THE MOVING company will move out most of the furniture tomorrow night. The chandeliers will have to be tied up to get them out of the way.
By Tuesday at 6 p.m., 80 beige cloth-covered round tables, with antique Chinese centerpieces, loaned by hotelier Marshall Coyne, set with red napkins, forks, knives, spoons, wooden chopsticks, glasses for plum wine, Mao Tai and a choice of Chinese beer, Chinese wine or Chinese mineral water are supposed to be in place. So are 80 of Ridgewell's waiters, 20 in each of four kitchens, carved out of the four corners of what until Monday night will be the furniture department at Bloomingdale's White Flint store.
Then, for one glamorous night, hitech shelving, Oriental chests and reproductions of English antiques will give way to a black-tie Chinese banquet, catered by 'germaine's restaurant, for 800 of the store's "best friends."
Another 120 store executives will be fed "approximately the same meal" in a not-quite-so-coveted location, the Provence restaurant, on the other side of the fourth floor. But everyone will rub shoulders on the second floor for cocktails where vegetable and shrimp tempura (rechristened Chinese fritters) will be cooked amongst the cosmetics, handbags, jewelry and men's clothing.
Hopefully the oil won't smoke. And hopefully the Japanese won't mind tempura being served at the preview of an exhibition of ceremonial robes of the Chinese Imperial Court and the storewide promotion of goods from the People's Republic of China from mineral water to hats; from tree ears to fabrics.
Ridgewell's is doing the tempura. Germaine is preparing the shrimp crackers and paper chicken, pieces of chicken, wrapped in paper thin dough, deep-fried, served with a soy-ginger sauce.
As the guests make their way to the instant dining room Tuesday evening, who among them will stop to consider what went into this occasion? It is said to be costing the store and Mobil, which is co-hosting the dinner as well as underwriting the exhibition of the robs, $50,000 just for the food, drink, rentals and service. Add to that the moving company, the flowers, the invitations, the music. Then multiply by the gala previews taking place in all of Bloomingdale's other branches. All told, Bloomingdale's will entertain 6,000 people.
The logistics of moving food for almost 1,000 people from Germaine's in Georgetown, where it is being prepared. to Ridgewell's in Bethesda, where it is being refrigerated, to Bloomingdale's in White Flint, where it will be served, has required charts and floor plans and work sheets and hours and hours of consultation.
A recent tasting of the meal was an eye-opener. There were 10 people present at lunch, from Mobil, Bloomingdale's, Ridgewell's -- and Germaine herself.
Before anyone sat down there was a lengthy discussion about having a goblet on the table for wine, beer or mineral water. Would it be in the way of the serving dishes which would be placed in the center of the table after the waiters had passed them? Would the guests knock them over reaching for seconds? On the other hand, since a spicy first course of Dan Dan noodles was being served, wouldn't the guests need something to drink right away, without having to ask the waiter? The idea of reducing the spiciness of the noodles in sesame paste was discarded because they "wouldn't be authentic," but the possibility of a lot of guests with their mouths on fire won the day. The goblets stayed.
The next problem concerned the noodles, which are served at room temperature. If they were to be on the service plate, where would the napkin go? That was settled fairly quickly. The napkin would go into the goblet, but the napkin would have to be slightly starched.
That left a problem with the fans that are to be favors for each guest. If the noodles are on the service plate and the napkins are in the glass, the fans would just have to lean against the goblet.
Salt and pepper shakers were dispensed with after the guests tasted the spicy Sichuan Beef, Cantonese Style Pork with Oyster Sauce and Glazed Chicken and decided there was plenty of seasoning in the food.
But should the steamed rice, which for some reason never made it to the table, be served first, along with the chicken, or should the pork and beef be served first? Or should the rice be served with the beef, or the beef with the chicken? The chicken and rice won.
The glazed ginger was also missing: Germaine didn't have time to make it because they changed the location of the tasting from her restaurant to Ridgewell's only hours before the meal was to be served. She didn't have time to make one of the desserts, either -- sweet mung bean cakes with coconut or sesame seeds. But she did make the sesame seed steamed buns (which are also fried). Everyone was surprised to find how good they were. Most Americans haven't had much contact with Chinese sweets beyond almond or fortune cookies.
"They're wonderful," said one of the guests. "They're like donuts."