Demand for Caspian Sea caviar among the New Rich and the Just Plain Old Rich has driven many species of one of the Earth’s most ancient fish, the sturgeon, nearly to extinction. Prices rocketed, black market operators clouded the trading waters. But what if you want to indulge, once in a blue moon, responsibly? One option: eggs like the delicious yellow roe of the Great Lakes whitefish—inexpensive, clean-flavored globes that pop between your teeth. Another, much closer to the classic: sustainable American fish-farmed sturgeon caviar, such as that produced by California’s Tsar Nicoulai. Their California Estate and other domestic eggs (yes, a bracing $90 an ounce) have the unmistakable creamy-buttery mouthfeel that caviar lovers, having once tasted it, cannot resist. The company also produces interesting naturally flavored roes, using ginger, saffron, and wasabi.
Caviar tastes salty, but a half-teaspoon has only 40mg of sodium. Serve the best caviar with neutral-flavored toast points. Use roes as a garnish on raw oysters or smoked salmon canapés. Always, of course, offer a glass of bubbly.