Helen Gifford and Michael Nolan's Collaboration Tuesdays is the rotating dinner party you'll hope to get invited to.
On any given Tuesday night, you might have trouble driving by the secluded Sag Harbor street Helen Gifford and Michael Nolan live on. Many cars line the beautifully manicured side street of their large property that sits atop of a small hill. Nolan, a soft-spoken and charming co-owner of Fresno, Beacon and Bell & Anchor, and his British-born/Brunai-raised custom lighting designer wife host regular dinner parties for local friends old and new, who come to talk shop, life and the “not-so-dreaded” off-season.
“These get-togethers just kind of happened naturally, really,’ explains the statuesque Gifford, whose work hangs throughout their historic home brimming with personality. “With Michael working in hospitality, Tuesdays are the only days that make sense for us. It’s usually the slowest day in restaurants.” It is also the easiest day to get everyone to come and join around the table.
Guests around the dining table.
The crowd, including many local fixtures and two golden retrievers, is boisterous and hungry, feasting on clams and oysters courtesy of Scott Bradley; grilled local striped bass, stuffed with lemon and salsa verde prepared by the host; and salads brought by Chris and Jane LaGuardia and Beth and Jeff Muhs. “Art, food and design is definitely what brought us together,” explains Austin Handler, who with his wife, Jennifer Mabley, co-owns Mabley Handler Interior Design. “It’s hard to vacation in the Hamptons if you live and work here. It’s kind of a break for us, especially during the busy summer.”
Speaking of working, there is a special bond that unites this group. All consider the Hamptons home year-round both personally and professionally. “There is no doubt that it’s not easy to come and live out here and create sustainable businesses,” adds Mabley. “But I think those who figure it out find it very rewarding.” However gratifying, this arrangement comes with a slew of unique challenges, mostly a notable slowdown in commerce. “It’s tricky living out here 12 months out of the year,” Nolan chimes in. “We build each other up and support each other by becoming each other’s clients, especially when the crowds leave and the working community out here needs to continue to grow.”
A picture-perfect moment around the pool.
The group flows in and out of the kitchen. Some sip chilled rosé around the pool; others casually linger on the deck catching up on news and gossip. A few are making plans for fall holidays in the Caribbean. There is a cinematic quality to it all. With the sun setting in the background, this is a picture-perfect moment. “Of course we slow down in fall and winter, but there are plenty of restaurants, hotels and stores that continue to operate,” Handler says, returning to the subject most important to everyone. “There are no shutters on the windows here. It’s actually a beautiful and alive place to visit off-season.”
Gina Bradley, aka Paddle Diva, calls everyone to the beautifully arranged table. “It’s so very simple,” she says. “We all need to commit to localism. We need to support this community, our natural environment, and we all have to mindfully support businesses here.”
The setting for Collaboration Tuesdays.
As the dinner comes to an end and guests begin to leave, some exchange phone numbers and others confirm earlier-made plans to go fishing on the weekend. A few are busy around the kitchen, cleaning up in familial-like harmony. “I lived in many places,” says Gifford. “This place is home even if I don’t have a single relative living here. It’s good soil for the soul here.”