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Blog

"8 Ways to Get Guests to Remove Their Shoes" for Realtor.com

Suzanne Pollak

For Sale on Etsy.com (if you’re into this sort of thing.)

For Sale on Etsy.com (if you’re into this sort of thing.)

There is no need to be overbearing! #7 comes straight from the Academy — "Rely on witticisms. Rather than asking straight up for guests to remove their shoes, which some may perceive as rude, inject a funny quip to lighten the mood. [We’ve heard a particular phrase you may want to borrow]: ‘We run our house like the TSA. Remove your shoes before you get to the next part, inside.’”

Two exceptions according to the Dean? Kids coming in and out require a basket by the door with a sign that says plainly “SHOES GO HERE!” And yet a good cocktail or dinner party host must avoid asking guests to remove their shoes at all, as what is below the ankle is a major part of the outfit.

Find the full article HERE on Realtor.com…

3 of the "4 Things You Should Never Store Under Your Kitchen Sink -- and 5 You Should" for REAL SIMPLE

Suzanne Pollak

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“While convenient, [kitchen towels and paper bags] don’t belong under the sink, says Suzanne Pollak. (A leak would ruin them.) Stash them in a nearby closet or another cabinet instead for easy access….

If you want to keep things even simpler, get a few plastic containers or tubs to hold your supplies together, Pollak says. “With containers, you can take out the unit as a whole and easily clean underneath,” she says. Be sure to run the containers through the dishwasher a few times a year. Using clear containers also allows you to easily see what items are nearly used up, so you can stock up before you run out….

There are a few [essential cleaning products'] that you should always have on hand. These include distilled vinegar, Dawn dish soap (in addition to washing pots and pans, you can also use it directly on cabinets to remove built-up grease), and Bar Keepers Friend, says Pollak. Under the kitchen sink is obviously also a convenient place to store sponges, cleaning brushes, and scrubbers. Just be sure to replace them often, as they’re one of the germiest things in your kitchen (gross)—yes, cleaning your sponge is a thing.”

Read the rest of the article by Kelsey Ogletree via Real Simple HERE!

"Walking into a Perfume Bottle" for October VIE

Suzanne Pollak

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“A ballroom needs structure to contain its empty party space, and a garden ballroom is no different. Four ‘walls’ were a way of containing the area but open to the sky where anything seemed possible: a place for sitting still or dancing among a crowd. One wall was an avenue of thirteen twenty-foot holly trees, and another was a line of five black cement pillars with gigantic pots of pink sasanqua trees shaped like umbrellas. (This was the view from the kitchen table.) Two clipped hedges formed the north and south walls. Four pots of standard orange trees stood in the corners. Ballrooms look grand with a piece of art, so we installed a sculpture — a seven-foot-long hippopotamus bench made of Pennsylvania granite….”

Suzanne writes of her time spent living in the Elizabeth Barnwell Gough house (c. 1780) in Beaufort SC, where she restored the gardens to their original glory with her signature nod to modern. In case any readers are like us — faced with fallen trees and perhaps a future blank slate in your backyard, desperately needing the ultimate yard inspiration after Hurricane Dorian — read the rest of this article in the October issue of VIE Magazine HERE!

It's Time To Start Cooking Again

Geoff Yost

We shared stories behind these recipes in our recent newsletter. Be sure to subscribe.

Francine’s Roast Rosemary Chicken

Ingredients

4 lb chicken, rinsed and dried inside and out. 

Rosemary stalks, plus 2 tsp snipped rosemary needles 

Shallot

Garlic cloves, crushed

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp maple syrup

Method

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper inside and out. 

  2. Leaving the bird in the refrigerator overnight (uncovered) dries it out even more which makes the skin crisper. 

  3. Preheat oven to 375. Place a cast oven skillet (or roasting pan) in the oven during this process so that it absorbs heat which helps crisp the underside of the bird. Collected cooking liquids prevent the skin from sticking.

  4. Stuff seasoned cavity with a few stalks of rosemary, and maybe a shallot along with crushed garlic cloves. 

  5. Melt butter over low heat. Add maple syrup + snipped rosemary. Swirl to combine. 

  6. Keep heat very low so sugar in maple syrup doesn’t seize in a hard sticky mess. Disaster. Brush the bird on all sides with the melted mixture. Place in a preheated cast iron pan (careful! ouch!) and transfer to oven. 

