Decadence on Ice

One of my favorite foods is caviar. When I see it on a menu, I contemplate ordering it for only a moment, realizing that the stingy one-ounce portion they offer is barely a tease. Staking my territory in front of the caviar bowl at a wedding is clearly out of the question, although I have given it consideration from time to time. My husband would be abhorred, and my hosts and fellow guests, frankly, quite irritated.


So, I thought, how could one actually get their fill of this incredible delicacy – to have the opportunity to really eat as much one wanted without guilt or breach of etiquette?


The answer is clear: Host a caviar party for only the few who truly appreciate the sheer joy of indulging in this food of the gods. Yes, it is costly, thus the party should not exceed six to eight discreet guests who share this passion as well. And, such an intimate group allows a wonderful flow of conversation about the joys of gluttony.


Caviar is lavish; caviar is the food of Russian czars; caviar is rare and special. Your décor should follow suit. Invitations and menus printed and wrapped in faux ermine set the tone of the evening perfectly. Beautiful crystal and silver, tall candles, crisp, white linen and faux-fur napkin rings add the sense of luxury and importance of the meal to come.



Presentation should be classic and opulent as well. The star of the evening should be set in a centerpiece of ice. Accompaniments include small bowls containing chopped hard-cooked egg whites and yolks, chopped and rinsed shallots or sweet onion and crème fraiche or sour cream. Strategically place them around the table to allow for ease in passing to fellow guests. Bone, pearl or gold spoons should be used for the caviar and the accompaniments as well. Tiny blini, made with buckwheat or chickpeas, complete this course.



While caviar is the main attraction, it is only part of the picture. Vodkas – Russian, French, Polish or domestic – can be placed on ice, or set in yet another ice carving, and served in frozen vodka glasses. It is amazing how smooth vodka can be when frozen and syrupy. For those less adventurous, a glass of wonderful Champagne is the perfect alternative. (A word of caution: Be sure to have the ice carvings set in a deep tray to catch the water as the sculpture begins to melt.)


Once you have completed this course, it’s time for a breather and time for servers to clear the table. It is best to retire to another room, allowing them access to the ice carvings and the trays now filled with water. Return to a clean and reset table, and serve a light second course, such as eggs, scrambled in the French style, with a shaving of truffle, accompanied by warm brioche and a glass of Champagne. Sautéed foie gras with fig jam is another option.


The finale might be “floating islands” or meringues poached in milk, served in a rich crème anglaise. And, as the evening comes to an end, and you and your fellow diners are deliciously sated, the only thing left to do is to toast one another with your last bit of vodka or Champagne and fling your glass into the fireplace!


Note: While Iranian beluga, osetra and sevruga are no longer accessible, there are several high quality options available. I consider California white sturgeon one of the best, as well as Siberian sturgeon, sustainable osetra, paddlefish and gold whitefish. A tasting prior to the party is a good idea and easily accomplished by ordering small one-ounce jars of each online or at a local gourmet shop. Pick the one that suits your palate best.


Story by Ina Manaster, who is an active participant in the Valley’s community and philanthropic scene and a hostess par excellence.




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