Thursday, June 21, 2012

Caviar Tasting and Open House This Friday in Los Angeles

This Friday, June 22nd, Caviar Express will be amongst one of multiple vendors at Epicure Import's Open Warehouse Sale in Los Angeles (San Fernando Valley). Drop by for caviar sampling and to explore the expansive warehouse and fine imported delicacies.

Doors will be open to the public on Friday from 12:30pm to 5:00pm. We will be offering samplings of various farmed raised caviars along with discounted pricing between 15%-30% off retail pricing. Additionally, having the chance to meet customers and caviar-enthusiast gives us the opportunity to talk caviar face-to-face while sampling at the same time!

Besides caviar, the open warehouse event allows customers to literally walk into Epicure's massive warehouse and sample/purchase French and other European delicacies at wholesale prices. Lines do form early, so we suggest planning accordingly.

Epicure Imports warehouse is located at 6900 Beck Ave., in North Hollywood, CA 91605. For more information on Epicure, please visit there website here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Three Weeks Until California's Foie Gras Ban

In just over three weeks time, California's foie gras ban will take effect on July 1, prohibiting the sale of any product derived from the force-feeding of birds to enlarge their livers.

The New York Times has published an article covering the issue and getting responses from multiple parties with interest on how they are dealing with the looming ban. Many restaurants have created foie gras events and parties which feature foie gras as the main dish as they will not be able to serve it come July 1st.

There is plenty of talk of convincing law-makers to repeal the ban or to carve out exceptions to the law, however nothing palpable has yet been introduced to law-makers. Some restaurants have suggested they will circumvent the law by offering foie gras for "free" when you purchase a $20.00 glass of wine. On an obvious ploy to undermine the purpose of the law, this tactic is a gimmick at best and sure to fail under scrutiny.

In the mean time, we too have completely sold out of our stocks of foie gras, and continue to get multiple requests every day from individuals, restaurants, and hotels who are trying to get as much as they can before July 1st.

If you get the chance and have the means, and are a California resident, we do suggest you try foie gras within the coming weeks, as no one really knows when the delicacy will be reintroduced, if it ever will.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

What is Pressed Caviar?

Pressed Caviar is a dense briny paste composed of various caviar roe that have been damaged or discarded during processing and grading. Pressed caviar can also be made from mixtures of roes from various batches of different sturgeon varieties, including eggs that are overripe or immature, or otherwise deemed unsatisfactory for inclusion as true caviar.

The process of making pressed caviar is unique when compared to how traditional caviar is made. After the roe is cleaned and sieved, natural salt and water is added and left to settle for a handful of hours. This allows time for the salt to fully permeate each roe in the mixture. This process is very similar to how traditional caviar is handled, however the following steps are what distinguish pressed caviar from the traditional method.

In an act that would be sacrilegious to traditional caviar, the caviar mixture is now "pressed" with a lever press, extracting most of the oils from the roe. What remains is a dense pasty mass which is extremely salty and fishy in taste. This paste can now be used as a spread and can be applied like a butter or cream to various foods.

Traditionally, pressed caviar was exceedingly common as it was one of the first known methods of properly preserving sturgeon roe. Thus most references to "caviar" prior to the twentieth century usually refer to this "pressed" style of caviar, as no refrigeration existed, which would be necessary for the "traditional" style of caviar which is most common today.

The Russian term for pressed caviar is payusnaya ikra - the name deriving from the Russian word pay, which means to divide and share according to an agreement. When fisherman had caught sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, the processed, pressed and divided teh eggs between them, according to the ranking of the fisherman aboard.

The most popular pressed caviar was reputed to come from Salyan in Azerbaijan. The caviar was pressed into 480 kilogram barrels, then placed into air-tight seals and transported to various regions throughout Europe for sale.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Caviar Eating Contest held in Russia

Alexander Valov, a 49 year old Russian native, managed to consume 1.1 pounds of caviar in just under 90 seconds to take the title of Caviar Speed Eating Champion of Russia.

The event was held in a local restaurant in Moscow, and was estimated to cost organizers roughly $70,000 in caviar. The contest consisted of 12 contestants that were randomly picked from a lottery to compete in the event.

The winner, Mr. Valov, won a purse of $340 (10,000 rubles). The market price alone of the caviar he consumed is roughly $5,000. Impressive!

You can read more about the contest by clicking here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Larry David's Allergy to Caviar

Larry David, the brainchild behind the hugely successful sitcom "Seinfeld", is estimated to have earned upwards of $200,000,000 from the sale and syndication rights of the series.

