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December 18, 2009

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to serve caviar


Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan asked Alexander Petrossian for his advice on the subject, related in her December 17, 2009 Wall Street Journal "Tricks of the Trade" feature, which follows.


How to Serve Caviar (Forget the Capers and Silver Spoons!)

To say that Alexandre Petrossian, grandson of one of the founders of Petrossian SA, is a connoisseur of caviar would be an understatement. Mr. Petrossian, who is managing director of the Paris-based caviar purveyor's U.S. restaurants and boutiques, had his first taste of caviar when he was less than a year old and now has to sample caviar every day for his job.

Aside from that, however, he tries to limit his consumption of caviar to once a week so that it remains "special" to him.

When he selects caviar for himself or for parties, he starts by looking at it carefully. "You don't want to see anything too oily or wet. It means that [the eggs] ... may have a metallic taste or may be a little old and have started popping inside the tin," he says. "You want caviar where you can see every egg clearly."

Next, he makes sure to smell it. "The smell should be a little sweet—you want to smell the ocean, smell the salt a little but it shouldn't smell too fishy," he says. He advises shoppers to buy caviar at stores where they can look, smell and even taste the product.

At parties, Mr. Petrossian likes to serve caviar in its tin; you don't want to transfer the eggs from the tin to a serving dish "because you will break the eggs," he explains. "They are very, very fragile." He fills a large silver bowl with ice and places the tin on top. Mr. Petrossian likes to surround his serving bowl with dishes containing creme fraîche and half-inch-thick toast points bearing a very thin layer of butter. He generally avoids setting out common accoutrements like blinis, capers, onions or hard-boiled eggs. "If you spend that much on your caviar, you want to taste every single bit of it."

Mr. Petrossian tries not to drink coffee, smoke a cigarette or eat mints shortly before eating caviar so he won't muddle his taste buds. (He also tries to cleanse his palate in between tastes, making sure to take a swig of champagne, vodka or sparkling water before a new bite. "You want a new experience every time you taste it," he says.)

Another tip: Avoid setting out silver spoons with the caviar, as they sometimes lend a "chemical" taste to the eggs. Instead, use stainless steel, wood or mother-of-pearl spoons.

If serving a few kinds of caviar, he is always careful to serve them in order of the intensity of taste, starting with milder-flavored caviars like Transmontanus and moving into ones that have a more intense taste like Osetra. As with cheese or wine, if you start with the stronger versions, Mr. Petrossian notes, it will be hard to taste the milder caviar after that.

When it comes to eating caviar, Mr. Petrossian likes to put about half a teaspoonful into his mouth and keep it there for a moment. "The first taste is always very buttery," he says. Then he likes to roll the eggs around his tongue a little so he can savor the flavor. "You pop the eggs with your tongue, play with it a little and then you swallow," he says. After enjoying the taste in his mouth for a minute or so, he takes a swig of champagne or vodka and then repeats.

December 18, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Popping the eggs with your tongue against your front upper teeth is one of the great culinary experiences ever - orgasmic.

Posted by: Kathy | Dec 18, 2009 9:08:02 PM

Great article, my experiences (very limited) have not been good (metallic, off taste, pungent, etc), but I relate that to inexperienced hosts. This article reinforces my desire to try on my own. This is the best I could find on the web:

Posted by: Joe Peach | Dec 18, 2009 4:58:16 PM

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