  7. Now leave it alone (for 50 minutes). Lots of recipes require frequent basting. But really, just go live your life and then, towards the end of cooking time, baste the bird and jack oven to 450F, letting the extra heat do some work on browning the skin (about 15 minutes). You can baste 1 or 2X during this process if you want. Finished temperature is 160 to 162F, gauged in the thickest part of the leg. 

Suzanne’s Short Ribs

2 Tbs oil

2 Tbs butter

5 lbs 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

Method 

  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.

Start a Project: PICKLES

Suzanne Pollak

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Why not spend an afternoon making pickles? A pickling is not a big time commitment but still delivers huge rewards in the coming weeks. A refrigerator door lined with jars of homemade pickles is always worth opening — if only to admire, get a blast of cool air, and for the good feeling of being on top of your domestic game (at least for the moment.)

Here at the Academy, we choose refrigerator pickles because no canning or boiling is involved, and they are the definition of simplicity and tastiness. You will have brightly colored jars of tangy morsels to enhance any plate of food, adding a touch of something handmade to your meal.  Smart parents know that the pickle is one way to introduce stronger flavors to the pickiest eaters on earth, most under the age of fifteen.

Pickled Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound white, cremini, bella or shiitake mushrooms (cleaned with paper towels to remove dirt)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 3 teaspoons coarse salt

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 4 garlic cloves

  • a few branches fresh thyme, marjoram and parsley, leaves removed from stems

  • 1 tablespoon honey

  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine mushrooms with oil and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt. Roast in a roasting pan for about 10 minutes. The mushrooms will give off a liquid. Drain in a colander. 

  2. Combine the vinegar, garlic, thyme, marjoram, parsley, honey, pepper and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Add the warm mushrooms and stir. Chill the mushrooms in the refrigerator until cold, about an hour. Transfer to mason jars. Seal tightly and refrigerate. 

  3. Storage: The pickles will keep for at least a month in the refrigerator.

Start a Project: Thank You Notes

Suzanne Pollak

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Back to school! Your very first homework assignment of the year: THANK YOU notes…

Why? When you see your handwritten note on a friend’s mantel or stuck in her mirror, you know your words produced a bit of happiness, because you acknowledged something lovely someone did. Thank you’s pay off a hundred times. Written thank you’s make you really stand out.

How? Text or email is way better than nothing, but writing a note on personal stationary is extra special. You only have to produce two sentences (or if you are an artist simply a THANK YOU with a drawing of what you are thanking…)

When? Not to get all squishy on you but consider going on a 30-day thank you binge. Write a daily thank you by text, email, or paper — not to see what comes back as a transactional exchange, but to see how good you will feel by expressing yourself and sharing your love. To start your project and get in the habit, write us at the Academy and we will in turn write to you!

What for? For anything big or small, a diverse collection of thanks: a cup of coffee, cookie, lunch or dinner, a flower, personal or business meeting, a gift, friendship, time, even simply a shared idea. How about a thank you for something a friend did years ago that you still think about, or because a person helped you when you needed it most?

Now what are your favorite ways to say thank Thank You?

Start a Project: Reading List

Suzanne Pollak

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An old-fashioned concept might be brand new to some: READ A BOOK!

Since school is starting soon, we at the Academy took it upon ourselves to watch less Netflix and read more books. Immediately we were reminded that reading is just as relaxing and possibly more rewarding than night after night of episodic TV. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings laid down this fact, “Netflix’s number one competitor is sleep, and we are winning!” which is proof that the vast majority of us have not only stopped sleeping but also stopped reading. 

The feel of a real book in your hands — turning the pages without stopping to look at a screen — is pure magic. If you need inspiration, open an old-fashioned cookbook, as opposed to TV chef-authored book. Those books instruct, delight, and transport us to other worlds in the past or over the seas.

 The Academy team’s favorite food books (pictured at top): 

Suzanne - How to Cook a Wolf by MFK Fisher

AK Lister - A Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis (which is a proper cookbook but still a pleasure to read & will open all kinds of doors into the soul of American cuisine.)

Geoff Yost - Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Sarah Bachleda - The Lost Vintage by Ann Mah

John-Anthony Thevos - At Home by Bill Bryson

Francine  Maurokian - Alice Lets Eat by Calvin Trillin

For more reading ideas, join us in Charleston during the first weekend of November to experience the exciting Charleston to Charleton Literary Festival featuring an array of world class authors, speakers, and parties.

