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'snews 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.

Haitian Cultural Alliance president Mireille Chancy-Gonzalez informed The Bitch her organization collaborated with the Bass to present the exhibit. After all, Chancy-Gonzalez noted, May is Haitian Heritage Month. And it was no coincidence the preview soiree was held the day Haiti celebrates its independence. "What better way to celebrate Haitian Flag Day than with a cocktail party?" Chancy-Gonzalez remarked. "It also gives the Bass the opportunity to have different people from the community visit the museum."


She Is Legend

The Bitch didn't learn to find trouble on the Internet by herself; she's too lazy by half and not all that clever. However, some full moons ago, a keen-minded news researcher with a soft voice and a kind heart took the rowdy pup and many more young curs under her wing to learn 'em the ways of the wire. The Bitch still remembers the 1996 seminar taught by this mighty mouse jockey, Liz Donovan, in the lobby of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, a forum about designing Web portals and Intranets attended by research luminaries Sammy Alzofon of the Palm Beach Post and John Martinof the St. Petersburg Times.

So The Bitch was saddened to learn that Donovan, who broke ground in another online pursuit — blogging — had posted her last for the Miami Herald. Donovan was Bob Woodward's and Carl Bernstein's dedicated researcher at the Washington Postduring Watergate, back when critical documents were annoyingly kept on paper and ensconced in courthouses and basements. She moved to the Aqua Lady in May 1981. An unfailingly generous, technologically prescient character with a subtle sense of humor, Donovan was the newsroom bulwark when, as ancient scrolls indicate, the Herald was a great paper.

In 2000 Donovan launched a precocious bloglike site for house research-related data. "I was always wanting to show links, and it just seemed more efficient. Later I sort of resuscitated it as a blog," she says. "I wasn't the first blogger in Miami, but there wasn't much before me."

Her Herald blog (blogs.herald.com/infomaniac) began as a deep resource clearing-house for online-database and Miami-news addicts. She has also done research — which involves digging up addresses, phone numbers, and beaucoup background — for the daily newspaper and for authors including Carl Hiaasen, Guy Gugliotta, and Andrés Oppenheimer.

Donovan, who says she's "old enough to collect Social Security in a year," retired from the Heraldin September 2004 but continued to work part-time for the newspaper from her home near Chattanooga. But then the paper ended her contract. "If I'm going to be divorced from the Herald, it has to be complete," she comments.

She'll continue her personal blog (newsresearch.blogspot.com). On the final Herald posting, she wrote, "Miami will stay in my blood for a long, long time."


Your Hair Is Beautiful

Celebrities, like dwarves, run rampant in our city, so it takes a major sighting to dislodge The Bitch from the dessert case at Fresh Market. But a recent dinner at the Setai with fashion icon/wife of The Lodger Iman persuaded the hound to forgo the cannoli and use the salad fork.

When the long-neck Somalian strode over to the poolside area where The Bitch was busily lapping white wine from a crystal bowl, conversation came to a screeching halt. But introductions were made and Iman joined in chitchat about the incredible rate of construction in Miami ("Who is going to live in all of those condos?") and cooed about how much she loves living in New York ("Everything you want is right outside your door."). Iman also dished about Blackberry-throwing Naomi Campbell's upcoming party in Dubai.

Just sitting next to Iman, The Bitch felt a transference of fabulousness but, sadly, not melanin. When asked about her onscreen dalliances with Captain Kirk, Iman purred, "Oh, I will go to my grave and all they will say is: 'She was in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.' And William Shatner is a bad kisser." And what about her true love? "David is doing really well. He's working on a film and putting together [the High Line] music festival in New York."

After a selection of vegetarian and seafood hors d'oeuvres and an animal-friendly dinner, Iman made a brief introduction to the new elements of her makeup line, during which time she used The Bitch's pale, furry forequarters as a sort of podium. But delight quickly turned to disdain when Iman revealed that her ten-year-old cosmetics company had recently been sold to Procter & Gamble: "Yes, I also married a sugar daddy!" she laughed as The Bitch choked on her fiddlehead ferns. A moon-and-stars logo doesn't make a company Satanic, but experimenting on bunnies, canines, and monkeys with chemicals and pesticides does.

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