March 6, 2024

Texas Sheet Cake


by Kira Rasmussen

Baker and Proud Texas Woman

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A friend of mine asked me the secret to making a great Texas sheet cake.

“Ask a Texas woman to make it,” I said. "Just kidding."

(I was not kidding.)

I grew up in El Paso where my mom (also a Texas girl) taught us how to bake. Every Sunday afternoon we made cookies, brownies, pastries, or cakes, including one of my favorites, Texas sheet cake. When I took a job at Target Bakery, it was a huge step down from my mom’s kitchen; Target didn’t make anything fresh, and it was honestly pretty boring. I was glad to move to The Chocolate in Orem where I got to make way more fun recipes, including their awesome pretzel cake. Now I’m at Culinary Crafts, which is about as far from Target Bakery as you can get!

But of all the great pastries and desserts I’ve tried, nothing beats the old classic Texas sheet cake.

The recipe below is my mom’s tried and true cake. However, I have found that in Utah the consistency and fluff are a bit different. I find you need to reduce the baking soda by ⅛ teaspoon. This helps the rise.

But it’s no surprise that sheet cakes made in Texas taste better. Everything from Texas is a little better! (Kidding, not kidding.) 😊

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Texas Sheet Cake



  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda (reduce by ⅛ tsp at high altitude)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 6 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 cup water


  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 6 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 lb powdered sugar



  1. In a mixing bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and baking soda. Whisk until smooth and then set aside.
  2. In another mixing bowl, combine and sift flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Bring butter, vegetable shortening, cocoa, and water to boil in saucepan.
  4. Pour hot mixture over flour mixture and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add buttermilk mixture and stir to thoroughly incorporate.
  5. Pour batter into buttered and floured half-sheet-cake pan (about 15 in. x 10 in.) and bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until edges of cake pull away from the pan and the cake springs back when you touch it.


  1. About 10 minutes before the cake is done baking, start the frosting. Bring buttermilk, butter, and cocoa to a boil.
  2. Quickly remove from heat (it will not be pretty) and add vanilla and powdered sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.
  3. Once you’ve removed the cake from over, spread frosting over cake. (It’s important that the cake still be hot to help the frosting spread evenly.) Allow to cool, then cut into squares and serve. (The frosting tends to stick to a metal knife, so using a plastic knife can help you make cleaner cuts.)

February 22, 2024

Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies


by Madison Oliveria

Wedding and Sales Specialist; Kimball Terrace Venue Manager

I’ve always had a huge sweet tooth.

My parents love to tell the story of when I was five years old and our Basset hound, Elvis, stole my cookie. They heard a commotion in the backyard and came running to see what was wrong. Apparently, I had grabbed Elvis by one droopy ear and shoved my entire little arm down his throat (past my elbow), screaming, “GIVE ME BACK MY COOKIE!”

Lucky for the poor dog, my parents came to the rescue. “It’s okay, sweetie! It’s okay!” they assured me. “We’ll get you a new cookie!!”

Since then, I’ve had a lot of cookies and sampled a lot of recipes, but the absolute best are these chocolate macadamia nut cookies that I found at Culinary Crafts. In fact, I had these cookies served as favors when Culinary Crafts catered my wedding. They don’t use much flour, so these cookies have a gooey, fudge-like texture. Seriously, it’s almost like eating brownie batter in cookie form!

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Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies

(makes three dozen cookies)


  • 12 large eggs
  • 1 ⅛ cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened chocolate chips
  • 2 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • ⅔ cup butter
  • 5 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 ¾ cups macadamia nuts, roasted
  • 3 cups white chocolate chips


  1. Whip eggs and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy.
  2. Melt unsweetened and semisweet chocolate over a double boiler. Melt butter in a separate pot. When butter is melted, pour over chocolate and stir until completely melted.
  3. Add melted chocolate and vanilla to the egg/sugar mixture. Beat until thick and glossy.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together and add to mixture.
  5. Fold in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips.
  6. Refrigerate the mixture for several hours or overnight.
  7. Let cookie mixture soften at room temperature before scooping.
  8. Scoop dough with a #24 (red) ice cream scoop onto baking sheet. Each cookie will have approx. 1.5 oz of dough. Slightly flatten the balls of dough.
  9. Bake at 325° for 7 minutes or until set and cracked on top. Cookies should have no glossy spots when taken out of the oven.
  10. Enjoy!

