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Filtering by Category: HOSPITALITY

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...

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.

"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: Cell Phones

Suzanne Pollak

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...

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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,

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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.

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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.

Notes from the Rainbow Room, for VIE Magazine

Suzanne Pollak

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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...

"Entertaining the Entertainers"

Suzanne Pollak

 Sometimes the most memorable house parties happen under dire circumstance.

Sometimes the most memorable house parties happen under dire circumstance.

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!

Thanks (again!) Martha Stewart Weddings

Suzanne Pollak

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We're blushing, thanks to a third appearance on the Martha Stewart Weddings site -- and in great company, to boot!

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." 

Read the full article HERE. (And contact us to book a private class with the Dean!)

'TIS the Season for a Cocktail

Suzanne Pollak

 Who wouldn't love to be at this cocktail party?

Who wouldn't love to be at this cocktail party?

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

Cheers!

 

Thank You Orbitz!

Suzanne Pollak

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...

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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.

Everyday Cooking at the Restoration

Suzanne Pollak

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We are so excited for the upcoming Everyday Cooking Class with the Dean at the beautiful Restoration Hotel! "Nothing expresses the warmth and charm of classic Southern Hospitality better than a delicious home cooked meal. Join us for a cooking class that will lovingly walk you through every part of the process, from shopping to chopping to serving. It’s guaranteed to be a class you and your family will treasure for many years (and meals) to come."

But this is NOT just an ordinary cooking class. We will also discuss the importance of structuring daily meals, rituals and traditions. We will talk about manners, dinner conversation, dealing with boredom, and different food cultures. Hopefully students will leave with some delicious recipes and a few new skills, plus a new perspective on the time and energy spent in the kitchen as a way to make life more rich and rewarding. 

THURSDAY OCT 26 | 6–9PM THE EXCHANGE SUITE AT THE RESTORATION

For tickets, please click HERE to go to Eventbrite or contact the Concierge at 843.518.5119. $175 per person.

Silence at the Table

Suzanne Pollak

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Ever watched a couple at a restaurant in total silence? Did they run out of things to talk about, or have nothing surprising or delightful to say to each other? Worse still, are they absorbed in their devices, two people together yet a globe apart?

For onlookers, it could signal a scary glimpse into the future. The Dean wonders if budding relationships which might have turned into happy marriages stopped before they could even start. Young lovers may be alarmed at such a sight and decide, Not for me! I’d rather by alone than silent with a lifetime partner. 

One way to skirt around this seemingly unsurmountable fact of many lives is to invite a third or fourth for dinner. Lonely silence that is bound to happen between two people once in a while, won’t happen with three or four. If you are in need of a conversation helper, look no further than a friend in need of a meal. Sometimes all we require is a fresh perspective to get us out of a rut of same ol' deafening silence. 

One caveat however, depending on the relationship and setting: silence can signal two people at ease. Restaurants may be for lots of two-way talking, but sitting on a sailboat, or a patio overlooking a salt marsh with flying ducks in silence is anything but awkward. It's blissful wordless communication. 

Après Eclipse

Suzanne Pollak

 No need to call off the party after viewing the Total Solar Eclipse this afternoon. Make your friends a drink!

No need to call off the party after viewing the Total Solar Eclipse this afternoon. Make your friends a drink!

Q: What’s better than hosting eleven for dinner? A: Making cocktails for just a few!

This August, invite guests over for a Late Summer Old Fashioned. Serve with a platter of coppa, speck & pâté (we rely on Goat Cow Sheep) along with silver bowls full of almonds and heirloom cherry tomatoes. Easy Peasy!

Here's to make our signature cocktail, plus a tip on how to refresh your drink without overdoing it.

Late Summer Old Fashioned

  1. Fill cocktail glass with large cubes of ice. Pour in bourbon.*
  2. Sprinkle quite a few drops of peach bitters on top (five to ten according to your love of peaches) plus three or four drops Angostura bitters. 
  3. Top with soda, and garnish with a slice of peach and a cherry. 
  4. To slow down after one or too many drinks, without throwing in the towel, make this cocktail sans bourbon. In your same glass, refresh the ice, pour a speciality soda (Fever Tree or Mountain Valley), then top with a generous splattering of bitters. This concoction is as delicious as a real cocktail and will make you feel better in the morning.

*To use an old bartender's trick -- three to five second pours equal an ounce or two in the glass.

Cheers, and Happy Eclipse-ing, from the Academy's Summer School!

