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The Art of Gift Giving for VIE December

Suzanne Pollak

 Three Wise Men at Strassbourg Cathedral, Germany (c. 1940)

Three Wise Men at Strassbourg Cathedral, Germany (c. 1940)

“The Three Wise Men Understand the Art of Gift Giving…”

Suzanne asks three experts — a world-class chef, one renowned jewelry designer, and a stylist to the stars — to share their wisdom on what to get your loved ones (knives, anyone?), when to give it (surprise them!), what to do when you forget (it happens), and how to give the really big one (diamonds, of course.)

Read the full article in the latest issue of Vie Magazine HERE.

No One Can Enjoy Delicious Food through Gritted Teeth

Suzanne Pollak

Unless your oven conks out, your Thanksgiving meal will get cooked. Everyone puts so much thought and effort into the food that we just know that the flavor of your meal will be wonderful, wherever you eat it. 

What causes our annual breakout of holiday hives is that Thanksgiving food is endlessly thought about but the entirety of the day can be overlooked. Children need to be entertained, elderly people need to be comfortable, lonely neighbors and acquaintances need to be invited, not to mention you yourself must be taken care of! If you are in charge of the day and you break down, well then, everyone is in trouble. No one will mind if there is no creamed cauliflower, but they will mind if no one is getting along and the children are screaming and the sister-in-laws are bickering and the table is rushed to and and then abandoned in a total of fifteen minutes. No one can enjoy delicious food through gritted teeth. 

  • Start grocery shopping days before and be sure to get to the store first thing in the morning. Do not try to accomplish all your shopping in one fell swoop.

  • Make sure everyone has a task to do. This is no time to be a hero. People like to help. Let them.

  • Set the table the day before if you can. If not, be sure to delegate it to people not actively involved in cooking.

  • Assign the turkey carving to a person of competence as early as possible.

  • When someone asks what they can bring assign bottles of wine, or to bakers, a homemade pie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two days you have people over who may be difficult whether you want them to or not. Although sometimes easier to bite your tongue when someone says something truly offensive, it’s not always best to remain silent. Remember your example to the younger generations, and that some things we should not simply let go. It is possible to respectfully present an opposing view, and then pivot to another subject so the tense moment dissipates. Or better yet, save your discourse for a private moment. Thanksgiving dinner is no place for politics after all, but a time to be thankful for friends, family, and good food!

The Simple Art of Stew III: Oyster Stew

Suzanne Pollak

Stews are something simmered in a closed vessel with a little liquid. The liquid can be wine, beer, water or stock. But don’t forget cream! An oyster stew is one of the most luxurious winter stews known to man. In the stew category, oyster is the quickest and easiest to make. Instead of searing and long-simmering, this one is finished in a matter of minutes. All you need is cream, butter, salt, pepper, and of course oysters.

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Oysters are romantic. A little bit of this stew goes a long way — an elegant beginning to a three course meal, or a luxurious lunch when paired with a simple side. Legend has it that Jackie O. would meet Aristotle Onassis at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station for a midday oyster stew. It is a very old-fashioned way to start a romance; so old-fashioned that the time has come to revive this tradition. Pair with a dry champagne. Serve in silver cups or porringers if you have them.

Afterwards, your palate might crave something crispy like oyster crackers or a bright salad. Or, what the hell? Go for richness all the way through: beef tenderloin and poached pears! But no creamy sauce or whipped cream on the poached fruit.  Your heart might not survive, especially if it's romance you are kindling with those oysters. You will need that heart ready!

"Setting New Traditions" for November issue of VIE

Suzanne Pollak

 Rita Hayworth carves the bird.

Rita Hayworth carves the bird.

Expecting a crowd? Extended family or perhaps friends for a long Thanksgiving weekend? This may be the season to take the torch from those who have gone before you, to branch out and begin traditions of your very own. In case you are looking for a few great ideas on how to implement your personal style — from frying turkeys to divy-ing up dish duty, plus what to serve beyond the feast — (or if you just need a pep talk…)

Find the Dean’s latest piece for VIE Magazine HERE on their site!

