What's the scariest thing about Halloween? It's the unofficial opening of the holiday entertaining season.

Ina Garten understands. The Food Network star, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, doesn't pretend home entertaining is easy, on any scale. "It's exhausting even it it's organized well," Garten said. "It's a lot of work."


Garten doesn't think people lack the will to entertain at home — just the way. She has designed her new cookbook, "Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust" to boost their confidence.

"Barefoot Contessa Foolproof," which will be released Oct. 30, isn't just recipes. Garten has loaded it with tips on shopping, kitchen space management, and setting the table. Garten said there are basic tips that every home-entertainer should follw. "Read the recipe before you start," she advised.

Beyond that, Garten said, home entertainers should get advice from someone they trust. "More and more, people are relying on cooking help from someone whose sense of style is like theirs," Garten said. "It gives them a level of confidence that the food is going to be good."

Garten said her fans know she won't be throwing them any curveballs.

"I use the same equipment over and over again in my recipes," Garten said. "And the ingredients in my recipes are things you can buy in a grocery store.

"Stick to people whose work you know and whose work you trust," Garten said.

If you think you're too busy to entertain, by the way, take inspiration from Garten's suggestion to plan ahead. The Emmy Award-winning host of the Food Network's "Barefoot Contessa" show and author of seven best-selling cookbooks spoke with us about her upcoming area appearances back in July.

And what's the No. 1 question Garten gets at book signings? "Can I freeze it?" Garten said.

The Williams-Sonoma book signing with Garten starts at noon Oct. 31, 1705 Annapolis Mall, Annapolis (410-571-0589), and on Nov. 1 at the Village of Cross Keys, 70 Village Square (410-435-6020). For information, go to williams-sonoma.com.

A new brewery Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant is set to open its first Baltimore location in Harbor East on Monday. The 9,500-square-foot location will feature an on-site brewery, which will be supervised by head brewer Chris Cashell, formerly of the Brewer's Art.

Specializing in German lagers, the Gordon Biersch lineup includes Hefeweizen, a traditional German wheat beer; Czech pilsener, a classic Bohemian-style pilsener and Schwarzbier, a light-bodied, dark lager with a dry, roasted-coffee finish. The pub-style menu includes burgers, salads, pizza, and seafood and steaks. Jacob Pulcher is the Baltimore location's executive chef.

The Harbor East location will seat about 300 diners. It will be open daily for lunch and dinner.

Gordon Biersch is at 1000 Lancaster St. in Harbor East. For more information, go to http://www.gordonbiersch.com

Maryland, my oyster Starting Friday and running through Nov. 4, Dine Downtown Baltimore presents the Maryland Crab and Oyster Celebration.


Look for chef's specials featuring Maryland crab and oyster at some 20 restaurants. Alewife (21 N. Eutaw St., 410-545-5112, alewifebaltimore.com) will dish up a smoked tomato gazpacho topped with Maryland crab and roasted corn relish; Charleston (1000 Lancaster St., 410-332-7373, charlestonrestaurant.com) will serve Cindy Wolf's signature cornmeal-fried oysters with lemon-cayenne mayonnaise; and Ryleigh's Oyster (36 E. Cross St., 410-539-2093, ryleighs.com) in Federal Hill will offer anywhere from seven to 14 varieties of raw oysters every day.

Other participating restaurants include B&O Brasserie, Diamond Tavern, James Joyce, Kali's Court, Mezze, Miss Shirley's, the Oceanaire, Pabu, Phillips, the Point in Fells, the Prime Rib, Regi's, Roy's, Talara, Ten Ten, Vino Rosina, Waterfront Kitchen and Wit & Wisdom.

Dine Downtown Baltimore is an initiative of the Downtown Partnership.

For menus and information, go to dinedowntown.com