The eternal shortcoming of humankind is how we unfailingly manage to deplete the earth of the things we love—such as caviar. The onyx-hued salt-cured eggs of the sturgeon have been coveted as decadent delicacies across centuries and cultures, and the hedonists among us have indulged in their briny splendour until wild sturgeons now teeter on the brink of extinction.
The fortitude of humankind, though, is our resourcefulness. Where there’s an appetite, there’s a way. Thus, to ensure that caviar remains a sustainable indulgence, an emerging number of caviar farmers have surfaced, reshaping caviar aquaculture and its production.
Caviar today has changed dramatically. Controlled production has meant that it now comes in myriad varieties, as producers cross-breed sturgeon species to yield roe with a multitude of complex characteristics. With these new dimensions to an age-old ingredient, chefs are thus able to flex more creativity when using them far beyond the traditional presentation of caviar and blinis.
Caviar’s uses today revolve around each variety’s nuances. “For instance, Baeri caviar is generally a little saltier in flavour, but that’s followed by a creamy finish,” says the chef-owner of Saint Pierre, Emmanuel Stroobant. “The texture of the eggs is a little harder. I like to use this caviar as a ‘supplement’. If I have a beautiful sweet langoustine and need to heighten its flavour, I’m happy to use Baeri, because my focus is on the langoustine. The caviar helps me create what I’m looking for. But if I use Oscietra caviar, then the caviar is the product that I want to showcase. I would then pair it with a milder product like cream, bone marrow or beef fat to allow the caviar to shine.”