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Amy's Tips for Entertaining

If you're the type of person who prefers to keep parties on the unpretentious side, Amy Sedaris can help with simple comfort food and decorating.

By MARILYN SOLTIS

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence by Amy Sedaris. (Warner Books, $27.99).

Even though Amy Sedaris' idea of hospitality may not follow any rules, the sister of well-known writer David Sedaris has friends like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. If you're the type of person who prefers to keep parties on the unpretentious side, this book can help with anti-protocol, simple comfort food and decorating without a budget. "I will show you ways to plan, present and participate in self-award-winning parties," she writes.

Sedaris' recipe for a successful party is lively guests, good food, cocktails and bubbly conversation. "I'm not concerned with proper table settings, seating arrangements or formal etiquette," she writes. "Who can have a good time with all those rules? How can you enjoy yourself if you're worried whether you're using the right fork or wondering whether the pumpkin is the bowl or part of the meal?"

It's unclear how Sedaris' space is designed for entertaining, but photos of buffet settings are gloriously eclectic, featuring tinfoil serving dishes and assorted old crockery full of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fried chicken and desserts like a ghost cake with flaming eyes.

Self-described as clinically simple, Sedaris divides throwing a party into three stages--planning the party, having it and then reflecting on its terrific success.

The book takes you throughout the planning process, featuring tips like putting a cheese ball in the bedroom to get guests to de-clump and spread out. Accept the fact that some of your guests might have psychological problems, Sedaris advises. "For instance, if one of your guests may be unable to remove himself from a physically abusive relationship avoid menu items such as battered chicken, whipped potatoes, beets or sock-eye salmon," she writes. Another useful tip is filling your medicine cabinet with marbles to ferret out nosy partygoers.

Menu planning can be dictated by the number of guests, time of the year, budget and amount of time to prepare. Sedaris offers up some general rules to follow when assembling the perfect party menu:

* Menu by color --Adding color helps a menu come alive. If the main dish is the color of a Band-Aid, contrast it with beets, tomatoes, peas, carrot coins or spinach.

* Menu by texture --Never have bumpy and lumpy on the same plate. Complement chewy with crusty and creamy with crispy.

* Menu by theme --It's never good to mix and match different cultural foods. Keep it Southern, French, Greek, Italian or whatever.

* Menu by flavor --Don't have strong competing flavors like chicken teriyaki with meatballs or barbecue baked beans followed by hazelnut mousse.

* Menu by decoration --You can decorate by carving radishes or carrots into cheerful shapes. "Or if you are like me and don't possess any whittling skills, you can always melt Life Savers on a cookie sheet and make stained glass windows," Sedaris writes.

The book is jammed with simple recipes and other tips for hospitality in action, including dealing with blind dates, unexpected and out-of-town guests and entertaining children and the elderly. It's enough to inspire the most reclusive to throw a party.

Published: December 01, 2006
Issue: Holiday 2006