Watchonista’s Guide To Caviar
Caviar is perhaps the ultimate indulgence. Our guide will help you select and serve the best caviar at your next fête.
Just the word caviar instantly conjures up thoughts of decadent parties and extravagant dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants. But caviar doesn’t need to be reserved for special occasions. It’s the perfect treat for a midweek pick me up, and pairs with much more than vodka. Read on for the Watchonista guide to caviar.
What Is Caviar?
Caviar is salt-cured eggs that are harvested from a sturgeon fish. There are many types of caviar, but they all come from the sturgeon family. These golden- to black-colored eggs have delicate flavors that can include creamy, buttery, nutty, and, of course, brine.
Some of the most popular kinds today are Ossetra, Siberian, and Kaluga or Beluga Hybrids (true Beluga caviar is illegal in the US due to overfishing). Everyone has their own favorite caviar, and the best way to find yours is to purchase a tasting kit, which includes small portions of several different types.
Is Roe The Same Thing As Caviar?
Technically, both roe and caviar are fish eggs, but only sturgeon eggs can be called caviar. That does not mean there isn’t plenty of delicious roe out there – there is. But the size, cost, and flavor profile are much different.
You’re probably familiar with bright orange roe from salmon or trout. These large eggs have a robust flavor and a satisfying pop but don’t have the same brine or delicacy as caviar. And I, for one, love to enjoy a generous serving of roe on latkes or potato chips topped with crème fraîche.
Another commonly known variety is tiny tobiko roe, which has very small, firm eggs and a mild flavor. It is most often seen in Japanese cuisine, topping sushi and sashimi. Inventive companies are even making seaweed caviar these days for all the vegetarians out there. Roe is much less expensive than caviar, so it’s great for parties or cooking.
How To Serve Caviar
If you have a proper caviar server, this is the time to break it out. If not, place your tin inside an ice-filled bowl to keep it cool. Caviar is best served with a mother-of-pearl spoon, as metal spoons can impart a metallic flavor into the caviar.
If you don’t have a mother-of-pearl spoon, you can use a wooden spoon or even chopsticks to scoop it out. A traditional caviar service includes blinis (petite Russian pancakes), crème fraîche, and sometimes assorted toppings, including chopped hard-boiled eggs, capers, and red onion. However, these toppings can sometimes overwhelm the delicate flavors of delicious caviar, so we recommend serving them with just blinis and crème fraîche or solo in a caviar bump.
Next, spoon a little caviar onto the back of your hand, wait a minute or two for your skin to slightly warm the caviar, then lick it off and gently press the eggs onto the roof of your mouth. Raising the temperature of the caviar lets you taste more of the nuances, and it’s very fun. You can also cook with caviar. It’s a fabulous topping for oysters, lemon pasta, baked potatoes, and scrambled eggs.
What To Pair With Caviar
The trick for pairing caviar is finding a beverage that enhances and doesn’t overwhelm its flavors. Champagne and vodka — nicknamed the French and the Russian way — are classic pairings, and for a good reason.
The delicate flavors of champagne and the more neutral flavors of ultra-cold vodka enhance your caviar. You can also pair it with an unoaked white wine with no residual sugar. We’d steer clear of robust red wines, oaked whites, and other spirits.
What Are The Best Caviar Companies?
There are few things worse than bad caviar, which is why it is so important to only purchase from a well-known purveyor. Sturgeons take years to grow large enough to harvest caviar, so it’s also important to find a company that focuses on sustainability or that sources from sustainable purveyors.
Some purists will only eat caviar from purebred Caspian Sea sturgeon — the Caspian Sea is the birthplace of caviar — because they think has the most authentic flavors. If that’s your preference, Caviar Russe specializes in sustainably farmed and harvested caviar from an artisanal farm in Germany that uses Caspian techniques.
Two of the most well-known caviar companies, Paramount Caviar and Petrossian, source their caviar from around the world, focusing on the best caviar, no matter the source. Here, you’ll find excellent caviar from California, China, Israel, and Italy, among others. Both companies provide caviar to the world’s best chefs. Paramount Caviar even collaborated with renowned chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin on a special caviar package.
The domestic caviar queen, Deborah Keane, founded the California Caviar Company to create a truly sustainable caviar company in the US with its own farm. She specializes in ultra-premium caviar and has some very interesting roe infusions, as well.