I think the Hamptons and Montauk get the short end when it comes to food produced by national brands. With the exception of Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Montauk Milk Chocolate Cookies, I cannot think of one major brand you might find in stores all over the world that bear our names.
Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Montauk Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies have been on grocery shelves since about 1980. And they are, unlike other Pepperidge Farm cookies such as their cookies from Bordeaux, Milano, Tahoe, Santa Cruz and Chesapeake, really bad cookies in my opinion. Indeed, if you go on Amazon you can read reviews of this Montauk product. Many agree with me.
For example, Amy Steele “quirky mama” who says she lives in Western North Carolina writes this: Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Montauk Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies, 8.6 oz. “This is the only kind of Pepperidge Farm cookies that I have had in my lifetime that are just terrible. Very strange…the chips are great, but the cookie part of, well, these cookies, have a nondescript, bland, processed/white-sugar taste. No, you cannot compare the taste to a sugar cookie—it’s like an alien’s version of a chocolate chip cookie hastily made in order to use it to lure a human to its/his/her spacecraft. The brown sugar is just not kickin’ here, so just kick these to the curb.”
Years ago, when these cookies came out bearing the name “Montauk” for the first time, I was initially very proud of this. What a great chance to give us a cookie that could invoke Montauk, the sea, the surfers, the Indians, the fishermen, the Lighthouse and the Fishing boats, I bought a bag, ate one, and then immediately called the company and asked them to change the recipe. I told them the chocolate they were using from our internationally known Montauk Chocolate Trees were being bastardized with strange spices by their bakers. They no longer should say they were Montauk-made.
(As a gesture of good faith, I did invite them down for the annual Montauk Chocolate Bean Picking Harvest Celebration in late August, and they said they would come, but in the end they never did show.)
(As for my request that they change the recipe, what I got instead was an entire case of 144 boxes of Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Montauk Milk Chocolate Cookies, which was exactly what I didn’t want. I still have them, unopened, to this day.
As for “The Hamptons,” there have been various attempts to produce things to eat or drink with that designation. Some years ago, a potato chip firm went national with the name Hampton Potato Chips and using actual Hampton potatoes, but they went out of business for some reason. There was an attempt to create a Hamptons Bottled Water brand by drilling down into the aquifer in the pine barrens just north of Westhampton Beach, sucking up the water and marketing our actual wonderful water, but those proposing this never got their application through the Zoning Board of Appeals.
I think Kathleen King had a chance to go national for the Hamptons. She’s been making her very delicious chocolate chip cookies for years. This year, amazingly, her cookies—she’s now selling more than a million of them a year out of her factory in East Moriches—were rated as the top chocolate chip cookie in the country by no less than Consumer Reports. Unfortunately for us, Kathleen first produced her cookies 22 years ago not under the name Hamptons, but under the name Kathleen’s Cookies. And then about 10 years ago, during a business upheaval, she changed the name of her cookies—again, not to Hamptons Cookies—but to Tate’s Cookies. Tate is her father, Tate King of North Sea Farms in North Sea. So twice now, she’s missed the chance of making a Hamptons Cookie. What a shame.
And so it is that both the Hamptons and Montauk are very weak in the national food-branding department. Considering the vast array of delicious foods and wines produced here, it seems a shame this is so. “Hamptons” could refer to our caviar, truffles, wines, potatoes, broccoli and strawberries. Various frozen stripers, seals, sharks and crabs could proudly proclaim the name Montauk.
Frankly, we have quite an opportunity here to come up with a company to do battle with Kraft, Nabisco, General Foods or (Ugh) Pepperidge. Think Maui Chips, Nantucket Nectar, Maryland Soft Shell Crabs—all big successes that have made a lucky few people millions—and the rest of the populace proud.