"There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse than in the man who eats Grape-nuts on principle."
How do you buy it though?..
Shopping for caviar can be intimidating. Here are six tips to make sure that you get your money's worth.
#1: MORE EXPENSIVE ≠ BETTER
Ok, let's face it: even the most inexpensive sturgeon caviar is still going to be expensive. You should expect to spend at least $50 to $75 for 30 grams (1 ounce)—enough caviar to make a few good bites for two people. But the prices can get astronomically high. The Special Reserve Ossetra from Petrossian runs at $12,000 a kilo, or $378 for a 30 gram tin.
Does paying more guarantee better caviar?
The main factor that determines the price of the caviar is its rarity, but that does not mean that the more rare caviar tastes better to all people.
Caviar is generally graded by the size and texture of its beads (larger, firmer beads that pop in your mouth are more rare, and thus more expensive), and by their flavor—as a general rule, more mildly flavored caviar tend to be more rare. However, the species of the fish, how it was raised, and how the caviar was treated and matured can vastly affect the final flavor.
Just as with wine or whiskey, many taster refer the flavor and texture of less expensive, more common offerings, so long as they are tasted blind without knowledge of pricing.
#2: START AT THE LOW END
Caviar can be an acquired taste, and like many expensive foods prized for the complexity, there is a learning curve when it comes to appreciating their subtlety. Dive right into the deep end with the more expensive caviar, and most likely those more delicate flavors will be missed on you, and your money will have been wasted.
A better approach is to start with a relatively inexpensive—but still high quality—caviar. Taste it carefully and thoughtfully, figure out what it is you like about it. Do you like buttery richness and nutty flavor? Or perhaps a more pronounced fishiness and saltiness? Once you can answer these questions, you'll be better equipped to talk to the salesperson and help them pinpoint a caviar that is custom-suited to your personal preferences.
#3: IF THEY DON'T LET YOU TASTE IT, SHOP SOMEWHERE ELSE
When shopping for caviar, make sure that you taste the product before you buy it. You wouldn't buy a $125 pair of shoes without trying it on; why would you drop that kind of cash on caviar if you aren't sure you're going to like what you're going to get?
Caviar can vary from batch to batch or tin to tin, even when they're coming from the same farm or same species of fish.An unscrupulous caviar salesman is not above the old bait-and-switch, swapping out a tin of dry or sub-par caviar.
#4: MAKE SURE YOU BUY ENOUGH
Whether it's knowing the value of what they're about to taste or fear of the unknown, first-time caviar tasters often go in for a tiny nibble, placing a half dozen eggs on their tongue. It is impossible to taste caviar in this way. You must have enough to roll on your tongue to understand the texture and aroma. 5 grams (a heaping half teaspoon) is a more reasonable size for a taste.
For this reason, a 30 gram tin (about 1 ounce) should be the absolute minimum you purchase when shopping for two people. Those cute little 10 gram tins may be tempting—and their relatively low price makes them even more so—but unless you plan on tasting by yourself and having only a couple bites, they are essentially useless.
#5: BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU BUY ONLINE OR BLACK MARKET CAVIAR
Given rule #3, this one goes without saying. There is no guarantee of quality for any caviar you cannot taste yourself, so buying from an online source is an almost guaranteed way to get sub-par product. If you must buy online, shop at a reputable source who is committed to keeping that good reputation. Another words: welcome to Seven Seas Gourmet foods. Stop by and taste.
#6: ONLY BUY AS MUCH AS YOU NEED AND EAT IT FAST
Like a good cheese or high quality cured ham, good caviar is cured and matured by experts for a specific amount of time to maximize their flavor. Once it is sold and the tin is opened, it can very rapidly change in quality, developing fishier aromas, the eggs softening, turning stickier or oilier, liquid weeping out into the tin. Once you've bought the caviar keep it refrigerated until you open the tin, which should be done within a few days of purchase. Once opened, the caviar should be consumed within a day. And given the rainbow of sizes Seven Seas offer you can pumper yourself and a friend or have a family dinner. Enjoy!