Category

Florida Finds

ONE on ONE

by Mayi de la Vega

Ice Cream Social

By | Dining, Florida Finds

Cool treats are one of the benefits of living in a city with year-round summertime bliss.

Now that my grandbabies are out of school and summer is about to set in, I love to spoil them with a trip to the ice cream parlor. This is the very activity that grandparents are made for. Miami has always had its share of ice cream shops, but choices have really ballooned over the last five years. Here are some of my new and old favorites to savor one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Newcomer Salt & Straw is making the biggest splash for its handcrafted, small-batch gourmet flavors. The Oregon import already opened two locations here in Wynwood and Coconut Grove. They get very creative in product development; one of their June flavors is called “Smile: Words & Pictures.” Kids will love it, but they’ll probably go for “Goosebumps: Monster Blood” for the name alone. If this sounds too weird, don’t stress. They also serve classics like chocolate gooey brownie and sea salt with caramel ribbons.

Founded in the Grove with another location in Bal Harbour Shops, Bianco Gelato is dedicated to 100% organic, non-GMO recipes (so you don’t have to feel as guilty when you treat the kids). Its Milanese maker sticks to the standards when it comes to flavors, which instantly transports me to an Italian piazza. Hazelnut, pistachio and cookies and cream are on the menu, plus paletas, smoothies and more.

I always recommend Azucar to visitors who are looking for a taste of Cuba by way of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. The owner opened it to honor her Cuban grandmother’s love of ice cream, even naming one of her most popular artisanal flavors abuela Maria (a vanilla base with chunks of cream cheese, ripe guava and crushed Maria cookies). Flavors rotate depending on what’s ripe at the fruit stand. Summer brings mango, mamey and a sugarcane pineapple blend, while grownups always enjoy café con leche ice cream. There are also branches in Dadeland and South Beach.

Soraya Kilgore, chef Brad Kilgore’s secret weapon when it comes to sweets, launched her own culinary concept in the Miami Design District. Made for Instagram, which your tween and teen grandkids will appreciate, her adorable MadLab Creamery goes far beyond traditional ice cream with dozens of cool toppings. We’re talking edible glitter, cotton candy in exotic flavors, Japanese cheesecake and gold sprinkles. These chic works of art are on par with their fashionable neighbors.

I raised my kids near Whip ‘n’ Dip, an institution for generations of families in South Miami, Pinecrest and Coral Gables. The family-owned shop has been around since the mid-Eighties and continues to hand-make its famous flavors from mint chip to cookies & cream beginning with a 14% butterfat base. Hot for summer are “Somewhere Over the RainDough” and “Nutter-o,” which is peanut butter ice cream with Oreos. They’re also known for soft serve, ice cream cakes and hand-blended milkshakes. There’s a reason this place has stood the test of time.

 

Luxe Landscaping

By | Art, Florida Finds

Create the garden of your dreams with these top talents along Florida’s East Coast.

Springtime makes me think of flowering gardens and the talented visionaries who create them. We’re lucky that so many premier landscape architects and designers call Florida home. Their touch affects every facets of our lives—our residences, whether single family or high rises, our state’s famous resort culture, and our welcoming public spaces and commercial centers. Here’s a short list of some top names.

Raymond Jungles

It’s impossible to escape the prolific Raymond Jungles’s contribution to the local landscape. His signature design schemes—modern, yet lush with native plants that attract pollinators and other fauna—are ubiquitous. His firm, which launched in the early Eighties and is currently located in Coconut Grove, specializes in both residential and commercial projects. Among the latter, a few are 1111 Lincoln Road (a direct homage to his mentor, the famous Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx), Miami Beach Botanical Garden and Pharrell Williams’s new hospitality venture. It’s always delightful to stay at one of the many Florida and Caribbean resorts whose grounds he’s designed, too, like Casa Morada in the Keys.

Fernando Wong

Panama City-born landscape designer Fernando Wong founded his namesake firm with his business and life partner Tim Johnson in 2005. Their partnership has blossomed into offices in Miami, Palm Beach and the Hamptons for numerous residential and commercial projects including Four Seasons properties in Surfside, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. Town & Country recently featured Wong’s gorgeous garden makeover for a John L. Volk-designed home; among many feats, it required relocating a century-old, 90-foot kapok tree.

