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Filtering by Category: Q & A

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.

Talking Top Sheets with Town & Country

Suzanne Pollak

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

World of Etiquette: Sharing a Meal

Suzanne Pollak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Suzanne Pollak for The Roads Travelled

Suzanne Pollak

 [Image: Mary Gilbert, The Roads Travelled.]

[Image: Mary Gilbert, The Roads Travelled.]

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.

Read the full post HERE on The Roads Travelled (and contact us to book a cooking class of your own!)

Q&A with A.K.

Suzanne Pollak

 In an all-natural state, wearing a jumpsuit paired with an incredibly chic towel turban, plus best accessories Baby Leo and Moses the family dog.

In an all-natural state, wearing a jumpsuit paired with an incredibly chic towel turban, plus best accessories Baby Leo and Moses the family dog.

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.

 Beloved chicken dish...

Beloved chicken dish...

 & potted herbs in the backyard.

& potted herbs in the backyard.

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.

 Best way to wind down a dinner party? Lounging around listening to a good record...

Best way to wind down a dinner party? Lounging around listening to a good record...

Q&A with Dierdre Zahl, Owner of Candy Shop Vintage

Suzanne Pollak

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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.

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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!

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.

I Heard You Twice the First Time

Suzanne Pollak

When it comes to managing uncommunicative teenagers, your home is the ideal place to get this surly age group to start talking to you. The second most ideal place is your car, essentially the family home on wheels.

A well-known fact is that everyone feels comfortable in anyone's kitchen, even young adults. So set up an environment that puts teens at ease around a kitchen island or countertop, and organize a project making gnocchi together.  Making and forming gnocchi will be a learning experience, no matter how expert you are already. (If you are frightened by the prospect then get the Academy to do the teaching.)

Here's what happens when you are creating something with your hands and concentration is needed: brains are 75% occupied with task at hand, which makes the other 25% of motor functions relax. Don't ask the Dean why but she knows this is a proven fact after raising four of her own children. Talking subjects can be about the steps to making the gnocchi, a completely non-threatening topic which offers lots of areas for delving into -- food, culture, nutrition, taste. Not to mention that a hands-on experience is always more fun to do with someone else, because you become pals in a project instead of adversaries.

If you can get into a routine (maybe once a month) a one-on-one tradition may start and memories will be made, believe us! Once a skill becomes more familiar and less scary, there is always opportunity for laughing at mistakes which will definitely occur, being proud of the final product, and creating a delicious dinner. With patience, the space will arise for talking about other, more personal subjects...maybe not on the first try but eventually. Number one key: don't ask penetrating questions, which moms can be expert at doing.

Nightly dinners are the time and place to become an active listener. Ask questions that need more than a yes or no response, but remember, not too personal! The big mistake is to do all the talking or give too many opinions. Allow these teenagers of yours time to answer a question so they can formulate what they want to say and how. Let these guys be the smartest ones in the room. Every person needs that. 

Blow Open Your Tabletops

Suzanne Pollak

Now to address a few burning Bridal FAQs re: table settings, centerpieces, and personal style. A wedding registry is no time for strict guidelines, but rather a chance to begin building your collection for decades of dinner parties to come. No matter what stress should ever consume your day, you can ease out of it by cooking dinner, sipping a glass of wine, and setting the table (and mood) for the night ahead.

No need to register for two china patterns, one fancy and one for everyday. Way too old school! Far better to delve deep into your inner being and suss out all the aspects of your person. Think color, moods, passions, place...

For example, maybe you appreciate hand-carved wood -- consider a collection of handmade bowls. There's no end to what you can do with these. Use smaller ones for olives and nuts at cocktail hour, or for individual starter salads at dinner. Fill larger bowls with BIG salads, or perhaps something else interesting (citrus, hankies, pens and paper for a parlor game) to set as a centerpiece. Or, choose wooden chargers. And you know what looks good with wood? Gold, of course!

Just look at this extravagant, marvelous, opulent Royal Crown Derby. Who can afford to collect a whole set? And besides that, who wants to? It is so too much, simply over the top. All that gold cancels out to equal a big let down, where a one-size plate sizzles and shines on the table. Perfection! A gold salad plate looks amazing filled with greens for a salad course, chocolate tart for dessert... Actually, everything looks good with gold.

Okay, how to satisfy your love of birds? Consider Ginori. There is nothing as wonderful as a set of 8 or 12 or 24 dinner plates featuring birds. These beauties yearn for a Thanksgiving dinner to be placed on them, but dazzle even under an everyday roast chicken. These plates say something about you; your passion for nature, individual style, love of design. What could be more boring than a whole set of one china pattern covering the table? The older the Dean gets, the more she thinks, YUCK. This person has let someone else tell her what to do, and ignored that inner voice of what she likes.

