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Filtering by Category: HOSPITALITY

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!

Wine + Food Q&A : Counter Cheese Caves

Suzanne Pollak

Holiday+Board+.jpg

What are your best tips for arranging a cheese plate, in terms of beauty, taste, and color? What the most important aspects in your opinion? [Use a] variety of textures and milk types. Otherwise bright colors are vital: citrus, radishes (watermelon radishes are great), tomatoes, etc. The other essential aspect is pattern/symmetry. Using inspiration from nature, art, or some of your favorite aesthetically pleasing [objects] always helps!

 Do you have a particular balance you prefer regarding hard cheese and soft? I always like to include [one or two] soft cheeses and vary the texture from there. From semi-soft cheeses like washed rinds (i.e. Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson) that are "soft" but will hold their shape, to super hard cheeses like gouda (i.e. Forx Farm 12 Month Gouda) that you can leave whole or portion into bite-sized pieces for easy snacking.

 What extras do you like to include on the cheese boards? We try to stay as seasonal as possible but will also skirt the line a bit for beauty's sake, using hydroponic tomatoes for color. Olives, various nuts, dried cherries and citrus are other favorites. When I am making a cheese board at home, it is often as simple as three different cheeses, sliced baguette and olives. Bright, full, patterned boards look great, but simplicity on a beautiful board can look just as good.

 What are your rules/ideas about cutting vegetables like radishes and cucumbers in slices or wedges? Do you cut for looks or taste? You have to cut for both. No matter how good something looks, if it's difficult to eat, you've lost the plot.  Again, symmetry is key so you want all of the pieces to have an identical shape and be placed in a symmetrical manner. With radishes, cucumbers, citrus, etc., we will often slice quite thin for layering. Mandolins can be very handy.

 What are your favorite crackers or breads on a cheese board? Roots & Branches Sesame Crackers (from Asheville) and Tiller Baking Co. baguette or sesamo loaf!

 What are your favorite olives and meats on a cheese board? Castelvetrano olives and liverwurst or pate.

 Do you have particular go-to boards or trays (wood, porcelain, metal, certain makes)? We use high-quality but still disposable (or reusable) square wooden boards for our business, but I like any heavy cutting board. We have one we got as a wedding gift that is a super heavy handmade butcher block with a psychedelic wood pattern across it. Marble slabs also look great!

 When do most of your customers use cheese boards -- an appetizer before a dinner party, on a buffet for a cocktail party, for a picnic? I would say most of them are for cocktail parties where the appetizers are the main event, but many use them for an easy way to greet guests or begin a dinner party. We've also made several for wedding-related snacking, whether at [a] bachelorette party or to have out while the reception dance party rages on.

 When a cheese board starts getting picked over, do you as a host rearrange the cheeses on the board? Add more? Bring out another board? I tend to put out everything I intend to offer on the board at once, so once it's done, it's done...but there are no rules! This is part and parcel with always making sure you have more than you think you need. There's a cheese-hound at every party. I like to have it ready ahead of time which is handy for being able to socialize, but also for allowing the cheeses get up to room temperature.

 What is the proper way for a guest to cut into a wedge of cheese? If everyone knew about rind to paste distribution, the world would be a better place; but an overbearing host is no fun. Most rinds are edible and delicious (besides those that are waxed or clothbound), so the idea is to get rind and paste in each "slice.”  I'll typically portion a bit of the chunk while leaving the rest whole to provide guidance to the uneducated.

 How do you get a non-foodie to taste an unusual or stinky cheese? Truthfully, I prefer not to force anyone to try something if they are simply not a cheese lover. Some folks just don't like trying new things, and that is okay.

 What was your most unusual request? Cheese without salt! Salt is an essential ingredient to cheese making. No salt = no taste.

 What is the best way to store cheeses? If the cheese was wrapped in paper when you bought it, you can rewrap it in that same paper and secure it with a piece of scotch tape. Store in the drawer or devoted bin in your fridge. Otherwise, wrap the cheese in parchment paper and then in saran wrap. This will keep the cheese from drying out but not let it take on the "plastic-y" gross flavor that can happen if the plastic is directly touching the cheese.

