(photo from patraminstitute.org)
On November 11th, 2016, the first annual Russian Charitable Gala Ball in Miami, Florida, took place at the Ritz Carlton, South Beach. The Ball was a showcase of Russian culture and a way to bring people together in celebration of it. There was delicious food, exciting entertainment, and all around merriment.
Of course, what would a Russian event without caviar be? A total bust. Ok, I wouldn't go that far. But it certainly would be missed. Tsar Nicoulai was the proud Diamond level sponsor for the important delicacy at this inaugural event.
Guests from across the globe came in support of two non-profit organizations - the Patriarch Tikhon Russian American Music Institute (PaTRAM) and the Prince Vladimir Youth Association (PVYA). The proceeds of the Ball were split among these two groups.
Russian Orthodox Archpriest Andrei Sommer started the PVYA to bring youth together through cultural and religious events and community service activities. The active non-profit group has organized food drives, concerts and other social events. Father Andrei has also organized many conferences for Orthodox Christian youths to get together and celebrate their heritage and faith. He also happens to be married to my cousin and is a pretty cool guy!
PaTRAM is a non-conventional Institute of Orthodox music offering lessons through video-conference and seasonal master classes. Their program is made available for people with busy schedules all across the world. Music is a large part of the Orthodox liturgy and the church is always in need of conductors and singers to beautify the service.
(Photo from Ball attendee Natasha Zaharov)
Guests consisted of Russian-American youth, generous patrons, oligarchs, and many others. The VIP Cocktail Hour guests sampled Tsar Nicoulai Reserve Caviar and Triple-Smoked Sturgeon, while other guests were able to enjoy our Gold Pearl Salmon Roe and Paddlefish.
Sashkie Baranoff sampling Tsar Nicoulai (photo from Ball attendee Natasha Zaharov)
Russians take pride in their products (as does any culture), but Tsar Nicoulai's American-made caviar stands up to their biased palate. A friend of mine, Natasha Zaharov, who attended the ball, described a man at her table - shaved head, with a heavy Russian accent and velvet tuxedo jacket - who parked himself at the caviar station. He said it was the best caviar he ever tasted and returned several times for more samplings. He was impressed by the fact that it was made in America. Natasha says she heard many people share his sentiments.
Xenia Maximow describing Tsar Nicoulai Caviar and all its wonderfulness (Photo from patraminstitute.org)
We were happy to take part in this event.
To read more details and see additional photographs from the Miami Russian Charitable Gala, click here.
I hope everyone is having a great 2017 so far!
In my post about Thanksgiving
I mentioned the butternut squash soup that took a while for me and my siblings to allow my mom to eliminate from the menu. It used to be that I would usually wait until Thanksgiving to eat butternut squash soup. It was kind of a once-a-year thing. Because we don't have it on that day anymore, in recent years I've come to make it on the regular during the Fall. It's an easy thing to make and it's delicious.
My mom and I also love to plan party menus in general. We tend to lean on the side of more complicated than simple (because we love cooking) and somehow there are always soup shooters. Like the gazpacho we made for my husband's 30th birthday party a while back. Something about little shot glasses of soup just screamed fancy and cool to us.
You have to admit that it does look elegant and it can be a cozy appetizer for a wintery holiday party. I chose to top this Creamy Butternut Squash Soup Shooter with our Classic Caviar as this happens to be the Classic Signature Bite for this particular caviar. This dish is definitely our go-to for the season (if you remember, we posted a similar recipe last year around this time).
For me, this soup is another "not-really-a-recipe recipe" that I follow from years of watching my mom make the soup for Thanksgiving. I take a big butternut squash and cut it in half then scoop out the seeds. I roast at around 400 degrees on a foil lined baking sheet, cut side down with a little olive oil. Once it's fork-tender (usually at least 45 minutes, if not more), I let it cool and then scoop out the flesh into a pot on the stove top. I add chicken broth and blend with an immersion blender (you can also blend in a food processor if you don't have an immersion blender). I heat the soup up on the stove top and add more broth and heavy cream until I reach my desired consistency and flavor. Salt and pepper are key seasonings of course, as well as your choice of nutmeg, cinnamon, and/or even a little brown sugar.
For the shooters, I put the soup in a measuring cup and pour a little bit into shot glasses. Beat some heavy cream until stiff peaks form and top each shooter with some whipped cream. Then garnish with a generous topping of caviar. Violà - An impressive and beautiful presentation for your guests!
For those on the West Coast - visit your local Whole Foods to purchase our Classic Caviar for your soup shooter appetizer.
Wishing everyone a joyous and beautiful holiday! May you all be surrounded by warmth and happiness!
The menu planning continues as we move from Thanksgiving to the winter holidays. I pretty much never test out recipes for parties, but I decided to play around with a dish for some of our Smoked Trout Roe.
So many dishes for caviar involve toast, blini, and potatoes. If you're also having a cheese and charcuterie plate at your party, it might just feel like a lot of starchy carby stuff. Which, of course, isn't bad, especially during the holidays, but why not something light and refreshing?
I made salmon mousse to top on cucumber slices and garnish with Smoked Trout Roe and some dill. I think it was on an episode of Top Chef that this dish was mocked for being too "80s," but I think it's perfectly acceptable. It's a pretty dish with a good punch of flavor. As I said, it's a nice break from the heavy appetizers that are usually served during parties.