Ice Cream Camp

Suzanne Pollak

Cliftonville, Kent c. 1954

Cliftonville, Kent c. 1954

Mom would never knowingly sign Little Man up for Ice Cream Camp but sometimes parents cannot control what happens when kids are away from home!

Camp began as soon as mom dropped the toddler at her parents. She met them at a midpoint burger joint and they insisted on the first order of business: double chocolate milkshakes all around. After dinner, apparently, a trip to the local peach shed complete with ice cream cones. Wait? How much ice cream did you say? How many times a day!? When word got back to Dad, a chef, he had a fit because he does not approve of so much sweet dairy introduced to his youngster’s taste buds. 

However, parents beware: grandparents have rights too! When the grandchildren visit, grandparents are entitled to make their own rules. And grandparent’s rules and plans cannot be the same as the parents. What’s the point of that? We like the idea of no rules for the seven and under crowd.

There is a time and place for creating a few elysian days. Everyone deserves a streak of nothing but fun and games, no matter what age. Parents get a break and the generations on either side get time out too.  Parents need time on their own of course, but so do kids. I am sure my children wanted, needed, craved breaks from my stifling summer rules — swim team twice a day, one hour of reading, no Nintendo, no TV. FYI they all turned out fine with no damage at all in the fun part.

P.S. Rest assured that when Little Man returned home all buzzed out, Mom and Dad immediately enrolled him in Veggie Boot Camp. (Pro. Tip: VEG out your eggs at breakfast, whether its mushrooms and something green sautéed on the side, or diced alliums and sweet peppers mixed in.)

Don’t you wonder how that turned out?

"A Culture of Your Own" for VIE September

Suzanne Pollak

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“There are two things I know for sure. First, never sacrifice your personality for someone else’s idea of ‘perfection.’ You have your own background, beliefs, and set of influences. I have mine. Yours and mine are different, and that is what makes life interesting — to identify what makes us unique and discover what we can each bring to the table, our community, our world. But remember the second thing I know for sure: personal culture has nothing to do with Instagram likes….”

Read the rest of Suzanne’s article, explaining how to develop a personal culture all one’s own, in the latest issue of VIE Magazine HERE!

P.S. Another Perfect Party

Suzanne Pollak

It may seem impossible, but I went to yet another marvelous dinner party this Summer…

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Actually, this particularly perfect dinner party was at my very own house! The special part was the group of guests — seven — three who knew each other, the other three newly arrived in Charleston. We asked each person to pick someone there they knew and tell about that person, instead of people introducing themselves. This is fun, innovative, saves everyone from bragging about themselves; plus it’s fascinating to hear what friends highlight about each other.

This only works with a small group, however. The cocktail hour was eye opening, enlightening, and by dinner everyone was acting like old friends. That’s what it’s all about: knitting together a new community right in your own house. Happy to report all six are fast friends.

A Tale of Two Parties (continued)

Suzanne Pollak

First, a debutante ball at the Plaza...

Two weekends later in Charleston: an over-the-top four day birthday party! Guests flew in from Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Texas, Arkansa, Alabama, New York; in other words, everywhere, because everyone loves the birthday girl. She defines Girl Power. A four day party means guests make a commitment of time, energy, dress, and money but the rewards can be life-changing — making new friends, connecting with old ones, witnessing new ways of partying, and having four days of fierce, fabulous fun. 

Bessie Mae by Jonathan Green

Bessie Mae by Jonathan Green

Party One: Thursday was the kick-off at a restaurant with swinging jazz band and three long tables for dinner. We got to know each other with the warmest welcome possible by birthday girl and husband. The vibe was very — We’ve got all weekend! An important element of any party is looking forward, but when the looking forward part starts on night one of four, that’s extra special.

Party Two: Friday night was a party split in half. A bifurcated party is brilliant, a superior & innovative way to force the maximum number of people to connect. The party was zoned for men outside by the pool, women inside the house. The birthday girls instructions were, “Ladies, tell a little about yourselves, what you do, and be brief.” 40 women opened up and we listened intently. In less than four hours, fortified with food and cocktails, we had spilled our secrets and shared our souls, cheered on by cheerleader in charge, the birthday girl herself.  

Party Three: During the day, we took boat rides for a look at our beautiful city from the water.  Then we all went to change in accordance with night time directions to wear white for a dance at the house. The party was around the pool, the band at one end, the bar at the other, line dancing all around. And the real tear jerker? When a guest took the mike and proposed to his love... 

