Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Caspian Sea - Caviar Statistical Graphs and Data

GRID-Arendal, a collaborating center of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), has a fantastic website with detailed statistical information for several regions in and around Europe, including the Caspian Sea.

This graph represents the illegal caviar trade in the Caspian region between 2000 and 2005. (Click for a full-scale image)

Another graph represents the legal international caviar trade between 1998 and 2003 for caviar originating from the Caspian Sea. In 2003, 83% of the world caviar trade consisted of caviar from the Caspian Sea.

A Very informative website for those that are in interested in Caviar, the Caspian Sea, and historical data.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Romanians Protest Lift of Sturgeon Fishing Ban

Fishing of sturgeons for commercial purposes was banned in Romania in 2006 for a period of ten years. The relatively long period of prohibition is explained by the long life cycle of the sturgeon (the maximum age being between 24 and 100 years), by the long period necessary for the sturgeon to reach reproductive age (between 6 and 26 years), and by the fact that the sturgeon does not reproduce every year.

In a controversial move, the Romanian Government is now allowing sturgeon fishing for purposes other than restocking. The move was implemented in September by the Agriculture and Environment Committees of the Romanian Parliament. The new law in effect legalizes fishing of sturgeons for commercial purposes.

This is not good for the caviar industry, as further fishing in the region is flirting with complete extinction of sturgeon species. The main sturgeon species found in the Romanian region are Sterlet, Ship, and Beluga Sturgeon. Osetra and Sevruga Sturgeon are also found in the region.

Read the full article posted on here.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

True Organic Caviar Farming From Spain

There is a great read on Meat Trade News Daily, an English news source, about the Riofrio Caviar Farm in the Sierra Nevada region of southern Spain. The article gives you a feel for the only certified organic sturgeon farm in the world by documenting the entire caviar processing procedure, from selecting viable sturgeon using ultrasound to check for eggs, to salting the roe, and of course tasting FRESH caviar later that evening.

Riofrio is considered the only true organic caviar farm because unlike most other sturgeon fisheries, no hormones are introduced to the controlled environment to speed up the maturity rate of the fish. Their Adriatic sturgeon (Acipenser Naccarii) are also contained in mountain fresh water that is untreated with additives. The water maintains a year-round temperature of 13 to 15 degrees.

What's the difference? Stress, says Keith Jaggard of Riofrio - Reducing the amount of stress in sturgeon greatly increases their health and viability in terms of producing quality roe. By creating an atmosphere that is as close to natural as possible in a controlled environment, Riofrio aims to produce the most authentic caviar from a sustainable source.

I would love to sample some of their caviar, and perhaps visit their facilities early next year when I will be in the region. Caviar Trip!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chemical Tags to Identify Unique Caviar

Scientists at Christian Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany have figured out a way to "tag" farmed caviar by supplementing the sturgeons diet with trace amounts of unique chemical compounds not normally occurring in nature.

Lead scientist Sven Wuertz believes this form of "tagging" could lead to a cheap and effective tool for labeling and distinguishing farmed caviar from Caspian "wild" caviar and ultimately illegally poached black-market caviar.

Although the idea of placing a genetic signature within farm-rasied sturgeon is relatively elegant and simple in design, multiple concerns exist with regulation by officials (CITES), primarily regarding cost, logistics, and the need for experts in the field. Further, Konrad Dabrowski who studies aquatic biochemistry at Ohio State University in Columbus, raises concerns on how "food additives" such as these tagging chemical compounds could cause side effects on sturgeon and humans who are consuming the caviar. As always, further detailed tests are suggested to determine if such a method is both safe and viable.

Even if it is years away, this is precisely the type of technology that will benefit legitimate caviar purveyors, caviar consumers, and worldwide CITES regulation towards the sustainability of caviar.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Most expensive Caviar in the World?

I often get asked by friends and family what the most expensive caviar in the world is. Maybe its peoples obsession with "extreme facts" or their lust for luxury, or perhaps they just want to hear my sweet voice. In either case, the world’s most expensive caviar product is Almas Caviar. This unique delicacy which means "diamond" in Russian retails for an amazing £27,000 per kilogram. That is just over $44,000.00!

