A “How to” Buying Guide: Caviar and Pâté

Petrossian delicacies
Petrossian delicacies

Ever been mystified by the whole caviar and pâté experience?

I was.  So I decided to go out and educate myself on how to buy caviar and pâté, as well as how to eat the luxury items.  The best way to learn is to go to the professionals.

Petrossian is the answer in both Paris and the United States.  They are not only the experts, but they offer some of the finest goods on the market.

First off, caviar is expensive.  The reason lies in the process of cultivating fish eggs.  It is not as easy as one would think.

Caviar is not cheap, just less expensive — more affordable. The restrictions on wild caviar made the price very high. The actual progress in the production and the number of farms all over the world created more offerings. However, one should also remember that caviar is not raised, sturgeons are, and that this process takes over ten years. This is the reason why caviar will never be an inexpensive product. Plus, the fact that to create good caviar requires a lot of work and enormous specialized knowledge. Now, if the dream becomes affordable, then it will drive caviar lovers back to caviar — those who’ve stopped their consumption because of higher prices.

— Caviar Q&A with Armen Petrossian, The Daily Meal, by Yasmin Fahr

There are a variety of different types of ‘caviar’ out there.  Let’s start from the beginning.

What and Where to Buy

Caviar (black) and Salmon Roe (orange).
Caviar (black) and Salmon Roe (orange).

First, the term ‘Caviar’ is used only from the roe (fish eggs) that come from sturgeon fish.  It only comes from sturgeon fish.  You will find that other variations of roe (like salmon roe) are labeled as salmon roe, not caviar.  Caviar only comes from sturgeon fish.  All other fish eggs that do not come from sturgeon fish is called roe.

Caviar is black, while salmon roe is orange.  Depending on the fish, roe can come in a variety of colors.

If you are starting out and need a less expensive, but highly qualitative brand of caviar, start with the Classic Transmontanus Caviar.  In Petrossian stores, the smallest tin is $51.  Online, a small tin will cost $53.

You can also try the less expensive roe that comes from salmon, trout, or even flying fish.  The reason why the eggs from sturgeon are so expensive is because for many years, the fish were considered an endangered species.  In the quote above from Petrossian, it also takes many years to cultivate sturgeon.  The less expensive roe comes from fish that are more bountiful.

If you’re in a city where there’s a Petrossian store, you’ll find more variety and that the prices are considerably lower in their stores than online.  For instance, online, the Salmon Roe retails at $62, but that’s for a 250g tin.  You can pick up a 50g tin between $12-$14 at the store.

I prefer the salmon roe and caviar.  If the caviar wasn’t $50+ per tiny tin, this would be a staple in my home.

The are so many different grades and prices, with $50 being the cheapest and the price of caviar going upwards into the 4-to-5 digit numbers.  The more expensive numbers depend on the rarity of a special harvest which produces an incredible batch of eggs that are unlike any other.  For instance, one serving of Petrossian Special Reserve Ossetra Caviar costs $394.  For 16-32 servings, the price goes up to $12,500.  That’s one expensive dinner party right there.

Petrossian doesn’t just sell roe and caviar.  They also sell baked goods (in store), chocolates, smoked fish, and other fish delicacies.

One delicacy I highly recommend is the Tarama Au Crabe Royal.  It’s a mixture of créme fraiche, cod roe and crabmeat.

As for pâté, Petrossian offers some of the best pâté  I’ve ever had in my life.  Try the Pheasant, Pork & Duck with Figs, Pistachios and Port from Petrossian.  The nice vinegary taste in each bite creates a sharpness of flavors that awakens your tastebuds.  The Petrossian pâtés are far better than any other one I have ever tasted.  They make all the rest taste like cheap liverwurst.

How do you eat Caviar/Roe?

Deviled Eggs from The Glamorous Housewife
Deviled Eggs from The Glamorous Housewife

There are a variety of ways you can eat caviar/roe.  My favorite is definitely Deviled Eggs with caviar.  You can create little stacks on top of a blini.

The varieties of ways you can eat caviar/roe are endless.

If you ask Armen Petrossian how he likes his caviar…nude.  As in, by the teaspoon.  You can follow it up with a glass of champagne or vodka, or a slice of blini.

You can purchase blinis or you can make them.

It is important to serve up caviar with a Mother of Pearl Sea Shell Caviar Spoon and NEVER use sterling silver.  Using silver only degrades the quality of the caviar, and tarnishes the spoon.  Luckily the caviar spoons range from a couple of dollars and on up.

Just remember that caviar hates metal and will instantly spoil it.

If you’re serving up caviar at a party, here is a HOW TO with pictures.

You can create stacks on top of blinis. Here: pate topped with tarama au crabe, with roe/caviar on top.

You’ll find that there are a variety of amazing ways to eat caviar.  Maybe you’ll even find a certain kind of roe that you’ll love.

If you’re looking for recipes, just type in ‘caviar’ in Pinterest and you’ll find everything from appetizers to soups to main courses.

How to Eat Pâté

As you can see, I like my pâté with caviar.  I’ve also eaten it alongside a baguette, some French jam, butter, fruit and cornichons on the side for an afternoon snack.

You can serve it up any which way you want.  Try it on a sandwich, alongside eggs at breakfast, or with cheese and fruit.  Some mousse varieties can be used to add on top of potatoes, as a dip, or even stuffed into vegetables.  There are just so many ways you can eat it.

Fake Caviar?

april2.3There’s something about luxury that someone out there always tries to offer a cheap imitation.  Don’t bother with the cheap imitations.  You won’t enjoy it.  How will you know it’s fake?  Armen Petrossian elaborates in his interview with The Daily Meal.

How can you detect false wild caviar, or poor quality caviar?


Would you buy the wedding present of your daughter in the flea market, or on the net? Certainly not. You will go to a reliable source, a reputable company. It is the same with caviar. You go to a well-known specialist and let him or her guide you for your party. False balls called “caviar” are easy to spot. You put an egg on a sheet of paper and press. If there is no juice, only paste, then you know this is not caviar.


For expired roe, you can take some grains on your tongue and see if it creates an effect like small needles. If so, then your product is no good. Use your nose and smell the caviar. It should not have a strong smell like herring for example. A light, agreeable smell is what you should have. If you tilt the tin and the caviar is very oily, like a heavy soup, then this is a bad sign. Note that a little oil is normal. And if the grain is hard, with practically no juice, that’s also not good.

In other words, stick to the real stuff.  Only buy from the best in the business.  There is no such thing as shopping around for a better deal on luxury food.  You won’t enjoy the lesser quality.  In other words, it would be a waste of your money.  Buy only the best and don’t throw your money away on cheap imitations.

If you are ever in a city where Petrossian has a shop, I highly recommend stopping in and trying their foods.  They package everything up with ice and special containers so that you can get your purchases home without spoilage.They also ship out their merchandise the same way.

Petrossian also has cafes and restaurants where you can sample a little bit of luxury.  Just come prepared knowing the tab will be considerably high.

If you can’t make it to a shop, but want to try out some of their delicacies, order online.  You will not regret tasting the best of the best in the business.

Diary of a Perfectionist Wannabe