What appeals most to us? Anything but flipping through ad-filled magazines, shopping at bridal superstores, or listening to friends and family who have never identified true style. Plates and objects on a table are a way to express yourself. So are centerpieces: flowers mixed with fruit, bunches of veggies and greens that will become tomorrows main course, a handmade pie that will become tonight's dessert.

Have fun with the rest! Modern flatware choices might include horn (so chic) or bronze (gleams on the table and unique to boot) but there is still something to be said for a classic silver pattern. The most popular through the ages? Francis the First has that swirly Baroque feel which pairs so well with plain, stark, straight. Don't be afraid to mix high and low. As for napkins, it's all about juxtaposing different colors, textures, and aspects of your personality. Sometimes you feel flirty and fun, other times more composed and traditional. Sometimes girly, sometimes a huntress.

Let it all out on the table, loves. These kind of style decisions will get you well on your way to bolstering your confidence. No one needs to tell you they approve. If you like it, then go for it. That’s exactly what the Dean does, and it has always worked for her. 

On Serving Nuts

Suzanne Pollak

One tip the Dean picked up this Summer in France and adopted at home in Charleston is an elegant way to serve nuts during cocktail hour. Fill one bowl with nuts and another with little spoons -- for instance, those sterling demitasse spoons your grandmother left you that lay hidden and unused in their felt rolls. Show your guests how to take a spoon, fill with nuts, then place nuts in their hands and snack away. The French approach accomplishes two results: individual portion control and avoiding fingertips in the food. YUCK!

Gluttony

Suzanne Pollak

F.O.M.O. Folks! You are missing out if you do not know it is NOT okay to serve yourself first, yourself only, yourself continuously. The modern approach to eating is gluttonous. 

How to tell if you (or  your partner) are a glutton? Use your eyes, pay attention, look around the table!

  • Serving yourself wine first is not only greedy, it is gluttony.
  • Do not keep helping yourself to the platter of food at the table or sideboard when others have stopped eating. No one needs three helpings, or four, or even five. (Except teenagers, whose bodies are gluttons for food and sleep.) It’s appalling to sit at a table with others, with the platter of food in front of you, and act like that platter is your personal portion.
  • As a guest, you should not help yourself to seconds unless the host asks you if you want more. If this sounds like your partner (or you) then he/she may as well sit in the corner with a Dunce Hat. 

No Time for Foolishness

Suzanne Pollak

Recently the Dean heard news she cannot like; in fact, it has her recoiling in horror. Say it ain’t so! That people the Dean knows, and knows of (with children no less) have not turned their stoves on for over six months -- told like a brag, even with pride! This is foolishness beyond belief. These people are missing out on some of life’s greatest pleasures: relaxation, creativity, bonding, feasting at home.

Here’s what else these fools are missing:

  • eating healthier meals,
  • making the kitchen (instead of TV) the heartbeat of the house,
  • teaching children manners, healthy eating habits, patience, focus and concentration by simply sitting at the dining table, 
  • and one of the most joyous daily occurrences, spending time together with people you love eating food you love.

The Academy cannot help these folks. Is there an Academy out there for common sense?

Dinner Parties Gone Wrong

Suzanne Pollak

Wondering what to do when a dinner party goes south?

  • DON'T do what Bravo’s Southern Charmers did at Thomas Ravenel’s: look and linger. When a train wreck happens, move fast A.S.A.P. Of course it’s mesmerizing to watch an explosion, but the smart money doesn't. They leave and want no part of a coming disaster. They run, run, run out the door if they are guests who have the option to do so...* 
  • DO "keep calm and carry on" if you find yourself host to a train wreck. The Dean once had a guest who threw a tantrum right at her dinner table. The conversation involved politics (might well happen this year, beware!) Said guest lost his cool and bolted. If this happens to you, there is a positive -- people will never forget the evening. To keep things from following suit, simply pretend like nothing happened. The rest of the guests are waiting to see what you do. Guests take their cue from their captain.

*Luckily behavior this bad is a reality on reality shows only and not likely to occur at any real life dinner party. 

Shut the Fork Up! It Goes Where?

Suzanne Pollak

 Photographed by Landon Neil Phillips for Local Palate, Spring 2016.

Photographed by Landon Neil Phillips for Local Palate, Spring 2016.

How important is it to set the fork on the left side of the plate? A very reasonable question recently asked to the Dean, and naturally the Dean has answers, two actually, both completely correct. 

