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  • Oscar Party Menus

    Three great ways to celebrate: easy hors d'oeuvres, a buffet spread, or a casual feast

    It's Oscar night-the perfect occasion to cook up a feast and invite friends over to dish about the stars. Any of these mouthwatering menus will make for a winning evening.

    Oscar Hors D'Oeuvres

    Perfect for nibbling all night long

    Red-Carpet Buffet

    Deluxe dining while you watch the show

    Casual Pre-Awards Dinner

    Fuel up before the ceremony with a rustic meal.

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  • Around the World in 80 Dishes: Grand Marnier Soufflés

    In our ongoing video series Chef Lou Jones, from The Culinary Institute of America, demonstrates how to make French Grand Marnier Soufflés

    In both professional and recreational cooking classes, soufflés always seem to be on the curriculum. Despite changing culinary trends, creating the perfect soufflé-rich yet light, puffed tall, and one that won't fall-remains an essential skill for chefs and serious cooks.

    In these videos, The Culinary Institute of America's Associate Dean of Restaurant Education, Chef Lou Jones, shows us how to make single serving Grand Marnier Soufflés. The skills Chef Jones demonstrates can be applied to all sorts soufflés, sweet and savory, large and small.

    Soufflés were invented in France in the late 18th century, according to Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food. The word "soufflé" means "puffed up" in French-to keep your soufflés that way, don't bang on or open the oven door during cooking (so they are not jolted and cook at an even

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  • An Oscars Party Fit for the Stars

    Hollywood party planner Lara Shriftman shares her secrets for entertaining, with recipes, hosting tips, and more

    So your Oscars invitation never arrived in the mail. That's no reason to forego the glamour of the evening. It's easy to host your own telecast bash, complete with eats and an atmosphere fit for the stars. To help, we've enlisted the expertise of Lara Shriftman, one half of the public relations and special events firm Harrison & Shriftman, which is responsible for countless high-profile book and product launch parties, film festival fetes, and Hollywood parties. She's also cowritten several books on entertaining with partner Elizabeth Harrison, including Party Confidential.

    Do Something Different

    The sedentary nature of a party based on long hours of TV-watching can create particular challenges for a host, says Shriftman, who's hosted an Oscars-viewing party with partner Harrison for the past ten years (and whose guests have included Serena Williams, Lara

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  • Anti-Valentine's Day Dinner Ideas

    Here we go again.

    It's nearly Feb. 14, that faux holiday every year when the birds sing, the sun shines, and rainbows peek out of the clouds ... just for couples.

    For single people, it's often not quite as cheery.

    Loving twosomes get great widgets like Epicurious's Valentine's Day Menu Planner, Valentine's Day-themed chocolate extravaganzas, and special Valentine's Day wine events. heck, even White Castle 's getting into the act, with reservations-required seating at the "Love Castle" for you and your honey.

    Singles, on the other hand, tend to get happy hours at cheesy clubs, or several rounds of whiskey with the boys/girls.

    Thank God, then, for dedicated singles who host Anti-Valentine's Day dinners for a bunch of their single friends. Even better, they can work with all the ingredients nuzzling couples avoid on V-Day, like garlic and squid ink.

    Here are what I think are a couple prime candidates for an anti-Valentine's Day dinner:

    - Comfort foods like

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  • How to Make Coeur à la Crème

    The sweet richness of coeur à la crème reigns again

    Here's a Valentine's treat that'll set you apart from the chocolate masses: coeur à la crème-a creamy white heart, surrounded, if you please, by raspberry sauce. This pretty, fresh cheese-based dessert is an old French classic that makes the "in list" every now and then, explaining why your mother or grandmother may remember it and you don't.

    Certainly coeur à la crème is worth getting to know-the ingredients come together in minutes, and the fetching hearts require no baking. The hardest part is waiting, often overnight, while the mixture sets in a special heart-shaped basket or porcelain mold with holes in the bottom, which allow the whey to drain off (available from Dean & DeLuca). When it's ready, you need only invert the heart onto a serving plate and sauce it as you see fit.

    Coeur à la crème requires a porcelain mold or basket with holes at the bottom so the whey can drain

    Variations of

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  • Top 5 Tips for Picking a Bottle of Wine at a Restaurant This Valentine's Day

    If you're going out for a nice meal this Valentine's Day, and expect to drink wine, these five tips could help you save money. And embarrassment.