Enzo Enea

Landscape architect Enzo Enea’s headquarters are based in his native Switzerland, but he opened a Miami office to accommodate all the work he has here. I’m especially proud of his design for One Thousand Museum, a mindful mix of swaying grasses, palms and mangroves that links Zaha Hadid’s futuristic architecture with its natural setting along Biscayne Bay. Though he’s completed many other luxury residential towers like Park Grove, Apogee, the Setai and Oceana, Bal Harbour, he also designs landscapes for private homes. When you’re in Zurich, I suggest visiting his curated arboretum, the Enea Tree Museum.

Nievera Williams

After working solo and collaborating for years, Mario Nievera and Keith Williams went into business together as Nievera Williams in 2011. Their Palm Beach firm with offices in Miami and the Hamptons is behind luxe residential and commercials properties from Shanghai to the Caribbean to their home base like the beautifully restored Royal Poinciana Plaza shopping center. They’ve also dived into other creative areas including outdoor furniture design and garden books. Williams just published his first title, “The Graphic Garden,” which features select estates around the island. Nievera is active in nonprofits, too, including the Cultural Landscape Foundation and the Horticultural Society of New York.

Hayslip Landscape

Heathcote Botanical Gardens board member Sam Comer founded the acclaimed Hayslip Landscape in the 1970s. The recent retiree sold his firm to powerhouse landscape and irrigation company Down to Earth, whose name is often associated with golf courses. Comer’s signature elegance and attention to detail continue with the changing of the guard. For Windsor, the new urbanism, luxury residential community in Vero Beach, Hayslip created much of the common areas including its olive orchard, oak allée and new beach club vegetation, as well as landscaping for many of its private homes. The firm’s work can be seen at other exclusive enclaves such as John’s Island, among its large footprint up and down the Treasure Coast.

Raymond Jungles

https://raymondjungles.com/project_categories/cultural-educational/https://raymondjungles.com/project_categories/single-family-residential/

Fernando Wong
Enzo Enea
tree museum
Nievera Williams

Get in the Golf Game

By | Florida Finds, Sports

Tee off at one of Florida’s incredible courses and watch the Honda Classic.

With the stunning weather and the Honda Classic underway, I can’t help but think about golf now. If you haven’t attended the PGA tournament at PGA Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, it’s really worth your time. The beautiful, relaxing setting, fun vendors (don’t miss Lilly Pulitzer’s Print with Purpose limited-edition collection to benefit Honda Classic Cares), and incredibly talented golfers make for a dream day. In the tournament’s first round alone, Matt Jones, an Australian player who’s ranked 83rd in the world, came out of nowhere to tie the course record with a 9-under 61. It’s also your chance to see defending champ Sungjae Im, Shane Lowry, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, among so many top players competing through March 21.

If you can’t swing it, I suggest at least playing a round of golf on one of our spectacular courses. It’s no secret that Florida is famous for its number of golf courses. There are so many private and public options to choose from, and it’s the reason why many executives and professionals live and retire here. I’ve created a quick guide for some of my golfing clients’ favorite courses.

Seminole Golf Club

Located on the Atlantic Ocean in Juno Beach, the Donald Ross-designed Seminole Golf Club debuted in 1929. The 18-hole, par-72 course ranks 12th on Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Golf Courses” and is compared to Royal Dornoch in Ross’s native Scotland. Though sitting on a compact 140 acres, the course boasts enough challenges and variety to host the 2021 Walker Cup on May 8-9. The competition, which is being played in the U.S. during spring for the first time, will give most spectators their first peek at the ultra-private club.

Riviera Country Club

Ross also designed the 18-hole, par-71 course at Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables that dates to 1924. Kipp Schulties, whose firm has done a ton of work in Florida, redesigned the course five years ago. The $10 million project was coupled with a new, nearly $40 million clubhouse. With a great pool scene and tennis facility, it’s very popular with families who reside in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Indian Creek Country Club

Indian Creek Country Club is one of the main attractions for residents of the ultra-exclusive Indian Creek Island that’s been getting a lot of press lately for several famous newcomers. But one doesn’t have to live on the island to be a member of Indian Creek Country Club. William Flynn, the visionary behind other iconic golf clubs like Shinnecock Hills and Cherry Hills, designed its 18-hole, par-72 classic layout in 1930.

