Schell: Kids in the barn perfect harbingers of spring

Although it may not feel like spring just yet, the reopening of some of your favourite local businesses will definitely put you in the mood.

Kids in the barn are a sure sign that spring really is on the way.

Although it may not feel like spring just yet, the reopening of some of your favourite local businesses, like Carmelis’ Goat Cheese Artisan, will definitely put you in the mood.

Our friends at Carmelis, Ofer and Ofri Barmor, are now open for the season with all of your much missed palate pacifiers again available for sale (hello gelato!).

Ofri tells me that there is an adorable group of new baby goats for visitors to see and that the cheese bar is stocked with delights.

When visiting, my shopping basket always includes their perfect feta cheese, gelato, yogurt cheese (labane) as well as a package or two of the Za’atar spice blend. Shipped directly from Israel, this Middle Eastern blend of sumac, sesame seeds, salt and holy hyssop is one of my “secret” ingredients in the spice cupboard. I love coating chunks of chicken breast or thighs with this aromatic blend, settling them into my Le Creuset pot with sautéed onions, garlic, chopped yams, potatoes, carrots (whatever root vegetable you have on hand) plus one or two quartered lemons (another key ingredient) and a splash of white wine.

Simmer on low for an hour and you have a delicious, healthy stew with that fabulous je ne sais quoi quality to it.

Other options include, simply coating chicken thighs or pieces with Za’atar and roasting them at 400 F for an hour; or mix with some yogurt cheese for a perfect dip—Nigella is a fan.

Welcome back Carmelis—see you soon. www.carmelisgoatcheese.com

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Foodie Alert! Little Creek Gardens has just released a Caesar salad dressing. Another delicious local creation from the ever-lovely Donna Denison and her Little Creek family, this creamy dressing will breathe new life into your bowl of romaine.

Little Creek continues to provide us with organic treasures from their gardens. From greens to heavenly dressings—we are grateful for your gifts.

Available at Choices, Quality Greens, Natures Fare, Okanagan Grocery Artisan Breads, Mediterranean Market, Urban Harvest (delivery or at their Saturday Crowley Avenue warehouse sales; www.urbanharvest.ca). See Little Creek’s website for entire list of distributers and products. www.littlecreekdressing.com

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Speaking of the Mediterranean Market, this amazing, well priced little market carries a wide range of imported delights from Italy, Greece and the Middle East as well as a fabulous range of deli meats, cheeses, olives and breads.

They are also the only place that carries, arguably the very best canned tomatoes on the market, and a favourite amongst chefs: La Molisana. I adore these fresh tasting jars and cans created with some of Italy’s most celebrated tomatoes.

Luckily they also carry another chef favourite: De Cecco’s line of dried pasta—even Mario Batali has mentioned it as the best alternative to making fresh. La Molisana also carries an organic line too.

PS: As many sandwich aficionados will tell you—and as the lunchtime line up will attest—Med Market is known for its dynamite subs. 1570 Gordon Dr. 250-762-2000

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Another of my favourite haunts, L&D Meats in Guisachan Village, carries a real meat lover’s treat—fresh veal chops.

Although a tad pricey, these tender, thick-cut chops are indeed special. Fit for a restaurant, L&D now supplies chef/owner Lisa Cham with these high quality chops for her restaurant, The Fixx Café, 3275 Lakeshore Rd. 250-861-3499.