By the time I pull up to CrossFit 305 in Little Haiti, Walid’s already finishing his lap around the block, his hair matted with sweat. He breathlessly tells me of one of his current projects, a two-story penthouse in The Murano at Portofino (which we’ll be visiting later), and of the dinner for 18 Susie’s got planned for tonight. Walid heads off to the construction site, and I run to catch up with Susie.
I meet Susie downtown at Casablanca Seafood Fish Market. She’s just finished volunteering at the nearby Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, and is picking up the last few ingredients for tonight’s dinner. She peruses a broad tabletop covered with fresh seafood and shaved ice, and picks out a plump eight-pound red snapper. “I’ll stuff it with olive oil, lemon and herbs, then cover it with a Lebanese cilantro-walnut sauce,” she explains.
Walid and I step out of the elevator and into the raw space of the eventual penthouse at The Murano at Portofino. There are electrical boards under the floor grid and scribbles on dusty concrete walls, but over the next year his team of architects, engineers and project managers will transform it, giving it teak floors, a glass staircase cantilevered over an indoor pool and fountain, and a rooftop garden and infinity pool. The view is arresting: nearly 360 degrees of South Beach, downtown, Key Biscayne and the ocean beyond.
At the Wahabs’ Bay Point home, Susie demands that I begin drinking, then vanishes into the kitchen. The first guests to arrive are Terry Riley (former MAM director and architect on several of Walid’s projects) and his partner, architect John Bennett. There’s also Jonathan Breene, cofounder of the Setai Group, and his wife, Criselda. Puerto Rican artist Carlos Betancourt arrives (one of his statues sits on the front lawn, and two of his photos adorn the walls) accompanied by his partner, architect Alberto Latorre.
Walid at his latest construction project, a two-story penthouse in The Murano at Portofi no on South Beach
Susie lines up the feast on the kitchen counter buffet-style. The Lebanese spread has a Mediterranean feel to it: vibrant, citrusy tabouli, grape leaves, mougrabieh (giant couscous) and of course the snapper. “Every summer we stay in Lebanon,” says Walid. (Susie forces him to travel there with empty suitcases.) “It’s rustic; the man delivers fresh milk and homemade cheeses directly to the doorstep. Susie’ll sit around with the women and pick up new recipes from her mother.” There’s a round of applause for the chef. The meal ends with a dessert of melted mozzarella and ricotta topped with a syrup of orange blossom and rose water—some of the goods Susie hauls back from Lebanon in those vital empty suitcases.