The Dye Preserve

Named for Pete Dye, the Dye Preserve Golf Club in Jupiter is known for its natural beauty. Old Florida vegetation and wildlife add to the appeal of Dye’s 2002 redesign for his original, 18-hole, 72-par course dating to the Eighties. Though relatively new compared to other courses in South Florida, it has a very strong following and tops many golfers’ lists.

However long your time here, I hope you can get out and enjoy a day on the golf course to see what it’s all about.

Moving to Miami

By | Art, Beauty, Culture, Dining, Events, Fashion, Florida Finds, Interior Design

Here are some of my local tips for new residents.

Being in real estate, I’m often the first person someone meets when moving to Miami. It’s only natural that they want to know everything about their exciting new town and ask for local tips. Since so many people are in the process of relocating here, I thought I’d put together a quick guide to some of my favorite places, services and events. I hope you enjoy discovering them, as well as cultivating your own gems over time.

Shopping

Miami is a shopper’s paradise. I can’t get over how many incredible stores keep opening here. For a local lifestyle boutique, I recommend the Showroom. The owner has been in retail for decades and knows the market. The South Miami location is geared more toward homewares including Tina Frey’s handmade resin pieces, while Coconut Grove carries more denim. For home, I also shop the extensive collections at Luminaire and Artefacto. Both have huge showrooms in Coral Gables, among many locations, if you’re pressed for time.

For fashion, you can’t go wrong with Neiman Marcus’s two stores here. They cater to the stylish side of Miami with more runway looks and interesting designers. I can always count on their personal shoppers, too. The Miami Design District has really taken off in the last few years. It’s become a major worldwide destination for designer brands like Dior and Hermès, as well as contemporary labels. Recent openings include Alexander McQueen and Stone Island, and there are rumors that Chanel’s coming.

Beauty

I can’t say enough good things about Gee Beauty. I wrote about this family-owned spa and boutique’s 15th anniversary in my blog last year. The Gee women constantly amaze me with their knowledge and service. Their facials are the ultimate luxury, and I love loading up on skin care, cosmetics and supplements on my way out.

If you’re from New York or Los Angeles, chances are you’re already familiar with IGK Hair. The partners behind the salon’s initials actually opened their first location here. They’re also known for their inhouse line of healthy hair products like Good Behavior Blowout Balm, the perfect protection for Miami elements.

Fitness

Miami has a serious wellness scene. There are many state-of-the-art gyms like Anatomy, but I trained one-on-one with Faheem Mujahid. Beyond being a master personal trainer, whose practices extend to yoga, meditation and breathwork, he’s a licensed life coach, mental conditioning expert and mindfulness speaker who’s helped moguls to corporate teams from major brands get on the right track. Check out his podcast and website for upcoming workshops. https://www.faheemmujahid.com/about

Dining

I like to eat light without missing out on flavorful ingredients and beautiful settings. Located on the bay in Brickell, Cipriani has one of the most gorgeous dining rooms in the city. It works on so many levels from power lunches to special occasions. Old World details and authentic cuisine instantly transport me to Italy. Milos in Miami Beach offers a similar vacation vibe. I feel like I’m in the Greek Isles with its airy décor and fresh Mediterranean seafood like whole, salt-encrusted fish and charred octopus. Its homey, private dining room is often booked, and the three-course, prix-fixe lunch is super popular.

Annual Events

Miami is as famous for its nonstop events as its moonrises. Many tourists time their holidays here around them, and locals never get any rest during season. Attending the Miami International Boat Show is a must. But of all of the events, December’s Art Basel fair is tops. Not only did it permanently transform Miami in remarkable ways, but the exchange of ideas and the people you meet during art week can’t be compared to anything else here. It feeds my soul, and I learn so much. I always come away with new inspirations and friends.

 

Miami, Mi Amor

By | Art, Culture, Events, Fashion, Florida Finds, Interior Design, Real Estate, Travel

An ode to our vibrant city’s many charms and its new chapter.

Miami is my home. It’s where I grew up, received my education, discovered my career, built my business, raised my family and invested my time and energy into the community. I’m not alone. People have been seduced by its charms going back to early settlers at the turn of the 20th century. They love to vacation here, too, and attend tony events like Art Basel, but many are just discovering our best-kept secret—that it’s also a great place to live and work. Florida has been one of the fastest-growing states for years, and the pandemic has compounded the trend, especially in South Florida.

