Somewhere in an unmarked industrial building in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, there is a treasure trove of caviar quietly aging until it reaches just the right flavor. Petrossian, perhaps the most famous name in caviar, does its unglamorous but most important work here, far from the posh Midtown boutique and café on Seventh Avenue. Petrossian takes the time to mature its caviar, something that the father and son team behind the company,
“You have to have quite a lot of caviar in your inventory to do it,” says Alexandre. “We nurture it. We love caviar. We love it so much that we want to make sure that once it’s ready, it’s sold—not before, not after.”
On a recent visit, Alexandre opened up several large tins of caviar, spreading out close to $50,000 of the magical fish roe on a table in a refrigerated basement lab for a group of visiting journalists to taste and ponder. He explained the flavor grading process, a meticulous and detailed endeavor (better left to more refined palates) that involves terms like “nippy,” “pure first scent,” “noise (caviar song),” and “euphoric.” Suffice it to say, we did our best to taste our way through all the variations, from
1. MATURE CAVIAR IS MORE COMPLEX, BUT IF IT GETS TOO OLD IT'S RUINED.
The maturation process removes some of the initial salty, fishy taste that is present in caviar, imbuing it with richness and complexity, and bringing out other subtle flavors. “A lot of people think they don’t like caviar because of this salty, fishy flavor,” says Alexandre. “But when they try our caviar for the first time, they’re like, ‘Whoa!’” It’s a fine line, however, because if the caviar is over-aged, even slightly, it is ruined. So that means it must be
2. IF YOU
AREN'T ALLOWED TO TRY IT, DON'T BUY IT.
The term “
3. YOU CAN SKIP THE BLINIS AND CRÈME FRAÎCHE.
According to Alexandre, there are several ways to enjoy caviar. “If it’s [your]
4. DON'T SCOFF AT AMERICAN CAVIAR.
Increasingly around the country, you will find caviar from river fish like paddlefish or hackleback. While it doesn’t quite hold the caché of the vaulted sturgeon roe, Alexandre believes it has value and potential. Petrossian does carry this type of caviar, although the company asks the fishermen to follow certain specifications to maintain their expected quality. They also call paddlefish caviar “Chataluga Prestige,” because, “we had to find a fancier name,” Alexandre says with a chuckle. “But I love the fact that it’s wild and it’s done by American fishermen in the old ways.”
5. IT'S GOING TO GET MORE AFFORDABLE.
According to Alexandre, the price of caviar is actually going down because of an increase in product and competition. He sees caviar going the way champagne has over the past few decades, moving from a rare, special occasion indulgence to one that fits into people’s lifestyles more frequently. “It’s always going to be fancy because it’s an acquired taste, something you kind of work your palate into," he says. "So I still see caviar as being for special occasions, but more often. If I can get caviar to every table in the U.S. once a year, I’ll be happy. My goal is for it to be a luxury, but a luxury that more people can afford to enjoy.”
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the