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Filtering by Tag: Hospitality

Ask the Dean: Life is Too Short for Perfection!

The Deans


Dear Dean, 

I am giving my husband a 40th birthday party. I inherited antique china from my mother-in-law but don't have enough soup plates for our many guests.  We are serving three courses and only have enough china for main course and dessert. Do you know the make of the china (photo and details included in letter) and where I could order some more soup plates?

-Mrs. P.

Dear Mrs. P.,

I suggest serving the men the antique rim soups (because they look super large) and going to a totally different look for the ladies soup bowls. Why don't you look at Pier 1 for a crazy alternative regarding color and choose a different shape (e.g. a true bowl instead of a large shallow bowl)? Two different soup plates on a long beautifully set table will add an element of surprise. Elements of surprise are smart for many reasons; you are seen as a chic and original, plus they can spark a conversation. 

Dear Dean, 

I am a working mom of two daughters. My husband and I travel all the time for work and have no time for a social life. We have gotten to be friends with our neighbors and want to have them over. What is a super easy but fun way to have a dinner party? No one wants to get babysitters. All the kids are in elementary school.

-Ms. M.

Dear Ms. M., 

Why don't you serve a one-pot meal that you can put in your oven in the morning and then not think about for the rest of the day? Your daughters can set the table (under your direction) and make place cards. Maybe they could create a centerpiece using fruit or bunches of herbs from the grocery store. The children can sit at their own table and then watch a movie, or sit at the dining room table and then be excused when they get restless. One pot choices that take a few hours to cook and always a hit include a classic pot roast, chili, or pork butt. Alternatively, you can put together a zesty fish stew in front of your guests while they sip their wine or cocktail in your kitchen.  The children could have grilled cheese sandwiches if they turn their noses up at anything fishy. 

Dear Dean, 

I love to entertain — cooking, socializing, etc. However, the thing that stresses me out is the feeling that I need my home in tip-top shape, cleaned from top to bottom. I have an 8-year-old son, and he does a wonderful job keeping his room up and picking up after himself. Most of my entertaining is hosting other couples that have children. How can I get out of this "perfectionism" mindset regarding my house? My husband says we must have the cleanest home on the block.


Dean CNM,

Waiting for your house to be perfect is akin to waiting for the perfect time to have a baby. There is no true state of perfection. You just have to commit to a party at your house and follow through with it. Guests are not judging. They will be glad for a night out and they don't want to criticize, they want to have fun. We will make a bet that you are not nearly as harsh about other's houses as you are about your own. Go a bit easier on yourself. And have a great party. After the first one or two, you will get in the groove.

Be sure to let us know how it goes.


The Ancient Art of Sweeping

Suzanne Pollak

Joseph Solman 1909 The Broom

Sweeping is the oldest form of housework. Dean Pollak remembers seeing West African girls sweep hard packed dirt floors in mud huts throughout her childhood.   

Every house, from a one room mud hut to a mansion with many rooms, needs a broom and a dustpan. Keep in mind, if you are setting up a new house, that wood floors and Persian rugs are more forgiving surfaces than white rugs and light tiled floors.  The dirt simply does not show up as much on the former surfaces.  And remember that the Japanese are really on to something,  82% of dirt is left outside if shoes are removed before entering the house.

Regardless if you ever wear shoes in the house, you are going to have to sweep your floors. Sweeping is quick, easy and efficient, and often, less trouble than dragging out a heavy vacuum cleaner. Using a broom can even be relaxing. The rhythmic sound of a sweeping broom relaxes, inside or out.  The violent noise from a backpack blower or vacuum does nothing but jar and addle listeners. The Deans prefer natural fiber brooms with an angled edge that are not too heavy to manage.

In 1908, Mrs. Curtis, in her book Household Discoveries, maintains that to sweep well with a broom is an art that calls for quite a little skill and intelligence. According to Mrs. Curtis there are wrong ways in sweeping as well as the right away. 

For those of you new to brooming, here's the right way as per the Dean:

  • Sweep dirt into a pile.

  • Sweep that pile into a dustpan.

  • Deposit into the garbage.

  • Voila! Clean floors.

Great artists see the beauty in brooming. 

