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Filtering by Tag: party

Charleston Academy in Cosmopolitan

Suzanne Pollak

“And remember: In a sea of square-shaped biscuits, always make a heart-shaped one.” -T.A.

“And remember: In a sea of square-shaped biscuits, always make a heart-shaped one.” -T.A.

In her article “This Instagrammable Hotel Will Make You Forget Literally All Your Responsibilities,” Taylor Andrews writes about “errrything you have to do when you stay at The Beach Club, no matter what time of year you go….”

And guess what #7 on her list happens to be? “Learn how to throw a Southern Dinner Party. [The Dean] taught us how to throw a proper dinner party that included creating the perfect fluffy biscuit and shrimp and grits, but you can organize any sort of etiquette or cooking event with her if you’re interested in a different kind of Saturday-night rendezvous.”

We loved having Ms. Andrews visit while in town. Read her complete list via Cosmopolitan HERE!

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

 

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.

A Dinner Party in Twenty Minutes

Suzanne Pollak

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie : the opposite of a twenty minute dinner party.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie: the opposite of a twenty minute dinner party.

What happens when you invite guests for 6:00 PM, but then you get so involved at work that when you look at the time on your computer, it says 5:35? Can you get dressed & made up, set the table and cook dinner in just twenty minutes? The answer is, YES. (The Dean learned this by accident one recent Monday night.)

Here’s what to do:

Resist the urge to immediately call guests and say all of a sudden, you're not feeling well. The Dean knew her menu included seafood stew, a salad, roasted peach halves with bourbon for dessert. What she didn’t know was what to wear or where everyone should sit...

5:35. Turn the oven on broil, put a dutch oven over medium heat and add a slug of olive oil. 

5.37. Slice two large peaches in half, fill them with a spoonful of sugar and a slug of bourbon, and put the four peach halves in a sauté pan over high heat. 

5:37. Roughly slice a large red onion and place in hot Dutch oven with a few whole garlic cloves, peeled.

5:41. Place sauté pan of peaches under broiler. Put timer on ten minutes. Stir onions.

5:43. Exit kitchen, with onions on medium heat and peaches under broiler. Run three flights upstairs while deciding what to wear.

5:44. Put on one outfit. Decide that looks wrong and put on another shirt. Try to do some quick make up. Whatever!  

5:50. Race downstairs to the smell of caramelizing onions (another way of saying they are on their way to burning, but haven't quite. Instead, just perfectly caramelized which means extra flavor.) Stir onions and add a jar of tomato sauce. 

5:52. Take out bag of defrosted shrimp and bag of calamari from refrigerator. Realize that even though they have been in the fridge since morning (because you are so organized and an excellent planner) no actual defrosting has taken place...

5:53. Put bags of frozen shrimp and calamari in a bowl and run warm water over bags, saying a little prayer that by 6:25 they will actually thaw!

5:55. Take out four silver forks, knives, spoons, shallow bowls, dessert plates, olives, two different kinds of bourbon and cocktail glasses. 

6:00. READY TO ROLL! Doorbell rings, guests arrive.

The Dean then explained the situation, garnering laughs and offers to pitch in. Cocktails? One guy choose bourbon, one guy soda water, one woman white wine. High-alcohol beer for the host. While cocktails were being organized and poured, the Dean threw together the famous Academy croutons while tomatoes and onions simmered on low, the peaches came down to room temperature, and seafood (still) thawed in the sink. Finally, where to eat? Decision: a movable feast. One small garden table for Stew. Another small garden table for salad. By the time the mosquitos started biting, everyone moved inside for dessert of roasted peaches and chocolate bars at the dining table.

Perfect!

Pat Conroy & Cocktail Parties for VIE Magazine

Suzanne Pollak

Caroline Pollak, Pat Conroy, and Suzanne Pollak.

Caroline Pollak, Pat Conroy, and Suzanne Pollak.

If you missed Suzanne Pollak's piece upon the passing of legendary Pat Conroy -- a touching recount of her time spent cooking and co-authoring his cookbook -- you will find it recently published in VIE Magazine, followed by the official Academy Guide to Cocktail Party Attire.

Read the full articles HERE & HERE (respectively) via VIE! This month, look for Suzanne's notes on hosting, whether a society ball or an intimate dinner for a few friends. Coming Soon...

