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!
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...
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.
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.
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.
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!
This is the first installment in our World of Etiquette series exploring the art of how to conduct oneself on a daily basis. Etiquette is for life, not just special occasions.
First of All, a Few Words on CELL PHONES...
Today, the worst etiquette clearly involves the cell phone. People are simply ungovernable when it comes to their phones! Be aware of how the phone takes up just as much space as a person. Effectively you are inviting everyone you could contact to the table.
In BUSINESS, ever meet someone for lunch and the first thing out of their mouth is “I am expecting a call” as they put their phone on the table face up? No. Instead, preface answering with, “I am sorry, I hate to do this. This call will be very quick.” Having the phone on the table means you are not being fully present. This leads to a feeling of having forgotten what’s said, or of not being a good listener. No one is good at listening to two things at the same time. It doesn’t happen, and even if it does, it’s rude! Give your company your full attention. Be present.
(P.S. Don’t think we don’t know when you are reading your Apple watch! When you get a message and look at the watch, we know you are not looking at the time. It’s very awkward for the other person, but they cannot say anything.)
When it comes to FAMILY,
High school students and young adults have reported to the Academy that they won’t talk to their parents until they put their phones away. Kids will walk out of the room until said parent puts down their cell, lest they have to repeat things twice. Perhaps your children are more cognizant of core manners then you might suspect. As tech develops, kids are surprised to discover their parents are rude. It’s impolite to have a phone at the dinner table, especially when it pings with every new notification.
FYI Parents without a clue: you can turn off these alerts, app by app, so everything isn’t buzzing constantly. Notice that younger folks only turn on the ones they need to know. Keep the phone on silent, with no vibration either. Better yet, shut it down completely. When the dinging is going on, it agitates and makes people feel anxious. Is this what you want to do to those around you?
For their part, parents have shared their rules of no phone in the car because that’s when a lot of the best conversations takes place. With kids and their friends all using their cells, the parent might feel like an Uber driver.
Finally, FRIENDS: so what is the criteria? When is it okay to check something on your phone -- while watching a show together? Yes, then it’s okay to check your phone. You don’t need your friend’s undivided attention for that interaction. But if you were out to dinner, it is not okay. Whenever you are one on one, or at a party, do not check your phone.
Different places may require different thinking. In New York City people rely on their phones to check trains, pull up the map to get fastest way. Yet we have noticed that people are slowly becoming more mindful of their technology usage and consumption. Do not check the phone because you are bored, as if it were such an awful thing to be! The Academy feels that no one is bored anymore and that is bad news, because it cuts out daydreaming.
Looking for a reason to travel? If an epic blowout at NYC's legendary Rainbow Room isn't on your calendar this Spring, make a date with friends in a city you've never been to and live it up anyway! For three or 300, Suzanne tells how to make any destination event memorable in the latest issue of VIE Magazine.
Read the full article HERE...
Many thanks to blogger Mary Gilbert of The Roads Travelled for writing all about her recent culinary lesson with Suzanne Pollak, starring frisée, bacon, and the renowned Academy croutons...(guest-starring a red scarf by J. McLaughlin!)
Gilbert sat down with the Dean after her tutorial on Tradd Street to ask a few Qs on everything from growing up the daughter of a diplomat in Afraica, to entertaining in historic homes around the world -- including how Pollak's distinctive entertaining style has been shaped by her large family, lifetime of travel, and love for Charleston.
If you missed Suzanne Pollak's piece upon the passing of legendary Pat Conroy -- a touching recount of her time spent cooking and co-authoring his cookbook -- you will find it recently published in VIE Magazine, followed by the official Academy Guide to Cocktail Party Attire.
What a treat to receive an honorable mention in a recent Guide to Charleston on Elite Traveler, for all those looking to get 'Mannerly,' Academy-style! As they put it: "There's nothing like gracious Southern hospitality. Join author Suzanne Pollak...for a round of customized cooking classes, social survival tutorials, and general throwing-a-party-the-Charleston-way advice. A rip-roaring good time, this immersion in culture is time well spent."
Well spent, indeed! Read the full article HERE on EliteTraveler.com...
A.K., short for Anna Kate, is Suzanne's right hand gal! She keeps the wheels turning on the Academy blog when not busy with her chef babe J, new-ish baby Leo, and cooking for friends at Side Hustle Supper Club. She doesn't consider herself half as fashionable as Suzanne but nonetheless she's learned a few things in her stint at the Academy. Below she answers the Dean's burning questions about life, love, and style...
