It's not uncommon for city folks to retreat to the country for rest and relaxation from the hustle and bustle of city life. Conversely, I look forward to trips to the city as a change of pace from country life. This past week was a pace-changer for me when I accompanied Jeff on a business trip to Southport, Connecticut and New York City. The funny thing is that while the pace felt different – muck boots vs. heels will do that to you—the long hours were about the same. While I was still exhausted at the end of each day, attending speeches, meetings, and the theatre were a welcome break from schooling, cooking, and refereeing—and I'm not talking about basketball.
At Jeff's speech in Southport, I met Michel and Lori Nischan. Together with Paul Newman, this down-to-earth couple opened arguably the best restaurant in Westport, CT. The Dressing Room is adjacent to the Westport Play House and is a community gathering place.
Paul Newman and Michel Nischan
Although we didn't eat there on this trip, Jeff and I have eaten there on multiple occasions. In addition to the homey feel of the rustic décor, The Dressing Room features locally-grown natural and organic ingredients as well as regional heirloom food. From "Use a Spoon" Chopped Salad and Cast Iron Corn Bread to Speared Connecticut Chicken, the Dressing Room menu is –as Michel Nischan's book is titled—sustainably delicious.
The Dressing Room's "Use a Spoon" Chopped Salad
On the day that I met Michel and Lori, they had just acquired their first pullets—young laying hens. We immediately began trading notes on chicken coops, guinea fowl, and a hen's diet. In addition to organic grains, we discussed foraging, and feeding the pulled weeds from the garden back to the chickens. By the way, chickens offer a great solution to putting weeds (and weed seed) in the compost pile. As if it wasn't already obvious just how thoughtful Michel is about food, he told me that the job description of his chefs include the butchering process—at least once. Respect is the result as his chefs come to appreciate food in a way that doesn't allow for waste.
Besides meeting the Nischans, mine was a trip of introductions including CBS's Gayle King and ABC's Katie Couric. On the morning that Jeff went on the CBS Morning Show with Charlie Rose to talk about the re-release of The Mormon Way of Doing Business, a chauffeur brought us to CBS Studios where we were led through a short maze of hallways and doorways.
Upon entering the Green Room (that's where the upcoming interviewees wait for their turn on TV), Jeff was whisked away to "hair and makeup." Suddenly I found myself in a small space with King and CBS News Correspondent Armen Keteyian, along with the authors of the new book, Game Over, about the Penn State scandal.
Jeff and Lydia Benedict with Armen Keteyian at CBS
Other than our friend Armen, I was in the company of strangers and feeling somewhat awkward. Just then, Gayle looked at me. "Do you know that your hair is wet?" Of course, Gayle doesn't know that I haven't used a blow dryer in over 20 years. And since I didn't get up any earlier than I had to (I'm a night owl, not an early bird), my hair was still wet from my shower. I wanted to assure Gayle that wet hair is my morning look, and since I wasn't appearing on The Morning Show I had intentionally skipped the Hair and Makeup Department. Instead I just smiled and said "Yes, I know."
Lydia with Katie Couric
Other highlights of the day included meeting Katie Couric (don't worry—my hair was dry by then) and napping in Central Park. Jeff and I were also pleased to discover that Central Park now has a couple of hot dog stands that sells Applegate grass-fed, organic beef and turkey dogs. (By the way, Applegate hot dogs and lunch meat contain no nitrates or nitrites—carcinogenic preservatives.)
Also, I was wowed by the dancing and singing in the Broadway musical Chicago with Christie Brinkley and stirred by the moving performance of Tracie Bennett as Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow. Ah, there is no business like show business.
Lydia in front of Tracie Bennett playing Judy Garland
And aside from meeting new people or seeing new shows, I learned something new too. For example, don't walk 20 Manhattan blocks in heels. It wasn't intentional, but it was after 10 p.m. and every taxicab we saw was either full or off duty. Another news bulletin is that breakfast at the Waldorf-Astoria isn't cheap. Duh! We ate breakfast there one morning. I ordered orange juice, one poached egg, two slices of wheat toast and a bowl of steel cut oats. Jeff had grapefruit juice, two eggs and an English muffin. The tab? Ninety dollars! Even if all these menu items were certified organic—and they weren't—it would be seriously over-priced. Even the steel cut oats were mushy. And finally, beware of taxicab drivers who pump the gas pedal creating a never-ending lurching motion. The resulting nausea is akin to that of a rollercoaster ride. Tap dancing is best performed on a stage—not on the gas pedal of the taxicab!