It's one of those "tough job, but someone's got to do it" moments when you're asked to sit down with a first-class caviar producer to sample their product. That's what happened on Monday night when we headed to Simon Johnson's Alexandria outpost, The Providore's Market, for the launch of Calvisius farmed caviar on his shelves.
The caviar tasting with John Giovannini, caviar supervisor of Calvisius, took place upstairs at The Providore's Market in the demonstration kitchen where tins of caviar were chilling on ice alongside bottles of Krug. While the Champagne was poured, the caviar was served with a mother-of-pearl spoon and placed in a little mound on the backs of our hands. Of course, anything of culinary importance comes with tasting notes - place the caviar at the top of the tongue and burst the pearls against the top of the mouth to release the flavour.
Da Vinci caviar, from the Adriatic sturgeon, had a lovely aromatic and subtle flavour, but it was the oscietra, from the Russian sturgeon that was curiously intense. At first you get clear fish and oyster-like flavours, accentuated by a delicate saltinesss; the deliriously creamy, silky texture becomes glutinous on the palate as the pearls burst. A good 250gm of this will set you back $995.
What followed was more relaxed; an abundant family-style dinner hosted at the head of the table by the providore himself, Simon Johnson. Platters of carved roast chook, roast vegetables, creamy potato gratin and salad were passed around the table of guests - a muster of chefs, media types and Simon Johnson devotees - as were wines from Cloudy Bay. And a short, savoury cheese course finished the evening with Holy Goat Brigit's Well and Rogue River Reserve blue straight out of The Providore's fromagerie.