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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Haven't given a party for a year or more? Once you're out of the habit, it's hard to start again, but any secret party anxiety you may have will be quickly dispelled by Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties!.
Garten, a celebrated caterer, who also writes the "Entertaining Is Fun" column in Martha Stewart Living magazine, is a one-woman cheerleading squad for simple, tasty food and easy parties. She doesn't want you to enter the Entertaining Olympics. She doesn't want your party-giving activities to rival the hours spent on your full-time job. She likes food that's fun to eat and made way in advance so you can get out of the kitchen and enjoy your guests. Her recipes, like those in The Barefoot Contessa Cook Book, are stylish but in no way complicated or fussy. If you don't have time to cook, no problem: She's a big proponent of buying and assembling great food.
Why, Garten asks, do most people knock themselves out to give a big Saturday night dinner party with drinks and nibbles and lots of courses, when their friends might prefer a low-key Sunday brunch? And here's her position on hors d'oeuvres: She's got some recipes, if you want them, but she actually prefers to buy and serve tasty little potato chips, cheesesticks, and oil-cured olives along with Campari and soda. Desserts? There are some great recipes here (Chocolate Ganache Cake, Peach Raspberry Shortcakes), but her favorite winter dessert requires no cooking at all: pears, green grapes, English Stilton, and English crackers, served with port.
In Barefoot Contessa Parties!, Garten dishes out guilt-reducing entertaining advice along with 16 seasonal menus, illustrated with 160 full-color photos. Her Sunday Breakfast menu features Roasted Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs, Sour Cream Coffee Cake, and Tropical Smoothies. Her Football Party menu includes Popcorn, Salted Cashews, Lobster Rolls, Filet of Beef Sandwiches, and Imported Beers, with Outrageous Brownies and Caramel Chocolate Nut Ice Cream for dessert. Her Winter Snow Party stars Chicken Chili with all the fixings, served with Green Salad Vinaigrette, plus three kinds of Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Vanilla Ice Cream, and a Hot Mulled Cider. Attractively designed, it's a good sourcebook for party menus and recipes. (Ginger Curwen)