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Food Trucks: A Family Affair on the East End

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Laurie Trujillo-Mamay’s Hamptons Foodie truck at Sagg Main Beach on Monday. Photos by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

As August begins and the masses descend in full force upon the East End, it seems to take longer to do everything. Longer lines mean that the simple process of buying a picnic lunch to take to the beach can eat up a full hour of valuable Vitamin-D time. But entrepreneurial gastronomes are providing an option with affordable food trucks just steps from the dunes.

Laurie Trujillo-Mamay grew up in Southern California, where food trucks are a dime a dozen. She has never had any formal training but has fond memories of being young and vigilantly watching her mother’s every move in the kitchen. “I just love to cook,” she said. “I cook for my family and people always said that I should open something up.”

With rental prices through the roof, opening up an actual restaurant was not an option for Ms. Trujillo-Mamay. One day, a little over 10 years ago, Ms. Trujillo-Mamay saw a food truck for sale in Montauk and decided to look into the feasibility of opening up her own.

Now, her truck ,“The Hamptons Foodie,” is in its 10th year, and has been feeding beachgoers at Sagg Main Beach for the past six summers. Her menu changes and she is always coming up with new recipes, she said. She predominately makes what she describes as “food for foodies.”

Kale and vegetable dumplings are new to the menu this year, and her sesame noodles and fish tacos are also particularly popular. But then again, so are her burgers and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. “There’s gotta be some things that you cater to everyone,” she said, adding that people often compliment her on her wide range of choices.

“It’s all about good food, friends and family,” she said, and she was not kidding. Not only have Ms. Trujillo-Mamay’s daughter, mother, niece and nephew all helped out in the truck at times, but this summer she has also employed two other groups of mothers and daughters to work in the truck on the busy weekends.

Family involvement is pretty common in the food truck business, it seems, if Montauk-mainstays The Beach Dog and The Ditch Witch provide any indication. The Ditch Witch, located near East Deck motel in Montauk, is the original alternative food truck and is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary this season.


The Ditch Witch at Ditch Plains

Lili Adams has run the Ditch Witch since 1994, and her children both help her with the day-to-day operations, as do other local kids, year after year. A ceramic tip jar sculpted by local artist Maura Donahue has the words “college fund” taped onto it.

The Ditch Witch serves a range of sandwiches, wraps, and salads as well as a large selection of iced teas, coffees and other drinks. An extensive special menu changes over the season. Last week it included exotic options such as a bahn mi sandwich and Thai chicken wraps.

Pickier eaters can find a selection of hot dogs, grilled cheeses and nachos around the corner at the first parking lot at Ditch Plains. Sisters Jenna and Jaime Bogetti have worked in their grandfather’s food truck, “The Beach Dog,” for years. Jenna, now 24, recalls helping her grandfather, John Bogetti, out from the age of around 12. Mr. Bogetti was in a car crash in May, and so this year his granddaughters have been running the truck on their own.

“The Beach Dog” has been around for 25 years, according to Ms. Bogetti, but this year the girls are running the business out of their cousin’s truck, a grilled cheese truck aptly named “Beacheesy.” But the name shouldn’t fool anyone. Their menu is the same that it always has been and hot dogs are available with all the fixings every day it doesn’t rain.

One of the newest food trucks to the East End is the Purple Truck, owned and run out of Indian Wells Beach by best friends Kerri Wright and Kristen Walles. “Well, we’re family,” Ms. Walles said. The women met at basketball camp when they were 15 and “have been best friends ever since.” Ms. Walles had the idea of opening up a truck serving acai bowls after traveling to Hawaii with her boyfriend, Leif Engstrom, a professional surfer from Montauk.

“We talked about it a lot when we were Australia and we said we should definitely do it. And then we got back here and we said, no really let’s do it.” Ms. Wright said. As restaurants in the Hamptons began to focus more on healthy eating, Ms. Wright and Ms. Walles decided it was the right time to bring the anti-oxidant-filled Brazilian berries to the East End. Their very purple Purple Truck sells dairy-free smoothies and smoothie bowls topped with granola and fresh fruit every day. “We just thought people would love it,” Ms. Wright said.

Kerri Wright, left, and Kristen Walles, right, in the Purple Truck at Indian Wells Beach

Kerri Wright, left, and Kristen Walles, right, in the Purple Truck at Indian Wells Beach

“We don’t add anything else to it, we don’t add sugar,” she said, but added that their younger customers are fans of the Reeses bites and chocolate chips that they keep on hand in the truck.

Occasionally, Ms. Walles’s brother and father help them out, but usually the two girls run the show alone. “It’s easier for us because we understand each other without talking,” Ms. Wright said. “We just balance each other out and it’s good teamwork.”

