Before going home to Philadelphia to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, Cheyenne Corin, 27, a freelance journalist in Washington, DC, texted her mother a special request: Cheese steaks topped with caviar.
“Cheese steaks are a great celebration food and caviar is a great celebration food, so why not have them together?” she said. “I can’t wait.”
Michelle Park, 40, a television journalist who lives in Essex County, New Jersey, always has a few jars of Olma Caviar in her refrigerator – not for dinner parties or date nights, but for her four-year-old daughter and her play dates. “The kids come over and ask for caviar because they know our house is a caviar house,” Park said. “Sometimes we put it on Ritz crackers or on top of a sour cream dip.”
Trinh Carreon, 31, who posts TikToks of herself trying different foods, recently sampled the TikTok fad of Doritos topped with creme fraiche and caviar, calling it the “most bougiest food combo I have ever tried.”
“The crunch of the Dorito is nice, and then the little pops of caviar,” she told her 1.2 million followers. She puckered her lips in satisfaction before giving her verdict: “Delicious.”
Caviar has gone from being a luxurious delicacy reserved for the fanciest of occasions, such as fashion week parties and weddings, to, for some, a flavourful topping served at everyday gatherings including book club readings and tailgate parties.
Even Taco Bell has jumped on the caviar train posting a TikTok video in January showing a guy named Josh filling a Doritos Locos Taco shell with creme fraiche and “spoonfuls of caviar.” “We’ve got to get that thing on the menu real quick,” the video’s host said.
“Caviar is really having a high-low moment, where there is something for everybody,” said Celine Yousefzadeh, 29, an investor in New York who started a caviar brand named CYK during the pandemic.
That’s because the price of caviar has plummeted in recent years, thanks to sturgeon farming in China, which flooded the market. As of May 2021 China supplied one-third of the world’s caviar market, according to a report produced by the European Commission.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, caviar in Europe, for example, cost 1,300 euros (about S$1993.80) per kilogram in 2022. Ten years earlier, it cost US$1,686 per kilogram/S$2,238.66. (A kilogram is about 36 ounces.)
“In the past, caviar was so expensive because there weren’t a lot of producers, so you would only come across it at black-tie galas and Michelin-starred restaurants,” said Kristen Shirley, founder of La Patiala, a luxury lifestyle website. “But then China became the biggest exporter in the world, and it changed the landscape by selling it more cheaply.” It became much more affordable, she said, and turned into a “fun thing, not just a food eaten by oligarchs.”
Domestic farming has also made caviar more accessible. “There is this Beluga sturgeon that is historically from Russia, and the wild one is endangered, but now there is a farm in Florida making it at an aqua center instead of relying on the wild stock,” said Mike Tonetti, CEO of FultonFishMarket.com, the online counterpart to the historic market in New York City.
The online fish market has seen significant growth in caviar sales in the past year, Tonetti said. “Requests have increased for both large and small sizes, meaning people are serving more caviar when entertaining at home,” he said.
Among those are Jacqueline Lobel, founder of Shtick, a Jewish community group in New York City, who bought six different tins of caviar for a Shabbat dinner last week at Regina’s Grocery, an Italian deli on the Lower East Side.
“Growing up we had caviar every Friday,” Lobel, 33, said. “I thought it would be nice to bring back that tradition now that it’s easily accessible.” She served it on top of gefilte fish alongside matzo ball soup and challah.
A few weekends ago Tracy Ho, 40, a product manager for a tech company, hosted a board game night at her home in Palo Alto, California. For snacks, she served Tater Tots topped with creme fraiche, chives and caviar. “Caviar is my go-to when I host,” Ho said. “If you are doing something normal like playing board games, having caviar makes it feel more special.”
Some caviar experts don’t know what to make of the trend. “Look, it’s not my style to put caviar on Doritos, but I’m happy for those people,” said Yousefzadeh, the caviar entrepreneur. “It makes me cringe a little, but if it means people are interacting with the product and becoming familiar with it, I will roll with it.”
She’s certainly not opposed to benefiting from it. “I’ve done an event with Fini Pizza in Brooklyn where we put Golden Osetra caviar on a US$5 slice, as well as events for Saks where we make custom tins for each guest,” Yousefzadeh added.
Shirley has been surprised by how many restaurants in New York City now serve caviar. “You only used to see caviar at a handful of restaurants, and now it’s every nice restaurant I go to, even trendy ones,” she said. “I am even seeing caviar at bars. I saw it at American Bar the other night, I thought that was so random.”
Caviar was served in the greenroom during the Grammys last weekend, alongside martinis, juices and bottles of water. “One of our artist’s teams, Jazmine Sullivan, once asked if there would be caviar, and we thought it was a good idea,” said Emile Chaillot, a spokesperson for Grey Goose, which sponsored several Grammy events. “Caviar is not too heavy, not too clingy, not too rich. You can’t go wrong. When you have caviar, no matter what you are doing, it puts you in a mood where you feel special.”
Supermarkets are giving caviar more prominent display. “I was at Whole Foods the other day in Aventura, and I walked in and the first thing I saw after the flowers was a fridge display of caviar,” said Danielle Matzon, 31, a TikTok creator in Miami who works for her grandfather’s caviar company, Marky’s Caviar.
There may be a downside to so many at-home hosts, restaurants, bars and parties offering the delicacy. “I don’t feel the need to get it every time I see it on the menu, because I now know it will come around again,” Shirley said. “It doesn’t feel as special as it used to, even though I still absolutely love it.”
“I think I have OD’ed on caviar,” she added.
By Alyson Krueger© The New York Times Company
The article originally appeared in The New York Times.