"Uh, yes, might I have one of those cute little things?"

"A quail egg, sir?"

"Why, yes. Of course. A quail egg."

Oh, my. Delicious.

For once a bit of culinary exotica that doesn't taste "just like chicken." Quail eggs overflowing with caviar were the big movers among the guests at Armand Hammer's bash at the National Gallery Saturday night. The trifle with whipped cream and candied bits of heaven went nearly untouched. As usual, when the elite meet to eat, they don't eat a hell of a lot. They mostly chat.

Here was Ambassador of the Soviet Union Anatoliy Dobrynin on Soviet-American relations: "The president is a representative of the American people and we view him as such. We hope in his second period, his second term, we'll have better relations."

Or Hammer on the Reagan administration's proposal to slash funding to the National Endowment for the Arts: "Maybe if we start to get on better with the Soviets we'll be able to spend more on the arts and less on guns."

And there was Beverly Sills, who touched nary a quail egg. She handled political questions well, but diet questions even better. One woman came up to Sills and said, "I see you're wearing Reagan red!"

"Reagan red?" Bubbles bubbled, "Honey, I just lost 70 pounds and I haven't been able to wear this dress for years! I found it in the back of the closet with the rest of my size 10s.

"When I was singing, it was a very athletic process. I was always fainting and falling down stairs in the operas. I had about $200,000 worth of costumes and I had to make sure they fit. But when I left and started running the opera, I started eating six meals a day."

For six months, Sills said, "I starved myself."

A waiter drifted by bearing an elegant concoction.

He widened his eyes and offered his tray.

Beverly Sills smiled.

"No, thank you," she said.