Tag Archives: Dining

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

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Break For Lunch

When I think about how many lunches I’ve spent rushing through the meal or eating at my desk, it’s hard to believe.  Frequently, I am thinking I’ll get more work done.  Or that , if I don’t have a client lunch or one with a friend scheduled, that I should use the time to catch up on other things.  I think a lot of people do this.

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking, if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.”   Voltaire

Find a Quiet Hideaway

Find a Quiet Hideaway

Instead of rushing though every lunchtime, try making a pledge to “take yourself out to lunch”, even if it’s just once a week.  Brink a notebook along and see how refreshing it can be to write out a few notes.  Not about work and not a “to do” list.  Just write about your thoughts in the moment.  It can change your mood from stressed to relaxed, almost immediately.  If you need to take any devices with you, try to put them aside and avoid using them during your meal.

Bring a notebook!

Bring a notebook!

Your meal can be a really simple one, but it should be special.  I like to select a quiet cafe and one that might even have music.  The ambiance and music can transport you, even before your food arrives.  And it also helps re-set your mind and inspire your thoughts.   Here’s a delicious meal at a little French Bistro, where the setting, along with Edith-Piaf style Parisienne music and a Croque Monsieur provide a perfect lunchtime escape.

Croque Monsieur and a salad!  Delicieux!

Croque Monsieur and a salad! Delicieux!

By all means, take time to find a really unique lunchtime escape and treat yourself to a well deserved lunch on your own.  You’ll go back to work completely refreshed and ready to plunge back into all those “to do’s”.  What could be a  better result for taking time to break for lunch with “A Table For One?”

Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady

Summer, Hot Dogs and History!

“Life is like riding a bicycle: you don’t fall off unless you stop pedaling.”                                Claude Pepper

It’s summer.  If you ask me, among the most “iconic” foods of summer, the simple and forever humble hot dog ranks among the best.  Everyone loves them.  And although humble, the hot dog holds an elevated place on Coney Island, street corners everywhere, barbecue grills and in out-of-the-way places.  Hot dogs are fun.  Who knew that they’re also historic?

History in a Hot Dog!

History in a Hot Dog!

“A Table For One” is all about the art of being alone.  Look for ordinary things, like hot dogs, and find a way to elevate them.  It’s all about making the most simple outing different and memorable.

Simple Summer Food In An Historically Designated Place!

Simple Summer Food In An Historically Designated Place!

I’d venture to guess that everyone has a sweet memory of hot dogs, discovered and consumed somewhere on a summer day that evokes all the divine memories of family, love and summer.

Although you can eat a hot dog anytime of year, the art of enjoying a really good hot dog goes along with a steaming hot, beautiful mid-summer day.  Wherever you chose to go for one, be sure to linger.  Layer it with whatever are your favorite condiments.  Mine include Walter’s special mustard.  It’s dark mustard with just the right amount of chopped up pickles in it.  And they even sell the mustard so you can re-create the experience at home, or use it on other things, like your sandwiches.

Eating a really great hot dog on a sultry, lazy summer afternoon can transport you back to childhood, happiness and the simple joys of summer.   It’s a perfect outing for “A Table For One”.  Go eat a hot dog!  And by all means…take the time to enjoy it.

Department of the Interior Landmark!

Department of the Interior Landmark!

Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady



Special Occasion Shopping…For You!

I think most of us do far more “special occasion” shopping for others than for ourselves.  I definitely know this to be very true of me.  Every once in a while, it’s OK to shop for yourself.  In fact, it’s another celebration of you… an important expression of the art of being alone.

“If you want to live a memorable life, you have to be the kind of person who remembers to   remember”  Joshua Foer

When I finished my career of 25 years at The New York Times, I wanted to mark the event, by making a purchase of something that would remind me of the special occasion.  Most people chose personal patterns of china, silver and crystal for their engagements, weddings and anniversary registries.  Not having ever had a registry, I had rarely received gifts in any of those categories, but I certainly had shopped for these gifts for countless friends and family.

Beautiful Tiffany Audubon Silver Server and Spoons

Beautiful Tiffany Audubon Silver Server and Spoons

Over time, I developed a fondness for particular patterns, dreaming of a day that I might be able to create a list of my own for these gifts!  I have a great love of the outdoors and so I’m frequently drawn to colors and patterns that are evocative of nature.  There’s a particular pattern of silverware at Tiffany and Co. that I fell in love with years ago.  It’s called Audubon and I’ve always imagined how stunning it would be to set a table, inside or out, with this gorgeous pattern.