Q: What is your personal style for parties? at home, on your body?
A: I grew up with three brothers and now live with my partner and baby boy, so I feel like I'm always surrounded by dudes! I suppose that's why my personal style tends to be a little tomboy-ish, at least in the sense that it's practical and action-ready for everyday. But perhaps it also explains why I like to contrast that for a special dinner or other festive occasion, opting for flow-y, silky dresses and a few special pieces of jewelry and a spritz of nice (not too sweet) perfume. Regardless, I like to feel comfortable and free to move, in case a dance party breaks out at a moment's notice.
At home, I collect, in a decidedly non-minimalist way. I am tidy and organized but definitely love books, baubles, and the right tool for any job under the sun. I have a need for order, but I am learning to let go when company comes over. I used to follow a rule that no one must clean or do dishes after a big meal. Now I permit close friends to entertain Baby Leo while I put on a record and load the dishwasher. ; )
Has your (personal and house) style changed since you were single, married, now as a mom?
Honestly, probably not as much as you'd expect, although I do care less than ever what anyone else thinks of my outfit. I'm actually working on finding a middle ground there, as my mom keeps reminding me that a little effort to spruce yourself up goes a long way! Pregnancy threw me for a bit of a loop, naturally, limiting my range of wardrobe and isolating a few favorite items. I tried to retire some of that stuff postpartum but it's hard to let go of faves like my super sexy silk drop crotch cargo pants.
How do you accessorize for parties? Versus what you wear at home? Or when you go out to your guy's restaurant?
I like bright, fun jewelry, high and low for sure! I always wear the emerald necklace my sweetheart gave me a few birthdays ago, and the gorgeous tanzanite ring he proposed with this past Spring. Then I like to add big colorful bangles or rings, even costume jewelry. I love one I found that is probably a knock-off of Delfina Delettrez (sorry to say) and looks like a crystal hand with shiny red nails wrapped around your finger! It's so ridiculous. I love fun earrings, disco hoops or Hart tassels, too but lately I've had to take a break, knowing Leo would probably yank them out of my head.
Any go to necklaces, earrings, shoes, your mother's or grandmother's pieces?
In my family, the best hand-me-downs come from the kitchen. I have my great-grandmother's handmade wooden bowl, perfect for the giant salad that must accompany all of our family's rather heavy Southern dishes. I love my Granny's niche glassware, including an egg dish that looks like a chicken. My mom just passed down a bundt pan I can't wait to bake a good old-fashioned pound cake in. And of course, there's the skillet collection, each of which have been well-seasoned by our matriarchal cornbread recipe.
Favorite source of inspiration? A person? A place? In Charleston?
I've just moved from a beloved third floor apartment in an over 200-year-old house on the Peninsula, to the house & land we bought out on James Island in advance of baby arrival. It's a whole different lifestyle, but I'm inspired by this new 'burb-y situ. and want to homestead on a small scale. We already have a little vegetable patch, some flowers, some herbs -- with plans to grow more, get some chickens, install a ceramic oven outdoors. I dream of being a kind of domestic goddess like Julia, Martha, Ina, Suzanne : ), Meryl Streep in It's Complicated! It may sound provincial but I just want to cook and garden and be a mama for now...
Favorite hostess gifts for parties, as a house guest? What do you like to receive, besides baby boy clothes?
I've suddenly become very forgetful about gifts, both giving and properly receiving them with a thank you card to follow. (Blaming this on Baby Brain!) Historically, I like to bring a fridge-able roll of chocolate chip cookie dough and ice cream to a dinner party. There is nothing more delightful than cookies fresh out of the oven and just-melting frozen cream. Even if it's too much for the moment, still delicious later on. I find nice wine, pretty flowers, one or two good records are always welcome. Once a guest brought fresh flower crowns for all of the guests and that made for a magical night, indeed.
The Dean returned to Martha Stewart Weddings (yet again) for advice on what to wear, and what not to wear, to a wedding. Her advice follows:
Most weddings are at four or five PM. Black tie is sort of tacky for a wedding, and old-fashioned, but hey -- each to his own. White Tie, unless you are royalty, seems a bit vulgar. If the wedding is black tie, the wedding must be after six. No dinner jackets before six!
