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Filtering by Tag: Parties

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...

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

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. 

The Bedrock of Entertaining

Suzanne Pollak

Dinner parties are the bedrock of entertaining.  There is no better way to get to know someone than by having them over and cooking for them. A thousand nights in restaurants will never create the same amount of intimacy.  By allowing someone into your house, you are showing them your sense of style, letting them see the books you like to read, the food you like to cook: in short, who you really are.  A little bit of luxury goes a long way at home. An Old Fashioned, a few oysters in a pan roast and a spoonful of chocolate mousse set the mood for an evening to remember.  And you created it all yourself!

 The Dean’s Cheat Sheet

7 is the perfect dinner party number. One conversation shared by the whole group and enjoyed with maximum conviviality.  

Candlelight only, please. The less you can see the better everyone looks.  It is by far the most flattering of all the lights.  

Use your whole house i.e. drinks in one room, dinner at the table and coffee and cordials while lounging sofa side in your living room or den or even outside if the weather permits.

You only need one go-to menu.  It’s the Dean’s job to pair you with the right one.

Keep to a schedule.  If the cocktail hour is actually 2 hours, then someone may have a breakdown - and a drunken one, too - on the living  room floor.

Outsourcing some of the meal is brilliant.  It relieves stress and may make the party happen as opposed to being just a fantasy. No one turns down a bowl of Haagen Dazs or a dessert from from the local bakery and very few guests mind bringing a single cheese with a column of crackers.

Here are a few of our favorite local spots for outsourcing fabulous courses.

Christophe'sgreat for those last minute sweets needed for any party.

Goat. Sheep. Cow. - the perfect place to shop for specialty cheeses, wines and meats to bring as a hostess gift or to supply as an appetizer.

The Wine Shop of Charleston - the place to buy super size bottles of wine to woo even the most jaded palate

The Beer Exchange - for the speciality beers which is a must have in every hipster's frig.  

A Manners Morass

Suzanne Pollak

Naturally the minute the Deans arrive in any city the invitations start flying in. This very excitement brings the Deans to our trickiest dilemma. What to do when you’ve accepted one invite and something better comes along shortly afterwards? Temptation looms. You can already picture yourself at the second event having the time of your life. Why did you even accept the first? You never wanted to go, and never will. Well, bad news. The reason you are so upset is that you know the answer. You must press on with your first acceptance. You have been invited to so many jump ups in the first place because of your charm and tact. By ‘best offer-ing’ at the last minute you fool no one and even if you could, your Facebook’s GPS tells all your friends where you are anyway. 

Learn more etiquette advice from our book The Charleston Academy

The Most MAH-VELOUS Party

Suzanne Pollak

Our mortar boards are off to last night’s hostess. Everything was pitch perfect, including the weather. It was a birthday party for her spouse and she introduced Charleston society to her newest member of team bijou. Champagne and wine were ceaselessly passed around. The Deans, for one, were thrilled to see the champagne coupe being used instead of the ubiquitous champagne flukes.

The Deans always advocate at least three passed hor’s d'oeuvres, but last night’s hostess regaled the crowd with at least eight to ten. Hot parmesan water chestnut puffs, fried pimento cheese balls, bite sized beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, veal meatballs, sautéed shrimp on a toothpick, prosciutto wrapped arugula…..and those are just off the top of our head.

Outside in the garden played a two-piece band, and what impressed us was one of the two pieces was a trumpet, yet the music added ambiance and didn’t take over. This wasn’t a dance after all.

Next to the bar was the chicest display of wine bottles the Deans remember seeing.

A great cocktail party is the best place to see and be seen. Wear your prettiest dress, get out your jewelry and cast all your troubles aside. No lugubrious conversations here. Keep things fun and flirty, light and bright. This is the time to meet someone new - you can deepen your relationship later, over lunch or dinner. Be sure not to only talk to the people you know. Push yourself to meet at least one new person, and if no sparks fly, move on to the next. Don’t get monopolized and don’t monopolize. Keep moving.

The Deans give this hostess an A+ because she always leads the way and has the best time at her own parties, ensuring everyone else catches her infectious spirit. Brava!


Etiquette Quandaries

Suzanne Pollak

What to do if you forget to invite a good acquaintance to a large party?


If your friend invites someone you have told them has done you wrong?