Edouard Vuillard 1940 Woman Sweeping

No One Can Enjoy Delicious Food through Gritted Teeth

Suzanne Pollak

Unless your oven conks out, your Thanksgiving meal will get cooked. Everyone puts so much thought and effort into the food that we just know that the flavor of your meal will be wonderful, wherever you eat it. 

What causes our annual breakout of holiday hives is that Thanksgiving food is endlessly thought about but the entirety of the day can be overlooked. Children need to be entertained, elderly people need to be comfortable, lonely neighbors and acquaintances need to be invited, not to mention you yourself must be taken care of! If you are in charge of the day and you break down, well then, everyone is in trouble. No one will mind if there is no creamed cauliflower, but they will mind if no one is getting along and the children are screaming and the sister-in-laws are bickering and the table is rushed to and and then abandoned in a total of fifteen minutes. No one can enjoy delicious food through gritted teeth. 

  • Start grocery shopping days before and be sure to get to the store first thing in the morning. Do not try to accomplish all your shopping in one fell swoop.

  • Make sure everyone has a task to do. This is no time to be a hero. People like to help. Let them.

  • Set the table the day before if you can. If not, be sure to delegate it to people not actively involved in cooking.

  • Assign the turkey carving to a person of competence as early as possible.

  • When someone asks what they can bring assign bottles of wine, or to bakers, a homemade pie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two days you have people over who may be difficult whether you want them to or not. Although sometimes easier to bite your tongue when someone says something truly offensive, it’s not always best to remain silent. Remember your example to the younger generations, and that some things we should not simply let go. It is possible to respectfully present an opposing view, and then pivot to another subject so the tense moment dissipates. Or better yet, save your discourse for a private moment. Thanksgiving dinner is no place for politics after all, but a time to be thankful for friends, family, and good food!

No More Excuses

Lee Manigault

Haute To Go, Holly G.-style. 1961.

Haute To Go, Holly G.-style. 1961.

The Charleston Wine & Food fest begins today! In the midst of all action, the Charleston Academy has found ways to celebrate our loved local chefs from the comfort of home.

In the space of 20 hours, the Dean once attended two totally different parties with a single brilliant solution: takeout food that went far beyond just calling for a pizza.  At one, the host was expecting a James Beard award-winning chef and called the Academy all aquiver about what to serve.  We had an immediate answer, not only innovative but it was also humorous. We told her to order the entire meal from one of the OTHER James Beard Award-winning chefs in town's restaurant. This would keep everyone on their toes while the hostess received all the credit (and all she had to do was make a phone call.)  We realize this is a very expensive dinner party, but it is one that also astounds with its originality and cheekiness.  

The other event benefited from takeout, but for a totally different reason.  Anybody with toddlers knows that taking them to restaurants results in a huge bill and not one moment of peace.  Even the Dean gets tired of cooking but never of seeing her favorite people; so if toddlers are part of the event, even if there is just one, then at-home entertaining is a must.  You can put your toddler down for a nap and enjoy your guests because the food is taken care of.  One partner can go get the food while the other puts out the plates, silverware and napkins.  When the guests arrive, down goes Jr. and the party begins! 

Most restaurants that serve food will let you order and take it home with you.  Pizza is delicious, no question, and there will always be a time and place for Chinese food, but don't limit yourself to these old war horses.  Charleston has a variety of local favorite options to choose from: Artisan Meat Share, goat.sheep.cow, Ted's Butcher Shop, Butcher & Bee, Chick's Fry House, plus most of the finer dining restaurants in town (if you call, perhaps not at the last minute or at the height of an 8PM dinner rush, and ask nicely.) 

The show must go on, folks, even when you don't feel like cooking or going out at all. The Academy eliminates that option with a friendly reminder that Charleston's world-class chefs and restaurants are always just a moment away.


It only takes 5 minutes and 3 ingredients to make 1 pitcher of margaritas...

A. K. Lister

OK, OK, 4 ingredients if you count salt.

Sorry to drill it home but Labor Day weekend has arrived (yes, it officially starts Friday AM, class dismissed!) and Summer is packing her bags while Fall cha cha's in the back door.

