Friday, May 18, 2007

Vizcaya! Secada!

Last night at 6, we piled into a shuttle bus with a bunch of conventioneers and set out for an evening of having people be really nice to us.

The location: Vizcaya, a 1915-era Italianate villa (yes, another one) built to be the winter home of an industrial magnate. As most rich people did at the time, he went to Europe, found old stuff he liked (chunks of churches, 16th-century doors, etc) and glued it all together. I'm sure I would have done the same.

The house itself is a fascinating blend of the old stolen stuff and new-fangled implementations (central heating--which doubtless came in real useful in Miami--refrigeration, central vacuuming system).

And the grounds are beyond cool; long, rambling walkways and steps carved from coral and hidden benches and lodges with murals and statues, statues, statues.

The design is such that the view in any direction is perfectly framed, inviting the visitor to go just a little further. I assume the designer's descendents are creating incredibly browsable websites; it had that feel of leading the user down a path of engagement. But with hedge mazes and orchids.

Of course, the whole experience was greatly enhanced by the waiters bearing trays of kir royale, the generous wrists of the guys at the open bar, and the cheerful waitrons stopping by with hors d'oeuvres: red pepper mousse on tiny crackers; mini lobster hot dogs with wasabi-infused roe; lobster empanadas; coconut-encrusted chicken with mango salsa; cucumber cups with tuna tartare ...

And then dinner, which was not quite as interesting: a too-huge chunk of Bibb lettuce with some very mild feta cheese and a slice of grapefruit, followed by panfried sea bass and filet mignon (on the same plate, the two tastes not really going great together). Dessert was nouveau-smartychef: a shot glass of chocolate mousse, an individual flourless chocolate cake, and a "lollipop" of vanilla ice-cream coated in coconut (this last was accompanied by a raspberry sauce that made me think of childhood 99 ice-cream cones from the truck in summer ...)

And then, ladies and gentlemen, two-time Grammy Award-winner Jon Secada! I have to admit, the guy can sing. It was just him at a keyboard, plus a couple of backup guys, and he was flawless. But soul-jazz ballads are just not my style. So The Boy and I grabbed a couple of fresh glasses of wine and wandered out to a small stone pagoda on the water, and sat on coral steps and watched the distant lights across Biscayne Bay.



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