Basically, you take about 8 ounces of cream cheese and process with 4 ounces of smoked salmon. Add a few tablespoons of lemon juice. Scoop the mixture into a piping bag (or a Ziploc with a piping tip) and pipe onto sliced cucumbers. Top with roe and sprigs of dill.
If you feel like making this for your upcoming holiday party, order your Smoked Trout Roe here.
Stay tuned for the next post with another staple holiday party appetizer.
It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is just a few days away. I love that we have a day dedicated to spending time with family and eating. It's nice to also take the opportunity to be grateful for everything that we have and give to the people that may not have as much.
I mentioned before
that there was a Thanksgiving we all got sick and I put tarragon on the green beans. Not sure what "incident" my family thought was worse. For the record, I thought the Food & Wine November 2015 green bean recipe
was delicious. I think Thanksgiving is just a hard holiday to bring in new flavors in recipes. Everyone is very protective of tradition. It took years for my mom to finally convince us that we don't need a first course of butternut squash soup anymore. It was something that was painful to let go, but it also would fill us up so much that we hardly had room for the rest of the meal. I happen to like playing around with recipes, especially if I am helping host (ok...except for my mom's stuffing which I crave all year long).
Last year was also when my sister and I first started talking about me blogging for Tsar Nicoulai. If I haven't told you before, my insanely talented sister is the design guru for all packaging and promotions at Tsar Nicoulai and she helped me get started here. We were fortunate to have some caviar samples for our Thanksgiving meal and took the opportunity to play around styling dishes and promotional flyers.
One of the dishes I chose was an onion dip, also from the November 2015 issue of Food and Wine. It makes a beautiful presentation and, in my opinion, fits Thanksgiving so well that I decided to include it this year, as well.
The onions are roasted whole, peel and all. Once cooled, the tops are cut off, insides scooped out, chopped and mixed with sour cream and mayonnaise. I left out the onion powder from the original recipe, finding it unnecessary. Then you fill the onion shells with the dip, top with caviar and garnish with fennel fronds. It's simple and looks gorgeous. And it tastes great with thin, plain, kettle cooked potato chips. It's a great dish to have out while people are waiting for the main event. Not too rich or filling and just so pretty to look at.
The Signature Bite for our Classic Caviar happens to be an onion dip so it was the perfect selection for this dish. The dip provides a mild base for this caviar and the jet black color makes the whole thing look like a work of art. Any of our salmon or trout roes would pair beautifully with this appetizer while adding a nice pop of bright color, as well.
I wish everyone a peaceful and joyous Thanksgiving.
To those who sacrifice this time with family for their jobs, we thank you.
(See recipe below)
Roasted Onion Dip (serves 10-12)
From Food and Wine, November 2015
2 medium unpeeled red onions
2 medium unpeeled Spanish onions
2 medium unpeeled sweet onions
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (I omitted this ingredient)
Salmon, trout, and sturgeon caviar, for serving
Fennel fronds, for garnish
Potato Chips, for serving (preferably Kettle Cooked and unsalted)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Using a paring knife, trim the bottoms of the onions and stand them in a baking dish. Bake for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, until very soft. Let cool.
2. Using a paring knife, carefully cut 1/2 inch off the top of the onions. Using a small spoon, scoop out all but 2 or 3 layers of the roasted onions to form cups; you should have 2 1/2 cups of pulp. Finely chop the onion pulp and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the mayonnaise, sour cream, and optional onion powder and season the dip generously with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Keep the onion cups at room temperature.
3. Spoon the onion dip into the onion cups and transfer to a platter. Top the dip with salmon, trout, and sturgeon caviar and garnish with fennel fronds. Serve with potato chips.
The due date of our second baby approaches and we are all anxiously awaiting her arrival. I'm also looking forward to eating more of the caviar that I get to photograph. You know...and meeting this little bundle finally after 9 very long months.
There are many sarcastic parenting blogs out there that talk about visitors after babies are born and how awful it is. It's funny because I quite like having visitors around. As long as they don't mind if I am showered or not and in yoga pants for the 5th day in a row, they are welcome to stop by. No gifts needed. It's nice to have company from the outside world, changing up the day a little and holding your baby while you sip some coffee or wine...or vodka, whatever.
Food is a nice thing to bring though. Most importantly, easy food. And why not spruce it up a little? When flipping through our Signature Bites, I found one that fit the bill for visiting new parents perfectly! It's even one I could prepare myself with visitors on their way and the baby nursing 24/7. Of course, I would rather this just appear in my house rather than me put it together, but the effort is so minimal and the result pretty great, either way everyone's happy. It's the Traditional Signature Bite for our Smoked Trout Roe
. A Latin parfait with layered fresh guacamole, garden salsa, sour cream and corn crisp topped with the roe. Did someone say 7-layer dip? Better yet, did someone say store-bought 7-layer dip? My pregnant self did. And my sleep deprived nursing self will say it, too! An awesome EAT version to an already pretty simple dish.
The Costco 6-layer dip we found was perfect. Since it didn't have a corn crisp layer we tried it with corn tortilla chips. Perfect. I transferred some of the dish out of the plastic into a glass container to make it seem less casual and thrown together, but honestly I don't think any tired mother that you are bringing food to will really care.
The smoky/barbecue-y flavor of the roe adds an interesting twist to this dish and a fun pop to its smooth creaminess, as well. I'm interested to see what the flavor can add to other dishes in the future, as well -- once I can really devour as much caviar as I want!
To order our Smoked Trout Roe, click here
Wish us luck!