Shou Susi Ban House

Shou Sugi Ban House resides behind that elusive gate in Water Mill, directly east of the Parrish Art Museum. Whether you’re a local or weekender, if you’ve traveled east on Route 27 you’ve certainly noticed the entrance way but, very likely, have never actually peeked inside.

As the gates slowly parted, I arrived at the large Buddha statue dead center of the property for my private tour with Jodie Webber, creative director. Open year-round with 13 rooms, the property consists of a tea tasting and healing arts barn including sound experiences, fitness studio with garage-style doors, hydrotherapy pools, spa rooms, fire circles, open-concept kitchen — the list goes on. All for either half-day experiences, full-day experiences, or a choice of three-, five-, or seven-day retreat options.

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The concept is simple, literally. Minimal aesthetic, minimal waste, maximum benefits. As I explored the property I began to feel at peace with myself amid the chaos from the outside world. It was as though the gates literally secreted me from the stress of typical summer daze as I escaped to Japanese-inspired tranquility.

While the property is not LEED certified, by choice, it uses solar panels, geothermal wells, and considers the environment in each detail. I partook in a tea tasting, including the signature tea with beach roses. The tea bar and shelves were repurposed floor boards from the preexisting barn. Apparently, I was surrounded by wood, rocks, and replanted trees that were simply moved around. Sustainability and nourishment maintains priority down to the zero-waste culinary program.

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The name itself, Shou Sugi Ban, is derived from the Japanese tradition of combining fire and water to make wood more durable. Founder and “master architect” Amy Cherry-Abitbol, a Water Mill resident, purchased the property in 2014 and in the spring of 2015 a fire broke out on the property. In keeping things full circle, and part of the process of live and learn, the name came about as a sort of tribute to Mother Nature’s elements.

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As I spoke with Webber, I played with the copper pyramid and gongs. The vibrations went from my fingertips to my core, and that’s when Webber sat me in a vibroacoustic bed. The bed itself is a table with frequency pulsing from feet to head, a complete sound experience with headphones on for nearly 45 minutes. A truly unique event that had my entire body shaking, as though to rid all the negative energy pent up inside of me.

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It’s difficult to do Shou Sugi Ban House justice in a single column. It’s the ideal location for those looking to escape for a few hours or a few days. This may come off like a tourist destination, for those arriving on the East End, but it’s actually a place of serenity for the entire community. The impeccable attention to minimalistic detail throughout the property alleviates any distraction, coinciding with the holistic wellness practices. The focus on sound arts and a communal atmosphere proves to be different than any other place nearby. Once the gates close behind you, and you enter with an open heart and open mind, it’s both a mental and physical escape from the world not so far away.

Learn more and book an escape at www.shousugibanhouse.com.

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Daily Fitness: Hamptons Float

Floatation Therapy, also known as sensory deprivation tanks, are typically perceived one of two ways: a blissful escape or a claustrophobic nightmare. Immersing oneself into an 8 x 4 foot space of salt water, with the option of no light or sound? It can sound jarring at first. However, despite how you choose to mentally enter the experience, I guarantee you’ll leave it more relaxed than a five-star massage.

Float tanks are far and few between on Long Island, with the furthest location out east being Patchogue. A shocking realization considering the proven benefits. According to the Epsom Salt Council, benefits include softened skin, lower blood pressure, reduce hyperactivity and heart problems, in addition to flushing toxins and forming proteins needed in joints and brain tissue. Float therapy also aids in stress management and sleep, muscle soreness, reduce pain and swelling.

With a soft opening on Monday, November 12, Hamptons Float brings the much sought-after experience to the East End with a Water Mill location. Owners Steve and Victor (who humbly preferred to leave specifics about themselves out, focusing on their business instead) take a decades worth of friendship and turn their love for floating into a community experience for all to enjoy. There are four rooms with float tanks, each separated from a communal room by two doors, guaranteeing a complete soundproof space. Each of the four rooms contains a towel, full length robe, shampoo, conditioner and body wash, a bench, ear plugs and cut ointment. The tanks themselves contain 1,000 lbs of Medical Grade Epsom Salt, with naturally occurring magnesium and sulfate, in water kept at 93.5 degrees Fahrenheit.

