WHEN the stock market went ballistic last week, a visitor to the Harlequin Bar didn't need to read the financial pages or hear the evening news to observe the effect on stockbrokers.
''You should have seen them scramble for eggs,'' reported the commodities trader from the Chicago Board of Trade.
Indeed, caviar sales brought smiles to the bean counters of the Mandarin's food and beverage department. A whopping 350 grams of sturgeon eggs were sold last week, a decent 25 per cent increase over the weekly average.
TALK about pressure. China is getting anxious to see more of its wines appear in wine shops as well as supermarket chains and Chinese restaurants.
''I'm happy to sell Chinese wines if they're good quality wines, not because they're Chinese'' has been Diane Boulton's stock reply.
But the retailer decided to check up on China's progress and judge some of the mainland's wines according to the standard.
''Chinese wine is not in high demand by consumers here,'' she reported. ''Only Western tourists ask for it.'' She invited wine writers John Parker and Richard Lawrence and wine distributor Annette Pocklington to an informal tasting at Pacific Wine Cellars.
Nine wines currently available in local supermarkets and department stores were tasted. The consensus was: they're improving. In terms of retail prices Yoahan offered prices lower than Park n'Shop, OK Stores and Daimaru.
The best white in terms of taste and value was the Huadong Tsingtao Chardonnay '91. It retails around $126.
Of the two reds, the group found the Changyu Cabernet, which retails around $78, ''drinkable''.
WITH the holiday baking frenzy around the corner, Patricia Moussempes is bracing herself for Christmas.
Slated for November and December are classes in cake decorating for beginners and Christmas fruitcake, ginger-bread houses and holiday cookies. Prices vary; so do dates and times. For more information contact Baker's Dozen at 826-9283. Fax: 887-3094.
CHEF and native French speaker Evelyn Gaillard announces her 10-day culinary tours of France. Dine in multi-star restaurants (Lasserre, Les Ambassadeurs, Grand Vefour), sip through the vineyards of Burgundy and Champagne, shop in flea markets and attend cooking demonstrations.
Tour dates this year are November 20 and December 11. For more information contact Evelyn at 574-7192.
TALES of Marco Polo and the Silk Road sent chef Frank Cramme to the library. The cuisines of Italy, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and China came under his magnifying glass.
Pick and choose the cuisines to match your budget: a three or two-course luncheon at Pierrot in the Mandarin goes for $315 and $285 respectively. The promotion runs to November 14.