The Simple Art of Stew II: Carbonnade

Suzanne Pollak

Beer & Beef Stew

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Carbonnade of Beef is of French origin but was adopted by the Belgians, so now even the French call it a Flemish beef stew. At first glance, the list of ingredients might seem like a weird combo — a lot of onions, a lot of beer — but whatever you might expect, the stew is delicate and distinctive. A strong dark Belgian beer is an ideal choice for the liquid and of course to drink while eating.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs. chuck roast, cubed

  • 6 large onions, sliced

  • 4 tbsp. butter, plus more

  • 3 tbsp. AP flour

  • 2 12-oz. bottles of beer

  • 2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

  • 3 thick slices of smoked bacon, such as Nueske's Applewood

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Cook the bacon in a frying pan until medium crisp. Remove the bacon and leave the fat in the pan. You will use this to sear the meat.

  3. In a large pot, slowly sauté the sliced onions in butter. Cook over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes to color lightly.

  4. While the onions are cooking, reheat the frying pan with the bacon fat. When it is almost smoking, start browning the meat a few pieces at a time. Brown the meat on all sides using tongs. When they are done, remove them to a Dutch oven. (The less fat you use the more quickly the meat will brown.)

  5. When the last piece of meat is in the Dutch oven, turn the heat to low and add a little more butter? if needed (to make about 3 tablespoons of fat) and flour. Stir the fat and flour together with a whisk. This is called making a roux. Cook the roux very slowly until it turns darker brown and smells nutty. Now it is ready for the liquid. Pour the beer into the roux and keep whisking until the roux and beer have combined into a smooth sauce. Add vinegar, thyme and bay leaf. Put the meat and onion mixture into the roux and stir with a wooden spoon. The sauce should barely cover the meat.

  6. Cover the Dutch oven and put it into the oven for 2 and a half to 3 hours until the meat is falling apart. When the carbonnade is done, sprinkle the cooked bacon on top. This is delicious served with boiled little potatoes or buttered noodles.

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A Note on Slicing Onions…

Slicing six onions takes a little bit of time. For the Dean, it takes even longer because a hands-on task relaxes the brain so creative thoughts spring up. The ideas are ephemeral so one must stop, wash their hands, and write the idea down before it vanishes. The creative brain unlocks when you are busy doing something else and not thinking too hard. And stopping in the middle of what you are doing for a minute or two gives the cooking a better pace. You won’t rush the browning of the meat or melting of the onions.

Six onions seems like a lot of onions but they melt away. If you are new to longer cooking techniques, what happens to six raw sliced onions slowly cooking in butter is sort of a science miracle. They reduce and transform into soft, silken, shreds, and their aromas change from raw and strong to perfume. This is the ancient art of cooking, before your very eyes.

Frequently Asked Wedding Etiquette Questions for NYT (!!!)

Suzanne Pollak

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In the excellent company of top etiquette experts from along the East Coast, Dean Pollak answers our burning wedding FAQ’s for the New York Times this week. Among other tips for how to proceed, Pollak advises against micro-managing in-laws who may be paying for a rehearsal dinner (although sharing your preferences is certainly allowed), explains the “no phone policy” trend, and instructs attendees on how much to spend on gifts when they have been invited to multiple events. This article is a must-read for anyone planning a wedding or even simply planning to attend one! Read the full piece via NYT HERE on their site…

The Simple Art of Stew I: Braised Short Ribs

Suzanne Pollak

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As Summer turns to Fall — or rather to Hurricane Season as we know it in the Lowcountry — so we shift from our Salad routine to making Stews of all kinds. In our newest recipe series, the Dean shares the art of preparing one-pot wonders that will feed a crowd and streamline suppers on busy school nights. Though most stews require some prep. time, the rest is just keeping an eye out as they simmer on the stove. They always taste better the next day and freeze beautifully. Even if you are only cooking for one or two, stews are smart! Simply divide the large batch into individual portions. What could be better after a long day of work?

