Michael E. Jalileyan will be serving caviar at South Beach Food & Wine Festival's Grand Tasting Village this weekend. To prepare you for the big event, he owner and president, of Caviar & Caviar. offers a plethora of hints for ingesting the stuff that has been the treasure of Russia since Peter the Great in 1672.
"I grew up with caviar," Michael tells Short Order. Raised in South Florida, he was born in Iran and is genetically connected to the product. His ancestors were caviar importers and he's worked in the business six years. Last year, in spite of the economic downturn, he struck out on his own "to make caviar more attainable with a higher standard of excellence."
There is a surplus of caviar, so prices are lower than they were a year ago, he says, "but standards are getting higher as small producers go back to artisanal ways and take stronger interest in the integrity of what they produce".
Photo by Christina Staalstrom
The word caviar, or khaviar, as it was called by the Persians, is derived from the word khya, meaning "egg." There are four main types, Beluga, Sterlet, Ossetra and Sevruga. The rarest and costliest is from the Caspian beluga sturgeon, but these soft and fairly large eggs have been banned since 2005.
As we sampled four caviars; Kaluga, white sturgeon from Venice, American paddlefish, and Per Se from Spain, Michael gave the following advice, which you should keep in mind.
1. To get the true flavor of caviar place it on your wrist and eat straight with your mouth. (Yes, like the salt before a tequila shot). We tried this with the Per Se from Spain ($85/oz) and it was light on the tongue before it melted in our mouth.
2. When using a spoon opt for a mother of pearl because a metal one will tarnish the taste of caviar.
3. Serve caviar with champagne. The bubbles break up the salt in your mouth and the effervescence makes everything melt in your mouth. It's also very romantic.
4. Spice up your scrambled eggs with some American Paddlefish ($22/oz). The earthy flavor and saltiness adds some decadence to your morning without breaking the bank.
5. If you want to impress your date order up some rare Kaluga ($150/oz). This river beluga is produced in China under Iranian methods and the pearls are big so you'll get that popping in your mouth Beluga lovers seek. It's also among the most expensive on the market these days.
photo by Christina Staastrom
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Most importantly, try them all and find the one that suits you best. There is a caviar out there for everyone and the folks at Caviar&Caviar are more than happy to help you find your match!