Food-writer Freiman (New York magazine and elsewhere) offers dinner-party dishes that are generally informal and not too fancy, though she likes special party touches and ""surprise"" elements, as she notes in introducing her scallops-and-basil-stuffed sole. (She'd have it with a spinach salad with caviar and chives.) She has raided the world for ideas and favors Mex-Southwest and ""Oriental"" styles, as well as pasta dishes made with homemade novelty pastas. There are also homemade breads that incorporate ingredients like sun-dried tomatos or black olives. Obviously, this book is not a leading source for any of the cuisines Freiman uses. The humble broccoli raab, for example, goes better with the usual pecorino romano cheese than with the more delicate and prestigious parmigiano reggiano she recommends, and without the butter and chicken stock she adds. Delicious as it is, it's also better suited to worka-day dining than to a dinner party. But, overall, the recipes are well geared to the audience for party food ideas, and the book's flexible menu suggestions make it more usable.