If you had been on the hunt for Bolivian cuisine in South Florida this past January, you would have come across two restaurants, one in Broward County and one in Miami-Dade. However, after the closing of Las Americas, located on S. Royal Poinciana Boulevard near Miami International Airport, there remained but one.
Dean and Jeanette Tucker are the owners of Celebrity Cakes Bakery and Latin Café, a custom cake shop and kitchen tucked into the corner of a strip mall in Coral Springs. During the week, diners nosh on piled-high Philly cheesesteaks, Uruguay’s famous chivitos, and a variety of other pan-Latin sandwiches and entrées. On the weekends, though, Bolivians travel from all corners of Florida to get a taste of Jeanette’s native cuisine, and by Sunday afternoon, it's usually sold out.
“The cake shop is my wife’s main business,” says Dean, gesturing toward the custom cakes that line the café's large windows.
“How [the Bolivian food] all started, believe it or not, was one Friday afternoon, [Jeanette] put up a Facebook page to see if we’d get any response. On Saturday afternoon, people started calling and coming. A big response, but a small place,” Dean continues, detailing the history of the three spaces, each one larger than the previous, that the bakery has occupied over the past five years. Business is good.
If you’re unfamiliar with the landlocked nation's cuisine, don't feel like you've missed out on a hot trend that came and went. Unlike Peru's ceviches, Venezuela's arepas, and Argentina's meats, Bolivian cuisine hasn’t had the proliferation or the exposure to yet gain South America's, let alone South Florida's, attention.
“We probably sell 300 or 400 [salteñas] per weekend," Dean says. Easily the star dish of Celebrity Cakes' menu, the salteña is Bolivia’s answer to the empanada. Spicy chicken or beef, stewed in juices laced with cumin and other spices, is stuffed into a thick, slightly sweet dough and then sealed. Connoisseurs will eat and slurp at the same time, while daintier eaters will use a spoon to scoop out the filling.
Other classic Bolivian dishes on the menu include sopa de maní — a peanut-based soup with chicken, stewed vegetables, and large rigatoni noodles. For those with an iron stomach, the silpancho — a sort of casserole made with rice, potatoes, and a fried beef cutlet topped with onions, herbs, and even chicharrones — will hit the spot. Humintas are comparable to the Mexican tamale but made with fresh corn and a bit of sugar, all stuffed into a banana leaf and then steamed. For dessert or simply to wash everything down, try an ice-cold glass of mocochinchi, a beverage made by boiling dehydrated peaches, sugar, and water.
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Celebrity Cakes offers Bolivian classics from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, though some of the items are available during the week with advance notice. "People come from all over — Jacksonville, Naples, Tampa," Dean says. With only one Bolivian consulate in Florida, expats flock to this lone outpost to get a taste of home.
It’s worth a trip to Coral Springs for a taste of a cuisine that, even in the Latin American community, is often overlooked. Find Dean and Jeanette during the week, but ideally on weekends, at 10299 Royal Palm Blvd., next to Bravo Supermarket.