When asked about the taste of success, the notably acerbic David recalled "I discovered that I'm allergic to caviar! It was the perfect metaphor for my life."

If only more of our employees and family had the same allergy.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Caviar Sampling This Friday at Epicure Imports in Los Angeles

This Friday, May 11th, Caviar Express will be amongst one of several vendors at Epicure Import's Open Warehouse Sale in Los Angeles. Come on out and see us while tasting our varieties of caviar.

Doors will be open to the public on Friday from 12:30pm to 5:00pm. We will be offering samplings of various farmed raised caviars along with discounted pricing between 20%-30% off retail pricing. Additionally, having the chance to meet customers and caviar-enthusiast gives us the opportunity to talk caviar face-to-face while sampling at the same time!

Besides caviar, the open warehouse event allows customers to literally walk into Epicure's massive warehouse and sample/purchase French and other European delicacies at wholesale prices. Lines do form early, so we suggest planning accordingly. Additionally, we will have a small amount of Russian Ossetra Caviar available for purchase and sampling.

Epicure Imports warehouse is located at 6900 Beck Ave., in North Hollywood, CA 91605. For more information on Epicure, please visit there website here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

California Foie Gras Ban Looming

The highly controversial California ban on Foie Gras is set to take effect on July 1, 2012. The impending ban will prevent to production and sale of any product that has been derived from force feeding (gavaging) a bird to enlarge a liver beyond normal size.

With less than 2 months left before the state-wide ban takes effect, California chef's have assembled to convince the state legislature to halt the ban and to come to an amicable solution that would allow Californian's and notable restaurants to continue to use and sell Foie Gras while sourcing the delicacy from animal friendly sources that do not use the traditional gavaging method.

Chef's include Thomas Keller, known world-wide for the French Laundry, a high-end restaurant in Yountville, California, near Napa Valley. For more information, you can access the NY Times article here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New Caviar Farm from North Carolina

Atlantic Sturgeon and Caviar Company, located in Happy Valley, North Carolina, will be producing fresh caviar from their farms after 8 years in production.

A detailed article about the farm and the Sturgeon can be found by clicking here.

The farm will be producing three varieties of caviar: Atlantic, Russian and Siberian sturgeon. They hope to have caviar available on the market by Christmas of this year (2012). Estimated production is 2 tons of caviar per year alongside 100,000 pounds of sturgeon meat.

Atlantic Sturgeon and Caviar Company is the 5th caviar farm of its kind in the United States, and the first domestic company to farm raise Ossetra Sturgeon.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Storing Caviar in a Household Refrigerator

Questions often arise as to how to store caviar in household refrigerators once customers receive their package.

At Caviar Express, we store most of our caviar varieties at around 26 degrees (F), as this is the ideal temperature just above freezing. As a result of the salinity levels and natural oils found in caviar, the freezing point of caviar is lower than that of water, 32 degrees (F).

However, most household refrigerators cannot usually dip below 34-36 degrees (F). Although the caviar will not be dramatically harmed at these temperatures, to insure that the caviar is stored at the most optimal temperatures, we suggest placing an ice pack, or a tightly sealed bag of ice gently on top of the caviar tin when storing within the refrigerator.

Monitor and replace the ice pack from time-to-time as it begins to slowly thaw out. Be sure to not place an ice pack that is overly heavy upon the caviar lid as this will press down upon the roe inside and cause the caviar eggs to burst. In the alternative, you can place the ice packs tightly along the side of the caviar tin.

Using this process will lower the holding point of the caviar to temperatures approaching our 26 degree (F) ideal storage temperature. Such a method will insure that the caviar remains fresh from 2 to 3 weeks time.

But in the end, it is always best to enjoy your caviar as soon as possible, as the ideal way to store caviar is in the mouths and stomachs of those lucky enough to indulge.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tasting Chinese Farm Raised Caviar from Kaluga Caviar

Earlier last week we received three samples of farmed raised caviar from Kaluga Queen, a prominent Chinese caviar farm that has been producing various types of caviar since 2006.

Kaluga Caviar, which is also known as Hangzhou Sturgeon Technology Co, Ltd., has raised more than 20 million sturgeons in Thousand Island Lake. The company has commissioned professionals from Hungary and Iran to assist in the preparation and harvesting production of the various sturgeon varieties that they farm at their facilities.

A recent article from FiS also gives some additional info about the company and some useful background about their sturgeon production.

