THE HUNDREDS of Soviet summiteers staying at the Madison Hotel last week ravenously ate the buffets presented for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the hotel reported, and didn't ask for borscht or anything that reminded them of home.
In fact, the only thing they asked for was a chance to try that all-American favorite, pizza, which the Madison obligingly made in its haute-continental kitchen.
LESS IS MORE OFTEN --
A decade ago restaurateur Alex Inglese of the now-defunct Alexander's III restaurant in Rosslyn figured that people wanted small portions, so he offered a choice on his menu. Diners could opt for normal entrees or "petite portions." Clearly he was ahead of his time, for in the last couple of months I have found at least three Washington restaurants offering the choice of small or large portions from their entree list.
The difference is that nowadays choosing small portions doesn't necessarily mean the diner wants to eat less; more likely he wants to graze -- to taste more things. Samplings and Flutes offer only small portions -- midway between appetizer and entree sizes. Tony & Joe's gives the choice of appetizer or main-dish sizes of its fried squid and smelts; Fedora and the River Club offer their entrees as normal or small portions; and at lunch the New Orleans Emporium allows the option of ordering tasting sizes rather than whole entrees. Some restaurants are offering small-portion options of dessert, too. Fedora lists the "World's Smallest Hot Fudge Sundae" along with its regular desserts. Then there are the restaurants that don't offer the choice, but just serve everything in skimpy amounts and excuse it as nouvelle cuisine.
FRUITY AS A NUTCAKE --
I'm pretty wary of fruitcakes, and in particular have never understood the charm of candied cherries and bright green citron. At last there is a fruitcake that could convert me to an addict. It is called California Fruitcake. It contains none of that super-sweet candied stuff. It is mostly apricots and pineapple, with some dried peaches, pears and raisins, and plenty of walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, bound together by the slightest bit of cake and drenched with Grand Marnier. It is made locally by Swan Caterers, who also make more traditional fruitcakes and other eccentric versions such as cranberry-orange, pumpkin, chocolate and pineapple-macadamia. It can be ordered for $29.95 (2 1/2 pounds) to $39.95 (5 pounds); the other fruitcakes range from $11.95 to $34.95. They're at 1532 U St. NW. Call 328-SWAN.
CHOCOLATE WATCH --
On the subject of particularly delicious versions of holiday treats, check out Chocolate Moose, the funky gift store on the corner of 18th and M streets NW. It is selling Gartner chocolates from Belgium -- at the breathtaking price of $32 a pound. While all the Gartner chocolates are good, not all are good enough to warrant that price. The ones that are worth the extravagance -- about $1 per chocolate -- are those with fresh-cream fillings. Made by a generations-old family-secret process, these fluffy creamy fillings taste truly like sheer whipped cream, flavored with the likes of almond crisp, marzipan, fruits, coffee, caramel and walnuts. The chocolate itself is fine, but with that whipped, flavored fresh cream -- containing no egg whites or butter to firm it -- the combination is sensational. Just make sure to keep the fresh-cream chocolates refrigerated, and consume them soon (which shouldn't really be a problem).