Spice it up with blends and rubs from Spice Cave and Spiceologist

Four spice blends from Spice Cave add zest to meat, fish, fowl and veggies.
Four spice blends from Spice Cave add zest to meat, fish, fowl and veggies.

The spice trade has an exotic and violent history. Once upon a time, when spices were more valuable than precious metals, ships traveled maritime spice routes to trade and carry spices all over the known world. Some nations went to war to determine which would control the tumultuous traffic.

Helping keep the spice trade far less barbaric these days is Spokane, Wash.-based Spiceologist, founded by former chef Pete Taylor. He became a “self-proclaimed spice guru” during his 15 years in professional kitchens, he said. In his limited free time, he set up his wares at farmers markets and “sold out every time. The next thing I knew, stores were calling. I took a leap of faith and quit my job 3 1/2 years ago to be a spiceologist.” Now his spice blends are sold worldwide. “It’s been a crazy wild ride,” he said.

We sampled products from two of Spiceology’s lines, each with their own website (and recipes).

First up were four new and cleverly marketed blends from Spice Cave – Wind, “For anything that flies” (herbaceous, with a touch of heat, for poultry); Sea, “...that swims” (citrusy and peppery, for seafood); Land, “...that walks” (garlicky, for beef, pork, lamb); and Fire, “Sweet heat for any dish” (all are $9 for 4 ounces). They’re gluten-, preservative- and GMO-free, “paleo approved” and low-sodium.

“We wanted to create a seasoning system that would allow you to mix and match to create flavor combinations,” Taylor said of the Spice Cave blends. For instance, add Fire to Sea for spicy citrus salmon, or mix Land and Wind for garlic-herb chicken.

We also taste-tested four rubs (out of 10) from Spiceologit, on a rack of baby back ribs, a grilled chicken, an oven-roasted chicken and oven-roasted cauliflower – Thai Peanut (“Sweet & spicy curry”), Raspberry Chipotle (“Sweet & spicy,” but it’s really hot), Black & Bleu (“Cajun and bleu cheese”), and the oddly named Greek Freak (“Mediterranean herb blend”). They’re $12 for 4 ounces; the website also sells more than 100 spices in bulk.

Overall, we liked the globally sourced products a lot, especially when blended in experimentation (Greek and chipotle rubs go well together). We thought Fire was one-dimensional by itself, but worked well mixed with the other three Spice Cave blends and Black & Bleu rub. We were surprised at how powdery most of the blends and rubs turned out to be; mixing them with olive oil to make a rub-on paste helped a lot.

As for Taylor’s go-to: “We’re using the new Thai Peanut rub at home almost every day,” he said. “Last night we did sweet potatoes and chicken breast in the oven and they were unbelievably tasty.”

Find the blends and rubs at Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table and Home Goods.

Allen Pierleoni: 916-321-1128, @apierleonisacbe