There is no better way to taste fine caviar than with equally fine champagne. As an encore to last year’s “Caviar and Krug” event, the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival upped their game with French Sturia caviar paired with Cristal, Dom Pérignon, Krug, and Salon at the Halekulani Hotel.
Halekulani Executive Chef Vikram Garg led the tasting, explaining each of four caviars and how they would be served at the hotel (solo, on eggs, on seafood, etc.). Paul Michelutti of Evidenza Gastronomy & Prestige, who imports the caviar from France, provided a brief history of each and their characteristics. Master Sommelier Roberto Viernes offered background on each champagne and the rationale for the specific pairing.
The proper way to taste caviar is to let the beads roll around in your mouth before you chew or swallow. The Sturia Vintage has soft beads, with intense ocean flavor that grows in your mouth as it progresses. It also has a very eggy flavor, that seems like a good garnish for eggs or seafood. Due to its saltiness, it went best with the Cristal, which in itself has strong qualities that can stand up to the caviar.
The Sturia Primeur, by contrast, was far less salty but was fishier, with a sharp finish that Vikram described as fresh. The beads were also soft, and there was a slight nutty flavor. Roberto chose the 2002 Grand Cru Salon to pair with this, which was a nice complement with much more rounded flavor — or as he put it, “one of the best expressions of Chardonnay.”
My personal favorite of the night was the Sturia Grand Chef, which was mellow, nutty, creamy and delicate with a salty, lingering finish. This is supposedly masculine, but it was less bold than the first two. I’m also partial to Dom Perignon 2004, which is definitely a feminine champagne, and very versatile.
The Sturia Oscietra Grand Cru is complex; the flavor starts subtly, then the saltiness hits. The beads are a little chewier than the others, as well. This is more expensive because the eggs are selected manually, and are so exclusive that only 600 kilograms per year are produced. The multi-vintage Krüg champagne was also complex, making this the best pairing of the night.
We got an additional treat with this dish: smoked and baked potatoes, pureed with lemon juice and salt, then served with Sturia caviar. This was so creamy, yet there was no cream.
If you plan to go to this caviar and champagne event next year, sign up early, as there are only 50 seats.