As for the sampling, we had the opportunity to try three different varieties: baeri, schrencki, and a schrencki huso hybrid. Below is our review of the varieties of caviar we sampled:

Of the three, the baeri undoubtedly had the smoothest taste highlighted by deep nutty and buttery undertones. The baeri possessed a very low salt content and was notably distinguishable from the other two varieties as it had an exceptionally large roe size with golden brown coloring. The overall "pop" from the egg was modest but not exceptional. Most notably, the baeri contained no aftertaste. Many farmed raised caviars suffer from an algae-like aftertaste that many customers have described as "grassy". The baeri definitely lacked any aftertaste whatsoever. Overall, we were impressed with the baeri.

The Schrencki initially physically looked very similar to the baeri, with a large roe and a slightly darker roe color closer to a true gray tone. However, upon sampling the caviar, the similarities to the baeri quickly vanished as the high salt levels of the Schrencki quickly surprised all of our pallets. The salinity levels of the Schrencki are akin to a Caspian Sevruga variety. For those that enjoy biting salt levels and an overall sea-water taste, the Schrencki will not disappoint. However, this caviar cannot be considered smooth as the salt does tend to overpower the nuttiness of the caviar ever so slightly.

Schrencki Huso Hybrid
Amongst the three varieties, the Hybrid was overall the least desirable when compared to the other two varieties. Although the grain size was decent (slightly smaller than the baeri and schrenki), the overall taste left us wanting. Salinity levels were flat and the overall taste was simply not to be found. Even our tasters with the most sensitive pallet found the Hybrid a bit bland. Unfortunately, what made the baeri exceptional in our eyes and mouths, was definitively prevalant in the Hybrid, that being a noticeable aftertaste. Unlike the smoothness of the baeri, the Hybrid suffered with a grassy like aftertaste that would make even the common caviar enthusiast understand that the origins of the sturgeon were most definitely from a tank. With a little more taste and a refined aftertaste, the Hybrid does have potential.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Trout Caviar from Ireland

Goatsbridge Trout Farm, in County Kilkenny, Ireland, has become the first company in Ireland to produce caviar from trout.

Positive feedback has been received from samplings conducted at the Bord Bia food show in Dublin earlier this year. The owners of the farm, Mags and Ger Kirwan, were inspired by North Carolina based Sunburst Trout, which was started roughly 50 years prior by Ger Kirwan's parents.

We have sampled and currently retail trout caviar (smoked) from Kirwan's Sunburst Trout farms, and we absolutely love this simple yet fresh roe treat. And we are not alone, at a recent caviar sampling event in Los Angeles, the smoked trout roe came out as the undisputed "most surprising" caviar amongst samplers. Why? The answer has to do with relativity. When most people see trout roe for the first time, they are instantly reminded of salmon roe - as they are nearly the identical size, color and consistency. Salmon roe lacks much character, has very little salt, and is much more viscous than any other roe.

The Smoked Trout on the other hand has pop with a higher salt content and a smooth smokey finish that reminds you of a smoked salmon.

So next time you are in Ireland, be sure to try some of Goatsbridge Trout Farm's caviar.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Farmed Caviar from Iran

The Iranian Students' News Agency reports that Persian sturgeon (Acipenser persicus) has been successfully produced in a caviar farm by Iranian scientists.

Until recently, researchers had been able to farm the valuable delicacy from several varieties of fish including Beluga, Russian sturgeon and Australian sturgeon.

Although more than 20 countries harvest farmed caviar, Iran is the only producer of caviar from the Persian sturgeon. The lone fish is among the 27 recorded in the world bearing the country's name. Persian sturgeon is considered by the Iranians to be the world's second finest caviar, after Beluga.  The decision to produce caviar from farmed sturgeon is a sign of the Caspian Sea's on-going problems with pollution and over fishing and a response to the dwindling supply of the Caspian Sturgeon. The overfishing of sturgeon has driven the fish to the brink of extinction.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why Do Caviar Tins Have Rubber Bands?

Almost all classical and most modern caviar tins have rubber bands which surround the seems of the metal tin packaging. The rubber bands, often red in color, have traditionally been used for caviar packaging to ensure a hermetic (air-tight) seal around the caviar. This would then ensure that the precious caviar contained within would not be exposed to the air which would drastically diminish its quality, taste and ultimately self-life.

Additionally, the color of the rubber bands were used to signify the species of the caviar. Since the term caviar was traditionally reserved for varieties naturally occurring in the Caspian Sea, this limited the varieties to three: Beluga, Ossetra, and Sevruga.

