Some exciting things have developed over here at Tsar Nicoulai Caviar...
In late September we had a chance introduction with a distributor for Tsukiji who directly imports fresh fish from the Tokyo auction for sushi restaurants in the Bay Area. Yoshi, a former chef of Sushi Ran, along with his associates, explored the opportunities for Tsar Nicoulai in Tokyo. The initial impression was favorable.
We hosted Yoshi and Kiochi who represent Sakasyu (the parent company of Tsukiji Market Auctions) at the farm and office to learn about the great stuff we do at our Sturgeon Farm and about all our daily operations. We sent them off with some caviar samples to scope out the local response.
Our connection with the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA) helped us secure a booth inside the USA Pavilion at FoodEx 2018 in Makuhari, Japan in early March. WUSATA is the foreign trade arm of the USDA that helps to promote overseas agricultural export via trade missions, exhibitions, and focused meeting. Tsar Nicouali's Vice President, Ali and Brand Manager, Ryan, ventured out to Tokyo to exhibit. The overall response to our caviar was very positive, and created a substantial amount of excitement for our upcoming initial shipment.
In addition to the FoodEx event, Ali and Ryan also visited Tsukiji, the largest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. There they met with Hicho, Tsukiji's top dealer, over some freshly cut Maguro (fatty tuna). Hicho always purchases the most expensive tuna at the market. This Maguro was $500/lb. Pictured below, Yoshi garnished the Maguro with Tsar Nicouali Caviar. Hicho said he had never seen caviar on Maguro before, but that he found the pairing outrageously good.
Historically it is believed that the Japanese Sturgeon (Acipenser Schrenkii) inhabited the sea of Japan, but the concept of custom inspired caviar is a new one. We plan to export a Japan market-specific caviar cured with one of the worlds finest salts harvested in Okinawan, launching an expansion of the concept we first cultivated in Sonoma working with the team from Jordan winery.
Ali, Ryan, and the team are working out the final details for the first shipment and are excited for orders to start coming in. We hope to follow the export of award winning California wines with award winning California caviar.
We expect a successful first launch sometime before the Summer! Stay tuned...
"Do you guys want some of this caviar?" Xenia (TNC's graphic designer and my sister) and I offered the couple next to us. We had just ordered the dish along with our island-inspired cocktails at the bar of LihoLiho Yacht Club in San Francisco's Tendernob neighborhood. The super cool pair were sharing one stool next to us when a cancellation opened up a table for them - something that doesn't always happen in this reservations-recommended restaurant. I insisted on quickly prepping a few pieces of perfectly toasted furikake brioche with french onion spread and caviar to take to their table. They looked at us hesitantly. We assured them, "Seriously, you guys should try this."
The portions are generous at LihoLiho, but it's the here-to-chillax vibe that made us want to chat and share with strangers. Gemma and Andrew Ingalls are talented photographers who are married and work together and one just instantly wants to be them or friends with them or at least have their Instagram feed. And LihoLiho is so the perfect spot to meet people like that; and people in general with whom you can share the eclectic food. We also chatted with Claire, the girl writing this book, who took the Ingalls's spot at the bar. She also happily accepted some of our caviar starter. I mean, how could anyone say no?
Earlier that day, we met with Chef Ravi Kapur, owner of LihoLiho, to talk about his cooking style and how Tsar Nicoulai Caviar fits into it. Despite the tiled Aloha greeting at its entrance, LihoLiho should not be branded a Hawaiian restaurant. The dishes are inspired by Kapur's memories and flavors of childhood, of cooking, and of life. As you can read in many glowing articles of the chef and his restaurant, it is a beautiful ode to his uncles' own LihoLiho Yacht Club back home in Hawaii - a neighborhood beach party that was put together to fund a hobby and to have a seriously good time with friends. It's something you always wish you could just do, and when you eat at LihoLiho it kind of feels like you get to. Just like the food on your plate makes you feel part of whatever memory led Chef Ravi to create it.
The furikake brioche served with French onion spread and one of two choices of an entire jar of caviar is a throw back to Kapur's time at the Boulevard, where his boss would treat the staff to caviar on New Year's Eve. They didn't just get a spoonful - it was a thick, satisfying layer on toast. Kapur easily could have served the brioche already slathered with the spread and topped with a bit of caviar but where is the fun in that? The whole point is for the guest to dive in to this memory and re-live it. Nothing less than the jar of caviar could do that. Downstairs in Louie's Gen-Gen Room, a choice of Tsar Nicoulai Trout Roe or Estate Caviar is served in a layered French onion dip with eggs and chives and a heaping pile of potato chips.
It's important to Chef Ravi not to just have a Hawaiian or Asian or Indian version of whatever popular dish everyone is serving right now. That is definitely not something you will find on the menu at LihoLiho. The dishes are original and belong in their own category of awesome. The embrace a vibrant mix of ethnicity, technique and flavor. My sister and I also shared a salad with iceberg wedge, shiso ranch, beets and mind-blowingly good furikake crunch. I am positive that both of us spent the entire evening trying to discreetly eat more than half of "those crunchy things" while the other wasn't looking.
above photo: LihoLiho Yacht Club Instagram
A beautiful, blown up photograph of Kapur's smiling mother welcomes you when you enter the restaurant. Her warmth sets the tone for your entire meal. Relaxing you into an amazing meal fueled by Chef Ravi's memories and inspiring your own.
