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Filtering by Tag: holidays

MT. VERNON XMAS PUNCH (& other Homemade Gifts)

A. K. Lister

There is no good reason not to have an arsenal of homemade gifts on hand this time of year, whether to give to hosts of the many Christmas (and Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, etc.) parties you are sure to attend, or to reciprocate when a neighbor shows up with a little surcee for you and yours.  

Homemade gifts, like the Washington family's famed punch, can be simultaneously simple to prepare and yet still spectacular to behold, not to mention imbibe.  For as velvet-y as this punch may seem, it is a nonetheless quite potent mixture of bourbon, rum, Chartreuse, sherry, vermouth, and tea, cured for a week in tightly-sealed mason jars.  

Who knew George was such a party animal?!  You can find the recipe for Washington's Punch in our Archive.  Each jar may be individually labeled and tied up in a cheery ribbon, with serving instructions alongside for the recipient to enjoy at another occasion.

Now, there are a few ways to serve a jar of Mt. Vernon Christmas Punch.  For a small gathering of 5 or less, stick with cocktails.  Simply pour a couple ounces of the base over ice, top with either champagne or soda, and garnish with a cherry.  Why not present a plate of Cheese Coins alongside?

For 6 or more, get out the punch bowl -- we're having a party!  But first, you'll need an Ice Ring.  Simply fill a bundt pan halfway with cranberries, cherries, or any other festive fruit to garnish your punch.  Then run hot water over the pan to loosen the ice, flip it into the bowl, and top with 2-3 bottles of champagne to put it to action.  Like so:

There you have it, Mt. Vernon Christmas Punch, the gift that keeps on giving.  There are plenty of other goodies you can whip up and portion for casual gifting, whether alongside the punch or no.  Try biscotti, bourbon cake, or Raisin Scones.

But, if your kitchen is already sanctioned for other grandiose projects -- we're making Prime Rib for Christmas Eve dinner (more on that a little later this week) -- build your Holiday credit with promises for the New Year: offer to make a series of meals, complete with menu suggestions, for someone extra special, or plan to throw a dinner party in their honor.  Or, simply take all your girlfriends out for a nice lunch and hand out a few fabulous party favors.

Regardless, 'tis the season to let the people you love know exactly how you feel...and to drink lots of punch!

XO, the Academy

 

'TIS the Season for a Cocktail

Suzanne Pollak

Who wouldn't love to be at this cocktail party?

Who wouldn't love to be at this cocktail party?

Too many parties are unremarkable, and not for lack of work on the host's part. Some just don't stick in your memory, or leave you feeling thrilled you attended. Maybe they didn’t cast that luminous glow on life, even if for a few moments. If you've ever wondered how to give a cocktail party that makes each guest leave happy, satisfied, and thankful for you, the Dean has a couple secrets up her sleeve.

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Growing up in Africa, I went to remarkable parties every week, even every night. There were cocktail parties in Mogadishu, Somalia, where we lived in a pink house on a hill over looking the city and the Indian Ocean.  All kinds of people attended: ambassadors, hunters, Arabs, Italians. One time American Olympian Jesse Owens came over, the era’s Usain Bolt. Especially overseas, in third world countries, parties build a community for a few hours, lasting til dawn. Those parties ended when the sun rose. I was on my way to bed when most guests arrived, and just waking up when they left.

The length and mix of parties cannot be duplicated but the lessons to learn are to set the stage and invite interesting people, beloved old and exotic new...

Setting the Stage:

So much concerted effort when it comes to hosting a party  -- stress over what to wear, what to serve and drink, how to decorate the house, the gimmicks, the glasses, on and on. The strange miracle that seems to elude us as we busy ourselves with party details is that all these elements don’t add up to a hill of beans. The most important point is to make guests relaxed the moment they walk in the door, able to step outside themselves for the duration. To experience that seizure of happiness, a floating feeling that lasts for days, is the ultimate goal. It all comes down to real meaning versus gimmicks. Gimmicks are fine, fun, even fabulous if they set the stage. Your job is to create magical moments. This takes deep thinking and off-the-cuff intuition.