All four of the trucks are at their spots every day (except during downpours,) during the summer season. On Friday, August 9, East Enders will get a chance to sample food from over a dozen food trucks from as far away as Manhattan that will congregate at Hayground School for the third annual Great Food Truck Derby. The general admission price is $65, and guests can taste samples from each truck. Ms. Trujillo-Mamay and the Hamptons Foodie will be there.

Celebrate Earth Day Across the East End

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By Claire Walla

This coming Saturday, Christine Fetton will spend most of her waking hours at the Southampton Town transfer station in North Sea, doing what most people probably consider a most undesirable activity: monitoring trash.

As the director of waste management for Southampton Town, monitoring trash at the town’s transfer station, where she keeps an office, is a relatively routine role for Fetton. However, this Saturday is Earth Day, which means Southampton Town will be holding its annual Great East End Clean-Up (which runs through Sunday).

This time last year, Fetton said the town collected a grand total of 56 tons of garbage.

“I think we’re going to be a little busier this weekend than we are during normal weeks,” she said with a grin.

As in years past, the Clean Up will bring hundreds of East End residents to beaches and parks throughout Southampton Town for a conscientious environmental cleanse in the name of Earth Day, the one day out of the year when communities around the world make an effort to beautify their immediate surroundings.

In addition to the Great East End Clean Up, residents here will also be able to take part in a smattering of other nature-oriented events. The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center (on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike) will host a cleanup of its own at Sagg Main Beach from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 21, followed by an open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The open house will not only include a Live Raptor and Animal Show at 1 p.m., but also a walking tour that requires nothing but your eyes and a working cell phone.

“You dial a number on your cell phone and it goes to a recording with information about that stop [on the nature walk],” said Nature Educator Lindsay Rohrbach.

Out in Montauk, Earth Day will be widely celebrated on Earth Day’s official date: Sunday, April 22. From 9 a.m. to noon, people will be invited to clean up areas around Edgemere Street (garbage bags will be available at the movie theater), and from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. kids will be able to decorate reusable grocery bags at the Montauk Playhouse.

The emphasis on reusable bags is also a big part of this year’s town-sponsored events in Southampton. During the Great East End Clean Up, trash collectors will be asked to separate single-use plastic bags from the mix. According to Fetton, this accumulation of plastic will be used as data.

“This way we can work to establish a baseline of usage, which we can compare to next year’s numbers,” Fetton explained.

While the town voted against instituting an all-out plastic bag ban (like the one now in place in Southampton Village) earlier this year, it has embarked on an educational campaign, urging residents to limit their dependence on plastic.

This entire effort, called Greener Southampton: The Solution is in the Bag, will be kicked-off this Saturday, as well. Councilwoman Christine Preston Scalera and Councilman Chris Nuzzi, in addition to the town’s Sustainability Coordinator Liz Plouff will be at the King Kullen Supermarket on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton from noon to 2 p.m. to discuss the environmental hazards of plastic bags. (Those shopping within that time frame who spend $10 or more at the store will receive a free reusable bag.)

Taking a momentary break from the plastics discussion, Plouff will also talk about the town’s Green Homes initiative, through which homeowners in the town of Southampton can request free audits on their home’s energy efficiency. She will also mention the town’s anti-idling campaign.

In the end, Fetton said there may only be one organized town-wide cleanup in Southampton, but she hopes this year’s educational efforts will have long-lasting effects.

“The key is continuing education,” she said.

While plastic bags may take center stage this year, Fetton said these educational efforts, which have branched out to civic associations and other community groups, try to incorporate all aspects of sustainability, from limiting the use of plastics to diminishing the number of idling vehicles.

“All of these issues mesh very well because they have a ripple effect for one another, and when you live more sustainably you reduce the amount of pollutants in the environment,” Fetton continued. “We have to get away from the mindset that Earth Day is just one weekend out of the year.”

Surfing at Sagg Main: Bill Brings it On

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By Benito Vila

Well-meaning people will tell you, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” On the East End, there is a special lot that live knowing, “When you get a swell, you go surf.”

Nothing stokes the surfing community here more than an off-shore hurricane or nor’easter. A wave forecast on Swellinfo, Surfline or Magicseaweed describing head-high surf is enough to make everyday commitments disappear and leave loved ones alone, waiting, wondering what might come next.

For those that surf, last weekend’s Hurricane Bill brought back the joy, mischief and thrill missing in two weeks of ankle-high waves. The storm surge that on Saturday closed beaches to swimming and gouged away the shoreline, came ashore Sunday in fast-moving walls of ride-able waves with 10-to-15-foot faces. Those quick-shifting conditions caused even the most experienced surfers to pause a bit before going in, checking equipment and confidence, and then setting off.