SUMMER PARTY PLAYLIST

Suzanne Pollak

 Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, & Eddie Barclay beat the heat with style in St. Tropez. Where else?

Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, & Eddie Barclay beat the heat with style in St. Tropez. Where else?

Once you know what to wear to a mid- (OK maybe late) Summer eve cocktail party, you may as well just get gussied up and host one of your own. But you are going to need a signature cocktail -- perhaps a Paloma? -- and some choice tunes to make it all sing!

So we turned to our dear friend, Alex Admiral Collier, composer and music manager at Eastward Music for a summer playlist to help entertain guests and distract from the blistering heat. This playlist includes new and old songs alike, to usher in wistful memories of cooler, simpler times. Enjoy while imbibing with friends for a heightened sense of nostalgia while subconsciously creating new memories. CHEERS!

A Few Indispensable Tips on Cocktail Party Attire

Suzanne Pollak

It’s chic to wear a fantastic ‘something’ over and over to make it your signature. Just as smart hosts cook their favorite recipe again and again, no matter who comes to dinner, because they know their guests look forward to their culinary specialty; the chicest women throughout history know the style repetition secret. 

 Even a simple ensemble can become your signature with the right attitude and accessories...

Even a simple ensemble can become your signature with the right attitude and accessories...

That 'thing’ can be an accessory, a dress, a shoe. The Dean learned from native and expatriate ladies swanning into her parents 1960's cocktail parties all over Africa. Women wore cigarette pants for casual affairs and jewel-toned satin mini cocktail dresses at fancier parties. Along with real hair dos (coifs, up-dos), eye liner flaring out just like Cleopatra, brilliant lips inhaling pearl or golden cigarette holders, perhaps even a huge cocktail ring or elaborate earrings...none of these beauties boasted a colossal wardrobe with unlimited choices but they had a cocktail uniform that took them anywhere. Once vital decisions are decided, brains are free to tackle life’s thornier problems: whom to invite to the party, which stranger to talk to first at someone else’s, how to grab attention, connect, ignite a fire, or tactfully end a conversation that's headed nowhere.

 One  Taffin  ring...

One Taffin ring...

 and another.

and another.

The teenage Dean appropriated the tip immediately and forever. Deciding and simplifying what to wear wherever is cheaper and quicker once you you know what suits you. Dressing becomes a snap, so be loyal and stick with your style. Adding that something extra, or taking it off, makes the outfit appropriate for the particular party and place. 

Because, of course, it makes a difference where the cocktail party is: Hollywood, California, Hollywood SC, Beirut, Tripoli or Paris; the Ambassador’s residence or your neighbor’s garden? "When in Rome," so the saying goes. You don’t want to be dramatically different than everyone else unless you can handle it. For example, a man does not wear a motorcycle jacket when he attends a soirée at Charleston’s  Yacht Club. Men there wear the proper uniform of khaki pants and a blue blazer. The Dean once knew two young American beauties visiting the south of France who were assured that everyone, absolutely everyone, went topless to parties at a certain place. Perhaps a little naïve, they showed up appropriately undressed to a party filled with elegant older couture-covered guests. Still embarrassed decades later! 

Dressing comes down to the first impression. What can a first impression tell us about someone whom we only met for a moment at a party? Of course we all know human beings are complex and contradictory, but you don’t have to live with someone to sense immediately if you want more of them or less. The package of you starts with eye contact, the smile and what is draping your body. Identify what you want out of the engagement. Something, or nothing? There to sip one bourbon, or to possibly meet your next business associate or romantic partner? You don’t want your clothes to get in the way. A woman does not want to be so flashy others are distracted from substance, but neither does she want to seem too dowdy. 

Figure out your primary assets -- cleavage, neck, arms, hair -- and choose cocktail attire accordingly. For your own engagement, you will need to move, sit and stand. As a guest you can swan around or sprawl on a sofa as you wish.

For reference, here is the Dean's summer cocktail uniform: Hart tassels, J. McLaughlin white blouse and cigarette pants, with extra pointy shoes to make legs look longer. This pair of Balenciaga mules harkens back to the time of Robin Hood! Because they are extravagant, they will be worn with jeans all fall and winter, for hosting ladies luncheons and gumbo dinner parties, with a Halloween costume, for a Thanksgiving feast and Christmas dinner, even just for hanging out at home.

