ANOTHER three-ring circus is coming to town. Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages old enough to drink legally, the International Wine & Food Expo presents under the big-top (in this case the Sheraton Washington Hotel) what is not likely to be the Greatest Show on Earth, but may be Washington's longest-running cocktail party.

Friday, April 23 through Sunday, April 25, the expo will run through nearly two dozen speakers and 15 hours of tastings from nearly 150 wineries, including the first comprehensive tasting of Virginia wines ever held in D.C. A quartet of chefs from the People's Republic of China, one of them a vegetable garnish specialist, will be demonstrating Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to noon. And from Australia, a down-under cooking demonstration by Elise Pascoe, Saturday, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday morning's wine speakers will include Alexis Lichine, Harriet Lembeck and Terry Robards. In the afternoon, "Organizing and Conducting Wine Tastings" will compete with "Food and Wine: A Discussion of Taste, Its Cause and Effect." Saturday morning's wine talks will feature Sen. Steve Symms, Peter Sichel, Robert Mondavi and Harry Waugh; in the afternoon, it's a choice between a panel discussion on champagne and a lecture on merchandising wine in restaurants. As for the tastings, they will run Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.

Nothing death-defying in this circus, but perhaps a few gasps, oohs and aahs over the price: $25 for each seminar, lecture or tasting, or $165 for the whole show (plus an optional $40 for the opening gala Thursday evening). For information, call 588-0980; for daily admission tickets, see Ticketron outlets.

Of all the weapons in the American arsenal, we have the most confidence in chocolate chip cookies. Weapons? you say. Sure, says the Department of the Army, which has written to us asking permission to reprint "for defense purposes" Susan Russ' recipe, "A Bureaucrat's Guide to Chocolate Chip Cookies," which we ran March 4. The Department of Commerce has also found it a useful bureaucratic tool, requesting to reprint it for its newsletter's 36,000 subscribers. The National League of Cities has wanted to supply the country's mayors and city council members, 15,000 of them, with this recipe in a language they can understand, and several other private newsletters that talk about language: Quarterly Review of Doublespeak, Simply Stated and The Editorial Eye. Finally, a church in Fort Meade has asked to reprint the recipe, perhaps intending Chocolate Chip Cookies for Peace.

Washington's culinary realm is missing little these days, but chances to try Slavic and African foods are still in short supply. The spring fair season helps, this year with the 2nd Annual Slavic Food Festival, May 1 and 2, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of the Holy Resurrection, 10201 Kentsdale Dr., Potomac. Goulash and kugel may be old-hat to us, but this feast will be made from ingredients -- apricot and raspberry spreads, poppy seeds -- imported from Pittsburgh and specially made kohlbasi from Johnstown, Pa., for authenticity's sake. And pirohi have been made by the church members at the rate of 40 dozen a day. The menu goes on, to holubki, halushki, pagach and soups with homemade noodles. All that's without even a peek at the dessert table. For information, call 299-5120 or 989-9813.

As for African food, the Sheridan School, 4400 36th St. NW, is running a five-session African cooking course so that peanut stew, geroff rice and kalawole can become part of your cooking vocabulary. The instructor is Alex Kwabene Akoto, program coordinator for the National Museum of African Art, and the charge is $65 for the series. To register, call 362-7900.