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Sunday Morning Coming Down

With talk of the surf having been best in Montauk on Saturday, Sag Harbor’s Mike Semkus and James Cassone woke up at 4:30 a.m. Sunday and headed east. Arriving at the popular spot called “Turtles”, just west of the lighthouse, the pair found a crowd of 30-some already anxiously assembled.

First light brought disappointment, the in-coming swells not quite setting up with the “clean” faces everyone expected in the off-shore wind. Still some surfers went in, but Semkus and Cassone came west checking other surf spots on their way before pulling into Sagg Main Beach around 8:30 a.m.

There, at their home beach break, the two found exactly what they wanted, sizeable, reachable, ride-able waves breaking 50-yards off-shore, without the rocks or the crowds they’d found out in Montauk. Walking into the surf just before 9 a.m., Semkus and Cassone encountered a slight westward sweep in the water along with a powerful three-to-four-foot white-water churn produced by the crashing waves.

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A Sweet Day

Those gifts from Hurricane Bill made getting out to where the surf was breaking difficult, but the pair paddled their way through and soon found themselves out beyond the inside break and close to being in position to take off. When Cassone came down the face of a 10-foot-high face, white water exploding even higher beside him, applause broke out from the ten or fifteen people standing at the opening in the dune.

Meanwhile, those few standing on the steps to the bathhouse were watching Semkus drift west ahead of an even bigger set building on the far outside. With Semkus riding up and punching through, then coming in to set himself for his first ride, and Cassone coming about in the water and heading out again, it was only a matter of time before others would come down and get in on what proved to be a “sweet” day at Sagg Main.

Before the day was through there was talk on the beach of tow-in surfing in Montauk, of surf breaking on the north side of the lighthouse and of surfers taking boats to Gardiner’s Island and planes to Block Island and Fishers Island to get the best of the swell there. All day though the break at Sagg Main continued to be ride-able for those that could, the evening session somewhat smaller and less intense than the morning, but “good fun” all the same.

Semkus and Cassone were still at Sagg Main at sunset on Sunday, their first session keeping them in the water until 1 p.m., and their second session starting at 5 p.m. When asked what the surfing was like, Semkus answered, “It was like two different days. The morning was wild. We’d been up for four hours before we got in and then we had to work for everything we could get. The water was fast and once we found [what we could and could not do], we were off.”

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Stories about Bill

The buzz about Bill started on the beach at Sagg Main last Tuesday, Surfline’s wave models calling for 30-foot off-shore swells and 20-foot near-shore swells. By Friday afternoon, a south-west wind brought in a building, but choppy, and inconsistent swell, head-high outside sets often closing out on longboarders and slightly smaller inside sets crashing down quickly on the shortboarders.

Saturday saw a massive off-shore break and online buoy data whet the appetites of nearly every surfer on the East End. In the morning at Sagg Main, Luke Washburn reported seeing buoy heights of seven-to-eight feet with 14-second intervals, excitedly adding, “I haven’t seen that in years.” At Georgica Beach in the afternoon, Mike Solomon reported 10-foot swells on the buoys with a similar interval, and pointed at the horizon, saying, “That means 20-foot waves out there.”

Meanwhile at Main Beach (East Hampton), three lifeguards went out to see if what they were seeing–and keeping swimmers out of–might at all be ride-able. Two made it out to the large outside break, with Scott McGuiness successfully catching what fellow East Hampton village lifeguard and Sag Harbor resident Bob Bori called “an absolute bomb.”

McGuiness’ supervisor, Ed McDonald said on Sunday morning the scene Saturday “looked absolutely Hawaiian, like those pictures you see with the little guy in the big wave”, adding that when McGuiness came in, he said, “It’s bigger than it looks.” That one “bomb” was enough, word spreading of McGuiness’ solo ride so that it was already legendary by Sunday afternoon.

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What Surfers Hope For

Saturday night’s buoys reported 13.8-foot swells 23 miles south of Montauk and 24.9-foot swells 54 miles southeast of Nantucket, the biggest part of the storm passing by in the dark. As is the norm, the National Data Buoy Center cautioned, “Individual wave heights can be more than twice the [given] wave height.”

The truth be told, Bill’s path was not the ultimate ideal for many of the local surfers. “What we need is something like Gabrielle in 1989,” explained Sag Harbor’s Butch Kunzeman early in the week. “She stayed around for a week and just pumped.” Having a hurricane “stall” several hundred miles out, much as Bertha did last July, yields a more consistent and lingering groundswell than fast-moving, more erratic storms, like Bill, bring.

The ideal track is one that sees storms stay further off-shore than Bill’s 250-mile brush-by. Rick Musnicki, who grew up in Bridgehampton, learned to surf at Georgica and now awaits good surf in Sag Harbor, said Saturday, “Bill’s too close. Once it’s out a bit, things will get better.”

