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Tasting Tsar Nicoulai Caviar – Sustainable California Caviar

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Yesterday, while shooting videos for YouTube, I had the chance to taste four Tsar Nicoulai caviar products: TNC Classic Caviar, California Estate Osetra Caviar, Select California Estate Osetra Caviar, and Reserve California Estate Osetra Caviar.  It was really interesting to see and taste the differences.  While all four types of caviar were very tasty–fresh and creamy, I found that my preference was in the exact order of quality and price.  I liked the Reserve California Osetra (Tsar Nicoulai’s top California Osetra product) the most, and the TNC Classic Caviar (Tsar Nicoulai’s most affordable option) the least.

I even did a blind taste test to verify my preferences.  Tasting the products out of order and with eyes closed (with the help of my husband), I was able to correctly identify each type of caviar by the firmness of the eggs, size of eggs, and flavor.

Don’t get me wrong.  I would be happy to be served any of the four types of caviar.  Had I not tasted them side by side with intense concentration, I’m not sure I could have said which was which.  And of course, taste is such a personal thing.  Someone else might have preferred any of the four over the others.

I’ll try to describe the differences I observed.

TNC Classic Malossol Caviar: The eggs were the least firm of the four types of caviar.  The medium sized eggs were dark charcoal in color.  I would tend to use this lower-priced product for recipes, versus straight out of the jar… It was perfectly adequate, but not as smooth and defined as the California Estate Osetras.

California Estate Osetra Caviar: This caviar was the most black in color of the four, with egg size about the same as the TNC (medium).  Slightly firmer, with a more intense caviar flavor.  Very good!

Select California Estate Osetra: The caviar has a larger bead size and a light charcoal color.  The eggs were firm, and the flavor wonderful, smooth and creamy.  This caviar was noticeably smoother than the first two.  A really delicious product.

Reserve California Estate Osetra: The Reserve was definitely my favorite.  With the largest bead size, and a light beige/charcoal color (the lightest in color of the four), this caviar is magnificent.  It was very smooth and clean.  The eggs seemed the most firm and defined and had the most “pop”.

Tsar Nicloulai is a pioneer in the production of sustainable caviar and has done a very fine job of supplying an excellent product, at reasonable prices, without further endangering sturgeon (all wild sturgeon are endangered).  I think it’s great that there are a range of products to suit different palates, purposes and budgets.  For example, the price of the TNC Classic Caviar is half that of the California Estate Osetra, and one third the price of the Reserve.

There are other sustainable caviar products on the market, including Black River Caviar, a company which imported Siberian sturgeon fertilized roe in 1995 and produces a magnificent ossetra Malossol caviar from sturgeon “wild raised” in Uruguay.  The price of Black River Caviar is comparable to Tsar Nicoulai’s premium California Osetra.

If you enjoy caviar, join chefs and connoisseurs around the world who have chosen sustainable caviar as their caviar of choice.

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