The Deans have been in the lab for days and have come up with solutions for these two all too common problems. We are solutioning these problems in much the same way. If you have forgotten to invite someone to a large party, or your best friend has invited your worst enemy over, the path for both these is the same and is possibly the most frustrating of all. You must do nothing. Your best friend is free to invite whoever she wants to her house, even though you think her judgment is poor. You may alter your opinion of her and undoubtedly your feelings have been hurt but you are not allowed to say anything. Similarly if you ever point out to person that you forgot to invite them, you are making them suffer twice. Dean Pollak has occasionally felt so guilty that she forgot someone, upon seeing the person she asked them why they didn’t come. She blames the mistake on the US Post Office. Dean Manigault may try to blame the problem on spam but up to now she has always kept her mouth shut and said nothing. In both these instances we feel too many words will only exasperate the problem. The Deans are women of action so this is not always easy for us, in fact sometimes it feels impossible but we feel the council is sage and correct. 

Bamboozled Into Situations

Suzanne Pollak



When you are a third wheel and you know it, how do you get out?

You have several options here, but your path is clear.  You must extricate your self as soon as possible.  As we now live in an age of constant communication, you could have another friend come meet you and peel off with him.  You could feign a headache and grab a taxi home.  You could say you need to leave because of some home emergency.  Just be sure you leave.  Don't "tough" it out.  You will find yourself feeling lonely and depressed and who wants that?

Slightly high people want the party to keep going and won't take no for an answer. How do you leave?

Dean Manigault considers herself an expert in the arena of departures.  The best way to get away from people who do not want you to leave is to not tell them you are leaving.  Simply rise and pretend you are going to the restroom or a different room, then sail out the door.  The revelers that are left behind won't notice your absence until you are long gone.  If the doorway is in plain sight, pretend you are getting something from your car or grabbing a pack of smokes from the bodega down the street, and assure them you will be right back.  Your friends will just be jealous that they did not leave with you.  No one has ever woken up wishing they'd had one more.

A tip Dean Pollak has heard is to leave your coat in your car with your chauffeur. This way, when it's time to leave, you can zip away without finding the coat room.

When someone asks which date in the future are you free to come to dinner, after you have already declined their invitations several times? What is your answer?

Wasting your precious time on unwished for social engagements is robbing yourself of your most valuable commodity.  Time inevitably becomes our most treasured asset.  If a person or couple won't leave you alone about a forthcoming date, dig your heels and become emphatic.  

Use anything at your disposal. My spouse is traveling so much, we cannot make a definite plan. Not sure what my schedule looks like that far in the future. Some people are literally tone deaf. Keep singing your song until they hear you.

What happens when same sex partners come for dinner?  Do you seat boy girl boy girl or throw that out the window?

We are in the dawn of a new age and therefore new rules are needed. Boy/girl, boy/girl cannot be honored if there are not enough boys and girls.  Don't fret. Just seat your table in the most spark igniting configuration and sit back and enjoy the show.




I Heard You the Third Time!

Suzanne Pollak

Women are talking, men are not listening: You have effectively communicated to your partner your exact battle plan for your party. The drinks, the menu, the flow, and most importantly, what you expect for the division of labor. You have been concise, informative, polite; in short, you have exhibited your customary brilliance. You are serene in the knowledge that everything will go exactly as you have envisioned it, so clear and exacting is your plan. Your guests start arriving, your kitchen is at its maximum captivity, you turn your adoring eyes to your loyal spouse to indicate that it is time to move the party to the designated garden spot or living room, but lo, what is this? He does not return your gaze. No amount of waving or flagging can get his attention. Your interior temperature starts to rise, as your kitchen is clogged with multiple drinkless guests, while your partner holds court with one guest, not helping you in the slightest. Your temperature rises further as you slosh tequila and soda water while you try to do the work of the other bartender you thought you had. Then your top pops off when you gently remind your spouse its time to corral the guests into the other room and your partner looks at you in wonder, and professes to never have heard this idea before. Is there a solution? 

The problem is different then what you might think. It's not your party didn't go as planned, its that you lost your cool in front of your guests. Any out burst makes everyone feel uncomfortable and feel unwanted.  Unpleasant exchanges between spouses are never appropriate in public. Ever.  The Deans from this moment on, banish any couples who engage in this public display. Consider yourself warned. 

The solution to this thorny problem has just dawned on us and the Deans are always eager students. Every group has one or two party guests who are authoritative and commanding and one or two diligent worker bees. If you need an extra bartender, ask a worker bee. He or she will be thrilled to help. If you need people to move to the next room, enlist the help of a bossy pants and watch your guests move like a well ordered battalion.  Instead of rueing your unhelpful spouse, be glad he/she is enjoying himself.  That was actually the purpose of your fete to begin with, to have a good time.  Don't set yourself up for insanity before your affair even begins.  Designate in your mind a few helpers prior to the party and that way if your partner ignores you, you have a Plan B.

