Four-Course Stable

How does the thought of dinner with a horse grab you? Not dinner made from a horse but eating your meal, drinking your drinks, right next to an enormous whinnying animal. If you're appalled by that idea and think of yourself as more of an ecology-minded type, then how about chowing while surrounded by yards of corrugated cardboard or engulfed by thousands of orchids?

Yet another gimmicky new restaurant hasn't thrown open its doors on South Beach. Those dining options and 68 more will be available at a splashy event called Dining by Design. Seventy of South Florida's hottest designers, architects, and artists -- including Holly Hunt, Alison Spear, Juan Carlos Arcila-Duque, and Charles Aber -- have been given what every creative type dreams of: artistic license and, in designer Diane Joyce's words, "unlimited imagination" to devise more than just table settings in a ten-by-ten-foot space. They've been charged with the task of making "dining environments," component parts of which will be auctioned off that same evening, after dinner, naturally. (Don't count on cutting a bargain deal, however: One environment is supposed to incorporate a vintage Rolls Royce!) It's all being done to benefit the national organization Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) and four Miami charities: Care Resource, Dade Community Foundation's South Florida Community AIDS Partnership, the Episcopal AIDS Ministry, and Food for Life Network.

But back to the horse. Diane Joyce dreamed up a presentation with a Grecian theme and titled it Oedipus Complex. A pavilion will house a stone table, carved marble columns, and the horse, of course. A former show horse named Center Court, he belongs to Joyce, meaning he won't be for sale. Sorry. On top of him will sit a woman and a young man posing as her son. "We thought that having some live activity, along with all the rest of it, would make things more interesting," Joyce explains. That live activity will only be around for the cocktail hour, a relief to some. If indeed the equine creature needs to relieve himself, provisions have been made. "Those things happen," Joyce notes. "It's not like you can house train a horse. If something happens, we'll scoop it up and whisk it away!"

Not all the displays promise to be quite so flamboyant or possibly fragrant. Yamir B. Perez of for Delgreco & Company put together a tranquil midnight dinner. He describes a twelve-by-twelve-foot backlit photograph of the ocean and a full moon that will reflect on tabletops filled with water, placed in an outdoor gazebolike setting. "You're going to be able to touch the water," Perez says. "As you move or touch the table, the water will ripple, so the plates look like they're floating and you're eating off the water. It's all very calming and romantic." And fortunately, no hay is required!