But it's still hot as Hades in Charleston, and the rain seems like it might wash us all to sea.  Your life raft: a few friends/neighbors, a sassy hat, and a pitcher of margaritas you can make faster than you can say, "Siri, find me a Mariachi Band."  Sassy hat optional.  Mariachi band...strongly encouraged.

Give that old Summer feeling a proper farewell. 

XOXO, the Deans

P.S.  Pro. Tip #1:  

P.P.S. Pro. Tip #2: Do not drink the pitcher all by yourself.  One margarita usually does the trick, but two could have you feeling ten feet tall, bulletproof, and wild as a hornet's nest.  That's what happened to a friend of ours one time, anyway...

So Long, Summer

A. K. Lister

The solstice may be fleeting, but September has arrived & the Academy is in session!  Time for a new season of classes, starting with our quintessential Essential Dinners series.  If you anticipate finding yourself surrounded by hungry friends/partners/kids/co-workers (or even all alone, just starving little old you) and fresh out of satisfying dinner plans, here's your answer.

On Wednesday mornings in late September/early October, let the Dean show you how she wields the workhorses of the kitchen -- the Stock Pot, the Roasting Pan, and the almighty Cast-Iron Skillet -- for Suppertime glory.  Learn how to make everything from Gumbo to freeze-able stocks, from the Academy's prized Pork Butt in Milk to roasted root vegetables, from cheesy rice to eggplant everyone will eat.  Then, enjoy lunch in the Academy dining hall while the Dean fields all of your burning kitchen- (or even non-kitchen-) related inquiries.  

For more information on the Essential Dinners series, check out our calendar or purchase tickets here



A Soon to Be Lost Art

Lee Manigault

Entertaining children at home is a forgotten art.  Helicopter parents over-schedule their children with soccer, art camps, swim teams; anything so as not to have a moment of down time.  

Recently, one of our first grade friends and fans told us about an incident at school. She was incensed when a classmate took over her job as door monitor and had a solution to end the tyranny. She got her backpack and whacked her classmate over the head! We admire her pluck and verve but could not endorse this tactic as a life long plan and her school and parents certainly did not. When she returned home from school, her parents 'punishment' was to have her sit out the nightly TV program with her sister and to help with evening chores instead.  But guess what?  She loved the extra time with her parents.  We were reminded anew that children don't find house work the chore we do if they can learn and be with their parents.  All children might not love the added chores as much as this budding domestic goddess, but they will enjoy having added responsibility. 

Dean Manigault went to her ex-husband's plantation with her daughter and a friend of hers.  There was no wifi, so all attendees were forced to be 'present'.  It was freezing cold so the children were tasked with keeping the fires stoked and the log piles plentiful.  Dinner was provided by Dean Manigault but breakfast and lunch was the time tested "if you can reach it, you can eat it".  The kids were a bit inventive when left to their own menu choices, but no one starved and the kids reveled in their new autonomy.  In fact, Gigi cracked the spine of the Academy cookbook for the first time ever and created the egg strata all by herself. All the entertainments were "in house" and there was lots of downtime together.  It is so much fun to get young people's perspective on the world today.




1 sourdough boule sliced 3/4 inch thick

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Thin slices of Gruyere or cheddar, enough to cover bread on bottom of pan

6 eggs

3 cups whole milk

1 pound bulk sausage, browned


1.  Grease a 9-by-11 inch glass or ceramic baking dish.  Spread both sides of the bread with the butter.  Layer the bread in the bottom of the baking dish.  Top with the cheese.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk.  Pour over the bread, up to a 1/2 inch below the top of the baking dish.  Any more liquid will bubble over when cooking.  Add the sausage.  Cover and refrigerate the strata overnight or for up to 2 days.

3.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake the strata until puffy and golden brown, 45 minutes to 1 hour. 

Unstructured time at home is a gift and should be treated as such.  When time is over scheduled outside the home- the domestic skills are left to wither on the vine.  Quiet time together in your own house is not the modern day boogyman.  Quite the opposite.  Revel in before your children are permanently gone and you missed your chance to get to know them and what they can do!