 How did you become interested in cheese? Just out of sheer love for it! A fortuitous internship at Vermont Creamery got me into the cheese world and I never looked back!

Where did you get your exceptional visual sense from? I would say both Eric and I have an artistic background but his visual sense mainly guides us. Luckily, our aesthetics coincide nicely.

 Was yours and Eric's wedding cake a cheese tower? Yes! We drove up to New York from Charleston for our wedding with a trunk full of cheese. We had a bunch of cheesemonger friends in attendance, so immediately after the ceremony we called all of them up to portion the cake so that everyone could snack on it throughout the rest of the party. It was one of our favorite aspects of the day.

 Could we do an all cheese dinner party together? I have ideas… Certainly! With such a range of textures, flavors and colors, we feel like there is no reason cheese can't be part of every dish on the table!

Do you eat cheese every day? I certainly do eat cheese every day. I have found that the more I work with something the more I crave it. At the end of the day, whether coming home late from FIG or finishing our deliveries, I set some cheese out, let it come to temp, and open a beer or pour a glass of wine. It's a nice unwinding ritual.

Thanks Counter Cheese Caves!

XO, the Dean

Self Love Series: Start with Someone Else

Suzanne Pollak

Photographer: Hugh Mangum, circa early 1900s

Photographer: Hugh Mangum, circa early 1900s

We all want to know: Who will be there for me?  But sometimes you must get out of your own head. Be there for others (not in a phony way) and they will be there for you.

As we look around at all our friends and loved ones, we might notice that everyone seems a bit low in the water. There is only one remedy to correct this state of mind, and it begins with you. Figure out which problems in your life are actionable and which ones there is nothing you can do to solve. When the in-actionable problems take over your brain, it’s time to start thinking of things other than yourself. Be there for someone else.

Charity doesn’t have to change the world. It’s enough if you can change a few moments for another. Little changes bring about big shifts over time. Here is a running list of Little Actions:

  • Bring dinner. Flu is rampant. Sick people need to eat but cannot get to the store or stand in front of the stove. You could do it for them, delivering a dinner of chicken noodle soup already in zip lock freeze bags so they can have two or three dinners.

  • Be an active listener. Try not saying the word “I” for twenty minutes in your next conversation with an acquaintance. Your friendship will dive deeper as a result.

  • Spread joy. No matter how terrible you feel, pretend you feel joy, if only for a few minutes. Call a friend in need and ask how they are. Do not discuss any of your problems on the call. 

  • Give someone a happy surprise. Pay for someone’s small purchase but don’t tell them. At One Broad in December, a young man I hardly know asked the cashier to put my cookie and tea on his card. When my turn came to pay I was flabbergasted! When I needed a lift, there it was. And for the last eight weeks, I haven’t forgotten this generous gesture, nor will I forget.

  • Share your expertise. One of my closest friends who died recently always had words of encouragement, wisdom, business advice, empathy — never wanting anything in return except friendship. As I mourn his loss and importance in my life, it is my turn to take my wisdom and empathy to another. We all hold each other up one moment at a time. 

Ask the Dean: Life is Too Short for Perfection!

The Deans

June

Dear Dean, 

I am giving my husband a 40th birthday party. I inherited antique china from my mother-in-law but don't have enough soup plates for our many guests.  We are serving three courses and only have enough china for main course and dessert. Do you know the make of the china (photo and details included in letter) and where I could order some more soup plates?

-Mrs. P.

Dear Mrs. P.,

I suggest serving the men the antique rim soups (because they look super large) and going to a totally different look for the ladies soup bowls. Why don't you look at Pier 1 for a crazy alternative regarding color and choose a different shape (e.g. a true bowl instead of a large shallow bowl)? Two different soup plates on a long beautifully set table will add an element of surprise. Elements of surprise are smart for many reasons; you are seen as a chic and original, plus they can spark a conversation. 