February 8, 2024

Chinese New Year Pineapple Tarts


by Tricia Garside

Kitchen Manager

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When I was a little girl in Singapore, ong lai was the name of the delicious pineapple tarts that people would enjoy on Chinese New Year. In the Hokkien dialect, ong lai means “pineapple,” or it can also mean “fortune comes.”

Pineapple tarts are still a very popular pastry during the festive season in Asia because they taste amazing and they are believed to be an omen of good luck and prosperity in the coming year. We would bake batches of these signature mouthwatering treats and give them as gifts to friends and neighbors...if we didn’t eat them all first!

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Chinese New Year Pineapple Tarts

(makes about 50 tarts)

Pineapple Filling

(to be made the day before)


  • 6 ripe pineapples
  • 3 cups of coarse sugar
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 3 segments of star anise


  1. Remove skin and eye (the core) from pineapples.
  2. Grate pineapples and place them in a large aluminum saucepan. Add cloves, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Cook over medium heat until the mixture thickens, then spoon out the cinnamon, anise, and cloves.
  3. Let the pineapple filling cool. Store in the refrigerator overnight until ready for use.


(to be made the day before)


  • 1½ cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 pound of butter
  • 4 beaten egg yolks (set aside ½ egg white for glaze)
  • 2 oz of iced water


  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture turns into course crumbs.
  2. Make an indentation in the middle of the dough and pour in the egg yolks and water. Press the ingredients together gently with your fingers. Be careful not to knead the dough too much or it will lose its flakiness.
  3. Gently roll the dough into 1-inch balls, wrap in plastic, and chill them in the fridge overnight.

Pineapple Tarts Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Lightly flour a flat surface and roll the dough out to ¼ inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter to cut 50 2-inch rounds. Place them on a cookie sheet.
  3. Place a spoonful of pineapple filling on each dough round. (Some bakers like to decorate their tarts with thin strips of dough in a crisscross pattern over the filling.)
  4. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow tarts to cool before you transfer them off the cookie sheet.

February 5, 2024

How to Buy, Serve, and Enjoy Caviar


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Admit it. If you haven’t tasted quality caviar served on a buckwheat blini with a dallop of crème fraiche, aren’t you curious to know what the fuss is about?

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to indulge in a little decadence with your special someone, and nothing says romance like candlelight, soft music, long-stemmed roses, champagne…and caviar.

Today, caviar symbolizes the epitome of luxury and class, but it wasn’t always so. In fact, 150 years ago caviar was so cheap in the United States that it was served for free in bars—like pretzels or popcorn—just to encourage patrons to drink more! Overfishing, pollution, and loss of habitat caused supply to crash and prices to skyrocket, but you can still enjoy this delicious delicacy for a reasonable price. You just have to know what you’re looking for.

Read on to learn how to choose, buy, serve, and enjoy quality caviar. Once we’ve mother-of-pearl-spoon-fed you the basics, you’ll be ready to wow your guests or treat your sweety to an exquisite culinary treat.

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Why try caviar?

Caviar still has a bit of an elitist image, but it's no longer just for the uber-wealthy. In fact, it can be as affordable as a bottle of good wine or a great dessert...not to mention that it's far healthier.

Among its many nutritional virtues, caviar is rich in calcium, iron, selenium, and antioxidants. It’s also a great source of protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, which means that it’s good for your heart, bones, and immune system. It's even used as a natural anti-depressant.

But the real reason to treat yourself and your loved ones to this exquisite delicacy is, of course, flavor.

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What caviar is (and isn’t).

If you’re new to buying caviar, you may find the terminology a little confusing.

Technically, caviar is the salted, unfertilized eggs of sturgeon fish. The eggs of other kinds of fish like salmon or trout can also be tasty, but they aren’t true caviar; we refer to the eggs of those fish as “roe.”

In a moment, we’ll discuss the different kinds of caviar and roe, compare their tastes, and show you what you can expect to pay for each. But for now, just keep in mind that all true caviar comes from sturgeon. In the U.S., we tend to be pretty lax about the way we use the terminology, so you might see products that advertise “salmon caviar” or “lumpfish caviar.” Just understand that those products are actually roe.

