Stars Align at Virgo Rising
For more than a century, the Schindler House on King’s Road in West Hollywood has stood as a landmark of Modern California architecture, redefining notions of public and private, blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor, and playing host to artists boldly interrogating their foundations of their disciplines. Viennese emigré R.M. Schindler designed the house as a cooperative dwelling for two young couples – he and his wife Sophie Pauline, as well as Pauline’s Smith College classmate Marian Chace and her husband Clyde, a building contractor - with four multifunctional studios ripe for creative expression, organized in an egalitarian pinwheel layout. That same ethos of iconoclasm, intentionality, and community was clear at Virgo Rising, a celebration with friends and supporters of the MAK Center that challenged the expectations of a museum gala. A constellation of rising star chefs collaborated on an unforgettable multi-course menu showcasing the Golden State’s late summer bounty and a convergence of culinary traditions across the Southern California restaurant scene.
Sandy Ho, the chef and food stylist behind the playfully nostalgic Sandita’s World, welcomed guests on the Schindler patio with passed canapes, artfully introducing south and east Asian ingredients to Mexican and Mediterranean bites. Tomato tostadas, using her signature rainbow tortillas, supported a symphony of sungolds and heirlooms that had been tossed with chopped peanuts and chiles, then finished with a dollop of cashew crema and a hint of lime; oysters on the half shell had been awakened with pickle juice and briney ikura, then rounded out with a few drops of scallion oil and a green herb salsa, to name just a couple.
As guests sipped on white Manhattans made with Japanese whiskey and A Few Good Things, a nonalcoholic aperitivo blending Aplós Calme with fresh lime, cucumber, and mint, a crooning beckoned them through sliding doors to the Chace Patio, where interdisciplinary gospel immortalist Tyler Matthew Oyer offered an intimate performance. Decked out in a flowing black cape embroidered with the evening’s eponymous constellation, their alluringly eerie song reverberating across the house was - according to MAK Center director Jia Yi Gu - “exactly what Schindler would have wanted.”
The sun began to set as the crowd made their way to an adjacent garden, taking their seats at tables that snaked around the yard and sunken ivy bed. Gerardo González, a California-born chef who has made a name for himself with delightfully eccentric and often plant-forward cooking, served a crudo of smoked amberjack and cured shrimp. Paired with hominy, purslane, gigante bean puree and tomatillo, the dish was an exercise in contrasts, epitomizing the refreshing, flavor-forward maximalism he championed at El Rey and Lalito. Three wood-fired dishes by chef Balo Orozco included ribeye with salsa macha, whole trout with burnt pickles and tomatoes, and mole-spiced sunchokes with sweet potato miso aioli; all demonstrated a remarkable command of the open-fire cooking method he first became known for at Hartwood.
While guests passed family style platters, serving neighbors and new friends, Gu took a moment to thank the crowd, whose ticket proceeds directly supported the MAK Center’s annual calendar of exhibitions and free programming: “Art and architecture is what our civilization needs to survive. They are records of our history, and it is our job, as an institution, to keep these records safe, to bring this house and its artistic spirit into the future.” Tucking into these dishes, all expertly prepared using some of the most ancient and humble tools and techniques, one could taste the conversation between generations past and present. “Your gift is for the next generation that can steward the house into futurity, for a generation we may never know but who will come to know us by the work we do today, tomorrow, and in the years to come. The Schindler House belongs to people we haven't met yet, and it is an incredible privilege to imagine who these people might be and what we might leave behind for them to discover – just as we have all discovered the Schindler House – ourselves – in our own ways – as a site for avant garde thinking and artistic experimentation.”
Dessert embodied that very mindset, starting with jewel-like vegan vanilla strawberry and tortilla chocolate paletas from chef Malcolm Livingston II of August Novelties. Dreamy citrus chiffon cakes by chef Sasha Piligian likewise revealed a respect for traditional techniques alongside a progressive approach to flavor and decoration. Layer cakes of all shapes finished with ripe fruit and wild botanicals were passed among the tables, and guests served each other thick yet ethereally light slices, layering meyer lemon olive oil curd with whipped labneh, nectarine jam, and delicate shiso. As guests gradually began to peel away, I noticed how many took time to thank their tablemates, in many cases exchanging info. A one of a kind meal was now behind them, but the underlying spirit of collaboration permeated the night air; much like Gu had remarked, I couldn’t help but think it was exactly what Schindler would have wanted.
Presented by MAK Center
Food: Sandy Ho, Gerardo González, Balo Orozco, Malcolm Livingston II, Sasha Piligian
Performance: Tyler Matthew Oyer
Bar: Aplós, Astral Tequila
Wine: Vivanterre, Lorenza, Piper-Heidsieck
Purveyors: Weiser Family Farms, Tehachapi Grain Project, Cream Co. Meats
Special thanks to Angelica Fuentes, Maeve Atkinson, Seymour Polatin, Brian Taylor, Jacquline Young, Yudi Velasquez, Maria Kuraeva, Audrey Wang, Frank Escher and Ravi Gune Wardena, Barbara Bestor, Warren Techentin, Meredith Baer, Pamela Shamshiri, David Montalba