Stews make for a healthy, delicious dinner; comfort for the stomach and spirit. And don’t forget the aromas funneling from the kitchen and making their way into every nook & cranny of your house. To kick off our Stew series: Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs! But first, let’s talk about browning your meat. The searing process takes place in a hot pan with a little oil, and relies on patience as you must work in batches, careful not the crowd the pan. The purpose is to release fat, caramelize the outside of the meat, and deepen the flavor. Don’t be afraid to go dark; extra dark means extra flavor.

For Short Ribs, you will need:

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  • 2 tablespoons oil

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 5 pounds short ribs

  • 2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1-2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

  • Head of garlic, sliced through

  • 1 bottle red wine

  • Some branches of thyme

  • A bay leaf or two

Here’s what to do:

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Put oil in a deep skillet or Dutch oven and turn heat to high. Brown the ribs well on all sides. This will take about 20 or 25 minutes. Salt and pepper as you cook. As the ribs finish searing, remove them to a plate.

  3. While the ribs are searing, put 2 tablespoons of butter into another pan and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.

  4. Remove the fat from the Dutch oven. Add the meat and onion mixture back into the pot, then pour in the wine and thyme and bay leaves. Cover and put into the oven for about 3 hours, until the meat is falling from the bone. Stir every hour.

  5. Transfer to a platter. Strain the liquid, put into another bowl and refrigerate. The following day skim the fat from the liquid. Reheat, bring to a boil and add the ribs. When ribs are warm, stew is ready to serve.

"An Enlightened Affair" for VIE Magazine

Suzanne Pollak

 Behold, the Charleston Library Society, home of many a salon...

Behold, the Charleston Library Society, home of many a salon...

The Dean is no stranger to a proper literary salon, having grown up in a diplomatic family who regularly entertained such events at their African home. To this day, she continues the tradition as director of the Charleston to Charleston Literary Festival, held annually at the local Library Society. Learn more about Suzanne's love of salons, her post and the impressive roster at this year's C2C (plus how to attend) in the latest issue of VIE Magazine: HERE.

Tea Party Class

Suzanne Pollak

How does one even think of an afternoon tea party during the dog days of Summer in Charleston? Creatively, with new eyes!

 Anyone, anytime, can learn to enjoy a proper tea time and the accompanying spread.

Anyone, anytime, can learn to enjoy a proper tea time and the accompanying spread.

One of the Dean’s favorite men, a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Mr. Rogers, organizes a week long camp for his grandchildren. His camp includes a range of lessons and activities from tennis, sailing, art history, and even how to flip an omelette, which he teaches himself. He recruits all kinds of teachers for his grandchildren's summer visits. This year he asked the Charleston Academy to teach a tea party class to two smart granddaughters, aged nine and twelve. 

First order of business, and perhaps why the Academy of Domestic Pursuits is more fun than any other school in the country, was getting Granddad situated, satisfied, amused, and interested in tea parties. The Dean had her two charges learning how to make an Old Fashioned cocktail for their grandfather while the Granddad sat spellbound. Two young girls learning bartender tips! Why not? The Dean learned how to make an extraordinary Old Fashioned from FIG’s very hip bartender, Andrew King. Tricks Andrew uses include not one but two cocktail glasses, two different kinds of ice, and stirring for 35 seconds. (Disclaimer: of course the Dean explained to the girls that this was an adult drink made of brown liquor they would no doubt find repulsive.)

Next up, three "mocktails" sans rye: soda water, a dash of peach bitters, balloon ice, and a garnish of orange slices plus Luxardo cherries stabbed with a toothpick. Once armed and ready to tackle the tea tasks that lay ahead, the girls reviewed and thankfully approved the menu of cream scones and cucumber tea sandwiches.

For the cream scones, the girls had to decide on two important issues. Yellow raisins or none? Triangles or round? Even though the Dean called the raisins ‘golden’ instead of yellow, both girls shook their heads to say no raisins of any color. The shape choice was easier, although one chose round and the other, triangles. Then the fine arts of measuring, mixing, rolling and cutting; these sisters came well-versed in many baking techniques. One has already invented a recipe involving a marshmallow injected with colored frosting to get her school friends sugared up at birthday parties. 

