Vervacious Fancy Foods
Who doesn’t dream of selling the farm, buying a boat, and sailing around the world? Many dream, but few follow through, and even fewer come back with a business plan.
Heidi Stanvich and her husband Mark, co-owners of Vervacious, did just that. They sold their house, quit their jobs, and began sailing full-time on their ketch Verve. After a year of cruising the Atlantic Ocean in the US, the Caribbean, and Europe, Heidi and Mark launched Vervacious, making spice rubs, salt mixes, flavored vinegars, and other ‘fancy foods.’
One of the most striking things about Vervacious products is their stunning packaging. (In fact, they’ve won the Gold award for their product design and packaging at last year’s Fancy Food show.) These stacking, swooping bottles beg to be displayed- although I’ve heard we’re supposed to hide our spices away in our cool, dark cabinets. With Heidi’s products, I want to proudly display them on the counter, where they can serve as conversation pieces.
I was most intrigued by her Basque Piri-Piri Table sauce and Harissa spice blends. Piri-Piri and Harissa are both blends of spices that can vary widely depending on the region of the world. Vervacious’ Piri-Piri is spicy, but light, a well-balanced blend of vinegar and chilies.
When I first tasted it, I thought of summer, cook-outs, and (ahem) sailing in the Med. Even though our Maine summer is slow coming this year, I thought I would try out fish tacos with Piri-Piri sauce. I adapted this fish taco recipe and garnished it with fresh corn, cilantro, and thinly sliced green onions and red cabbage.
Vervacious’ Piri-Piri sauce added a nice kick and brought out the cumin, and chili powder in the fish marinade. But while I was trying it, I couldn’t stop thinking of all the other applications the sauce could have: grilled chicken, steamed shrimp, potato salad…
The other flavor I was interested in, the Harissa, influences a spice rub and a spicy mustard. I first tried this on the Maine Foodie Tour when they mixed Harissa mustard with fresh lobster, mayo and lemon for a new twist on an old favorite. Since Harissa is commonly associated with North African cooking, I adapted this Chicken Tagine recipe by using the Harissa spice rub to build my flavors. The smoky, spicy undertones are perfect for this stew, served over couscous with segmented oranges.
For an even quicker version, try creating a quick pan sauce with garlic, onions, crushed tomatoes, sweet Bell peppers, and spinach. Serve with grilled or pan fried chicken sausages over citrus couscous. Vervacious’ Harrisa Spiced Mustard gives the light sausages a great kick. Once again, I found myself dreaming of other applications: veggie wraps, roast pork with stewed fruit…
And I dream of sailing. Always of sailing. I haven’t bought the farm yet (as it were), but already I’m thinking of giving it all away and taking to the sea. So while I stare longingly at the docks and wait for warmer weather, I have Heidi and Mark’s ‘fancy foods’ to bring the flavors of the world into my kitchen.
Kate McCarty writes at The Blueberry Files and is a guest blogger. She will be profiling local businesses and products featured on the Maine Foodie Tour. If you’d like to take a tour, you can purchase tickets here.
Portland, ME 04101