Saturday, August 29, 2009

august in the hamptons

Well dear reader, I am a very lucky girl. Oh sure, I've been to many beautiful places, local and far away, but there is something that works on your imagination about a place like the Hamptons. I had a few preconceived ideas of what to expect, and for the most part they were pretty close to reality. But there is a level of lifestyle and wealth that just can't be put into words, right there on an island called Long.

Besides the quaint beauty of the area, you are knocked out by the sheer history. Southhampton was established in 1640. Visions of colonists and Indians come to mind and a life in a simpler time. Alot of that simple lifestyle remains. There are still cornfields, windmills and vineyards. Don't expect to book a flight and a room at the local Hilton--it doesn't exist. This is a community reserved for homeowners and summer renters. And what homes they are. Tucked down half mile gravel drives and surrounded by 10 foot hedges immaculately trimmed, homes front the ocean as far as the eye can see. Pools are de riguer surrounded by an acre of manicured lawn.

I was invited to visit by my dear friend Michael Perricone and his partner George Schleier at their summer rental, Pond House. Joining us was another friend, Miriam Solomon. This charming home is located in Watermill, just steps from South Hampton. Some of the best part of the Hamptons is the wonderful way to relax, utilizing the huge amount of high quality, fresh food available--and that means a bit of a food fest.

The first day we planned our menus and off to the grocery store we went. Michael made a wonderful pasta with shrimp and broccoli seasoned with cumin and lemon. It was delicious. I found out George loves apple pie, so pie a la mode it was. French toast with honey butter one morning and fresh scones the next made for great breakfasts. Our day trips were a combination of open house lusting, sandwich wraps and frozen yogurt by the boats at Sag Harbor, checking out the antiques in Bridgehampton and seeing the movie "Julie and Julia" in Easthampton. Star sightings were limited to character actors, names unknown. Afternoons were followed by floating around the pool with cocktails and a little more cooking. Not too shabby. A Saturday night supper of sauteed swordfish, fresh corn and roasted baby red potatoes was finished off with George's blueberry crisp and late night conversation in the pool. I slept very well.

It was very hard to part company with my friends at the train station. Wistfully I must hope that I will be invited back for another visit to this almost imaginary place called the Hamptons.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

beautiful, healthy northern chinese cuisine at heaven's dog

I have been a follower of Charles Phan and Slanted Door in San Francisco since the days when he was first located on Mission Street. I remember when Bill Clinton dined there, we were all a flutter and I had a birthday party there shortly after.
I love the food at Out the Door in the Westfield Center and the kinetic energy of Slanted Door at the Ferry Building.

Now, Charles Phan and executive chef Andy Wai of Heaven's Dog have developed a menu based on Northern Chinese cuisine and local seasonal products. Asian cuisine is my weakness—all that crispy goodness, chili oil this and deep fried that, with few healthy choices in between. Heaven's Dog delivers the variety we crave and the fresh, healthy ingredients we need.

First, this modern space inside the SOMA Grand has great visual appeal—a small and intimate dining room with orange leather and woven wood is flanked by a curved bar. There is also an open kitchen with counter dining and a private room that on the day I visited was used for communal dining. The restaurant uses quality ingredients such as Prather Ranch meats and organic produce from nearby farms such as All Star Organics.

On the day I dined I had a reservation for lunch and the dining room was comfortably full. I started with Shanghai dumplings ($8), steamed and light with an interior of pork and broth that you eat out of a spoon so you don't lose any broth goodness. This was flavored well with a hint of soy and vinegar. There are plenty of vegetarian choices as well, such as Chinese broccoli, organic kale, spicy green beans, and organic pea shoots. I chose a unique dish of spicy organic cauliflower ($9). These crispy florets were perfectly sauteed with honshimeji mushrooms and lots of red pepper done in a Hunan style. The attentive waiter suggested a side of Massa Organics brown rice ($3) which matched perfectly. I tried one noodle dish called dan dan mein ($7), seasoned with chili, pressed tofu and spicy peanut sauce. Although tasty, I felt the flavors ran together and the tofu was barely visible. I washed it all down with Lakewood organic pineapple juice ($5) which I had made spritzer style with sparkling water.

There is a very sophisticated cocktail list but perhaps the most interesting is “Freedom of Choice” ($10). Let the bartender know if you like your cocktail citrus driven or spirituous and he will surprise you. You can find all this and many more delicious details at

Read more about Heaven's Dog at my column at Body Mechanix Fitness Cooperative.