Tiffany Audubon Treasure "Reminders"

Tiffany Audubon Treasure “Reminders”

One Christmas, my mother lovingly gave me a serving piece in the Tiffany Audubon pattern, because she knew how much I loved it.  So, when I left The New York Times, I decided to shop for my special gift for this outstanding occasion.  I bought 2 large Audubon spoons that I knew would be great for multiple uses.  I keep them on a shelf with colorful bowls and such.  No-one else would notice, but every time I walk by them, I smile.  Their beauty reminds me of my mother’s special gift and my years of hard work and happy days at The Times!  (Maybe someday, I’ll even have a full place-setting or two…something to look forward too!)

 Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady

An Invitation

I think that the more elegant the ways that a restaurant displays its desire to have you dine with them, the more you should consider trying it out.

Elegant and Inviting

Elegant and Inviting

“Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities.”                           Frank Lloyd Wright

There are several reasons behind this.  First, the establishment wants you to notice them for all the right reasons.  They’re making it easy to preview their menu and prices.  You can be sure that, if they’ve giving this much attention to their outside display, (the invitation), that they’re also going to pay very close attention to what’s inside the dining room and the kitchen!  And, most importantly, to you their guest!

They’re also demonstrating that they’re not afraid to set up a higher level of expectation for excellent serve and attention to detail.  It would be safe to assume that they won’t hesitate to charm when you ask for “A Table For One”.

Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady

Dining Tips: Repeat Visit

“People who love to eat are always the best people”  Julia Child

When you’re first out there, exploring the adventure of dining alone, try “repeat dining”.   Of course the goal is to get enough experience to feel comfortable going anywhere.  But to get to that point, it’s helpful to chose a place and go there a couple of times, if you like it.

Here’s why:  The first time, you may feel a bit uncomfortable.  But if you have a good experience and are sure to leave a nice tip (no need to go overboard, just don’t be stingy), you will be remembered.  The trick is to go back soon after your first outing, so you’re recognized.

I’ve found this to be helpful in neighborhood restaurants and, even more importantly, when traveling.  In most cases, they will welcome you back, remember which table you liked and sometimes they add a special amuse bouche from the chef, or after dinner drink to your meal.  It will make you feel a bit royal.  Imagine the next time, when you bring someone along with you…they will see how you are greeted with special treatment and be delighted as well!




Copyright Marion O’Grady 2015


It Began at Antoine’s in New Orleans

I remember clearly the first time I decided to eat dinner alone.  I was traveling alone on business.  At the time, I was in the Travel category at The New York Times.  This particular assignment became a very important one for me personally.  It was a truly challenging one. And it gave me tremendous opportunity to explore and begin the many experiences that are now core to “A Table For One”.

“May you live all the days of your life”  Jonathan Swift

Generally speaking, I had been inclined to stay put at the hotels I stayed in, if I didn’t have a client dinner.  I would sometimes order room service as an easy “out” for not pushing myself to go to a restaurant alone.  But this particular trip, I was in New Orleans for the first time.  And it was not going to be possible to ignore the unique and spectacular culinary delights of this city. New Orleans’ jazz isn’t just music, it’s also food!

My mother always spoke of the famous restaurants in New Orleans with reverence.  She insisted that I take the opportunity to enjoy the best ones on my trip.  In particular, she insisted that I go to Antoine’s for dinner and Brennan’s for brunch, where she recalled some of the best meals she had long ago.

And so I forced myself to venture past the hotel boundaries and into the French Quarter for the first fine dining experience I had ever had on my own.  It was unforgettable for many reasons. First of all, I had a very hard time forcing the words “A Table For One please”, out of my mouth. It sounded thunderously awful and as though it might draw the unwanted attention of the entire restaurant to me.  I fidgeted endlessly in what seemed to be an unending moment of silence.  Everything went blank.

And then, the maitre d’ repeated with a question mark “A Table For One?”  I said yes, please. And that was it.  He reached for a menu with great flourish, swooped up a wine list and asked me to follow him.  We headed into the dining room and he pointed to a beautiful table with a fabulous view of the room, but also discreetly located out of the way.  I could see everything without feeling awkwardly obvious as a solo diner.  Wonderful.

Not only was it a wonderful meal, the experience gave me incredible confidence to do it again and again and again.  In other cities, wherever I went on personal or business trips.  It impressed me that this experience took place in a restaurant that was so well known.  And at the time, I made a note to self that this was the best way to approach “A Table For One”.   Don’t miss an opportunity, just because you’re alone.  Find the right spot and go for it.  You will never look back.

Copyright 2015 Marion O’Grady