Find creative recipes for everyday & special events

Raucous Guests

Lee Manigault


One reason people don't entertain is that they are worried about how their guests will behave.  People are right to worry.  Every once in a blue moon a guest will act out of line.  It is extremely rare, but explosive when it happens.  The Deans have seen people throw napkins, insult one another, get too drunk, and even get up and storm out the door.  As searing as the moment is at the time, it can electrify the party and unite the guests against a common cause.

As always, it is not what happens but how it is handled that matters.  As captain of the event, you must maintain your composure and lead your ship-ful of guests to calmer waters.  When your  attendees see you rising above the occasion, they realize that they can, too. They will form their own opinion about what happened.  Sometimes bad behavior is a one off and can be excused.  Other times the person is a reprobate and needs to be expunged from your life.

Wedding Conundrums Part 4

Suzanne Pollak

Dean Pollak was almost spiraling into bankruptcy with all the expensive gifts she was languishing on brides. It took a chat with Dean Manigault to set her straight.

Dean Manigault told her it was not only unnecessary to send silver and crystal to every bride, and lots of it, but could sometimes be viewed as a bit unseemly.

Kate Middleton with her sister, Pippa, maid of honor

Kate Middleton with her sister, Pippa, maid of honor

A wedding gift should be appropriate to the degree to which you are a friend of the celebrants or their parents. Dean Manigault's mother went to her grave knowing that a $50 gift was always appropriate and a $200 gift should cause the bride to write her thank you note before she finished unwrapping the gift. 

Of course the bride always wants something off her registry, and this is what you should go by. Going off mission this time is not a good idea. 

The Duchess of Cambridge

The Duchess of Cambridge

Prince William with his wife

Prince William with his wife

Girls Night Out, In

Allison Jacobson

Dean Pollak gives Southern Charm star, Cameran Eubanks, a lesson on how to host a pre-party with your besties before a Charleston Fashion Week event.

Richard Avedon said style is based on repetition, not duplication.  All you need are a few signature recipes and drinks - and own them.  No need to reinvent the wheel every time you entertain.  Guests will look forward to your specialty.

Instructions as per the Deans:


The Many Benefits of Hosting a Pre-Party Cocktail Hour:

  1. Party where you get all the credit with very little work.
  2. Party takes less than a half hour to put together.
  3. Party is so easy it can be last minute (some of our favorite parties have been last minute).
  4. Party is over before you know it.  One hour and your hosting is done.
  5. Party expense is minimal, but impact is big, lasting and fun.



1  1/2 cups tequila

1 cup citrus juice (mixture of freshly squeezed lime, orange, lemon & tangerine juices)

3/4 cup (or more) soda water

Ice cubes


1.  Combine all the ingredients in a pitcher and stir.

2.  Pour into cocktail glasses and serve over ice.



1 cup olives with pits (use assorted colors)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 strip orange peel

1 chili

1 teaspoon fennel or Herbs de Province


1.  Heat small sauté pan over medium heat for a minute; add olive oil, and then remaining ingredients.

2.  Cook over low heat, stirring, for a few minutes until olives are warm.  Turn off heat and pour olives in a small bowl.

3.  Place a smaller bowl, or cup, near the olive bowl for the pits.

Wedding Conundrums Part 3

Suzanne Pollak

A wedding is not the time to look ungenerous. Examine your budget and be realistic about what you can provide. Three hundred people in black tie requires unlimited champagne and hor d'ouevres, a three course seated dinner and an extravagant band, not a DJ, and probably some sort of surprise entertainment, as well. If you can't afford this, or don't wish to entertain in this fashion, you are by no means alone. Few people can and will have this kind of wedding. So, don't ask your guests to get in black tie unless you are going to provide a black tie entertainment. 

The first of many wedding dresses & husbands for Elizabeth Taylor

The first of many wedding dresses & husbands for Elizabeth Taylor

Eleven thirty weddings are popular in England, why not here? This unusual time will set your wedding apart. You can choose to have a sit down luncheon from 12 to 40 people or a buffet for 200. Four thirty used to be the most popular call time for a wedding. When Dean Manigault got married her mother hit the mat when Dean Manigault wanted to start the ceremony at six o'clock. Maris asserted that 4:30 was the chicest of all times and was not to be moved from this point. Eleven thirty, four thirty, noon, whatever time you choose, just be sure the entertainment you provide is as lavish as your budget allows. The Deans have been to barbecue and beer receptions that were way more fun than the time Dean Manigault flew to Capetown and was presented with a bill at the end of the rehearsal dinner!! The single most shocking event of her long life! 