The Dean on Bridal Showers (for Martha Stewart Weddings)

Suzanne Pollak

 Betsy von Furstenberg and company ("Look" Magazine, 1950)

Betsy von Furstenberg and company ("Look" Magazine, 1950)

The Dean was pleased to offer her foolproof tips for throwing your first bridal shower, over on the Martha Stewart Weddings blog today. From how to plan and decorate, to properly introducing your guests to one another -- even how to get them to leave when the party is over -- the Academy is here to make sure the party happens without a hitch.

Read the full article, "How to Be the Ultimate First-Time Hostess," HERE!

Porch Love

Suzanne Pollak

 (Photos courtesy of  G. P. Schafer )

(Photos courtesy of G. P. Schafer)

Charleston’s single and double porches have long been synonymous with hospitality. We entertain on our piazzas all year long because temperate climate offers a type of living not available in many urban environments.  These are special spaces to watch clouds move across the sky, birds fly in formation or snap to attention on a telephone wire...all while protecting us from a sudden rainstorm or blazing sun.

On a windy Winter afternoon, there is no better place to sit with a loved one, wrapped in a blanket while sipping smokey Hu-kwa tea sweetened with honey from the bees in the backyard. In Summer, the porch ceiling fan must whirl full speed and ice buckets stay filled with large cubes for the five o'clock cocktail hour, when bourbon and drops of bitters aid in watching the sun set and moon rise.

Communication is different on porches, upstairs and down. Why? Spaces effect people's behavior. On a ground floor porch, one converses with street walkers and neighbors across the garden, or possibly meets a passing stranger who might transform her life. Elevated porches are a different environment altogether: exotic, hidden, perfect for private uninterrupted conversations -- honest, vulnerable, and open -- a place to forge a deep connection. 

Outdoor rooms and fresh air make people looser and more able to talk freely, telling truths comfortably. People behave and think a certain way in an interior room and often say what they’ve said before. Four interior walls may hem one in physiologically. Outside, it’s easier to say things you have never said, perhaps even startling yourself.  

Spending a good portion of the day on a porch can make you feel differently too. Porch life is less chaotic, fresh air calms. And though you might sit on the porch all day, you won’t feel cooped up. The porch becomes your own little cocoon. A porch is a cozy room, an outside room, a safe sanctuary. Long Live the Piazzas!

Flash Party in Review

Suzanne Pollak

 No One Hour Party ever left anyone feeling quite like this...at least not of its own accord. 

No One Hour Party ever left anyone feeling quite like this...at least not of its own accord. 

The reason why the penultimate night of the year is ideal for a One Hour Party is because the following night always starts too early, goes on for too long and ends up a little snooze-y by the time the Ball drops. Not to mention, the OHP must be given in cities or neighborhoods where guests can easily get to the party by foot or by a short taxi ride, without a long travel commitment. Sixty minutes of fun isn’t worth a thirty minute commute.

People arrive knowing they do not have a lot of time, sort of like Henry the VIII with his wives. Get right to it! Find the person you most want to talk to, dispense with wasted words and wasted time, delve into a real conversation. The clicking time clock remains on guests minds in an exciting way.

The infamous Ice Cube Trick worked wonders, saved time and even impressed the Academy’s Dean of Drinkery. The hostess discovered that it only takes a moment to separate ice from water balloons when you run under the faucet to melt slightly. The orbs were placed in waiting Old Fashioned glasses and lined up on the bar for guests to ladle their punch into upon arrival. This functioned as a way to get hands involved immediately -- a tiny but genius trick. (Anybody would rather pour a cocktail than wash a dish.)

As for hors d'ouevres, the hostess made ‘cocktail' instead of ‘breakfast' biscuits, which required a healthy grinding of fresh pepper into the dough. Then, the host filled biscuits with very generous servings of speck and lardo. He announced that the lardo replaced the cheese with its creamy texture. There was enough black pepper plus slices of speck to excite every taste bud and satisfy each stomach until guests enjoyed their dinner at some other place later on in the evening.

Don’t be fooled as to the workload of an OHP. It's hardly different than a regular cocktail party except for the fact that you offer one and only one appetizer + cocktail. The host went with the season and made a citrus & tequila punch. For those who didn’t want hard alcohol or would have rather had wine…too bad! They made due with Pellegrino for sixty minutes.

People policed themselves and really did manage to leave at the one hour mark, except for the couple who stayed and stayed and thank goodness they did! How else would we have discovered our Goose Guest, a financial man with a Ph.D. in goose and all it’s culinary charms? Which brings us to the final secret to any successful party, whether a quickie or an all-nighter: Invite the widest range of guests possible in ages, professions, interests. The Dean herself was honored to be included in the eclectic One Hour Party mix.