After the exciting but exhausting week of a half marathon in Virginia, Carlie’s lake house in Maryland, playing tourist with Stephanie, and celebrating Angela and Colin’s marriage, I was wiped out. Luckily I only had to make it through a couple days at work before heading back out for vacation. I know, I know, I’m a brat. BUT! It wasn’t just any vacation – I was meeting my parents on Shelter Island to celebrate my dad’s birthday, Father’s Day, and my (early) birthday! Weekends that host both Father’s Day and my dad’s birthday are known as Dadapalooza in our family, and somehow the idea for this year’s celebration evolved from my parents visiting Toronto to meeting up on the beach. Dad of course did all the work in planning and finding the perfect place to go, and he really hit it out of the park.
We met at JFK on Thursday afternoon to rent a car and drive across Long Island. Some minor travel hiccups and major traffic jams were rewarded when we pulled onto the island ferry – just look at it!
Things were really looking up when we arrived at Sunset Beach, our home for the weekend.
Sunset Beach is a heavenly, laid back little hotel right on the beach with an amazing French cafe and the friendliest staff who all happen to look like J. Crew models. Seriously. Within a day we knew everyone’s name and they were bringing my dad birthday ice cream…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Once we got settled we freshened up for dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was a perfect cool summery night with amazing views of the water, and our table was soon covered with piles of bread and fried artichokes and moules-frites and a bottle of the most perfectly cool crisp rosé I’ve ever had – sadly it’s the hotel’s own vintage so you can’t get it anywhere else!
We whiled the evening away over coffee and dessert and felt like we were in some sort of South of France/Gatsby mash up – there was even a flashing green light across the water.
The next morning I awoke to drizzly grey skies. I slept in well after my parents and moseyed down to the cafe for un cafe while they were on a morning walk. I watched the most amusing interaction with two other guests and their French Bulldog that deserves a post all it’s own, but suffice it to say I was in a great mood when I set off for a rainy morning run around the island.
I met back up with my parents for a lazy morning before heading into town for lunch at Reddings, a gourmet grocery store and cafe. This place is just too perfect, nestled on the dock with a big communal table and the best lobster rolls with huge, meaty chunks of claw. I popped into the tourist shop next door for a fleece as I was woefully unprepared for the drizzly weather, and we wandered through shops and bookstores before retreating to the hotel for an afternoon of reading and working on the puzzle I brought along as a Father’s Day gift (p.s. gift idea: New York Times cover page jigsaw puzzle from any date you want).
That evening we had a glorious feast at Vine Street Cafe. Ina Garten recommends the bolognese but I opted for a pasta/zucchini combo with tons of fresh seafood and a spicy tomato sauce. YUM! More wine, coffee, and desserts had us wired so we stopped by the hotel’s outdoor lounge, grabbed a sofa next to the fire pit and chatted with the off-duty staffers over drinks. Someone must have tipped them off that it was my dad’s birthday because they surprised us with an ice cream sundae and happy birthday singalong. They reminded me of camp counselors hanging out on the weekend when all the campers have gone home…or the Saved by the Bell crew working at the beach resort for the summer! Everyone was so friendly, it really felt like we were staying at some very generous host’s home for the weekend.
I had another late start the next morning but woke up to sunshine and went for a longer run. Touring the island on foot is really the way to go because you can peek through the hedges of the huge, gorgeous houses on the water. I didn’t want to be too creepy but couldn’t resist snapping a pic of my favorite…
Shelter Island is supposed to be a sort of anti-Hamptons but is apparently getting trendy. Over the course of the day, more and more glamorous types flooded the beach and restaurant at our hotel. The vibe was hilariously perfect. The people watching (and eavesdropping on name dropping) was insane as we lounged in the sun on the beach and lingered in the restaurant over more rosé. From older locals lamenting the scene to big families with kids squealing over the vintage Good Humor cooler to Manhattanites escaping the city to Europeans on vacation, we just sat in the middle and watched it all and joked around with Ned, our favorite waiter. We really could not have asked for a more perfect beach day, well earned after the drizzle and fog the day before.
After rinsing off the sand we headed to dinner at 18 Bay, another local favorite. It was good, but didn’t live up to the expectation set by Vine Street and the Sunset Beach restaurant. The food was all great, nothing really exceptional but well cooked, fresh and local. The atmosphere said refined casual but the required tasting menu felt too formal with a very, very slow parade of courses from antipasti to pasta to main to dessert. By the end of the day we were all just tired and ready to curl up in bed with a book.
Sunday morning was sadly too brief. We woke up to a cool, windy but sunny morning and took our coffee to go for a walk on the beach before packing up. Look out for jellyfish!
We stopped in at Stars Cafe for breakfast, took a few photos by the harbor and got in the car. I was nervous about getting caught in weekender traffic getting back to the city but we made it to JFK in no time, leaving me plenty of time to blog before my flight. My parents stayed on for a few days in New York while I got on a plane to Chicago (again!) for work. All in all it was a perfect weekend of quality family time, great food, and some much needed r&r. We’re already planning next year’s return!