Dress No.2

Dress No.2

If your budget solution is to have a cash bar for your wedding then you have not come up with a suitable solution. The Deans were never more shocked than when they heard about this trend.  You don't have to invite everyone you went to school with or ever met. Less guests can frequently mean more fun. Especially if none have to reach for their wallets!

Keep Calm and Carry On

Suzanne Pollak

Everybody we know is totally exhausted right now. Even the Deans can’t figure out why this is, even though we are the two most tired we know. We are exhausted just propping open the Academy doors.

With this level of energy we can’t imagine there are too many dinner parties being thrown. Here’s what the Deans are currently advocating: Tea Time! Tea can be served at any hour, everyone likes it, tea time provides a soothing ritual and tea's preparation is accessible to all. Boil water and dunk a tea bag, or steep a pot and open a tin of short bread.

The Charleston Tea Plantation , home of American Classic Tea

The Charleston Tea Plantation, home of American Classic Tea

 A ritualized tea time started going out of favor in Britain right after the Great War and now the sun sets on the British Empire. Coincidence? We think not. 


MAKES 20 generous canapes


One 17.6-ounce package pumpernickel bread (we prefer Mestemacher Natural with whole rye kernels)

8 ounces creme fraiche

8 ounces smoked Atlantic salmon, sliced thin

1 lemon

2 tablespoons capers

Freshly ground black pepper

1.  Cut the bread into triangles.  Smear creme fraiche on each slice and pile high with the salmon.  Drizzle with the juice from the lemon and top with the capers.  Capers will roll off and serve double duty as decor and garnish.

2.  Sprinkle with the pepper.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Liquor

Suzanne Pollak

Dean Pollak went to China this weekend. Well, not really, but as close as a person can get to Shanghai without leaving mainland US. She was an attendee at a Chinese banquet in New York’s Chinatown at the Golden Unicorn Restaurant.

Dean Pollak was stunned at the differences, and yet soothed by the similarities, of a large gathering of a totally different culture.

Let’s start with the most salient differences.

There was no bar at all. Each table had a bottle of red and white wine, bottles of Coke and a pot of tea. Only the tea and soda were opened during...not the cocktail hour. The Deans will call the hour and a half before the food was served the "meet and greet."  From 5:30pm to 7:00pm guests mingled with one another without alcohol, and here the Dean’s have been preaching all along the bar must be the first thing people see. Evidently not. In this case a bar was not necessary. 

Husbands and wives were seated next to each other. A total departure from what the Deans espouse.

No elaborate floral centerpiece, the food was the star. The center of the table was alternately platters of food or stacked with the just used dishes.

The Chinese New Year puts our Thanksgiving to shame. The courses, all twelve of them, had multiple components, each different colors and textures, so that the banquet was not just twelve different dishes, but came closer to fifty.

The overarching similarity is the sense of family and conviviality that a multi generational party hosted by a nonagenarian patriarch provides.

Just like many parties we’ve been to ‘here’ there was a dance floor and a live band, and people really got up and danced. Getting your boogie on was a necessary bit of salubrious movement to help make room for the next course.

Dean Pollak thoroughly enjoyed her trip to the Far East, and was honored to be invited. Dean Manigault was not able to enjoy her Saturday night just thinking of the Chinese New Year's Feast she was missing. 

Wedding Conundrums Part 2

Lee Manigault

The hour between a wedding ceremony and the beginning of the reception has bloated and become gassy.  The time was once used to get from church to reception hall and bridal photos were taken in 15 minutes.  The in-between time has expanded to an hour just as the wedding industry has grown to 51 billion dollars. This hour is filler, a non-event, leaving guests wandering around with nothing to do, no plan, entertainment...waiting for something to happen. The hour is not going to be trimmed...today, hundreds of  photos are taken.  So naturally, the Deans have suggestions. 