Dear Dean, 

I am a working mom of two daughters. My husband and I travel all the time for work and have no time for a social life. We have gotten to be friends with our neighbors and want to have them over. What is a super easy but fun way to have a dinner party? No one wants to get babysitters. All the kids are in elementary school.

-Ms. M.

Dear Ms. M., 

Why don't you serve a one-pot meal that you can put in your oven in the morning and then not think about for the rest of the day? Your daughters can set the table (under your direction) and make place cards. Maybe they could create a centerpiece using fruit or bunches of herbs from the grocery store. The children can sit at their own table and then watch a movie, or sit at the dining room table and then be excused when they get restless. One pot choices that take a few hours to cook and always a hit include a classic pot roast, chili, or pork butt. Alternatively, you can put together a zesty fish stew in front of your guests while they sip their wine or cocktail in your kitchen.  The children could have grilled cheese sandwiches if they turn their noses up at anything fishy. 

Dear Dean, 

I love to entertain — cooking, socializing, etc. However, the thing that stresses me out is the feeling that I need my home in tip-top shape, cleaned from top to bottom. I have an 8-year-old son, and he does a wonderful job keeping his room up and picking up after himself. Most of my entertaining is hosting other couples that have children. How can I get out of this "perfectionism" mindset regarding my house? My husband says we must have the cleanest home on the block.

-CNM

Dean CNM,

Waiting for your house to be perfect is akin to waiting for the perfect time to have a baby. There is no true state of perfection. You just have to commit to a party at your house and follow through with it. Guests are not judging. They will be glad for a night out and they don't want to criticize, they want to have fun. We will make a bet that you are not nearly as harsh about other's houses as you are about your own. Go a bit easier on yourself. And have a great party. After the first one or two, you will get in the groove.

Be sure to let us know how it goes.

XX the DEAN

The Ancient Art of Sweeping

Suzanne Pollak

Joseph Solman 1909 The Broom

Sweeping is the oldest form of housework. Dean Pollak remembers seeing West African girls sweep hard packed dirt floors in mud huts throughout her childhood.   

Every house, from a one room mud hut to a mansion with many rooms, needs a broom and a dustpan. Keep in mind, if you are setting up a new house, that wood floors and Persian rugs are more forgiving surfaces than white rugs and light tiled floors.  The dirt simply does not show up as much on the former surfaces.  And remember that the Japanese are really on to something,  82% of dirt is left outside if shoes are removed before entering the house.

Regardless if you ever wear shoes in the house, you are going to have to sweep your floors. Sweeping is quick, easy and efficient, and often, less trouble than dragging out a heavy vacuum cleaner. Using a broom can even be relaxing. The rhythmic sound of a sweeping broom relaxes, inside or out.  The violent noise from a backpack blower or vacuum does nothing but jar and addle listeners. The Deans prefer natural fiber brooms with an angled edge that are not too heavy to manage.

In 1908, Mrs. Curtis, in her book Household Discoveries, maintains that to sweep well with a broom is an art that calls for quite a little skill and intelligence. According to Mrs. Curtis there are wrong ways in sweeping as well as the right away. 

For those of you new to brooming, here's the right way as per the Dean:

  • Sweep dirt into a pile.

  • Sweep that pile into a dustpan.

  • Deposit into the garbage.

  • Voila! Clean floors.

Great artists see the beauty in brooming. 

Edouard Vuillard 1940 Woman Sweeping

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

 

The Art of Gift Giving for VIE December

Suzanne Pollak

Three Wise Men at Strassbourg Cathedral, Germany (c. 1940)

Three Wise Men at Strassbourg Cathedral, Germany (c. 1940)

“The Three Wise Men Understand the Art of Gift Giving…”

Suzanne asks three experts — a world-class chef, one renowned jewelry designer, and a stylist to the stars — to share their wisdom on what to get your loved ones (knives, anyone?), when to give it (surprise them!), what to do when you forget (it happens), and how to give the really big one (diamonds, of course.)

