There is no question that Italy’s traditions surrounding food and wine are countless—but historically, caviar has been left to the Russians. Little do most people know that Italy is rich with “black gold,” with stories of its discovery dating back to the late 1400’s, when Leonardo da Vinci happened upon a magnificent sturgeon in the Ticino river—a tributary of the Po. As the legend goes, he harvested its roe as a long-fabled gift to the young princess, Beatrice d’Este, whose “treasure chest of small black pearls” were comically much-hyped and never seen. The Ticino river has remained, ever since, a secret source of top-grade sturgeon caviar—the kind that, like Beatrice’s, is quickly gobbled up and savored bite for bite. But the secret is spreading as Europe’s most recognized and voluminous producer, Calvisius, proves that Italy’s sustainably farmed caviar is, more than ever, a true royal experience.
Most easily found at their ultra-chic lounge in the ground floor of New York City’s Four Seasons hotel, Calvisius is the top choice caviar for Gordon Ramsay in NYC’s London Hotel. It’s also served on the first class flights of Lufthansa Airline, Thai Airline, and Singapore Airline. Its taste and quality are unlike any other, as Calvisus is both farmer and producer—not like your typical merchant who must go through several middlemen. With a sustainable aquaculture farm located in the Brescian lowlands of Calvisano, Italy, Calvisius has direct control over every aspect of its fish and their eventual product.
To experience these ocean gems, there’s nothing quite like the swanky year-old Calvisius lounge at the Four Seasons—the first and only of its kind. The space, designed by renown architect James D’Auria, is anchored by a beautiful backlit display of Calvisius’ signature items—any of which can be enjoyed at the white onyx bar with a glass of champagne or, just as easily, taken to go. Service is paramount, in keeping with the luxury digs and product. Caviar is most typically enjoyed by the tin, served atop a custom-designed glass dome filled with ice and presented with mother of pearl spoons, blinis, toast points, crème fraiche and French butter. It’s also served “The Italian Way,” in a martini glass atop creamy mashed potatoes—the perfect textural foil to the caviar’s snappy texture and robust flavor.
For novices developing their caviar palates, Calvisius offers tasting flights called “solamente,” ten-gram portions with all the necessary accoutrements for extensive tasting. The beverage list—a comprehensive menu with the most high-end names in Champagne and vodka—gives ample choices for diners to find the perfect pairing for their chic culinary experience.
Should a visit to the lounge be too far a ride for the fix, Calvisius sells their caviar through their e-commerce site, www.calvisiuscaviar.com. Its direct-to-farmer relationship not only ensures freshness and quality control, but allows Calvisius to pursue the most affordable price point for their gem-like product.
If caviar’s consumption has traditionally been seen as a culinary pinnacle and a celebration of life, there’s no question that Calvisius, with its ecologically sound practices, pristine standards, and top recognitions, is at the threshold of caviar’s new era: one that preserves the flavors and textures that make the pearls so very fit for a king, but with the sustainable practices and accessibility that continue to broaden the delicacy’s unique appeal.
Calvisius Caviar Lounge is located at 58 East 58 Street, in the ground level of the Four Seasons Hotel. It is open from 12-9 PM daily, with availability for private gatherings and parties. To purchase online or learn more about Calvisius Caviar, please visit www.calvisiuscaviar.com.
Copyright 2012 By Punchin International. All Rights Reserved.
The story of the Agroittica Lombarda farm begins, curiously, with a steelworks plant. In the 1970’s, environmental regulations encouraged its partners to find a balanced ecological way to cool their metals without disturbing the ground water table, and the heat exchange solution they devised resulted in waters whose temperature would be ideal for sturgeon farming. With worldwide sturgeon populations deeply in need of rehabilitation after commercial over-fishing, Agroittica’s sturgeon farm became a genius result of environmental—and industrial—need. Today, Agroittica’s operations are recognized by the international organization, Friend of the Sea, as meeting the top standard in eco-friendliness.
These practices are exactly what makes Calvisius caviar so special: from the natural spring water they swim in to the optimized, exclusive feed they’re given, every aspect of the fish’s is controlled for their utmost well-being. The roe they yield is the purest, most clean-flavored product on the market, free of contaminants or water pollution—often the downfall of wild caviar. Agroittica’s perfect conditions allow the caviar harvest to extend through most of the year, resulting in a smaller shelf life and, therefore, a true malossol (low-salt) product with a more delicate, true flavor. Furthermore, each tin of caviar is properly labeled so that it can be traced to the exact sturgeon it hails from, giving Calvisius a comprehensive understanding of each batch’s freshness, provenance, species type, and so on.
With over 25 years of caviar production under their belt, Calvisius is still a young company—their sturgeon are allowed to mature for at least twelve years before harvesting—but already, their caviar has been hailed as Europe’s best and most sustainable by a variety of culinary and environmental organizations, ranging from the International Travel and Catering Association to the Italian Academy of Cuisine and the European Centre for Agricultural Promotion. In addition, Agroittica has garnered the top accolades and certifications in the field, including the ISO 9001, the IFS and the BRC.
The proof is in the tin: Calvisius’ white sturgeon malossol, their best seller, features large dark gray pearls whose unmistakably mild, nutty taste reveals the purity and delicacy associated with only the best. It pops and melts on the tongue, hardly salty at all—a sure surprise for those unfamiliar with caviar of this quality. Even more prized, perhaps, is their classic oscietra, almost clear with an amber-like translucence—as pretty as the pearls Princess Beatrice’s court must have imagined. Its aroma is more intense, the texture taut and firm, literally exploding on the tongue and yielding the unadulterated flavors that caviar enthusiasts seek out almost religiously. In a side-by-side comparison with wild caviar, there’s no doubt that the pristine waters and feed of the farmed variety make it the cleaner tasting, more esteemed choice across the board.