Carmen Pelaez and her sister Ana Sofia traded up when they ended the New York chapter of their lives, moving from a two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn to a five-bedroom Spanish Colonial home in “the Grove.” But for these successful Miami-born sisters (Carmen, is a playwright and director; Ana Sofia, is a cookbook author), the move was also a homecoming and an embrace of their roots. “When we came back after living in New York for 22 years,” Carmen says, “we decided to say yes to everything, to experience every neighborhood like we’d never seen it before.” That starts with Coconut Grove, the lush enclave they now call home.
“Ariete has a very contemporary, game-heavy artisanal menu,” Ana Sofia says. “Chef Michael Beltran is Cuban-American. He was born and raised in Miami. He incorporates tropical ingredients into Cuban cuisine. He will take a traditional Cuban dish like tamal en cazuela and interpret it in a new way with spot-on French technique. A more recent addition that illustrates the point is the sofrito- wrapped guinea hen withfufú de platáno (plantain mash) and red pepper mojo.”
“Books & Books is an outpost of the Coral Gables flagship,” Ana Sofia says. “It has a café; a beautifully lit reading room; fiction; poetry; and a really strong cookbook section. I love that part of it.” Carmen adds: “They have every important Cuban author and also mainstream books. The last book I bought there was Ben Rhodes’s The World as It Is. The shop is a perfect representation of our community’s literary tastes.”
A Fine Vintage
“What I like about The Fashionista is that you find the best of every decade,” Carmen enthuses. “You can see everything from great Prada oxfords to an older Chanel purse. Consignment stores can be a little crusty, but this one isn’t. It’s curated very well. Whether I’m bored and just want to browse interesting things, or I need a little clutch or handbag, it’s always a nice place to walk through.”
“Coconut Grove is a lot of communities in one,” says Ana Sofia, “but everyone uses Coconut Grove Organic Market on Saturdays. Beyond the extensive produce area at this popular open-air farmer’s market, you’ll also find dried fruits, teas, spices, and raw vegan foods. There are great stands selling items like candles. It’s where the counterculture lives. Women will sell healing crystals and bless them for you.” To Carmen, “Coconut Grove was Brooklyn before Brooklyn was Brooklyn. I remember coming to the Grove as a child and it was always a little bohemian.
—By Drew Limsky