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Filtering by Category: SEASONAL

"Setting New Traditions" for November issue of VIE

Suzanne Pollak

 Rita Hayworth carves the bird.

Rita Hayworth carves the bird.

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

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

The Simple Art of Stew I: Braised Short Ribs

Suzanne Pollak

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

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

For Short Ribs, you will need:

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  • 2 tablespoons oil

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 5 pounds short ribs

  • 2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1-2 stalks celery, roughly chopped

  • Head of garlic, sliced through

  • 1 bottle red wine

  • Some branches of thyme

  • A bay leaf or two

Here’s what to do:

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  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

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

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

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

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

Summer Salad #3: Art Project

Suzanne Pollak

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

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

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

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

Summer Salad #2: Porky Pig

Suzanne Pollak

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

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

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

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

"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... 

Time to Preserve Citrus

Suzanne Pollak

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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:

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 

'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.

So Long Tomatoes

Suzanne Pollak

 Photo by Landon Neil Phillips for CAoDP.

Photo by Landon Neil Phillips for CAoDP.

Invariably there is an abundance of tomatoes at the end of the season. Now is the time to take a day and several bushels of the fruit to make sauce and can juice for the months ahead. A classic seafood stew in tomato sauce couldn’t be easier, quicker or more delicious. It makes a fantastic weeknight, work night, school night dinner. And once you've tasted homemade tomato juice, you will be ruined for any store-bought version. Concoct the world’s most delicious Bloody Mary on football weekends or for a weekend brunch... 

Tomato Sauce

We give no amounts in this recipe because you do not need any! Only common sense. In a large pot over medium heat, sauté a chopped onion until translucent, add a few cloves of sliced garlic and continue cooking until caramelized. Fill pot halfway with coarsely chopped tomatoes and continue cooking uncovered until thick, about 45 minutes. Add course salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. When sauce is cool, pour into Ziploc bags to freeze. 

Squid Stew

Squid Stew is our new favorite go-to stew, but any shellfish or firm white fish will make it delicious. Scallops, clams, shrimp, Dungeness crab, Alaskan King Crab (flesh removed and cut into long pieces), monkfish (tastes like lobster), are all fine on their own, but if choosing is too difficult, combine for a tasty treat. This recipe is loose because it's up to you to decide how many olives you want, how much garlic you like (for us: plenty!), ditto with the capers. 

  • 2-3 cups Tomato Sauce
  • 3/4 lb. Squid tentacles 
  • 1/4 lb. Squid tubes, sliced 
  • Garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Capers in liquid
  • Black olives, pitted
  • Oregano 
  • Pepper

 In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat, sauté garlic, capers and black olives in olive oil. When brown, add squid tentacles and tubes, plus two or three cups of tomato sauce to cover. Turn heat down and simmer until liquid reduces and squid is done, about ten minutes. Never overcook squid! If you do, they turn to rubber bands. Serve in a shallow bowl with a large crunchy crouton on the side. 

Mrs Alice Wanner's (1869 - 1958) Tomato Juice

It was pretty radical stuff to drink tomato juice in Mrs. Alice Wanner’s day. Tomatoes weren’t eaten much before she was born, still recovering from their reputation amongst colonists as purely decorative. (Legend even has it that Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson ate an entire basket of tomatoes on the steps of the local courthouse in 1830, simply to prove to onlookers that they would not send him into fatal convulsions with their poison, as expected.)  So Mrs. Wanner was obviously a domestic diva. This recipe is courtesy of her great-granddaughter, Kathy Phillips, and makes about ten quarts:

  • For the juice, you'll need thirty pounds or more tomatoes. This all depends on how juicy they are; you may need as many as fifty pounds. Wash tomatoes, trim off stems and any dark spots, quarter. Fill a large pot and bring to boil. Boil hard for ten to twenty minutes, until they are soft and liquid-y. Meanwhile, sterilize quart-sized Ball jars and heat flat lids in simmering water.
  • Put Foley food mill or a tight weave strainer over a second large pot. Ladle in tomatoes and crank mill, or use ladle in strainer to mush and push until all juice goes into pot, leaving behind skin and seeds. Keep doing in batches until juice fills pot. Bring juice to boil and then ladle into sterilized, seasoned Ball jars to about 1/2" from top. To each jar, add: 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. celery salt, 1 tsp. sugar, grind of black pepper. Remove bubbles. (Use a teaspoon and go around the edge of the top of the juice where bubbles collect. Then wipe the rim clean, plunk on the flat lid, and screw on the ring.) 
  • Place fresh lids on jars, tighten ring, and set aside to "ping." Then they are sealed and will keep up to about three years. Beyond that they start to lose flavor. This process of cooking tomatoes and making the juice will be done many times, maybe four or more depending on the size of the pots you are using. So use big pots. 