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Set the stage that works for your taste, energy, house and budget. It’s not difficult because this is about your personality.  Not about money, not about working yourself into a frazzle, not about doing things other people do. It’s about your personality asserting itself in the details. Taste is subjective! If you like plastic and silver together, great. The best houses are personal, not interior design-driven. If you only have time for picking up cocktail snacks at Trader Joe’s and Costco, that's fine too. Tip: buy truffle potato chips and fill with tuna tartare or pickled shrimp.

Whom to invite:

Everyone and anyone, not just the usual suspects. Invite at least a few new faces. Guests fall into two camps: comfortable if they already know everyone else, or ready to make new connections. But everyone everywhere loves to talk with an interesting person, known or not. Small talk gets stale in moments. Don’t let your party become a distant memory because small talk drowned the energy. 

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Cocktail parties, and in fact the most fun parties, are all about the C’s. Be comfortable, which makes others comfortable. Connect guests. Start conversations, using your contacts and your charisma. Serve canapés and Champagne (e.g. Henri's Reserve) perhaps even in punch! For an in-person tutorial on how to host an unforgettable cocktail party, contact the Concierge at the Restoration Hotel to book a private class with the Dean.

Cheers!

 

Out on the Town in IBU

Suzanne Pollak

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

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

Party Face: Q&A with Tim Quinn

A. K. Lister

Ava Gardner & the very chic-est of compacts.  [Photograph by Ida Von Dee.]

Ava Gardner & the very chic-est of compacts.  [Photograph by Ida Von Dee.]

Have we mentioned it's party season? And somehow it always seems that while that may be true of the whole Western world, it's at a real fever pitch here in Charleston. We always manage to find an excuse to gussy up, go out, share a cocktail, and make merry with our neighbors. 

In all the commotion, we can hardly see straight, let alone focus on the mirror long enough to put on our faces. So we turned to our friend Tim Quinn, Celebrity Face Designer at Giorgio Armani, with all of our burning "party-ready" queries. He was so gracious to oblige.

Q. How should I prepare my face for a party?

For a party, I usually recommend a hydrating mask first and foremost.  I love the Luminessence Mask, which totally infuses your skin with hydration and brightness.  If you haven't had enough rest, you need lots of moisturizer, then a lightweight light-reflecting foundation.

Q. How does it differ from daily makeup?

Typically for daily makeup, start with a tinted moisturizer to make sure that your skin is even...

Q. If you don’t wear much makeup, what do you simply have to do before going out? 

Perhaps just terrific eyeliner, a flush of color on the cheeks and pop up the lip.  You don't need to go overboard if you're not used to a lot of make up.

Q. Eyes and lips? Or just one?

Try a smokey eye.  Play up the lip a little bit if you're just doing a classic holiday look.

Q. Is there a way to avoid lipstick on the wine glass?

Use a straw with your champagne!

Q. Is it okay to apply lipstick at the table?

It's OK to apply lipstick at the table if you have a chic compact.  I think there's actually quite at an art of seduction to a woman using her lipstick and applying at the table with a a beautiful compact and perhaps even a lip brush.

Q. What do you think about glitter on the face? Should it stay on the tree?

Glitter should stay away from your face.  Shimmer is fine, glitter is not.

Q. What are your views on getting work done in your 20s? In your 50s? (Asking for a friend. : )

I've seen this new trend in Hollywood: people getting worked on at younger ages.  While I'm starting to think that the face God gave us was just a suggestion, we should keep it to a minimum.  Little tweaks at a maturing age, I'm all for...but starting too young leads to disaster.

Many Thanks to Tim Quinn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save Your Silver

Suzanne Pollak

Believe it or not, Thanksgiving -- even Christmas -- is right around the corner.  Whether you have two pieces of silver, or two thousand, the Holidays present the perfect opportunity to put it to use.  (If you aren't using your silver at all, the Dean says time to sell!)

Simplify your life.  Go ahead and check polishing off your list with this quick, easy trick utilizing aluminum foil.  It doesn't need to take all day, or even an hour.  Your silver will be shiny as new in minutes, less time even than takes to down a glass of wine.  Why not?

Full Disclosure: There is a rumor floating around on the Internet that silver will tarnish faster using this method.  We say, who cares?  We're just trying to make it through New Years without passing out from sheer exhaustion.  In the name of brilliant advanced planning, short cuts are A-OK with the Academy.