By Andrea Stuart
While the history of caviar may be framed in opulence and power—beginning with the Russian Imperial
Court—this association alone usurps caviar’s true character and potential.
Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, a San Francisco-based artisanal caviar producer, has set forth to
debunk the myth that caviar should be enjoyed in a certain way by certain people. “For over
the last thirty years, we’ve cultivated caviar that adheres to our mission of sustainability and
integrity of quality while transcending time so the next generation can enjoy it,” says Jeffrey
Senna of Tsar Nicoulai Caviar.
Cultivation of caviar is an art form at Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, where ecologically sustainable farms
translate to healthy, happy fish. While it’s true that their farming practices of white sturgeon protect the endangered species from being overfished, it also seems that the stress-free, disease-free farm environments in California’s Central Valley and Hagerman, Idaho, provide the fish with a utopian existence that inspires desirable roe.
Avoidance of contaminants such as pesticides, and exclusion of fertilizers, preservatives, antibiotics, growth hormones, biocides, bioengineering, or any method or substance that may alter the ecosystem is crucial. Producing caviar that is free of impurities such as mercury, which can be found in wild caught varieties, motivates the caviar maker to work diligently and maintain “pristine conditions” for the respected fish. And when we say respected, we mean revered.
Tsar Nicoulai’s caviar expert, Monica Alvarez, explains that the farm managers operate with a farm-
to-table mentality. “It’s important to be caring and respectful, to bring that to the table. We
take care of the fish from birth to harvest, all by hand, and we only harvest the older fish,” she
says. “The farmers even sing to the fish.” She chuckles. When the fish are harvested—in spring and
fall—nothing goes to waste.
Moreover, caviar’s nutritional value is recognized by some medical professionals since caviar is
abundant in vitamins B12, B6, A, as well as iron, magnesium, selenium, and omega 3 and 6 fatty
acids. The staff at Tsar Nicoulai Caviar learned that an oncologist prescribed caviar for a
customer’s son to provide him with specific nutrients. “It was so exciting that caviar was not just
being enjoyed as a luxury but for its nutrition,” adds Alvarez.
Caviar is suitable for any occasion, from football parties and barbeques to weeknight dinners.
Natural flavor-infused roes make cooking exciting. Grab a Hefeweizen, a mild Belgian, or an easy
pilsner and pair with a baked potato topped with sour cream and a dollop of caviar. Or hollow out
the potato, fill with scrambled eggs, and top with crème fraîche and caviar. For a mid-week
pick-me-up, top filet mignon with wasabi roe or garnish deviled eggs with salmon roe. For a more
traditional experience, Tsar Nicoulai’s Crown Jewel is best served à la carte with champagne.
Caviar is graded on four points: taste, color, texture, and size. Crown Jewel requires optimal ranking on all
levels. Harvested infrequently due to its rarity, it’s only produced in small batches of up to five
pounds, gleaned from top quality sturgeon. Its marbled tone complements the 3.3 mm bead size, which
produces a firm texture known for a sumptuous pop, a mild flavor, and a smooth and creamy
experience. Consider enjoying this caviar by the spoonful, but avoid metal utensils or dishes, as
metal is said to react unfavorably with it.
The versatility and delicacy of our little beaded friends begs no question as to why culinary
artisans such as Wolfgang Puck, Thomas Keller, and Rolan Passot have acknowledged
caviar, particularly Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, for sophistication.
To learn more about caviar, visit Tsar Nicoulai Caviar at tsarnicoulai.com