    1) Go for the unfamiliar varietals. Not Chardonnay, not Cabernet Sauvignon. Those have been marked up more because more people order them. Order the Albarino, the Tempranillo, the Barbera, or the hard-to-pronounce Greek wine. It'll be a better value.

    2) Don't order the second cheapest bottle. Obviously you're avoiding the bottom-of-the-list option. The wine director knows this. And he's marked it up accordingly. The least expensive bottle may actually be a better choice. If the eatery is any good, you're safe because what self-respecting restaurant would put a bottle on a wine list that it didn't endorse?

    3) Decide what you want to eat first. This will inform your decision regarding pairings and it helps the sommelier narrow down the choices (see next tip).

    4) Ask for assistance. Not even the geekiest wine lover knows the wine

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  • Cooking for Two: A Book Review (and Recipes!) for You and Your Sweetie

    Cooking for a party of two can be truly trying, especially if the recipe you're using results in too many servings. I won't even consider many recipes if they look overabundant. This is why Cooking for Two: Perfect Meals for Pairs (Chronicle Books) by Jessica Strand is the perfect book, not just for Valentine's Day but for the other 364 days of the year too.

    Strand's recipes span from dishes easily made for two (antipasti, quesadillas) to scaled-down classics (chicken potpies, vegetable lasagna), from savory (poached cod, frittata) to sweet (fruit crisps, chocolate sorbet). So there's bound to be at least one recipe that will fit the mood, whether you're cooking with your friend, sibling, or sweetheart. And even if you're just cooking for yourself, that second serving can be just as easily eaten as another helping or saved as leftovers for another night rather than a week's worth.

    Now, all I need is a cookbook full of recipes made for a party of one....

    Recipes to try:

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  • Valentine's Day Recipes

    Create a special menu to share with your sweetheart

    If the way to your loved one's heart is through his (or her) stomach, a candlelit dinner is the supreme Valentine's Day celebration. A meal composed of some of these seductive dishes is guaranteed to earn you more brownie points than a box of chocolates.

    Set the Mood

    A romantic dinner deserves special music. Play Sinatra to create the feel of dining in the Big Apple, Edith Piaf for the ambiance of a Parisian bistro, or Paolo Conte to transport you to an Italian piazza.

    Clean as You Go

    So you can relax after you've shared the last bite of dessert, get all your prep work done early and clean up as you cook. Of course, there's nothing wrong with leaving the dishes in the sink until morning.


    Two Straws

    Have a Heart

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  • Top 5 Sexiest Cocktails

    Satisfy the senses with these seductive sips

    There are three keys to making a sensuous cocktail: First, it should look bright, attractive, sleek, or curvy. Second, the ingredients must invoke some visceral sense-either with palate-tickling fruit or earthy accents from herbaceous spirits. And finally, the name has got to suggest passion, seemingly begging to be consumed. These five drinks fulfill the mission nicely.


    Vodka and cranberry have been a pair on numerous occasions (most notably in the Cosmo). In this drink, orange juice smoothes out the flavor of the tart cranberry. To avoid making an overly sweet Kool-Aid-like concoction, try using unsweetened cranberry juice or adding more OJ. The amaretto contributes sweet almond flavors (you may have seen the Disaronno Originale brand on liquor shelves) and adds yet more alcohol. Beware: This Kiss packs quite a punch.

    Appetizer Pairing:

    Bombay Sliders with Garlic Curry Sauce
    Cranberry and

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  • Valentine's Day Aphrodisiacs

    A guide to 12 lust-inducing ingredients, plus a recipe for each

    From Pliny the Elder to Casanova, food has long been haloed and hailed as the ultimate portal to venery, a lovely word that has undeservedly fallen into disuse. Oysters, rose petals, chocolate, chile peppers, licorice, star anise-there is no shortage of ingredients reputed over the centuries to stir ardor. So is there any truth to these claims?

    Nope. Not if you listen to the FDA, anyway, which in 1989 turned a cold shower on the whole idea of aphrodisiacs, thus dismissing 5,000 years of such truffling as pure folklore. But who needs science? Folklore is way more fun.

    There is not a lot of literature on the subject of aphrodisiac cooking. The best-known work on the subject, Venus in the Kitchen: Recipes for Seduction, edited by Norman Douglas, was first published in 1952. It is a truly strange book, containing such gems as Hare Croquettes, Pie of Bulls' Testicles, Eels à la del Sbugo, and last but not least,

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