Caviar, food of kings. Named after the Persian word "Chaviar" which roughly translates to "Cake of Strength". Over history it has been consumed by the upper echelon of society Kings, Royals, Czars. Today, caviar has been democratized. It is still expensive, but anyone can access it.
But.. what is Caviar?
Caviar is basically, fish eggs, which are called "roe", and because not all fish eggs are edible nor delicious, only eggs sourced specifically from the Sturgeon family of fish can be called Caviar... eggs from any other species are simply called "roe".
There are lots of complications around Roe, and one of them is the sourcing. The Sturgeon family of fish is extremely large (27+ species, including Beluga) and each can have a different texture and flavor. Caviar is kind of like wine, in a way it is an acquired taste, also the more delicious the roe and the rarer the more expensive it is. The finest, most expensive caviars are older, larger eggs that are lighter in color.
Note that for roe to be called caviar, it must be slightly salted and cured as well.
For a long time there were only 4 types of Caviar (Almas, Beluga, Osciètre, and Sévruga), all from Sturgeons from the Caspian Sea. But things have changed and now Caviar encompasses salted and cured roe from other species... for example Kaluga caviar, lumpfish caviar, whitefish caviar and salmon caviar which are a lot less expensive and have become extremely popular, high quality and widely consumed.
Ok, but what are the differences?
The 4 caviars from the Caspian sea are rare and much more expensive. Almas caviar can be as expensive as $25K for 2.2lbs which works out to $715 per ounce!!
Both Beluga and Almas are very similar (and almost just as expensive). It comes from the from the huso huso sturgeon which is considered the epitome of culinary sophistication. It presents large, pearlescent eggs, of a light glistening grey. This is the most prized caviar because of its smooth and rich texture and flavor. The Almas caviar comes from the Beluga, the largest sturgeon of all species and is basically "The best of the best". Almas caviar comes exclusively from the albino beluga sturgeon that are more than 100 years old and it is actually white in color. Note that Beluga caviar is banned in the US, so no, you will not find it here... and anything that has the word "Beluga" on it is profiting off the ignorance of the consumer. The US Fish & Wildlife does not mess around and neither does the USDA. There is no Beluga caviar in the US and especially not at any restaurant. Why? Beluga is an endangered species and unlike other governments the US actually protects endangered species (we agree with this stance).
You will find Ossetra Caviar, which is one of the caviars we sell. It is as best as it gets in the US. While not as significantly priced as Beluga, it is still elegant, delicious and affordable. Some people actually believe that the only reason Beluga caviar is "better" is because it is rarer. The roe of the Ossetra has a slightly stronger flavor than the Beluga. Ossetra "Gold" is more expensive because it is of a golden color profile which is extremely rare as only 2% of Ossetra roes are gold in color. Ossetra caviar will melt/dissolve in your mouth.
Next up is Sevruga Caviar. It is much more available than Ossetra because it reproduces the quickest. The roe of Sevruga is small and delicate, can be either grey or black. The texture is crunchier than Ossetra and Beluga, less "melt in your mouth". Some people actually prefer it because it presents a more intense "fishy" flavor that pops in every bite.
Anything outside of these 4 caviars will be "looked down" by purists. That said, there are other good options such as Kaluga Caviar which, while extremely similar to Beluga and Ossetra, is actually farm raised, a lot of it is farm raised in America.
How do I eat Caviar?
A serving of Caviar is 1oz, but honestly you can share an ounce of Caviar easily with 2-3 people.
You can put Caviar on anything, even Pizza. That said, if you want to indulge on the flavor of the caviar the best way is to eat it on its own. You should use a spoon made of mother-pearl and just eat it right out of the tin!
We recommend eating caviar with Blini (little pancakes, or crepes) which are also a very common pairing for caviar. A plain cracker is often used so it doesn't overpower the flavor of the caviar.
You can also combine it with some dairy such as crème fraîche, sour cream, whipped cream cheese, or unsalted butter. Lats but not least, add some crunch... we recommend green onions. Some people like mixing with crumbled hard-boiled chicken eggs.
Do note that Caviar is an excellent ingredient to play with, goes well with Pasta, Steak, Sushi, Fish and even potato chips!
- Buy Caviar from reputable brands that stick to the basics. Transparency is key when buying any proteins, the same applies to Caviar. If it says "Beluga" stay away from it . Good brands such as Kaviari can be traced, meaning you can trace it all the way back to where it was harvested and then aged.
- Keep Caviar between 26 – 34℉. Your home refrigerator is usually warmer than 34℉ so you will need to place the caviar in the COLDEST spot of your refrigerator.
- Serve caviar chilled. Some people like to let their caviar warm up to room temperature to experience a stronger flavor and softer texture but we recommend keeping it chilled while serving to preserve the freshness.
- Unopened Caviar should easily last four to six weeks, if you are told otherwise that means the caviar you are being offered is not fresh. Once opened Caviar should be consumed with 72 hours.
- Try different types of Caviar, do NOT be put off by non-traditional Caviar. Some American companies such as Sterling Caviar (which we sell) is also excellent and Kaviari's Kristal Caviar is another example.
If you want to know a bit of caviar etiquette, you should not put the spoon directly in your mouth. You should put it in the back of your hand and take a "bump" of Caviar. Scoop the caviar from the container and spread it on the back of your hand, near the thumb joint where we have a tiny natural bowl.
To end this blog post, here is a fun fact: Not too long ago, doctors prescribed caviar for impotence. Now you know!