T’s Holiday Issue
The visual artist Nadia Lee Cohen hosted a candlelit gathering with eclectic floral arrangements and gelatin-bound table décor.
Salvador Dalí’s “Les Dîners de Gala” (1973) is one of the most interesting cookbooks I own. I’ve always wanted to do something based on it. For the dinner, I was picturing the Rothschild Ball [Guy and Marie Hélène de Rothschild’s 1972 Surrealist gala at the Château de Ferrières near Paris] meets [the 1999 Stanley Kubrick film] “Eyes Wide Shut”: a long table, lit by candlelight, with everyone dressed up and very soft music. I imagined all the courses on the table, similar to how they are presented in the [1989 Peter Greenaway] movie “The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.”
The dinner was at Flamingo Estate [an urban farm and apothecary in Eagle Rock in Los Angeles], which was the site of a successful porn studio from the 1950s to the ’80s. When the current owner, Richard Christiansen, was trying to buy it, the previous owner answered the door in a robe and leopard-print underwear every time he visited. So my outfit was a nod to him.
It was really hard to wrangle everyone to the table. We were an hour and a half late for dinner because everyone was lounging by the pool or crammed into the little bar area. Jake [Kale, of Cobra Lily Floral Design in Hollywood] arranged all these beautiful and bizarre flowers with butterflies feeding on them and laid the table with lotus pods, broken pomegranates, silver plumosa ferns and sickly Jell-O molds containing hard-boiled eggs and green olives. It was something Henry VIII would be proud of.
There are lots of personalities in my friend group. Sometimes when you put everyone together, it feels like the Mickey Mouse Club. I used to stress about who was coming to dinner — this person doesn’t get on with that person, that person doesn’t get on with this one — but now I just throw everyone into the pot.
The attendees: Nadia Lee Cohen, 30, and her boyfriend, the musician Josh Landau, a.k.a. Stolen Nova, 31; the photographer Charlotte Rutherford, 30; the designers Zizi Donohoe, 28, and Mimi Wade, 30; the makeup artists Sam Visser, 23, and Lilly Keys, 45; the gallery director Melahn Frierson, 35; the model Matisse Andrews, 28; the sister stylists Chloe Delgadillo, 31, and Chenelle Delgadillo, 29; the photographers Bryce Anderson, 21, and Millicent Hailes, 30; the artists Alia Penner, 36, and Jordan Wolfson, 42; the hair and wig dresser Sami Knight, 34; and the costume rental-shop manager Lee Ramstead, 71.
The food: Cohen asked Kat Turner of Los Angeles’s Highly Likely Café to create a menu inspired by Salvador Dalí’s “Les Dîners de Gala,” a collection of 136 grotesquely rendered recipes accompanied by lurid illustrations: Bush of Crayfish in Viking Herbs, for example, is a towering mountain of pink crustaceans interspersed with thickets of dill. Turner’s interpretations, however, were more appetizing. Using produce from Flamingo Estate and other local purveyors, she crafted a menu that featured Smallhold oyster mushrooms with za’atar, charred romanesco with beet tahini and saffron-roasted quail with Concord grapes. The poultry, Cohen says, resembled “tiny legs on a plate.”
The music: French jazz and bossa nova tracks, such as Serge Gainsbourg’s “Black Trombone” (1962) and Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s “The Girl From Ipanema” (1964), were part of a playlist curated by Landau.
The conversation: Whether the Hollywood Heights apartment from Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye” (1973) — inside a 100-foot-tall tower designed in the 1920s to resemble an Italian campanile — is up for rent; Huntington Beach’s annual corgi meet-up; why Pilates is the best exercise for lazy people; and a demonstration by Keys on the art of the French inhale.
This interview has been edited and condensed.