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Weekend Entertaining

Suddenly, 'How-to' Books Are Hot Items

December 06, 1986|ROSE DOSTI | Times Staff Writer

Thinking of a big, beautiful book on home entertaining to stuff in someone's stocking this Christmas? Well, join the club.

They're selling fast around the country.

"Books on home entertaining are the fastest growing category of books sold," said Robert Haft, president and founder of Crown Books.

Sales, Haft reports, have climbed 20% in Los Angeles and about 15% nationwide.

An Overnight Triumph

In Beverly Hills, where the pulse rate for such trends is among the healthiest--and most prognosticating--the overnight triumph of beautiful coffeetable books on home entertaining is even more dramatic.

One Beverly Hills store buyer claimed an 80% increase in sales of home entertaining books over the last year.

"They are so hot, they outsell cookbooks by 30% here," said Anita Nelson, store buyer for Brentano's, Beverly Hills.

And the picture nationally is not much more different. "Nationally, cookbook sales are flat this year," Haft said. Even ethnic cookbooks, last year's best sellers among cookbooks, have lost luster.

Why the Surge?

What has caused the sudden resurgence of interest in home-entertaining books?

According to Haft, their sudden popularity lines up with changes in the economy. "With interest rates dropping and more people buying homes and remodeling old ones, there is tremendous interest in style, home decorating and entertaining. These books seems to fit in with today's life style," he said.

Haft also puts Architectural Digest and Conde Nast's revamped House and Garden magazines--both related to home decorating--at the top of the best-seller list in the magazine field.

Adding another dimension to Haft's analysis, one observer thinks that the current revival of home entertaining--almost matching turn-of-the-century dining fervor--reflects a relative affluence that has made it possible for the average consumer to culturalize food and dining to almost an art form.

Indeed, Harry N. Abrams, a leading art book publishing house, has published some of this year's outstanding gift books in the category.

At Hunter's Books in Beverly Hills, general manager Larry Todd thinks art houses have cleverly created a new market by combining two major ideas--gift book and cookbook--into one.

Nelson agreed: "Even buyers who don't cook or entertain are eating them up."

So if you are in the market, here are some you may encounter as you browse.

Roger Verge's Entertaining in the French Style, (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $45), 318 pp., illustrated.

Stewart, Tabori & Chang, who published Martha Stewart's "Book on Entertaining," the runaway best-seller several years ago, have done it again. They would have done it without Roger Verge, owner of the three-star Moulin de Mougins and L'Amandier in the South of France, but Verge's touch does epitomize the best of Southern French cuisine, its gustatory looks and incredible warmth. Verge, himself looks like Santa Claus, and he takes you on a classy tour of home entertaining as no other French celebrity chef has done in France or elsewhere. He does it with 20 luscious menus, 135 photos and 120 recipes, which include the how-tos for getting the food on the table on time, as well as the essentials that make dining the total experience it can be. There are tips on wines and cheese, table settings, utensils, china, flowers, glassware, as well as good recipes. Verge's book is Brentano's (Beverly Hills) best-selling book in the category.

Tiffany Taste by John Loring, (Doubleday & Co., Inc., $50), 223 pp., illustrated.

Loring, the design director of Tiffany & Co., Inc., is also a painter and muralist, which more or less explains the cerebral artistry and style of his book. This is no loving-hands-at-home stuff. The pages are filled with lavish displays of tables at garden, fireside, deck, beachfront, kitchen and library, as designed for luminaries from the social, entertainment, business, arts and restaurant worlds, among them, Estee Lauder and Elsa Peretti. Marie Antoinette gives Louis XVI a dinner of roast duck and braised sauerkraut and there are 44 other ways to prepare, present and set a table.

The Ritz Carlton Cookbook by John J. Vyhnanek (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Publishers, $24.95), 216 pp., illustrated.

If you like hotel food and can follow the recipes, you might pick up some dandy regional recipes--and menus--from executive chefs of Ritz Carltons in Laguna Niguel, Atlanta, Naples, Florida, and, of course, Boston, where chef Vyhnanek, who compiled the book, holds court. We like the Georgia Peach mousse with raspberry coulis from Atlanta and the breast of chicken with shiitake in sake-ginger sauce from Laguna Niguel.

Sable & Rosenfeld's Elegant Entertaining by Myra Sable, (Bantam, $19.95), 385 pp., illustrated.

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