The next charter’s preference sheet has come in and there it is “Caviar”… I dreaded my first caviar service and mostly because the only way I had seen fish roe served in the past was on a bit of salmon on a piece of toast. Needless to say that roe wasn’t coming from the same fish as the €600 can of caviar I was supposed to serve in a few weeks.
Here’s the good news: caviar service isn’t even half as scary as it sounds. Just follow a few basic rules and you’ll be just fine:
1. Storage: Chances are you are purchasing the caviar in advance and need to keep it until the guests request it. The best way to keep your caviar fresh is to refrigerate it between -2 to 2 degrees Celsius (28-34 degrees Fahrenheit). Basically, you want to put it in the coldest part of your fridge; this will generally be either the top shelve or bottom shelve depending on where your cold air comes in. If unsure, ask your chef or engineer, they tend to understand fridges well. You should be able to keep your caviar unopened for 2 to 3 weeks. It’s always worth double-checking with your supplier. Once open, flatten the caviar on the bottom of the tin and cover with cling wrap so there is no more air between the roe and the cling wrap. Cover with the tin lid and place back into the fridge. You can keep it like this for 2 to 3 days.
2. Service: Caviar has to be served cold and ideally maintained cold whilst being consumed. This is achieved by serving it on crushed ice. You will find a variety of caviar serving sets that do just this. There are two main kind of sets:
- “Bowl in the Bowl”: The larger bowl will hold the ice. You will then place the smaller bowl on the crushed ice and scoop the caviar into the smaller bowl.
- “Ice bowl”: This is just a simple bowl in which you can place the caviar tin directly. If you can’t get your hands on a purpose-made caviar serving set, you can easily use a nice crystal, glass or silver bowl you have on board, fill it with crushed ice and place your tin on top.
The Ice Bowl is my preferred one as you can serve the caviar tin still sealed. You can then ask the host or main guest if they would like to do the honours (by unsealing and opening the tin). This way they are guaranteed that the caviar served is the one advertised on the tin.
If the guests don’t want to open the tin themselves, follow these steps to open it yourself:
- Hold the tin firmly in your one hand
- Cut the seal with a caviar tin opener
- Place the caviar tin opener in between the tin and the lid
- Twist the tin opener to release the airlock
- You should now be able to take of the lid easily
- If not, twist the tin opener again to make sure the vacuum is broken and the lid can be released
On the one side you need something to serve the caviar on. People often have caviar on blinis (these kind of look like mini-pancakes) yet some prefer it on toast. Your chef should be able to make some blinis and toast triangles but alternatively they sell pre-made blinis too.
Next, you need some toppings. Caviar calls for a selection of egg whites and egg yolks (boil the eggs until hard, cool them and chop them separately), chopped parsley and crème fraiche (this looks similar to philadelphia in texture, not to be mistaken with chantilly/creme fraiche/whipped cream you would put on ice cream). Serve them in little bowls with tiny spoons. If you can’t find any crème fraiche, sour cream can be used too.
4. Vodka & Champers! This dish is typically accompanied by ice-cold vodka and/or champagne. Make sure to keep a bottle of vodka in the freezer and champagne in the fridge during the whole charter so you are ready to serve it any time.
5. Mother of Pearl Spoons: Traditionally caviar is served with these special spoons. The reason behind this is that silver spoons will undergo a chemical reaction when they come into contact with caviar. The spoons will tarnish heavily and the flavour of the caviar will be compromised. If you can’t find mother of pearl spoons, you could use stainless steel, wooden or glass spoons (anything but silver really).