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Filtering by Tag: class

Tea Party Class

Suzanne Pollak

How does one even think of an afternoon tea party during the dog days of Summer in Charleston? Creatively, with new eyes!

Anyone, anytime, can learn to enjoy a proper tea time and the accompanying spread.

Anyone, anytime, can learn to enjoy a proper tea time and the accompanying spread.

One of the Dean’s favorite men, a cross between Jimmy Stewart and Mr. Rogers, organizes a week long camp for his grandchildren. His camp includes a range of lessons and activities from tennis, sailing, art history, and even how to flip an omelette, which he teaches himself. He recruits all kinds of teachers for his grandchildren's summer visits. This year he asked the Charleston Academy to teach a tea party class to two smart granddaughters, aged nine and twelve. 

First order of business, and perhaps why the Academy of Domestic Pursuits is more fun than any other school in the country, was getting Granddad situated, satisfied, amused, and interested in tea parties. The Dean had her two charges learning how to make an Old Fashioned cocktail for their grandfather while the Granddad sat spellbound. Two young girls learning bartender tips! Why not? The Dean learned how to make an extraordinary Old Fashioned from FIG’s very hip bartender, Andrew King. Tricks Andrew uses include not one but two cocktail glasses, two different kinds of ice, and stirring for 35 seconds. (Disclaimer: of course the Dean explained to the girls that this was an adult drink made of brown liquor they would no doubt find repulsive.)

Next up, three "mocktails" sans rye: soda water, a dash of peach bitters, balloon ice, and a garnish of orange slices plus Luxardo cherries stabbed with a toothpick. Once armed and ready to tackle the tea tasks that lay ahead, the girls reviewed and thankfully approved the menu of cream scones and cucumber tea sandwiches.

For the cream scones, the girls had to decide on two important issues. Yellow raisins or none? Triangles or round? Even though the Dean called the raisins ‘golden’ instead of yellow, both girls shook their heads to say no raisins of any color. The shape choice was easier, although one chose round and the other, triangles. Then the fine arts of measuring, mixing, rolling and cutting; these sisters came well-versed in many baking techniques. One has already invented a recipe involving a marshmallow injected with colored frosting to get her school friends sugared up at birthday parties. 

Scones in the oven, cucumbers out of fridge! But before tea sandwiches, one essential truth: when you are making a simple recipe, each ingredient needs to be of the very best quality because you cannot hide taste. In this case, the bread, butter, salt, and even the cucumber need to be super delicious. Nothing got past the older sister; she said she tastes the difference between the butters her mom buys. But luckily both could vouch Pepperidge Farm which sells very thin white and wheat breads. The company must have started in the tea sandwich business, so perfect are those breads for that purpose. 

A tip: ensure the bread does not get too soggy by placing paper-thin disks of cucumber on a paper towel and sprinkling lightly with salt. Allow them to weep gently into the paper towel while you butter the bread and trim the crusts. After a good cry, the cucumbers will not slime up your sandwiches and the delicate cucumber flavor is intensified.

Scones out of the oven -- a lesson in using an oven mitt and rack! The girls set a table on their grandparent’s screened porch, arranged scones on one platter and sandwiches on another, then filled ice buckets with ice cubes. The hot weather problem was brilliantly solved by these two young ladies. Instead of hot tea, they decided that we would enjoy ice cold water from their their grandmothers porcelain tea cups. 

Even the Dean was amazed how a pile of scones disappeared before teatime was half over. Each girl filled her tiny stomach with at least a dozen scones first, then cucumber sandwiches while sipping ice water, pinkies raised. The party discussed the weighty matters of birthday parties -- invitations, venues, and what to do about hurt feelings when you are left off of the guestlist. 

If your tea party is at any other time of the year than July or August, or indoors with the air conditioner working overtime, then you should know that the tea we take at the Academy comes from the UK: Resolution Tea from Botham’s of Whitby. In fact, we are addicted. Yes, overseas postage nowadays tends to make one’s eyes water. But we did the math and six boxes of one hundred tea bags plus shipping comes to less than nineteen cents per bag -- well worth it for such an enduring and enjoyable tradition.

Suzanne Pollak for The Roads Travelled

Suzanne Pollak

[Image: Mary Gilbert, The Roads Travelled.]

[Image: Mary Gilbert, The Roads Travelled.]

Many thanks to blogger Mary Gilbert of The Roads Travelled for writing all about her recent culinary lesson with Suzanne Pollak, starring frisée, bacon, and the renowned Academy croutons...(guest-starring a red scarf by J. McLaughlin!) 