Scones in the oven, cucumbers out of fridge! But before tea sandwiches, one essential truth: when you are making a simple recipe, each ingredient needs to be of the very best quality because you cannot hide taste. In this case, the bread, butter, salt, and even the cucumber need to be super delicious. Nothing got past the older sister; she said she tastes the difference between the butters her mom buys. But luckily both could vouch Pepperidge Farm which sells very thin white and wheat breads. The company must have started in the tea sandwich business, so perfect are those breads for that purpose. 

A tip: ensure the bread does not get too soggy by placing paper-thin disks of cucumber on a paper towel and sprinkling lightly with salt. Allow them to weep gently into the paper towel while you butter the bread and trim the crusts. After a good cry, the cucumbers will not slime up your sandwiches and the delicate cucumber flavor is intensified.

Scones out of the oven -- a lesson in using an oven mitt and rack! The girls set a table on their grandparent’s screened porch, arranged scones on one platter and sandwiches on another, then filled ice buckets with ice cubes. The hot weather problem was brilliantly solved by these two young ladies. Instead of hot tea, they decided that we would enjoy ice cold water from their their grandmothers porcelain tea cups. 

Even the Dean was amazed how a pile of scones disappeared before teatime was half over. Each girl filled her tiny stomach with at least a dozen scones first, then cucumber sandwiches while sipping ice water, pinkies raised. The party discussed the weighty matters of birthday parties -- invitations, venues, and what to do about hurt feelings when you are left off of the guestlist. 

If your tea party is at any other time of the year than July or August, or indoors with the air conditioner working overtime, then you should know that the tea we take at the Academy comes from the UK: Resolution Tea from Botham’s of Whitby. In fact, we are addicted. Yes, overseas postage nowadays tends to make one’s eyes water. But we did the math and six boxes of one hundred tea bags plus shipping comes to less than nineteen cents per bag -- well worth it for such an enduring and enjoyable tradition.

A Dinner Party in Twenty Minutes

Suzanne Pollak

  The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie : the opposite of a twenty minute dinner party.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: the opposite of a twenty minute dinner party.

What happens when you invite guests for 6:00 PM, but then you get so involved at work that when you look at the time on your computer, it says 5:35? Can you get dressed & made up, set the table and cook dinner in just twenty minutes? The answer is, YES. (The Dean learned this by accident one recent Monday night.)

Here’s what to do:

Resist the urge to immediately call guests and say all of a sudden, you're not feeling well. The Dean knew her menu included seafood stew, a salad, roasted peach halves with bourbon for dessert. What she didn’t know was what to wear or where everyone should sit...

5:35. Turn the oven on broil, put a dutch oven over medium heat and add a slug of olive oil. 

5.37. Slice two large peaches in half, fill them with a spoonful of sugar and a slug of bourbon, and put the four peach halves in a sauté pan over high heat. 

5:37. Roughly slice a large red onion and place in hot Dutch oven with a few whole garlic cloves, peeled.

5:41. Place sauté pan of peaches under broiler. Put timer on ten minutes. Stir onions.

5:43. Exit kitchen, with onions on medium heat and peaches under broiler. Run three flights upstairs while deciding what to wear.

5:44. Put on one outfit. Decide that looks wrong and put on another shirt. Try to do some quick make up. Whatever!  

5:50. Race downstairs to the smell of caramelizing onions (another way of saying they are on their way to burning, but haven't quite. Instead, just perfectly caramelized which means extra flavor.) Stir onions and add a jar of tomato sauce. 

5:52. Take out bag of defrosted shrimp and bag of calamari from refrigerator. Realize that even though they have been in the fridge since morning (because you are so organized and an excellent planner) no actual defrosting has taken place...

5:53. Put bags of frozen shrimp and calamari in a bowl and run warm water over bags, saying a little prayer that by 6:25 they will actually thaw!

