Caviar is the unfertilized roe (eggs) of certain types of fish. It's synonymous with luxury and served for special occasions. The most common harvested roe comes from sturgeon, salmon, and whitefish. The Caspian Sea yields the world's most luxurious and expensive caviar; Beluga, Ossetra, and Sevruga command top dollar. However, overfishing and pollution have caused the wild fish populations to dwindle to the point of extinction, thus driving prices up. Not to mention that importing food from the opposite side of the globe isn't considered sustainable.
The good news is, there is a lot of local, sustainable caviar produced right here in the United States. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Guide, your best choice for caviar is produced by U.S. farmed white sturgeon and paddlefish.
How much caviar should you buy? Well, you can get between 8 to 10 (1/2 teaspoon) servings per ounce of caviar. Figure at least 1/2 to 1 ounce of caviar per person. Keep the caviar jar in the coldest part of the refrigerator (between 28 to 32 degrees F°.) Don't freeze it! The caviar can last 15 to 20 days, unopened, in the fridge. Don't open the caviar jar until it's ready to serve.
Caviar is very fragile - you must handle it with care to keep the eggs from bursting. Never touch a metal utensil of any kind to caviar; metal oxidizes the roe and will make it taste metallic. Use a caviar spoon made of bone, tortoise shell, or mother of pearl.
Cover and refrigerate any leftovers promptly and use within a day or two. If caviar is left in the tin, the surface should be smoothed and a sheet of plastic wrap should be pressed directly onto the surface before placing it back in the refrigerator. Turn the tin over each day so the oil reaches all of the eggs.
Partial list of some local and sustainable caviar sources:
• The Little Pearl - American caviar harvested from Yellowstone in Southern Idaho, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Alaska’s Yukon River.
• California Caviar - farm-raised organic sturgeon caviar from California.
• Sunburst Trout Farm - organic farmed trout caviar from North Carolina.
• Petrossian - although they import Caspian caviar, they also offer local, sustainable caviar. Their Alverta caviar comes from California and the Transmontanus comes from farmed white sturgeon in California.
• Shuckman's Fish Co. & Smokery - farmed spoonfish caviar from Kentucky.
• Farm2Market - California farmed Osetra caviar
• Tsar Nicoulai - large selection of farmed fish eggs in various colors and sizes.
What to do with caviar:
• Serve on toast points with champagne or chilled vodka.
• Add a spoonful of caviar to boiled new potatoes or soft cooked quail eggs.
• Make some blinys (Russian buckwheat pancakes) and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and cavair.
• Eggs Benedict with Caviar Hollandaise
• Creamy Caviar Spread
• Smoked Salmon and Caviar Pizza
Low, low prices on caviar:
• Coho Salmon caviar - $12 for 1 oz.
• Golden Whitefish caviar - $10 for 2 oz.
• American Sturgeon caviar - $26 for 1 oz.
• Truffled Whitefish Caviar - $19.80 for 2 oz.
• Beet & Saffron Whitefish - $19.80 for 2 oz.
As they say in Russia, "За Вас!" (pronounced "za vas" and means "to you!")