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Happy Mediums

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Creative Edge
(741-3000)

AFFAIRS TO REMEMBER: Schieffelin & Somerset's Whiskey Ball at the New York Public Library for 1,500; Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) benefits; Martha Stewart Living's office events.

WHO RUNS THE SHOW: Co-owner Carla Ruben worked as an account exec at Burson-Marsteller. In 1989, she partnered up with Bob Spiegel, a former sous-chef at Glorious Food. "Unlike some other, more established caterers, they're a little fresher in terms of ideas," says publicist Elizabeth Harrison.

TRAY CHIC: Cuisine veers toward New American multiculti. A signature is hors d'oeuvre -- bites of Maine lobster with artichokes and lemon aïoli, or seared cubed foie gras with balsamic-glazed Granny Smith apples -- on individual silver spoons. For a client's 40th-birthday party, CE filled her claw-foot bathtub with Beluga caviar. A waiter stood by and scooped it onto toast points. Hooked over the tub's side were silver bowls containing capers, onion, and chopped egg.

AT YOUR SERVICE: Would-be waiters take a four-hour training course that includes a mock party, where potential hires had better know how to unwrap spoons without leaving any fingerprints.

THE DISH: CE handled fourteen parties associated with the papal visit three years ago. Cocktails for 5,000 on the Great Lawn were followed by a three-in-the-morning choir breakfast. "While he was in New York, the pope only ate chocolates and cheese," Ruben notes. "I was like, 'Can't we interest you in anything? We've been slaving away cooking for you!' "

THE TAB: Cocktails from $18 to $30 per person; three-course dinners from $55. Minimum food cost, $800; dinner parties from 10 to 5,000 persons, and cocktails to 5,000 plus.

Taste
(255-8571)

AFFAIRS TO REMEMBER: the bam gala honoring Robert Wilson and Philip Glass at the Brooklyn Navy Yard; Cindy Sherman's Christmas party; company parties for Tommy Hilfiger and parties at his Connecticut home. On one night in December, Taste organized cocktail parties for Asprey, Fendi, Verdura, and Bergdorf Goodman, stores all within a block and a half of one another.

WHO RUNS THE SHOW: Seattle-born Jon Gilman studied to be a chef at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in the early eighties, when nouvelle cuisine was booming. He launched Taste in 1985. Beth Rudin DeWoody has worked with Taste for years. "I'm always impressed when John does the Winter Antiques Show at the Armory," says DeWoody. "It's not that kind of fussy little French hors d'oeuvre that look nice but don't taste so good; it's the kind of stuff that if you weren't going out to dinner, you could stand there and really enjoy yourself."

TRAY CHIC: For the opening of the Italian-tile showroom Bisazza Mosaico, Taste displayed all hors d'oeuvre in grids so they looked like tiles; figs stuffed with mascarpone riding kumquat halves and stacks of grilled-vegetable focaccias were arrayed with a striking precision. Also: chilled cappuccino soufflés served in espresso cups with white-chocolate and macadamia-nut biscotti.

THE DISH: When Gilman first moved to New York, within a week an actor-chef pal told him, "You seem like such a nice guy -- don't get into catering." But Gilman says he likes the drama that comes with pulling off a huge job he was crazy to take on in the first place.

THE TAB: Cocktails from $18 per person; three-course dinners from $75. Minimum food cost, $800; dinners from 10 to 1,200 persons; cocktails for 2,500 plus.


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