Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Pope Project

I think it’s a great idea to focus your adventures on something exciting, whenever possible.  For those of us in New York, this week will mark Pope Francis’ first and historic visit to New York.  It coincides with the UN Assembly, so the city is awhirl and gridlock will be at an all-time high.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.  They must be felt with the heart.”  Helen Keller

Most days, New York is in full gear and locked in its well-known high energy mode.  But for special events like the ones coming to our fair city this week, the electric frequency levels burst into full-on rocket liftoff mode!  And the excitement it generates is unparalleled.

New York City's Giant Pope Billboard near Madison Square Garden

New York City’s Giant Pope Billboard near Madison Square Garden

At times like this, you can literally “feel it in the air.”  So I decided over the weekend, to make this week my “Pope Project” and try to visit some of the places the Pope will see, while he’s here.  I also find that the preparations for such events are just as exciting as the events themselves.  And when you create a special project for yourself, such as this one, it gives you a full agenda for any and all time that you have on your own.

NYPD "blocks" all over the city in preparation for a whirlwind week ahead!

NYPD “blocks” all over the city in preparation for a whirlwind week ahead!

From the giant billboard hand-painted last week on a building near Madison Square Garden, where the Pope will say Mass, to the smallest detail of hand-hung “no parking” signs on the trees of the street where he will stay, you can see the anticipation take hold.   There are honestly no contenders, in my mind, when it comes to the NYPD.  And evidence of their hard work is already visible all over the city too.  In anticipation of the crowds that will gather, starting on Thursday, there’s fencing, cement blocks, street closure warnings and all sorts of other indicators of what’s ahead for both the force and NYC residents!

Signs of preparation for the Pope and the UN Assembly this week!

Signs of preparation for the Pope and the UN Assembly this week!

No doubt all of the media will be out front covering the Pope’s every movement.  But I find it really exciting to capture the week from my own humble perspective.  Although I tried to get tickets to see him in Central Park or along his journey down Fifth Ave., I didn’t win any of the many lotteries that were held.  So, now, I have a really perfect “A Table For One” week ahead, as I document my own experience.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and catch a glimpse of him somewhere along his many routes.  But if not, just getting out and about to see the preparations and experience the city as it lights up in anticipation is really very special.  I think everyone should take on a special project once in a while, to enjoy their time with “A Table For One.”

Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady

All rights reserved



Dining In…Summer’s Bounty

There’s a sweet moment of time in-between seasons, when the season exiting surrenders one last burst of divine bounty, before giving way to the next season’s start.   If you follow the farm, as suggested in an earlier post, you’ll come away with the cherished fruits of the season.

“Life is like jazz…it’s best when you improvise.”  George Gershwin

Next, what to do with them?  Improvise!  On my recent trip to Augustine’s Farm in Greenwich, Ct., I found lots of extraordinary heirloom tomatoes.  There is no consistency in size, shape, color or taste.  They are all, quite simply, and very individually, delicious.

A great big pot of summer's best harvest! Heirloom tomato sauce.

A great big pot of summer’s best harvest! Heirloom tomato sauce.

Find a recipe you like and adapt it to your own unique taste.  I find that using high quality produce, such as these extra-special tomatoes and herbs are enough to stand up on their own.  I like to keep it simple, because these batches of saucy deliciousness are going to be mostly frozen for the winter.  Cover and leave to simmer slowly for 1 1/2 hours or so and then use an immersion blender to finish.

Later, on a cold and dreary winter’s day, when the days are too short and the skies are too cloudy, I will take out a serving of summer flavor and remember that even the winter season will eventually change too!

Typically, the night after cooking and freezing my tomato sauce, I’ll give it a test run.  This time, I cooked fresh Prince Edward Island mussels for my trial run.  Having left the heirloom tomato sauce as a simple basic, I’m able to make different variations later.  For this test run, I added spicy red pepper flakes and more fresh basil.  Adding a little chicken stock, sea salt and fresh ground pepper is all you need.  Next, I cooked up some al dente whole wheat pasta from southern Italy, to go along with this delicious meal.

Beautiful Summer Bounty with fresh mussels and pasta

Beautiful Summer Bounty with fresh mussels and pasta

I always recommend plating every meal with purpose and imagination.  In this case, I broke out my lovely fall inspired bowls, since the theme is the changing seasons.  What could be better than summer’s bounty served up with a nod to autumn?  Add a special glass of bubbly or your last taste of the season’s rose and you have a wonderful combination of fresh delight.  This is a perfect way to extend your trip to the farm right to your own table and freezer.  You will continue to enjoy these treats all winter long!  And that’s “A Table For One”!

Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady

All rights reserved

Day Trippin’

I think that day trips are highly underrated.  While we spend hours planning for major getaways,  we frequently overlook the fun that can be had from just spontaneously hopping in a car, taking a train ride or even a bus to a nearby location for the day.  Taking a break from your own routine surroundings, even if just for a few hours, can rejuvenate and reenergize your perspective.

