Caviar is, undeniably, the most luxurious and exclusive food known to mankind. Its etymology is rooted in the Persian word khag-avar, which means “roe generator.” The Persians were the first group of people to consume, regularly, the eggs of the sturgeon fish. They believed this delicacy enhanced the physical strength and endurance of those who ate it. It is also known that the ancient Greeks imported caviar from what is known today as Crimea in southern Ukraine. Even then, it was a luxury item reserved for the elite. The Romans also attributed healing and medicinal properties to caviar.
The exquisite roe disappeared from people’s tables during the dark and tortuous years of the Middle Ages. It wasn’t rediscovered until the 12th century, when Russian fishermen and peasants began using it as a cheap source of protein for a population that had endured hunger and scarcity for decades. Pope Julius II, also known as “The Warrior Pope,” patron of Michelangelo’s monumental fresco for the Sistine Chapel, was a notorious gourmand with an appetite for sturgeon eggs. He is credited for introducing caviar to royal ceremonies across Europe, giving it the rank of exclusivity and excellence it continues to enjoy to this day.
Almas has a distinct personality. It is very complex and richly nuanced, destined for palates seeking the authentic flavor of Iranian caviar.
By the seventeenth century, the consumption of sturgeon roe was already associated with luxury and opulence. During this time, Peter the Great, the most prominent Tsar from the Romanov dynasty, developed a passion for these small eggs, which he consumed in enormous quantities.
At present, and with the sturgeon in danger of extinction, white caviar has become a rare delicacy, exclusive and scarce. This variety comes from the albino beluga sturgeon that lives in the Caspian Sea, mainly in the unpolluted areas near Iran. Although this fish usually live more than 100 years, there are very few of the albino variety left in the wild since the lack of melanin is a genetic disorder that only affects a few members of the species. This explains why their eggs have become the most sophisticated and expensive food in the world.
The white eggs are obtained from specimens more than 100 years old. As the sturgeon get older, their eggs are more elegant, smooth, aromatic and delicious with a spongier texture. The most expensive is the exclusive variety called Almas, which in Russian means “diamond”, and its price is almost as high as that of the precious gemstone.
Almas is one of those items that are not for sale just anywhere. To acquire it, you need to go to one of the few select Caviar House & Prunier stores, the only place in the world where it is available for sale. Its classic presentation makes a unique gift: it comes in a metal container bathed in 24-karat gold. The price? A kilo (2.2 lbs) can cost upwards of $ 25,000.
Almas has a distinct personality. It is very complex and richly nuanced, destined for palates seeking the authentic flavor of Iranian caviar, produced under traditional processes deserving of such a unique food. These eggs have an intense nutty, creamy taste. Their rich flavor is the result of a delicate salting process.
The best way to eat this unique product, worthy of kings and emperors, is to serve it alone, cold and preferably in a non metallic dish, usually glass, with ice at the base to maintain the correct temperature. It is not recommended to serve it on a silver or any other metal container to avoid the metallic taste that could tarnish its precious flavor.
Another essential tip is to serve it on toast, a slice of bread, blinis or crackers, making sure the eggs are not crushed. There is no need to add any butter or lemon juice.
Purists on the subject believe that a glass of iced vodka is one of the best complements for good caviar, though generally it is taken with French champagne. ■