Mr Smith and I like summer in the Hamptons as much as the next sweaty, chlorophyll-starved New Yorker. The sea air! The lobster lunches! The polo parties and charity auctions! It’s a fizzy scene but for us, it always, abruptly, goes flat. ‘Gotten sceney,’ is Mr Smith’s shorthand for the syndrome, muttered into his flute, at which point I can see that mentally he’s already westbound on the Long Island Expressway.
This show-off summer theatre closes promptly after Labor Day. The shutters come down on those preppy pieces of priceless real estate, and the wide white beaches, four Ralph Lauren boutiques, and ritzy restaurants empty out. You can actually get a table and have a conversation over the pan-seared scallops at the Meeting House in Amagansett. The danger of tripping over fake boobs on East Hampton’s Main Beach drops to nil, and the ocean is in its paddling prime. This, in our opinion, is the best time of year to go.
We were congratulating ourselves on our off-season savvy as we sauntered to the Hampton Jitney stop at 39th Street and Third Avenue, only to be confronted by an enormous line of people. Thank God Mr Smith had booked seats. Our little secret, it seemed, was out. On board was the usual cross-section of Manhattan Hamptoneers: the Tory Burch shod, the Wall Street Journal readers, a couple of nannies and their charges, and enough iPads to stock the Spring Street Apple store. But we had one thing that they didn’t: a reservation at 1770 House, whitewashed, weather-boarded, and East Hampton’s cutest inn.
1770 House was actually built in 1663: it’s named after the year it became an inn. When we tipped up at reception, there was a fire crackling in the grate – is there a more soothing autumn sound? – and the aroma of something wonderful wafting from the kitchen. Our room, in the eaves of the building, was not fancy, but extremely comfortable in a granny's spare-room kind of way, with striped, sprigged wallpaper, a whopping bed, and soft sheets of doubtlessly astronomical thread count. We just had time to wash up (the house brand is Molton Brown) before descending for dinner in the oak-paneled restaurant. Crossing the parlour’s bare-wood floor, I went into a dramatic skid – what was in those animal crackers I had on the Jitney anyway? – only righting myself inches from a wing chair. ‘Hungry, darling?’ said Mr Smith, gliding up, taking my arm, and not letting go of it until I was seated.
'I'm going to forget I'm vegetarian tonight,' said Mr Smith, as he studied the meat-feast menu. We started by splitting a salad of endive and apple studded with crispy pork belly, and two cheeses, a Rogue Smokey Blue from Oregon and a Brillat Savarin. For the main event, Mr Smith went for Angus Beef short ribs and I one-upped him with a vast Berkshire pork chop that had wallowed in cider before being whacked on the grill, giving it a fruity, boozy flavor, a clever, more complex alternative to apple sauce. The inn has won accolades for its extensive wine list (16 pages), and the malbec Mr Smith chose proved to be a velvety complement to our comfort-food spread.
We lingered long after the other guests (couples and family parties) had departed, autumn in the Hamptons being an-early-to-bed sort of affair, and then ascended to our cozy nook. Mr Smith was keen to snuggle in front of 'Sex and the City' (one dividend of dating a metrosexual), and he was hoping to find his favorite show, Catch-38, on pay-per-view. But the inn is not the land of 500 cable channels, and we were reduced to watching the strangely compelling 'Say Yes to the Dress'. Five episodes and countless bouffant creations later, we drifted off, dreaming of tiaras and organza.
We awoke to leafy shadows dancing across the walls, a gorgeous morning for biking and beach. After homemade buttermilk pancakes swimming in maple syrup, we set off to Bermuda Bikes, and thence to Main Beach, which once again had gone to the dogs and their walkers. We gawped at the shingled showstoppers lining the dunes, then jumped back on our steeds in search of more real-estate porn on the roads that peeled off Lily Pond Lane.
No weekend away is complete without a boozy lunch, and we had ours with a side of margarita pizza at the bar at Cittanuova in East Hampton. Mrs Smith always finds that a carafe makes Mr Smith more amenable to shopping, and true to form, he gamely traipsed trough Catherine Malandrino, Theory, Ralph Lauren, and J Crew. I rewarded him at Dylan's Candy Bar with a generous helping of cola bottles, fizzy fish, sour cherries, and a souvenir tin of hot chocolate.
Back at 1770, we sat in front of the fire with a couple of glasses of red, and plotted the evening meal, settling on an East Hampton classic, Nick and Toni's. The dirty martinis were reliably lethal, the frisée with chicken livers (Mrs Smith loves an organ) recommended by the server was divine, and the linguine with clams tasted like a piquant ocean breeze. The average age in the room was 60-something, but we've always fancied ourselves young fogies. 'Give me a button-down shirt and a peppermint tea over a skinny jean and a can of PBR in the Lower East Side any Saturday night,' said Mr Smith, before musing on how long it would take us to save up for one of those Lily Pond pads. 'Maybe in the next life,' I offered.
So comfortable had we become in our country cocoon that we skidded right past check-out time on Sunday morning. And this, we decided, was the greatest boon of 1770 House. It may not be the flashiest Hamptons hostelry, but it feels like home, and when a Lily Pond pile is not in your future, you can’t ask for more.