SUMMER PARTY PLAYLIST

Suzanne Pollak

Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, & Eddie Barclay beat the heat with style in St. Tropez. Where else?

Alain Delon, Brigitte Bardot, & Eddie Barclay beat the heat with style in St. Tropez. Where else?

Once you know what to wear to a mid- (OK maybe late) Summer eve cocktail party, you may as well just get gussied up and host one of your own. But you are going to need a signature cocktail -- perhaps a Paloma? -- and some choice tunes to make it all sing!

So we turned to our dear friend, Alex Admiral Collier, composer and music manager at Eastward Music for a summer playlist to help entertain guests and distract from the blistering heat. This playlist includes new and old songs alike, to usher in wistful memories of cooler, simpler times. Enjoy while imbibing with friends for a heightened sense of nostalgia while subconsciously creating new memories. CHEERS!

A Few Indispensable Tips on Cocktail Party Attire

Suzanne Pollak

It’s chic to wear a fantastic ‘something’ over and over to make it your signature. Just as smart hosts cook their favorite recipe again and again, no matter who comes to dinner, because they know their guests look forward to their culinary specialty; the chicest women throughout history know the style repetition secret. 

Even a simple ensemble can become your signature with the right attitude and accessories...

Even a simple ensemble can become your signature with the right attitude and accessories...

That 'thing’ can be an accessory, a dress, a shoe. The Dean learned from native and expatriate ladies swanning into her parents 1960's cocktail parties all over Africa. Women wore cigarette pants for casual affairs and jewel-toned satin mini cocktail dresses at fancier parties. Along with real hair dos (coifs, up-dos), eye liner flaring out just like Cleopatra, brilliant lips inhaling pearl or golden cigarette holders, perhaps even a huge cocktail ring or elaborate earrings...none of these beauties boasted a colossal wardrobe with unlimited choices but they had a cocktail uniform that took them anywhere. Once vital decisions are decided, brains are free to tackle life’s thornier problems: whom to invite to the party, which stranger to talk to first at someone else’s, how to grab attention, connect, ignite a fire, or tactfully end a conversation that's headed nowhere.

One  Taffin  ring...

One Taffin ring...

and another.

and another.

The teenage Dean appropriated the tip immediately and forever. Deciding and simplifying what to wear wherever is cheaper and quicker once you you know what suits you. Dressing becomes a snap, so be loyal and stick with your style. Adding that something extra, or taking it off, makes the outfit appropriate for the particular party and place. 

Because, of course, it makes a difference where the cocktail party is: Hollywood, California, Hollywood SC, Beirut, Tripoli or Paris; the Ambassador’s residence or your neighbor’s garden? "When in Rome," so the saying goes. You don’t want to be dramatically different than everyone else unless you can handle it. For example, a man does not wear a motorcycle jacket when he attends a soirée at Charleston’s  Yacht Club. Men there wear the proper uniform of khaki pants and a blue blazer. The Dean once knew two young American beauties visiting the south of France who were assured that everyone, absolutely everyone, went topless to parties at a certain place. Perhaps a little naïve, they showed up appropriately undressed to a party filled with elegant older couture-covered guests. Still embarrassed decades later! 

Dressing comes down to the first impression. What can a first impression tell us about someone whom we only met for a moment at a party? Of course we all know human beings are complex and contradictory, but you don’t have to live with someone to sense immediately if you want more of them or less. The package of you starts with eye contact, the smile and what is draping your body. Identify what you want out of the engagement. Something, or nothing? There to sip one bourbon, or to possibly meet your next business associate or romantic partner? You don’t want your clothes to get in the way. A woman does not want to be so flashy others are distracted from substance, but neither does she want to seem too dowdy. 

Figure out your primary assets -- cleavage, neck, arms, hair -- and choose cocktail attire accordingly. For your own engagement, you will need to move, sit and stand. As a guest you can swan around or sprawl on a sofa as you wish.

For reference, here is the Dean's summer cocktail uniform: Hart tassels, J. McLaughlin white blouse and cigarette pants, with extra pointy shoes to make legs look longer. This pair of Balenciaga mules harkens back to the time of Robin Hood! Because they are extravagant, they will be worn with jeans all fall and winter, for hosting ladies luncheons and gumbo dinner parties, with a Halloween costume, for a Thanksgiving feast and Christmas dinner, even just for hanging out at home.

