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The Hamptons' beautiful beaches, in Suffolk County on eastern Long Island, are about two hours east of Manhattan.
Route 27, or the Montauk Highway, runs east through all of the villages of interest, except Sag Harbor. For that still-charming old fishing village, turn left off Route 27 at East Hampton and proceed seven miles northwest on Route 114.
THE J. HARPER POOR COTTAGE This five-room inn, an early-20th-century expansion of a 17th-century farmhouse, is easily the most luxe hotel in the area. The rooms are large and filled with a mix of antiques and comfy chairs. Rooms to get: 12, but overlooking Main Street, it can get noisy; 11, facing the English-style garden with its 200-year-old wisteria trees. The staff is solicitous. And a rarity for a hotel this size: There's a small spa that can be retained for private use, with massages or swimming in the miniature pool whose current mimics the waves of the ocean. Weekend rates: $475-$595. 181 Main Street, East Hampton; 631-324-4081; www.jharperpoor.com.
THE MILL HOUSE INN It's difficult to find innkeepers as helpful and generous as Sylvia and Gary Muller, refugees from restaurant and marketing careers. From their detailed guest book, listing every restaurant, service, and possible bit of history in the area, to Gary's massive breakfast menu, you do feel coddled. Among the 13 breakfast choices: a luscious cheddar, bacon, tomato, and Vidalia-onion omelet; house-smoked salmon with mascarpone; pancakes with bananas and Myers rum. The only drawback: Since the Mullers took over an existing inn, many of the rooms are small. Nonetheless, they're beautifully furnished with Asian antiques or Shaker furniture. Until they can be renovated, go for the rooms Hampton Holiday and Hampton Breezes. $325-$450. 31 North Main Street, East Hampton; 631-324-9766; www.millhouseinn.com.
THE AMERICAN HOTEL A holdover from the mid-1800s, when Sag Harbor was a prime whaling port, this eight-room hotel has a prime location and turn-of-the-century furnishings. It's great-looking, but from my overnight experience, I would say it's best to soak up the atmosphere in the popular bar and restaurant. The wine selection is an international wish list of 1,700 choices, and the food is generally well prepared, with a few misses. Rooms: $315. Dinner: $96. Main Street, Sag Harbor; 631-725-3535; www.theamericanhotel.com.
BABETTE'S Nirvana for vegetarians, with some tempting chicken and fish dishes as well, but no red meat. And the big draw for many: breakfast dishes like the Thai omelet and cinnamon-swirl French toast, both served all day. $76. 66 Newtown Lane, East Hampton; 631-329-5377.
THE CLAM BAR AT NAPEAGUE The Lobster Roll, across the highway, gets all the publicity, but the lobster rolls here are better, with bigger chunks of lobster and less mayonnaise. And the clams, delivered twice a day straight off the boats, are the sweetest imaginable. Closed in winter. Steamers for two, $27; lobster rolls, $21. $ 2025 Montauk Highway, Napeague; 631-267-6348.
DELLA FEMINA Glittery hot spot with a difference—the food is exceptional. Don't miss the pan-seared diver scallops with truffle vinaigrette, the Maine day-boat halibut with forest mushroom ragù, and if they have it, a caramelized banana tart. $100. 99 North Main Street, East Hampton; 631-329-6666.
THE LAUNDRY After 20 years, the granddaddy of the Hamptons-scene restaurants is on an upswing, now that Andrew Engle, formerly of New York's Oceana, is in the kitchen. Don't miss the marinated Portuguese sardines, flown in weekly, accompanied by fennel, niçoise olives, and oranges; the local wild striped bass with corn pudding and lemon confit, and the miniature brownie sundae. $85. 31 Race Lane, East Hampton; 631-324-3199.
NICK AND TONI'S In this celebrity hangout a much smaller role is played by the food, which ranges from fair to mediocre: rack of lamb, roasted fish, spaghetti with crabmeat and cherry tomatoes. $100. 136 North Main Street, East Hampton; 631-324-3550.
ROBERT'S Waiters and patrons ask about each other's families in this neighborhood restaurant. Mediterranean dishes like fennel salad with blood oranges, Parmesan, and balsamic vinegar and roasted black sea bass with white wine and olives. $100. 755 Montauk Highway, Water Mill; 631-726-7171.
THE STAR ROOM This year's hot restaurant, with a bi-level whitewashed room and former Della Femina chef Kevin Penner's American cuisine influenced by Southeast Asian cooking. Standouts: potato and mascarpone ravioli with black truffles; seared bluefin tuna with scallions, spinach, Thai basil, and red curry; roasted loin of lamb with tomato and black-olive confit. $104. Corner of East Gate Road and Montauk Highway, Wainscott; 631-537-3332.
BALASSES HOUSE ANTIQUES LTD. Eighteenth- to early-20th-century French and English country antiques, including a selection of armoires (e.g., a $9,700 cherry armoire crafted in Brittany) and large tables; some pieces are reproduction. $ 208 Main Street, Amagansett; 631-267-3032.
CHRISTOPHER FISCHER Superlative cashmere pieces for men, silk and cashmere for women, in a vivid array of colors. 67 Main Street, East Hampton; 631-907-0900. 52 Jobs Lane, Southampton; 631-204-9090.
COUNTRY GEAR LTD. Leather chairs, copper pots, woven-wire furniture, and their specialty, tables made to order by a studio in England (seven-foot table constructed of century-old cherry: $6,500). $ 2408 Main Street, Bridgehampton; 631-537-1032.
NILAYA ST. BARTH Housewares and furniture from Indonesia, Vietnam, India, Africa, and Europe, ranging from a Moroccan silver mirror with bone inlay ($2,200) to a Belgian bamboo table ($5,200) and Kenyan soapstone dishes ($25-$85). 50 Main Street, East Hampton; 631-329-7008.
VICTORY GARDEN A pioneer in the indoor- outdoor concept of decorating, with international pieces, many from France, such as lamps made from carved-wood architectural fragments ($5,500 the pair) and an iron balloon chandelier ($5,000). 63 Main Street, East Hampton; 631-324-7800.
About This Guide
Prices In U.S. dollars.
Hotel Prices For high-season, double occupancy, from the least expensive double to the most expensive suite.
Restaurant Prices For a three-course dinner for two, without wine or service.
Telephone Numbers The area code for the Berkshires (Massachusetts) is 413; Bucks County (Pennsylvania), 215; Hunterdon County (New Jersey), 609; Dutchess County (New York), 845; the Hamptons (New York), 631; Litchfield County (Connecticut), 860.
Platinum Card Travel Service (PTS) or Centurion Travel Service (CTS) For travel assistance, call 800-443-7672 (PTS) or 877-877-0987 (CTS).
Disclaimer: The information in this story was accurate at the time of publication in October 2001, but we suggest you confirm all details with the service establishments before making travel plans.