Please school me on caviar. [moved from Boston]
Recently, for some reason, caviar has been turning up in many situations in my life. The only thing I know about caviar is that it's fish eggs and I find sushi repulsive (it's a texture / strong fishy flavor thing).
I'm curious about a few aspects of caviar:
What are the different types of caviar and how does the flavor differentiate between regions?
What's a good gateway caviar?
What are some good shops that carry caviar?
Please feel free to post anything else relative to the consumption of caviar.
For openers, REALLY good caviar is nearly impossible to come by these days. Last I heard, most belugas were banned from import, but I haven't kept up. I used to buy fresh Black Sea beluga caviar by the kilo a few decades ago. <sigh> If I had a kilo of fresh beluga caviar today I could trade it even-steven for a really BIG diamond! I think top dollar for a kilo of top beluga today is somewhere close to (or more than?) twenty thousand dollars! It is delicious and a habit few can afford. I'm (unfortunately) not one of the few.
Caviar should NEVER taste fishy OR salty. The best way to eat it is on toast points, buttered with unsalted high grade butter if you like. Russians like it on blini with sour cream, but I think the sour cream (smetana) diminishes the flavor of it Caviar should NEVER be topped with chopped eggs, chopped onions, or any of the junk that some restaurants serve along with it. That is just plain wrong abut come to think of it, it will mask an inferior grade of caviar. Caviar should NOT be touched with a metal spoon, including silver spoons, sterling or not. There are very nice horn and mother of pearl, as well as a few elegant glass spoons designed especially for caviar. It should be served ice cold, usually (but not always) in the can that is burried in crushed ice up to its shoulders.
There are several different types of "caviar," but true caviar always comes from one of three different types of sturgeon. They are usually ranked 1. Beluga. 2. Osetra. 3. Sevruga. Best caviars come from wild species of these sturgeon that are native to the Caspian and Black Seas. I have only glutonized on Black Sea caviar, but I have tasted the Caspian (Iranian) type and found it too salty for my taste. Hey, I'm picky! Caviars witth the largest eggs are usually the most prized. Color can enter the picture, but in my experience color doesn't impact on the flavor all that much. But there is a much prized white caviar that I've never tasted, so maybe it's mind blowing? The eggs of top grade caviar should "snap" between your teeth when you bite them. While they're worlds apart in price, the snap of a really good natural casing hot dog and the eggs of really good quality caviar have that snapping quality in common. There are now sturgeon caviars available from Amercan waters and I think some are even farm raised. I've never tasted any of them.
There are other fish roes that are highly prized. The closest thing in snap and texture (and not too far off in flavor) is fresh-from-the-salmon roe. I could eat a kilo of that!
Hope this helps! Lucky you. You've got some great adventures in front of you.
Caviar is a more expensive habit than drugs!
Gourmaniac is correct that is you think sushi is too fishy, you can probably skip caviar. However, if the sushi you have tried had strong fishy flavor, you most likely didn't try it at decent places or went with someone who ordered more obscure fish.
You might want to repost this on the General board, as you will get much more broad responses (a much better selection of caviars can be found online than through local shops anyway). There are also threads which have some of the insight you are looking for if you search.
I'm thinking if sushi is too fishy for you, exploring caviar is not a good investment of your time or money. Some things to think about. Fish species: Sturgeon, salmon, lumpfish (don't do this one). Color red or golden salmon, black beluga, osetra, sevruga. Domestic vs imported. Russian available, Iranian not. If you're curious but not looking to spend three figures, I might suggest an American golden salmon caviar. If you want to slurge, I like osetra but not a habit I can feed frequently. Places that might be worth trying and wouldn't break the bank are Berzeka, Bazaar or Baza (3 Russian Bs) or Marty's liquors on Washington in Newtonville (pricier but they speak English).