A Few Hard and Fast Rules
- Women should never wear black or white to a wedding. No LBD = little black dress. Black shows disrespect, as if sorry to be in attendance.
- No matter what the dress code, ladies don’t have to wear a long dress ever. Traditionally you wouldn’t be in a long dress before the sun went down. Rules have loosened though. Women can wear a cocktail dress even for white tie.
- Velvet in the winter, silk in the summer...
- No ball gowns (even for white or black tie.) Think about it. You will have to sit in a pew. Evening gown instead.
- The purse should be tiny. Certainly never show up with a weekend purse.
- Don’t upstage the bride. Don't get sexy at weddings. It’s not appropriate. It’s a religious event.
- Men have very few rules so less trouble breaking them. They have an easier uniform. Men’s wardrobe is dinner jacket, suit, blue blazer. (They can travel the world with those three items and always be appropriate.)
- If you want to be elegant, you have to be comfortable. Simpler is better.
Decoding the Dress Code
- Black Tie optional: wear or not.
- Creative Black tie: God only knows what that means! Just dress up, like when you were a little girl. For a guy it means have fun. Wear a snazzy tie. Choose a tux in a different color, maybe navy. Add a velvet jacket.
- Semi-formal: fairly dressy. Basically girls can wear the same dress for any occasion but more jewelry at night. Girls can get away with absolutely anything -- your call as to what you would feel comfortable in. Men wear a dark suit.
- Casual: low heels. A less dressy dress. Depends on where casual is. South Hampton casual is fairly dressy except when it’s on the beach. Then very casual.
And one other thing to think about…
Usually there is dancing at weddings so keep that in mind when choosing your shoes. Nothing more unattractive than a woman hobbling on heels. Hobbling is not sexy.
Read the full article HERE!
The Dean thoroughly enjoyed making a Valentine's Day lunch with the inimitable Lucy Cuneo, including a rustic roasted pepper tart and Academy salad, featured over on her blog. Here's a little video of the kitchen action, edited by Lucy (and shot by her husband. : )
Read the full post, including recipes, HERE on lucycuneo.com. Thanks LC!
Q: What is your personal style? At home, for parties, in the store?
A: My personal style is feminine with an edge. I like girly details, like peplum or bishop sleeves. I love wearing heels, skirts and stockings, but I always like at least one bold print or accessory -- usually in the form of statement jewelry!
Has your (personal and house) style changed since you were single versus now as a mom?
I would say that in my early twenties, living in NYC with musicians on the Lower East Side, my style was definitely edgier, more rock and roll. Lot's of cut T-shirts and ripped denim. In my late twenties, after I got married and moved to Charleston, I softened my look a lot with more feminine cuts like peplum sleeves and flared skirts but always with a bit of an edge, usually in the form of statement jewelry! Since becoming a Mom, my style has remained pretty consistent. I like to dress up and since I own a shop, I definitely have to put some thought into my outfits as I can't just roll out of bed and sell jewelry. My daughter has really picked up her own strong sense of stye too; she likes to pic out all her own clothes and is very opinionated!
How do you accessorize for parties? A dinner party at your house? Going to a restaurant?
Cocktail party: a fun party dress, big earrings and heels. A dinner party at home: leggings, heels and a silk blouse with some Charleston Rice Beads and red lipstick. Dinner out: a skirt with maybe a bodysuit and cute blazer or fitted jacket and stacks of bangles plus a fun purse.
Any go-to necklaces, earrings, shoes, your mother's or grandmother's pieces?
I usually wear a piece of Candy Shop Vintage, often a Charleston Rice Bead bracelet wrapped multiple times around my wrist. I have some very cool vintage earrings in a few styles by MAM', a designer from Texas who used to make fun, colorful statement earrings out of resin-coated paper. They are very lightweight, but big and whimsical. I also have these great woven palm tree earrings by Mercedes Salzar, a Columbian jewelry designer who is just incredible.
Favorite source of inspiration? A person? A place? In Charleston?
Daphne Guinness is definitely my ultimate style icon. She is so elegant, so edgy, so high fashion but still soft and feminine and very unique. I love following Beyoncé's Instagram account. Her outfits are so on point and of course I look to a lot of vintage clothing, jewelry and home accessories for design inspiration.
Do spouses come to the store for Valentine gifts/ideas? What do you recommend?
