At the annual Dan’s Best of the Best reception, held this year at Suffolk Theater in Riverhead, many East Enders were holding their heads high.
Business owners and employees, nonprofit leaders and media personalities were among Friday night’s many honorees. The 2013 Best of the Best winners, in North Fork and South Fork divisions, were chosen by the public in an online vote at danspapers.com.
Competition was fierce for the coveted title of Best of the Best, and those who came out on top when voting was over couldn’t be prouder.
“I did really try to win. It was a very steep competition,” said Danielle Delongis of Blue Sage Day Spa, the Platinum winner of Best Massage Therapist, North Fork. She was a first-time nominee, but she said she has been voting in Best of the Best for five years. She reached out to friends and clients through Facebook and email and also handed out fliers to everyone she treated during the voting period.
“I’m really excited,” Delongis said. “It really means a lot to me because I love my job. I work really hard at it, doing the best for my clients. And I felt it was a win for them as much as it was a win for me, because they really wanted me to win and were really promoting it with me.”
Walker Vreeland of WBAZ 102.5 also tapped into social media and his email contacts to encourage friends and fans to vote. Vreeland earned Platinum in the category of Best East End Personality, South Fork.
“I took it really seriously this year,” Vreeland said. “Last year, I was nominated but I didn’t really try to win. I didn’t really promote myself. I hate promoting myself; it’s not me and it doesn’t come naturally to me.”
But Vreeland said he got out of his comfort zone this year and shamelessly campaigned. He received much love and support from his listeners and the community, he said.
“I’ve followed it ever since I moved out here and started working in the radio business out here,” Vreeland said of Best of the Best. “This year though, it seemed bigger and more exciting, like the stakes were higher somehow … it’s become a much bigger deal than it used to be.”
Wölffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack won Gold or Silver honors in four different wine/vineyard categories, plus Platinum for Best Wedding Location, South Fork.
“That was the one that we’re really proud about because 2014 will be just an incredible year for weddings at Wölffer,” said Melissa Principi, the vineyards’s marketing and wine club manager. “We already have more booked than we’ve ever had in the past, so we’re looking forward to a great wedding season.”
Principi said the award certificate will be hung in the Wölffer tasting room, where the vineyard gets many wedding inquiries. Wölffer is not new to Best of the Best, having received top honors among wedding venues in 2011 and 2012 as well.
“Everything is so important that Dan’s does,” Principi said. “It’s like everything Dan’s touches turns to gold. In the community, this is the list that everyone’s looking at. We’ve always felt like every category—Silver, Platinum, Gold—everything is really important.”
On the North Fork, in Southold, Sparkling Pointe Vineyards and Winery won multiple honors for its wine and the beautiful vineyard itself.
Sparkling Pointe marketing and social media coordinator Kelsey Cheslock carried a big stack of plaques around Suffolk Theater, eight in total.
Cheslock said she encouraged all of Sparkling Pointe’s Facebook fans to vote and reached out to the vineyard’s mailing lists. The effort paid off handsomely.
“We really focus on the customer—our guests—and on the service experience and our great wines …” Cheslock said. “Having Dan’s behind us validates that and lets people know, this really is a great place and it is the best of the best.”
Here’s what other winners had to say about being voted Dan’s Best of the Best in 2013:
“It means a lot to me because it helps me understand that people do recognize that there is quality in every individual category. There are a lot of good, talented people out here, and to have your peers and your clients and the general public cast a vote of confidence in your favor is very gratifying. This was a little bit strenuous, because we were watching those vote [totals], and I actually had clients who said to me they had a reminder on their phone every day so they wouldn’t forget to vote for me.”—Barbara Feldman, Barbara Feldman CID/ Hamptons Interior Design
“I just think it’s great, because it comes from all our customers and all the people we work for, all the people who appreciate the things we do. We won on the North Fork and the South Fork, so our work speaks for itself. It’s really good coming from the people.”—Ben Smith, Mildew Busters
“It’s good to get the recognition from the locals. Obviously there are summer tourists, but we’re really here to cater to the locals, so that’s our business, all year round. To survive, you really need to locals, because they get you through the year.” Brian Pennacchia, Touch of Venice
“It’s an honor. It means that the community really appreciates the work that we do, they enjoy our restaurants, they enjoy our food, they enjoy the atmosphere.”—Gail Karr, Jamesport Country Kitchen, Jamesport Manor Inn, Christopher Michael Caterers
“First, thanks to Dan’s Papers. 75 Main won in seven categories, and it shows that people appreciate the quality of the food and everything else we do. 75 Main has been around over a hundred years, and for the last four years under me we’ve taken it to another level as a beautiful, upscale restaurant in beautiful Southampton. We’ve worked very hard, and I appreciate that the people appreciate it as a summer restaurant and as a local restaurant all year.”—Zach Erdem, 75 Main
“To win Best Bartender, and Best Italian, too, it’s an honor, honestly. We haven’t won in a while, so to come out of the blue and win three awards this year is kind of exciting—we also won Best Waiter. We’re on the outskirts of Hampton Bays, so that shows something, too.”—Nina Kubacka, Villa Tuscano
“This is my 13th time winning Best of the Best, so it means a lot to me. It means maintaining a legacy, and, from my point of view, it represents that in a very demanding profession, it means that people actually think I’m pretty good. So it’s very satisfying and means a lot to me”—Bruce Nagel, Architect
“It’s great—we won Best Continental Cuisine, Best French Cuisine and Best Cookies, of all things! It’s all an honor to win from our neighbors, our friends and our patrons.”—Jeff Abinette, Stonewalls Restaurant
“We know this is voted on by the people, and it’s nice to be appreciated and to know that people recognize what we do. We try to deliver the best product that we can. It’s pretty flattering. I won Best Winemaker, and there are a lot of great wine makers here on the East End, on all levels for us, it’s just flattering to be recognized—Juan Micieli-Martinez, Martha Clara Vineyards
“We’re very excited. Dan’s Papers is an icon out in the Hamptons, so for us to be honored by Dan’s Papers readers is just a tremendous, tremendous honor. It means everything to us that our customers voted for us, because that’s who we’re doing it for—without the customers, we’re nothing.”—Jason Gamba, Beach Hand Wash
“It’s overwhelming. I thank all the people who voted—it’s such an honor to be a part of this. And to watch how it has grown over the years, from being a little party behind Dan’s old building with a tent to this magnificent event it is now.”—Danny Pollera, Artist
Are you a 2013 Dan’s Best of the Best winner? Share your thoughts about winning in the comments below!
See all the 2013 Dan’s Best of the Best Winners here.