An Afternoon Caviar Tasting

Photo by Edible East Bay


To celebrate friendship one recent afternoon, we broke out the Champagne, truffled potato chips, crème fraîche, endive, and some little boiled potatoes to try with a selection of local caviar from Tsar Nicoulai.

What…? Is that a Russian company, you ask? This Eater article from last May explains that it is not, so there’s no need to boycott Tsar Nicoulai, and quite the contrary! This eco-certified producer operates a state-of-the art sturgeon farm rather close to the East Bay in Wilton. Yes, that’s the very same drowned town we heard about on the news during the infamous three-week deluge, but fortunately, this farm, with its ground-breaking aquaponics system managed to stay dry.

But, getting back to our little afternoon extravaganza . . . Here are the caviars we enjoyed:

The bright, briny flavor of Tsar Nicoulai’s Estate Caviar—a deep-black, medium-sized, white sturgeon roe—was exactly what we were looking for atop a dab of local Bellweather Farms crème fraîche and one of those truffled potato chips. We would have been perfectly happy devouring a large tray full of these nibbles, but we were distracted by a certain rosy glow . . .

The beautiful orange Smoked Gold Pearl Trout Roe were the largest fish eggs among our picks, and we found they gave that nice, anticipated pop in the mouth along with an easily likable sweet and smokey flavor. For second helpings, we skipped the crème fraîche and heaped this caviar onto bare endive leaves and discussed how these lovely pale-green leaves, like nearly all commercially produced endive in the United States, is grown in nearby in Rio Vista by Rich Collins at his California Endive farm.

Still to taste was Tsar Nicoulai’s Truffled Whitefish Roe. A truffled potato chip beneath this tawny brown truffle oil–infused roe would have been gilding the lily, so we ate this caviar with dabs of crème fraiche on the wee boiled potatoes. The flavors and textures sparked thoughts of a niçoise salad.

Does all this caviar conversation make you want to plan a tasting of your own? If you stop by Hapuku Fish Shop at Oakland’s Market Hall on Friday, February 10, between 1 and 4pm, you can learn more about Tsar Nicoulai’s sustainable practices in Wilton as you sample a couple of the caviars and ponder how you would like to present these little jewels for a simple celebration with your own special group of buddies.