Memorial Day 2021 weekend will be remembered by many on the East End for the amount of rain that fell. Yet, when the actual Memorial Day afternoon came around, the sun appeared, the sky cleared and there was quite a beautiful sunset across both forks of the East End. I saw it from my sailboat cruising Gardiner’s Bay in between both forks. Before sailing, I had a BBQ just for me and my wife at home in the backyard. Every Memorial Day since I left NYC to come out to the East End (2003), I try to “grill on Memorial Day.”
It was very touching to read the reports of Prince Harry’s tribute to his grandfather Prince Philip, about his love for grilling for the whole Royal Family, at the “family cottage” that is actually a real castle in Scotland. There is even a photo or two of Prince Philip, husband of the Queen of England, looking over the grill with royal grilling utensils in his hand. My brother, Elia, emailed and said, perhaps I should pen my next Sixty-Something column on the “Masters of Grilling in the Hamptons,” and I agreed.
When I needed to earn some extra cash in 2004, I took on a few jobs around East Hampton. I was the weekend doorman at the Blue Parrot and I delivered local papers for two days. I was also writing articles for two local publications. Then I was substitute teaching mostly for East Hampton Public Schools, from the high school to John M. Marshall Elementary School, three days a week, and lastly, I was delivering flowers and plants for Wittendale’s Florist & Greenhouse’s in East Hampton Village. I only mention all this to set up a favorite Hamptons grilling story.
One day my assignment at Wittendale’s was to deliver three van loads of annuals to a Claudia Cohen’s Lily Pond Lane home. It had magnificent grounds, with a causally long drive from the famed road to the multi-roomed home on the ocean. I had to lug carton after carton of plants up to a small hill nowhere near the van and stack them neatly. At the very end of three van loads, I noticed there was a small old, crooked charcoal grill smoking away right off the door to what I would have to guess was a kitchen. Then there she was, the famed gossip columnist and former wife to Revlon mogul Ron Perlman coming out the door with an apron on to start grilling on this antiquated barely standing grill. When I saw the Prince Philip photo, I thought of that day.
Over the years I have experienced mostly two types of grilling parties: the well-financed type and then the feed the whole gang for less than $20 affairs. I experienced an example of both while living full time in Montauk. The first was a holiday hosted by a friend who has a home high off Second House Road with a phenomenal view of the Atlantic, off Kirk Park Beach behind the Montauk IGA. He had enough of the best meats from Herb’s Market to feed an army, in this case his whole huge extended family and perhaps a dozen other guests. Line ups of chicken breasts, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage, small high-quality steaks, and deluxe shish kabob racks were arranged in a most to efficient way to cook. “Fisherman Rich” stood over his huge multi-gas grill and personally cooked it all. Afterwards there was town sponsored fireworks over the beach.
Then there is the other end of the spectrum. This was the one I threw at The Montauk Condominiums, or as the locals properly call it “The Ditch Plains Trailer Park.” At the last-minute, my housemate and I had invited fellow writers to a barbecue on our deck. It was nowhere near our bi-weekly payday, so we scrambled for cash and headed over to the IGA looking for discounted hotdogs, rolls, and ground beef on sale. We went to the beer place and purchased a case or two of inexpensive beer (pre-Montauk brand beer days.) Our grill was of the charcoal for two variety, and we were always generous with lighting fluid, so there was that petrol smell to all the cooked food too. But it was a great night! My future wife Cindi attended and after all the beer was somehow gone, the non-drinking guests drove us to the then just opened, brand new Surf Lodge. It had actually just opened that Memorial Day weekend. We all danced wildly to the DJ’s music until it closed.