So why is Almas Caviar the most expensive? Well, as if Caspian Sturgeons aren't rare enough, Almas is obtained from albino sturgeons found in the Caspian Sea that are at least 70 years old. The chances of finding an albino sturgeon that is over 70 years old and bearing these prized eggs is infinitesimally small, hence the unbelievable prices.

The flavor of albino eggs is described as being "incredibly light and delicate, while the [flavor] of pale Oscietre eggs (which are often termed Almas) from a mature fish is marvelously creamy and subtle." Caviar, The Definitive Guide, by Susie Boeckmann & Natalie Rebeiz-Nielsen

Although I have seen Almas Caviar as a child, I have yet to taste it. Even if I had the chance today, I don't know if my wallet could handle it!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rougie to phase out Goose Foie Gras Exports to U.S.

Just got word today that Rougie has decided to phase out its goose foie gras exports to the U.S. To compensate, Rougie has added lines of duck foie gras with port and duck liver mousse.

Our stocks are fine at the moment, but it looks like we are going to have to switch to duck foie gras or find a new source in the future. It's a shame, as Rougie has always been THE premier producer of quality foie gras. Also a perfect compliment to a caviar plate.

For those of you that might be unfamiliar with "fwa gra", here is a little exerpt from the Rougie website:

"Foie Gras was discovered 5,000 years ago as wild geese migrated for the winter from Scandinavia to the marshes of the Nile Delta

Amazed by the size and taste of the liver of the geese, the Egyptians learned that these animals produced “foie gras” by stocking fat in their liver, giving them the necessary fuel for their long flight. So this is how the secret of Foie Gras came to be known."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Caviar Etiquette - The Proper Allotment, by Curb Your Enthusiasm

Was watching last weeks episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which I have obsessed with since Larry David brought it to HBO several years back. For those of you who might not know, Larry David is the co-creator and producer of Seinfeld, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Anyway, there is a great scene where Larry is at Ted Danson's party, and Christian Slater is going over his "allotment" of caviar. Larry then explains to Christian the proper etiquette when eating caviar at a party. Well done, Mr. David. Video embedded below, if YouTube takes it off, I will try to find another host.

CITES 2009 Caviar Quota & Farmed-Caviar covered in Newsweek

Newsweek did a short article about Caviar CITES quotas for 2009 and the future of farmed-caviar from around the world.

The article describes that For CITES to agree to caviar quotas (to export caviar to countries like the United States), all the producing countries around the Caspian have to meet, and, according to Peter Rebeiz, CEO of Caviar House & Prunier, the Kazakhstan delegate missed the meeting.

Farmed-Caviar is then highlighted as it is quickly becoming a popular alternative to Caspian caviar, which has become increasingly more difficult and expensive to acquire.

BBC News also had a news story about Azerbaijan's illegal caviar black market and their recent efforts to educate the public about the dangers and penalties associated with poaching and selling illegal caviar, including Beluga.

The director of the Social Ecological Agency in Azerbaijan, Elchin Sardarov, says the problem exists "because there are too many small fishermen who are not registered".

Definitely a volatile time for Caviar from the Caspian Sea.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Short History of Caviar

The word caviar originates from the Turkish khavyar, which means "bearing eggs." Historically, the term caviar referred to the processed roe of the three prominent sturgeon fish found in the Caspian Sea: Beluga, Ossetra and Sevruga. Today, roe processed from salmon, whitefish, paddlefish, and sturgeon from around the world is also referred to as caviar.
Caviar was once reserved strictly for royalty. Yet surprisingly enough, in America during the early nineteenth century, caviar was routinely served during free lunches in saloons. The salty flavor encouraged thirst and enhanced beer sales. At that time, America's waters were abundant with sturgeon, a resource that German immigrant Henry Schacht took advantage of in 1873 when he set up a business exporting caviar to Europe for the seemingly high price of one dollar per pound. Other entrepreneurs soon followed, and by the end of the nineteenth century, the U.S. was the largest exporter of caviar in the world.

As a result of the U.S. caviar boom of the early 1900's, sturgeon was over-fished nearly to the point of extinction. Since that time, considerable measures have been undertaken by all involved in the caviar industry to ensure the quality and sustainability of sturgeon. And there you have it! Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Finally, the Snail Caviar is IN - What does it taste like?

Well, it took longer than we thought, but we finally got our samples of Snail Caviar (Escargot Caviar) in! I actually ended up going to LAX to pick up our International shipment from the Cargo docks. After the FDA learned of the contents, they scheduled an inspection. So this delayed the clearance of the caviar by a couple days.