Flash Party in Review

Suzanne Pollak

No One Hour Party ever left anyone feeling quite like this...at least not of its own accord. 

No One Hour Party ever left anyone feeling quite like this...at least not of its own accord. 

The reason why the penultimate night of the year is ideal for a One Hour Party is because the following night always starts too early, goes on for too long and ends up a little snooze-y by the time the Ball drops. Not to mention, the OHP must be given in cities or neighborhoods where guests can easily get to the party by foot or by a short taxi ride, without a long travel commitment. Sixty minutes of fun isn’t worth a thirty minute commute.

People arrive knowing they do not have a lot of time, sort of like Henry the VIII with his wives. Get right to it! Find the person you most want to talk to, dispense with wasted words and wasted time, delve into a real conversation. The clicking time clock remains on guests minds in an exciting way.

The infamous Ice Cube Trick worked wonders, saved time and even impressed the Academy’s Dean of Drinkery. The hostess discovered that it only takes a moment to separate ice from water balloons when you run under the faucet to melt slightly. The orbs were placed in waiting Old Fashioned glasses and lined up on the bar for guests to ladle their punch into upon arrival. This functioned as a way to get hands involved immediately -- a tiny but genius trick. (Anybody would rather pour a cocktail than wash a dish.)

As for hors d'ouevres, the hostess made ‘cocktail' instead of ‘breakfast' biscuits, which required a healthy grinding of fresh pepper into the dough. Then, the host filled biscuits with very generous servings of speck and lardo. He announced that the lardo replaced the cheese with its creamy texture. There was enough black pepper plus slices of speck to excite every taste bud and satisfy each stomach until guests enjoyed their dinner at some other place later on in the evening.

Don’t be fooled as to the workload of an OHP. It's hardly different than a regular cocktail party except for the fact that you offer one and only one appetizer + cocktail. The host went with the season and made a citrus & tequila punch. For those who didn’t want hard alcohol or would have rather had wine…too bad! They made due with Pellegrino for sixty minutes.

People policed themselves and really did manage to leave at the one hour mark, except for the couple who stayed and stayed and thank goodness they did! How else would we have discovered our Goose Guest, a financial man with a Ph.D. in goose and all it’s culinary charms? Which brings us to the final secret to any successful party, whether a quickie or an all-nighter: Invite the widest range of guests possible in ages, professions, interests. The Dean herself was honored to be included in the eclectic One Hour Party mix. 

Dinners for Three

Suzanne Pollak

The Dean loves a good trio. The chicest dinner party she's attended of late happened in NYC, hosted by a super busy deputy director of a major institution (a friend whose identity shall remain a secret, as always.) Somehow, this doyenne finds the time to cook, set a glorious table, pour champagne, and even, in Summers past, fill a kitchen shelf with bottles of her put-up tomatoes, peaches, plums -- which just proves the Academy's number one discovery: the busiest people in the world somehow manage to get the the most done.

Enter this beauty's house and her dinner is nearly prepared, but not quite. Genius move! The guest sees the host in action and the house smells heavenly so taste buds tingle. The entertaining atmosphere becomes cozy, soothing, comforting, exciting, relaxing all at once because you are hanging out in the kitchen. Who wouldn't fall in love? 

Her no fail hors d'oeuvres? More genius! Chips and cashews. No work, easy peasy.  The water bottles on the table? Genius again! This exotic lady collects interesting shaped liquor bottles and when the alcohol is finished, keeps the beautiful bottles filled with water in her fridge. 

The Dean loves peeking into powder rooms, whether she needs to use one or not. These tiny rooms reveal so much. Her's was moody and sexy with a dimly burning candle, scented not too sweet. (Cloying candles are a major turn off, if you don't already know.) The dark aura would make anyone appear beautiful. Here's a tip -- if you want all your guests to feel glamorous, then the powder room is a tool in your arsenal. 

Back to the guest number...three is just perfect. You will have a chance to really get to know someone if one is unknown. Or, if you are old friends, then you can really catch up. Dinners for three are less work, easier to clean up, and deliver huge returns. Relationships glue together by the end of the night. 

