Picks and Pans Main: Video

updated 06/27/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/27/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Martha Stewart's Secrets For Entertaining

Watching these tapes is like stepping into a Ralph Lauren ad and being told what to do once you're there. Not everyone is going to feel at home. The former caterer, best-selling author of five books on cooking and entertaining and now K mart's unlikely consultant and pitchwoman, Stewart is known for her imaginative food styling and party planning. A few people may use her suggestions word for word; some will use her advice as tips for their caterers; others may just want to see how the other half lives—the half that buys porcini mushrooms by the kilo. Stewart sells style, and however impractical, precious and pricey her notions may be, they are exquisitely packaged in the two alluring hour-long productions in this set. In A Buffet Party for Family and Friends, each dish on Martha's menu—it serves between 20 and 30 guests—is suitable for framing: a Merlot and brown sugar-glazed ham, a full-length salmon slathered in herb mayonnaise and adorned with cucumber and radish slices, a stuffed fillet of beef tied with leek bows. Stewart's summer beet-and-rice salad, vegetable mélange and fruit platter are simpler productions but no less artfully displayed. To gather the gargantuan clusters of herbs and flowers she uses to garnish her works, viewers might have to either head for the local nursery or start planting now for next May's buffet. (A companion booklet spells out each recipe along with additional planning tips.) After preparing her feast, Stewart shows how to set a table with an eclectic mix of collector's plates and glasses, Bakelite flatware and English silver, handmade tablecloths and damask napkins, which she owns and you don't. Stewart is most natural when she is showing and telling in her well-stocked kitchen. Her intention is to inspire viewers who long to be creative hostesses. Both these tapes are probably best suited to the energetic and ambitious hostess who aims not so much to please as to impress. Stewart's A Formal Dinner Party (for six) is a frothy fantasy full of blini and caviar, tiny toasts cut in heart shapes, salmon and scallop timbales and a roast loin of pork appointed with apples sautéed in butter and prunes macerated in Armagnac. You will need an unlined copper pot, plenty of patience and a stool. The stool is for standing above the wooden clothes rack you'll need to spin the the wispy strands of sugar that will circle the red currant ice cream that you whip together from your berry patch. What? You have no berry patch? (Crown; $24.95 each, 212-254-1600)

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