High Life Decoded: Caviar

Chef Anthony Martin from Tru restaurant in Chicago helps us navigate the luxe delicacy without getting fleeced.

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Photo: Anjali Pinto

Caviar has long been the food of the elite. Several historical documents suggest that the delicate, buttery eggs have been coveted by hedonists and royalty as far back as 2,600 B.C. Today, the delicacy remains a status symbol worthy of its own utensil. The way fish eggs pop in your mouth feels as celebratory as its most popular pairing—champagne—but there’s more to caviar consumption than Dom Perignon and mother-of-pearl spoons. Fish eggs are filled with vitamins, minerals, and proteins that made them staples of long journeys at sea by Nordic warriors.

In 2005, politics and the diminishing population of wild sturgeon led the U.S. government to outlaw caviar imported from popular fishing regions like the Caspian—all of which has only fueled the food’s hype factor. These days, most caviar is farm-raised in the U.S., but it’s just as expensive (prices exceed $600 an ounce). It’s time we find out why—and how—to ensure you’ll get the good stuff when you make the plunge.

The expert: Anthony Martin. After a four-year stint working with Joël Robuchon (who chef Martin credits for honing his caviar connoisseurship)—Martin became the head chef at Chicago's Tru, where he launched a 10-course caviar tasting menu designed to educate diners by exposing them to quality caviars of various species at every price point, all in 10-gram increments.

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