This article first appeared in the January 3, 2018 issue of The Independent Newspaper
The culinary trend toward farm-to-table experiences continues to make its mark on the East End. Hamptons Farms is the new neighbor in town, offering fresh ingredients and a warm atmosphere, at its debut location at 412 Montauk Highway in East Quogue. Owner Sandra Sadowski runs things with her husband Stefan Amraly, alongside Arielle Ferrara as the local chef heading the kitchen, serving up comfort food without the guilt. Eager to learn more, I sat down with Sadowski.
How would you define Hamptons Farms?
Our goal is to have our produce, meat, and fish from sustainable sources, all non-GMO, no hormones, and if we can source locally that is a bonus. Using these fresh foods makes for a better-quality product in the end. We also strive to have both indulgent dishes on the menu and light dishes so our guest feels they can share plates and also visit us regularly. We pride ourselves on our gluten-free and vegan options as well.
How often do you switch up your “featured dish?”
Chef and I enjoy collaborating on special features for the bar, main dishes, and desserts. Usually I pitch an idea and she will create a final product that is better than I envisioned which is really exciting. We switch up our featured dishes at least once a week, however, on some occasions, up to three times per week. Our loyal guests comes in several times a week and looks forward to our new features so this is very important to us. We also take suggestions from guests into consideration; we love input from our community.
What have been some favorites so far? What’s your signature dish?
Favorite dishes thus far have been the Swedish meatballs with the Fisherman’s Bowl, which includes striped bass, angel hair pasta, spicy tomato fennel broth, and mussels, with toast points for dipping.
An indulgent dish that is very popular is the buttermilk fried free-range chicken with bacon mac and cheese, pickles, and coleslaw. We have guests who also come for our warm French bread with honey butter; it’s simple but so fresh and delicious. On our kids’ menu the grilled cheese is the most popular and, of course, rosemary French fries with aioli. Our bar guests love the cheese and charcuterie board, juicy grass-fed cheddar burger, and our flatbreads: simple margarita and indulgent mushroom, brie and truffle.
If I had to say we have a signature dish on the lean side of the menu, it would be our grilled salmon over a salad of arugula, butternut squash, and black beluga lentils and pepita pesto. Lately, I just cannot get enough of the grass-fed strip steak which is served over potatoes, blistering tomatoes, and caramelized onions for dinner and the farro bowl (spinach, butternut squash, poached egg) with wild grilled salmon for lunch.
What made you choose East Quogue as the location? How did you find your building?
East Quogue found us, the building found us. The location is perfect, such a high-volume area being on the point of Montauk Highway and Old Country Road. I had driven by almost daily and just never considering taking on such a large project alone. My husband has been the biggest support and encouraged me to take the plunge of ownership versus just operating. So far there have been no real surprises, just more time invested which is to be expected.
Tell us about the decor. What can patrons expect upon entering the doors?
Family and friends were the inspiration for the decor. The thought was, ‘How can we make a cozy modern barn atmosphere and carry that through the branding entirely?’ This is seen in the actual building, decor, food, staff, and soon to be outdoor space this spring –the creation of a “social eatery,” where friends and family can come together in a relaxed yet refined chic environment for cocktails, bites, games, and overall fun.
The atmosphere is warm and inviting, very farm chic. We have throw blankets we offer patrons who want to get even cozier which we mostly used in the autumn outside. The party table in the back is outfitted with a three-sided cushion bench and a plethora of throw pillows. This table is requested almost nightly and is available to groups of eight up to 13. Our hutch holds many games to be played during lunch and happy hour, and also keep the little ones busy while waiting for their meals in the evening. We have had parents joyfully comment that this was the first dining experience with their children not on electronic devices.
The copper bar has been a popular place for friends wanting to gather and catch up over hand-crafted libations, especially with daily happy hour from 3 to 6 PM. In the warmer months the inside-outside bar and dining will double capacity and offer a wide range of social activities which we are looking forward to.
The location has a tainted past of closings. What makes you optimistic that Hamptons Farms is here to stay?
The hospitality industry is an extreme environment to work in. Between very long hours, weekends, nights and holidays, it can take a toll on ownership and the staff. Furthermore, the expenses from payroll, food costs, electric, mortgage, heat, insurance, and so much more have to be reflected and worked into the menu costs. This is not always understood by the customer. Finding the right formula can be difficult for an inexperienced operator, so with having so much corporate experience we are fortunate.
Consistency in service and food quality is our main focus and priority as well. With this winning combination, we are confident we will be a year-round social eatery destination for the community. Lastly, after meeting several of the previous operators, they all found success, however, they were burnt out from the industry. Openings can take a toll, which it has; however, we realize a work-life balance is extremely important in the health of ourselves and our team.
What have your previous titles been?
I am very front of the house. Operations has been my area of expertise. In the last four years, having consulted on some world-renown projects as well as being a part of their openings I felt confident in my own venture. My main area of focus has been wellness with a focus on fitness, spa, salon, juice bars, and wet facilities.
