Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Caviar Garnishes

What to Garnish Caviar With!
As with many delicacy, caviar can be coupled with various different garnishes. A garnish is simply a flavor enhancer that is meant to highlight the main dish it enhances. When using a garnish with caviar, remember that the point of the garnish is to bring out the sophisticated flavors of caviar, not to overwhelm the caviar and take away from its natural taste. That being said, the following is a list of garnishes that can be used with caviar, followed by the "Traditional" method of eating caviar.

Garnishes that Can Be Used With Caviar:
  • Plain white toast or crackers are always a welcome bed for caviar to be served and enjoyed upon. Non-flavored toast or Water-Crackers work best. 
  • Russian Style Blinis. These "mini pankcakes" are this dough-filled breads that when heated are often used by Russians (and many other nationalities) to properly enjoy caviar.
  • Danish butter - Often overlooked is the quality and flavor of butter used when combining caviar and toast or crackers. Danish butter uses a different salt balance then conventional butter, especially butter found in most major U.S. Grocery stores. You might not think it makes a difference, but next time you find it, try Danish butter - it will make the caviar taste that much better.
  • Creme Fraiche is a butter alternative that can be used as it is creamier and lighter than butter with a slightly more sour taste. 
  • Boiled Egg-whites, chopped or solid can also be combined with caviar as they are mainly a texture garnish as protein packed egg-whites have relatively no taste. 
  • Chopped red onions can be used along with caviar to highlight salt undertones of the roe. Be sure to use the red onions in moderation however as they can easily overwhelm the caviar. 
  • Squeezing a few drips of lemon juice over caviar is also common as it provides a tang that balances quite well with the sea-saltiness of caviar, especially the saltier varieties such as Russian Sevruga Caviar
  • Smoked Salmon always compliments well with black caviar - with caviar placed atop the smoked salmon or wrapped within the smoked salmon in a blini style. 
  • Chives can also be used to garnish caviar. But like red onions, they should be used sparingly as they can easily overwhelm the taste of caviar.

The "Traditional" Method of Eating Caviar:

Simple, none of the above. Traditionalists love caviar for the taste of caviar itself. They view garnishes as defeating the purpose of eating caviar in the first place. Simply take a pearl spoon, place in caviar tin, scoop, apply to hand between thumb and index finger, place in mouth, and repeat.

Monday, October 24, 2011

International Flights and Travelling with Caviar

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has specific laws for Caviar and amounts passengers can carry when on International flights. These regulations were enacted to protect Caviar as most caviar originates from Sturgeon and Paddlefish, both of which are considered Protected Endangered Species under U.S. laws.

General Regulation of Importing Caviar:
In general, the importation of caviar, a product of an endangered species, is regulated and protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES regulated importation of caviar into the U.S. by requiring specific permits in order to protect selected species. Without proper permit documentation, caviar cannot be imported into the U.S.

Exception When Importing Caviar for Personal Use:
A CITES permit is not required if an individual is carrying (on their person or suitcase) caviar intended for personal use. Meaning this caviar is not to be sold or enter interstate commerce. The Maximum amount permitted per person is 125 grams of caviar. Which translates to roughly 4.5 ounces. This exception applies to passengers on Airlines as well as Cruise Ships.

Exception to the Exception - Beluga Caviar:
Regardless of the personal use exception, no amount of Beluga Caviar can be imported or exported to or from the U.S. for any use. As a "threatened" species, there is an all out moratorium on Beluga Caviar for all CITES member nations, including the U.S.

  • CITES Permits are required to import/export caviar into our out of the U.S.
  • Up to 125 grams (4.5oz.) of caviar can be imported when traveling (on your person or suitcase) without a CITES permit if the caviar is for personal use.
  • Beluga Caviar can NEVER be imported/exported - With or Without CITES or for Personal Use - No Exceptions.

For more Information, check out the Fish and Wildlife Service's Caviar Passengers Fact Sheet and Guide.

Monday, October 17, 2011

California Ban on Foie Gras Begins July 1, 2012

After seven and half years after the law was written and enacted, California's ban on foie gras is about to take effect starting on July 1, 2012.

The ban, codified in the California Health and Safety Code (Sections 25980 - 25984 inclusive) makes it illegal to either:
  1. Force feed (gavage) a bird, including but not limited to duck or goose, for the purpose of enlarging the size of the living within the State of California, or
  2. Sell a product in California if it is the result of force feeding a bird for the purpose of enlarging the bird's liver beyond normal size.
Thus, Foie Gras will no longer be available for purchase within California - Many other states are expected to follow suit as this French delicacy has come under fierce attack by animal rights groups and the general public alike.

Fines for violating the ban include up to $1,000 per violation and $1,000 a day as long as violations of the ban continue to occur.

Chicago banned the sale of Foie Gras in 2006, only to overturn the ban in 2008. The Chicago City Council repealed the ban as residents complained that the foie gras ban was an example of officials trying to micromanage people's lives.

Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a California company that processes over 250,000 ducks yearly have been considering filing a lawsuit challenging the California ban on the grounds that their practices on ducks are being singled-out as compared to similar practices on cattle of chicken occurring regularly throughout California and the United States.

Friday, October 14, 2011

South Korean Caviar Farm Raises Albino Sturgeon

Check out this great video and write-up about a South Korean Caviar Farm that has been raising sturgeon in their facilities including albino sturgeon.

Albino Sturgeon are very rare and their caviar (Sometimes referred to "Almas Caviar" is some of the most sought after caviar in the world. With wild varieties fetching prices over $3,000 an ounce, albino "almas" caviar is surely the most expensive caviar in the world.

Although farm-raised, prices of the albino sturgeon from South Korea are sure to fetch astronomical prices. Would love to try some of their products, and perhaps give them a visit!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What is Caviar?

Sure, the term "caviar" is used quite commonly, and most know it is the processed roe of fish, but what makes fish eggs "caviar", and not just fish eggs. Can any fish egg be made into caviar? What does Caviar mean?

Traditional Definition of Caviar:
The actual word "caviar" was introduced into English in the 16th century. It is believed that it came from French and Italian influence, who inherited the word from the Turkish "havyar". The source of the Turkish "havyar" is apparently an Iranian dialect for the word "egg" in Farcy, "khayah". So to make put it in Kevin Bacon degrees of separation terms:

Iranian (Khayah = "egg" in Farcy) --> Turkish --> French/Italian --> English = Caviar

As to the source, traditionalists define caviar as only the salted roe that is derived from Sturgeon found in the Caspian Sea. Additionally, there only truly existed three types of "caviar", those being Beluga, Ossetra, and Sevruga - As these were the most prominent sturgeon found in the Caspian Sea for centuries. 

Modern Day Definition of Caviar:
Today, there are numerous types of "caviar" around the world. Caviar is no longer limited to the Caspian Sea as there are hundreds of farms around the world breading and raising various different types of fish (Sturgeon and Non-Sturgeon) to ultimately produce caviar.

Thus the definition of caviar today has been drastically expanded to include almost all types of salted fish roe, including Sturgeon from all parts of the world, including Salmon, Paddlefish, Whitefish, Lumpfish, and others.

So what does "Caviar" really mean? 

Depends on if you are a traditionalist or definitional expansionist. Within the caviar community, the definition is incredibly subjective. Some of our customers define caviar as any processed fish roe (expansionist), while others see it as only those fish roe originating from the Sturgeon Species, including the farmed variety (traditionalist). Still others see caviar as only those eggs processed from the three main Sturgeon (Beluga, Osetra, Sevruga) found in the Caspian Sea (true traditionalist).