Caviar 101

Is Caviar luxury or accessible? We say both. As seen in movies and media as the dish served by white gloves to nobility and the elect, it is time we busted that myth. Caviar’s new alias: For all. But what even is it, and how are we to go about experiencing it? Positioned as a food only consumed by the higher-ups and influencer-status people of the world, caviar is quite attainable—and we’re going to walk you through the ins and outs of questions like what is caviar, how to eat caviar, and what it pairs best with.

What is Caviar exactly?

Caviar is a luxurious yet accessible food product from the eggs of various species of sturgeon. The eggs, aka roe, are harvested from female sturgeon. After being gathered, the eggs are salted, cured, and packed for people like you to enjoy.

Where does caviar come from?

Sturgeon are fish dating back to the earliest of days. They are native to many regions throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. Caviar, as it’s known today, was first harvested and cured in Russia. Three different species (Beluga, Osetra, and Sevruga) would migrate upriver from the Caspian Sea to spawn. Spawn yielded eggs, which were called roe and have now become the delicacy that is caviar. 

Sturgeon roe was originally considered "peasant food" (who knew!) It eventually grew in popularity with Russian nobility and aristocracy in the 16th century. Word about this grand fish egg spread throughout Europe and became a symbol of wealth and luxury. Alas!

As the demand for caviar grew, so did the fishing industry (supply and demand baby), which often led to overfishing and the rapid decline of wild sturgeon populations. To counter this, conservation regulations have been implemented to protect sturgeon and their habitats. Today, caviar is aquacultured (aka grown in a controlled, sustainable water environment), and wild populations are being replenished.

What are the different types of caviar?

All fish eggs are called roe, but only sturgeon roe is considered "caviar". Sturgeon, you bright lad. A level all their own. 

There are 27 different species of sturgeon and an innumerable amount of hybrid species. Our caviar collection consists of eight different varieties of caviar from several species: Osetra, Kaluga Hybrid, Siberian Sturgeon, White Sturgeon, Hackleback, and Paddlefish. 

We also carry a curated selection of roe: Pink Salmon, Whitefish, and Rainbow Trout.

How much caviar do I need for hosting?

If you’re serving caviar as an appetizer, guests will likely go for 3-5 bites each. If you have five guests, plus yourself, all snagging five tastes, that’s 30 bites total, which brings you to 3 oz. 

Of course, this depends on what you're using it for. We typically recommend about 3g of caviar per bite of food, so about ten bites per ounce of caviar. Please consider that math when considering how large your party is and what other food you're serving. For reference, many restaurants with caviar service will serve 1oz of caviar with their choice of "vehicle" to serve it on: Most often blini, chips, or brioche.

Can you make caviar yourself?

Kids (and adults!)—don't try this at home! Making caviar is an art. Each caviar farm has a state-of-the-art facility where the roe are very carefully handled and harvested. Roe is quickly washed, salted, and cured in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment for 2-3 months. Talk about a nurturing upbringing. 

How do I eat caviar?

Pro Tip: It's best to crush the pearls against the roof of your mouth with your tongue versus chew them.

To eat it well, it's best to have a mother-of-pearl caviar spoon handy since these don't impart a metallic flavor on the caviar as stainless does. Contrary to what would be thought, plastic also works well. If metal is all you have, it's okay if it briefly makes contact with the caviar, but avoid letting the metal spoon sit in the jar. 

Our favorite way to eat your first bite of caviar is to try it on its own. This way, you can experience the texture and flavor of the pearls. Do a caviar bump, or take it right off the spoon. 

Once you've tasted the caviar, the sky's the limit. Or should we say, the depths of the ocean abound? Gone are the days when a traditional caviar service is the only option; At our Champagne Lounge in Tiburon, we even serve it on ice cream!

How do I serve caviar?

Here are guidelines for traditional caviar service: 

1. Keep the caviar chilled until it is time to serve. 

2. Set the caviar tin on a bed of crushed ice or remove from the tin and arrange it in a bowl or a palette nested in a larger bowl filled with ice.

3. Caviar is traditionally served with a small spoon made of bone, horn, or, our favorite, mother-of-pearl. Reiterating here: Avoid using metal spoons if possible, as they can react with the caviar and affect its flavor.

What are the best foods to pair with caviar? 

You can serve caviar with accompaniments such as blinis (small, savory pancakes), mini toasts, or crackers. There are many accouterments you can add, but if you have good caviar, all you really need is a small amount of crème fraîche. A little chopped chive adds an aesthetic touch too.

Pro Tip: Go non-traditional! Caviar on Pringles? Say less. 

Some favorite non-traditional pairings are on smashed potatoes, latkes, and Pringles potato chips! You can also be like Jackie O. and load a baked potato with caviar. Host a "Breakfast of Champions" with caviar on eggs. It's fun to get playful with pairings.

What is best to drink with caviar? 

Caviar pairs well with champagne or other sparkling wines, but you can also serve it with vodka or a dry white wine. For wine and champagne, the drier the better. We love a Blanc de Blancs, a dry sparkling rosé, or an unoaked Chardonnay.

Why is caviar so expensive?

Caviar is on the more costly side due to a number of factors: its rarity, the difficulty and expense of harvesting it, and its high demand among luxury food connoisseurs.

One of the main factors contributing to the high cost of caviar is the rarity of sturgeon. They grow quite slowly, so it can take many years to mature and produce eggs. To add to that, sturgeon populations have been heavily overfished in the past, which has led to a decline in the availability of high-quality caviar.

To add another, to back up just how special (yet accessible!) it is: 

Another factor is the difficulty and expense of harvesting and processing caviar. Caviar has to be harvested carefully to avoid damaging the eggs, and it must be processed quickly to ensure its quality. This process requires specialized knowledge and equipment, which adds to the cost of production. A job well done. 

Finally, caviar is typically considered a luxury food item and is often associated with a high social status. Being perceived as exclusive and refined drives up demand among wealthy consumers, which in turn plays a role in the high price of caviar.

Where can I find caviar on a budget?

We were founded to make caviar and roe as approachable as possible. We recommend looking into domestic varieties like Hackleback and Paddlefish for possible options. Our Classic White Sturgeon is creamy and buttery, the perfect mid-range option. 

Roe from other types of fish will always be easier on the wallet. Smoked trout roe is a bestseller and the perfect accompaniment to a trout dip, lox, bagels, and much more.

Who knew?

Caviar doesn’t have to be so intimidating and high-up at all! We’re here to simplify your planning and hosting needs. As well as make any day… extraordinary. Adding caviar may elevate your next special event or regular weekend—C’est délicieux.