Question: The Painted Table in Seattle serves a terrific Salad Nicoise. The sauce is my favorite, and I would like to be able to duplicate it at home.

- Martha Dobson,Anchorage, Alaska

Answer: Seattle's Space Needle, a timeless symbol of the 1962 World's Fair, is reigning over the Emerald City's Countdown to 2000. Typically, New Year's at the Needle, a West Coast tradition, is a combination of three exclusive indoor parties, one massive outdoor gala, and the midnight spectacular, which transforms the Needle into a 605-foot-tall "Roman candle" with a musically enhanced, four-minute fireworks show.

As the Needle ushers in the new millennium, the Observation Deck Clock - a recently installed wall-mounted display featuring a digital clock - is counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the year 2000. The display, which will be in place until Jan. 1, 2000, also includes a reader board to provide news and information.

Although a group of Northwest families, known as The 2000 Group, has rented the interior levels of the Space Needle for a private party on Dec. 31, 1999, all is not lost. The Space Needle still plans to host its fireworks show and massive outdoor celebration for Seattle residents and visitors to the city. And millennium purists may opt to rent the tower for Dec. 31, 2000.

Taking the "Best Elevator Ride in Seattle" up to the 360-degree view-deck is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many people. What goes up has to come down - and you will at 10 mph, 14 feet per second, 800 feet per minute, or as fast as a parachutist falls to earth.

Cap off the day's adventure in the colorful ambience of The Painted Table, a downtown restaurant noted for excellent cuisine and showy, masterful presentation.

*****

Recipe

NICOISE WITH TUNA AND SAUCE GRIBICHE

Sauce Gribiche:

5 soft poached eggs (tender whites with soft, runny yolks)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon capers

1 teaspoon chives, minced

2 teaspoons shallots, minced

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Vegetables:

2 to 4 quarts water

6 medium Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups fresh whole green beans (canned whole or French-cut green beans may be substituted)

Salad:

4 cups lettuce (baby lettuces or field greens)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Tuna:

4 (5-ounce) tuna steaks (or 20 ounces water-packed canned tuna, well-drained)

Garnish:

1/4 cup Nicoise olives

1 pint cherry tomatoes

Sauce Gribiche: Place poached eggs in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in lemon juice, Dijon mustard, capers, chives, shallots, olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Vegetables: Fill a 2- to 4-quart pot with water. Add potatoes. Add salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, cover and boil potatoes 15 to 20 minutes or until a knife slips into the flesh easily. Lift from water using a spatula or slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain. Blanch fresh green beans in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain beans and chill in ice bath and set aside.

Salad: Place lettuce in large mixing bowl. Set aside. In small mixing bowl, combine lemon juice and olive oil, whisking until well blended. Drizzle oil mixture over lettuces and toss to mix.

Tuna: Grill or pan saute tuna steaks 1 minute per side (or drain canned tuna).

Assembly and Garnish: Slice potatoes. Place potatoes in Sauce Gribiche and toss to coat. Divide potatoes equally among four plates, stacking neatly. Arrange tossed lettuce - 1 cup per person - balanced against the potatoes on plate. Place tuna around the lettuce. Add green beans, olives and tomatoes, arranged as you like. Serves 4.