As a fervent food-lover, I am wildly envious of a long-time friend of mine named Jim Miller. If you knew Jim as I do...you would know that he settles only for the finest of everything. And just when he thinks he's found what he was looking for, he searches further for a step above that.
This was the case a few years ago, when Jim sought the best caviar from around the world. Jim decided to followed his family's heritage and started what he described to me today at lunch as the world's finest, most selective caviar-and-smoked salmon company. He named it KOLIKOF CAVIAR, after his mother's Russian family who had lived in the ancient city of Baku on the Caspian Sea, where the best caviar used to come from until the waters were overfished and wild sturgeon became depleted. Jim has traveled the world to source the best caviars, and his Los Angeles-based company boasts supplying caviar to many of the world's best restaurants, hotels, airlines, event planners and gourmet food markets.
As I sat down to the meal, he had laid out a glistening display of Kolikof caviar...Imperial, Imperial Ossetra, Ossetra Transmontanus, and Siberian sturgeon eggs. He urged me to sample them all. A dream come true. Tiny blinis were the base, and I went through his entire repertoire, one better than the next. I commented on the fresh taste and he explained, "Most of today's caviar is improperly handled. What in part helps make my caviar the absolute best is my unique handling and evaluation of my caviar right at its sources. I ensure my caviar is fresh all the way to my customers. To me, my caviar is my baby. I don't sleep at night; I think about my precious caviar! No one will ever receive Kolikof that I personally have not attested to its quality. We ship overnight in custom-designed packaging, along with a thermometer that ensures our customers receive their delicacy at the same temperature in which it was packaged. All of our products are available online at kolikofcaviar.com." Jim went on to explain that since his company is based in California, all of his products meet stringent U.S. Government standards.
At which point he brought out the main course for our lunch, a perfectly-roasted duck, my favorite dish, along with a homemade orange sauce and a cranberry sauce. The skin of the duck was so paper-thin and crispy that I picked it off the carcass and took the great liberty of spreading some of the caviar on it...talk about sublime tastes! We discussed the fact that the U.S. Food and Wildlife people banned the import of the rare beluga caviar from abroad in 2005 because the wild Beluga sturgeon were almost fished to extinction. He said that he hoped some of the 90 caviar farms in 20 countries around the world will find a way to farm-raise beluga so that it can be offered again. "I have traveled Europe, the Middle East and the Far East for great caviar sources. Many of these countries have perfected caviar reminiscent of wild caviar." He told me of caviar farms in Israel, the United States, some Balkan countries....all producing sturgeon eggs which he acquires at the peak of their ripeness. At this point in my sensational meal, he broke me up by displaying a can of chocolate caviar; bittersweet tidbits of Valrhona in a his signature caviar tin.
We talked about the word 'sustainable,' whjch he uses often in discussing his resources. He explained that it means his supply of sturgeon eggs doesn't come from endangered fish. Then he surprised me once again by mentioning that Kolikof Caviar has proven to be so popular among the world's finest chefs and gourmets that he has orders from as far away as Japan and even in Russia itself. I sampled a slice of his smoked salmon, and he told me that he had scoured Scotland from top to bottom to find the best sources of great smoked fish, both farmed and wild. I asked about the prices of his caviar and smoked salmon and was happily surprised to discover that Kolikof Caviar is less expensive than all of his better-known competitors. At which point he served me a superb chocolate soufflé with minted whipped cream and I went home to sleep and dream about his delicious caviar.
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