Gilbert sat down with the Dean after her tutorial on Tradd Street to ask a few Qs on everything from growing up the daughter of a diplomat in Afraica, to entertaining in historic homes around the world -- including how Pollak's distinctive entertaining style has been shaped by her large family, lifetime of travel, and love for Charleston.

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

Thank You Elite Traveler

Suzanne Pollak

Photo courtesy of Elite Traveler

Photo courtesy of Elite Traveler

What a treat to receive an honorable mention in a recent Guide to Charleston on Elite Traveler, for all those looking to get 'Mannerly,' Academy-style! As they put it: "There's nothing like gracious Southern hospitality. Join author Suzanne Pollak...for a round of customized cooking classes, social survival tutorials, and general throwing-a-party-the-Charleston-way advice. A rip-roaring good time, this immersion in culture is time well spent."

Well spent, indeed! Read the full article HERE on EliteTraveler.com...

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.

Thanksgiving Cooking at the Restoration

Suzanne Pollak

Watch out, Turkey! This Thanksgiving, it's all about the sides... (John Eder via Getty Images)

Watch out, Turkey! This Thanksgiving, it's all about the sides... (John Eder via Getty Images)

There’s a deep sense of time and place in the dishes we remember, reflecting our family’s lineage and our own hometown heritage. Master the most beloved Southern staples with the Dean of the Charleston Academy, in a Thanksgiving Sides Class at the Restoration Hotel on Wednesday, November 15th, 6-8PM.

Despite the millions of "How To" articles published this time of year, the best place to learn is from an expert. For more than thirty years, the Dean has hosted holiday meals, and no gatherings were more anticipated then her Thanksgiving dinners for twenty. This class involves cocktails and feasting on Academy trademarks -- Pumpkin Soup, Ham Biscuits, Ginger Roasted Beets and more -- as well as hands-on cooking: Lady Peas, Creamed Butter Beans, Spicy Collards, Mashed Turnips, and Medway Sweet Potatoes. 

Leave with a personalized Academy Handbook, fresh ideas, new recipes, plus tips on shopping, clean-up, and centerpieces. Tickets are $150/person, available to purchase HERE.

Everyday Cooking at the Restoration

Suzanne Pollak

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We are so excited for the upcoming Everyday Cooking Class with the Dean at the beautiful Restoration Hotel! "Nothing expresses the warmth and charm of classic Southern Hospitality better than a delicious home cooked meal. Join us for a cooking class that will lovingly walk you through every part of the process, from shopping to chopping to serving. It’s guaranteed to be a class you and your family will treasure for many years (and meals) to come."

But this is NOT just an ordinary cooking class. We will also discuss the importance of structuring daily meals, rituals and traditions. We will talk about manners, dinner conversation, dealing with boredom, and different food cultures. Hopefully students will leave with some delicious recipes and a few new skills, plus a new perspective on the time and energy spent in the kitchen as a way to make life more rich and rewarding. 

THURSDAY OCT 26 | 6–9PM THE EXCHANGE SUITE AT THE RESTORATION

For tickets, please click HERE to go to Eventbrite or contact the Concierge at 843.518.5119. $175 per person.

Thank You Global Traveler

Suzanne Pollak

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We are delighted by the marvelous review of our private classes for the Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina, written by Becca Hensley for Global Traveler. Here's a clip:

"No visit to this centuries-old magnolia blossom of a harbor town would be complete without a visit with [Dean Pollak.] A cookbook author, socialite and expert on Lowcountry manners, she welcomes me, throws me an apron and gets me cooking the moment I walk in the door. Hoisting a glass of wine, nibbling on some fried zucchini cooked by a friend under Suzanne’s expert tutelage, I fold biscuit dough like origami animals. Suzanne swears this is the secret to flaky pastries. I chop dill for salmon flown in from Scotland that morning, and help mix an organic garden salad, composed from lettuce grown next door. Sitting down at the expertly set table for lunch, we relish our reward."

Jump to the full link HERE!

8 Lessons Learned in a Oaxacan Cooking Class

A. K. Lister

1. Shop Local (and don't forget to haggle.)

A vendor and her homegrown produce for sale at Mercado de la Merced (including dried crickets in the bottom of frame.)

A vendor and her homegrown produce for sale at Mercado de la Merced (including dried crickets in the bottom of frame.)

Another vendor explains huitlacoche -- a fermented corn kernel that is akin to a mushroom or truffle, usually sauteed.

Another vendor explains huitlacoche -- a fermented corn kernel that is akin to a mushroom or truffle, usually sauteed.

