B.C. sturgeon caviar listed among top five in the world
By Randy Shore, Vancouver SunNovember 29, 2011 Sustainably raised Fraser River sturgeon caviar grown on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast has been listed among the world's best by New York-based Travel + Leisure magazine.
Under the title Best in Roe, the magazine's tasters noted the Canadian caviar's "crisp pop and creamy mouthfeel, with even grains." Northern Divine caviar comes from Fraser River white sturgeon raised in a landbased fish farm in an isolated and heavily wooded area of Sechelt.
"Three of the four editors at the tasting put Northern Divine in their Top 3, so it was the most consistently liked of the caviars we tasted," said features director Nilou Motamed.
The magazine put together a panel of food editors to taste 15 caviars from around the world and produce a list of the five best sustainably raised products.
Three sturgeon caviars - from Israel, Uruguay and Italy - and a bourbon-infused trout caviar from California rounded out the panel's top picks.
"It's great to see so many caviars being produced sustainably at so many different price points and not harming the environment," she added.
While Northern Divine was the most expensive of the caviars listed, at $147 per 50 grams, that is only half the price of Russian Osetra caviar from the Caspian Sea, the world's gold standard for caviar.
"We are just delighted," said Justin Henry, general manager of Target Marine Hatcheries, the one-time salmon aquaculture firm that produces Northern Divine.
Target Marine harvested its first caviar earlier this year from 11-year-old sturgeon grown from eggs harvested from sexually mature female sturgeon raised by Vancouver Island University's sturgeon conservation program, according to Henry. Target will use its own roe to hatch the next generation of sturgeon.
Northern Divine has already been certified sustainable by the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise program. The land based facility operates using a high-tech water recirculation and waste recovery system.
Ocean Wise does not recommend sturgeon caviar from the Caspian Sea, once the world's most productive caviar producing region now in steep decline.
A handful of top restaurants in Vancouver have already used the B.C.-raised caviar. Chef David Hawksworth at Hawksworth Restaurant has used Northern Divine to crust Pacific halibut and to top tuna tartar and has plans to use it in his holiday menus, while C Restaurant chef de cuisine Lee Humphries created a $235-per person five-course caviar tasting menu with B.C.'s priciest food product.
Humphries said North Divine is a perfect example of "ethical luxury."
Target harvested roe from 89 mature females at an off-site fish processing plant and made 300 kilograms of caviar, worth about $3,000 a kilo.
"We are just delighted with the quality," Henry said. "We spent the last few years worrying about whether it would be good - we just didn't know - so it's a big relief.
"We toured a number of caviar producing areas around the world to see what kinds of challenges they had and we tried to correct those proactively," Henry said. "We had some pretty good success and the caviar came out phenomenal."
Target brought in veteran U.S. caviar maker Richard Helfrich to oversee the first batch.
To make caviar, the eggs are removed from the fish, washed and mixed with fine salt in a meticulously clean environment. Eggs from each fish are processed separately and a code on the label indicates the fish of origin, its birth date, weight and even its email@example.com
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