I did however speak with the local FDA agent that conducted the inspection, and he said that the inspection was mainly a training exercise for several new members of their staff, as only a handful had ever seen Caviar, let alone Snail Caviar! Hey, as long as the caviar is kept cold and properly handled, a 2-3 delay is fine by me. Picture above of our first batch of Snail Caviar.

Well, it was definitely an interesting experience. First off, I ended up being the only person to actually taste test the snail eggs. The other two individuals, who shall go nameless, chickened out at the last second and didn't try it! I give it a day or two, they will cave in.

So, the taste - the most recent blog entry documents how others have described the taste. ([h]ints of undergrowth, angelica, horseradish, sensation of fresh dew, beaming pearls.)

Well, although it does not happen that often, the way it was described was exactly what it tasted like. Unlike sturgeon caviar, Snail Caviar has much larger roes that have a tougher outer shell. But the second you bite into it, the roes literally burst in your mouth, gushing a mildly tasting viscous liquid over your tongue.

The best way I can describe the taste is: earthy, like a baked asparagus, and sometimes tasting like the juice from a baked mushroom. It was quite refreshing however, as there was absolutely no aftertaste. You can definitely taste a subtle rosemary on the surface of the eggs, but that quickly disappears once the caviar bursts.

I plan on having several of our friends and acquaintances give it a taste in the coming days. Should be interesting to see what they think! I will post up their comments soon.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Snail Caviar

A lot of people have been talking about Snail Caviar recently. Seems like after 4 years of experimentation, the people over at De Jaeger have perfected the art of Snail Caviar. At least that is what they claim.

“Snail farming on a large-scale basis requires a considerable investment in time, equipment, and resources,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thus, snail caviar farming is even more difficult, as on average, the snail used by De Jaeger will produce roughly 100 eggs per year. 100 eggs is about 4 grams. That means that a 50 gram tin (which retails for $159.00), comes from over 12 snails over a span of a year!

Once harvested, the snail roes are seasoned with French Guerande sea salt, touches of rosemary, citric acid, and starch. The production process can be viewed in this video.

Luxury Insider describes the taste of snail caviar as consisting of "tiny, smooth cream-colored pearls that reportedly burst on the tongue with subtle autumn and woody flavors." Plantin, one of De Jaegers U.S. distributors, has this to say: "[h]ints of undergrowth, angelica, horseradish, sensation of fresh dew, beaming pearls. Let your mouth experiment the sensation of a walk in the forest after the rain, mushrooms and oak leaves flavours, the scent of humid moss peat, a journey through autumn aromas."

I must admit, the first time I heard of "Snail Caviar", I was not very excited. Having never liked escargot, I imagined I would feel the same way about snail caviar. But, you never know until you try it.

Well, we finally decided to give it a shot, and ordered a set of samples late last week. They should be arriving in the next few days.

I will definitely post up the results once we have a chance to sample it! Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So what did Caviar cost in 1978?

How about $495.00 for a kilogram of Beluga Caviar!?

Earlier this year, we did a little spring cleaning and I happened to stumble upon one of our brochures/price-sheets from 1978! The brochure even had the original red candle wax used to keep the brochure closed.

Back then, my father ran the business under the "AVAR TRADING CO, INC." entity. Amazing to think that the brochure is still in near perfect condition after over 31 years! So what has 31 years done to the price of caviar?

In 1978, 1/2kg. of Russian Sevruga Caviar retailed at $195.00. Today, 1/2 kg. of our Russian Sevruga retails at $1,800.00. That is over 9-times the price in 31 years!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Going Green - Siberian Caviar recently posted up an article about Siberian Caviar and sustainability in general. The article details farming methods employed by Georgian fisheries which has led to Siberian caviar which rivals those from the Caspian Sea.

MOTE Marine Laboratory, located in Sarasota, Florida, is another leading producer of Siberian Sturgeon (Acipenser Baeri) caviar. Although I have yet to try the caviar from Georgia, I can attest to the quality and taste of Siberian Caviar from MOTE's farm in Florida. Since adding MOTE Siberian Caviar to our variety of caviars, it has quickly become a customer favorite.