Read the full article in the latest issue of Vie Magazine HERE.

No One Can Enjoy Delicious Food through Gritted Teeth

Suzanne Pollak

Unless your oven conks out, your Thanksgiving meal will get cooked. Everyone puts so much thought and effort into the food that we just know that the flavor of your meal will be wonderful, wherever you eat it. 

What causes our annual breakout of holiday hives is that Thanksgiving food is endlessly thought about but the entirety of the day can be overlooked. Children need to be entertained, elderly people need to be comfortable, lonely neighbors and acquaintances need to be invited, not to mention you yourself must be taken care of! If you are in charge of the day and you break down, well then, everyone is in trouble. No one will mind if there is no creamed cauliflower, but they will mind if no one is getting along and the children are screaming and the sister-in-laws are bickering and the table is rushed to and and then abandoned in a total of fifteen minutes. No one can enjoy delicious food through gritted teeth. 

  • Start grocery shopping days before and be sure to get to the store first thing in the morning. Do not try to accomplish all your shopping in one fell swoop.

  • Make sure everyone has a task to do. This is no time to be a hero. People like to help. Let them.

  • Set the table the day before if you can. If not, be sure to delegate it to people not actively involved in cooking.

  • Assign the turkey carving to a person of competence as early as possible.

  • When someone asks what they can bring assign bottles of wine, or to bakers, a homemade pie.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are the two days you have people over who may be difficult whether you want them to or not. Although sometimes easier to bite your tongue when someone says something truly offensive, it’s not always best to remain silent. Remember your example to the younger generations, and that some things we should not simply let go. It is possible to respectfully present an opposing view, and then pivot to another subject so the tense moment dissipates. Or better yet, save your discourse for a private moment. Thanksgiving dinner is no place for politics after all, but a time to be thankful for friends, family, and good food!

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!

Tips & Tricks from Tony Hendra

Suzanne Pollak

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Why is Tony Hendra (AKA Ian Faith and the Academy's Dean of Wit) such an amazing cook? Tony is a master of details. He's got his program down. He only cooks his favorite foods and since he has spent decades doing so, his recipes and techniques are works of art, every time. We should all be so brilliant and dedicated; but in case you are at the early stages of your cooking life, or not as passionate as Tony, you can still learn lessons from Mr T.

Number One. There is no need to be a master of 100 recipes or to go to cooking school. A few favorite recipes perfected will see you through a lifetime of satisfying meals, and will always delight your family and friends, no matter what else is going on. Chaos can be raging like wildfire all around you, but if you can put a delicious dinner on the table, life calms down at least for a while. Amazing results come from just wanting to feed yourself and sharing that food with others. It's guaranteed that more people will love you. Gathering your crew for a nightly feast happens to be a smart way to manage a family too. 

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Tony has spent years choosing his tools, perfecting his knife skills, building collections which include antique, ridiculously thick, beyond gorgeous cutting boards which are almost too heavy to transport (I know because I wanted to steal them all); hand made ceramic casserole and Dutch ovens; every type of knife, including crescents. Tony's knife skills are as good as any chef's but Tony: please get yourself a better sharpener! You could do better than using other knife blades to sharpen. However, that doesn't really matter. Tony can bone a rabbit in less time than it takes me to make an Old Fashioned and he is capable of spellbinding everyone around him while carving a smoked duck. 

Tony never makes the mistake of using too many ingredients. He also doesn't make stupid mistakes with knives or mise en place because he pays attention and focuses. Dinner and cooking is serious business to this man. Preparing dinner is his transition from the end of a hard days work to relaxing, creating in a form other than writing comedy and spending time with the people he loves.