“I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see.”  John Burroughs

I have found that there are an infinite variety of things to do when you’re on your own.  Breaking out of the scenery you live in is always invigorating.  It gives you a different way to see your everyday environment.  When you return, after exploring a totally different landscape, you feel that you’ve been far away, even if you’ve just gone an hour or so away from home base.

Break away for a spontaneous adventure, somewhere nearby!

Break away for a spontaneous adventure, somewhere nearby!

The town of Greenwich, Ct. is not far from Manhattan.  I grew up in Rye, N.Y. and attended elementary and high school in Greenwich, so it too is very familiar territory.  Greenwich is a great choice for a day trip from New York City.  Nestled in the northern end of Greenwich, there are acres and acres of meadows, lines of old stone walls meandering up and down hills, trees as old as those hills and a plethora of expansive fields to explore.  And there, you will find the Audubon Center…an absolute treasure, so near and yet so far from the intenseness of city life.

The Audubon Center nestled in the northern corner of Greenwich, Ct.

The Audubon Center nestled in the northern corner of Greenwich, Ct.

The Audubon Center of Greenwich is a nature center comprised of over 200 acres of land and offers 7 miles of trails to walk.  Who would suspect that such a rich resource as this would be so close to the city of New York?  The beautiful welcome center has a gift shop, lots of reading materials, rooms for their regular talks and the people are lovely.  Here is where you can rest after a long walk, sit on their back deck overlooking the property and enjoy the spectacular view.

The Audubon Center of Greenwich, Ct.

The Audubon Center of Greenwich, Ct.

Pack up your favorite sandwich, snacks and bottled water for a picnic.  Don’t forget your sunscreen, a hat and be sure to wear good walking shoes.  This is a day trip made to order.  The trails are long and complex enough to make it a return-to favorite.  For me, the complete contrast from the concrete pathways of the city is a welcome relief.  Open sky, earthy terrain,  beautiful flora, fauna and birds…what a magnificent way to spend a day!  It would be great to go with a friend too.  But this is a perfect day trip just for you!  Revel in the freedom of a very special adventure on your own.

Create your own backyard habitat!

Create your own backyard habitat!

The Audubon Center also offers great ideas on how to create your own backyard habitat.  It doesn’t have to be fancy.  These are great ideas from the best experts.  Since the Center also offers interesting talks and tours, this will be something to consider doing for another “A Table For One” experience.  Try not to waste any time, if you find yourself alone, set out on a day trip! You’ll find it’s one of the best ways to enjoy “being” on your own!

Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady

All rights reserved

Summer Daze

Let’s face it.  Summer ends way too early and not according to the actually season.  The hectic pace of our society demands artificial deadlines, starts and finishes to almost every season. Most noticeable among them, is summer.

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”   Mahatma Gandhi

When you’re on your own, you have a unique opportunity to follow the rhythm of the seasons as they’re meant to be.  Even if you have to adhere  to the artificial timing of a season, due to work or other obligations, feel free to follow the flow of mother nature too.  Indulge yourself.

Augustine's Farm

Augustine’s Farm

I have found that the best bounty is available on the cusp of every season.  While you have to wait for a season to begin without knowing the exact time and day it will blossom, the change of seasons is something you can sense, feel and predict more easily.

Farmstands that speak to the seasons

Farmstands speak mother nature’s language of the seasons

If you follow the farm stands in your area, you can connect with this precious phenomenon in a very real way.  To my mind, there is no better way to celebrate the seasons than to simply find a local farm.  Get on their calendar.  It’s perfect.  It’s accurate.  And it’s true to the earth’s own finely tuned clock.  Farm stands speak mother nature’s language of the seasons.  They are also very specific to your exact location.

Seasons Change on Mother Earth's clock

Seasons Change on Mother Earth’s clock

Today, I woke up with an anxious feeling that summer was escaping and I may not have captured its essence in every way I hoped to.   So it was time for “A Table For One” adventure.  I wanted to bottle the flavors of summer in a fresh tomato sauce and to freeze summer’s sweet corn to brighten the coming winter’s days.  I could have gone to my local market, to shop. They’re still stocking much of summer’s delicious bounty.

Augustine's Farm in Connecticut…simply the best!

Augustine’s Farm in Connecticut…simply the best!

But instead, I made this a special outing.  It’s such fun to go hunting for a local farm.  You can meet the farmers, experience the delightful sights and smells of the harvest and learn more about the foods you love to prepare.  Most of the people who run these stands will also have time-tested and proven recipes to suggest, if you ask them.  On this trip, I came away with pounds of heirloom tomatoes for my sauce, lots of ears of summer’s last sweet corn, ripe yellow peaches, all kinds of fresh berries and the delightful experience of a day fulfilled.  Summer at it’s very best.  Never pass by an opportunity to break out and make something ordinary, extraordinary.  “A Table For One”.

Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady

All Rights Reserved