The timeless Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco

The timeless Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco

Wedding guests need to be entertained, wined and dined, and not left to themselves while the bride gets all the attention. We suggest getting some sort of entertainment guests can enjoy while they wait for the party to start. A comedian has a warm up act and so does a rock concert. Every big event needs a sexy lead in to get people in the mood.  Guests leave the ceremony in good spirits and you want to build on this vibe.

Wedding planners don't address this black hole of time because they assume that if the bride and her family are not going to participate in this entertainment, then they will not want to pay for it.  Bad decision! How about hiring a trio or quartet to play? No need for Isaac Perlman. This is the warm up, not the main event. Most communities have competent music students or orchestra players who would be happy for the work.  Similarly, a signature cocktail created with the bride and groom in mind provides both a focal and talking point for guests.  Dean Pollak had a pink cactus margarita whipped up for her daughter's at home wedding because pink is Caroline's favorite color.  Not only were the drinks pink, but all the food as well - Scallops brined in beet juice, mini lobster roll etc.  Quite a show stopper!  

The Deans current favorite idea is to engage a slight of hand magician to mingle among the guests during this hour.  A professional magician will know exactly how to entertain the guests. One less problem for the bride's mother to solve!! 

Wedding Conundrums Part 1

Suzanne Pollak


One of our fans from Portlandia (she chars her own ice:-) wrote and asked us a question about wedding gifts. She wondered if we thought it was a good idea for engaged and newly married couples to disseminate a list of the gifts received to at least the mothers of the bride and groom. This list would aid the mothers in answering the age old question about whether the gift was received or not. We think this ideas is brilliant! 

As brilliant as this idea, she informed us of a terrifying practice that may be trending. Guests are encouraged to leave a self addressed envelope at the wedding to facilitate the bride with her thank you note writing. Let us be clear, the Deans abhor this idea! If brides are too lazy to retain the address of the wedding participants - they had to send them a wedding invitation after all - then they don't deserve to get any gifts at all. 

What the Deans would love to see resurrected is the tradition of displaying all the gifts for all to see at the wedding reception. We fear however that with the ubiquitous destination wedding that this tradition has been laid  to rest.   


Memorable Wedding Moments -- John & Jacqueline Kennedy

JBK JFK Dancing at wedding.jpg

How Dare You Spend My Money for Me!

Suzanne Pollak

This might be one of the shortest blogs the Deans ever write because our message is so pithy. When you go out to eat with friends splitting the check does not mean splitting the check in half. It means everybody pays for what they consumed. If you think it goes unnoticed that you ordered three or four glasses of wine and a three course meal while your companion had tap water and an appetizer and yet you suggest that the check be split down the middle, let us tell you that you should not be surprised to get fewer and fewer invitations. You have just put your friend on the spot to pay for your indulgences. Unacceptable and rude! 

There is one thing still ruder: when the check comes, acting as if you expect to be paid for. In these modern times, even a single woman out with a couple should wrestle the check to the ground before she lets the man pay for her. She should never assume that her meal is comped. 

101 Guests

Suzanne Pollak

Perusing the Sunday New York Times Travel Section, Dean Pollak was stopped in her tracks. She has frequently espoused that a dining room table tells you exactly how many guests it wants.

The wonder of the restored dining room in the palace, Falaknuma in Hyderabad, India, is the table that seats 101 people.  It is the longest dining room table in the world. Dean Pollak thinks that if she rearrange a few things it will fit nicely in her dining room. No more trimming the guest list! 


The world's longest dining table - Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, India

The world's longest dining table - Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad, India

A Foray Into Your Foyer

Suzanne Pollak

The head bartender at the Paris Ritz, Colin Field, says he can extract more information about you from your cocktail order than Sherlock Holmes could. He can tell if you are there to meet a lover, sign a business contract, if you are sophisticated or just plain silly. 

The Deans can preform a similar trick but our medium is your front hall. This room or area is everyone’s introduction into your personal space. Your energy has permeated the front hall during your fifteen thousand walk throughs. The Deans look at your space with impartial eyes and cool objectivity. We can’t help but notice whether the space is open and inviting (which says you are too), or a bit more formal and harder to penetrate. Are coats and keys and pocketbooks left out for people to see, or tucked away in closets? Is the front hall decorated for every season?  Is your artwork global, local or strictly family oriented?

