Seasons by the Sea: South Fork Power Lunch

By Laura Donnelly
Off-season, most power lunching takes place in eateries such as John Papas Cafe, where municipal officials and other local notables are often spotted dining. Morgan McGivern

   My editor, Jennifer, recently turned me on to an awesome Web site called The reason being they featured a little article called “Top 5 Power Lunches in the Hamptons.” Power lunches in the Hamptons? In January? Who does that?
    Well, I figured somebody out here must be having business lunches and power lunches. I eagerly sought out the “article” and was delighted by the lyrical writing, chic, glossy graphics, and informative content. Seriously, Haute Living makes Hamptons magazine (fast reading for the slow thinking) look like Henry James. The five restaurants featured were the American Hotel, East Hampton Point, Sant Ambroeus, La Plage, and Tutto Il Giorno.
    Okay, so to begin, both East Hampton Point and Sant Ambroeus are closed this time of year. La Plage is on the North Shore. So that leaves two restaurants in the Hamptons for your power lunch. Even CurbedHamptons picked up on this egregious error, but even they only detected one that is closed.
    The American Hotel is described as “wood garnished.” What’s that? They recommend the “simple grilled lamb chops mint.” At La Plage the “carmelized jumbo sea scallops as entree” are suggested. Sant Ambroeus is “based of equally named restaurant in Milan” and is “reminicint of the old country.” Best of all, Tutto Il Giorno is described as a “beachfront eatery.” Uh, that looks like a park and a marina to me, but who am I to quibble over facts?
    So this got me to thinking, where are the power lunch spots in the Hamptons and who goes? As far as I can tell the only power brokers out here are real estate agents and nail bangers. I would imagine that places like Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton, Cittanuova in East Hampton, and Silver’s in Southampton are good midday meeting spots. But my idea of a power lunch location is the bench in front of Mary’s Marvelous in Amagansett, where you can wolf down a chipotle chicken panino followed by cold green tea and gossip about the surf, where you’d rather be this time of year, and who’s having an affair with whom. Or perhaps Rowdy Hall in East Hampton for a warming bowl of onion soup, fish and chips, or a superlative burger. The Living Room offers a business lunch menu but this option is woefully underutilized. I know; I work there.
    Once the domain of men only, business lunches over the decades have come to include women. Formal business lunches remain popular in countries such as Denmark, Argentina, and France, each with their own etiquette. The three-martini lunch, popular in the 1950s through the ’90s, has virtually disappeared. However, thanks to the popularity of AMC’s show “Mad Men,” about Madison Avenue ad execs in the 1960s, you can get a Mad Men-style business lunch called “From Reel Life to Real Life” at the Ruth’s Chris Steak House . . . in Dubai. Much beef is proffered and preferred, the raw and the cooked.
    Once upon a time, the three-martini lunch was tax-deductible as a business expense. While campaigning for president in 1976, Jimmy Carter condemned the practice, claiming the working class was subsidizing what he called “the $50 martini lunch.” His opponent, Gerald Ford, responded by saying “the three-martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful, and a snootful at the same time?” This was obviously before his wife, Betty, revealed her struggle with alcoholism and opened the Betty Ford Clinic.
    In 1986 a law limiting the meal expense deduction to 80 percent was enacted and by 1993 only 50 percent was deductible, leading the comedian George Carlin to respond “while the three-martini lunch is being cracked down on, it shouldn’t affect the working man’s two-joint coffee break.” Ha ha.
    Times are busier, people want to be healthier, and very few folks have hours to spend over lunch, whether business, power, or otherwise. Perhaps there are clusters of high-powered people meeting at Yama Q or Nichol’s or Southampton Publick House for midday brainstorming, but I wouldn’t know. I think the top five power lunch spots in the Hamptons are the Fairway at Poxabogue in Sagaponack, your car at Wiborg’s Beach in East Hampton with a Villa Combo, the Candy Kitchen in Bridgehampton, John Papas Cafe in East Hampton, and your own desk at work.
    For those who would like to duplicate the decadent power lunch recipes of yore, let’s begin with the martini. . . .