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What kind of caviar should I buy, and how much should I expect to pay for it?

It’s true that the price of caviar can be astronomically high. (Gastronomically? Gasp-tronomically?) But, as with sparkling wine, the more expensive caviars don’t always offer the highest quality or value.

The following list should give you an idea of the range of caviar available and their prices. Let’s start with the most expensive.


Beluga is widely considered the most prized type of caviar in the world, but due to terribly overfishing, beluga sturgeon are critically endangered. The U.S. banned the importation of beluga caviar in 2005. While you can buy beluga today, not many vendors offer it, and you may have to pay $800 per ounce or more for high-quality product.

Beluga hybrids:

This type of caviar comes from fish that are a cross between beluga and another kind of sturgeon. It’s easier to find than beluga, has a similar buttery, nutty taste, and costs a lot less, ranging from about $120-145 per ounce.


Perhaps the most popular caviar in the world, ossetra (a/k/a osetra or asetra) has medium-sized gold or brown eggs with a unique taste of butter, caramel, and brine. The price for ossetra varies widely from $50-250 per ounce.


The European sevruga has small gray eggs with a full-bodied taste that is described as briny, nutty, and slightly tangy. It is not everyone’s favorite, but it is very popular with caviar connoisseurs. Price ranges from $50-150 per ounce.

American white sturgeon:

Arguably the best value, American white surgeon caviar starts with a typical briny taste but then has a buttery aftertaste almost like parmesan cheese. $85-110.


Also known as baika, Siberian caviar is saltier and has larger eggs than most other kinds. It typically costs $80-105.


Closely related to beluga, the kaluga sturgeon is found in Asia and is the largest freshwater fish on earth. It is sometimes called “river beluga” because its caviar resembles beluga’s in taste, but it has been much better managed and protected, so they are not as endangered. Kaluga has large, firm eggs that are light brown, grey, gold, or green and have a creamy, nutty taste that is more subtle than some types. Expect to pay $55-85 for a 1-ounce tin.


Similar to sevruga in taste, sterlet has even smaller eggs that are grey or silver. Expect to pay $50-100 per ounce.


Also known as shovelback sturgeon, hackleback is a wild sturgeon harvested from the rivers of the American South. Hackleback caviar is dark black and tastes nutty and sweet. At such a low price of $35-50 per ounce, it can be a great value as long as you choose a high-quality product. fish roe, orange fish eggs, salmon roe, salmon eggs, dish of salmon roe, salmon

What alternatives should I consider?

Golden Whitefish:

Think of golden whitefish as the marijuana of the caviar world. Inexpensive and pleasant tasting, it is a gateway drug! At $8-15 per ounce, it’s the perfect “caviar” to experiment with.


Salmon roe, sometimes known as “red caviar,” is one of the most popular and delicious substitutes. For as low as $10 per ounce, it’s no wonder that salmon roe is used in so many cuisines and dishes.

Rainbow trout:

We love serving rainbow trout roe at home. It’s subtly sweet and a little briny, and it has that delightful pop in your mouth that you want. If you’re not a big seafood lover, try smoked salmon roe! As with most seafoods, smoke mellows out the fishy flavors and gives it a broader appeal. At just $10-30 per ounce, you can afford to add trout roe as a special treat to charcuterie boards, canapés, sushi, and other seafood dishes, or just enjoy it by the spoonful.


American paddlefish is another excellent “introductory” caviar substitute. Similar in flavor to sevruga, paddlefish roe is far less expensive at $16-28 per ounce.


The roe of Spanish herring, herruga has a mild smokey and nutty flavor. Prices vary widely, from $6 per ounce all the way up to $200, so make sure you buy from a reputable dealer.


Made from flying fish roe, tobiko is often dyed green with wasabi, black with squid ink, or red with beet juice. Personally, we don’t think it tastes great on its own, but its pleasant texture makes a great garnish for sushi. Expect to pay around $15 an ounce for good quality tobiko.


Masago “caviar” is made from the roe of tiny capelin fish. It’s mildly sweet and smokey, and it will only run you about $7-15 per ounce. Like tobiko, we wouldn’t recommend eating it on its own, but it is often used in Japan as a sushi topping. caviar taco, creme fraiche, avocado, caviar, sesame seeds, onion, Culinary Crafts, hors d'oeuvres, toasted, seafood, Utah wedding

How can I choose good caviar?

