AT CHRISTMAS I think of "Nutcracker Suite" by Tchaikovsky and caviar, both of which, of course, are Russian. So just in time, we are being promised a new Russian restaurant.

Zlatan "Louie" Stamenich, who was the original owner of Georgetown's Jour et Nuit and the two Serbian Crown restaurants, is about to open two Russian restaurants called, predictably enough, the Russian Crown. The first will be at 10700 Park Ridge Blvd. in Reston ("I'm hoping before Christmas," says Stamenich), the second at 790 Station St., Herndon, sometime next year.

Stamenich promises they will serve hot and cold borscht, zakuska, holubki, pirogi, several kinds of kulebiaka, Ukrainian- and Caspian-style seafood, Russian-style meats and more, with dinner entrees in the $10 to $20 range.

Will there be caviar? "Oh, yes, absolutely," Stamenich says, and also flavored vodkas.

MORRISON-CLARK INN has a new chef, Susan McCreight Lindeborg, most recently the pastry chef at 21 Federal, and before that the chef of Les Trois in Madison, Wis. She's gradually introducing her own dishes as nightly specials, but after January look for a complete menu of Lindeborg's specialties such as caramelized sweetbread and onion tart, rabbit and black walnut terrine, sauteed veal with sauternes and anise, lamb with balsamic vinegar and thyme, and duck with confit of onions and lemon bourbon sauce.

GAS STATIONS have been known to give discounts for cash, and now the Georgetown Cafe is doing something similar. It is charging 5 percent extra for credit card charges.

In another sign of the tight-cash times: At the end of the day I stopped into a new, very elegant and expensive pastry shop and ordered just over $11 worth of goods. The shop didn't take credit cards. When I paid with a $20 bill, the clerk asked, "Don't you have anything smaller?"

FORGET THE FLIGHT to Paris. You can now take cooking lessons from the instructors of La Varenne, Ann Willan's famed Parisian cooking school. Willan and a chef or two from her headquarters in France will be installed at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., between Feb. 24 and May 3 to teach both five-day and eight-week courses.

Five-day Sunday-through-Friday courses -- including the Greenbrier's luxurious accommodations and two meals a day, a spa treatment, golf, tennis, afternoon tea and concert, swimming and other activities -- will cost $1,300 per person. Courses will cover wine selection, menu preparation, pastry techniques and French cooking techniques from bistro to haute. For more information, call Martha Holmberg, coordinator of the cooking school, at 800/624-6070.

Phyllis C. Richman's restaurant reviews appear Sundays in The Washington Post Magazine.