As a half-Japanese American, salty preserved fish products are in my blood. I grew up eating tarako, the salted, cured roe of Alaskan pollock, served inside rice onigiri, or grilled up for breakfast. But it wasn’t until I started working at fancy-pants restaurants that I first tasted real caviar price. The first bite I had was a small dollop of Iranian osetra that I ate off of a plastic spoon the chef handed me in the walk-in refrigerator. Subtly salty with a distinct minerality and an aroma of the sea. The beads of sturgeon roe rolled across my tongue, popping against the roof of my mouth in little saline bursts. It was mind-blowing stuff, and I relished every opportunity to work with it and taste the many varieties available.
How To Taste And Serve Caviar
The traditional accompaniments to caviar are Champagne or ice-cold vodka. “Avoid a heavier red or white wine with caviar,” advises Alexander. “It will compete with the flavor.” If tasting a variety of different caviars, drink water or sparkling water between varieties to cleanse your palate.
I prefer to taste caviar straight out of the tin using a spoon. Mother-of-pearl is pretty and the traditional choice, but you don’t need a fancy spoon to eat it. “I taste my caviar from a wooden spoon because that’s how I was taught to taste it growing up,” says Alex. I like to use plastic spoons. The only material to avoid is silver, which can react with the caviar to give it a metallic flavor.
If you want to put a little more work into the presentation, toast, cold boiled potatoes, or blini are all excellent, relatively bland backdrops that will give you somebody, but not compete with the caviar for flavor. Sour cream and chives also work well.
How To Buy Caviar
Sopping for caviar can be intimidating. Here are five tips to make sure that you get your money’s worth.
#1: More Expensive ≠ Better
Ok, let’s face it: even the most inexpensive sturgeon caviar is still going to be expensive. You should expect to spend at least $50 to $75 for 30 grams (1 ounce)—enough caviar to make a few good bites for two people. But the prices can get astronomically high. The Special Reserve Ossetra from Petrossian runs at $12,000 a kilo, or $378 for a 30-gram tin.
#2: Start at the low end
Caviar can be an acquired taste, and like many expensive foods prized for the complexity, there is a learning curve when it comes to appreciating their subtlety. Dive right into the deep end with the more expensive caviars, and most likely those more delicate flavors will be missed on you, and your money will have been wasted.
#3: If they don’t let you taste it, shop somewhere else
When shopping for caviar, make sure that you taste the product before you buy it. You wouldn’t buy a $125 pair of shoes without trying it on; why would you drop that kind of cash on caviar if you aren’t sure you’re going to like what you’re going to get?