One of my favorite ways to wind down at the end of a long busy day in the summertime is to sit outside with chilled Champagne, complimented with a tin of fresh, robust caviar. This pairing is a perfect blend of sophistication and refreshing flavor. Whether it’s a congratulatory treat at the end of a long day or the finishing touch to a charcuterie board, I turn to caviar whenever I’m craving a unique taste and texture. An experience with caviar truly ignites all the senses and gives that ultimate feeling of luxury. Naturally, this Russian delicacy that has historically been a favorite of czars and emperors alike is now one of my go-to indulgences.
When it comes to quality caviar, I pay attention to the production of the caviar, the region it’s from, and the grade of the caviar. Caviar can only be a good as the fish that it came from. A quality producer of caviar, sources exclusively from the finest quality Sturgeon roe and pays attention to the maturing process to ensure the fish are reaching their peak level of maturity for producing rich flavored caviar.
You may have heard the term “black caviar” or Beluga caviar referred to as the most expensive and desirable caviar. Though historically this may have been true, due to the overfishing of wild beluga to the point of near extinction, Beluga caviar is now illegal in the US, and unfortunately, no longer produces the best quality caviar. Another rarity is the Beluga-albino roe, often referred to as “white caviar” or“almas” which translates to “diamond” in Arabic. Almas Iranian Caviar is considered to be the most expensive caviar in the world and is packaged in 24-karat gold tin. This caviar can cost up to $25,000 for one kilo (2.2 pounds). Albino sturgeon are becoming more and more difficult to come by since the genetic disorder only affects a few members of the species, and since wild sturgeon are in danger of extinction. More brands are turning to farm-raised albino sturgeon. As a matter of fact, nowadays, caviar is mostly produced by farms. Farm-raised sturgeon are raised in clean, pristine waters with restricted diets and allowed to reach peak maturity, resulting in the highest flavor and taste. As a by-product of this shift, top quality caviar will be an Ossetra or Kaluga caviar, depending on your taste preferences. A tin of Ossetra or Kaluga caviar can range anywhere from $65 to $2,000 depending on the quantity and grade.
The sensory experience of tasting Caviar is like none other. The subtle yet salty taste, rolling over the tongue and popping against the roof of the mouth with a buttery sensation, the subdued sea aroma; it forces you to be fully present within the flavor itself. Fresh, high-quality caviar, the eggs will be sturdy and glistening, ready to pop and separate when you put them in your mouth. For those with a sophisticated palate who enjoy exploring the many different flavors of a fine wine, then you will not be disappointed with a good Ossetra or Kaluga caviar which can consist of up to 15 different flavors from beginning to finish. Ossetra caviar will have a bold nutty but juicy flavor with a clean finish. Whereas the Kaluga, for me is reminiscent of toro, with a smooth buttery sensation and a lasting finish.
When I’m in Los Angeles or New York, I’m sure to stop by the Petrossian Boutique to get my caviar fix. As a world-renowned purveyor of caviar for over 100 years, they are my most trusted source for top-shelf caviar. The boutique itself has a quaint French appeal; you immediately feel like you’ve stepped off an alley in Paris and into their cafe. Petrossian has a rich history in caviar since the 1920’s, when Parisians were deeply infatuated by Russian culture, the Petrossian brothers decided to introduce the delicacy of caviar to the great city of Paris. To this day, the Petrossian name demands respect by the elite worldwide for their reputation to deliver premiere caviar.
When sampling caviar you’ll want to use a Mother of Pearl spoon. Eating caviar with a silver spoon is taboo. The metal is said to have reactive qualities that might spoil the taste of the caviar. Besides just sampling though, you’ll find that caviar can be used to complement many different dishes. In the morning, I will sprinkle some caviar on my poached eggs for extra texture and flavor. In Italy, several restaurants make a fantastic spaghetti with loads of caviar on top; I enjoy recreating this dish in the comfort of my home here in Los Angeles. The authentic Russian delicacy, caviar with toast and butter only, is also a great dish. Of course, there’s always the classic blinis with Crème Fraiche, topped with caviar. I encourage you to indulge and see what you like best. Though for me, a true caviar lover, I enjoy tasting this unique caviar like the kings and emperors of centuries past by eating it straight from the tin with a spoon and no garnish.