I walked through the grey and white, modern space, with towering ceilings, to notice no distractions on the walls or around me- a full focus on the experience that awaited. The thick soundproof doors took me from the outer, naturally lit with couches area to an open room showing neon blue numbers one through four, and then into my personal sensory deprivation room.

When I was informed it was a 90-minute session the thought initially startled me. An hour and a half with nothing but my thoughts and floating like a buoy? Are they crazy? Will I go crazy? Although I had the option to extend or shorten my time, I decided to give the recommended amount a try. Luckily, I was a bit sleepy already and saw it as, if anything, an opportunity to take a nap.

Prior to entering the tank nude (recommended form), I washed my hair and body to rid any outside elements, pat dried my face to reduce any dripping (which can lead to face touching- not something salty hands should do), and stepped into the tank. For those who like customizing the experience, choose one of several colors to light the tank (red, green, purple, disco of many, or none at all). I placed a head float under my neck, observed the pure water spray and towel on the side (in the event I wanted to touch my eyes), and sank into my own blue lagoon. Light music, similar to that at a spa, played for eight minutes as I began my descent into an altered state of mind.

Whether it be my initial tiredness or the actual need to disconnect from the every day world, I drifted into a peaceful state in relatively no time at all. Of course, since there are no clocks on the walls, I can’t say for certain how long it took to reach a complete absence of stress, but I awoke to spa music in the final eight minutes of my float as though no time had passed. I stepped out of the tank, washed my hair and body, dried off and walked into the ‘powder room’ to blow dry my hair. There’s also a sauna room with additional shower, to extend the experience.

Ninety minutes of floating put me into a state of mind that would otherwise take hours of practice. I felt relieved of my perceived worries, upper shoulder tension had vanished, and I was even talking in a softer, calmer manner. Days later I still find myself in that same state of mind, a rare occurrence as a woman on the go! It was as though I floated my way into serenity.

Introductory floats are $45. There is a 30 minute turnover time between sessions, allowing a full cleaning of the tanks. Pool strainer pumps cycle the water, going through filters three times each and are treated with ozone UV light and hydro peroxide.

Hamptons Float is located at 760 Montauk Highway, Building 2B, Water Mill. Visit http://www.hamptonsfloat.com or call 631-500-9296,

 

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Manna Restaurant: An Authentic Sicilian Experience

(This article first appeared in the January 25, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)

 

When the opportunity arose to experience Manna Restaurant in Water Mill, I knew I’d be in for a flavorful evening. Situated at the reminiscent location of Mirko’s, a restaurant known for catering to a wealthy clientele, that closed its doors in 2013 after a 30 year run, Manna proudly wows its customers.

Chef Marco Barrila grew up in Sicily. Like scenes out of a foreign film, he spent most days working with his grandmother at the family trattoria “La Caraffa,” built in the 1800s. At the age of 24 Barrila moved to New York and began his journey working at culinary landmarks such as Carmines and Fiorello’s Lincoln Center. Then, with the opening of his own location, NOI on Bleeker Street, a love story began.

Customer turned wife Sheila Minkel Barrila soon became a restaurant regular of the opera-singing-chef, for the food, for the singing, and for the man who did both. As NOI was closing one night numbers were exchanged and a new recipe for success began.

Together, the Barrilas celebrated Manna’s one year anniversary with the passing of the holiday season in 2016. Yet, this couple is no stranger to the restaurant industry. In 2009 the two started a catering company, Insatiable Eats.

As snow began to fall one Saturday evening, coating the East End in a winter wonderland, I arrived at Manna with my equally culinary adventurous friend, Warren. Sheila warmly greeted us and sat us at one of the ten tables in a comfortable room that holds forty seats.