For a Bloody Mary, simply add vodka, Worcestershire, lemon wedge and dash tabasco. Top with to Ms. Wanner's fine juice!

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!

MORE on How to Host a Bridal Shower (for Martha Stewart Weddings)

Suzanne Pollak

The Dean, Etiquette Expert Extraordinaire, returned to Martha Stewart Weddings with some additional tips on how to host a Summer Bridal Shower. For everything from menu suggestions (spoiler alert: no messy finger foods) to theme ideas, as well as how to hone your guest list, check out the full piece HERE...

A Case for Tarte Tatin

Suzanne Pollak

A tarte tatin is best of American pie but adds a French twist, perhaps most fitting in these days between Independence and Bastille Day. Since South Carolina peaches are at the peak of perfection, why not try using seasonal fresh fruit instead of the traditional apple?

Adding to the inherent deliciousness of caramelized fruit edges, making a tarte tatin is even easier than pie. For starters, the dough only involves two steps: making the dough and rolling the dough. No fitting dough into a pie pan, stretching it, wondering, Will go up the sides of the pie pan all the way around? Will I have enough dough to make strips for a lattice top? Then there is the chore of decorative edges on the crust using fork tines or thumb indentations. Pies are wonderful, tasty and works of art, yes, but a tarte tatin is all that and more! 

The extra sizzle comes from sautéing the tart when it emerges from its thirty minute bake so that the fruit edges crisp up and turn dark golden. To guild the lily even more, whip up a cup of heavy cream for a side spoonful. Vanilla ice cream is delicious, but if you are sticking with the French theme, then homemade whipped cream is heavenly. Bonus: your arms get a tiny bit of a work out. 

Pies and tarts say and do so much. It's the baker whispering to the eater (even when the eater is the baker herself), I love you, and all is right in the world...at least for this moment. Fruit tarts and pies satisfy, soothe, and signal Summertime. Paired with a cafe au lait, left over slices make a healthy and indulgent breakfast. What else so small can deliver so much satisfaction? 

Find the full recipe for Peach Tarte Tatin HERE...

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. 

Out on the Town in IBU

Suzanne Pollak

The Academy is always up for anything dear pals down the street at IBU throw our way, so when they asked the Dean to model their Holiday best, she (quite literally) jumped at the chance! Hitting the streets with old friend Eddie and new friend Amanda in bespoke finery -- which just happens to be ethically sourced and crafted by women in developing countries -- could not have been more FUN. Read more about our adventures and outfits in their most recent newsletter here.

We are happy to say the holidays are upon us, and there's nothing we'd rather wear to parties or gift to our besties than IBU! 

Important Election Season P.S.A.

Suzanne Pollak

It's inappropriate to talk about current politics at any dinner party, ever, or even worse, to assume that everyone you know thinks like you do. Almost always the topic (along with sex and religion, categorically) leads to disaster, outrage, gnashing of teeth. We entertain our friends and go to parties to relax and enjoy ourselves, not to get blood boiling. 

When you are at a party and the talk goes to politics, even when everyone agrees with each other, turn to your neighbor and begin another subject or else take a break. Find the powder room, find seconds, find another bottle of wine. There are finer things to discuss during social situations. 

Pie is for Lovers

Suzanne Pollak

  A weekly Summer Pie ritual serves as a solution to deliberating over which pie to make -- peach, cherry, blueberry, gooseberry, strawberry or rhubarb?

A weekly Summer Pie ritual serves as a solution to deliberating over which pie to make -- peach, cherry, blueberry, gooseberry, strawberry or rhubarb?

Commit to baking a pie each week. A kitchen habit established for a few Summer months accomplishes the following: happy family members, tasty and healthy (if you adjust sugar amounts) desserts on a regular basis, a handy surprise for last-minute vistors, a comforting practice for you to look forward to, and the inevitable title of Expert Pie Baker. After all, it doesn't take 10,000 hours of experience to become the best pie maker on the block.

To guide you, a few simple rules of the Academy Crust, and everything in between:

  • Frozen butter is your friend, as it keeps dough flaky. You can even grate it into dry ingredients to avoid a mess.
  • Kneading the dough is a good thing, making it supple and easier to handle.
  • Wax paper is a no-no! Instead, use Saran Wrap for storing or rolling out dough.
  • Prepared dough can rest for two days in the fridge or else rolled immediately, filled and shoved in the oven right away. The most discerning baker will neither know nor care.
  • Bake pie in glass pie dish on floor of oven for crust worth devouring.
  • Picking fruits? Juicy, ripe, local are the key concepts.
  • Pies do not like to be stored in the refrigerator. Lay a piece of wax paper on top of pie and leave at room temperature. It will stay good for for up to 3 days, although sure to be devoured in less. 

