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Caviar Tasting (Saturday, January 2, 2016)

So Elaine and I had caviar as part of our New Years feast, the other night. I had picked up some "Caviar Russe" brand caviar at Whole Foods that was labeled "Siberian Osetra". Turns out that this isn't actually Osetra, but rather a different species of Sturgeon, Acipenser baerii. They get away with calling it "Osetra", because apparently, that's the generic word for Sturgeon in Russian. We really liked it, but I had rather hoped for actual Osetra - A. gueldenstaedtii.

So today, hoping to take advantage of any post-holiday discounts, I went back to Whole Foods and picked up several other varieties of caviar, along with a bottle of Moet et Chandon Champagne. (There were no discounts to be had, however.)

They were actually out of the "Siberian Osetra" that we had the other night, but they ended up having actual Osetra, which was labeled "Caspian Osetra", even though it was sustainably farmed in Germany, rather than wild caught in the Caspian. I suppose that's good, because A. gueldenstaedtii is critically endangered in the wild.

I also picked up what was labeled "American Caviar", also called Pacific or White Sturgeon, A. transmontanus, which was also sustainably farmed in Germany.

Those were both Caviar Russe brand caviar. They seem sort of cavalier with their branding, since their Russian Osetra isn't actually Osetra, and their Caspian Osetra and American Caviar are both from Germany!

To round out the comparison, I also picked up some American Paddlefish roe, Polyodon spathula, which is not sturgeon, but closely related, and often times passed for cheaper "caviar". Though at Whole Foods, it was just as expensive as the real stuff.

As a caviar expert might predict, we didn't really enjoy the Paddlefish roe. It just wasn't as good as the others in texture or flavor (and I did a blind test for Elaine, asking her what she thought of each, presented identically, before sharing which was which).

Of the more expensive caviar, we actually preferred the American Caviar to the similarly priced "Siberian Osetra", and while the actual Osetra was very good, we preferred both the American and Siberian to the A. gueldenstaedtii, which was considerably more expensive than the two we preferred.

So I guess the conclusion is that we prefer real caviar to fake, and that the more expensive caviar is not necessarily the caviar that we like the best.

We also agree that we prefer a sweeter bubbly to a fine brut Champagne, no matter what the experts think you should serve with caviar.

Happy new year.

—Brian (1/2/2016 7:08 PM)
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