Are you a movie buff? I am. But one of the downsides is that no matter the topic, there always seems to be a scene from a movie that provides just the illustrative image you don’t want to have. For caviar, there are two and both involve Tom Hanks. The first is the holiday party scene in Big, when Tom the boy/man digs into some caviar not knowing what it is and when he finds out, he pushes it out of his mouth in the way only a grossed out kid can. The other is in the romcom You’ve Got Mail when he and Meg Ryan’s character–also at a party–get into an argument after she discovers he’s the Fox of Fox Books trying to take her down and he starts scooping up all the pricey caviar garnish to eat just to irritate her.

Tom Hanks aside, caviar usually gets much more lofty treatment. In fact, it’s one of those foods that is considered elite and unreachable for the masses. And, sure, the good stuff… the really luxurious good stuff is. I can’t get enough of it when given the chance, but my budget prevents me from wildly indulging. And I’m sure that if you’re catering New Year’s parties or brunches you’re dealing with the same issue. But  I’ve come across a wide variety of caviars that are very tasty and pretty budget friendly. And I’m not talking about the questionable über salty jars of fish roe you’ll find on shelves at places like CostPlus. A visit to Whole Foods or specialty stores or shopping online should offer a variety of options that you can put on the menu without breaking the bank. And, honestly, is there any food more celebratory or that says Happy New Year more than caviar, especially when accompanied by a flute of champagne?

Here are some options:

California Caviar sells a lovely white sturgeon caviar called the Royal. It’s a sustainably farm-raised product from Northern California. The white sturgeon has a taste similar to Osetra. The roe is medium sized, dark, and with a sweet buttery texture. I can’t stop eating it with a spoon, but it’s delicious on a blini with crème fraîche and a little smoked salmon or tossed with butter in fettuccine. Buy some for a client cocktail party for guests to enjoy with sparkling wine or buy a package to give as a client gift.

Salmon roe, which you might recognize from Japanese menus as ikura, is easily found at Japanese markets. I can’t get enough of this roe. These big, juicy beads create a wonderful salty, tangy explosion when you bite into them. I’ve enjoyed these on scrambled eggs, on blini, on a bagel with cream cheese (best brunch dish ever), and as a topping on stuffed mushrooms. Those stuffed mushrooms also incorporated capelin roe, sometimes known as smelt roe–or masago on sushi menus–and  tobiko, or flying fish roe, which glistens like black diamonds in light. I blend the masago with sour cream and crème fraîche and chopped mushroom stems, which I used to stuff the mushrooms. Then I top the mixture with the salmon roe and a dab of tobikko.

You can also use the capelin roe to make taramosalata, a terrific Greek dip. Or use it for sushi or as a garnish. Both the capelin roe and tobiko are quite sweet and flavored with soy sauce.


Whole Foods carries several varieties of the Caviar Russe brand. Yes, you can get a pricey ounce of imported Caspian Osetra Russian sturgeon, but if that isn’t feasible, try the whitefish caviar from the Great Lakes region, salmon caviar or ikura, tobiko, or–what I took home and enjoyed–hardwood smoked caviar. Get your splurge back on with imported Siberian Russian sturgeon. You can buy online also.

And, if you have a vegetarian client, you can create dishes with Seaweed Caviar, sold by Fine Caviar.

Need blinis? You can also pick up a package of Caviar Russe’s cocktail blinis. They are easy to heat up quickly and, while not quite as good as homemade, they are just fine and make life a whole lot easier for a busy holiday party caterer.

Or, chefs, you can make your own. This recipe for buckwheat blinis comes from San Diego chef Ryan Studebaker.

Buckwheat Blinis
From Ryan Studebaker
Yield: About 12 blinis

Ingredients

2 tablespoons buckwheat flour
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup whole milk
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup butter, melted but not hot

Directions

Whisk together dry ingredients. Add milk and egg yolk and whisk until smooth. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks and folk into the batter along with 2 tablespoons of the butter.

Brush a nonstick pan with butter and heat over medium heat until hot. Drop five to seven level tablespoons of the batter at a time onto the pan and cook until bubbles form (about 45 to 60 seconds). Flip the pancakes and cook an additional 45 to 60 seconds.

Serve immediately if you can. Otherwise, hold them at room temperate and reheat in the oven briefly later if needed.

Enjoy–and everyone at APPCA wishes you a happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2018! Happy New Year!

Is caviar on the menu for your New Year’s catering or personal celebration? How do you like to enjoy it?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

And if you are a member and have a special talent to share on this blog, let us know so we can feature you!

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