Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vizcaya: A Venetian Night Under the Stars

by Dwight Casimere

Miami’s Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is one of the most breathtaking venues in the country. The legacy of agricultural industrialist James Deering, it is an exact replica of a Venetian Castle with lavish gardens and a canal complete with footbridges and gondola docking poles that would be right at home under the Bridge of Sighs. Built in 1916, in remains one of the historic and architectural monuments to luxury and Italian Renaissance Art.

The Vizcayans, the not for profit foundation which oversees the preservation and operation of the Museum & Grounds held its 13th Annual Evening Under the Stars, a food, wine and entertainment extravaganza that is a fundraiser for their continuing School, Youth and Family Programs. Nearly a dozen of Miami’s finest gourmet restaurants, wine purveyors such as Volteo wines of Spain, and spirits, represented by the House of Bacardi, which maintains its American headquarters in Coral Gables, afforded an unprecedented opportunity to tour the main house and grounds and revel in the luxurious surroundings. A nearly perfect spring night afforded the appropriate ‘kiss from the Roman Gods’ that made the night a treasure.

Chefs from the Epic’s Area 31, El Scorpion, Gibraltar at Grove Isle, another exquisite venue in Coconut Grove, Mercandito, RED, South Beach’s acclaimed new wave steak house, Sugarcane, Wish at The Hotel and the Palme d’Or, the award-winning top-rated French fine-dining restaurant at The Biltmore, all worked feverishly throughout the night preparing gourmet goodies. Their efforts were especially challenged by the uniqueness of the venue, which has no available kitchen facilities. Yet, the chefs were able to provide such specialties as hand-rolled sushi, duck confit crepe and grilled stuffed poblano peppers. A particular hit were the handmade strawberry crepes made to order by the master chefs of the Crepemaker. The deft artistry of the crepe makers attracted lines the stretched across the waterfront palazzo of the Vicaya Main House.

Inside, a fabulous silent auction featured bidding on luxury cruises, hotel suite weekend packages and gourmet dining experiences from local five-star venues.

The Vizcaya regularly offers tours for individuals and groups. A minimum of ten students is required to qualify for group rates and visits must be booked at least three weeks in advance to be eligible for a volunteer guided tour. A word of caution, the grounds and walking paths of Vizcaya Museum and Gardens present quite a challenge for the ladies in heels and not all areas are wheelchair accessible or support visual or hearing impairments. Otherwise, a visit to Vizcaya is an incomparable experience. I attended and photographed a wedding there a few years ago, and even with the occurrence of persistent showers, it was still a breathtaking experience. For information, visit

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