Just like every space in your house, the front hall should evolve through your life. Little children’s artwork is appropriate if there are little children around, but if they have children of their own, those pictures should have been swept out years ago.

The Deans charge you to look at your front hall with our eyes and be sure that what you are conveying to the world is what you mean to. If you are not sure send us a picture and we will help you figure it out. 

Dean Manigault's front hall

Dean Manigault's front hall

Can a Hollywood Party Compare to Yours? Surprisingly, Yes!

Suzanne Pollak

Dean Pollak went to one of the fanciest parties in LA Saturday night, Sean Penn’s Help Haiti Home Gala and at first glance this evening had nothing to do with our simple east coast at home soiree’s.  But upon second glance……

The Deans are always learning, and a good party is a good party no matter where it is. Great parties contain certain key elements that are the bedrock of successful entertaining, no matter if it’s four people at home or 300 at a public venue.

The most essential element for a fantastic party, tiny or huge, is timing.  One person has organized every single detail, and in this case there was no detail too small for Sean Penn’s eagle eye. It was clear he did not hire an event planner for his party; perhaps to execute his ideas, but not to create them.

Because the party was big, Sean could not greet each guest individually, so he hired extra greeters: a coat was taken care of upon entering and a drink was provided, giving each guest an immediate sense that they were being taken care of for the evening.

Two or three surprise elements punctuated the evening. You might not be able to get Chris Martin or the Red Hot Chili Peppers to your party, or maybe you can, but a local musician to play two or three songs, (four or five is too many) can be unforgettable.  Even Chris Martin only played two songs, remember, less is more!  Other surprises you can interject - party favors, game of charades after dinner, an authentic spicy gumbo, or costume theme, beer place cards. 

The Red Hot Chili Peppers live performance

The Red Hot Chili Peppers live performance

Chris Martin- impromptu performance

Chris Martin- impromptu performance

Richard Hotes   (Dean Pollak's host) with Charlize Theron

Richard Hotes (Dean Pollak's host) with Charlize Theron

The Deans have said it before this, the end of the party needs to be in sight.  At no time is this more important than at a large party. If your party has a chance of going too long or too short, err on the side of too short. Always leave people wanting more. If everyone gets up and stampedes to the door after dessert, you will know your event went on too long.  

If you see someone you recognize at a party, not someone you see every day, do him/her the favor of re-introducing yourself, even if you are sure they know who you are. Be sure to put yourself in context when saying hello. People are distracted at a party, and a name, where you met them, and your connection to the person are polite and a huge help.

Even when the Deans are treated to a star studded evening, it is heart warming to notice what the Gala has in common with our entertainments.  Just because movie stars are in attendance does not mean the party is a slam dunk.  Timing is always the most important element.  If something goes wrong, make necessary adjustments, but try not to let your timing get off track.  Remember having fun yourself is the whole point of your party.  

Sarah, Carolyn and Tish (Richard's Angels) with Dean Pollak and Richard (founder of the   Hotes Foundation  )

Sarah, Carolyn and Tish (Richard's Angels) with Dean Pollak and Richard (founder of the Hotes Foundation)

Beer Place Cards

Beer Place Cards

Texts Are Not Thank You Notes

Suzanne Pollak

If you have received any gifts over the holidays you need to sit down at your desk or kitchen table and write some thank you notes. In our technological age they are as rare as a hen’s tooth, but much more valuable. Your parents made you write them, and now the Deans are here to make sure your manners are still intact.

If you splurge for engraved stationary, and we highly suggest you do,  writing these notes will be fun as well. Writing on heavy stock paper is a worth while endeavor and the thick card announces to the world you are not only a person of taste, but one who possess gratitude as well.

The Deans have many ideas on writing the perfect thank you note.  We are going to give you a few thank you samples that you can use and copy & paste into your own content:

  1. Everything was perfection last night, starting with you.  
  2. You always set the standard for entertaining. Coming to your house is my favorite way to spend a night out. 
  3. We had the most wonderful time last night. Everything from the food, the company and ambiance hit just the right note. Thank you for including me. 

Gush more if you want, it will be appreciated, but anything less than the above is sorely substandard. 

Thank You Card by  Ink Meets Paper

Thank You Card by Ink Meets Paper