Wednesday, August 21, 2013

sampling manitoba - mb freshwater fish caviar

***  thanks to the support of some generous local companies, i will be hosting a series entitled "sampling manitoba" where i showcase some little known, and some well know local food producers who are passionate about their products, and excited about showing them off to the manitoban masses.  so, thanks to all of the companies who have participated, and get stoked about manitoba food products!  posts will go up wednesdays until i run out of products to post about. ***

bet you didn't think that caviar was going to be one of the sample products in this series, did you?  me neither.  until i heard from manitoba freshwater fish, i had zero awareness that manitoba produced caviar.  maybe that makes me dense, but i'm still a bit stunned that we produce not only caviar, but amazing caviar.

i was given whitefish roe and pike roe to sample, and i was so excited to get a big ole' spoonful into this big ole' mouth of mine (but not with a metal spoon, of course).

to give you a bit of a 101 on manitoba freshwater fish, their motto is "from lake, to plate" and they do just that.  they purchase fish from over 2,000 commercial fishermen from manitoba, alberta, and the northwest territories, then process it and market it as well.  they have over 150 staff, and have been headquartered right here in winnipeg since 1969.  they work with mainly pickerel, whitefish, northern pike and mullet, but also purchase trout, perch, carp, sauger, tullibee, inconnu and white bass.

now, considering so many types and mass quantities of fish are processed right here in winnipeg, i'm sure you will be appalled to find out that over 80% of the fish caught and processed by manitoba freshwater fish is sold an exported to countries outside of canada.  it's almost sad to think that we produce some of the finest, healthiest, most beautiful fish in the world, and we don't even consume half of it.  i'm always trying to incorporate more fish into our diets, but knowing this now i'm going to make even more of an effort.

but, back to the subject at hand.  
the crisp, salty, special treat that is manitoba freshwater fish caviar.

caviar isn't for everyone, but i have never really understood why.  the flavour and experience is like no other food out there, and if more people could just get past the fact that they are fish eggs, more would come over to the wonderful land of fish eggy goodness (It's such a good place to be!)

both the whitefish and pike that we sampled were interesting, and unique.  they were crisp and clean, with little tiny pops as you bit them, and a fresh aftertaste.  spoonful after spoonful, each tasted better and better.  i couldn't choose one that i loved over the other, and i simply won't.
even though i am by no means a caviar expert, i can honestly say that these were the best, and freshest tasting fish eggs i've ever had the pleasure of eating.

now, i thought long and hard about creating a recipe for you with the caviar, but no recipe that i came up with would highlight the eggs as much as sheer simplicity.  the saying 'don't mess with perfection' definitely applies here.  so, instead of a recipe, i thought i would provide a little caviar primer, as i know there are more than a few of us who need to acquaint our skills with the 'right' way to eat caviar.

so, some basic pointers:

  • no metal spoons.  mother of pearl is best, but ceramic or plastic will do in a pinch.
  • caviar should always be eaten chilled.  it's sort of like a warm red wine thing, it's a no-brainer.
  • when serving caviar, the eggs are the star, and the vessels are merely that.  this is the one time when you want items to be bland as all heck, so as to ensure the eggs are highlighted.
  • caviar is meant to be eaten in small bites, not large mouthfuls.  this also helps those who find the texture overwhelming.  
  • caviar just ain't cheap, bottom line.  if you find caviar and it seems inexpensive, don't eat it!  but, make an evening of it and serve it with all the good things in life, good bubbly or wine, and follow with the fantastic stinky cheeses and fresh figs.  or, be a true russian-wannabe and go for the good vodka!  
how to serve caviar:
  • a dollop of creme fraiche is best, but good, full fat sour cream will do in a pinch
  • traditional accompaniments include lemon juice, creme fraiche, belinis, soft unsalted crisps or crackers, buttered toast points, and fresh herbs including parsley, dill, or chives
  • vodka is considered the true pairing to caviar
  • traditional serving suggestions, especially for beginners, is a teaspoon straight up - it's the best way to truly experience the flavour and texture

we ate our caviar by the spoonful, but also on crispy potato skins with dollops of sour cream, and on plain cucumber slices as well (at the recommendation of jay at freshwater fish).  i love the pairing of good sour cream and caviar, but buttered toast points would have been lovely as well.  the piece de resistance for our caviar tasting evening was panko crusted pickerel cheeks with a spoonful of sour cream adorned with the eggs, which was by far everyones favourite.  alas, if you don't want to take the time to crust and fry pickerel cheeks, fusion grill happens to offer this dish as well.

so, so delicious and such a luxurious treat!
shh, i still have some caviar left, waiting for a special occasion.

if you want to get your hands on some beautiful manitoba caviar, contact mariner neptune, or independent fish in winnipeg.

disclaimer:  the products in the sampling manitoba posts were provided to me free of charge with the understanding that i would be providing an honest review including developing a recipe using said product.  i have not been compensated otherwise by the companies, and all opinions are my own. 
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