Tag Archives: Petrossian

Serving Caviar for a Tasting?

Champagne-Caviar-Tasting_orig

Handy tips for serving caviar at your next event.

 

When you own restaurants, as I did for more than twenty years, you learn quite a bit about serving all kinds of different food. Caviar is a little unusual in its own way. Serving can be tricky, but the effort is well worth the work.

Remember that caviar is basically cured (salted) eggs from sturgeon, a white meat fish. The sturgeon flesh is also very edible, usually found in stores canned or frozen, but the big value are the eggs. For that reason, because fresh caviar is so delicate, you want to keep it unopened for no more than 8 days in the coldest part of your refrigerator – ideally at 28-32 degrees. If the tin is opened, don’t keep it for more than 2 days.

You want to be especially careful with unpasteurized caviar which is the freshest and the best tasting and truly the one you want to spend your money on.  So, buy it close to the date of your party and only what you think will be eaten.  If there’s any leftover use it as a garnish on an omelet the next day!

When serving, you want to keep caviar cold. I place the smaller serving dish into a larger dish that is filled with ice. This will chill the serving dish and keep the contents cold for a few hours. Just a little warning, you do NOT want the caviar to warm up on the table or it will spoil. Also, never use a sterling silver spoon with caviar. You won’t like the taste of the caviar if you do. You want to use wood or glass for the serving dish; mother of pearl, horn or bone for the serving spoon. You can even use plastic as an absolute last resort, but maybe not for the nice party you just laid out!

When it comes to serving, there are a couple of options – it can be served plain if you prefer or as a garnish on other foods. Some people are happy with just a dab of real butter, and some lemon juice on a cracker. But I serve my caviar with blini and pumpernickel or rye cocktail size bread, with sieved egg yolk, sieved egg white, minced red onion, minced chive, and crème fraîche.  A perfect bite!

It’s important to remember that there’s actually all kinds of “caviar.” My favorite Italian restaurant Sfxio in Beverly Hills serves Truffle Caviar Pasta. They import “truffle caviar” (truffle oil in the shape of caviar) from Italy and serve it on house made fresh pasta. It’s delicious and it’s their most popular dish.

Truly the best recommendation is one that I’ve done myself. Not long ago I hosted a tasting party that featured my favorite Champagnes and vodkas with the best osetra caviars from Petrossian.

For the Champagne or sparkling wine, we served Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and Gruet Sparkling from New Mexico which is my go-to sparkling for informal gatherings. Don’t forget nice glasses for your beautiful bubbles.  Two favorites are the Reidel Veritas collection for simple wide tulips or the Mulle Nuits crystal flute from Baccarat.

Now let’s say that you want an alternative for Champagne, like a vodka. I like vodka distilled from potato. There are three that catch my eye for flavor and body. My favorite vodka is Luksusowa, a popular brand imported from Poland. You can make a real statement with Chopin from the Podlask Wytwornia distillery also in Poland.  Or you can serve another favorite, Ultimat, which is actually a blend of wheat, rye and potato vodkas!

Serving tip for vodka – keep the bottle in the freezer until you’re ready to serve. Put it in the deepest recesses of the freezer for at least three days. The vodka won’t freeze but will get a little thicker and taste a great deal better than just chilled. Find some fun shot glasses at a resale shop for a vintage look or use these plain ones I found at Crate and Barrel.

I think it’s time to party!

What is Caviar?

A little ‘what’ and ‘where’ about caviar, and how you can enjoy it.

 

In the twenty years that I owned my restaurants you wouldn’t believe how many times I was asked, “What is caviar?” It’s a delicacy, to be sure, but it’s also one way to start a conversation during a champagne tasting party (or maybe vodka?).

The correct definition for caviar is that it is the harvested, cured and salted eggs (roe) of wild sturgeon, a white meat fish. If you want to add some history, you would add that the caviar had to be harvested from wild sturgeon caught in the Caspian Sea and Black Sea. But the fact is, caviar can also come from sturgeon all over the Northern Hemisphere.  Caviar (or technically caviar substitute) can also come from salmon, steelhead, trout, lumpfish, whitefish and even carp.

As for purely sturgeon caviar, there are three species: Beluga, Osetra, and Sevruga, all of which can be found in BOTH fresh and salt water bodies. The fish themselves can be very large, reportedly over 18 feet long, can weigh more than a ton and can live on average 50-60 years! The sturgeon flesh is very edible, usually found in stores canned or frozen, but the big value are the eggs.

Between the three types of sturgeon caviar, the beluga is the rarest, most well-known, definitely the most expensive. Some say that beluga has the best taste. But not all caviar – even beluga – is equal to the label “the best.” Good caviar can be very expensive. You’ll want to pay close attention to the classification found on the label.

The highest quality class of sturgeon caviar will say “Malassol.” This caviar will have less than 5 percent salt content – often as little as 3.5%. For people who don’t mind the salty taste there’s also “Payusnaya” caviar which is made from too-soft, damaged, broken and overly ripe eggs.  It is highly treated, highly salted (can contain 10%) and pressed to a jam-like consistency, and is less expensive but, for some who like its strong, concentrated flavor it can be a favorite.

If you want a little more history to add to your table talk, you might mention that near the end of the 1800s American caviar production really peaked. So much caviar was produced that it was cheap enough for many American bars to serve it to encourage more beer drinking. Think about how bars use peanuts or other salty snacks today. Imagine, caviar at peanut prices.

By 1915, the Atlantic surgeon on the East coast and the white sturgeon on the West were fished out. Fisheries closed down and the sturgeon didn’t return to sport fishing until the 1950s. When over fishing again became a problem, U.S. importation of caviar was briefly banned in 2005. Fishing for Beluga sturgeon was again banned between 2008 to 2011.

Many countries produce caviar with some producing “farmed” caviar: Iran, Canada, Israel, Italy, Spain, the U.S., and England among others. The bans for caviar from wild Beluga sturgeon are now partially lifted and you can purchase it online or in stores.  Just know it’s the most expensive of all the caviars.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, I recommend Petrossian – and if you don’t live in either New York or Los Angeles where they have actual stores you can always order it from their 15-year-old online store.

Want a little more adventure?

How about caviar at your own Champagne and vodka tasting party? Ready?