Hamptons Epicure: Enjoying the Holidays

The East End is a great place to spend the holidays—yes, the WINTER holidays. This is Christmas #14 for me in the Hamptons—but my family also enjoys Chanukah celebrations with friends.

Going to church or temple on the East End is easily done. Given recent events many are now looking to houses of worship for solace.

But what about all of those holiday preparations? How can you find some healthy distraction and enjoy yourself rather than getting worn out? Here are some insider tips:

Boutiques
The East End is packed with little shops full of unique merchandise. When I’m stumped on what to get someone I check out the latest that Sylvester & Co. in Sag Harbor has to offer. They carry a small selection of groovy winter accessories, watches and doggie gifts. At the other end of the gifty timeline there’s antiques. I like to hunt around The Antique Shop in Bridgehampton for jewelry and at Sage Street Antiques in Sag Harbor for decorative whatnots.

Self Preservation
Don’t forget to feed and clothe the shopper. “Self gifting” is not a crime but skipping lunch out on the shopping trail is. A few of my personal favorites for lunch include 75 Main and Le Chef in Southampton, Pierre’s and Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton and The Dockside, Page 63 and the American Hotel in Sag Harbor. A lunch date is a great way to quickly catch up with a friend—and neither of you has to do the dishes.

Books are a standby gift in my family. Last Saturday I picked up two copies of Grace Coddington’s latest, Grace, A Memoir, at her book signing in Bridgehampton. One is for me; the other is for my mother-in-law. Now we’ll have something to talk about.

The East End has been home to generations of famous writers. Did you know that our local book stores offer signed copies of many of their books? And bookstores out here are cozy affairs—the owners can pretty much tell you off the top of their heads what they have that’s signed. I picked up a signed copy of one of Julia Child’s cookbooks from Canio’s in Sag Harbor at a reasonable price plus a bunch of signed Gahan Wilson paperbacks to give as gifts.

Go Local
Local never tasted better. Eastern Long Island is not called the “New Napa of the North” for our cabbage (though it is good). It’s hard to go wrong when giving local wines. And it’s not wrong to “go hard” by giving local vodka or whiskey. Arrive with any of these beverages and some artisanal cheese and bread at your next gathering, and you’re sure to be invited back.

Tradition
You don’t have to cut down your own tree to connect with generations past. Just dust off the fine china. Sip eggnog from the mug that your grandfather did. Bring out and display more of the old family photos around the holidays. Put different generations’ of childrens photos side by side. Santa likes to look at them.

Having it all
There’s bound to be some well-meaning person on your list who insists that he or she doesn’t need a thing. Many years ago I studied my grandmother and her houseful of accumulated stuff. I determined that all she could possibly use were dishcloths and kitchen towels. Giving her those made her very happy. Think about practical gifts that people just don’t buy themselves. Think about candles. How about an antique mason jar full of tea lights to light up someone’s life? How about some citronella candles and new grill utensils for the grill master in your family? How about a gift certificate for a favorite restaurant or to the movies? Or a DVD and some popcorn?

Homemade
Never underestimate the warmth you give when you make a gift. What? You can’t knit or crochet or hot glue or cook? One word: applesauce. Here’s the one-line recipe: peel and core a bunch of apples, throw in a little hot water and cinnamon, cook until mushy—about 25 minutes. Best to use local apples—The Milk Pail farmstand in Bridgehampton and Briermere Farms in Riverhead offer a variety of great apples.

Ah, applesauce. I like to can the stuff but you can deliver it warm, refrigerate it or freeze it.

Everyone knows it’s great with latkes.

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