(My only regret was that I left too early. Why did I do that?)

Party Four: On Sunday morning, we went to a gospel brunch at new Charleston restaurant Blue Note. Now the focus shifted to the men since this was also Father’s Day. Goodbye’s were said, selfies taken, plans made for next meetings. 

What all these different parties had in common were hosts who are masters at making unforgettable events, connections, celebrations, and making sure everyone around them feels welcome & joyful. My take away? I have the greatest friends in the world and it is never too late to add more deep friendships to a life. In fact, you must. It’s what makes life worth living. 

TRADE SECRETS

  • Fancy parties and comfort food go together. The food brings the fanciness down a few notches and gives people a feeling of social ease.

  • Document your parties, but not with cell phones! If guests are taking photos, they are not enjoying the minute-by-minute fun that is happening all around. Hire a photographer (or even a niece) because we all know the photos bring pleasure for the rest of our lives.

  • Mix ages, professions, styles — just mix! More brains working together make smarter decisions; more personalities at parties mean extra energy, excitement, entertainment...

  • Follow your instincts & be bold. There is no reason not to follow your heart, honor your creativity, and explore new ideas. 

  • Three or four days is a super party plan; a commitment, sure, but a life memory. A several days-long party is a gift of joy spread out over time, with opportunity to make real conversations, new friends, enjoy a mini vacation. In addition, there is the built-in anticipation…

  • Often overlooked but equally important as the anticipation beforehand are the memories afterwards. To maximize the before and after impact, send invitations (way ahead for more days of something delightful to look forward to) and then send photos afterwards, even in a holiday card months later!

  • At a four day party, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask guests to pick up their own checks when ordering from a restaurant menu. In fact, it’s a good idea. At the four day birthday bash guests paid their own tabs at the bookend events, Thursday night and Sunday brunch. Friday and Saturday were held at the host’s house so everything there was covered, of course.

A Tale of Two Parties

Suzanne Pollak

I want to share the details of an unforgettable pair of parties I attended recently. Not to cause FOMO or to duplicate (impossible!) but to tell the tale of two grand hosts and perhaps reveal some of their trade secrets. These two are totally suis generis, never copying anyone, 100% marching to their own beat. Neither care about a party for a magazine shoot or aim to impress anyone they’ve never met. Rather, they want to spread the joy. And these ladies know how to have a ball at their own parties.

First, a white tie ball — an ephemeral, ethereal, exotic evening from another era. This was the type of party the very rich gave frequently in season at the turn of the century (not the turn in 2000, but the one in 1900!) Our host embraces an art of living which defines generosity, celebrations, and (it must be said) down-to-earthiness; even though nothing was down to earth about the fairytale ball to honor her granddaughter’s 18th birthday, except for the main course of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. (The host didn’t want the usual filet.)

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The Setting: None other than the Plaza, a palace of yesteryear. The cocktail hour happened in a spectacular space with two photographers snapping away (which allowed guests to slip phones in pockets or purse and fully enjoy the moment) while we sipped cocktails (passed spicy margaritas, non-alcoholic lemony drink, and of course champagne, in addition to two large bars.) Then we ascended the grand marble staircase covered with cascading white flowers* into the golden ballroom before we had one too many sips and weaved and wobbled upstairs. Has anyone today mastered the ancient art of descending a staircase? No! It’s a lost art.

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*Unbelievably, all the flowers were thrown away the next morning for the Emmy after party the next night. Why does a party planner insist on such waste just to stamp his mark on a party, discarding spectacular, eight feet tall arrangements only 24 hours old? 

The Seating & Eating: Once in the ballroom, finding our table was a bit of a puzzle. The table numbers (in three dimensional brass) were hard to locate, peeking out from the elegant white floral centerpieces. The number placement was a great idea because first, instead of looking for numbers on flags high overhead (which spoil the magic because — hello — no one wants to see the working details of a party, we simply want to be enveloped by magic for a few hours and not wonder how this was all produced) and second, the mystery of finding your table made strangers connect, an opportunity to introduce yourself to others and ask fascinating strangers for help. Two hundred people seating themselves takes time, but finally we sat, we feasted, we even consumed  three desserts on one plate. Why? Because our host couldn’t decide which dessert the Plaza chef presented at a pre-tasting she preferred. When in doubt, choose YES!