If you are a young professional moving up in the world, planning on making your mark, the answer to the question is that placement of the fork is of upmost importance. Let's say you did not learn how to set a table and it escaped your notice where a fork goes. Sadly you may be marked as a person who has no clue about table manners, and perhaps even as one who is confused in other life skills, business matters, political savvy, social situations -- however incorrect these assumptions may be. Therefore, you must master the seemingly insignificant fork placement to be the person you want to portray. 

Now, if you are an older person, say as old as the Dean, it makes little difference where you place your fork. Because you know the rules, and have abided by them forever, you now have the choice to go off pist and do exactly what you want. Say you are running late for your own dinner party and arrive minutes before guests knock on the door. It is perfectly okay for you to put the pot on to boil, place a pile of silverware on the table and pour cocktails without missing a beat. You are not even required to set the table, instead ask your guests to sit down and help themselves to their own fork. Not only will your dinner be delightfully relaxed, you will be known as chic, sui generis, and possessing your own style. 

Manners and etiquette must be learned and adhered to to make our society work, including where that damn fork is placed, but once you learn the rules you are allowed to break them when you have already made your mark on the world. Got it? 

How to Hibernate: 5 Wine Collecting Tips from Femi Oyediran

Suzanne Pollak

The annual Charleston Wine + Food Festival is finally less than a week away! No better time to add a few choice labels to your cellar than when you're popping bottles left and right like a regular Bacchanal. Keep your eyes on the prize. Whether you collect wine for personal enjoyment or a long-term investment, our favorite Visiting Professor Femi Oyediran has a few tips to put you on the right track:


1. Trust your taste.

Invest in classics from the regions you already know you enjoy -- i.e. if you love Chianti, try an age-worthy wine such like Fontodi's Vigna del Sorbo, or another great Sangiovese-based wine from Brunello del Montalcino.


2. Research your Investment.

In order to build a cellar that will grow as an investment, stay on top of the labels garnering attention from critics and magazines and/or doing well at auctions. Look to reputable sources for deals on both new and older vintage wines. Pay attention to up-and-coming winemakers; hold onto those wines and watch your investment grow.


3. Create a strong collection.

Buy at least three bottles of the same wine at a time, in different vintages when possible.


4. Store properly.

Get a wine fridge! This will give you control over the environment you keep your wine in. Otherwise, store your wine in cool pockets of rooms in your house (55 degrees F.) where there is little light. Keep bottles on their side, not upright, to prevent cork spoilage.


5. Embrace technology.

Every wine ages differently. Pay attention to apps on your phone like Delectable to see how others are doing with vintages you own. If you don't plan on selling the wines, invest in a Coravin device, which allows you to taste the wines in your cellar without actually opening the bottle.

 

How to Hibernate: Needlepoint with Janet Gregg

A. K. Lister

Looking for a way to while away the Winter? A new hobby or habit to help you relax, turn off, pass the time? Or, as Resident Needlepoint Professor Janet Gregg admits, to keep you from feeling completely unproductive when you binge-watch Bloodline in the span of a weekend? (Guilty.)

Needlepoint doesn't have to mean predictable patterns and colorways, nowhere more evident than in the lush, layered interiors of Gregg's Smith Street apartment in downtown Charleston. She has mastered the art of incorporating her uniquely modern sense of pattern with her mother's well-earned skill. They have been collaborating since Janet's childhood in Virginia; needlepoint the answer to the family's natural tendency towards constant activity, and elaborate projects that fostered social connection.

Gregg moved through several creative careers between Charleston and NYC -- floral design, fine jewelry-making, painting, and working with Charlotte Moss. Her needlepoint work reflects her multi-media experience, ranging from bright, flowing Pucci-style prints to graphic geometric designs. In her spaces, she effortlessly combines her own pillows (often her initial design or lettering, filled in by her mother) with a host of other prints, and sleek modern furniture with antiques from her parents' estate. The eclectic sense of collection on display in her previous home, an 1800s carriage house on Stoll's Alley, featured in House Beautiful last Summer.

Comfortable as she is in her new space, where she entertains on a regular basis despite her aversion to cooking, Gregg admits that she still feels like "a starving craftsman" most of the time. And while she misses her mentors (like Moss) close by, she adores her peers, and counts among her muses and proteges the likes of Sally King Benedict.

Gregg believes the true antidote to feeling unproductive is to "seize every single solitary moment so it doesn't slip away." She adamantly suggests a first-timer visit Cabbage Rose, on Broad Street in Charleston, where you can find a large piece of canvas to practice on and plenty of needlepoint wool -- the best of which is Pattern Ann.

