff would volunteer and help out.
This was nothing like that. From the organizations I mentioned, there was a staff of 100—promotion people, security people, cleanup, setup, planning, VIP courtesy (Aida Turturro from “The Sopranos” was there, Alex McCord from “The Real Housewives of New York City” was there), sponsorship sales, traffic control, power generator, the list goes on and on. It was the sort of thing a big professional group in Manhattan would put on. Well, er, Manhattan Media.
Who to thank? We thank our sponsors (Gilt City, Citarella, Pallini Limoncello, Tequila Tierras, Hampton Ambassador, L’Aventure Languedoc, Hampton Jitney, Southampton Publick House, Ford, Long Island Wine Country, Dutch Petals, Props for Today, Pisco Porton, Acqua Panna, S. Pellegrino, Zagat and The New York Post), and we thank our restaurants and wineries (1770 House, Almond, Babette’s, Beachouse, Beacon, Blue Parrot, Cittanuova, Copa, Deli Counter Fine Foods & Catering, Dylan’s Candy Bar, East Hampton Point, Estia’s Little Kitchen, Fresno, The Frisky Oyster, Georgica, The Grill on Pantigo, Gulf Coast Grill, Gurney’s Pasticceria and Beach Bakery, Jamesport Manor Inn, Love Lane Kitchen, LT Burger, Luce & Hawkins, Montauk Lake Club, Nick & Toni’s, Noah’s, Old Mill Inn, Race Lane, Rugosa, Sarabeth’s, Savanna’s, Scrimshaw, Serafina East Hampton, Southampton Social Club, Southfork Kitchen, Starr Boggs, Stone Creek Inn, Turtle Crossing, Tutto Il Girorno, Vine Street Café, Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard, Bedell Cellars, Channing Daughters, Comtesse Therese, Duck Walk, Gramercy Vineyards, Jamesport Vineyards, Long Island Meadery, Long Island Merlot Alliance, Martha Clara Vineyards, Mattebella Vineyards, One Woman Vineyards, Osprey’s Dominion, Palmer Vineyards, Pellegrini, Pindar, Raphael, Scarola Vineyards, Sherwood House, Sparkling Pointe, Suhru Wines, Wolffer Estate, Bees Needs, The Blue Duck Bakery Café, Hampton Coffee Company, Lucy’s Whey, North Fork Potato Chips, Plain-T, T-Salon) and we thank everybody from everywhere who came. This event was a complete sell-out. It’s unheard of that an event of this magnitude would sell out in its first year, and I personally would like to thank all the staff who helped, including the many members of our staff and management who worked so hard, including Silvia Lehrer, Evy Anderson, Lori Berger, Stacy Dermont, David Lion Rattiner, Elise D’Haene, Sharon McKee, Catherine Ellams, Karen Fitzpatrick, Jean Lynch, Patti Kraft, Tom W. Ratcliffe III, Kathy Camarata, Steve Daniel, Richard Scalera, Kelly Shelley, Genevieve Salamone, Nadine Cruz, Chris Gardner, Susan Weber, Dave Caldwell, Kathy Rae, Arianna Johnson, Alexandra Andreassen, Mark Stinson, Coleen Conklin, Jessica Christopher, Leslie Siegal, Peter Hintz, Quam Corey and hosts of other I am sure I left out, and at the end, Richard Burns, the Chairman of Manhattan Media, who egged everyone on to make this thing such a huge success.
I’d also like to thank the officials of Southampton Town who supported our efforts.