Fish Fellowship Stage 3: Caviar Lab

I arrived at Browne Trading Company bright and early on Monday morning Muck boots in hand and layered in a few thermal shirts.  I was ready to get on a boat, scout the seas for an exotic specimen and return with a weathered ripped sweater, seaweed in my boots and scruff on my face.

Upon being greeted and given a brisk tour, I was handed a hair net, a pair of blue latex gloves and a white lab coat.  I was to spend my first day in the Caviar room learning and helping to pack some of the world’s most delicate delicacies.

Richard Hall, who has been selecting and selling caviar for Rod Mitchell for nearly 17 years, holds down a small room by the shipping and recieving area at Browne and keeps a very clean, zen-like organized ‘laboratory’.  Walls of shelves contain rolls of labels, small to large jars and cans- everything catergorgorized, alphebitezied and sanitized.  The bright white lights, foreign tools and sealing machines had me thinking of a mad scientist labratory from the moment I entered and heard the echo of the steel door slam behind me.

Caviar packing is indeed meticulate and precise.  Tiny delicate roe that costs more per gram than most meats per pound have to be weighed to the exact gram and carefully placed inside glass jars a certain way as to not pop or denature the tiny eggs.

Once I got over my nervous shaky hands and Richard’s hawk-like eyes, I lightened up and tasted my way through about 15 caviars from Israeli farm-raised Sturgeon to Florida Siberian Sturgeon to Alaskan Chum Salmon Roe.  After a brief lunch break (of which I snobbishly raced my nose to) I was ready to pack caviar.  With only a few mere weighing mistakes, Richard comended me on my efforts and help.

I never thought too much of the differences between fine caviars and cheap caviars but after the first day at Browne I was able to distinguish differences and nuances in brininess, saltiness, nuttiness, and seaweed notes in particular grades and producers.  Similarly to being invited to taste some exquisite old Burgundys, I was honored to take part in such a tasting since I knew I wouldnt be doing this on the regular.

Caviar profiles and descriptions coming soon!

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