Make a reservation ASAP! http://liholihoyachtclub.com/reservations
LihoLiho Yacht Club is located at 871 Sutter St in San Francisco (between Jones and Leavenworth). They are open Monday thru Thursday from 5pm to 10:30pm, Friday and Saturday from 5pm to 11pm, and are closed Sundays.
I dream about hosting Christmas one year. So far there has always been a reasonable excuse why we can't do it (much to my husband's relief). For a while it was that our house was too small for the enormous extended family, then we visited my family in California, same house is still too small, then we moved to Moscow, then we got a bigger house but we had a second baby, then we moved to Moscow again.
Someday I will get there. Some day my house will be twinkly and the sounds of Christmas music will float across the room and people will be drinking mulled wine and all the kids will be screaming as they open their gifts from Santa. For my husband's family, Santa (or Ded Moroz) makes a jolly appearance to hand out presents which are earned by reciting poems or singing songs.
So for now we come rolling into Christmas jetlagged or scraping together 'good enough' decorations and we go to someone else's house. Which is also really nice. The whole no set up or clean up thing has its benefits.
If you happen to be hosting a sit down Christmas dinner, I found this great ("vintage", as in, from the 90s) recipe for the first course. Chilled herbed cream rolled up in smoked salmon atop green salad and garnished with caviar. It makes a wonderful start to a festive and special meal. Any of our caviar will make this dish shine, but I would recommend Estate, Reserve or Select.
Wherever you are spending Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate), I hope you are happy, full of joy, and surrounded by love and warmth.
Green Salad with Smoked Salmon and Caviar (serves 4)
Bon Appetit, February 1996 (epicurious.com)
1/4 cup chilled whipping cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or green onion tops
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared white horseradish
2 tablespoons plus 4 teaspoons Tsar Nicoulai Estate, Reserve or Select Caviar (approximately 1 ounce)
4 6x5-inch thin slices smoked salmon (about 6 ounces)
5 cups (packed) mixed baby greens
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1. Beat cream, 1 tablespoon chives and horseradish in medium bowl to stiff peaks. Fold in 2 tablespoons caviar. Season to taste with pepper. Place salmon slices on work surface. Spread 2 tablespoons caviar mixture down center of each, leaving 1/2-inch border on short sides. Fold short sides in, then roll up smoked salmon, starting at 1 long side. Place seam side down on plate. Wrap salmon bundles in plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.
2. Place greens and remaining 2 tablespoons chives in large bowl. Whisk oil and lime juice in small bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over greens and toss to coat. Divide salad among 4 plates. Top each with salmon bundle. Top with remaining 4 teaspoons caviar and serve.
When I made the Cauliflower Panna Cotta with Select Caviar
dish a couple months back, I had a lot of extra boiled cauliflower florets leftover. Not wanting to waste them, I put together a dish that is a twist on our Luxe Signature Bite for our Golden Reserve Caviar
. The Signature Bite is vanilla bean butter poached lobster atop cauliflower puree and dolloped with caviar. My dish is less intimidating but no less "luxe" and makes another great small bite for the holidays.
I took the leftover florets, mashed them up, mixed in some breadcrumbs, eggs, salt and pepper to taste, until I could shape the mixture into patties. I set the patties aside in the fridge while I prepared the lobster. At one of my local grocery stores they will actually steam the lobster for you. This is amazing and one of my most favorite things ever. So I had a few lobsters steamed, cleaned them and cut the meat into bite size pieces. I then melted some butter in a saucepan and scraped in some vanilla bean.
Next, I took the cauliflower patties out of the fridge and pan fried them, making sure they were nice and crispy on both sides. I tossed the lobster pieces in the vanilla butter and topped each patty with the lobster. Then I dolloped with Golden Reserve Caviar and garnished with microgreens for color.
I love that I salvaged some leftovers and created a fun and decadent dish to share with you.
Order some Golden Reserve Caviar and make these for your next party.
When I host parties, I have a hard time reigning it in. I get over zealous and want to make every single thing from scratch and have it be super fancy and amazing. This is all well and good, but if you are hosting a holiday party, things can just get a little hectic. I wanted to provide another super simple idea for a great small bite to include in any of your upcoming holiday gatherings.
I am using Tsar Nicoulai Golden Reserve Caviar again. Our suggested Traditional Signature Bite for this specific caviar is to serve it on toasted and unsalted buttered challah bread, French brioche, or an English muffin and creme fraiche. My mother was visiting and kept asking me if I wanted to just bake the challah bread instead. I told you this is where I get it from. I insisted I was going store bought with this. Simple is the key!
I sliced up challah bread I purchased from Whole Foods about 1/2-1 inch thick and then cut out little circles with a round cookie cutter. I dipped one side in melted unsalted butter and lined the circles on a foil lined baking sheet (buttered side up). I toasted them in the oven at about 350 degrees for a minute or two. Unfortunately you just have to watch it. There is no exact time that is going to work for everyone. I won't lie - I may have burnt the first one (or two) batches.
Once they have cooled slightly, top with a generous 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of caviar and some microgreens for color. Oh - I left out the creme fraiche this time, but you don't have to. The subtle sweetness of the challah perfectly complemented the salty, buttery caviar.
If you are having about 10 people, I would suggest around 2 large loaves of challah bread and a 1-2oz jar of caviar (it depends on the size of the loaf and the amount of caviar you plan to put on each one). Extra bread is good to have in case of burned batches. Leftover caviar will undoubtedly be taken care of, so more is always better!