On a recent post-holiday Mexican getaway, my partner and I took a class at the La Cocina Oaxaqueña Cooking School with Chef Gerardo Aldeco. Before the lesson, located in the open-air kitchens in his family's sprawling Oaxaca City home, Chef took us to the one of the best of many overflowing, street block-sized markets to show us how to source the ingredients for one of the traditional cuisine's seven molé sauces. Each is made from a different chili grown in- state (Mexico's most biodiverse), and the two darkest of all molés include incredibly tasty local chocolate. His tips for sourcing good dried chiles: not too dry, slightly pliable, so they don't crack when you squeeze them. Wipe clean; remove stem, slit one side top to bottom, remove the veins and seeds. Don't touch your face.

An assortment of dried chiles for molé, on display at La Merced in central Oaxaca City.

An assortment of dried chiles for molé, on display at La Merced in central Oaxaca City.

Also, when ponying up your pesos at the market, don't be shy! Counter-bid. Bartering is customary: a blessing on the transaction, and sign of mutual (and self-)respect.

2. Tamales take time.

Visiting Professor/ Chef Jason Stanhope  tries his hand at toasting banana leaves for wrapping tamales.

Visiting Professor/Chef Jason Stanhope tries his hand at toasting banana leaves for wrapping tamales.

PRO. TIPS:

  • Finely ground the masa made from boiled corn, at least 3x. Then, use chicken stock to really thin it out.
  • Cut seam from banana leaves and save to use as tamale ties. Fill and wrap just like a present, according to the natural direction of the banana leave (horizontal "hot dog" style.)
  • Layer the pot: chicken on the bottom, vegetables and cheese on the top. Steam for an hour or more.

3. Eat the dark meat.

The mother of our instructor, a master sous chef, busied herself in the background as our cooking class carried on under Aldeco's instructions. Tasked with shredding an entire boiled chicken, I set the gizzards aside, assuming they would have some other purpose than the filling of tamales. When the señora came over to inspect our work, she asked, in slightly horrified Spanish, if I really wasn't going to use the most flavorful part? Then she sliced them herself into perfect and utterly delicious slivers to cook along with huitlacoche (a delicacy) and squash blossoms in a steamed fresh corn tamale.


4. Always tackle prep. work with a friend!

Jeannie and Barbara from Santa Fe, NM, pick herbs while they catch up on all the hot gossip.

Jeannie and Barbara from Santa Fe, NM, pick herbs while they catch up on all the hot gossip.

Mole Verde fixin's

Mole Verde fixin's

5. Molé is like gravy. Keep stirring...

Whenever you add a hot liquid to a starchy mixture, masa de maiz in this case -- do it very gradually and stir, stir, stir like the wind! A golden rule for every roux under the sun.

6. Try adding a cactus worm to your salsa?

Oaxacans use freshly ground worms and salt for everything from cocktails to salsa.

Oaxacans use freshly ground worms and salt for everything from cocktails to salsa.


7. Make fresh tortillas.

A traditional tortilla press and colorful woven basket for keeping them warm.

A traditional tortilla press and colorful woven basket for keeping them warm.

Chef Gerardo shows a fellow student from NYC how to gently slide the tortilla onto the tamal.

Chef Gerardo shows a fellow student from NYC how to gently slide the tortilla onto the tamal.

PRO. TIPS:

  • Lightly mold a lemon-sized ball of dough into a thick disk, then press (in tortilla press) between two sheets of plastic wrap.
  • Peel one side of plastic and flip; peel the other side; remove from press and gently slide onto a tamal. Practice using one hand to push and the other to pull so it lies flat.
  • The tortillas will pillow up with steam and fall again (pure magic!) just before they are ready to serve.

8. Have a little mezcal, even at lunchtime.

To be fair, seems that Oaxacans start the day with a huge breakfast of memelas, empanadas, or chilaquiles, and enjoy their second meal more like a middle-of-the-afternoon feast. Chef G. told us that most of the time they skip dinner because lunch is such a grand affair. The traditional high-gravity accompaniment is a true art form at it’s best — i.e. made according to (arguably) prehispanic tradition from 100% agave, which grows wild and often takes a quarter-century to fruit (meaning that it might be harvested and cooked by a farmer younger than the plant itself!) Good mezcal is quite low in sugar; so while surely still possible to overindulge, a couple of small glasses won't leave you with a hangover.

Finally, because the production process is so labor-intensive, and the drink itself a requisite at celebrations, many distillers will hoard their lot in anticipation of a wedding in the family, leaving little left for the rest of the market. In short: if you're lucky enough to get the good stuff, enjoy it, with new friends and a fantastic meal, regardless of the hour.