Not for one moment would Tony consider standing up while eating, or not paying attention to his food. Every day is a celebration of food and wines and cheese, especially cheese. No matter where he goes this guy carries his own butter, chocolate and cheese like the rest of us carry our lipstick and cash. Even on planes! He is so picky that he hides his chocolate and cheese in his own house so he does not have to share. These traits do not mean Tony is greedy. Rather, it means that when he craves a certain pick-me-up, he doesn't want to find his food stash stolen. When I needed an afternoon boost I poked around the kitchen and discovered his chocolate bars behind the spice jars. Nothing get past the Dean. His favorite brand of chocolate? Ritter Sport with Whole Hazelnuts. Finding his cheese is easy because he likes the stinky kind (especially époisses) so stinky that his family insists it be kept in hard-to-find nooks.  

As a rule, never ever throw away bones, ever! Tony’s ghost might haunt you. His pots of stock simmer at all hours on back burners. This man is a stock master, the real stock broker.  He has stock on hand at all times (in the freezer or on the stove) to flavor any sauce or deglaze a pan. Spoonfuls of stock of this quality transform the plainest fillet into scrumptuous meals. 

Tony's expertise after decades of cooking? Knowing the exact second to take a breast duck out of the pan and place on the plate. Knowing how to dissolve a family crisis with a family meal. Knowing that the simplest dish made well will bring a table to silence with the very first bite. Knowing how to make a dinner party go on for hours. Knowing how to get those guest to leave. Knowing the secrets of a beautiful life.  Can you see why the Dean loves Tony? 

Finally, Tony's tips for the world's best cousous: measure exactly the same amount of stock and grain. That is the KEY to great couscous; plus sliced braised leeks, freshly ground cumin, ras el hanout (it's fresh if it smells good), yellow raisins all mixed together when couscous is ready...

World of Etiquette: Common Sense

Suzanne Pollak

Now we give you the third and final installment in our World of Etiquette series, covering a few points of (what should be) Common Sense. Etiquette is a social ballet and keeps people from spitting on the table. Learn to be an active governor of your actions and cognizant of how you conduct yourself.

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PAY ATTENTION. Be a good listener! When a friend talks about what’s going on in her/his life, it’s worthy of listening actively and becoming a participant. Instead of one-upmanship -- which means you listen initially and then think this happened in your own life way more dramatically -- just be quiet and actually listen. Do not respond with, ‘You think that’s bad? You have no idea what I’m going through!’ This is the ugly art of turning yourself into the center of the conversation. That is always bad form and people notice. It’s self-centered and self-absorbed.

ASK QUESTIONS. It’s simple; basic manners! Asking questions is how you charm people. Being curious makes others feel important. Being curious makes you a more interesting person and means you are not self-absorbed. Being curious gets information. How to know people’s secrets in five minutes? Play dumb. Smile. Get the details. Hone in to what makes this particular person tick. We call curiosity emotional intelligence. You will get far in life by being charming and deeply curious. You can literally charm people’s pants off. Romantics beware!

Teenagers: Engage your friend’s parents. Try ‘Hello, how are you?’ Don’t just sneak up the stairs when visiting friends and pretend the parents don’t exist. Parents need help too. Academy research shows that in many instances adults don’t take the time to ask their child’s friends questions, like, 'What interests you?' Don’t treat your children’s friends like they are little kids. Give them an opening and start a conversation.

NO WHINING! 'I am so busy,' 'I am in the weeds,' 'You can’t believe what I am up against...' Who cares? Tally how many times you have heard these kinds of excuses. We are all busy, some people way more than others. These statements lead nowhere. They cannot ignite an interesting conversation and do not improve a relationship.

SMILE. Even guerrillas do it. People read facial experiences. They also hear smiles. Smiling changes the tone of your voice. Try it! Record yourself saying something, Then record the same sentence while you smile. The difference might astonish you...

MAKE EYE CONTACT. Even if you are not entirely sure of your position, remind yourself that everyone wasn’t always overly competent. They practiced and they learned. Stay calm and collected. Remind yourself of your own worth, then you can think of others around you.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Last but certainly not least: SELF CARE. Without it, you cannot take care of anyone else. Say, 'I am sorry, I cannot go out. I need to be on my own for an evening.' Burnout is all too common. Avoid it by creating pockets of space to allow yourself to recharge.

