Tuesday: Filet of beef with sauce Bearnaise and Burgundy from France.

Wednesday: a boldly inventive menu including vegetable sherbets, stir-friend vegetables and berries presented on round wooden slabs freshly cut from the trunk of a cherry tree. Wines were from two California vine-yards that didn't exist 10 years ago.

Tuesday night, at the National Gallery of Art's new East Building. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon had served an old-world dinner in honor of modern art: Pate en croute, a soup, salad and vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce were on the menu with beef. Guests drank a Chablais and French champagne.

Last night a younger generation - National Gallery Director J. Carter Brown and his wife, Pamela - were hosts to members of Congress, the Supreme Court and other dignitaries. The dinner, for 300, was to welcome an exhibit of historic art from Dresden.

In sharp contrast to Tuesday's menu, the meal began with the two sorbetsone tomato, the other cucumber - served from carved ice baskets. Real baskets, containing fresh asparagus spears and endive leaves, were passed among the guests at a champagne reception before the meal. Truffled potato tartes were served with stuffed loin of veal and the vegetables. A log of Boursault cheese was presented with leaves of romaine lettuce instead of bread. For desert there was a trio of fresh berries and a Grand Mariner sauce from a recipe of Mrs. Brown, plus sweet "truffles" made of chocolate.

The wines with last night's meal were all American: Johannisberg Riesling, 1977, from Husch Vineyards, a 1974 Cabernet Sauvignon from Kenwood Vineyards and a sparkling Muscadella du Bordelais from Hanns Kornell.

Tuesday's dinner had been prepared by local caterer, although the pate en croute came from New York. It was made by Charles Chevillot, owner of La Petite Ferme, a favorite restaurant of Mrs. Mellon.

Last night all the food, "including the sugar cubes and the salt," came from New York. The caterer was Glorious Food, a firm that has done parties for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and impressed Mrs. Brown with an outdoor dinner at the Cloisters last summer.

"We wanted something that would be refined, yet could be served to a great number of people," Mrs. Brown said yesterday. "Our idea was to do a Saxon banquet for our guests from East Germany, but we couldn't execute one exactly or we all would have been throwing bones over our shoulders."

The final decision was to make the meal "a very American thing" and to serve the California wines as something unfamiliar but interesting to the Germans.

The New York catering team, 14 in all, arrived mid-afternoon in a van, a station wagon and a bus. It was almost 5 p.m. before the final cart, topped by a copper bowl and a whisk, disappeared into the underground service kitchen between the two galleries.

Glorious Food's head chef, 30-year-old Jean Claude Nedelec, who was born - appropriately enough - in Versailles, appeared calm. "The ovens are very efficient," he said. "But for this meal the cold dishes are more critical than the hot. So the worst is over Everything is here intact. Nothing melted.

"As museums go, this one is a luxury for us. Sometimes we make the meal out of closets. Here we have sinks and running water."

He feels no need to import food and wine from Europe, but had no opinion on Washington markets. "I don't know," he said. "I do my shopping in New York."