“The men went into the dining-room and went up to a table, laid with six sorts of spirits and as many kinds of cheese, some with little silver spades and some without, caviar, herrings, preserves of various kinds.” –Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Caviar is, quite simply, très chic. There’s a reason the masters of Russian, English and French literature have waxed poetic about this timeless delicacy. Though you can serve caviar on ice with spoons or eat it off the back of your hand—it warms it, and focuses its exquisite flavor—it’s an elegant enough item that you should pay attention to its service. Sure, a small pot of the tiny eggs with warm blinis may be just the perfect treat for the two of you (bottle of Champagne in hand!) or you can treat your friends to a full caviar spread with all the fixings. If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s to live it up when the going is good.
We have some simply extraordinary items on the site right now to help you up your caviar game. (Because it’s time you had one.) Below are the tools you absolutely need, and a few ways to enjoy the extravagance properly. Sometimes it’s good to be proper.
The Spoons and Bowls
You probably know this one, but if you don’t, pause a moment to really take it in: You must not serve caviar in a metal spoon unless you have golden spoons. Mother-of-pearl, shell, bone, wood and even plastic are all options, depending on the plastic. (A Washington Post writer is partial to the Baskin-Robbins spoons, in a pinch!). Salt is corrosive, caviar is extremely salty, and your caviar will “react” with most metal spoons. So consider beautiful mother-of-pearl dishes like those above with shell spoons. Because you’re not eating caviar in the parking lot of a Baskin-Robbins.
1. Russian Service
As the book Caviar: A Global History notes, “It was during Catherine the Great’s reign that caviar became more than just a traditional Russian dish, it entered the realms of unparalleled luxury.” As is true of lobster, caviar was originally a peasant food. Once the upper classes got their hands on it, though, its price quickly skyrocketed.
Break out your wintry furs and do a Russian-style caviar party. Think: warm blini, crème fraiche, and iced vodka. (Vodka is the preferred caviar pairing of purists!) You’re not getting Russian beluga any time soon here in the U.S. of A., but we have plenty of gorgeous alternatives. Keep your caviar cold, cold, cold and serve iced vodka shots alongside.
2. French Service
“Wit is like caviar: It should be served in small portions and not spread about like marmalade.” So said the English playwright Sir Noël Pierce Coward, but the French would likely be on board with this minimalist approach. Did you know that a sixth of the world’s caviar is now farmed in France? (There, the tradition of eating caviar off the back of one’s hand is called “à la royale.” Très chic!)
Whether you go for glass elegance or shells set in beds of ice, pull out the prettiest Champagne flutes, coupes and bubbly. Many folks love French Champagne with caviar. Serve toast points and crème fraîche alongside, break out the white tablecloth, and play lots of Serge and Édith.
3. Classic Service
There’s been a caviar Renaissance in America. Not only is it possible that our farmed caviar might save wild sturgeon from extinction, but it’s still making cameos on menus across the price point spectrum here. Often you can spy it alongside very American accompaniments like cream cheese and a bagel (at New York’s Russ & Daughters), potato chips or even tater tots, as it was at the late Champagne bar The Riddler. But one traditional and rather American way to serve it is chilled, with small condiment bowls of grated hard boiled egg, sour cream or crème fraîche, minced white onion, lemon, and chives. Let guests assemble their own plate, perhaps with toast points or blini alongside.
4. Hanukkah Service
Sometimes we don’t need to do much work beyond sharing a drool-inducing photo. How epic do these latkes with caviar and crème fraîche look? Many iterations of this gorgeous trio work nicely, particularly during the Festival of Lights holiday, but we’re especially partial to this gift set. Roe’s sustainably farmed white sturgeon caviar is in there, plus Linda’s Latkes and Vermont Creamery’s dead-sexy crème fraîche. You’re worth it.