July 18th is National Caviar Day, Time to Honor This Seafood Delicacy!



Caviar is the processed and salted roe of fish. Roe is the mass of eggs contained in the ovaries of a female fish or shellfish. While people use the word caviar to describe any fish egg, true caviar comes from the sturgeon, which lives in the Caspian or Black Sea and includes such species as beluga, sevruga and ossetra. The sturgeon and its different species are known to produce the finest varieties of caviar. 

According to the Caviar Guide, the term caviar comes from the Turkish word "havyar", derived from the Iranian word "khayah"

The smooth tiny eggs are usually black, though caviar comes in many shades, including red, gold and grey. Caviar berries are rated on a variety of characteristics, including egg color, lucidity, maturity, size and uniformity. The caviar's fragrance and egg-shell hardness also contribute to its rating.



It may be hard to believe, but at one time, caviar was served in bars, sometimes for free like peanuts are today to encourage customers to drink more. That was during the caviar boom experienced in North America during the 19th century after sturgeon fish were discovered in U.S. rivers. The supply was so rich that Canada and the U.S. became the major suppliers of caviar to Europe. By 1900, the U.S. was the largest producer in the world, generating over 600 tons a year. Because so many fish were harvested for their caviar, a ban was imposed on commercial sturgeon fishing in 1906. By then, though, Americans had grown to love caviar. Cesar Ritz put it on his menu and caviar secured its place in high-end dining establishments that began popping up at this time.

The ban never countered the dwindling sturgeon population, though, and by the 1960s the price of caviar skyrocketed due to scarce supply. Today, there are limits and bans on fishing as well as exporting bans on caviar in an effort to conserve endangered fish supplies. Naturally, these restrictions raise the price of caviar even more.


Fine caviar should never be served with or stored in metal because of oxidation which can impart a metal flavor to the berries. Serve caviar very cold and nestled inside another bowl or container that holds ice to keep it fresh and cool. Choose servers made of glass, bone, wood or plastic. If you want to go by tradition, try mother-of-pearl or gold.

Some believe caviar must be eaten with champagne, while others say a shot of ice-cold vodka does the trick. While purists insist that good caviar needs little more, there’s a whole range of condiments with which to enjoy it. These include lemon wedges, sour cream, crème fraiche, hard-cooked egg and chopped onion. Often served on plain crackers or toasted bread, place about one tablespoon of the berries on your cracker and enjoy. Caviar served on a small cracker or canapé should be eaten in one bite.


-Caviar is one of the oldest delicacies. Before raw oysters, before Champagne, before even truffles were deemed a delicacy, caviar was coveted by kings and the aristocracy. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Russian tsars were all known to splurge on caviar.

-Caviar is judged on its color, flavor, texture and maturity. The finest, most expensive caviars are older, larger eggs that are lighter in color. Lower quality caviar is younger, with a less intensely fishy flavor, and darker in color. It’s a good thing, too, for caviar newbies, who are more likely to start on the cheaper, milder stuff.

-The most expensive caviar on record is from a 100-year-old fish. Almas caviar, from the eggs of 60 to 100-year-old Iranian beluga sturgeon, clocked in at roughly $35,000 per kilo ($1,000/oz.). Can you imagine killing a fish older than your grandma for its eggs?

-Blini ain’t the be-all-and-end-all. The traditional round puffy pancakes are perfect to top with crème fraîche and caviar. But early Russians preferred their roe on a baked potato. Nowadays, caviar makes appearances on everything from pizza to burgers.

Which caviar truly tastes the best? We let you be the judge.

Happy National Caviar Day!