The Final Fifteen

Suzanne Pollak

Before you can look like this:

photo-35 copy 2.JPG

You’ll have to have had some time like this:

photo-35 copy.JPG

Dean Pollak was at Walters Art Museum in Baltimore and hadn’t realized the Deans had been popular for so long and in places as far flung as Tibet and India. As she rounded the corner, you cannot imagine her shock as she came face to face with herself!

Every competent party host wishes they had eight hands fifteen minutes before the guests arrive. There are a multitude of tasks that cannot be done any sooner than the last minute, and the last fifteen minutes are always crunch time. Getting ice and lemon ready for the bar, uncorking white wine (or sticking it in the freezer because you forgot to chill the bottles), getting the hors d’oeuvres on platters and bowls as well as into and out of the oven, and last but not least, dragging a brush through your hair, putting on your face and getting in your party outfit. Getting dressed has to be last job on your to do list or the debris of party set up will be all over you.

 You want pleasant surprises for your guests all night long (specialty cocktails, one room lit only by candles, two desserts, making a new friend) but none for yourself.  This requires a plan. How are the Deans so sure? We will tell you how: when our party plan is not memorized, whatever is not on the list, does not get done. Vegetables go unroasted, whipped cream stays in the fridge and not on the dessert, champagne goes uncorked.

Host Tips: As frantic as those last fifteen minutes can be, it is just as important to let the tension go once the guests arrive. To be able to relax later, make a plan first, for the novice on paper, but at least in your head. For any help with your plan, contact us and let the Deans help you tweak it. 

Our Most Important Guest Tip: Never ever show up early for a party.

What's a Weekend?

Suzanne Pollak

Photo by Charlest Birnbaum: 2008

Photo by Charlest Birnbaum: 2008

The weekends are not the only two days acceptable to invite people over. Just to prove the point, Dean Manigault invited nine people over Monday night and a raucous chatter filled her halls. The trick to a Monday night party is to keep the evening moving forward, but this does not mean you have to skimp on getting out your silver, china or be relegated to eating in the kitchen, although you may opt to do that. Beginning or mid-week jump-ups can be tons of fun, because people are glad they do not have to provide their own weekday dinner, however most guests still want to get their eight hours so a slightly earlier than usual start time is not out of order.

Dean Manigault’s secret weapon for a Monday night dinner party was simple, fresh and light food. She resurrected shrimp cocktail, which sadly has almost completely disappeared from home retinue, roasted three chickens with an eye for leftovers for the rest of her week, and patronized the finest local bakery to stock up on mixed berry tarts. Before she knew it, her guests had stayed till ten and left en masse with a smile on their faces and a renewed sense of camaraderie.

Recipes for Cocktail Sauce

One again a chill has settled over the Academy. Dean Pollak just asked Dean Manigault how she makes her cocktail sauce and she said she opens a jar. Dean Pollak’s face froze in undisguised mortified rigor, and so hence, both recipes follow.

Dean Manigault’s Cocktail Sauce

1 jar of cocktail sauce on shelf closest to the shrimp is her favorite.

Open jar and serve with shrimp.

Dean Pollak’s Cocktail Sauce

Catsup with copious amounts of hand grated horseradish, lemon juice and a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. 

Super Bowl 48 is Upon Us

Suzanne Pollak

Lately, we have been ruminating on how the Deans read from the same playbook as NFL coaches. Experts are experts after all. 

The Super Bowl is starting off on quite a high note this year, literally. Super soprano Renee Fleming is singing the National Anthem and the Deans would watch just for that! First we will dabbing Renee’s signature fragrance, La Voce, behind each ear to get us in the mood, for what, we are not sure.

Just for your edification, Deans contacted an NFL coach on the proper rules and regs of Super Bowl parties. Since he is married to Dean Pollak’s daughter, he had to take the call. In order for a Super Bowl party to go as smoothly as possible, remember these guidelines straight from an award winning coach.

The people who want to watch the game, really want to watch the game. Do not interrupt with any questions, stupid or otherwise. During the Super Bowl the commercials are just as mandatory as the game.

Provide two rooms so the talkers can be sequestered far from the watchers.  This will prevent fist fighting, which could interupt the flow of the festivity.

For our Super Bowl parties we always serve our patented cheese coins. They are the perfect pairing with beer. Any type. Just this once we will let you in our secret. These cheesy coins are our good luck charms. 