Proved correct on Sunday and still happily surfing Sagg Main on Tuesday evening, Musnicki was asked what he liked most about Bill. With the weekend’s groundswell gone and a windswell making sunset more interesting, Musnicki answered, “There weren’t any people,” acknowledging the open playground created by the absence of swimmers on the inside and inexperienced surfers on the outside.

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Sagg Main 2009

This summer, like last summer, has seen the return of a sand bar to Sagg Main. That has attracted swimmers and surfers to the same area, often creating conflicts for the beach’s lifeguards, who set out flags every morning clearly indicating where each group should be.

The two-week flat spell Bill ended was not too unusual for a typical June or July, but those months this year saw the surf break regularly at Sagg Main both inside and outside. That unexpected but welcome abundance of surf, and last month’s biting bluefish, has led the lifeguards to become more watchful and protective of the bathing area.

Sag Harbor’s Lester Ware, who grew up surfing in Southampton and often longboards the outside break at Sagg Main, calls the surf this summer, “The best in years. It’s been there day in and day out, except for the first two weeks of August. With what we usually have coming in the fall, this could be one year we talk about for a long time.”

In describing his experience with Bill’s waves, Ware said, “I usually don’t say ‘Whoa’ too often [when I get to the water], but when I came over the dune [at Sagg Main] on Sunday morning, all I could say was ‘Whoa’.”

Did you surf last weekend? Leave a post and share your experiences.

Drumming at Sagg Main Worries Village Officials

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What started several years ago as an impromptu drumming circle at Sagg Main Beach on Monday nights has exploded into an evening of music making, dancing and picnicking. Last summer the gathering was busted by Southampton Town Police after the informal event drew a crowd of nearly 1,500 people. Despite these past altercations, residents from across the East End continue to flock to the Sagaponack beach on Monday evenings, making village officials very nervous.

Sagaponack trustee Alfred Kelman complained of spotting backed-up traffic on the roads leading to Sagg Main last Monday evening. Village mayor Don Louchheim added that the police were called in that night to shut down the gathering. According to village clerk Rhodi Winchell, the police were at the beach again this Monday night to control the crowd.

Allyn Jackson, the Southampton Town’s superintendent of parks and recreation, aided town police officers to help control the crowd and parking on Monday evening. Based on the number of cars parked in the beach’s lot and surrounding streets, Jackson estimated between 700 to 900 people were in attendance at Monday’s drum gathering.

“It was a major crowd, almost as big as there is during the day. They were basically a well-mannered crowd, but it is still a large crowd for the facility,” said Jackson.

He contends the event taxes the resources of the town, as town employees must clean up the beach and empty the beach’s trash cans, which are often overflowing by the end of the evening. Jackson also pointed out the on-site public restrooms close at 7 p.m. He asserts several attendees of the event bring their dogs to the beach, which is expressly forbidden under town code, and a few start barbeque fires, which requires a permit.

However, those gathering at Sagg Main on Monday evenings have every right to be there, maintains Jackson. Outdoor parties of 100 people or more require a permit, but Jackson says there is no leader or organizer of the Monday night drum sessions and added that the musicians cannot be held responsible if hundreds of locals come to watch them play.

“For the most part this is a wholesome activity. The town doesn’t want to be too heavy handed if citizens have a right to gather,” remarked Jackson. “We are just concerned about the large crowds.”

“It is a big party,” declared Louchheim of the gatherings at a Sagaponack board meeting on Monday, July 20. The informal events have steadily attracted healthy crowds in recent summer seasons. Many come to join in the extensive drum circle with a chime, triangle or other small instrument. Others bathe in the music on spread out blankets and munch on the contents of an early evening picnic.

The influx of parking generated from this event, however, is a needle in the side of several homeowners near Sagg Main. Sagaponack resident Patrick Guarino suggested the town put up “No Parking” signs along the roads leading to the beach as a way to deter the outflow of parking. This suggestion, however, would require the village to change certain sections of their village code. Louchheim believes working with local law enforcement to disband the gatherings will eventually curtail excess parking.

Suffolk County Legislator and avid musician Jay Schneiderman would like to see the gathering remain and believes it has become an East End institution.

“Clearly the community wants this. To kill it would be sad,” opined Schneiderman. “Why rain on the parade?”

Local Benefits

Although modest in size, Sagaponack village is the site of many unplanned, and planned, events. In anticipation of the summer season, this spring the board agreed to mainly support events benefiting local charities during the permit process.

On Monday, the board approved four benefits, yet only one was linked to a local not-for-profit organization. Though August is heralded as benefit month, eight benefits have been hosted within the village to date and 17 are slated for the coming months.

Mayor Louchheim and the board agreed to progress with outdoor assembly permit applications as usual, but at the end of the season he asked the board to complete a review and ascertain the number of events benefiting local institutions.

“We should look at multiple parties, maybe we limit it to one benefit per site,” added Louchheim.