The endangered delicacy is now available from farm-raised fish in the U.S., which also means it's more affordable. You can find plenty of the salty garnish at a tiny fish shop on Clybourn.
Fish eggs, as small as a pinhead, offer a smooth, salty complement to just about anything. Caviar from Europe-- which means eggs from sturgeon-- are overfished and rare. But at Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop in Lincoln Park, there is plenty of caviar to go around.
"Sturgeon is the classic caviar and technically it has to be sturgeon to really be called caviar. Everything else is roe," said Dirk Fucik, owner, Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop. Fucik carries both caviar and roe, all of it domestic.
"The transmontanus, which is the white sturgeon from the West Coast, and there's also hackleback sturgeon, which is a smaller river sturgeon that lives in the Missouri, Ohio, Mississippi Rivers. And the beauty of those two is they're real sturgeons and they're less expensive," Fucik said.
Paddlefish and trout roe are two other options, as is salmon roe or tobiko, seen frequently at your local sushi restaurant.
"The cheapest roes are the tobikos they use for the sushi, is how most people are familiar with that. It makes a nice garnish for different things and at five bucks an ounce, it's reasonable," said Fucik.
Fucik says wasabi roes go well with oysters, while just about any roe makes a nice addition to rich crème fraiche, thus turning a spread into something special. Personally? A small blini-- or savory pancake-- shmeared with creme fraiche and a dollop of caviar is the way to go. Fucik has other ideas.
"On a spoon best. I like to say caviar is best served on a kiss but can't always get away with that," said Fucik.
And here's a really cool trick Dirk showed me for entertaining: he takes a raw potato, slices the bottom so it stands, slices the top off to make a little cap and pours vodka inside. He hollows this out, puts a little bit of caviar on the lid. Slide it off, and then take a little vodka-- cheers, and Happy New Year!
Pre-orders are a good idea, considering the likely demand next week.
Dirk's Fish & Gourmet Shop
2070 N. Clybourn