At the end of the day, we are all about FLAVOR here at Island Creek.
It is in this eternal quest that we have plunged into our next great fixation—caviar. Truffles and foie gras, tuna toro and kobe beef come to mind as being in the same class of decadent flavor; however, there are few things in this world that can deliver every taste of the rainbow cranked to 11 all at once—salt, umami, butter, brine, nutty, earthy. Top notch caviar is said to be able to contain a whopping 17 discernible flavors and aromas.
Caviar’s greatest shortcoming is probably that it can be intimidating. Like picking a bottle of wine from an extensive list (or, ahem, an oyster off a raw bar menu) the choices can be disorienting and the cost means the stakes are high! Couple this with a history of smuggling, overfishing, environmental degradation, and long opaque supply chains with unscrupulous sales people and why bother!
Well folks, that’s where Island Creek comes in. We rolled up our sleeves and spent time with the farmers, scientists and producers to get a handle on what playing in the world of caviar means. We saw pretty quickly that we could do it better. We tasted something as complex and enjoyable as an oyster. And we noticed the caviar landscape changing in ways that inspired us and reminded us of our own story. While a great deal of caviar these days comes from China, the domestic caviar scene is exploding in ways the oyster scene was ten years ago. We were hooked.
Core Tenets of our Caviar Program:
Responsibility By choosing to source strictly domestic caviar, we are eliminating a lot of the sketchy issues associated with the caviar trade. We know the farmers first hand and we don’t engage with middle men or confusing supply chains.
Approachability We want to reframe HOW you eat caviar (on anything), WHO you eat it with (your friends or family), WHY you eat it (for any old reason you want) and WHEN you eat it (anytime you please).
Education We spend a lot of time communicating with chefs, servers, farmers, people at our raw bars and restaurants- and that talk is straightforward, transparent and entirely consistent with the way we talk about oysters.
General Caviar FAQ:
Q: WHAT IS CAVIAR?
Caviar is a delicacy consisting of salt-cured fish eggs from Sturgeon. Sturgeon is a pre-historic fish (older than the dinosaurs and the rivers they swim in!) from the Acipenseridae family. Caviar can only come from sturgeon. If cured fish eggs come from a different fish, it is considered to be roe (such as salmon or paddlefish roe).
Q: What is the difference between caviar and roe?
All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. All caviar is roe but not all roe is caviar. Get it? All caviar is roe but all roe is not caviar. Caviar must come from the Sturgeon, which is the common name for the 27 specifies of fish belonging to the family Acipenseridae. Each fish produces a unique type of egg that must be combined with salt to create caviar as we know it.
Q: What do the names I see on other caviar sites (Classic, Royal, Gold, Supreme) mean?
Good question! We have no idea, and that’s what we’d like to avoid - creating random distinctions that mean nothing to our customers.
Q: How is caviar judged?
Caviar is given it’s ‘rating’ by looking closely at three things - color of the egg, the size of the egg and the firmness of the egg. Every producer treats these eggs a little differently and creates a variety of grades based on color, egg size and firmness. The trouble is that there are no universal caviar standards and a lot of fancy naming and re-naming of the same varieties. Often when you purchase caviar you are buying it from a wholesaler who has stamped their name on the very same product that others are buying, and re naming, thereby obfuscating the source and upcharging for no reason.
Q: How do I learn more about caviar?
There is a long history of caviar, how it became a luxurious delicacy, made its way to the US, became overexploited, and now is farm raised. Check out the book Caviar: The Strange History and Uncertain Future of the World’s Most Coveted Delicacy. It’s pretty informative and an interesting read.
How to Buy & Store FAQ:
Q: How much do I order?
We generally estimate 10g per person, but depending on the size of the event this can change. If it’s just 2 or 3 of you, 30g will do ya. For a smaller gathering, we would order a couple 30 gram tins. If there are 30 or more people, we’d recommend going for 250g plus. Some folks will eat a lot, and some none, and the presentation will look appropriate for that size event. The Block Party pack was made for just that - it’s a steal price wise and looks baller.
Q: How do I store it?
Remove it from the packaging and put it in a bowl filled with ice. Place in the fridge and continue to replenish the ice so that it stays chilled. The caviar is fine for 4 weeks if it is unopened. Once opened, the caviar should be eaten within 2-3 days. The longer the tin has been opened, the more the caviar degrades in quality so we suggest eating right away after the tin has been unsealed – that should be easy.
Q: How is my caviar packed?
We ship using FedEx Overnight service. You will receive tracking the day before your delivery date when we print your label.
How to Serve & Eat FAQ:
Q: How do I serve my caviar?
Take the caviar out of the fridge 30 minutes before it will be served. Like white wine, if it’s too cold it mutes the flavor. For more formal service, you can place the caviar tin on ice. For something a little more laid back, you can just dig in. Pro tip: for your first taste, place a few beads on the back of your hand so you don’t taint the flavor of the caviar in its truest form. Go ahead and keep eating it off your hand, but if you feel like sharing, serve the rest of the crowd with a Mother of Pearl or wooden spoon. Metal spoons will change the flavor of the eggs – don’t use them!
What is important to remember is that the enemies of caviar are air, light, heat and silver. Aside from making sure the caviar integrity is maintained in storage, make your own rules.
How do I eat my caviar? While there is no wrong way to eat caviar, our logic is similar to oysters – why disguise something so delicious and unique? Caviar has so many flavors and aromas, so go ahead and eat it naked (the caviar, not you, silly). Some simple accompaniments are also okay –a baguette or blini, some crème fraiche, hard-boiled eggs and chives. If you happened to order oysters along with your caviar (we hope you did), put some beads on the Island Creek – the well-balanced flavor of the oyster and caviar will complement one another.