Thank you my NYC Secret Lake Diver.

Dinner Parties Gone Wrong

Suzanne Pollak

Wondering what to do when a dinner party goes south?

  • DON'T do what Bravo’s Southern Charmers did at Thomas Ravenel’s: look and linger. When a train wreck happens, move fast A.S.A.P. Of course it’s mesmerizing to watch an explosion, but the smart money doesn't. They leave and want no part of a coming disaster. They run, run, run out the door if they are guests who have the option to do so...* 
  • DO "keep calm and carry on" if you find yourself host to a train wreck. The Dean once had a guest who threw a tantrum right at her dinner table. The conversation involved politics (might well happen this year, beware!) Said guest lost his cool and bolted. If this happens to you, there is a positive -- people will never forget the evening. To keep things from following suit, simply pretend like nothing happened. The rest of the guests are waiting to see what you do. Guests take their cue from their captain.

*Luckily behavior this bad is a reality on reality shows only and not likely to occur at any real life dinner party. 

Spring on the Table

Suzanne Pollak

What is the color of money, of envy, of Spring? 

The answer: a perfect party theme!

Antique soup plates...

Antique soup plates...

antique dinner plates...

antique dinner plates...

Ted Mueling salad plates (complete with bugs!)

Ted Mueling salad plates (complete with bugs!)

& a silver chalice, to reflect it all.

& a silver chalice, to reflect it all.

The Dean decided to give an all-green dinner party in honor of both the weather and the surname of an esteemed invitee. So, green plates, green cocktails, green foods became the theme of the night. Luckily the guest of honor was amused. His eyes twinkled when he heard that a theme was involved, and twinkled even more when he heard that the theme was no doubt his favorite color.

Generally themes are too silly to be discussed (with the exception of Halloween), but a green theme is not too serious. Maybe a little silly, but so what? It’s fun! Anything to please a guest, and any excuse to serve margaritas at cocktail hour.

MENU

  • Middle Eastern Watercress soup
  • Roasted King Salmon, with chive sauce, spring onions & sautéed asparagus
  • Micro-green salad with tiny croutons
  • Roasted pears with crunchy pistachios, saffron and green cardamon sauce

The centerpiece? Greens snipped from the public park across the street. Shhh...

New Year's Eve, Academy Style

Suzanne Pollak

This is the way the world [/year] ends
Not with a bang but a whimper [almost].
— T.S. Eliot [and the Dean]

After all the sparkly Christmas parties, crushing crowds, decorated windows, doors and trees, not to mention major cooking…New Year’s Eve could be a time for going off radar. A big New Year’s bash is unabashedly out to blow all your circuits -- isn't that the whole point? Make no mistake, this night's party takes sustained effort both to organize and enjoy (as any New Year's host will attest.) This year the Academy takes our cue from our favorite poet, T.S. Eliot, and decided to end our year with a whimper. 

How do you orchestrate a whimper that is also unforgettable? An evening worth staying up for, and going out to? Start by inviting several couples for a champagne cocktail before they go off to blow out all their circuits, but invite one or two of those couples to stay longer for dinner. New Year's Eve isn't without a little over the top, but keep it classy & do it with your menu. Key words: Simple and Extravagant.

MENU

  • Champagne Cocktails - here are ten different ways to make one.
  • Caviar - Ossetra is fine with the Deans but don't overlook delicious domestic varieties i.e. ...) Try an assortment for that really over-the-top feel.
  • ...with Blinis and Creme Fraiche - easier to make (Martha's way) than you think.
  • A plate of charcuterie -- the best you can find. (In Charleston the best is Bob Cook's at Artisan Meat Share on Spring Street.)
  • Oyster Stew
  • Cognac Chocolate Mousse in Champagne Cups - from the Handbook.
  • More Champagne.

We also like to to have plenty of seltzer on hand, because bubbles, as well as the words to Auld Lang Syne so that everyone can join in a round of song to usher in the New Year.

Here's to you, your parties, and 2016!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PARTY ICE

A. K. Lister

James Bond may not have preferred ice in his cocktail, but at the Academy, it's paramount.  The old adage is true: "You can never have enough glasses, nor enough ice."  But why not serve your drinks over ice worth remembering?  With just a few 7" water balloons (and tin foil to stabilize them in your freezer), you can impress your guests with idiosyncratic spheres that will keep cocktails colder, longer.  Nobody wants a watered-down drink, ever.