Florals Workshop: Basics

A. K. Lister

Five ladies -- including us Deans -- took Florals Workshop: Basics with Lily Peterson of Flowershop [top left] and all we got were these UNBELIEVABLY GORGEOUS ARRANGEMENTS to take home!  Not to mention a dose of the beautiful outdoors in the Academy Garden, along with tea, coffee, and Charleston's finest croissants by Cristophe.  Some of the flowers used in our arrangements were Pepper Berry, Spray Rose, Garden Rose Caramel Antique, Ranunculus, Kangaroo Paws, Smoke Bush, and painted leaves...all in warm Autumnal hues perfect for Halloween weekend.

 Q & A

We asked, Where can I find flowers locally? Lily answered: Horst in Charleston, or Whole Foods, which has their own farms so offer great prices and great specials (Mothers Day peonies, etc.)

What kind of vase should I use? A trapeze shape, which is very forgiving.  A smaller opening will give your arrangement more support, and heavy base will make it easy to transport.

How much greenery do I need?  How many flowers?  At least one green element (lots of it) and three different kinds of flowers, to start.

Is it OK to see the back of the leaves?  Yes!  When you are looking for that natural feel, it helps to have the contrast of matte and smooth leaves.

How do I water my arrangement?  Put the entire arrangement in the sink, directly under the faucet, and (without removing any flowers) let the flow of water for a minute or two refresh your vase.

Lily's Lessons

Don't let the shape of the flowers control you.  Remember, you are in charge!  Create a tight grid on the mouth of the (still dry) vase using floral tape to help format your flowers.

Start with greenery.  Clean the stems, cutting off any loose leaves, and don't be afraid to edit, removing branches, starting at the bottom.  Lily suggests working with a diagonal line for a loose, airy feel, which results in a grander arrangement.  Avoid the dense, compact, "soccer ball" effect which was so popular in the 90s.

Add three of your largest blooms.  Trim stems at an angle, which makes it easier for the plant to hydrate.  Cut to different heights and aim for a triangular arrangement.  Always, when you find that something isn't working, STOP.  Take a breath, remembering there is no such thing as perfection.  Regroup and come back to it.  Life Lesson #1.

Fill in with interesting pieces, adding color, texture, and filling in spaces.  Have faith!  It will all come together in the end.  Life Lesson #2.

Needless to say, everyone passed with flying colors.  Lily returns for Florals Workshop continued: Centerpieces on Wednesday 11/18 at 10AM, and Wreaths and Wine on Wednesday 12/9 @ 5:30PM.  Spaces will go quickly, so reserve yours HERE!

Xx the Academy

 

This Thursday: Double Up on Design Classes!

Suzanne Pollak

Lest anyone think the Academy is all about learning how to cook dinner and set the table...on Thursday we bring in Flowershop to teach the art of arranging flowers in the morning, and Charleston Interior Stylist to show us the ins & outs of home design in the evening.

                         Portrait of Lily Peterson by  Olivia Rae James .

                         Portrait of Lily Peterson by Olivia Rae James.

FLORALS WORKSHOP: The Basics with Lily Peterson, Flowershop

It’s easy to lose confidence when shoving flowers and greens into a centerpiece. These stems don’t do what you want them to, if you even know what you want. This is one of those jobs that looks easy, but with anything that looks easy, it’s not. However, with just a little handholding from expert Lily Peterson, your own flower expertise will emerge and stay embedded within your brain, giving you a life long skill, with you leaving class owning a new cool container to be expertly filled at a moments notice by a new expert -- YOU!

STYLE + ORDER with Charleston Interior Stylist

Nathalie Naylor is our favorite kind of Interior Designer. Her approach is completely different than most designers, more financially friendly and instructional. Natalie curates your stuff, items you bought and collected and liked, or thought you liked (you must have attached value at one time to these objects.) Nathalie reworks what you already own to make your interiors more beautiful, organized and livable, without you having to buy any anything new -- furniture, curtains, rugs, art. Nathalie is not imposing her taste on yours; she is gently guiding yours. What a democratic and practical way to improve interiors!

Bring one or many photos of your space to class (at Nathalie's house on Sullivan's Island), enjoy Sancerre and snacks, and let Nathalie give recommendations…just look at Nathalie’s her magazine covers!

There are still a couple of tickets available over on our SHOP -- purchase one for yourself or gift to a friend.  Pick one or make a day of it.  Either way, don't miss out!