A Treasure Trove of Cheese Coins

The Deans receive a cruel lashing from friends if we attend any event without bearing canvas bags overflowing with cheese coins. They are the Academy’s signature treats and Dean Manigault’s muscled right 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.

 Makes about 2 dozen

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

½ teaspoon salt 

Using a standing mixer or food processor, whirl all the ingredients until combined. Form the cheese dough into 2 logs, about 1 inches 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).

Preheat the oven to 325°. Cut the logs into ¼ inch slices and place on baking sheets. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature (or let cool and store in airtight containers for up to 7 days). 

The Deans Take Pointers from the NFL

Suzanne Pollak

Some parties are more stressful than others just like the Super Bowl is more thrilling than a pre season practice. Never let fear be a reason not to entertain. The thrill of doing something scary keeps you in the game.

Throwing a party is similar to Patriots’s coach, Bill Belichick, winning NFL game strategy. "He's ahead of the curve in about 99% of the things he does," according to a recent WSJ article.

How like the Deans he is! Just as he is prepared for every opponent the Patriots face, we are prepared for each guest who enters our houses.

Here’s our plan and we suggest you adopt it as you own. 

The key to an unforgettable party is mapping what needs to be done well in advance many times over. One quick thought will not create an adequate framework on which to hang a comprehensive plan.  

·      Always, always do as much in advance as possible. Your forethought will circumvent many possible pitfalls.

·      Be sure to consider guests’ personalities, lighting, timing, tastes and drinks, and what you are going to wear.

·      Come up with a few topics of conversation that might appeal to all attendees.

·      Know the top news stories of the day.

·      Serve one of your no fail menus.

·      Make sure you have a half hour to decompress before guests arrive. If you like a dressing drink, now is the time to imbibe.

·      Once your guests arrive, your number one mandate is to enjoy yourself. Everyone will follow your lead and a gracious, relaxed you, will be doing a touch down dance by night’s end, with each guest high fiving as they leave.




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. 

A Mah-velous Party

The Deans

st. germa close angled
st. germa close angled

Both Deans were invited so that told us right there that the party was on the right track.

The main reasons we loved it so much:

· The party was impromptu and we felt like going out.

· It was in honor of an out of town guest who we had never met. A TV star to boot.

· Delicious food displayed on platters everywhere we looked.

· Our hostess had enough food to satisfy the hungriest of the participants with no need to supplement with an added dinner.

· The attendees were limited to fifteen, which ensured everyone felt honored to be there.

· With only fifteen people the Deans were able to check in with everybody and have prolonged discussions with quite a few.

· There were familiar faces but several new ones too.

· Lit candles lined the walkway, and two subtle flower arrangements were all the décor necessary. The candles to generate excitement and the flowers to say you are wanted. No detail was too over the top, which both Deans shy away from.

The Deans consider themselves lucky to have been invited and give the party a unreserved A+. We loved getting out of our own houses, especially the test kitchen, and being guests for awhile instead of hosting classes. What a treat!

Down to the Quick: Walk Tall

The Deans


Now begins a new series, Down to the Quick (as in: "Things that Make you Bite your Nails"). The Deans have been there, they know nerves, and this series will represent two distinctly different solutions to the social challenges we all face. Without further delay, then...

For months Dean Manigault has been looking forward to a two-day junket in New York City. For the first time since her wedding, she has two big events to go to on two consecutive nights. The dresses are packed, the shoes re-heeled, the blow-out appointment confirmed. What could go wrong? This: her date canceled and she realized that instead of her best friend being her escort and companion, she would now have to walk into two different and enormous parties by herself, all dressed up with no one to go with. Instantly, her mind turned to canceling her trip.

Luckily, she was not alone when she got the news. Dean Pollak was simply amazed. How could she cancel? In Dean Pollak’s opinion the only thing that changed was that she would not be fettered to her date all night and could flit from person to person. The thrill of the unknown invigorates Dean Pollak and she has laid it down that if Dean Maniaugult cancels she is a wuss. She gave Dean Manigault the game plan for a sure fire life-changing evening. The three principles: (1) Don’t sit down or you’ll be trapped. (2) Go right to the middle of the room. Do not stand near the bar or food (almost as much as a quagmire as sitting down). (3) Look for a person standing alone, or a friendly face and introduce yourself. The point is not to attach yourself to someone, the point is to move from person to person making real conversations or connections. How does Dean Pollak know this works? She goes into every event convinced she is going to meet someone fascinating and so she always does. The mindset is as important as anything else.

Which Dean would you follow?