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Filtering by Tag: Christmas

Merry Christmas

Suzanne Pollak

Christmas Day is the one day that the Deans are convinced houses are being actually lived in and used. People take the time to make a tasty breakfast, talk to each other, lounge around in their pajamas while opening gifts, many of which are for the home, and enjoy a meal seated around the dining room table.

What the Deans want to see, minus the gifts, is you people doing this once a week all year long. Our gift to you is leading the way on how to live a beautiful life and to stay on top of you until you have learned.



A Triumphant Triumvirate

Suzanne Pollak

Just as soon as the Deans got our freezers filled we looked around the house to see what else we could get done before the masses descend on us. The freezer was groaning but what about the pantry? Its gaping maw was crying out to be filled with succulent and savory treats for the holidays. Unto the shelves and into the fridge we piled exotic hard cheeses to be cubed, tasty olives, pistachios, dried apricots, whole dried salamis, plus some prosciutto and Bresaola for good measure, candied orange peel, and Jordan almonds for by the door.

We both like a round platter and on to it we pile wooden, crystal and bronze bowls filled with the items from our now stocked pantry. Anyone can drop by anytime and we will be 100% ready.


Into the tiny bit of space we have left in the freezer we are going to fill small round balloons with water so that we have bespoke ice cubes to take our holiday cocktails over the top. Between the cocktails and our samovar of savories our houses will once again be everyone’s go to favorites. 

Bespoke Ice Cubes 

  1. Fill a water balloon slightly less than the circumference of your cocktail glass. Twist a long thin piece of aluminum foil into a ring. Rest the balloon within the nest the ring has created. The ring prevents the balloons getting a flat side and keeps them orbicular while freezing. Put the filled balloons, and his many brothers, into the freezer the day before the party. Plan on one per glass.
  2. At party time, cut the top of the balloon and peel the rubber off the ice. If the sphere is too big to fit into the glass, simply run under hot water until the ice shrinks a bit.

The Deans Have Cryogenically Frozen Christmas and You Can Too! Here's How....

Suzanne Pollak


Dean Pollak woke this morning already dreaming of Christmas breakfast. As ever, she believes there is no time like the present, so she whipped out her handy silpat, bag of flour and ice cold butter and biscuit making commenced. As she got further into her task it occurred to her that not everyone might have Christmas breakfast already chilling in the freezer, and almost as magical as baby Jesus himself, a new Christmas miracle was born. Of course none of the Deans friends will forgive them if they don’t receive a trove of their spicy crispy cheese coins, but now, in addition, they can expect a dozen frozen biscuits ready to be popped into the oven on Christmas morn. Has anyone ever had more thoughtful friends than the Deans?

The Academy's Southern Biscuit

MAKES 12 to 18, depending on size of biscuit cutter


3 cups self-rising flour, preferably White Lily

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 4 equal pieces

1 1/2 cups whole buttermilk


1.  Add the buttermilk and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough almost forms a ball.  Place the dough on a silicone baking mat and begin folding up the sides, right and left, until a ball forms.  Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness.  Fold one side of the dough into the center and then fold in the other side.  Roll out again and refold in the same manner three to six times.  (Each roll and fold creates flaky layers within your biscuits.)  Roll out one final time until the dough is 3/4 inch thick.

2.  Cut out biscuits with a 2-inch biscuit cutter or an inverted glass.  Place the biscuits on a nonstick baking sheet.  Gather the scraps, re-roll, and cut out more biscuits until all of the dough has been used.  (At this point, you can cover the unbaked biscuits with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or freeze for up to 3 weeks).

3.  Bake until lightly browned on the top and bottom, 10 to 12 minutes.  (Bake frozen biscuits at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes.)

At Christmas time, the Deans receive a cruel lashing from friends if they attend any event without bearing canvas bags overflowing with cheese coins.  They are the Academy's signature treats and Dean Manigault's muscled arm is a testament that the cheddar is lovingly grated by hand.  Sometimes this can mean up to 25 pounds of cheddar because we have so many friends and students to bestow our coins upon.

A Treasure Trove of Cheese Coins

MAKES dozens


16 ounces shredded sharp cheddar

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

2 cups flour

1 heaping teaspoon cayenne

22 twists freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt


1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2.  Using a standing mixer or food processor, whirl all the ingredients until combined.  Form the cheese dough into 2 logs, about 1 inch in diameter.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days (or freeze for up to 6 weeks).  

