Party Food: Small & Savory by Barbara Kafka (William Morrow and Company $190) ON the strength of her reputation, Barbara Kafka is the thinking person's food muse. Not only did she discover some of the stars of the contemporary American food, she is their editor and guru. Typical of this intense woman, more is better. No host or hostess will be at a loss for party edibles such as dips, finger foods, mousse, pates, filled crusts and shells. You can make vegetable chips as easily as potato chips. Vegetarian recipes are balanced with non-vegetarian and Kafka keeps an eye out for calories but never at the expense of pleasure. Prepared horse-radish puts the zing in her Bloody Mary and shandy-gaff, an old-fashioned pub drink of ale and ginger beer, reduces the alcohol per drink by half. There are 425 recipes and many ideas for casual cocktail parties, drop-ins, after-theatre nibbles, televised football games, you-name-it. Since hired help is in short supply (at least in United States), Kafka advises hosts to stock up on ready-made foods, jars and cans of high quality olives, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes. Rely on the freezer for do-ahead nibbles and become friends with the microwave oven. Each page is crammed with tips, storage and substitution information and measurement and microwave conversions. Kafka assumes nothing. Whether the hostess wants or needs 28 pages of savoury mousse and pate recipes is another matter. Her tips alone and the chapter on dips and dunkers merit the price. And Tom Eckerle's handsome photos, especially the close-up single image ones, give you serving ideas, Kafka-style. The book is available at Hongkong Book Centres.