We get a lot of spouses very close to the holidays. Usually they are last-minute buyers. I usually recommend the Charleston Rice Beads because they are always a crowd pleaser. We have them in a wonderful Kelly Green and light pink this spring -- perfect for Valentine's Day! We actually did the light pink a number of years ago and brought it back.
Favorite hostess gifts? For parties, or as a house guest? What do you like to receive?
I always love candles as a hostess gift, or a bottle of wine. We have some great embroidered cocktail napkins in the shop and of course, your Handbook is always a wonderful gift for a hostess. We can hardly keep them in stock!
The Dean's most recent column in VIE magazine is all about houseguests -- both having them and being one yourself. Her advice covers the gamut, from celebratory house parties to visiting a friend in need, plus how to schedule your time together (and apart, very important!) She offers suggestions for what to do and what to cook, how to behave and how to handle those who don't...
Read the full piece, along with so many other fun articles, HERE on VIE's site!
We loved reading Becca Hensley's review on The Virtuoso Life about her recent stay at The Beach Club at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina -- particularly the bit recommending a course with the Dean! Hensley writes:
Want to fit in like a real Charlestonian? A cookbook author and the co-founder of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits, Suzanne Pollak is an expert in decorum. Her engaging, hands-on cooking courses, etiquette seminars, and party planning forums will make a Southerner of you, yet, even the brashest of Yankees.
Read the full article HERE...
The Dean is preparing a heartfelt goodbye to a beloved porcelain collection in the New Year, as her Quianlong period 'tea cultivation' dishes go up for auction at Christie's on Thursday. She writes:
Chinese export porcelain, doorstops, clocks, highboys, bed linens, copper pots, cookbooks, antique dining tables – round, oval, rectangle and square – I collected them all. One of the most bizarre diplomatic transactions of the 18th century occurred when Augustus of Saxony choose 127 pieces of Chinese porcelain from the Palace of Charlottenburg, in Berlin, and gave in return 600 giants of the ‘required height’ collected from his provinces...as if the ancestors of today’s NBA players were traded for porcelain! Augustus of Saxony had what was then called ‘porcelain sickness’. He emptied his country’s treasures to the dealers in Paris and Amsterdam.
I admit I too had the ‘porcelain sickness’. When I was just 20 years old, I went on a tour of Bassett Hall in Williamsburg, Virginia. I walked into Mr. Rockefeller’s butler’s pantry and saw his stacks of china (a different set for every day of the year.) My younger self thought, "What a great idea." Mr Rockefeller and I could have been cousins. But now I know that the only thing better than acquiring the collection is getting rid of it so new collectors can enjoy it. I loved assembling the collection but I do not mourn for what I have sold.
There are so many benefits of collections, aside from the pure sporting pleasure of acquisition as you hunt down pieces at auctions and in catalogues. It may seem that you need to be an expert to get started, but that is not the case. Don't be intimidated -- start by researching what you are interested in. Any budding interest takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and explore.
Of course, as with any other hobby, there are pitfalls of collecting too. It may be easy to go overboard, or you may fall under the illusion that you are an instant expert. (You're not!) It's wise to get your purchases vetted by more than one person. Otherwise you are like a sitting duck to predatory dealers.
But a decades long collecting habit leads to self-confidence and untold pleasures once you awaken a new intellectual pursuit. You will learn an object's place in history when you discover its provenance and assess its condition. Beyond your initial attraction, you will develop a keen instinct for precious objects and come to a deeper understanding of color, proportion, patina, constuction, and the difference in quality when something is handmade rather than mass-produced. You will likely find yourself in corners of museums you've never explored before, and meeting new people with similar interests. The passion of collecting quickly becomes an everyday thought.
If you are a fan of Tagines, you will want to grow your own lemon trees and preserve their fruit. Winter is when the lemons plump up and turn yellow to signal they are ripe. Here's how to do it:
- Start by washing your hands and sterilizing mason jars. You will need a couple medium/large lemons per quart-sized jar. Add two teaspoons of Kosher salt to the bottom of each jar.
- Slice a tip off the bottom of each lemon. Quarter from top to bottom but not all the way through. Add a teaspoon of salt per lemon inside the lemons. Squeeze lemon closed and stuff into jar. Press another lemon on top of the first one to squish it down. Add more lemons to fill each jar, making enough lemon juice to cover the fruit. They do need to be completely submerged in their own liquid. Then, add a whole red or green chile pepper (not one that is blasting hot) for a bit of flavor.
