Caviar is the unofficial food of the upper class, especially when paired alongside champagne. Besides being expensive and inaccessible (typically ranging from $90-$200 per tin), the other issue with caviar is that it is not a very sustainable food. At one point, the demand for caviar nearly caused the extinction of a species of sturgeon, which is the fish that “true” caviar comes from.
If you want to indulge in this luxurious delicacy, sans environmental and ethical concerns, a company called Optimized Foods has a solution for you. Based in Davis, California, Optimized Foods has developed cultivated caviar that will be served at restaurants and eventually made available direct to consumers. Future Foodie was lucky enough to be invited to attend the company’s recent cultivated caviar tasting in Hollywood, California.
Cultivated caviar on top of toasted bread with pumpkin spread and parsley
The tasting: The cultivated caviar tasting was an intimate event, with a select group of attendees and the Optimized Foods team, that took place at Palihouse West Hollywood.
The alternative caviar was served in three hors d’oeuvres: a blini with chives, a slice of toasted bread topped with pumpkin spread and parsley, and alongside bluefin tuna and a hard boiled quail egg. The tasting would not have been complete without champagne and sparkling sake, of course.
Close up of the cultivated caviar
The cultivated caviar: Optimized Foods works with a caviar farmer located outside of Davis, California (California Caviar Company’s CQ Ranch) to extract cells from the farm’s sturgeon fish. These extracted cells are then grown a on mycelium (the rootlike structure of mushrooms), which serves as the scaffolding for the cells and also helps provide the texture of the caviar.
Although I had never tried caviar prior to this tasting, I truly enjoyed the experience of eating it. The cultivated delicacy melted in my mouth and had a mild briny and salty flavor.
Why this is important: Sturgeon are a massive, prehistoric fish, and it takes 7-10 years until they are ready to be harvested for their eggs. Most wild-harvested caviar comes from the Caspian sea, but due to overfishing concerns, wild harvesting is heavily regulated. Unfortunately, illegal sturgeon fishing is a problem that threatens the existence of this species.
Nowadays, it is much more common to purchase caviar that comes from farmed fish. However, the issue with this is that most sturgeon are killed to extract their eggs. It is possible to extract the eggs without killing the fish, but this process is time consuming, affects the flavor of the caviar, and also leaves the fish vulnerable to infections.
Cultivated caviar therefore provides an option to consume this highly sought-after food without needing to worry about overfishing concerns or the slaughter of sturgeon.
Watch Future Foodie try the caviar! ⬇️