Beluga was signified with a BLUE rubber band,

Ossetra was marked with a YELLOW rubber band, and

Sevruga was noted with a RED rubber band.

Today however, these colors are seldom used to signify the type of species - Proper textual labeling has replaced this rudimentary style of labeling as there are now well over 25 different types of "caviar" sold throughout the world.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Prosecco and Caviar

What is Prosecco?
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling wine traditionally made from Glera grapes in the Northern (Veneto) region of Italy. Prosecco is known for its dryness as it has relatively low sugar content - Depending on sugar content (measured by grams per litre of residual sugar) prosecco is classified as "Brut", "Dry" and "Extra Dry".

Why are we talking about Prosecco? 
Because not only does it taste outlandishly fantastic, it is a perfect companion to caviar. Traditionally Champagne has been used when pairing sparkling wines with caviar. However in recent years, the cost of Champagne has equaled and in some cases surpassed that of caviar. Prosecco offers a rather perfect solution as it maintains the dryness of Champagne, which is necessary to appease the palate when paired with caviar, while maintaining relatively inexpensive.

Difference between Prosecco and Champagne?
Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is produced by a method called "Charmat". In the Charmat method, secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, making prosecco easier and less expensive to produce. Conversely, Champagne continues to ferment in the bottle and will continue to mature with age. Prosecco usually does not need a prolonged "bottling" period and over an extended in bottle maturation will degrade and grow stale. Thus younger Proseccos are generally more sought after as opposed to more aged Champagnes.

Aside from coming from different areas (Italy & France), Prosecco comes from the "Glera" grape, which is a variety of grape natively found in norther Italy - traditionally in an area near Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the hills just north of the city of Treviso.

Champagne is produced from pinot noir and chardonnay grapes - Only those champagnes grown in the Champagne region (in central France) can be called Champagne.

Lastly, price - A decent bottle of Prosecco in the United States will be anywhere between $8.00 and $35.00. Champagne on the other hand is much more expensive, with proper bottles ranging from $50.00 to $1,500.00 +. Again this has mainly to due with the fermentation and maturation process.

What is the Best Type of Prosecco? 

Col Vetoraz Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Millesimato Dry 2010.
---The best prosecco we have tasted. We sampled multiple selections in Veneto and at VinITALY in 2011, the Col Vetoraz Dry was decidedly the highest grade prosecco we had come across. Rather difficult to find in the States, we do have a handful of bottles we brought back with us of the Millesimato dry. If you can find it here, buy it - enjoy. Buy it again!
---Priced around $20.00.

---Besides the Millesimato Dry, you can also try their conventional prosecco which is a bit more readily available from a handful of wine stores on the east cost - Click here for wine-searcher info.

Alice Prosecco Extra-Dry 2010.
---An exceedingly dry and subtle prosecco that pairs extremely well with caviar. Le Vigne Di Alice is an all woman operation that produces high grade prosecco from the Valdobiaddine and Conegliano. The Charmat process is used with fermentation occurring in roughly 45 days. Excellent as an aperitif. Not commonly found in your local wine-shop unfortunately. We recently purchased some from DrinkUpNY, click for the link.
---Priced at $18.00.

La Marca Prosecco, 2010.
---Readily available in most wine and spirit stores, including giant BevMo. Although the quality is above most other proseccos, it really does not come close to Col Vetoraz or Alice. We would suggest the two above, however if you are unable to obtain those, La Marca would be the best alternative.
---Priced at $16.00.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Atlantic Sturgeon Placed on Endangered Species List

Earlier this month, the National Marine Fisheries Service placed the Atlantic sturgeon on its Endangered Species list.

A little background - Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrhynchus) is one of 26 species of sturgeon found on earth. It is native to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, and uses rivers such as the Mississippi and gulf deltas for spawning. They can grow to 15 feet long, 850 pounds, and can survive upwards of 100 years.

Atlantic sturgeon were commonly caught in the 18th and 19th century for their meat and for their caviar. However, over-fishing caused their numbers to drop dramatically and a moratorium was enacted on all fishing of Atlantic sturgeon about 20 years ago.

So what is the significance of making them an Endangered Species now?

As Professor Ellen Pikitch, who runs the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University explains, placing them on the endangered list not only prevents fishing of the species, but prohibits activities such as navigation dredging or coastal/delta development that could effect Atlantic sturgeon.

Thus placing them on the list gives them further protection in hopes that their numbers can rebound and populations can be replenished along the Atlantic coast of the US.