Moments later, Marco delivered the first taste of the night, an amuse bouche of chickpea panella, both crisp yet soft in its base, with sheep ricotta, an arugula puree that introduces a garlic flavoring, and black olive on top.

Already set on the table were Grissini breadsticks, a personal reminder of the classic Italian restaurants I’d enjoy as a child as I’d pretend to be Holly Golightly holding, then biting, my oversized cigarette holder.

A tasting plate came out next, served by 24-year-old Emily who started during the holiday season, and bussed by her brother, 17-year-old Jay. Usually, when trying a new restaurant I try not to fill myself with bread in preparation for the flood of original tastes to follow, but the spread in front of my eyes begged a bite. A sundried tomato spread, sheep ricotta (a nice flow from our first dish), and Sicilian olives with a house made olive focaccia.

As zealous eaters, Warren and I decided to split three appetizers to start. The grilled octopus with olive chimichurri may shock those who are apprehensive about eating food that looks like, well, what it is, as the dish is served with two full bodied octopuses. That shouldn’t deter a customer from trying it, as it has an ever so subtle spice and lemon taste, being slightly charred and not remotely chewy.

The beef tartare is served with egg yolk, onions, pickles, and bursting capers with small crostinis. The combination of ingredients is matched in a way that each flavor is fully present. Last in our appetizer trial was the roasted eggplant timbal filled with sheep ricotta (a recurring taste), mozzarella, and fresh basil pomodoro.

Despite the generous sizes of each dish, to our surprise we still had room for more. Sheila, in preparation for our main courses, poured a Sicilian red wine, Tascanta Ghiaia Nera Nerello Macallese. The choice paired perfectly with the endless flavors bustling around on my palate.

While sipping our wines, Warren and I were able to enjoy the atmosphere. It’s a refreshing change to have moments of pure relaxation between courses, time to observe and carry conversation. The anchor patterned carpet, the locally painted seascapes on the walls, and the warm fireplace, all staged a tribute setting to The Hamptons.

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Renato Corosone, and Domenico Modugno played like an old-school Italian playlist. I was taken back to personal memories of Sundays in an American-Italian household, singing songs I didn’t understand and 3 PM dinners of my grandparents endless preparations.

What started as an intimate dining experience to ourselves transpired into a busy restaurant. Despite it being full there was no sense of overcrowding, no sense of being rushed. One thing that was mutually agreed upon was the freshness of each meal, leaving no desire for added salt or pepper, and the olive oil having smooth and nuanced flavoring.

Marco came out from the kitchen to check in on us.

“Marco, your ingredients!” I exclaimed, “They’re so fresh!”

“You taste the product,” he reacted. “If you use cheap paint, you cannot paint!”

“But the olive oil,” Warren inquired, “what kind is that?”

“If I tell you e’rrybody gonna use it,” Marco winked as he kissed his fingertips and then tossed them to the sky. I may have been in Water Mill but in that moment I was certainly in a Sicilian home.

My special of the day, pan roasted American rack of lamb arrived in a borolo wine reduction, truffled mushroom ragu, with a side of crispy parmesan polenta. In every bite a hint of rosemary. I ate the entire thing.

Warren’s meal, a braised short rib pappardelle with handmade pasta, made on premises, and vegetables. Soon after, his plate was empty as well.

Glancing over at each other, our eyes intuitively begged the question — to dessert or not to dessert?

Inevitably, two Sicilian treats came out. Trapanese, a crispy pastry similar to a calzone filled with sheep ricotta and wild berry sauce, and cassatella, a pistachio sponge cake with ricotta and marzipan. Without hesitation, I proclaimed the cassatella was my favorite dessert in recent memory, and I have eaten my fair share.

With a menu that changes nightly based on how Marco is feeling, customers can always call ahead and request any international dish they’d like and the chef will prepare it “no restrictions.” Year round plates are lobster or seafood risotto, lobster FraDiavolo and truffled veal chop.

If the food is indicative of Manna Restaurant’s longevity, I expect years of success. Run by love and filled with families, it is a welcomed addition to the culinary scene on the East End.