5:55. Take out four silver forks, knives, spoons, shallow bowls, dessert plates, olives, two different kinds of bourbon and cocktail glasses. 

6:00. READY TO ROLL! Doorbell rings, guests arrive.

The Dean then explained the situation, garnering laughs and offers to pitch in. Cocktails? One guy choose bourbon, one guy soda water, one woman white wine. High-alcohol beer for the host. While cocktails were being organized and poured, the Dean threw together the famous Academy croutons while tomatoes and onions simmered on low, the peaches came down to room temperature, and seafood (still) thawed in the sink. Finally, where to eat? Decision: a movable feast. One small garden table for Stew. Another small garden table for salad. By the time the mosquitos started biting, everyone moved inside for dessert of roasted peaches and chocolate bars at the dining table.

Perfect!

Tips & Tricks from Tony Hendra

Suzanne Pollak

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Why is Tony Hendra (AKA Ian Faith and the Academy's Dean of Wit) such an amazing cook? Tony is a master of details. He's got his program down. He only cooks his favorite foods and since he has spent decades doing so, his recipes and techniques are works of art, every time. We should all be so brilliant and dedicated; but in case you are at the early stages of your cooking life, or not as passionate as Tony, you can still learn lessons from Mr T.

Number One. There is no need to be a master of 100 recipes or to go to cooking school. A few favorite recipes perfected will see you through a lifetime of satisfying meals, and will always delight your family and friends, no matter what else is going on. Chaos can be raging like wildfire all around you, but if you can put a delicious dinner on the table, life calms down at least for a while. Amazing results come from just wanting to feed yourself and sharing that food with others. It's guaranteed that more people will love you. Gathering your crew for a nightly feast happens to be a smart way to manage a family too. 

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Tony has spent years choosing his tools, perfecting his knife skills, building collections which include antique, ridiculously thick, beyond gorgeous cutting boards which are almost too heavy to transport (I know because I wanted to steal them all); hand made ceramic casserole and Dutch ovens; every type of knife, including crescents. Tony's knife skills are as good as any chef's but Tony: please get yourself a better sharpener! You could do better than using other knife blades to sharpen. However, that doesn't really matter. Tony can bone a rabbit in less time than it takes me to make an Old Fashioned and he is capable of spellbinding everyone around him while carving a smoked duck. 

Tony never makes the mistake of using too many ingredients. He also doesn't make stupid mistakes with knives or mise en place because he pays attention and focuses. Dinner and cooking is serious business to this man. Preparing dinner is his transition from the end of a hard days work to relaxing, creating in a form other than writing comedy and spending time with the people he loves.

Not for one moment would Tony consider standing up while eating, or not paying attention to his food. Every day is a celebration of food and wines and cheese, especially cheese. No matter where he goes this guy carries his own butter, chocolate and cheese like the rest of us carry our lipstick and cash. Even on planes! He is so picky that he hides his chocolate and cheese in his own house so he does not have to share. These traits do not mean Tony is greedy. Rather, it means that when he craves a certain pick-me-up, he doesn't want to find his food stash stolen. When I needed an afternoon boost I poked around the kitchen and discovered his chocolate bars behind the spice jars. Nothing get past the Dean. His favorite brand of chocolate? Ritter Sport with Whole Hazelnuts. Finding his cheese is easy because he likes the stinky kind (especially époisses) so stinky that his family insists it be kept in hard-to-find nooks.  

As a rule, never ever throw away bones, ever! Tony’s ghost might haunt you. His pots of stock simmer at all hours on back burners. This man is a stock master, the real stock broker.  He has stock on hand at all times (in the freezer or on the stove) to flavor any sauce or deglaze a pan. Spoonfuls of stock of this quality transform the plainest fillet into scrumptuous meals. 

Tony's expertise after decades of cooking? Knowing the exact second to take a breast duck out of the pan and place on the plate. Knowing how to dissolve a family crisis with a family meal. Knowing that the simplest dish made well will bring a table to silence with the very first bite. Knowing how to make a dinner party go on for hours. Knowing how to get those guest to leave. Knowing the secrets of a beautiful life.  Can you see why the Dean loves Tony? 

