Like summer camp for rich folk, the Hamptons is a beloved pilgrimage for a glittery demographic of second-home owners and summer sharers who make the weekend commute to the eastern edge of Long Island.
But while many were expecting a humbled Hamptons for this season, everyone from shopkeepers to luxury retailers who managed to survive the winter financial storm is betting big on summer 2009.
All are welcome to Main Beach in the Hamptons, but only residents can park there.
Not everything is quite business as usual, though. In recent years, the summer action has spread itself across several towns with new restaurants and nightspots from Southampton to Montauk, but this year sees much of the new developments and filled storefronts staying closer to East Hampton, where the good life seems almost as strong as ever.
Where to stay:
Anyone without a second home, fancy friend or summer rental is usually forced to take residence in hotels or motels that dot the villages between Southampton and Montauk. Invariably chic days spent shopping on Main Street, tableside at Della Femina or at one of the infamous summer garden parties come to an end within musty, overpriced motel rooms, where the only amenities are flashing neon lights and paper-thin walls.
Alas, hotel redemption comes via the Scandinavian hospitality company C/O Hotels, which acquired East Hampton's Maidstone Arms last year. Within walking distance to the village, the new
gets a modern Gustavian makeover with a mix-and-match of Scandinavian furnishings and Americana architecture. Included in the renovation were two free-standing guest cottages, each with private entrances and oversized living areas outfitted in original artwork and antiques.
At the center of the new Maidstone is the new eatery The Living Room, a culinary collaboration by East End chef James Carpenter and Bjorn Eriksson. A dressy design of hardwood floors, colorfully bold-print upholstered chairs and stark-white tabletops alit with candlelight offers "a new American menu with a Scandinavian twist." Beet salads with Mecox Bay cheese or Swedish potato cakes topped with caviar appetize a hearty dinner menu of homemade pasta topped with chanterelle mushrooms or Halibut with local Stur Farm asparagus.
Where to shop:
The shopping streets of East Hampton and Southampton haven't been immune to the real estate downturn. A large number of store vacancies along prime village streets led landlords, who were charging up to $200 a square foot, to negotiate short-term leases with several big-name luxury retailers. The result is an impressive offering of pop-up outposts of
open specifically for the summer along ever-stylish Main Street and Newtown Lane.
Joining the more-permanent shopping fray of beach shops that include Scoop and Diane von Furstenberg, Bottega Veneta creative director
debuts another outpost of his self-named beach emporium along the Montauk Highway in nearby Wainscott. An elongated beach bungalow with oversized picture windows and large logo contains an airy display of men's and women's swimwear collections currently the hottest in the Hamptons.
A laidback staff with model-looks assists in navigating the various small rooms of the shop. Maier offers a little something for every price point, with men's swimsuits in perky Polynesian prints or simple black designs, priced from $125 to $395. For women, there's more of a selection, with one- and two-piece swimsuits as well as uber-couture collection of cashmere, sleepwear and lingerie. Additionally, the shop offers a small home collection of coffee-table books, cashmere pillows and comfy throws for brisk summer nights.
Where to eat:
You no longer have to wait until 6 p.m. for chic Hamptons dining. Derek and Daniel Koch, the men behind Merkato 55's infamous booze brunch, bring Day & Night Restaurant & Beach Club to the
and its outpost of Pink Elephant. The result is the closest thing you'll get to a St. Tropez beach scene, albeit at the thoroughly landlocked Capri Hotel. A BMW armada of party girls in Top Shop sundresses and visor-size sunglasses make their way to the velvet-rope brunch, where they sip on Veuve Clicquot bellinis as DJs spin sultry sun anthems till sunset.
Those looking for something a little later in the day descend on
, located in a former mansion along the Montauk Highway. A social smorgasbord of wannabe Real Housewives and even a couple real ones arrive to a gravel motor court and regal-looking waterfront estate. The hostess podium is set in front of a spiral staircase and lively bar with small lounge overlooking the dining room. Dinner is a hefty menu of wood-fired pizzas, signature salad with candied nuts and oodles of cheese followed by phyllo-wrapped salmon or grilled filets.
Occupying the restaurant space next to the paparazzi-stalked Lily Pond is
. The starry Chinese eatery launches a summertime outpost for its gourmet pan-Asian specialties like Peking duck and velvet chicken, in a red-drenched dining space with lively terrace just down the street from evergreen hotspot Nick and Toni's. The crowd, when there is one, includes local social climbers looking for direct entrance to Lily Pond as well as be-seen diners looking to break bread, or dumplings, with visiting celebs and corporate tycoons.
Where to party:
There are three hotspots currently ruling the Hamptons scene. The first is
, offering an expanded summertime concert series along its waterfront bar open for the second year in Montauk. A casual collection of real surfers and a few wannabes in Quicksilver cargo shorts flock to the bar on Friday and Saturday nights for its laid-back singles scene and lively beach-theme eatery. Newbie's should consider a cab as Montauk is further than it looks on a map, and you'll surely want to indulge in the infinite micro-brew beer menu.
Also in its second year,
has one-upped its Pink Elephant and Dune (Axe Lounge) competition with a weekend list that's currently the toughest invite in the Hamptons. The owners of N.Y.'s old Stereo, who manage to lure a never-ending slate of VIP DJs and celebrities like Mariah Carey and Paris Hilton, operate Lily Pond. The door on weekends is rapidly becoming excruciatingly difficult, meaning velvet-rope dodgers may want to consider a bottle service reservation or booking a 10 p.m. table at adjoining Philippe to attempt a speedier entry.
If you haven't already been to
, you may have missed the boat. Originally located at Ziggy's Restaurant along the Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton, the club made a grand debut Memorial Day weekend that led to overflow crowds and the club outgrowing its brand new space in a single weekend. After a one-week hiatus, the club resurfaced with a Friday night event at Georgica's that rekindled its love affair with locals but lacked the charm and subdued atmosphere of its previous location.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.