Myth #1: It’s only enjoyed with blinis, chives or other accoutrements.
Of course, the delicacy will be served with accompaniments unless you’re at a caviar tasting. Eggs, minced onion and black bread with butter are some more popular pairings, too, and they're delicious. But if you’re serious about appreciating the flavor of caviar—especially if you’re trying to discern the nuances between two or more varieties—try a little spoonful plain first. Just don’t use a metal spoon.
Myth #2: You should chew caviar. (Because, why wouldn’t you?)
When tasting it plain, resist that urge to chew. “You should use your tongue, never use your teeth, you can really feel the bead of the caviar and the butteriness of the fat that way. You don’t have any taste receptors in your teeth, and so when you chew the caviar, a lot of its flavor can be lost. In many ways, you want to approach tasting caviar like you would a wine, hold a spoonful underneath your nose, and take in the aromas. Then put the spoon on your tongue, and turn it upside down so all the beads make contact with your tongue. You want to breathe through your mouth a bit here, like how you might spray a wine across your palate. This helps extract the full aroma—and flavor—from the caviar.
Myth #3: Champagne is the most traditional pairing.
Vodka is actually a more traditional pairing than Champagne. It actually makes sense, given caviar’s historical foundations in the Caspian and Black Sea, which nestle up to Russia and Ukraine. Russian vodka is very clean and it has an antiseptic quality that cleanses that palette.
At the same time the celebratory and luxury associations with Champagne are unrivaled. Champagne has this effervescent effect, both literally and figuratively. The feelings that it evokes are lively ones, whereas with vodka you get a different kind of drunk. If you do go the Champagne route, pick a dry one. Look for the designation “brut,” “extra brut” or “brut natural,” the last of which is the driest designation possible with absolutely no sugar.
Caviar is so buttery because it’s got those natural oils and fats. The dryness of Champagne brings out the saline quality of caviar, whereas the creaminess and viscosity of sugar really competes with it.
Myth #4: It’s traditionally enjoyed with a silver spoon.
Given its connotations of luxury, one might imagine caviar best enjoyed on gold or silver spoons, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Caviar absorbs flavors of the metal, just as it absorbs salt. Metal interferes with the delicate flavor profiles of caviar, and you’ll be tasting the silver or steel in your spoon. Instead, that bone, ivory and mother of pearl have been historically used. Mother of pearl comes from the sea, so from a story perspective, it fits.(We will say that we wouldn’t recommend buying ivory or bone due to concerns with illegal poaching.)
Myth #5: Don’t serve caviar ice cold.
Nope, serve it ice cold—quite literally. Serve up the tins at 35 degrees. Caviar doesn’t freeze until about 27 or 28 degrees.
There’s no need to put a smaller tin on ice, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to splurge on a larger tin (or have friends who can), that’s probably a good idea. Also, be sure to store it in the coldest part of your fridge.