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Filtering by Tag: parties

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

 

Notes from the Rainbow Room, for VIE Magazine

Suzanne Pollak

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Looking for a reason to travel? If an epic blowout at NYC's legendary Rainbow Room isn't on your calendar this Spring, make a date with friends in a city you've never been to and live it up anyway! For three or 300, Suzanne tells how to make any destination event memorable in the latest issue of VIE Magazine.

Read the full article HERE...

"Entertaining the Entertainers"

Suzanne Pollak

Sometimes the most memorable house parties happen under dire circumstance.

Sometimes the most memorable house parties happen under dire circumstance.

The Dean's most recent column in VIE magazine is all about houseguests -- both having them and being one yourself. Her advice covers the gamut, from celebratory house parties to visiting a friend in need, plus how to schedule your time together (and apart, very important!) She offers suggestions for what to do and what to cook, how to behave and how to handle those who don't...

Read the full piece, along with so many other fun articles, HERE on VIE's site!

'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! 

Swanky Soirée

Suzanne Pollak

One of Dean Pollak's favorite friends could be the coolest woman in the world. She should be Head Dean of the Academy, but her life is too full and she doesn’t have time to share her secrets. Luckily for you, the current Dean does have the time and is willing to pull back the curtain on this doyenne's latest extravaganza: a white tie ball held in one of New York's grandest party spaces, the recently redone Rainbow Room in honor of the host's granddaughter.

The room is the talk of the town, and this party will be the talk of generations to come. No detail was too tiny for this party genius, and not one of those details was over the top. Our lady has perfect pitch -- from drawing up multi-generational guest lists, seating guests so each feels thrilled, to timing, pace, arrangements, music content and volume, food and drink, and every single particular in between -- each detail woven together to envelop everyone in a web of fantasy for one wonderful night. 

Flower arrangements as big as buildings...

Flower arrangements as big as buildings...

Chandeliers raining down crystals and music for every moment: string instruments to set the mood during cocktails, allowing all ages to chatter...

Chandeliers raining down crystals and music for every moment: string instruments to set the mood during cocktails, allowing all ages to chatter...

A 22-piece band (yes, you read that correctly) seamlessly segueing into dance tunes while eight pros twirled their partners, like magnets, pulling guests from dinner tables onto the revolving floor... 

A 22-piece band (yes, you read that correctly) seamlessly segueing into dance tunes while eight pros twirled their partners, like magnets, pulling guests from dinner tables onto the revolving floor... 

Spinning so slowly, like an old-fashioned LP, that at first the Dean wondered,  Am I tipsy? Is there really magic in the world? Can I cover a dance floor so expertly? No! It’s the moving floor!

Spinning so slowly, like an old-fashioned LP, that at first the Dean wondered, Am I tipsy? Is there really magic in the world? Can I cover a dance floor so expertly? No! It’s the moving floor!

The Deb. and accompanying rappers whooped it up in the middle of the crowded dance floor, hours and hours after start time.

The Deb. and accompanying rappers whooped it up in the middle of the crowded dance floor, hours and hours after start time.

Some nights should never end!

F.O.M.O.

Suzanne Pollak

The definition of FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.

Are you suffering from FOMO? The Charleston Academy is particularly designed to cure this contemporary malady. Suffer no more! Learn how to build a beautiful and rewarding life so that YOU will start living the life that OTHERS fear they are missing. This is not rocket science, people. With a little guidance and hand holding from the Dean, paths will open that you may not have envisoned for yourself. Relationships, experiences, living spaces, free time, balance, behavior, social ease -- there is nothing we can't improve. The Acadmey is a cure all for this ailment of FOMO. Our solutions:

Step One: Subscribe to periodic newsletters and weekly blogs. Frequent tiny tips are easy to digest, like spoonfuls of great tasting medicine.

Step Two: Plan a social engagement that is easy as PIE. Here's one that will mark you as a person with her/his very own style. We will keep it a secret that you borrowed the Academy's Cliff Notes to stake your territory as the person who knows exactly what to do and is confident enough to pull off something original. 

  • Bake a Summer Pie. Make your own crust, throw in some sugared and spiced Summer peaches, buy some vanilla ice cream, whip some fresh cream. Email the Academy if the way to whipped cream is a mystery! You are giving your guests a choice on how to gild their lily, their piece of pie, in addition to showing off your culinary skills. 

  • Invite a group. Not just your posse. Make sure you invite a person you want to get to know better.  Our tip: schedule last minute (day of or day before) so you only gather people who really want to come. Two important truths you must pay attention to (1) whoever comes is meant to be there and (2) do not freak out that your current crush didn't show up. Word will get around on how cool, original and fun your pie party was. Next jump up you will find yourself turning people away. They will all have their own cases of FOMO. 

  • Set a table/sideboard/porch table/kitchen with the pies, forks, cool dessert size plates, bowl of hand whipped cream, another of ice cream, a pitcher full of sunflowers or tall greens cut from outside, wine glasses...and don't forget napkins. 

  • Play these tunes to set the mood for dessert, from musical wizard Alex Collier* and finally...

  • Serve this wine, which our favorite sommelier Femi Oyediran** describes as "a late harvest wine from South Africa that easily contends as being one of the greatest sweeties out there. Made from the Muscat grape, it is a must-have on the dinner table at the end of a meal. A charming combination of orange peel, honey, and exotic spice, Vin de Constance is the perfect match for peach pie you didn't know you were looking for!"

***These dudes are the definition of cool, and you will be too when you follow our advice. You will be well on your way to making others a little envious of your life, parties and style. You are erradicating FOMO from your life, but possibly spreading it to others. Oh Well, we can only help those who follow the Academy! 

The Best Way to Get Invited Back to Parties?

A. K. Lister

There are a million and two engagements happening in Charleston this Holiday season, per usual.  Were you invited to all of them?  No, probably not (full disclosure: neither were we) but perhaps could be in future seasons if you heed this advice.  

It's not Rocket Science.  Just say "Thank You!" in the most memorable way possible: a handwritten note, in specific detail, on your favorite stationary.