Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Vodka and caviar

I attended a vodka and caviar tasting this evening at Tom Douglas' Palace Ballroom. Apparently these events are usually held at his Dahlia Lounge, but the sign-up for this event required a larger venue.

After a rather unnerving presentation on sturgeon (enormous prehistoric fish with big mouths) we were unleashed on the sample tables, each of us clutching a punch card ticket for samples of five liquors and five caviars.

I started with the liquors, which included a domestic corn vodka, a domestic rye vodka, aquavit, pear brandy, and Polish potato vodka. The rye vodka was spicy, complex, and interesting. The corn vodka was, to put it kindly, medicinal. The aquavit and pear eaux de vie were OK. But the Polish potato vodka lived up to its billing as "creamy." It's one of the most subtle vodkas I've ever tasted. The brand is Chopin.

Thus fortified, it was on to the caviars -- all domestic. These were served one little buckwheat blini the size of half dollars.

The standouts were Rainbow Trout caviar from North Carolina -- a translucent, large pearl caviar that tasted very light, fresh, and "spring water-y" -- and a Montana Golden Whitefish caviar -- tiny soft eggs that were rich, buttery, and surprisingly un-salty. A California White Sturgeon caviar provided the traditional caviar look and taste: dark gray, small-grained, and briney, with a pleasant, crunchy texture. Chum Salmon Ikura was a bit too delicate for me, and a Yellowstone River Paddlefish was unmemorable.

All of the caviars (except the Rainbow Trout) are available at the Seattle Caviar Company on Eastlake, which holds tastings on Saturdays. Seattle Caviar sells Iranian Osetra caviar for $185 an ounce -- but the Montana Golden Whitefish I found so delicious is a mere $13.50 for two ounces.

According to the Washington State Liquor Control board product search, most of the Seattle area stores have Chopin vodka (at $25 a half litre) in stock.

One last word on caviar: There is a wonderful vegetarian caviar called "Caviart" made in Denmark and distributed by an Edmonds, WA, importer. It's made of seaweed, and tastes, well, like fish roe! I've found it at a Seattle-area market, and it's definitely available online.

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