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The Dress: It must be said that white tie looks marvelous on men. White tie can be rented because who born after 1900 has a white tie hanging in their closet? White tie is a different uniform than a tuxedo. The tie, jacket, and shirt are unique. Yes, the jacket has tails! 

The Band: A 25-piece band and who among us has seen a 25-piece band since Barry White died? Just saying… 

The Extras: Dancers to add glitz and glamor. Six dazzling women dressed in beaded 1920’s style dresses, six movie star-looking men in tails, leaping and spinning the girls around the room. You could lose your bearings watching and begin to imagine whirling like that yourself. And, since the band read a crowd like bands did back in the day, the music called us to our feet. With a partner or without, everyone between the ages 18 to 85 everyone got the call. Dancing in a pair or solo makes no difference in the 2000’s.

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OOPS: The only thing the 18-year-olds didn’t like was having to show ID cards to get a drink. No drinks for that crowd. But the 18-year-olds will never ever see anything like this again in their lifetime so who cares about a drink when they were privileged enough to experience an evening from another era? They have a story to tell their grandchildren in 2060.

The Welcome: The host herself greeted everyone briefly from the middle of the dance floor, explaining that some of the guests were at her own coming out party 63 years ago! Imagine! This means the guest list spanned three generations, maybe four. That range alone creates magic. 

The After Party: The Dean was invited (one of the cousins slipped me an invitation) but sadly I was too tired to attend. Bad decision on my part!

The Day After Party: An aunt of the granddaughter hosted a goodbye brunch at her house. We rehashed details of the previous night, relaxed, refueled, said our goodbyes until next time, until we realized there is no next time. The era is over…. 

Rice 103: Pudding!

Suzanne Pollak

While the first two rice dishes in our Rice summer school series — paella and risotto — have great cultural pasts, rice pudding is personal, evocative, emotional... 

For me, rice pudding brings up memories of college dinner parties my sister & I gave for our friends. Instead of time at the library, we devoted hours devising menus and guest lists, then walked together to the grocery store to buy ingredients only to haul them back to our apartment (as we neither owned a car nor even possessed driver's licenses.) We had small monthly allowances so dinner parties were a creative way to please people on a culinary shoe string, with our financial resources combined. Rice was our standby dessert because pudding pleased everyone, even if it wasn’t their childhood comfort food, or ours. Rice pudding was easy to make, exotic to our friends, foolproof, inexpensive, delicious.

[Illustration,  Pepperidge Farm Cookbook , c. 1970]

[Illustration, Pepperidge Farm Cookbook, c. 1970]

Our recipe came from an old-fashioned standard, Margaret Rudkin’s Pepperidge Farm Cookbook. We soaked raisins for a topping and always whipped heavy cream by hand to top the topping. Gilding the lily was our mantra straight through college, at least where food, parties, and dress were concerned. We didn’t always apply the philosophy to our studies — funny I should be a “Dean” now. But Charleston Academy classes always start with drinks followed by food, so perhaps none of this should come as a surprise.

Paella uses bomba rice, risotto: Arboria rice, both medium grain and starchy which do not make good puddings. This leaves long grain rice for puddings. Do not use ‘instant’ or ‘minute’ rice. Basmati and jasmine rice are excellent choices too. 

Pepperidge Farm Cookbook Rice Pudding

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart whole milk

  • ⅓ cup rice

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup sugar

  • Dash of cinnamon

  • 2 tablespoons rosewater

Directions:

  1. Butter a 2-quart casserole. Put the rice in the casserole and pour in the milk. Add the seasonings and stir well.

  2. Bake for 3 hours, stirring every 15 minutes during the first hour to keep the rice from staying in the bottom of the casserole. 

  3. When cooked, sprinkle the rosewater over the top. Serve hot or cold, with or without soaked raisins (in brandy, cognac, or just hot water) and whipped cream.



"The Architecture of Dinner Party" for August VIE

Suzanne Pollak

George Best & his signature champagne stack, 1968. (We won’t tell you NOT to try this at home!)

George Best & his signature champagne stack, 1968. (We won’t tell you NOT to try this at home!)

“If you are asking yourself, Why bother? Let’s just go to a restaurant, STOP! The delights of a private dinner party cannot be replicated in the public arena. No waiting, no crowds, no loud party next to you. No feeling that you have to give up your table before you’re finished talking or eating dessert. At home, you can linger as long as you want under flickering candlelight. You can set your own pace, free from any pressure to give up your seats to those waiting.

