Caviar 101

Mention caviar and images of fur coats, and expensive champagne and the Russian Mafia come to mind. But what is caviar exactly? And how you to eat it like an expert?

What is Caviar?
Caviar is an expensive delicacy from the unfertilized eggs (roe) of a sturgeon fish brined in a salt solution. The three species of sturgeon-beluga, oestra and the sevruga-supply most of the caviar that you see on your plate. The sturgeon is primarily harvested in the Caspian Sea from Iran or Russia. In recent years; however, overfishing and other causes have threatened production, and wild caviar production was even temporarily suspended in Russia between 2008 and 2011 to replenish the stock supply. In the early 20th century, the U.S. was a major supplier of caviar to Europe due to abundance of sturgeon in the Midwest and the eastern coast. It was so plentiful that it was given to bar patrons to make them thirsty-the same way peanuts are given away today.

How do you eat Caviar?
First, caviar is highly perishable and should be chilled when served. Caviar loves crystal and hates metal. True caviar purists will serve it out of a chilled crystal glass with a bone, horn or mother of pearl spoon. Metal should never be used as it taints its delicate taste.

Caviar should be consumed in small quantities, smaller than a tablespoon. When you take a whiff, you should detect a faint smell of seaweed, and never of fish. High quality roe should look like large, shiny, clear black perfect spheres. Although traditionally eaten by itself, caviar is also often served with buttered toast points with a dollop or crème fraiche or plain crackers. Caviar can also be served on top of a blini (thin buckwheat pancakes) loosely rolled into a tube.