There is an abundance of canned pates available in Washington gourmet markets, supermarket and delis. Although the names and prices vary -- from 89 cents to $4.99 -- all have an distinctive taste similar to, as few testers said, "hot dogs, balogna or Vienna sausage."

We would not recommend any of the tinned pates over the fresh, but two stood out as more than acceptable for picnics or informal entertaining: Baldinger's and Ile de France:

Baldinger's Pate de Fois: Made from chicken livers, this pate was slightly bitter, but peppery. Baldinger's also produces a chicken liver pate that has a heavy cereal filler, grainy texture and heavy mustard flavor.

Ile de France: The Strausbourg pate was preferred over the Pate Mason. The goose spread is smokkey, but bland. All types were rubbery and very finely pureed. Prices range from $1.79 to $4.99, so you are not getting a bargain.

The other canned pates tasted received unfavorable comments: "strange texture, too dry, terrible, not distinctive, too salty, artificial and tolerable." They included:

Pate Perogord: Made from pork livers, cornstarch and eggs, slightly chunky. La Perigourdine Party Pate complete with truffle juice has a faint taste of brandy, but tasters liked it the least.

Feyel Strausbourg Liver Pate with Green Pepper: Pork livers added to water, fat, eggs, onion flour, and somewhere, green peppercorns.

Edouard Artzner: Strausbroug de fois with 1 percent truffles tastes no different than Artzner's pate without them. The Smoked Goose is rubbery and dull.

Roland Pate Maison: More pork livers, tooooo salty.

Seil's (Underwood): Made from pork liver, fat and wheat germ. I never did like wheat germ on my liver.

Strausbourg Liver Pate from Lankor International, Carlstadt, N.J. What do you expect from a pate that visits New Jersey?