3.  Cut the logs into 1/4 inch slices and place on baking sheets.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.  

4.  Serve warm or at room temperature (or let cool and store in airtight containers for up to 7 days).

Having solved the Christmas morning debacle for every and all, we now set our sights to plugging up other holes in the Christmas dike. We are always telling people to cook together and we’ve said it so often that we almost forgot to practice what we preach. This week is going to be dedicated to not only biscuit making, but we are ratcheting up the fun another notch by making batches of gumbo for our freezer too.

Now we are not only ready for Christmas breakfast but pop up dinners too. 

Celeste's Requests

Suzanne Pollak

The Deans just were forwarded this charming response to out last blog!  Enjoy.

I just had to sit right down at my writing desk and respond to your blog. That is what they call it I think, although I am not exactly sure what that means.
Any-who, your summary of the holiday birthday party was an enchanting insight into certain echelons of Charleston society. I especially appreciated the nod to the gracious hostess of a certain age who made background introductions for the multitude: so important to put everyone at ease. I did note that some of the guests seemed in a delicate state even at the outset. The fact that she did not highlight the two falling-down events was very much appreciated by the attendees who continued to celebrate without missing a beat. I simply couldn’t agree more with your sentiments.
Don’t you love the new technology that permits affordable, constant and well-selected musical accompaniment for any occasion!? The tiny storage device plugged into the mammoth speaker system reached every corner of the joyful event. Our hostess will no doubt be saving the musical collection for her daily power walks. Of course the whole event was happily recorded as videos of varying quality. Suffice it to say that the guests had the good taste not to post any content on the internet! We just hate being tagged without permission, don’t you?
And the food was ne plus ultra if you ask me. The kale salad went in a trice and all I found was a gleaming white bowl when I arrived at the buffet banquet table, so that just goes to show that our fellow revelers know what’s good for them. Heaping bouches of goat cheese always remind me of holidays in Provence, no matter the season. The cascades of cava were welcome refreshment and added just the right fizz to the tuna ceviche. Let’s not forget the sourdough pretzels direct from Lancaster PA either! Just sublime to my thinking.
All’s well in our little neighborhood and the streets have been swept in anticipation of a glorious holiday season sans collegiate crowds.
Looking forward, we must get together. Wallace sends kisses all around.

Christmas Is Upon Us

The Deans

Thornwillow  has more illustrations by the talented Tania Lee.

Thornwillow has more illustrations by the talented Tania Lee.

We love going to other people’s parties because we always get ideas about what to do and sometimes about what not to do. 

A Sample of a Dean’s weekend

Birthday cocktail party… the guests were from all over the country so not everyone knew each other. The hostess made sure all guests connected and provided a real bridge during the introducing of two people.  She highlighted unusual and quirky facts that immediately elevated the tone and facilitated cutting through miles of bullshit.  Once you knew that you were in the presence of the greatest hairdresser on Broadway, discussion of the weather seemed insignificant.  The birthday girl’s enthusiasm and excitement infused the atmosphere with zest and verve.  The Deans proclaim that jaded attitudes are over this holiday season.  We only want to be around the passionately positive.  All ennui must be left at home. 

Sunday Caroling

If you want your guests to move twice during your party all together as one group, be warned.  This is not as easy as it may appear, so when we see it pulled perfectly, we nod our toque in appreciation.  Dean Pollak went to a Caroling party with a masterful hostess who exudes power.  She marshals her guests with a velvet glove that is no less authoritative than a bullwhip.  When she says its time to move to the next room, her guests are only amazed they had not thought of it themselves.  They sang in one room, decorated the tree in another, and ate in yet a third.  This hostess also knew that more is not always more. A smallish plate, not over laden because the food was rich, was ample reward for jobs well done. And somehow, just when we were thirstiest, a glass of Pellegrino was at the ready.  How did she know that, too?! The menu was so fantastic we included it here:

  • Grits and Wild Mushroom Stew
  • Stoneground Grits
  • Crispy Sausage Biscuit
  • Christmas Cookies

Intimate Dinner Party 

Dean Pollak went to the most elegant evening that she has enjoyed in as long as she can remember. One of Charleston's preeminent museum houses, the Edmondston Alston House  was returned to its original purpose. Guests descended the staircase into a vast candlelit chamber under a twinkling chandelier.  The table was set for eight and covered with a lace tablecloth, strewn with camellias, and each champagne glass was a different Murano stem. Add to this excitement the food was beyond comparison. A seafood gratin was the centerpiece. The Deans were filled with jealousy that we do not have this recipe in our arsenal.