There has never been a better time in history for caviar. We have a wider selection to choose from around the world, and greater purchasing power than any previous generation. It’s an exciting moment, so let’s not waste it!
Still, buying caviar isn’t the most intuitive process, and you don’t want to squander your time or money on products that don’t suit your needs.
Even if you consider yourself more experienced, we could all use some advice when it comes to making smart caviar buys, so let’s run down five tips to keep in mind when shopping around.
1.Get Out and Try the Real Thing
You can read books, watch videos, and talk about caviar with the smartest connoisseurs in the world, but until you actually taste the real thing, you won’t have any idea what caviar is really like. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that cannot be fully explained in words, so get up close and personal with the products at your local gourmet grocer.
Even if you have to drive across town to experience a taste of caviar from a specialty food shop, it will be worth the trip. You may have found a new life passion with one bite!
Practically speaking, there’s no better way to decide which caviar to buy than a trial-and-error tasting process. Some caviars will make you turn up your nose in disgust, while others will feel like a long-lost love.
If your local merchant refuses to let you taste any caviar, that’s a big red flag, and you should seek another vendor immediately. Freshness is king in the world of food, and that’s especially true with sensitive seafood like fish roe.
Find a local merchant that is open and excited to share caviar and reward them by returning to make purchases again and again.
2. Don’t Be Mesmerized By Price
Sticker shock is a common condition for newcomers to the caviar scene, which is understandable given some of the prices on osetra and sevruga caviars. Those prices are inflated even higher on restaurant menus.
When buying caviar, it’s easy to think that price is precisely correlated with quality and enjoyment. That may be true to an extent since very cheap products tend to not deliver on taste, but at a certain point, those high price tags are more about exclusivity and status than flavor.
That’s why you should always begin your buying journey with some low-investment fish roe tins that give you some reference points of flavor and texture. Some people are totally turned off by the whole thing, while others want to try it all ASAP.
Before you spend $100 on an ounce of osetra caviar from the Caspian sea, remember that sometimes, all a high price equates to is status and branding. What really matters when it comes to caviar is the species and the freshness of the product.
It’s not that you have to work your way up in terms of flavor, it’s just that it’s worth trying out your options because each variety is going to give you a completely different experience. Remember, you can have a lot of fun and pleasure with some mid-range caviars, so start there and work your way up.
3. Be Selective When Shopping Online
It’s fun and informative to buy caviar in-person from someone who knows the ropes, but there’s no question that better prices and a wider selection can be found online.
The advantages of buying caviar online are obvious, but there are a few factors you should keep in mind before placing an order.
First of all, you want to buy from a company that has made a clear commitment to sustainable aquaculture and ethical farming of sturgeon. Far too many species have been overfished throughout the centuries and are nearing extinction. You can do your small part in the global effort to promote sustainability in the caviar industry by selecting the right vendors.
You’re paying top dollar for a delicacy, so don’t hesitate to call, email, or reach out to them on social media if you want your questions answered.
This isn’t like buying a loaf of bread or box of cereal, so hold your caviar purveyors to a higher standard of excellence, and you’ll receive products that exceed expectations.
Finally, sign up for email newsletters across the web and follow the top producers on social media. You’ll get a clearer picture of the industry cycles and which products are the freshest and most relevant.
Before long, you’ll be a certified caviar insider and know all the tips and tricks of the trade.
4. Get Ready to Store and Serve
Whether you buy your caviar down the street or have it imported from halfway around the world, you need to store your new jars and tins properly the moment they arrive home.
Since it’s unlikely that you’ll pop the container open immediately, storage is key and plays a big role in preserving the flavors and textures of the product. This is especially true for low salt caviars, also known as “malossol”.
Caviar is best preserved at temperatures between 28 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit, so you have some flexibility with where you place it in the fridge. Common caviar wisdom says to keep the products just above freezing point if possible, so aim for the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Don’t wait more than a couple of weeks to pop open your caviar container and start serving. The fresher the better, and the product will start to decline after that two-week mark. Once open, you’ll need to finish off that jar or tin within two days at most since exposure to oxygen will rapidly diminish taste and textures.
With this in mind, you will be more strategic in timing your caviar purchases and ensuring you have the right amount to last you through the next party, event, or weekend chillout session.
The last thing you ever want to do is throw away unused caviar gone bad, so remember to keep an accurate inventory of your containers and maximize your investment every time.
5. Develop and Refine Your Taste
Keep a mental (or physical) checklist with your favorite flavor profiles, textures, and accoutrements, then use that data to inform your next purchases instead of randomly selecting a jar from the case or a website.
Talk to friends, merchants, and restaurateurs about their preferred caviars and garnishes to see what recommendations they have for you. Hop on review websites and social media to see where the industry buzz is happening. You’ll get turned on to new products and serving styles that you never expected.
It’s impossible to try every caviar in the world, so treat this experience as a constant work in progress rather than a mission to complete. You’ll enjoy it much more in the long run.
Hopefully, we’ve cleared up some confusion and debunked a few myths about buying caviar while giving you the knowledge you need to confidently make your first, or next, purchase.
With so much information and selection readily available, this is a great time for newcomers to the world of caviar, so dive in and enjoy.