I was browsing food porn today and found several images of caviar that reminded me that I haven’t eaten any lately and I thought I would share. I love this product from Kaviari, the Parisian brand of caviar that supplies renowned chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Yannick Alleno, Joël Robuchon and Guy Martin. Called “In-caviar K”, they sell for about $45 for a 15 gram portion. The small cans come in various metallic colors and two types of caviar: Osetra, intense flavors and Krystal, smoother and refined. The designer boxes include a spoon to taste the small dish anytime and anywhere. I’m not exactly sure what the target market is for this portable caviar, but it looks very high tech, sort of like an Apple Nano.
This cool video accompanied the Hong Kong launch. I love the concept of spheres assembling and disambulating. At the launch event at The Mira Hotel in Hong Kong, culinary director Chef Luigi Gerosa noted that the best way to taste a small portion of caviar is placed in the area between the thumb and forefinger where we put salt to taste tequila or vodka – and leave it to warm up briefly before taking it to the mouth.
Almas caviar comes from Iran, making it extremely rare and extremely expensive. Let’s face it, it’s so expensive because someone, somewhere is willing to buy it. The only known outlet is the Caviar House & Prunier in London England’s Picadilly that sells a kilo of the expensive Almas caviar in a 24-karat gold tin for about $25,000. Coincidentally, it is also where you can find the most expensive meal in Britain. The Caviar House also sells a “budget” tin for £800 (about $1200).
Escargots of the Gros Gris species (Helix Aspersa Maxima), produce pearly white eggs which have earned it the name of “pearls of Aphrodite” in Spain. It costs € 200 for 125 grams or about $2100 per kilogram. In France Snail Caviar or Snail Eggs are called Caviar d’escargot or “Perles de France”. In Europe you cannot call this caviar, only sturgeon roe are allowed to use this name. It is said to possesses a subtle flavor with hints of mushroom, heather and bark, mmm. Seriously though, it is a new taste sensation for some chefs in Europe and I do love escargot.
The Swiss Tropenhaus Frutigen is an combination of the sustainable growth of exotic plants, aquaculture, knowledge transfer and high quality caviar. The fish farming that has been established in the Tropenhaus Frutigen is considered as a pioneering effort for the sustainable breeding of Siberian sturgeon in the Swiss Alps. The shape of the glass cube, which is manufactured in Switzerland, symbolizes ice, the origin of the water. The caviar is embedded in the centre of the cube in the shape of a sphere, in the likeness of a perfect caviar pearl. It costs about $250 for 250 grams.
Today, wild sturgeon have become rare, and wild caviar has become very hard to find. As a result of the hunt for caviar and the obstruction of spawning rivers, most of the 27 sturgeon species are currently threatened with extinction worldwide. In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the listing of beluga sturgeon as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Beluga caviar is currently illegal in the U.S. through legitimate purveyors, although you can still get it in Europe. In case you did not know, the three best-known varieties are:
BELUGA which is generally the most expensive is produced by the largest species of sturgeon (about 800kg sturgeon). The eggs are dark grey, firm, heavy and well separated. These eggs are the biggest, but most fragile. When eggs burst, the caviar becomes very oily. OSETRA eggs are smaller and more evenly sized. They are golden yellow to brown colored and more oily. Many prefer this variety. Smaller sturgeon produce SEVRUGA. The eggs are very small light to dark grey clouded. As you can see above, the wild caviar from Petrossian is more expensive than the sustainable farm bred stuff. When shopping for caviar it is essential that you verify the origin, type, and freshness. These are all indicators of quality and affect the price tremendously.
Many stories and myths are associated with caviar … the most popular version says that the word “caviar” is derived from “Kahv-Jar”, which means “the cake of pleasure” among an Iranian people known as the Khedive. Another legend claims that the word “caviar” has developed from the Persian “Khag-viar“, which means a “small, black fish egg“.
Before caviar was regarded to be a delicacy, it was considered to be a poor man’s food and was the basic food of fishermen on the Caspian Sea and on the Volga. The main reason for this was that the sensitive caviar quickly becomes spoiled, and cannot be sold. It was precisely this perishability without the corresponding refrigeration that made the caviar so exclusive, and therefore interesting, for the tsars, aristocrats and nobles. It was very difficult to offer a sparkling, exquisite caviar at a feast among the high society, and was therefore regarded as particularly noteworthy.
All kidding aside, I love caviar. When it comes to eating caviar there a few options with regards to accoutrements. First, never use a metal spoon, as soon as the metal touches the caviar it leaves a metallic taste and spoils the caviar. The usual caviar spoons are mother of pearl or ivory. Also, put the original tin or glass bowl on ice, moving the caviar can cause the eggs to break. The second issue has to do with the platform, bilinis or toast points. I personally prefer lightly toasted toast points because they have a neutral taste and add a little crunch to the experience. The topping for the toast is usually creme fraiche although I like soft goat cheese. The purists will only eat beluga without accompaniments but since my budget is limited, I like to stretch things out and add the toppings. Many people swallow caviar whole, but to fully appreciate the flavor you should “burst” the eggs with the tip of your tongue against your palate to release the flavor in your mouth. Also “traditional”, finely chopped onions, chives, eggs and capers are not recommended although I like them anyway. Drink with frozen vodka, for this choice I really love frozen pepper vodka.
If you are in Paris and love caviar you really should visit the Petrossian 144, just down from the Alexander bridge, run by the young chef from Senegal, Rougui Dia. Jérome Berger has dubbed Rougui the “black pearl of Petrossian”.
Any time you get caviar from a new supplier, get a small amount to test it’s quality. It should taste fresh with no fishy taste or smell.
Petrossian US: http://www.petrossian.com/caviar-1.html
Kavairi France: http://www.kaviari.fr/en-k-de-caviar
Finesaler for Kavari US: http://finesaler.com/order/caviar/
Almas Caviar: http://www.almascaviar.co.uk/
Caviar House & Prunier: https://www.caviarhouse-prunier.com/
Corchito, Snail Caviar: http://www.corchito.us/conservas-del-mar/perlas-blanc-caviar-de-caracol
French Snail Pearls: http://www.perle-et-saveurs.com/en/index.php?id=1
Sustainable River Beluga Caviar, Black Star: http://www.blackstargourmet.com/Beluga-Caviar_c_4.html
Sustainable California Tsar Nicouli: http://www.tsarnicoulai.com/caviar.php