FOOD: Boutique Bounty

For years I wasn’t sure what it meant to be a foodie, but I envied the cool moniker just the same. I envisioned someone who whipped up fabulous French sauces or knew all the best eateries in Italy or could throw together an outrageous feast with a few common pantry ingredients. I qualified on none of those levels.

Debra Blakley, Able Blakley and Kari Blakley, owners of Savory Spice ShopI’ve since learned that a foodie is a person with a refined interest in food, regarding it as a hobby rather than mere sustenance chosen out of convenience or hunger. By that definition, is anyone today not a foodie? Just try planning an office lunch or family get-together. It’s like taking a crash course in health, diet and environmentally-conscious eating. Yet, it’s an exciting time in our expanding food culture as most of us seek new ways to maintain healthy lifestyles full of vibrant menu options. No one embraces and furthers the cause with such passion as local specialty food shops.

As owner and operator of Savory Spice Shop in OKC, Able Blakley says, “People are realizing what’s in their food and are taking extra steps, going to different stores for the best ingredients.” One step into his bustling shop and the aroma alone will make you want to hang out, shop, learn and cook with a whole new enthusiasm! Aromatic spices fill the air and a world of flavor is suddenly at your fingertips. Boasting 500 spices, all gluten and MSG-free, with no filler and no anti-clumping agents, this boutique franchise is the only dedicated spice shop of its kind in Oklahoma. Though the franchise originates in Denver, CO, Able’s store, which he owns with his wife Kari Blakley and his mother Debra Blakley, is very much a local endeavor with his own heart and soul invested in bringing quality spices to everyday cooks and chefs.

“With typical spices, there is no regulation as to how long they can sit on a store shelf. Since the essential oils break down when they’re ground, they lose flavor and intensity,” Able explains. But at Savory Spice Shop, spices are ground fresh in Denver and shipped within days in small bags. Opened nearly four years ago, the shop features two or three versions of all the most frequently used spices, plus specialties like six or seven paprikas, including Hungarian, Spanish and Californian. Italian and Latin spices and no-sugar curry blends are also favorites. Best of all, you can smell and taste them all and each jar has a recipe on it.

Corporate gift boxes are also popular, especially the Oklahoma collections. The Great Plains Bison Rub is a peppery blend with notes of coffee, cumin and coriander and the Panhandle Chicken Fried Steak seasoning is great in everything from burgers and chicken to steak and pinto beans. Able even offers special cooking events by request. His Barbados fish tacos, guacamole and three different kinds of salsa are one of his crowd-pleasing lineups!

Olive & Co.Another specialty food shop in OKC reflects not only today’s growing interest in quality foods but the producers and methods behind them. Olive & Co., opened in December 2012, features ultra-premium, extra virgin olive oils, beautifully aged balsamic vinegars and gourmet groceries. Owner Maggie Peterson partnered with co-founder Rane Peterson in a passionate effort to educate the public on truth in labeling and offer customers quality artisan goods. “We guarantee that all extra virgin oils sold in our store not only meet but often surpass all current USDA/FDA standards,” Maggie comments.

The superior flavor of Olive & Co.’s oils is evident the minute you sample these extraordinary products. Extra virgin, fused, infused and specialty oils line the expansive tasting bar, along with dark and white balsamics and wine vinegars. Every taste is an experience to be savored. The flavors are true and robust, from lemon, blackberry, fig and dark chocolate, to espresso, jalapeño, cayenne chili and rosemary. Every taste finds you envisioning a new recipe for meat, salad dressing, veggies and desserts.

“Talking and working with each producer we carry at Olive & Co. enables us a relationship with the producer,” Maggie comments. “The awards and recognition, the struggles from a harsh winter, it changes you, changes the way you think about food. It’s personal. We want to change the way people think and feel about food.”

At this tasteful shop you’ll also find gourmet treats like whipped honey, cocktail mixes, cookware, cookbooks, pastas, sauces, salsas, mustards, jams, pesto, flatbread and the coolest bread dipping dishes you must have! Come hungry and leave inspired.

Visit Savory Spice Shop at 4400 N. Western Ave., OKC or savoryspiceshop.com/okc. Visit Olive & Co. at 7602 N. May Ave., OKC or shoptheoiltree.com.

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