You can and should move your guests wherever you please. Summer is for drinks on the balcony and dinner in the garden. Winter means cozy cocktails by the fire and dinner in the candlelit dining room. Spaces help set up moments that soothe, excite, and seduce, creating an atmosphere for meaningful conversation...”

Read the rest of Suzanne’s latest article for VIE Magazine, all about the careful construction of a good old-fashioned dinner party, HERE on their site!

Rice 102: Rainy Day Risotto

Suzanne Pollak

Risotto at its best has been lovingly tended to become a creamy dish, heaven to eat.

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First, soften a chopped onion in a couple knobs of good butter; then stir in two cups of rice grains until they are coated too. Add four cups of homemade stock by the ladleful, stirring with a wooden spoon all the while. Risotto is a dish of love, something to make when you have the time — time to work out knotty problems in your brain or to just let that brain take a rest; time for when you feel like facing the stove and hanging out with a family member or friend. It’s a perfect dish to make over a conversation, even a three-way telephone chat. 

Start to finish takes 30-40 minutes, and similar to a soufflé (but easier to make) risotto waits for no one! Slip a little more butter into the rice before serving, then top with plenty of grated parmesan, chopped parsley, freshly ground pepper. Witness a few separate ingredients, probably already sitting on your counter, transform into far more than sum of its parts. If you can’t visit the seven wonders of the world, you can make one all by yourself right there in your very own kitchen. That’s the exquisite nature of cooking and feeding people.

Summer School: RICE 101 - Paella Night

Suzanne Pollak

Hot take — some carbs are good for you! Cole Porter sang of romance: It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely. At the Academy, we sing similar riffs about rice. It’s delicious, it’s delightful, it’s delectable...

Paella Night

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Paella might be the pinnacle dinner party menu, the perfect food to knit together a group, especially when cooking over an open fire with guests standing around watching. It’s primal, it’s ancient, it’s deep. First off, to be in the hands of an Engineer of Paella is comforting and exciting. All will be good. You can feel it.

The feast begins with the visual — platters of fish and vegetables, a sack of bomba rice, pot of fish stock, bottle of Spanish olive oil, and tins of spicy paprika and saffron laid out on trays — teasing the eyes. This engineer had the largest tin of saffron the Dean had ever seen! Joy number one: watching a confident cook take charge, knowing exactly what to do with the order of ingredients. Your eyes, nose, and stomach anticipate a feast. A patient wait is required for the ingredients to transform into one of the world’s magnificent feasts, and a patient wait is just what we all need. Off the devices and face to face — right there the night becomes unforgettable. Meanwhile the wood smoke and tomato smells seduce the nose…

This particular engineer knows how to riff like any accomplished cook. No artichokes at the market? So what! Martha Vineyards Morning Glory Farms had asparagus just picked. What to serve first? Not too much at such an opulent feast. But guild the lily with local oysters. In this case honeysuckle oysters from waters pulled just that morning.

Here are the paella steps according to the Engineer’s method:

1. Shuck oysters.

1. Shuck oysters.

2. Build the fire.

2. Build the fire.

3. Lay out ingredients.

3. Lay out ingredients.

4. Sauté onion and green pepper.

4. Sauté onion and green pepper.

5. Sauté soft shell crabs and monster shrimp!

5. Sauté soft shell crabs and monster shrimp!

6. Sauté garlic and green onion.

6. Sauté garlic and green onion.

7. Add tomatoes whirled in the blender.

7. Add tomatoes whirled in the blender.

8. A good dose of paprika…

8. A good dose of paprika…

9. Be generous with the saffron!

9. Be generous with the saffron!

10. A quick stir…

10. A quick stir…

11. Rice makes an entrance.

11. Rice makes an entrance.

12. Time for asparagus and eggplant.

12. Time for asparagus and eggplant.

13. Scallops and swordfish enter the picture.

13. Scallops and swordfish enter the picture.

14. Add stock.

14. Add stock.

15. Add rice!

15. Add rice!

After we’ve heard the rice bottom pop and the paella has rested, it’s time to serve. The engineer decided to put the paella in the middle of the table as centerpiece. Who needs plates? The communion continued with everyone eating straight from the pan. Eat the triangle of paella in front of you. Communion and communication make a dinner party its best.

