Updated: March 7, 2014 1:23PM
For many of us, our first experience of caviar was likely the small black or big red fish eggs sold at local grocery stores. This shelf-stable roe contains much salt, which acts as a preservative. Predictably, this is usually not high-quality caviar.
With the holiday season upon us, Carl Galvan of Supreme Lobster shared some thoughts on caviar at Henri (18 S. Michigan), where Executive Chef Chris Gawronski is serving caviar in tastings and as an ingredient.
“If you’ve never had caviar before,” said Galvan, “it’s best to start with something really good. Then you’ll get a better sense of what caviar should taste like.”
In a recent tasting of several varieties of caviar, three stood out as very different and delicious.
Blis Wild Steelhead Roe is bright red and festive for the holiday season; each egg pops with a rich buttery feel on the tongue and hints of smoke.
Galilee Osetra Prime is from Israel, which produces superb caviar; these Russian Sturgeon eggs are brown-gold and creamy.
Royal Belgium Gold Label Osetra are slightly green, extremely delicate sturgeon eggs with nutty flavor.
At local restaurants including Cafe des Architects (20 E. Chestnut) and Oceanique (505 Main, Evanston), chefs exercise restraint, just sprinkling caviar over oysters. The result: beautiful.
At Henri, Gawronski swirls caviar into house-made pasta with finger limes and edible flowers. Though he admits enjoying “caviar with blinis and crackers, eggs and onions, lobsters and smoked sturgeons, capers, potatoes, champagne, and salmon,” his favorite approach to caviar is the most simple: just opening the jar, dipping a spoon in and enjoying. —David Hammond