Finally, Tony's tips for the world's best cousous: measure exactly the same amount of stock and grain. That is the KEY to great couscous; plus sliced braised leeks, freshly ground cumin, ras el hanout (it's fresh if it smells good), yellow raisins all mixed together when couscous is ready...

Summer Salad #3: Art Project

Suzanne Pollak

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Rule #1 - We first eat with our eyes! Contrasting shapes and colors can be a beautiful thing. The cubes of croutons and logs of carrots make this feel like an art project, painting on the plate.  Flavor becomes a balancing act as well. Academy Croutons and roasted Carrots Vichy deliver the satisfying crunch, complementing the buttery texture of tender lettuce leaves.

Academy Croutons can sit in their frying pan for over a half hour after cooking, soaking up extra olive oil. The wait makes the fried bread even tastier, turning each cube into crispy little bombs delivering crunch, fat, flavor all in one bite. If there is still olive oil in the pan, use it to finish the salad.

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To make Carrots Vichy, peel whole carrots - not baby carrots, not woody large carrots in 5-lb. bags, but carrots in bunches with their leafy tops intact. Cook carrots in a sauté pan over medium heat with a little bit of olive oil and enough water to come halfway up their sides. When a knife tip can barely poke inside the carrot and the water is almost evaporated. Add fresh thyme. Wait till carrots are room temperature to use in the salad, either sliced into 1-inch lengths or simply left whole. Know that these beauties are yummy hot, cold or room temperature for apps and dinner. 

There are two ways to finish this sort of salad. For more crunch, you could add celery. Simply slice across the stalks to get a handful or two of pale green half moons. But if you crave more flavor, spice and fat, then salami is your friend! Thickly slice and dice and toss in salad. A little bit goes a long way. (In our latest version, pictured above, we opted for a few nubs of blue cheese. Delicious!)

Summer Salad #2: Porky Pig

Suzanne Pollak

Why do we love eating decadent fatty meals disguised as salads? Because everyone everywhere loves to be deceived, lulled into thinking their meal was extra healthy. But guess what? This salad is actually healthy, despite the indulgent addition of slow-roasted pork...

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FRISÉE - A lettuce that balances the fattiness with its bitter bite and texture. Remember, one small head delivers way more volume than you can imagine once you separate the leaves and tear them into manageable, bite-sized pieces. Tearing is absolutely necessary. Who wants a mouth full 4” spiky leaves, delicious as they may be?

PORK - We like to make this the day after serving Pork Butt in Milk with Cabbage Slaw for dinner. If you and your guests were not too piggy (pun intended) then you'll have plenty of leftovers. Simply reheat in a frying pan over low heat, or in the turned off oven after roasting the eggplant. The pig will crisp right up.

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EGGPLANT - Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Thinly slice unpeeled eggplant. Lay slices on parchment paper. Lightly drizzle olive oil on slices, turn over and drip olive oil on top. There is really no wrong way to do this. After years of making these eggplant slices, we can say for certain that sometimes they turn crispy, sometimes softer, but every time delicious! Roast slices in a 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, turn over and roast another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown on both sides. Some parts will blacken but that is okay. There is a fine line, a few minutes, between a little black, and the burn taking over the slice.

World of Etiquette: Common Sense

Suzanne Pollak

Now we give you the third and final installment in our World of Etiquette series, covering a few points of (what should be) Common Sense. Etiquette is a social ballet and keeps people from spitting on the table. Learn to be an active governor of your actions and cognizant of how you conduct yourself.

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PAY ATTENTION. Be a good listener! When a friend talks about what’s going on in her/his life, it’s worthy of listening actively and becoming a participant. Instead of one-upmanship -- which means you listen initially and then think this happened in your own life way more dramatically -- just be quiet and actually listen. Do not respond with, ‘You think that’s bad? You have no idea what I’m going through!’ This is the ugly art of turning yourself into the center of the conversation. That is always bad form and people notice. It’s self-centered and self-absorbed.