The taste is buttery, slightly salty, and extremely silky on the tongue. We often suggest it to those trying caviar for the first time, as it has very subtle "seafood" undertones. Best of all, it comes at a fraction of the price when compared to varieties of Russian and Iranian caviar.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Caviar Nutritional Information

We get plenty of people inquiring about the nutritional information of caviar. Hopefully this article will answer most of your questions, and clear up any gray-areas regarding caviar and your health. has a nice page detailing caviar nutritional information for 1 table spoon, 1 ounce, and 100 grams. The nutritional label is pictured to the right. They describe caviar as a good source of Riboflavin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Iron, Magnesium and Selenium. The negatives are that caviar is very high in Cholesterol and Sodium.

The problem however is that the TYPE of caviar is not documented, instead the caviar is merely described as "Fish, caviar, black and red, granular".

Caviar Luxe is another great site that provides comprehensive information about caviar, including nutritional information. They describe caviar as tasteful and healthy, and as a good source of calcium and phosphorus, as well as protein, selenium, iron, magnesium, and Vitamins B12, B6, B2, B44, C, A, and D. They also mention that "[o]ne tablespoon of caviar contains a gram of Omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease." Home Cooking section has a little snipped about caviar and your health. They say that for those watching their cholesterol and salt intake, caviar should be reserved as a rare treat as it is high on both counts. On the other hand, caviar is a rich source of vitamins A and D, as well as omega-3 fatty acids which some researchers say can aid in deterring depression.

Caviar is also touted as a hangover remedy due to its high content of acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter believed to play a key role in memory retention) which lines the stomach and increases the body's tolerance to alcohol. Arginine, a vascular dilator in caviar, helps increase bloodflow, thus the claim as an aphrodisiac. Surprisingly, airlines purchase about fifty percent of the world's caviar to serve to their first-class passengers.

Very interesting, think about that next time you are having a shot of vodka with your Ossetra Caviar amidst flying first-class to Amsterdam.

Lastly, another insightful read on linking caviar as an anti-depressant. The article highlights recent research that suggests that people suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental health problems can benefit from diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids - found in abundance in certain types of fish and caviar.

In the end, just like anything in life, moderation is key. Caviar is a delicacy to savor and enjoy thoroughly on occasion. Although tempting, eating caviar daily can be detrimental to your health, and most certainly, to your wallet.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Caviar Black Market

A short (15 minute) video on YouTube details caviar in general, then focuses on the caviar black market in Kazakhstan. The video even shows the narrator going into a local market where hidden cameras show a kilogram of caviar being offered without any CITES or government approval.

Although I have never been to Kazakhstan, a recent trip to Russia rendered similar results for myself. I was stunned to see how easy it was to attain caviar from the local "markets" for ridiculously low prices. Don't be fooled however, as there is no way of assessing the quality of the caviar including its true origins. Sellers at markets are notorious for selling you Beluga caviar, when in reality it is Sevruga or even farmed caviar. Good luck finding them to try to get your money back.

Even though regulations imposed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife services + CITES have driven prices up exponentially, the quality of caviar has also increased with regulation. This is great for caviar purveyors and consumers as any notable caviar company in the United States today is guaranteed to be obtaining their selection of caviar from legitimate regulated sources.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sustainable Caviar farm in Latvia

Read an interesting article in the Times Online (British paper) about a Latvian caviar farm that uses ultrasound to extract caviar from sturgeons without killing the fish.

I have heard of other fisheries using similar techniques, but the major problem most have run into is the viability of the sturgeon after the initial extraction procedure.

It's good to see that fisheries are trying new methods however, and even better that this is getting some exposure in such a major newspaper. It's interesting to think that once this method is perfected, a properly cared for sturgeon can continuously produce viable caviar for it's entire life-span (50 to 150 years), instead of killing the sturgeon once it can produce proper eggs (7 to 15 years).

First Caviar Express Caviar Blog post!

Caviar Express is Blogging!

My name is Alex, and I am the President of Caviar Express, an online retailer of caviar based out of Southern California.

While updating our entire website, I realized that there were only a handful of "caviar blogs" out there on the internet. So I am starting this blog as a place where caviar connoisseurs, and caviar novices alike, can come to read about caviar.

Hopefully overtime, we can form a unique database of caviar-related articles and posts relevant to the caviar industry for both caviar consumers and professionals in the industry.