"The Romance of Outdoor Rooms" for VIE

Suzanne Pollak

Photo courtesy of G. P. Schafer

Photo courtesy of G. P. Schafer

Summertime is finally here again! In Charleston, this means lots of lounging in the shade of our (or our friends') porches and piazzas, iced beverage in hand, fresh off a dip in the sea. For the June issue of VIE magazine, Suzanne reflects on a life lived in outdoor rooms, from Tripoli to Ghana to the Carolinas, and the magic of bells, birds, and blue skies experienced in these inspiring spaces.

Read the full article HERE on VIE's site... 

World of Etiquette: Cell Phones

Suzanne Pollak

This is the first installment in our World of Etiquette series exploring the art of how to conduct oneself on a daily basis. Etiquette is for life, not just special occasions.

First of All, a Few Words on CELL PHONES...

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Today, the worst etiquette clearly involves the cell phone. People are simply ungovernable when it comes to their phones! Be aware of how the phone takes up just as much space as a person. Effectively you are inviting everyone you could contact to the table.

In BUSINESS, ever meet someone for lunch and the first thing out of their mouth is “I am expecting a call” as they put their phone on the table face up? No. Instead, preface answering with, “I am sorry, I hate to do this. This call will be very quick.” Having the phone on the table means you are not being fully present. This leads to a feeling of having forgotten what’s said, or of not being a good listener. No one is good at listening to two things at the same time. It doesn’t happen, and even if it does, it’s rude! Give your company your full attention. Be present.

(P.S. Don’t think we don’t know when you are reading your Apple watch! When you get a message and look at the watch, we know you are not looking at the time. It’s very awkward for the other person, but they cannot say anything.)

When it comes to FAMILY,

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High school students and young adults have reported to the Academy that they won’t talk to their parents until they put their phones away. Kids will walk out of the room until said parent puts down their cell, lest they have to repeat things twice. Perhaps your children are more cognizant of core manners then you might suspect. As tech develops, kids are surprised to discover their parents are rude. It’s impolite to have a phone at the dinner table, especially when it pings with every new notification.

FYI Parents without a clue: you can turn off these alerts, app by app, so everything isn’t buzzing constantly. Notice that younger folks only turn on the ones they need to know. Keep the phone on silent, with no vibration either. Better yet, shut it down completely. When the dinging is going on, it agitates and makes people feel anxious. Is this what you want to do to those around you? 

For their part, parents have shared their rules of no phone in the car because that’s when a lot of the best conversations takes place. With kids and their friends all using their cells, the parent might feel like an Uber driver.

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Finally, FRIENDS: so what is the criteria? When is it okay to check something on your phone -- while watching a show together? Yes, then it’s okay to check your phone. You don’t need your friend’s undivided attention for that interaction. But if you were out to dinner, it is not okay. Whenever you are one on one, or at a party, do not check your phone.

Different places may require different thinking. In New York City people rely on their phones to check trains, pull up the map to get fastest way. Yet we have noticed that people are slowly becoming more mindful of their technology usage and consumption. Do not check the phone because you are bored, as if it were such an awful thing to be! The Academy feels that no one is bored anymore and that is bad news, because it cuts out daydreaming.

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!

Thanks (again!) Martha Stewart Weddings

Suzanne Pollak

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We're blushing, thanks to a third appearance on the Martha Stewart Weddings site -- and in great company, to boot!

To quote: "There's nothing like authentic southern hospitality, but Pollak's Charleston Academy of Domestic Pursuits will teach you how to replicate it back home. With entertaining, cooking, and etiquette classes, the Academy's curriculum shows you how to 'use every inch of your house,' says Pollak. It's a fun (and useful!) place if you're about to move into your first home, but it's also the perfect activity for a bachelorette party. You can all take turns throwing picture-perfect house parties when you return home." 

Read the full article HERE. (And contact us to book a private class with the Dean!)

'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!

 

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.