Here's why our freezer is filled with balloons:

May we suggest serving Party Ice with a tipple of Old Weller, or better yet, an Old-Fashioned made with it.  Cheers!

An Enlightening Speech (and a Pitcher of Manhattans) at Drayton Hall

Suzanne Pollak

aerial-view-of-drayton-hall-vanessa-kauffmann.jpg

Drayton Hall Lecture Series at Society Hall; Carter Hudgins: Preserving the Past, Preparing the Future: Celebrating Ten Years of Wood Family Fellows at Drayton Hall.  [Full schedule here.]

The Charleston Academy loves house museums. We are endlessly curious about every nook and cranny of these behemoth beauties from the 18 and 19th Century -- how they were designed, who lived in them, daily schedules -- but mostly we want to figure out if there is anything they did that we should be doing in our own households right now.

On September 17th at Society Hall, Carter Hudgins, acting director of Drayton Hall (America’s first Palladian house, now a house museum), held the audience at Society Hall in rapt attention as he wove historical facts, personalities, stories, photos past and present and described the Wood Family Fellowship’s impact on Drayton Hall, ending with an emotional punch.

Among the lessons learned:

  • John Drayton is something like an 18th century version of Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery.  Based on Drayton Hall’s architecture and other material culture such as the Edwards watercolors, it is clear that Drayton is well-educated and must have spent time in the UK.  However, Drayton Hall doesn’t have any hard written evidence of his travels or education. 

  • The impact of a family foundation run correctly for ten years spreads far and wide.  The Wood Family used a tragedy -- Tony Wood's brother's death as a young college graduate working as a restoration apprentice at Drayton Hall in  1980 and the death fourteen years later of his parents -- to establish a fellowship in the family name ten years ago. This position breathed new life and knowledge into Drayton Hall, and gave nine young scholars a career path.

  • Our messy basements are nothing!  One fellow, Sarah Stroud, organized over one million artifacts stored in zip lock containers since the 1970’s according to excavation context, i.e. in both horizontal and vertical manners. Think of the entire site with an imaginary grid of 5-foot squares superimposed on landscape.  Sarah worked to identify which squares the artifacts came from as well as from layer of soil in the ground.  Thankfully the artifacts were labeled with these details in the 1970s and 1980s.  Now they are being cataloged to learn about what happened across site at various times.  Less than 2% of entire site has been excavated, yet more than one million artifacts have been recovered.

  • Find measuring drapes or hanging paintings difficult? Trish Smith, another Wood Family Foundation fellow, puts us to shame. With the help of Natalie Woodward, Trish meticulously measured every inch of Drayton Hall to develop AutoCAD drawings.  Then she took these drawings forward to complete 3D renderings, so the early interiors, paint colors, furniture, lighting is another aspect of the house museum experience.

unnamed-6.jpg
unnamed-6.jpg

Before the Society Hall event, the Academy hosted a small reception to honor Carter Hudgins and Tony Wood. The party was only one hour long, but it was the first reception in a night of many.

Our advice on staging a 4:30PM cocktail party for 25:

  • Choose one specialty cocktail and only two, at most three, hor’s doervers. NO MORE.

  • Make the guest of honor’s favorite drink. NO reason to set up a full bar; guests don’t need to make decisions.  And FYI, even at that hour, folks in Charleston will drink a cocktail.

  • If there are many parties in one night, insist on yours being first. Yours will be the most memorable -- too much drinking at the other parties makes later memories blurry  -- plus your workload is easier.  Nobody wants much to eat  much at 4:30.

On the Bar:

  • A pitcher of Manhattans

  • Perrier & white wine

  • Bowls of pistachios, Parmesan crisps & chips and guacamole.

 

A Pitcher of Manhattans

Serves 12

3 cups rye whiskey

1 ½ cups sweet vermouth

1 teaspoon Angostura bitters

ICE (Pro. Tip: You can never have enough ice at a party.)

Brandied cherries

Combine whiskey, vermouth and bitters in a pitcher. Stir and store in refrigerator until guests arrive. Put large ice cubes in silver cups or crystal coupes, pour in cocktail and garnish with cherry.