Once you have the hang of it, start with either a pillow or a needlepoint belt, like the one she made for her nephew upon his recent graduation from Woodberry, including his school colors, mascot, nickname, jersey number, initials and graduation date. Above all, be patient! Take your time, which usually means about a month to complete a project. Gregg herself finds inspiration in knowing that anything is possible, if you set your mind to it...and there's something worth watching on TV.

For more information on needlepoint commissions or private lessons, contact us!

 

 

 

Mastering Prime Rib 101

Suzanne Pollak

Standing Rib Roast is having a moment. The Academy's line has been fielding dozen of calls about this holiday showstopper. Those of you who have never bought or cooked a Prime Rib (yes, it's the same thing) should not be be intimidated. Let the Dean hold your hand and answer any question that arise. Some of our students are so diligent that they have been practicing before the big holiday meal and texting their every questions to us. The Dean never rests!

For first-time cooks, we offer you a step-by-step guide. More advanced cooks may be amused remembering the confusion you once felt.

Prime Rib FAQ & A:

  • I have big eaters. How many ribs do I need for eight people? We answered, 8 big eaters = 7 ribs.
  • The butcher asked if I'd like an "easy-carve" style? Do I? Easy carve is brilliant, unless one of your guests is an expert carver. 
  • Do I want to buy the fat end or the other end? We say fat end. 
  • Any hints about the vodka rub? Place the roast fat side down during the before cooking time.
  • So I put in at 500 degrees for 20 minutes, then do I leave it in oven to turn temp. down to 325 for the remaining cooking time? Not sure if I should take it out while the oven temperature adjusts... Beef stays in the oven. 
  • My meat thermometer melted...help! Oops, can’t help you there.
  • At what temperature should I remove from the oven? 120-125 degrees (interior) for rare. The roast will continue cooking after it comes out. 
  • Roast is out of the oven and temperature is rising. Do I remove the roast from the roasting pan onto a cutting board so it cools down, or leave it alone? Leave it alone. 
IMG_4730.JPG
 All-star student, Logan, and her first Prime Rib.

All-star student, Logan, and her first Prime Rib.

We suggest serving Prime Rib for a holiday dinner with your closest friends, perhaps even in January after everything else subsides.  Serve with Potatoes Gratin, a big green salad, and fine red wine.  If you have leftovers, try Roast Beef Hash for a weekend brunch meal the following day.

Party Face: Q&A with Tim Quinn

A. K. Lister

 Ava Gardner & the very chic-est of compacts.  [Photograph by Ida Von Dee.]

Ava Gardner & the very chic-est of compacts.  [Photograph by Ida Von Dee.]

Have we mentioned it's party season? And somehow it always seems that while that may be true of the whole Western world, it's at a real fever pitch here in Charleston. We always manage to find an excuse to gussy up, go out, share a cocktail, and make merry with our neighbors. 

In all the commotion, we can hardly see straight, let alone focus on the mirror long enough to put on our faces. So we turned to our friend Tim Quinn, Celebrity Face Designer at Giorgio Armani, with all of our burning "party-ready" queries. He was so gracious to oblige.

Q. How should I prepare my face for a party?

For a party, I usually recommend a hydrating mask first and foremost.  I love the Luminessence Mask, which totally infuses your skin with hydration and brightness.  If you haven't had enough rest, you need lots of moisturizer, then a lightweight light-reflecting foundation.

Q. How does it differ from daily makeup?

Typically for daily makeup, start with a tinted moisturizer to make sure that your skin is even...

Q. If you don’t wear much makeup, what do you simply have to do before going out? 

Perhaps just terrific eyeliner, a flush of color on the cheeks and pop up the lip.  You don't need to go overboard if you're not used to a lot of make up.

Q. Eyes and lips? Or just one?

Try a smokey eye.  Play up the lip a little bit if you're just doing a classic holiday look.

Q. Is there a way to avoid lipstick on the wine glass?

Use a straw with your champagne!

Q. Is it okay to apply lipstick at the table?

It's OK to apply lipstick at the table if you have a chic compact.  I think there's actually quite at an art of seduction to a woman using her lipstick and applying at the table with a a beautiful compact and perhaps even a lip brush.

Q. What do you think about glitter on the face? Should it stay on the tree?

Glitter should stay away from your face.  Shimmer is fine, glitter is not.

Q. What are your views on getting work done in your 20s? In your 50s? (Asking for a friend. : )

I've seen this new trend in Hollywood: people getting worked on at younger ages.  While I'm starting to think that the face God gave us was just a suggestion, we should keep it to a minimum.  Little tweaks at a maturing age, I'm all for...but starting too young leads to disaster.

Many Thanks to Tim Quinn!