If you’re like most of us, the mystique and luxury of caviar is accepted without question – especially after it dances across your palate for the first time!
But what is caviar exactly?
Simply put: it’s fish eggs. But there is so much more to caviar than what meets the eye (and tongue!)
History of Caviar
The angular & sleek-bodied family of Acipenseridae, which includes all 27 species of sturgeon fish, is where the experience of caviar begins. Essentially, caviar is the delicate eggs from sturgeon, lightly cured in salt. While “roe” or eggs of wild sturgeon from the Black & Caspian Seas is traditionally considered as caviar, you may hear mention of eggs from fish like salmon, trout, lumpfish, steelhead, whitefish and other species referred to as “caviar” as well (our hearts lie with Polish Siberian Sturgeon Caviar, which we source and serve – when we can get it!).
Long before Czars cemented sturgeon roe as a luxury food of the highest order, caviar’s rarified status dates back to the 4th Century B.C., when Greek philosopher Aristotle intriguingly described this delicacy as ‘eggs of the sturgeon, heralded into banquets amongst trumpets and flowers.’
And even before Aristotle’s fantastical words, Persians were likely the first to revere the lightly salted roe of sturgeon. From antiquity to the present day, many medicinal powers have been attributed to caviar, reflected in its very name: Khaviyar translates to ‘cake of strength’. Over the following centuries, caviar was increasingly heralded as a delicacy among the upper classes of Europe, and by the Middle Ages, British monarchs reserved all sturgeon for their own consumption, knighting it as the ‘Royal Fish.’
By the mid-1800’s, caviar’s reputation as the ’food of the Gods’ strengthened, as over-fishing, illegal poaching and pollution increasingly contributed to its rarity. Since the 1990s, the regulation of international sturgeon trade has been essential in preserving this resource, while the demand for caviar has inspired the transformation of the industry into a global sustainably-produced sturgeon farming endeavor.
Naturally, we at Antonelli’s, think of cheese! We love thinking outside the box of the usual traditional caviar service (toast points, crème fraiche, minced onion, lemon wedges, etc.), because – in terms of simplicity and purity – there are few better pairings than caviar and cheese. Caviar is renowned for its firm yet soft pearls, which “pop” on the palate, while cheese tends to have a reliably consistent texture throughout, even across firmer & soft styles. When paired thoughtfully, the complementary textures of caviar and cheese unite to create refreshingly spellbinding & unique bites!
Along with its extreme rarity, caviar also brings its divine breadth of flavors to the table (think butter and cream, herbs, fruits, mushroom, minerality & sea-brine). Implied here: caviar is to be the star of the show, with cheese in the supporting role. As always, be sure to sample the cheese by itself before pairing it with caviar (in Antonelli’s-speak: “the naked bite”). In essence, our goal is to pair caviar with cheeses that form a bedrock of texture and flavor – without overshadowing the precious pearls glittering in the spotlight.
Our recommendations include:
- Caviar and Brie: The creaminess of the Brie pairs perfectly with the brininess of the caviar.
- Caviar and Gorgonzola: The sharpness of the Gorgonzola complements the richness of the caviar.
- Caviar and Chevre: The sweetness of the Chevre offsets the saltiness of the caviar.
- Caviar and Cheddar: The sharp flavor of cheddar pairs nicely with the salty caviar.
Sparkling wine is a popular choice for pairing with caviar too, due to its effervescent flavors and light body. The high acidity, light sweetness, and tart character of sparkling wines make them ideal to complement the savory umami flavors of caviar. From dry Brut Champagne and Prosecco to sweeter sparking wines like Moscato di Asti, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to pairing caviar with sparkling wine.
If your interested in learning more about the gilded world of caviar, immerse yourself in one of our most decadent classes to date - Antonelli's Champagne and Cheese Class! This elegant event features Polish Siberian Sturgeon Caviar along with four expertly-crafted cheese & sundry pairings, a glass of Champagne Traditionale to refresh the palate – all accompanied by olives, Marcona almonds, and some of our favorite luxury accompaniments. Check out our Public Events Calendar to see when our next class is!