So many choices are exactly why pie is never boring and much more interesting than cake. Summer pie, Winter pie, tomato pie, even four-and-twenty blackbirds pie! Crostatas vs. crumbles vs. double crusts? What’s complicated here? All are great. Try each and let your children vote. Include your children early and often on important family decisions. Lattice vs. open vs. closed tops? Same as above. Healthy, hearty dinner and dessert conversations will ensue. No one will be on the iPhones when pie is on the table. A difficult discussion coming up? Serve pie to help the medicine go down more easily. 

P.S. There's nothing like sharing a piece of pie with your sweetheart. Two forks plus one slice = love at first bite. Want to seduce a certain someone? Bake them a pie. Serve with a seductive wink. Searching for a heavenly Summertime treat? Start the day with a piece of leftover fruit pie and hot coffee. Rinse pie plate & repeat.

Spring on the Table

Suzanne Pollak

What is the color of money, of envy, of Spring? 

The answer: a perfect party theme!

 Antique soup plates...

Antique soup plates...

 antique dinner plates...

antique dinner plates...

 Ted Mueling salad plates (complete with bugs!)

Ted Mueling salad plates (complete with bugs!)

 & a silver chalice, to reflect it all.

& a silver chalice, to reflect it all.

The Dean decided to give an all-green dinner party in honor of both the weather and the surname of an esteemed invitee. So, green plates, green cocktails, green foods became the theme of the night. Luckily the guest of honor was amused. His eyes twinkled when he heard that a theme was involved, and twinkled even more when he heard that the theme was no doubt his favorite color.

Generally themes are too silly to be discussed (with the exception of Halloween), but a green theme is not too serious. Maybe a little silly, but so what? It’s fun! Anything to please a guest, and any excuse to serve margaritas at cocktail hour.

MENU

  • Middle Eastern Watercress soup
  • Roasted King Salmon, with chive sauce, spring onions & sautéed asparagus
  • Micro-green salad with tiny croutons
  • Roasted pears with crunchy pistachios, saffron and green cardamon sauce

The centerpiece? Greens snipped from the public park across the street. Shhh...

Easter Magic

Suzanne Pollak

Scrambling to add a last-minute centerpiece to your Easter feast? There are a million ways to make your table uniquely you. Remember, there's help all around, right under your nose. Consider these everyday resources:

1. Your KIDS

Children are little creators by nature. Don't let these Spring Breakers off the hook. Engage your child’s genius & insist they carry their weight this holiday. Kids will appreciate the Easter feast and feel proud of their contribution. Your tip? Do Not Be Bossy. Small children can draw place cards or placemats. Middle-schoolers can really go crazy -- nothing is off the table. They might choose to feature their ant farm, their gold fish swimming in a bowl, a butterfly collection, little league trophies. Who cares? In the long run, it’s not about the elegance of your table. It’s about the value of your child’s contribution.

2. Harris Teeter

...or your local grocery store, a place laden with sui generis centerpieces, many perfect for Easter. Walk in the store with your eyes open for pastel colors. E.g., look for pink breakfast radishes or many-colored round radishes; all delightfully spunky orbs when stuffed in silver cups or crystal goblets. Fill small tureens with spikes of asparagus, for structure, and green onions, for looseness. Give your guests eyes something different than the usual pink tulip centerpiece.

3. Public Parks

Someone has to do the trimming. Why not you? Go under cover before dawn, clippers hidden in your pocket and help yourself to the back branches of azalea bushes (those up against the fence), lurking ferns, stems of palms. Tip: cut long branches.  Fill a tall glass container halfway with water, and arrange the stems loosely. It’s like nature coming to the table, and yields an arrangement perfect for a sideboard, buffet table or at the end of a dining table if no one is sitting there.

4. Objet d'Art

Are you a collector? March your collection down the center of the table. Handmade wooden bowls, antique brass candlesticks, tiny chairs sculpted from the wire surrounding champagne corks -- the Dean doesn’t know what you collect, but if you are a collector then you are a proud owner with a passion. Your passion needs to be displayed! Herend bunnies, Steuben crystal hand holders, painted eggs...you get the picture. It’s not about cost of the objects or the organization on the table, it’s about showcasing your personality.

5. Pastry Shops!

Great pastry shops are actually like jewelry shops with edible gems. You have enough to do this weekend. It’s too late to make a 3-day Coconut Cake, but not too late to pick up a French pear tart, or cherry pistachio tart, or cupcakes, or a lemon layer cake. The point is showstopping beauty that can sit upon a pedestal being the center of attraction. All eyes are awed, reminding guests to save room after the main course.

P.S. Don’t forget chocolate bunnies on top of each place setting as a party favor for your Easter company!