ASK QUESTIONS. It’s simple; basic manners! Asking questions is how you charm people. Being curious makes others feel important. Being curious makes you a more interesting person and means you are not self-absorbed. Being curious gets information. How to know people’s secrets in five minutes? Play dumb. Smile. Get the details. Hone in to what makes this particular person tick. We call curiosity emotional intelligence. You will get far in life by being charming and deeply curious. You can literally charm people’s pants off. Romantics beware!

Teenagers: Engage your friend’s parents. Try ‘Hello, how are you?’ Don’t just sneak up the stairs when visiting friends and pretend the parents don’t exist. Parents need help too. Academy research shows that in many instances adults don’t take the time to ask their child’s friends questions, like, 'What interests you?' Don’t treat your children’s friends like they are little kids. Give them an opening and start a conversation.

NO WHINING! 'I am so busy,' 'I am in the weeds,' 'You can’t believe what I am up against...' Who cares? Tally how many times you have heard these kinds of excuses. We are all busy, some people way more than others. These statements lead nowhere. They cannot ignite an interesting conversation and do not improve a relationship.

SMILE. Even guerrillas do it. People read facial experiences. They also hear smiles. Smiling changes the tone of your voice. Try it! Record yourself saying something, Then record the same sentence while you smile. The difference might astonish you...

MAKE EYE CONTACT. Even if you are not entirely sure of your position, remind yourself that everyone wasn’t always overly competent. They practiced and they learned. Stay calm and collected. Remind yourself of your own worth, then you can think of others around you.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Last but certainly not least: SELF CARE. Without it, you cannot take care of anyone else. Say, 'I am sorry, I cannot go out. I need to be on my own for an evening.' Burnout is all too common. Avoid it by creating pockets of space to allow yourself to recharge.

Summer Salad #1: Plain & Simple!

Suzanne Pollak

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When Summer brings a bounty of perfectly sun-ripened fruits and vegetables, there's no need to overdo it! Even dressings have been simplified at the Academy. These days we pour olive oil over salad, not too much, sprinkle a little coarse salt plus several grinds of black pepper. Then we toss salad with our hands. If a lemon happens to be around we might squirt drops on top but sometimes it's oil all the way!

Buy live lettuce because the head keeps cold for a couple of weeks so a meal can come together in a moment. Perfect when you find yourself too hot and bothered to fool with anything else! In the time it takes you to pour yourself a summer cocktail, your bowl of greens and vitamins will be ready and waiting.

MACHE - these leaves are delicate. Don’t take lettuce out of frig until ready to make salad.

TOMATOES - A Summer salad MUST have the ripest most delicious tomatoes you can find. No skimping or trying to save a dollar. Otherwise the salad will not make you swoon. It will just be ho hum. It is impossible to live a beautiful life without regular doses of swooning. Cut heirloom tomato, farmers market tomatoes, or ones grown in your backyard into wedges.

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BLUE CHEESE - We find already crumbled blue cheese a big flavor disappointment, and expensive to boot. Why is this even an option in a grocery store? Buy a wedge of blue cheese, slice off a hefty portion, and use your fingertips to crumble on top of the salad. In biggish clumps so friends and family know the blue cheese you choose was not pre-crumbled by a machine then stored and shipped in a plastic bag.

AVOCADO - The doctor says ‘eat an apple a day’. The Dean says ‘eat an avocado a day’. An avocado is the exact amount of fat you need per day. When the Dean gets her medical PhD she will prove this medical fact. To make an avocado last a few days, keep in refrigerator. Do not buy rock hard avocados. Why wait so long to eat one?

Cut avocado in half, remove pit, remove peel, slice or thickly dice on top of salad.

