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Caviar 101 and Champagne at Marky’s

687 NE 79th St., Miami, FL 33138 1-800-522-8427. www.markys.com. www.markyscaviar.com 

 
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 By Simone Zarmati Diament

photos: SZD

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New Year’s Eve is upon us and it’s time for Champagne and Caviar. Just as we’ve been schooled by the media mavens in the intricacies of Champagne, it is now time to learn more about caviar;  the ultimate luxury – when one knows what’s in the expensive or not so expensive jar − for a deliciously fun and happy celebration.

So I was invited to the headquarters of Marky’s Caviar down the road from what was the immigration building, now closed, and across the street from a strip mall with boarded up stores.  This once seedy area is in the process of being gentrified, which explains the forbidding gate protecting the Marky’s Caviar compound.

The small store that businessmen Mark Zaslavsky and Mark Gellman – two Ukrainian émigrés and caviar importers and distributors − opened thirty years ago, was always a fascinating place to visit and not only for the Russian caviar, the foie gras and the French cheeses.  An array of exotic looking products labeled in Cyrillic were a magnet for Soviet émigrés,  for Cubans émigrés nostalgic for the products provided in the old days by their Soviet guests , and for the insatiably curious, like me.

 What had evolved as a bona fide gourmet store has been expanded at the hands of President and COO Christopher Hlubb and turned into a highly specialized fine foods store and warehouse.  There, the best handpicked products from Spain, Italy, France and Eastern Europe take turns on the center stage demo table manned by Maître Affineur and  buyer Marc Navailles.

But I had come for Marky’s Caviar course 101Irina Ivkina, Marky’s  Caviar Category Manager and buyer, was about to deliver a Caviar Master class which the company is now offering to consumers and trade, paired with Champagne or vodka.

I was seated with two colleagues at a table set with Champagne flutes, mineral water, napkins and bowls filled with mother-of-pearl-like plastic spoons to taste a selection of over 20 different caviars priced from $10 per oz. to over $400 per oz.  Only glass, bone, mother-of-pearl or gold can be used to handle caviar. Silver or other reactive metal spoons, bowls and utensils are out of the question as the oxidation distorts the delicate taste and balance of flavors.

After a brief and interesting history on the origins of caviar consumption – since 2400 B.C. in ancient Persia – Irina who was born and raised in the town of Nalchik in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains, not too far from the Caspian Sea, she said, went on to explain the strict laws and legalities of the Caviar Trade as well as the guidelines for the labeling system to identify what’s in a tin, followed by the different qualities, grades and types of caviar, and most importantly, how to recognize a good quality product and how to serve it. Students also receive a “caviar bible” or comprehensive guide to this food for kings as well as samples. 

  • First and foremost, the jar or tin must bear the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora a.k.a. the Washington Convention) gold  label.

Sturgeon – a highly protected species, farmed or wild – caviar (Black) is divided into 4 types, but we will only talk about the fresh-grained or malossol, a delicate procedure that involves small quantities (no more than 5%) of powdery Fleur de Sel salt and can only be processed by hand through fine sieves to detach the beads from the membrane.

Marky’s favors farmed caviar because aquaculture not only solves the problem of overfishing but it provides more control over quality and sustainability: the roe obtained from farmed fish is free of pollutants and other industrial contaminant.

We tasted a vast selection of caviar profiles, from Hackleback and Paddlefish Caviar at $20- $30 p/oz. (grey eggs, buttery taste with complex ocean flavor, followed by White Sturgeon caviar ($55- $75) –well balanced, mild buttery and nutty flavors and clean mineral finish), Siberian Sturgeon ($65 - $85) – dark, buttery with earthy and sea finish).dsc02080

The tasting progressed to SAF Sevruga caviar exclusive to  Marky’s from Sturgeon AquaFarms in Florida, Sterlet Caviar (another species of sturgeon), Karat  Russian Osetra Amber and Gold  ($85 - $ 95 p/ oz.) from Israel – olive green and light golden respectively,  rich nutty flavors, creamy in the mouth−,  Kaluga caviar ($115- $150) a species of sturgeon related to Beluga, but smaller,  with grey or amber pearls, a mellow rich buttery taste and a crisp finish.

In 2014 Marky’s farms in Bascom, in Florida will deliver the first harvest of domestic Beluga in the USA.

Non-sturgeon caviar or Roe (Red) includes the no less delicious and  prized Salmon roe or “Keta” ($8 - $10 p/ oz) with its appealing orange color, crisp bursting pearls and long creamy finish, which is so wonderful for appetizer  to Trout Roe, Black and Red Lumpfish and Tobico sushi caviar, among the many other types of roes.

The texture, taste, color and size of caviar or roe can be noticeably distinct. But no matter what the color or the provenance: 

  • The appearance of the eggs  is important as its size, color – the lighter the better tasting − and smell will indicate quality, its sheen the freshness, the separation of the eggs the care of the production process.
  • The Texture: High quality caviar should not have any broken pearls in the jar nor should it accumulate liquid or oil at the bottom of the jar, neither should it be mushy in the mouth.
  • Caviar should be served very cold (26 - 35 F)in a non-metallic bowl nestled inside a larger bowl filled with ice. It is not recommended to transfer into a serving dish so as not to break the eggs.
  • Caviar is best eaten alone but it is commonly served with blini, toast or unsalted crackers, mini potatoes topped with crème fraiche,  hard cooked eggs (yolks and whites chopped separately),  minced onions  with a lemon wedge on the side.
  • Air is caviar’s worst enemy. Purchase in small containers and consume in one setting. For left overs, if any, cover with cling plastic wrap, spread flat and press gently  taking care not to break any eggs so as to remove air pockets. Consume within 2 to 3 days.

It has become a holiday tradition as a sign of abundance and luxury to feature  the food for kings and royalty in New Year’s Eve menus and Irina Ivkina is on hand to advise buyers before New Year’s Eve.

But to learn in-depth about caviar and taste the different types available at Marky’s,  book a class by contacting Irina at 786-514-0921, 305-758-9288 # 122,  or via e-mail  iivkina@markys.com

 

 

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Marky's Caviar

687 NE 79th St., Miami, FL 33138. 1-800-522-8427. www.markys.com. www.markyscaviar.com

To learn in-depth about caviar and taste the different types available at Marky’s,  book a class by contacting Irina at 786-514-0921, 305-758-9288 # 122,  or via e-mail  iivkina@markys.com 

Marky's  is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.   

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