Hamptons: Under the White Tents, Part Two
A flurry of charity events—James Beard Foundation’s Chefs and Champagne, Group for the East End, Love Heals—and a dispatch from Bridgehampton Polo.
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The Hamptons season is in full swing. White tents are up from Southampton to East signaling gala parties for charitable causes. From late June through August, every weekend has at least one major white-tented event where you know you’ll greet the who’s who of the Hamptons. So, I dust off my tomato red party dresses (I have several) and buy a few more—this year a gorgeous coral Flamenco-style dress and a sexy purple silk strapless—and make my appearance under the tents enjoying drinks and dancing up a storm.
The third weekend in July is always my favorite event of the charity party circuit because of the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs and Champagne event. And because the opening match of Bridgehampton Polo is on the same afternoon, it’s always a mad dash from polo to Wölffer Estate, where the Chefs and Champagne takes place under the enormous white tent. And this year it was a perfect summer night—unlike last, when the temperature and humidity felt like Southeast Asia.
This year’s Chefs and Champagne honored Ted Allen and the judges of the Food Network’s Chopped (including Marcus Samuelsson, Scott Conant and Geoffrey Zakarian) and featured the usual 30 or more chefs who set up at tables presenting their delicacies in little tasting portions. As always, I looked around the tent at this dazzling display of plenty—with Jehangir Mehta of Mehtaphor, Jonathan Benno of Lincoln Ristorante, Claudia Fleming of The North Fork Table, Seamus Mullen of Tertulia—and didn’t know where to go first.
Well, I’m fibbing….like a heat seeking missile I always land at the Champagne table first. This year’s sponsor was Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and if you arrive during the VIP hour, you are served the Palmes d’Or Grand Cuvée with its wonderful bouquet of brioche, hazelnut and apricot. The Champagne comes in an iconic black bottle designed to look like it’s covered with inverted Tahitian black pearls and believe me, at around $150 a bottle, it’s in demand and goes fast.
After I had my flute of vintage bubbly happily in hand, I was already hearing the buzz that I must taste the strawberry gazpacho with basil made by Chef Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park and the NoMad. It was heavenly. Humm had partnered with Mercedes- Benz and created an “On the Road” picnic menu for the event. Another great bite from that menu was squab with dehydrated blueberries and smoked corn.
When the VIP hour ended and the Palmes d’Or ran out, I continued on with the wonderful non-vintage Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé, which is fresh and balanced with luscious-strawberry notes. I ricocheted around the tent taste testing as many small plates as I could. Fortunately, it seemed that the chefs were thinking light and were offering lots of ceviche, seafood of all kinds, especially shrimp. It was the year of shrimp. (Last year was the year of lamb ribs and pork bellies.) I’ll admit I went back for seconds of the overstuffed succulent lobster rolls from chef Luke Holden of Luke’s Lobster. It went so well with the Palmes d’Or and later with the Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé.
A lovely part of the event is socializing with the wonderful crowd who supports the charity and bids on auction lots. I ran into one of my favorite winemakers, Roman Roth of Wölffer Estate (where this event is held annually). Roman was excited about a spectacular Petrus tasting he had been at earlier in the summer. A select group of wine aficionados (many of whom paid $17,500 for this once in a lifetime experience) got to taste 57 vintages of Petrus! And the most remarkable aspect of the tasting was experiencing vintages from legendary 40s vintages: 1945, 1947 and 1949. The tasting was a kick off eye-opener event given by the Société du Vin, a new members-only wine facility in Bridgehampton.
I also was pleased to meet up with Randall Lane, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes, one of the sponsors of the C&C. Randall was my editor in the mid-nineties when I had a five-year stint as a sex columnist for his then magazine POV (Point of View). I was the “she said” of the He Said/ She Said team advising young guys on how to please women, or at least how to deal with them.
The after-party went on till around 11 p.m. I must admit that I over-did the Champagne. It was one of those morning-afters where a little damage control might have been advisable, but then again everyone probably had as much bubbly as me and didn’t notice my extra ebullience, as I floated along on a cloud of Champagne. Blame the Palmes d’Or.