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Hara Viner | Gift-basket guru

"I literally dream up my designs," Hara Viner says. Nocturnal inspiration must help when your job is to take abstract subjects, such as painting or literature, and turn them into gift baskets. In previous careers, Viner has been a constitutional lawyer and a neuroscience researcher; now she uses her formidable intellect to assemble esoteric ingredients for her Manhattan company, Food As Art. As a gift for a Rothko expert, for instance, Viner alluded to the artist's color-field canvases with products in citrus hues, such as blood-orange-infused oil, preserved lemons and heirloom eggplants; a basket inspired by Stendhal's novel The Red and the Black held roasted red peppers and inky 50-year-old balsamic vinegar. She is currently putting together edible representations of opera and DNA. No matter the subject, she always waits at least a day before getting down to work: "I tell all my clients, 'Let me sleep on it'" (baskets $200 to $1,000 each; 212-585-0670).

Published December 1999


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