Who’d ever have thought that approaching 2020, the eggs of a female fish, a “living fossil” of prehistoric origin, treasured since ancient times, would remain the world’s most luxurious, gastronomic indulgence?
Caviar, salt-cured fish eggs of particular sturgeon, has been a signature dish on royal and aristocratic tables throughout the ages, the ingredient of choice of the famous Shahs of Iran, Casanova, James Bond and Jackie O, symbolic of fertility and life, has been revered as the most luxurious delicacy since the Greek Dark Age right through to this third millennium.
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Female sturgeon, relatively late sexual maturers, can carry up to 40kg of eggs, requiring highly specialised and sensitive extraction in order to produce high quality caviar. The three sturgeon species which produce distinctive caviar are these: Sevruga, the smallest, followed by Osietra and then the gracious, most treasured elder, the great Beluga, a gigantic fish that can weigh as much as 1,200 kg, measure five metres and live for 100 years.
Despite being one of the oldest families on the planet, survivors over millions of years (older than dinosaurs), many of the 26-27 anadromous sturgeon fish species are now vulnerable to extinction by reason of human activities: overfishing, interruption of migratory routes, poaching and pollution. Several species are now the subject of international regulatory and quota protection. Unfortunately, illegal harvesting of sturgeons, seen as the “gold-mining” of fishing activity, remains an active, global criminal enterprise, a lucrative black market commodity.
It’s in this context that most (sometimes all) legally produced caviar in the world today is farmed by specialist aquaculture operators outside of the traditional wild source of the Caspian Sea. Specialist farming is now essential for the survival of many sturgeon species, providing protection from endangering threats and an ideal habitat enabling the fish to live long enough, and well enough, to reproduce.
It’s easy to appreciate why Mother Nature’s producers of these regal berries, these beautiful black, grey and green pearls for the palate, are more precious than ever. Friend & Burrell is uncompromising in its respect for these mighty “living fossils”. The well-being of the sturgeons is essential in terms of quality as well as sustainability – as the quality of Champagne begins in the vineyard, the well-being of sturgeons determines the quality of caviar.
Simon Friend’s background in fishing, coming from an experienced fishing family, is key to Friend & Burrell’s choice of caviar. It’s in this context that Friend & Burrell chooses to exclusively distribute Caviar Giaveri – a true connoisseur’s caviar – where Russian art meets Italian taste.
Caviar Giaveri meets our high standards of excellence in flavour as well as farming methods. Giaveri farms and transforms its own caviar entirely in its northern Italian fish farms, an ideal habitat for thriving sturgeons. Salting is carried out by the traditional Russian Malossol method (minimal salt); the roe is carefully selected by hand and packed manually in a controlled environment. This is a meticulous artisanal process, a ritual that is perpetuated to maintain high standards of excellence over time. All the sturgeons bred by Caviar Giaveri are direct genetic lines from the Caspian, producing caviar of delicate flavor, clean and beautifully rounded on the palate.
Friend & Burrell is an exclusive distributor of Caviar Giaveri’s pure Siberian, Osietra and Beluga/Siberian caviar. The Siberian caviar is appreciated by connoisseurs for its resemblance to the black eggs of Sevruga and its slightly more robust salt profile. The Osietra has perfect identical grains, with a brownish hue and a more delicate refined flavor. The beautiful Beluga/Siberian caviar is characterised by grandeur: the largest eggs, minimal salting, leaving the Queen of Caviar to speak for herself.
A few tips: caviar can be eaten on its own, using mother-of-pearl spoons, wooden spoons or off the back of your hand between your thumb and index finger, next to your glass of Champagne (no metal as it can affect the flavour). Caviar is vulnerable to oxidisation so open it immediately before eating. Serve it on a bed of ice… and eat on its own or with lightly buttered toasted bread, blinis or on your scrambled eggs on top of a dollop of creme fraiche, simple and delicious. It’s very important to keep caviar in the coldest part of your fridge, not in the freezer. The optimal storage temperature is zero degrees. You’re welcome to contact us if we can ever help you with storage, serving or eating advice.