When’s the last time you had caviar? According to Petra Bergstein, owner of The Caviar Company in San Francisco, it’s not just for special occasions. In fact, she said, its mysteriousness is part of its attraction. Bergstein admits she had never tasted it prior to getting a job in the business, but was so attracted to its history (it was first used as a food item by Russian and Persian fisherman dating to the 10th century), and it being a niche product, that she fell in love.
Now, part of her job is to make it more accessible and debunk the myth that it’s too expensive and only goes with blinis and vodka. We talked with her about the best things to pair it with (whisky works!), what makes it so good and her favorite way to eat it (on fingerling potatoes).
What makes for good caviar?
The way caviar is handled is one of the most important factors when it comes to quality. The way it is shipped, when/how it is repacked all significantly affect the caviar. You can purchase the most amazing caviar in the world, but if it’s not handled with care from the time it’s processed to the time you receive it, then you will receive a less than mediocre product. We feel that caviar should never be too fishy or too salty. Storage, transit, and packing dates can all seriously impact those qualities.
Do you have a favorite way to eat it? Suggestions for what to pair it with?
Unfortunately, my kitchen skills are less than impressive, so my favorite go-to way of eating or serving caviar is on top of roasted fingerling potatoes with a very small pinch of chive. I have always loved bubbles, so my quick pairing would be champagne, preferably Blanc de Blancs. However, for more adventurous nights, we love to push the limits and play with the caviar. For example, we have paired it with whiskey, Pinot Noir and port.
What are some tips for new caviar eaters?
Purchasing from a trusted and fresh source is vital. I get so sad when I hear stories about someone trying caviar for the first time and they didn’t like it because it was too “fishy” or “salty.” Caviar should never be like that.
Tell us about the biggest challenges you face running a small business, especially during this pandemic.
First and foremost, how to keep my employees safe and on payroll and next, how to keep business going while losing the majority of our wholesale business. However, these challenges have given me a new fire to keep fighting for what I love. We have reinvented ourselves in some ways and pivoted in order to stay afloat. For example, we started offering virtual caviar tastings as early as March of last year, which allowed us to stay connected with customers throughout the U.S.
What do you foresee in the future of Caviar Co.?
Our dream is to grow and keep creating more platforms to continue talking about what we love. We are so passionate about the product and sharing the information that has driven that passion. It’s really such a fascinating product that has many amazing stories to tell.
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