This Professor of Paella pulled off the two main tricks: all the flavor absorbed in the rice and the crusty layer on the bottom, Mmmmmmm. Plus two other secrets, including a fistful of saffron threads from that bottomless tin. The Dean was so mesmerized she forgot to find out the source and price for a treasure of saffron that huge. The other secret is the Bomba rice. Two expensive ingredients but WOW!

Remember a paella cannot be thick. This engineer owns three paella pans all the same size, perfect for serving six people from each pan so the rice is thin and gets that essential crust. But who wants 18 for a Paella feast? Five or six is perfect.

"An Authentic Voice" for July VIE

Suzanne Pollak

“Corene” by Jonathan Green (1995)

“Corene” by Jonathan Green (1995)

“What makes very young people able to turn passions into a living, marrying their gifts with the discipline to create their life’s work? How can they know so early, possessing the confidence and necessary focus to keep them on their path? I dreamed of being a painter but derailed in college, distracted by thoughts like, If I am not Picasso, is it worth it? If my work is not going to hang in the Met, what does that say about me? In I am not ‘in,’ then can I still keep going forward and not give a damn what anybody thinks?

Jonathan Green knew in his very being the irrelevant nonsense of those distractions, which don’t mean a thing at the beginning of a career — or maybe ever. That’s why I love him. He actively chose to master one field (actually three: painting, fashion design, and the social graces) instead of being a jack-of-all-trades.”

Read more about Charleston-based painter Jonathan Green in Suzanne’s latest article for VIE Magazine HERE

Charleston Academy in Cosmopolitan

Suzanne Pollak

“And remember: In a sea of square-shaped biscuits, always make a heart-shaped one.” -T.A.

“And remember: In a sea of square-shaped biscuits, always make a heart-shaped one.” -T.A.

In her article “This Instagrammable Hotel Will Make You Forget Literally All Your Responsibilities,” Taylor Andrews writes about “errrything you have to do when you stay at The Beach Club, no matter what time of year you go….”

And guess what #7 on her list happens to be? “Learn how to throw a Southern Dinner Party. [The Dean] taught us how to throw a proper dinner party that included creating the perfect fluffy biscuit and shrimp and grits, but you can organize any sort of etiquette or cooking event with her if you’re interested in a different kind of Saturday-night rendezvous.”

We loved having Ms. Andrews visit while in town. Read her complete list via Cosmopolitan HERE!

Style Blooms Eternal at the Chelsea Flower Show for June VIE

Suzanne Pollak

Queen Elizabeth II at the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo:  Prima

Queen Elizabeth II at the Chelsea Flower Show. Photo: Prima

“What is it that makes this flower show so special? It’s more than queens and duchesses. Designs, such as one suspended in air in 2011 and one made of three hundred thousand individually crocheted poppies in 2016, are not simply a passive art experience. The attendees of the flower show become active participants. Our visual sense takes in the exhibits like we do the portraits at the Tate or the National Portrait Gallery; beyond our eyes, our imaginations might leap into action and plot changes to our gardens. Some people take it a step further and become part of the show by wearing fashions with a theme. How many times can adults wear their inner passions without looking loony? How many opportunities do we have to be fierce, fabulous, and maybe a tiny bit frivolous? The show is the venue to see the intermingling of artistic visions: the flowers, the garden design, the crowd, and the fashion choices. It is like a natural museum come to life — a living exhibit and a contemporary art installation all at once.”

Read more about the Chelsea Flower Show HERE via VIE Magazine!

"There's No Place Like Home (And By That I Mean Yours)" for May VIE

Suzanne Pollak

biscuit rolling Rainbow Row.jpg

“The houses I’ve lived in — and there have been many — meant everything to me. They’ve alternated between a calm oasis I refused to leave in the midst of chaos to party palaces where I couldn’t get anyone to exit on time. Growing up, my dipolmatic family met everyone through our homes in Afria. For eighteen years, we threw weekly dinners with every nationality seated at the table; our biannual parties for hundreds lasted all night. As an adult, my houses have been my most valuable assets. I used them to design the life I wanted at different times. My taste developed by organizing interiors and gardens. I used our rooms to add value, conjure joy, and help create more meaningful lives. I want every cubic inch to give its all….” - Suzanne Pollak

Read more about the Charleston Academy — what we do, how we do it, and why exactly — according the Dean herself, in the May issue of VIE Magazine HERE!