Bettina's Take: Alex Hitz, Extraordinary Host

Nicole Miller Kathy Hilton Alex Hitz

Just back from L.A.—what an exciting time to be there! Traffic jams, multiple parties, the atmosphere was electric.

Celebrities and boldface names were everywhere, not only at the legendary parties (Katzenberg, Diller/Von Furstenberg, Vanity Fair, Madonna, you name it) but also at the Tower Bar for dinner (Anderson Cooper, Paris Hilton), and at the Polo Bar at the Beverly Hills Hotel for lunch. It was dazzling.

Yet with all that glamour and glitz, the one thing I can't get out of my head is caramel cake.

Alex Hitz's caramel cake, to be exact.

Alex is one of the great hosts of our time. Whenever this Atlanta native entertains it is with enormous attention to detail, coupled with his unique brand of Southern hospitality.

He designed his extraordinary Hollywood Hills house himself, with breathtaking views sweeping all the way to the Pacific Ocean. He built a state-of-the-art kitchen, where he whips up dinner for as many as 120 people.

He has a talent for building an extraordinary guest list. His dinners are filled with a multigenerational, international mix, all accomplished in their various and interesting fields. The atmosphere that Alex creates is conducive to having fascinating conversations and meeting new people, which makes his guests clamor to be invited again. David Netto, the respected architect, puts it brilliantly:

"Alex Hitz is probably the best host I've ever met. You might think I mean this because of his style—which I do, and it's all there—but the real reason he's so good at entertaining is his kindness. It's infectious—I've never been treated so nicely by big shots as when I meet them at Alex's house. Everyone's so glad to be in the room that it becomes very democratic, and because you know that's what your host cares the most about, you know you're going to have a good time."

Oscar week, the stellar list included Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera, Sophie and Freddie Windsor, Nicole Miller, Francois Catroux, Nicky Haslam, Amanda Eliasch, Brooke and Blake Davenport, Samar and Alex Bloomingdale, Alexandra and Billy Kimball, Sessa and Richard Johnson, Doris Brynner, and Sonia Cole, among others.

A professionally trained chef, Alex lovingly prepared an updated version of down-home cooking, including fried chicken, shrimp and grits, pulled pork, biscuits, pecan squares, and brownies. I was astounded to see friends who normally eat a lettuce leaf help themselves to heaping plates of seconds, while they chatted, mingled, confided, flirted, and finally left at 1 a.m.—in early bird L.A.

I've always wondered at Alex's ease, grace, and knowledge of entertaining. Lucky me, I'll soon be able to study his techniques. His book, My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Uptown, Down-Home Comfort Food for a Crowd, will be published by Knopf next year.

Alex, your fans can't wait to read it. And I'm still dreaming about the caramel cake.

Photo: Nicole Miller, Kathy Hilton, and Alex Hitz