BY KIERIN MUKERJEE AND RENUKA RAMCHANDRAN
Gyros. Arepas. Boba tea. Artisanal bread. These foods are the pride and joy of various countries around the world. In the old days, you had to travel the world to get an authentic taste of these fabulous dishes. In more recent times, you would still have to get in a car and drive around to the local Greek market or French bakery (and let’s be honest, ain’t nobody got time to sit through US-1 traffic). Today, however, all you have to do is take a walk by the Foote Green to experience these authentic, traditional flavors at the UM farmer’s market. This farmer’s market takes place every Wednesday from 11 am – 3 pm and offers some of the best, locally-sourced ethnic foods money can buy.
You know that saying “Just like mama used to make?”Most of the foods at the farmer’s market are family recipes that have been passed down after years of perfecting. Take Marlene Apostolopoulos and her family at Gyrolicious. Marlene decided she wanted to start up a food stand instead of a restaurant and drew inspiration from her husband and his Greek ancestry to come up with Gyrolicious. “All the food here is fresh. We sell different gyros, fresh pasta orzo salad, Greek salads, homemade baklava, and homemade Greek spinach pie,” Marlene said. The amazing thing about Gyrolicious is the fact that it is 100 percent family owned and operated. When you order a gyro, she takes the order; her husband and son cook up the delicious lamb; and her other son will put the gyro together with all of the fixings. As Marlene explained, “This is a family-run business. I make all the food. My husband loves to talk to the kids. My daughter came up with the name!” The foundation for Gyrolicious’s success was built on a family recipe delivered in a family setting. It doesn’t get more authentic than this!
If gyros don’t pique your interest, there’s a good chance a little kettle corn will. And by a little, I mean an enormous bag of kettle corn that is sure to satisfy any and all cravings. Daniel Fernandez at Incredible Kettlecorn sells some of the best kettle corn in the country. Don’t believe me? Try a sample. The kettle corn is freshly cooked and comes in a variety of flavors, such as sweet & salty, caramel and — if you feel like getting funky — blue raspberry cherry. Where did this all start? “This is my dad’s business,” Fernandez told me. “He saw a line of people at Jackson Hospital and was in shock at how many people were waiting for kettle corn. That’s when he decided to buy a kettle on Craig’s list and now we go to three different markets on the same day.” Why is kettle corn so popular? According to Fernandez, “it has a specific flavor to it. Each kernel has a thin glaze of sugar on it and then the salt sticks to that, which makes it very light. Even people who don’t like popcorn, they love this.”
Kettle corn and gyros are time-honored traditions, but sometimes you just want to try something new. If that’s the case, then you should take a trip over to the new Cupcake Sushi stall. Yes, you read those two words correctly. It’s a cupcake in the form of sushi. Served in little bento boxes, these desserts have carved out a niche as one of Key West’s most unique and have started to make a name for themselves here in our Miami community. Where did the idea come from? CupcakeSushi partner Eric Claussen explained to us, “Lori, the creator and baker, had clients that kept asking her to make little mini cupcakes and she’s like ‘I am not going to wrap my little cupcakes in paper.’ So she came up with the idea of wrapping it in buttercream frosting and BOOM! Cupcake Sushi was born!” Instead of taking ordinary store-bought cupcakes to your next social event — where you’ll get the obligatory thank you (but no thanks) — why not bring a dessert that will not only satisfy everyone’s tastes, but also serve as a quirky conversation piece. After all, who doesn’t want to be the life of the party?
Not only does the farmer’s market serve some of the most diverse foods, but it also aims to improve your health with stands like the Green Bar and Chia Ballz. The Green Bar epitomizes what the Farmer’s Market stands for — supporting local enterprise while providing customers with sustainable, organically grown products. The Green Bar takes locally-sourced vegetables and fruits and blends them into a delicious antioxidant-rich smoothie. Similarly, Chia Ballz is on a mission to prove that health and flavor do not have to be mutually exclusive. “When you think healthy, you think cardboard and no flavor; with Chia Ballz, you can still enjoy your flavor,” explained Lina, founder and creator of Chia Ballz. She wants to provide healthy food because “we are in a society right now where everything is mass-produced. Everything that we are consuming has preservatives and crazy chemicals. Population is starting to show that. We are being mummified before we even die because there are so many health problems and diseases.” She accomplishes this goal by making every batch the night before to ensure its freshness.
Perhaps you’re not hungry for crepes or empanadas; that doesn’t mean the Farmer’s Market isn’t for you. While food may be the predominant theme, the Farmer’s Market sells other quality goods. Take, for example, Kawaii Universe, founded by Valentina, an artist based out of the Wynwood District who specializes in original illustrations. “‘Kawaii’ means ‘cute’ in Japanese,” Valentina explained. “It embodies energy.” These unique illustrations are printed, hand-pressed, and hand-cut into artisan stickers that you can place on your walls, laptops, phones or cars. These beautiful pieces of art are one-of-a-kind and can’t be found anywhere else.
Regardless of what you’re looking for, the Farmer’s Market has something for everyone. From delicious food to handmade backpacks, you won’t go home disappointed. More important than any physical good, though, are the people that you’ll encounter there. Many people are waiting to be met; many stories are waiting to be told.. You may stop by expecting to buy a coconut shake and instead walk out with a new friend. That’s the beauty of the farmer’s market: it’s so much more than just food — it’s an unforgettable experience you don’t want to miss.