Dear Mr. Gold:

A guy I've gone on a few dates with has invited me to a small dinner party at his house. After getting over the initial nerves of meeting his friends for the first time, I offered to go early to help with cooking but he insisted that I didn't have to do anything – just show up. Obviously, if I can't help prepare, the very least I would do is take something as a guest. He'll already have plenty of wines going, so I thought dessert would be best – but what? Something remarkable, but not “trying too hard” (which is why I'm not making something myself), and something that will work for a group. Any ideas?

– S.J., Santa Monica

Dear S.J.:

Desserts, as you know, are always welcome. The most popular dinner-party guest I know is in the habit of bringing her home-baked pecan pies with her to every occasion, and her terrier is in the habit of howling himself to sleep out of loneliness. Everybody will still want to be your friend if you bring fussy things like the glass-encased trifles from Vanilla, the macaron ice cream sandwiches from Milk or even a box of dainty Sprinkles cupcakes. Nobody has ever been turned away at the door when she is bearing a box of freshly baked cream puffs from Beard Papa – or better yet, with freshly baked cream puffs from Chantilly down in Lomita.

But as is well known, men like pie. If baking is not your thing, you can go homey with a big, juicy pie from the Apple Pan – or better yet, sophisticated and quasi-homey with an assortment of the messy, rustic, way overcaramelized and completely delicious fruit crostatas that Zoe Nathan does at Huckleberry.

Huckleberry, 1014 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 451-2311.

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