Party all winter

Despite our population's much-ballyhooed strategy of burrowing in for the winter with good books, the truth is that cabin fever also spawns a great appetite for socializing. Consider, then, "Parties That Wow" by Jonathan Fong (Watson-Guptill, $21.95). Over the top is where Fong begins: French fries wrapped in cones made from Parisian fashion ads, invitations delivered in homemade snow globes, silk rose petals glued to threads from the ceiling so partygoers feel as if in a perpetual shower of blossoms. Yet sometimes the fussiest ideas are enough to jumpstart what ordinary mortals can do. Fong, an interior designer, says his DIY philosophy stands for "dramatic, inexpensive and yes-you-can." Keeping skewered shrimp warm by serving it atop heated dry black beans? Or rocks? We could do that.

The tippling point

It's a fine line between doing the right thing and having it all go wrong -- and the folks behind Finnegans Irish Amber beer are determined to walk that tightrope with their "Drink Like You Care" campaign. The local brewer donates 100 percent of the profits from sales of Irish Amber beer and merchandise to Minnesota charities. Since 2000, more than $92,000 has been given to local organizations that help the homeless, at-risk youth and the working poor. The current goal is to raise $8,000 by the end of December to reach the $100,000 donation mark. Consumers can participate in the campaign by purchasing Finnegans in bars, restaurants and liquor stores. To learn more, go to www.finnegans.org.

MSP airport food better

For the past seven years, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has reviewed the healthfulness of meals in the nation's busiest airports. Minneapolis/St. Paul placed sixth this year with 81 percent of its restaurants offering at least one low-fat, high-fiber, cholesterol-free entree. That's actually three fewer points than last year, but overall enough to move up from eighth place. Among the noted restaurants were Caribou Coffee with its grilled portobello mushroom wrap, black bean and tofu salad, and tabouli salad, and French Meadow Bakery and Cafe for vegan chili, tofu salad and various soups and sandwiches. Leading the pack: Dallas-Fort Worth with 94 points, Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County and Chicago O'Hare.