Confessions of a Caviar Addict

My name is Lisa and I love caviar. I got my first high in 2001 when I worked the garde manger station on New Year's Eve. Each guest was to receive a beggar's purse filled with 1oz of Iranian Beluga. "What's the big deal about this stuff?" I thought as I put the first spoonful in my mouth. Ooh. This was good. Oceany, crunchy, earthy - a combo that can't be recreated any other way. Similar to truffles in that aspect. Very very unique. OK, I can see making a fuss.

The following year it became, "Scoop for you, scoop for me. Scoop for you, one for me." It's a good thing the caviar consumption that evening wasn't questioned. This also developed into my need for caviar on New Year's Eve. Why not say goodbye to the previous year's strife and struggle and welcome a new year with elegance?

For the 3rd year, I wasn't working on NYE, so I bought some osetra at Wild Edibles at the Grand Central Terminal Market. This was before the major caviar shortage due to overfishing and political strife. I enjoy it best with brioche toast points and the slightest wisp of creme fraiche.

When I began working for Di Bruno Bros., my caviar came with a sweet employee discount. I was responsible for caviar purchasing so I was able to ensure my choice was in stock. I was also sent to caviar training camp at Petrossian back in NY. I was given a lesson in product and caviar etiquette by Eve Vega, the Executive Director at the time. I was so nervous and had zero experience in eating it properly. I knew not to use steel utensils (we used plastic in the restaurant) mother of pearl or solid gold is ideal. I mimicked the co-worker I was sent with who spread the caviar on the toast points as if it were thick cream cheese. A real schmear. Eve saw this and tried to hide her dismay. We were big clients after all, purchasing a thousand dollars a week of product and selling it well despite our lack of knowledge. "Many people have taken care not to break those eggs before they make it to your tongue. Please take care to do the same." She said. She walked us through gently swooping the caviar out of the serving piece, and allowing it to fall on it's own accord onto the toast. This grand experience was followed by a sake tasting with sushi at Bar Masa in the Time Warner Center. A memorable day.

Once the severe shortage surfaced, prices skyrocketed and beluga was banned briefly. Osetra and sevruga doubled in price. American, farm-raised caviar grew in popularity due to price and surprisingly good quality. The following year even the American product rose in price so I settled for trout roe. Orange in color, much smaller than salmon roe, trout roe have a slight nuttiness while retaining a nice crunchy pop when pressed in your mouth. When eating sushi with a friend I asked her if she ate salmon roe. "Where I come from that's used as fish bait, so, no." She replied. For me it's too fishy.

Roe v. Caviar
Isn't caviar just fish eggs? No. Caviar must come specifically from sturgeon. Roe are eggs from any other fish. Shad roe is the complete, fresh egg sack often eaten sauteed. Avruga is the roe from golden herring. I'd rather eat a pile of smoked salmon bones that have been regurgitated by a cat than eat this product. Not that I have an opinion on this subject.

For this most recent New Year's Eve celebration, I spied some $70 osetra at Whole Foods. Not a bad price, but my wallet didn't agree. What I was pouting about settling for turned out to be quite enjoyable. I bought some fresh smoked salmon salad with dill, red onion and a tad of sour cream. I boiled some tiny fingerling potatoes and cut them in half. The cold salmon atop warm potato was a lovely combination and perfect for crisp bubbly.

My resolution for this year? Save up money for some caviar to enjoy on 12-31-08. Happy New Year!

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