Sustaining the Sublime:
The Art and Science of Modern Caviar
Written by Stephanie Murg
Photographed by Hanna Tveite
“Caviar is not just about taste,” writes Inga Saffron in Caviar, her fascinating history of the delicacy. “Those glistening black globules are a culinary Rorschach that unleashes our deeply held notions about wealth, luxury, and life.” Coveted and craved across centuries and cultures, the salt-cured eggs of the sturgeon are synonymous with decadence, but baser instincts—namely greed, deceit, and sheer carelessness—have so depleted wild sturgeon stocks that nearly all 27 known species of the ancient fish are now at risk of extinction. Making it possible to savor caviar without a side of guilt are a new generation of roe purveyors such as Pointy Snout, which prides itself on sustainable practices as well as a modern fusion of the precious and the playful.
If you’re ever going to love caviar, you’ll love it most when it’s unadorned.Alexandra Du Cane
“We set out to reimagine caviar as a vehicle to get beyond pleasure—as a chance for unexpected discovery,” says Alexandra Du Cane, who founded Pointy Snout with husband Michael Kline after a shared epiphany. “We started with the fish.” Named for the enormous rooting nose of the sturgeon—a toothless bottom-feeder that predated the dinosaurs—the company debuted in 2011 with its Avancé, produced from the roe of white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) sustainably farmed in Northern California, and soon added other offerings, including made-to-order osetra caviars from the North Carolina farm that was the first to raise Russian sturgeon (Acipenser gueldenstaedtii) in the United States.
“Sustainability” can be a slippery term, especially when fish are involved, but for Du Cane, it is a matter of “the way the fish is raised—its impact on the wild species, its effect on the environment, and its effect on the consumer.” Pointy Snout chooses partners with all three factors in mind. Its farms use fish feed with minimal components of wild fish and replenish local rivers with genetically healthy fingerlings (young fish), conserve water with recirculation systems, and rely on cultural practices rather than antibiotics to control disease. After a process of sieving, washing, and salting that is more of an art form than an industrial method, the result is a delicacy in its purest form.
To ensure it stays that way as long as possible, Du Cane recommends avoiding “the enemies of caviar”: light, heat, air, and silver. “Keep it at a controlled temperature—ideally around 27 degrees [Fahrenheit]—until the last possible minute,” she advises. “Then serve it straight from the tin.” The utensil of choice is made of a non-reactive material such as bone, mother-of-pearl, or even plastic. Pointy Snout’s camel bone spoons, crafted in Kenya, are designed to unlock the subtle yet luscious sensations of perfectly conditioned caviar with a flat surface that protects the fragile membranes enveloping each glistening egg.
Whether on New Year’s Eve or any old Thursday, the cardinal rule of savoring one of the world’s most sought-after treats is to keep it simple. “The experience of caviar is a sum of parts: it’s the aroma and unfolding, complex flavors. It’s the visual pleasure of beholding beads of black, grey, and tawny hues. It’s the texture that runs riot against the back palate. It’s the company you keep in sharing it,” says Du Cane. “If you’re ever going to love caviar, you’ll love it most when it’s unadorned.”