Plain Meaning of the Line

Wine and other spirits intrigue while Iman slightly disappoints

This past Saturday night, while many concerned themselves with extrapolation of The Da Vinci Code, The Bitch immersed herself in another canon from Rome similarly disparaged by the Vatican: Vogue Italia. A thorough decryption of the impressive June tome was made possible in the comfortable environment of D'Vino, a relatively new wine bar on the corner of Ponce de Leon Boulevard and Santander Avenue in Coral Gables.

Although the dog is an expert on the various hem lengths and hairstyles of Stella Tennant, she is no enophile — thus she's as happy with a double deuce served curbside as she is with a glass of Graff Riesling in Swarovski (which you can get at D'Vino for about ten dollars). Fortunately Sergio Velarde, owner of the two-story D'Vino, is more concerned with creating a sort of "third space" — the Starbucks concept of a neighborhood café where people go to hang out when not at home or office — than building snob appeal.

"Yes, that's exactly the idea," acknowledged Velarde — a handsome, compact, impeccably groomed man in a pressed, striped button-down unflecked by Merlot or Syrah — who moved to Miami from Houston in March to launch the second wine-and-chill café. (The original, the Wine Bucket, is an Enron-town fixture run by Sergio's brother and was voted Best Place to Have a Drink Alone in 2003 by the Houston Press.) "This is intended to be a very relaxed environment where people come, regularly by habit, to relax and maybe meet friends, maybe read a book."

Artwork and alcohol at D'Vino prompted thoughts of descending a staircase
Midnite Communications
Artwork and alcohol at D'Vino prompted thoughts of descending a staircase
Iman didn't appreciate Captain Kirk mackin' on her
Lyssa Oberkreser
Iman didn't appreciate Captain Kirk mackin' on her

Velarde said he expects business to build slowly, as people trickle down Ponce de Leon when Houston's is too packed or Uva too intimidating. Such steadfastness has already proved a sound psychological policy.

When D'Vino opened with a block party in April, Gables City Manager David Brown passed by and bantered with the Velarde family and guests about the city's complicated permit process. "I'm guessing you had an easy time with the building inspector and the license office," joked the silver-haired Brown, earning a few nervous chuckles.

In fact the Velardes learned, upon securing the one license allowing D'Vino to dispense wine by the glass, that an entirely different, exceedingly difficult-to-obtain set of paperwork was necessary to sell bottles. Then there was the license required to serve food. (Snacks prepared by a caterer offsite and served in "small-bite" portions circumvent this technicality for the time being.)

D'Vino does offer another benefit. Robert Burr, who leads walking-and-snacking tours of Coral Gables and distributes an e-mail bulletin about city happenings, revealed the following: "You can park anywhere around here, on a side street, in a parking garage, or wherever, and take Coral Gables Trolley to and from your car. Or, if you live across U.S. 1 in Coconut Grove, you can take the Coconut Grove connector and then pick up the trolley, and you don't have to worry about driving at all."

Now that's news The Bitch can use.

There Is a Loa: The Second Thrilling Chapter

On a surprisingly breezy Thursday evening, The Bitch felt the hairs under her collar bristle as the loas — the vodou apparitions that roam the isle of Hispaniola and the 2100 block of Biscayne Boulevard — floated across the water to the Bass Museum of Art's preview party for "Haitian Spirits," a two-month-long exhibit featuring Edouard Duval-Carrié's amazing Vodou Pantheon as well as works by other contemporary Haitian artists inspired by one of the world's most misunderstood religions.

The evening began inside the museum's first-floor salon, where four musicians from the New World Symphony performed selections by Haitian composers Werner Jaegerhuber, Robert Duval, and Joseph Boulogne-Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Following the intimate concerto, The Bitch shook off the urge to bite into a wine glass à la The Serpent and the Rainbow and sauntered to an adjacent room, where she encountered an eclectic mix of guests including the museum's regular supporters, Little Haiti business leaders, and assorted professional event-goers enjoying free libations provided by Belvedere vodka and Mot & Chandon champagne. The crowd then gathered in the museum's courtyard, where vodou priest and roots musician Erol Josué, decked out in ceremonial robes, gave a spirit-rousing performance.

But the real star of the evening was Duval-Carrié, whose charismatic persona and physical appearance are eerily similar to the world's most deconstructed surrealist, Salvador Dali. "Edouard paints and sculpts on a much grander scale than other Haitian artists," noted Gary Excellent, president of DBS Financial Group, a Fort Lauderdale-based insurance and financial services company. "His work is magnificent."

The oft-zombified canine found it difficult to argue with Excellent's assessment. Vodou Pantheon is a mixed-media installation consisting of four paintings and a collection of intricate and intimidating bronze heads depicting the artist's interpretation of the loas. The paintings represent the spirits in human form, including Baron Samedi, the skull-faced, top-hatted chief who commands the spirits of the dead. He moves from Haiti to other parts of the world, from the time of slavery to the present.

Duval-Carrié's work retraces those spirits' voyages from their West African homeland to the Caribbean and subsequently to South Florida. "It's about re-creating, in a forceful manner, the tragedy of the slave trade," the artist explained.

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