Every day I hear about a new company, celebrity or mogul relocating to Miami, or at least strongly considering it. Mayor Francis Suarez has been very vocal about collaborating with big tech and startups to establish headquarters or open satellite offices here. He even exchanged words with Elon Musk, who’s already put down roots in the Sunshine State with his SpaceX program.

Goldman Sachs is also scouting South Florida to potentially relocate its asset management arm. The firm’s openness to leaving Manhattan makes sense with the shift to WFH, which should continue post-pandemic for reasons beyond saving significant costs in leasing office space. Other factors for saying, “Yes,” to Florida are our residents’ tremendous wealth; tax incentives including no state taxes, and gorgeous weather to cater to clients on the golf course. It’s really kind of a dream situation for Goldman Sachs.

As an entrepreneur, I can also vouch that Florida offers a favorable climate for businesses of all kinds. Miami attracts a lot of people who are company founders and work for themselves. I always enjoy hearing my clients’ stories about how they worked hard and would like to enjoy the good life now but still stay in the game. The city was built on this independent spirit from visionary developers to the large population of Cubans who came here to be free and flourish.

Besides Miami’s professional opportunities, people are pleasantly surprised about how family-friendly it has become. There are numerous private schools to nurture every child’s personal needs and interests, and several of our neighborhoods offer coveted, A-rated public schools that parents strive to enroll their children.

Local institutions foster our young minds, too. In addition to the new Frost Museum of Science, our plentiful art museums, botanical gardens and even shopping districts provide regular kids’ programming. Sports and an all-around active lifestyle are very accessible to all ages. Indoor and outdoor soccer fields, skating rinks, private and public clubs for sailing, swimming, rowing, tennis and golf, and abundant parks and nature preserves are available to our kids.

Healing nature is just one key element in our growing wellness scene. New residents soon learn that Miami shed its party stereotype a while ago. They partake in yoga and meditation classes and dine on plant-based cuisine at stunningly beautiful wellness centers like The Sacred Space in Wynwood; run and bike Miami Beach’s lengthy beach path, and grab paddle boards and kayaks for a day on the water. Being outdoors is rejuvenating, especially now, and Miami excels in this advantage.

These are only some of my brief initial thoughts on why we’re a hot spot now. And I didn’t even touch on all of our incredible culture. There’s so much to love.

 

Feeling Florida

By | Florida Finds, Travel

I’ve always felt blessed to live in a state that has so much to offer. We have culture and nature in spades, and how fun is it to jump in one’s car for a quick road trip when the mood strikes? The quieter months are a great time to get out and explore this beautiful part of the country. Here are a few spots that top my list, and make sure to say hi to our Sotheby’s friends if you go. (I’ve included links to affiliates’ web sites here.)

Boca Grande

The legendary Gasparilla Inn & Club reopens for its 107th season in October. Multi-generational families return year after year for its old-fashioned charm from the front porch’s rocking chairs to pastel, preppy décor. Its current stewards are doing a tremendous job in ensuring its placement within the Historic Hotels of America and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

As if one of my favorite West Coast getaways couldn’t get any better, its Gulf-side accommodations debut in winter. The Beach Cottages’ spacious residences feature full kitchens, elevators and two to four bedrooms. A new fitness center opens beforehand. Doubling its size makes room for a yoga studio and exercise pool as well as a Zen garden and pickleball courts to meet demand for the fast-growing pastime.

Visitors can still dine at the inn’s multiple venues in the meantime. The Pink Elephant serves dinner nightly and lunch on weekends. Popular items are Thai-spiced, tempura-fried grouper and signature, rum-laced ice cream cocktails for an after-dinner drink and dessert in one. The Outlet restaurant and Inn Bakery are more daytime options.

https://the-gasparilla-inn.com/

Bonus Tip: If you want to know where the tarpon are biting, call captain Tommy Locke. The champion fly-fishing guide and sixth-generation Floridian also helps clients catch good eating species such as snapper, grouper, pompano, redfish and trout from his ultra-nimble Chittum skiff. I’m hooked.

http://www.tommylockeoutdoors.com/

Pop by Gulf to Bay Sotheby’s, too.

https://www.gulftobaysothebysrealty.com/eng

Marco Island

Another fantastic destination on the Gulf of Mexico with big news is the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. Its $320 million renovation premiered last year for a much more luxurious experience in line with Florida’s elevated hospitality scene. The top-to-bottom revamp introduced an adults-only tower, Paradise by Sirene, with 94 rooms and suites, rooftop pool and beach butlers. Its exclusive Tesoro restaurant’s spacious deck overlooks the Gulf for a Greek Isles vibe.

