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!