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Mix, mingle, munch

Probably no doctoral candidate has done research on this, but it's undoubtedly true that more home entertaining takes place during the months of November and December than at any other time of the year.

Two recently published party books have crossed this desk recently that might help with the process. Both are nicely illustrated; both provide easy recipes.

And both are well worth a look.

"Serena Food & Stories: Feeding Friends for Every Hour of the Day" is an extravaganza. It's a large book and expensive. Written by prominent New York City caterer Serena Bass and published by Stewart, Tabori & Change, it sells for $32.50.

Don't confine it to the coffee table though. The book is full of tempting suggestions: the Ultimate Potato Salad with Juniper and Buttermilk; Beef with Barolo, Wild Mushrooms and Orange; Ham with Mustard and Parsley Sauce. All sound tempting and just different enough to make them worthy of party service. On a more modest scale, "Party Appetizers: Small Bites, Big Flavors" by Tori Ritchie (Chronicle Books) is only $14.95. This one addresses the subject of hors d'oeuvres.

Take your pick: Tandoori Chicken Spears, Wild Mushroom Croustades, Two Olive Tapenade. It comes complete with a helpful table that tells you which appetizers lend themselves to do-ahead procedures. That's a big help.

Turkey help

Still worried about planning and cooking Thanksgiving dinner? Take a look at a brand new Web site, Designed by Cooks Illustrated magazine, the site provides information about everything you might be planning to serve.

A very academic, even purist approach? Maybe. But interesting and helpful, too.

And for more mainstream advice, don't forget the ever-present Butterball Turkey Hotline. (800) 288-8372. What dedication. The line is even open Thanksgiving Day!

On a roll

Pillsbury is replacing its popular folded pie crusts with Just Unroll! crusts. They are just that easy to use. Each 15-ounce box includes two crusts for 9-inch pies and can be found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket. Price: a little more than $3.


And to accompany your holiday dinner, may we remind you that the 2004 Beaujolais wine made its first appearance on these shores last Thursday and could be the perfect accompaniment to your turkey. It is being described as a wine of great charm, "silky, full and fresh" and less than $10 a bottle. Bon Appetit.


"What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye?

What calls back the past, like rich Pumpkin pie?"

-- John Greenleaf Whittier