Society / Featured Parties

Houston’s Summer Soulstice Dinner Turns the Botanic Garden Into a Light and Food Wonderland

A Group Meditation Session Led by the Jung Center Director Makes For the Perfect Start to the Longest Day of the Year

BY // 07.28.22
photography Liz Silva

Fittingly, Houston’s own Summer Soulstice Dinner turned into an enlightening evening benefiting The Jung Center with culinary inspiration from Karuna’s Kitchen. This Jungian celebration of the longest day of the year at the Houston Botanic Garden was focused on light, liberation, life-affirming foods, livable knowledge, love and laughter.

Guests sipped mocktails before the Summer Soulstice Dinner.
Guests sipped mocktails at the Summer Soulstice Dinner. (Photo by Liz Silva)

Before dinner, guests strolled around the botanic garden while sipping nonalcoholic drinks. Two mocktails were served: a Mint Tulip (“tequila” made of mesquite smoke, black peppercorn, capsicum fruit and green bell pepper, with cucumber, mint and sparkling water), and a Twisted Ginger (Thirdborn ginger beer with lime, strawberry, prickly ash, toasted spices, stone fruit and black peppercorn).

The evening kicked off with a group meditation session led by Alejandro Chaoul, Ph.D., founder and director of The Jung Center’s Mind Body Spirit Institute. (Founded 1958, the Museum District institute adjacent to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston offers classes, consulting and professional training on meditation and mindfulness.)

Using a Tibetan dadar, a bamboo arrow with differently colored silks that represent the five elements, Chaoul asked party attendees to connect “from the outside to the inside,” focusing on waking up their life force and nourishing themselves with the elements. 

The meal provided by Karuna’s Kitchen was inspired by Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine that cleanses and restores balance to the body through diet, meditation and other types of care. Before dinner, chef Karuna Diedericks, the restaurant’s owner and an Ayurvedic practitioner, delivered a speech about the influence of the five elements on her food. She explained that the six primary tastes of Ayurveda — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent — were emphasized in the making of the meal. 

“Ayurveda focuses on how we eat and mindfulness while really experiencing the food,” Karuna Diedericks says.

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The chefs then served a delectable six-course meal of radicchio salad, roasted fennel and potato soup, vegan “crab cakes,” risotto and Dal Vada, Ayurvedic Thali, and a dessert of donut soft cakes with mango sweet cream. Surrounded by the Houston Botanic Garden’s plants, flowers and fountains, diners feasted on these delicious dishes and chatted as the sun slowly went down. 

With his guitar, synths and vocals, musician Bobby Levy provided an atmosphere of new age and folk tunes that fit with the themes of the night. 

“A lot of my songs have references to elemental appreciation and worship,” Levy says. “My music is a reminder that all the things that are outside of us are inside of us.” 

On their way out, guests were given goodie bags with spiced Lotus puffs and Chana Burfi made from chickpea flour, coconut oil and rose petals.

Karuna Diedericks and Antonio Manega
Karuna’s Kitchen’s Karuna Diedericks and Antonio Manega at the Summer Soulstice Dinner. (Photo by Liz Silva)

PC Seen: Jung Center board member Elaine Decanio, Mind Body Spirit Institute’s Robin Jump, Karuna’s Kitchen co-owner Antonio Manega, Houston Botanic Garden director of education Daniel Millikin, VP Connie Boyd, and board members Ruthie Lee Esene, Erika de la Garza, and Marcela Descalzi, plus Deborah and Jack LevyDr. Reagan FlowersRuthie Lee-EseneCrystal Collierand Shawn Weff.

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