Titles held have been director of operations for North America, ESPA International Consulting, with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, the Peninsula Hotel Group, Nobu Eden Roc Miami, Chatham Bars Inn, Le Meridien Hotels, The Rittenhouse, and opening Sojo Spa Club and Baha Mar. Previous to ESPA, I spent 10 years at the Ritz-Carlton Central Park as director of spa and fitness, in addition to holding a place on the Ritz-Carlton corporate advisory council, opening up the Ritz-Carlton Westchester and the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain as well as assisting some low-performing properties.
Prior to the Ritz, I was the spa and fitness director at The Plaza Hotel, where I was really in awe of culinary, and first took a liking to food and beverage being in the presence of the Palm Court, Oyster Bar, and the Oak Room. There was so much history and employees who had been working there for years with fantastic stories, just so much fun.
Is this your first restaurant? What made you decide to take on such an endeavor?
Yes, this is my first restaurant. This was not planned. Fell into my lap. My husband Stefan and I were discussing my hectic global work travel schedule and the stress it puts on my four children. Our conversation was overheard by a local real estate broker who chimed in to say he has a commercial real estate listing that may be of interest.
After working in five-star, five-diamond properties, I immediately fell in love with the farm chic and have been wanting to hang up my pantyhose and pumps for a more modern barn/lifestyle project. It all came together very quickly. I purchased the property as well, so it is more than a restaurant investment, it is also a real estate investment. Real estate has always been a huge passion, having gotten my New York State real estate license 10 years ago, although I do not practice.
What’s your mantra or motto when it comes to business?
Under promise, over deliver. Slow down to speed up. In the end, it’s about the overall experience and having fun.
What restaurateur do you admire? Perhaps one you hope to meet or have met recently?
I really enjoyed working with Chef Alain Allegretti who is able to present the most amazing modern French cuisine while maintaining a very calm demeanor in his kitchen. His charm and humility is infectious and allows his team to work side by side with him with ease. I would be honored to meet the legendary Jeremiah Tower who is the pioneer in American gastronomy. He is very well-educated, has a remarkable story, and created culinary experiences which continue to influence chefs and foodies today.
How has your family been during this process?
My family has been extremely supportive in this process. My husband took on about half of the opening responsibilities and continues to finish our upgrades and final touches to the restaurant which will carry into spring. My four little children join us for a family brunch every Sunday at the restaurant so they can see and understand what we are working so hard for. My oldest child has even jumped in during unexpected busy afternoons and bused tables and engaged with the customers — they love it!
What sort of mark do you hope to make on the community?
We love this community and open our doors to everyone. Being involved in the local happenings is very important to us. We proudly hosted the East Quogue School Gardening Club after their field trip to the Densieski Farm Stand to show them what “farm-to-table” means. We took the children through the process of picking up the produce at the farm, and all of the stages it goes through. Our chef demonstrated how we make our Densieski coleslaw, and allowed each of the children to enjoy tasting it. They were then educated on the customer experience and sent home with carrot cakes and an invitation to visit us again with their families.
We also made chocolate chip cookies and individually wrapped them for the East Quogue tree lighting a couple of weeks ago. All of the attendees were able to enjoy them and we were thrilled we were able to be a part of something so special in our community. Overall, we strive to be a buzzing breakfast, lunch, and dinner destination for those who love food and fun. The biggest compliment to us is when we see our guests come in for lunch or brunch (weekends) and then return the same evening for dinner!
Upcoming events or promotions?
We are excited for breakfast to launch this spring, and in the meantime, focus on our weekday lunch and weekend brunch. Having outlets and USB plug-ins coming soon will allow those who work from home to have a place they can go to for all day coffee, breakfast, and lunch all while working in a social environment. Additionally, our outdoor space is amazing — just perfect for fun, games, and live music.
We are starting off the New Year with a wellness dinner series kicking off mid-January. This will allow our customer to learn tips from wellness experts while dining on a featured lean dish. We are also finalizing our Valentine’s Day menu and programing, and are thrilled we already have reservations! We love children and are incorporating some fun family friendly events such as a special Valentine’s weekend event and Easter brunch complete with an Easter egg hunt. Beyond the restaurant, look for us at the Quogue Library where we are hosting “A Taste of Spring” culinary event in March, and at many charity events throughout the East End.
Our menu will continue to evolve with the seasons and our creative culinary team. We are excited to launch culinary and cocktail pairings which is new for 2018. I am especially keen to taste our new warm libation made with broth launching in January.
In addition to the restaurant, a market is set to open later this month located at 69 Mill Road in Westhampton Beach. This separate location provides an intimate setting of five tables or so in addition to a bar seating area. As the grab-and-go spot, there will also be shelves featuring beauty products, picnic supplies, and sustainable home goods.
For more information, call Hamptons Farms at 631-856-4080 or visit them online