WLRN Summer Interns Share Their Slice Of South Florida

Sep 1, 2016

Our WLRN interns come to us from all over the country in hopes of dipping their toes in the radio reporting world. What they usually get is full immersion; into the many sights and sounds of South Florida's culture, quirks and food! This summer we were lucky enough to host four wonderful reporters from Tallahassee, Chicago and Miami. In their own words, they explain what it was like to get a taste of local living.  

Caitlin Switalski: Here You Never Have To Eat Alone

Caitlin Switalski is from Tallahassee and attends the University of Florida in Gainesville. She got her slice of South Florida at Gilbert's Coffee Shop near Coral Gables:

Catie Switalski enjoying her morning Cuban coffee.
Credit Lisann Ramos

I had my first cafe Cubano after moving to Miami at Versailles, with my boyfriend's parents. We were driving home and his parents said, "You live right next to Gilbert's best bakery in South Miami. You have to go if you like cortaditos. It's really close." They were right. Gilbert's makes amazing coffee and it's just a hop, skip and a jump from where I live. It's the perfect in and out fast delicious piece of Cuban flaky pastry coffee goodness.

The people who come in and ask for pastries look like they're on their way to work. They come in business suits or they come in nurse scrubs. They're either ordering croquettes or coffee. Tons and tons of them. The people who walk in and out of there don't just walk out with one tiny cortadito and a pastry. They have a big box of pastelitos and are holding containers of cafe Cubano.

Catie's Cuban breakfast.
Credit Lisann Ramos

I felt like I didn't want to walk in and just be there by myself because it's always full of people. You're  never in the bakery with one other person. You're always in the bakery with like 10 other people. It's awkward if you just kind of want to buy a pastelito for yourself. I feel like it would be really lonely to eat a pastelito by yourself.

I think that's the whole goal of pastelitos and the tiny older Cuban bakery. It’s where you don't have to eat pastelito alone. There’s always a reason to share a guava pastry with someone.

Going there will always remind me of this window, where I was this independent adult doing something that I loved. It’s the first time I've ever really had to be a working woman. I’m reminded of how great it is to just be able to stop and grab a cortadito on my way to the office. Being a reporter, you never know what you're going to go out and report on and you don't know what your day is going to be like. But you know that you have the morning and you know you know what the start of your day is going to look like. So that's kind of a stable like a little piece of you know I get to do this extraordinary thing when I go to my internship every day. But this piece  is for me  like a little bit of metal, not meditation.

I mean, I don't know if you can meditate with coffee but it's definitely really symbolic of starting adulthood and getting to have that piece of independence.

All good things must come to an end. Caitlin Switalski wishes cortaditos weren't so small.
Credit Lisann Ramos

I'll think back about it and kind of smile and always think about the tiny house on bird road where I live and what I would do before coming into work every day and these really fond memories.

It was my goal when I moved here to try every bakery and every cafecito, cafe Cubano and cortadito in Miami.

I quickly realized it's a bold aspiration for being here for only 12 weeks. Although I still try whenever I can, I always go back to Gilbert's just because of that connection to the place and the people. Even though I don't know them that well, they’ll always be the people who give me my cafecito. And not just any cafecito, it's my Gilbert's cafecito.

It's a really weird blend of strong and sweet but not too sweet. I drink my black Dunkin Donuts coffee from my Mr. Coffee machine every day and the first time I had a cafe Cubano I was sad because they’re so small and there's so little of it. But at the same time it's such a treat. It's not like regular coffee that you pour into your to-go cup and run out the door and it's rushed. A Cuban coffee is meant to be sipped and enjoyed and it's just a tiny blend of like really really bold and powerful but also there's all that sugar. I mean, who can resist sugar? 

Spencer Parts: Eating Ramen In Miami

Spencer Parts came to us from Chicago. He loves ramen and exploring Miami on his bike. Not long into his internship, he rode his bike on over to Sumi Yakitori in Brickell for some pork belly ramen.

Spencer Parts at his favorite Miami ramen place, Sumi Yakitori.
Credit Lisann Ramos

It's probably the restaurant that I've been to the most in Miami and I have maybe some of my strongest restaurant memories in Miami there. I also just really like the ramen at this place. I've only ever gotten one thing there, which is the pork belly ramen, but it's really good.

I've also gotten the green tea and as is customary at places like that, I’ve taken advantage of the unlimited green tea. I went there on my first day of my internship at WLRN. I probably went back about once a week to get ramen there.

I was there when Argentina lost in penalties to Chile in the Copa. It was just funny to be there and watching it with with the guys working there.

It's always the same guy who serves me when I’ve been there. I should know his name but I don't. I want to say he's Japanese but I'm not 100 percent  sure.

Spencer Parts chugs down his unlimited green tea at Sumi Yakitori.
Credit Lisann Ramos

I was basically looking for a place to get ramen because I love it. I will say there aren’t a lot of offerings in Miami.