 

 

Talking Top Sheets with Town & Country

Suzanne Pollak

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Town & Country contributor Liz Krieger knew who to call with her burning questions on whether or not a top sheet is an absolutely necessary addition to the make of a bed. Although Krieger cops to her own 'millenial' disregard for a top sheet, Suzanne remains steadfast in her admittedly old-fashioned devotion to the extra layer. Read the article, including all the pros and cons of having a flat linen to keep you cool (or warm, depending on the season), HERE via T&C! 

"The Romance of Outdoor Rooms" for VIE

Suzanne Pollak

 Photo courtesy of G. P. Schafer

Photo courtesy of G. P. Schafer

Summertime is finally here again! In Charleston, this means lots of lounging in the shade of our (or our friends') porches and piazzas, iced beverage in hand, fresh off a dip in the sea. For the June issue of VIE magazine, Suzanne reflects on a life lived in outdoor rooms, from Tripoli to Ghana to the Carolinas, and the magic of bells, birds, and blue skies experienced in these inspiring spaces.

Read the full article HERE on VIE's site... 

World of Etiquette: Sharing a Meal

Suzanne Pollak

The Dean returns with a second installment in our “World of Etiquette” series, this time with her notes on dining in and out. Once again: etiquette is for life, not just special occasions...

Exactly where your family eats dinner when AT HOME means everything! Do you all gather at a table in your kitchen? Or does everyone get their own food, take it to their bedrooms, and eat at different times? These habits may develop slowly, for perfectly understandable reasons. But the trend continues, and the problems that develop might snowball over time and wreak havoc later.

 Because you never know who you'll end up seated next to at a dinner party later on... (L-R: Claire Danes, Giancarlo Giammetti, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Valentino, Anne Hathaway)

Because you never know who you'll end up seated next to at a dinner party later on... (L-R: Claire Danes, Giancarlo Giammetti, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, Valentino, Anne Hathaway)

Dinner time is prime time for a family to communicate, get to know each other, realize that all people have daily ups and downs. It is a time to learn empathy, manners, nutrition, listening skills. What happens when a family never eats together, at least a few times a week, without their cell phones on the table? When the children become teenagers and then young adults, they will 100% embarrass themselves at a date’s house, their job interview, or other social occasion. In the future you may receive a call from your child accusing you of never teaching him how a table is set or the importance of waiting to dive in.

 Always serve your company first. (L-R: Keith Richards, Tina Turner, David Bowie)

Always serve your company first. (L-R: Keith Richards, Tina Turner, David Bowie)

Here are mistakes we see far too often IN RESTAURANTS: forgetting to put the napkin in your lap first, or to close the menu signaling the waiter you are ready to order; and asking questions like What beers do you have? when the list is right in front of you. There is nothing tackier than being disrespectful to the service staff or acting too privileged to say Please and Thank you. People who talk with food in their mouth, fail to wipe their face with a napkin, or help themselves before passing come off as completely gross. Always offer the platter to your neighbor, serve them with a fork and spoon, and then keep it going around the table. Your plate will soon have plenty of food on it, too. P.S. Always pass the S&P together.

 Settle the the bill with a game of ping pong, if you must. (L-R: Paul Newman & Robert Redford) 

Settle the the bill with a game of ping pong, if you must. (L-R: Paul Newman & Robert Redford) 

Who pays? Especially if it’s a negligible amount, offer to pick up the bill and let your company treat you next time. It will all even out eventually. (People will notice if you always let them pay, regardless of how much money they have.) And anyone who has worked in F&B knows that splitting the check for more than a couple of people is a total pain and can slow things down, especially in the age of Venmo. Better yet, bring cash and settle your dues the old-fashioned way. Remember that if you order an expensive wine without consulting everyone at the table, you are responsible for paying for it regardless of who else drinks. Even if you do split the bill, ask to add the cost of the bottle to your half of the food total.

Finally, if you have real FOOD ISSUES, including illness or serious allergies, be confident in yourself. Call your host ahead of time to let them know. Although this is a considerate gesture, your issues are still your problem and you must take care of it yourself. You are not asking for a menu change. If you do not eat something on the plate, they will know that it’s not because you do not like the cooking. Bottom line: it’s your job to be self-sufficient!