All guests are welcome at the new 10K Alley, a mega-entertainment zone with games for kids of all ages. The property also offers two nearby golf courses and is in the midst of replacing the turfgrass at its 36-hole Hammock Bay Golf Course designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy. The $4.8 million project wraps up in October. The Robert Cupp, Jr.-designed Rookery at Marco course is available to play now.

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/mrkfl-jw-marriott-marco-island-beach-resort/

Pop by Premier Sotheby’s, too.

https://www.premiersothebysrealty.com/

Florida Scenic Highway 30A

Dotted with new urbanist developments like Seaside and Rosemary Beach, this stretch of the Florida Panhandle wins accolades for its chic design mixed with laidback lifestyle. Home rentals range in all sizes, and every good and service are within walking distance to ditch the car upon arrival. Grab a beach cruiser and your beach chair and spend quality time with family and friends on one of the world’s most gorgeous swaths of sand.

In Seaside, browse the latest titles at Sundog Books, try on new swimsuits at Ophelia and share a bottle of vino and tapas at 45 Central Wine & Sushi Bar. In Rosemary Beach, sip stiff punch drinks on Pescado’s rooftop deck, shop Southern tastemaker Ashley Gilbreath’s home selection at Parish, and play tennis on the Racquet Club’s green clay courts. Both communities have outposts of Amavida Coffee & Tea for a caffeinated pick-me-up.

https://seasidefl.com/

https://rosemarybeach.com/

Pop by Scenic Sotheby’s, too.

https://www.scenicsir.com/

Paradise Found

By | Florida Finds, Travel | No Comments

 Little Palm Island Resort & Spa reopens with the rest of the Florida Keys for the ultimate tropical escape.

Adorable Key deer, epic sunsets and some of the world’s best fishing are just a few reasons why the Florida Keys remain a top travel destination decade after decade. Closed to non-residents during the pandemic shutdown, the tropical archipelago reopened June 1. As a South Floridian, I’m grateful to have this healing haven in my backyard. There are so many exquisite resorts to stay from Key Largo to Key West, but Little Palm Island Resort & Spa stands out at this particular moment.

Not only did the four-acre luxury property owned by Noble House Hotels & Resorts debut its multimillion-dollar renovation in early March, but its very nature is tailor-made for social distancing. One must take a boat or floatplane to access the private oasis a couple miles off of Little Torch Key. The resort’s ferry can fetch you, or there’s complimentary dockage for 10 yachts. In addition to checking into one of 30 new thatched-roof bungalows, the entire resort is available for rent for extra-safe precautions—talk about the perfect setting to celebrate a wedding, graduation, family reunion and other milestones. Rates start at $250,000 for a 3-night minimum stay.

Though it’s tempting to bring the whole crew, Little Palm is known for couples’ getaways. The new dreamy décor picks up a West Indies thread, while some suite categories feature outdoor copper soaking tubs. It also gets a lot of points in the romance department for SpaTerre. Being shuttered since 2017 gave the spa team extensive time to research innovative treatments. Their new menu touches on beneficial discoveries in the wellness industry such as CBD-infused products and rose quartz stones. Several types of massages further include the Madrugada, where guests are submerged in water at sunrise. Facial fans can try the Biologiqué Rechérché Experience, which uses Cryo Sticks and microcurrent therapies.

With the redesign, the owners brought on Daniel Ganem as executive chef. Miami gourmets will recognize his name as formerly with the Betsy, an elegant boutique hotel in South Beach. He’s already become best buds with local farmers and fishermen for an eclectic, healthy menu that touches on the region’s international roots with Latin and Mediterranean influences. If you can’t visit quite yet, he shares the recipe for the resort’s signature welcome drink below. One sip of the Gumby Slumber, a refreshing summer cocktail anywhere, and you’re transported here in your mind until the real thing.

Little Palm Island’s Gumby Slumber

Ingredients: 

  • 1 part pineapple juice
  • 1 part cranberry juice
  • 1 part orange juice
  • 1 part Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
  • 1 part Parrot Bay Rum
  • Fresh coconut