- Cover jars tightly. Turn jars every two or three days.
They will be ready to eat in one month, and will keep for a year without being refrigerated. To use in a recipe, simply rinse the quarter or half lemon you need. More is not more -- too much will overwhelm your dish. Use sparingly.
To quote: "There's nothing like authentic southern hospitality, but Pollak's Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits will teach you how to replicate it back home. With entertaining, cooking, and etiquette classes, the Academy's curriculum shows you how to 'use every inch of your house,' says Pollak. It's a fun (and useful!) place if you're about to move into your first home, but it's also the perfect activity for a bachelorette party. You can all take turns throwing picture-perfect house parties when you return home."
Too many parties are unremarkable, and not for lack of work on the host's part. Some just don't stick in your memory, or leave you feeling thrilled you attended. Maybe they didn’t cast that luminous glow on life, even if for a few moments. If you've ever wondered how to give a cocktail party that makes each guest leave happy, satisfied, and thankful for you, the Dean has a couple secrets up her sleeve.
Growing up in Africa, I went to remarkable parties every week, even every night. There were cocktail parties in Mogadishu, Somalia, where we lived in a pink house on a hill over looking the city and the Indian Ocean. All kinds of people attended: ambassadors, hunters, Arabs, Italians. One time American Olympian Jesse Owens came over, the era’s Usain Bolt. Especially overseas, in third world countries, parties build a community for a few hours, lasting til dawn. Those parties ended when the sun rose. I was on my way to bed when most guests arrived, and just waking up when they left.
The length and mix of parties cannot be duplicated but the lessons to learn are to set the stage and invite interesting people, beloved old and exotic new...
Setting the Stage:
So much concerted effort when it comes to hosting a party -- stress over what to wear, what to serve and drink, how to decorate the house, the gimmicks, the glasses, on and on. The strange miracle that seems to elude us as we busy ourselves with party details is that all these elements don’t add up to a hill of beans. The most important point is to make guests relaxed the moment they walk in the door, able to step outside themselves for the duration. To experience that seizure of happiness, a floating feeling that lasts for days, is the ultimate goal. It all comes down to real meaning versus gimmicks. Gimmicks are fine, fun, even fabulous if they set the stage. Your job is to create magical moments. This takes deep thinking and off-the-cuff intuition.
Set the stage that works for your taste, energy, house and budget. It’s not difficult because this is about your personality. Not about money, not about working yourself into a frazzle, not about doing things other people do. It’s about your personality asserting itself in the details. Taste is subjective! If you like plastic and silver together, great. The best houses are personal, not interior design-driven. If you only have time for picking up cocktail snacks at Trader Joe’s and Costco, that's fine too. Tip: buy truffle potato chips and fill with tuna tartare or pickled shrimp.
Whom to invite:
Everyone and anyone, not just the usual suspects. Invite at least a few new faces. Guests fall into two camps: comfortable if they already know everyone else, or ready to make new connections. But everyone everywhere loves to talk with an interesting person, known or not. Small talk gets stale in moments. Don’t let your party become a distant memory because small talk drowned the energy.
Cocktail parties, and in fact the most fun parties, are all about the C’s. Be comfortable, which makes others comfortable. Connect guests. Start conversations, using your contacts and your charisma. Serve canapés and Champagne (e.g. Henri's Reserve) perhaps even in punch! For an in-person tutorial on how to host an unforgettable cocktail party, contact the Concierge at the Restoration Hotel to book a private class with the Dean.
It's officially Oyster Season in the Lowcountry! For an insider's guide to the beauty of bivalves and Charleston's rich Winter traditions featuring them, turn to the Academy. The Dean does a class all about Oysters, available to book through the Restoration hotel -- a unique holiday office party, visiting guest retreat, or gift for extended family.
Read more via Orbitz.com below, and link to full article HERE...
The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, South Carolina
At this hotel, produce isn’t the only type of food grown and harvested. In fact, the employees center on finding, roasting, and even slurping oysters and making sure guests can partake in this seafood bliss with a little guidance. The hotel holds an oyster class conducted by a Southern etiquette expert, Suzanne Pollak, dean of the Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits. She provides an insider’s guide to choosing the best seasonal oysters in Charleston, then teaches participants how to make a world class Oyster Pan Roast in a 1740s South of Broad house. Guests will take home recipes from the Dean and their own oyster knife for future “Southern style” oyster roasts.