Amid the bad news about caviar—the overfishing of sturgeon and import sanctions—could this symbol of aristocratic elegance actually be entering a second golden age?
Last year, chef Matthew Accarrino found himself literally up to his elbows in caviar. Visiting with Michael Passmore, a fish farmer in the Sacramento Valley, Accarrino was delving into one of Passmore’s five-foot-long California white sturgeon and scooping out its highly valuable eggs.
“The first fish we opened up, I was just stunned,” Accarrino told me recently. “I couldn’t believe how much roe was in there—like 10 or 12 pounds. And then Michael pulls out this Chinese skimmer, the kind you’d use to pull dumplings out of a fryer. He says, ‘So we’re just going to rub this thing through and get the eggs out.’ And I said, ‘Really? This is the tool we’re going to use to harvest thousands of dollars’ worth of caviar?’” Passmore, a relative newcomer to fish farming, now produces caviar to Accarrino’s specifications. “I prefer a larger egg that’s not as firm,” Accarrino says. “That’s what I use. It’s all labeled ACCARRINO in Michael Passmore’s cooler.”