I was kind of under the weather the first day I got here and I was looking for soup and also green tea. So I went there and had ramen and about six cups of green tea. It was so satisfying and was definitely the right place to go that night. I also went there one time and ate dinner there while talking to my friend on the phone who also likes ramen. He's from Taiwan. Last summer I visited him and his family there and we went to Tokyo on the way back. I had a bunch of ramen with him.

I've been biking around Miami a lot. I rode my bike there one time and they were cool about letting me bring my bike inside one day that I forgot my lock. Which was nice.

It's on  or near some street that's like honorary alley named for some Japanese guy. I don't know if that's a coincidence or what.

In Chicago where I'm from,I eat a lot of Thai food. It's really good. There's a noodle shop near my house called Pennys Noodles that's kind of a family favorite.

Amanda Rabines: Food, Family And Traditions

Amanda Rabines was born and raised in Miami. She's a student at Florida International University and has lived at her favorite Kendall restaurant her entire life.  

Amanda Rabines helping her dad cook one of his nightly dinners at their home in Southwest Miami.
Credit Amanda Rabines

My mom makes this dish where it's almost like sauteed peppers in olive oil with salt and pepper so it gets sweet and you just take a little bit of the peppers you put it on cracker. It’s delicious. That's why I rush to get home every day. On my way home I call them and ask what's for dinner. It's something to look forward to when you're driving in traffic.

My dad makes arroz con pollo, which is rice with chicken. You kind of put the chicken in the crock pot and let all the oils melt and season the rice with peppers and olives and a bunch of different things. He does his Peruvian version of it in which he adds cilantro so the rice ends up turning green.

Amanda's father cooking in the Rabines kitchen.
Credit Amanda Rabines

I was thinking about the weird sense that when you bring like a friend over you're not sure if they’ll like your cooking because it’s something that you're so used to. In my home there's always something spicy that’s always on the side and can add to your food.

We have a tomato salad which is basically cilantro, limes, salt, pepper and tomatoes. It's kind of like pico de gallo on the side. Some people aren't used to that. But for me it's always been there. Or sometimes I'll put balsamic vinegar in it too. It's just interesting that this is what I'm used to eating and some people aren't.

My mother's parents, which were my grandparents, lived with me my entire life. So they always cooked for me and they always had plantains by the time I came home. Just a little plate that I would eat. There was just a way that my grandmother made coffee that I feel even though we've asked her so many times it can never be replicated.

My sister made these avocado rolls where you get guacamole and then put them around a pastry slice and then fry them. She also has these vanilla cookies that she puts this glaze over. It's all handmade.

A typical home-cooked meal at the Rabines home.
Credit Amanda Rabines

There's mango trees so we have an abundance of mangoes now that it's summer. So there’s mango juice, and that's something that we drink in the morning too.

My grandparents on my father's side usually come over for a couple of months. My grandmother has this aji amarillo which is papa la huancaina. It's a Peruvian dish that she makes and I actually recorded her and turned it into like a cooking show. We want to preserve the family recipes because you don't realize how important it is until it’s gone.

There's little things that you wouldn't pay attention to unless you asked. What my grandmother does is she actually crushes walnuts and she puts it into the aji amarillo, the yellow pepper sauce. I would’ve never imagined it, but it made it thicker. I guess she heard it from either the Cooking Channel or from a mother of her own, aunt or sibling. So it's within the family, which is cool.

Michal Kranz: Food Makes Me Feel Welcomed 

Michal Kranz is from California but has been going to school in Chicago. He loves the multiculturalism of South Florida flavors. His go-to for quick Caribbean  food is Naomi's in Little Haiti.

The woman working at Naomi's hands Michal Kranz a cup of Haitian cold slaw to go with his meal.
Credit Lisann Ramos

 Food is something that helps me feel welcomed through exploring both new flavors and new things. I definitely found Miami to be very different from where I grew up and where I went to school. Mainly because it feels so international in a way that no other city I've been to before does. Yet, it retains some aspects of American culture and architecture.

I was looking for relatively cheap, quick, good food around where I was living in Little Haiti. My host recommended this place to me as a quick stop-in kind of place for Caribbean food. I actually almost missed the place when I drove by it because it's literally a window open onto the street. There's a screen covering the window against insects.

Michal Kranz stands in line to order from the window at Naomi's.
Credit Lisann Ramos

The food that you see is kind of like in containers laid in front of you. It’s almost like a buffet that you order at the window from. They obviously have the basics: different types of rice, collard greens, jerk chicken, but also a couple of different kinds of pork stew and beef in broths.

I went for the jerk chicken just off the bat because that was what they were famous for and I just took that and ordered it really quickly and paid for it. Honestly I taken aback by the chicken. It was juicy but not greasy. I went back a couple days later and got some of the pork dish with a couple of other ingredients. For me it’s the kind of place I think you can go back to many times and still get something different because there is a really really wide array of things to choose from.

Michal Kranz reacts to the spicy cold slaw while enjoying his meal in the backyard patio of Naomi's.
Credit Lisann Ramos

It's charming because there’s these old ladies who work there and they've got just a credit card machine on an iPad.

They have some paintings along the walls and on the window. On the day that I was there they had like a couple of fans set up in front of the window because it was really hot outside and that was a lifesaver.