There’s a saying that a good caviar should have at least 15 different flavors to it. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, the point is that a bite of quality caviar should give you a multi-level experience. It should be enjoyable in every aspect, from its appearance and smell to the feel on your tongue, the pop against the roof of your mouth, the initial burst of flavors, and the lingering aftertaste.

  • Appearance: Caviar should have a shine and sparkle, but not an oily sheen. Each egg should be full and distinct, not a mushy mess.
  • Texture: Caviar should be firm, but not tough. When pressed, it should make a pleasant pop.
  • Smell: Caviar should have a mild briny smell, but if they smell fishy, you’ve got a problem!
  • Flavor: Different types of caviar have different forward flavors and lingering aftertaste, from nutty to buttery to fruity to sweet. However, caviar should never taste metallic or overly fishy.

A key to choosing good caviar is to look for quality but not for bargains. Don’t get fooled by blow-out sales or surprisingly low prices. Your best bet is to look for a caviar (or caviar substitute) in your price range and work through a reputable dealer.

Where should I buy caviar?

Shopping for caviar online is a dubious business unless you stick with companies that are established and dependable. We have never been disappointed with Marky’s or Om. Russ & Daughters and Petrossian also have fine reputations.

If you’re looking for caviar you can buy in bulk, Costco is a good option. They offer several varieties of ossetra, Siberian, and white sturgeon.

Here in Utah, we have a few local vendors to choose from. Caputo’s in Salt Lake City is one of our favorite purveyors, not only of caviar but of cheese, chocolate, and all sorts of loveliness! If you’ve shopped there before, you know that Caputo’s employees are amazingly helpful and more than willing to share their knowledge. Maybe if enough of us make a specific request, they’ll offer a hands-on class on caviar.

Finally, Pirate O’s carries reasonably priced caviar substitutes: salmon roe for $24.99/2 ounces and lumpfish roe for $12.99/2 ounces.

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How much caviar do I need to buy?

A good rule of thumb for buying and serving caviar is “Don’t overdo it. A little goes a long way.” The among of caviar you should buy depends on how you’re serving it, how many guests you have, how hungry they are, and how many true caviar-lovers you’ve invited. But here are the basic guidelines to follow:

  • As a garnish just to give a touch of class, a few grains per serving will do, so a 1-ounce tin of caviar can serve your whole party of 20+ people.
  • On most hors d’oeuvres or appetizers, use ⅛ to ¼ of a teaspoon per serving. This will yield roughly 20-40 servings per ounce of caviar.
  • If caviar is the main flavor you want guests to taste on an appetizer, use about ½ teaspoon per serving. This will give you about 10 servings per 1-ounce tin.
  • If eating caviar straight out of the tin, a 1-ounce serving will feed 1 to 2 people.

How should I store caviar?

Since caviar is partially cured with salt and vacuum sealed, it should last 4-6 weeks if unopened. Store caviar in the coldest part of your fridge, usually in the back. Once you open it, you should eat it as soon as you can, within no more than 2-4 days.

You can freeze caviar, but we don’t recommend it. The flavor will be mostly unaffected by freezing, but the texture will change. Once frozen, caviar tends to become more sticky, clumpy, and mushy. It will also lose that slight pop in the mouth.

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How should I serve caviar?

Fish eggs are fragile, so always handle caviar and other kinds of roe gently. Metal spoons, particularly silver, can give caviar a nasty metallic taste and alter its color. That’s why they make special mother-of-pearls spoons for caviar. Plastic, wood, ceramic, or tortoise shell works too.)

If you’re working with salmon, whitefish, or lumpfish roe, it’s a good idea to rinse it gently with cold water and let it dry on a paper towel before serving. Otherwise, the color might run.

To keep your caviar at its freshest, take it out of the fridge about 10 minutes before you serve it. If you don’t use it all, immediately seal the remainder and place it back in the fridge.

To take a sample taste, place a dollop on the back of your thumb, on the flat part between your thumb and first finger. Then slurp it off. There’s no real reason to eat it like that except tradition.

If you can, keep the tins on ice.

There are lots of delicious ways to serve caviar as an hors d’oeuvres or appetizer. Blinis (small Russian pancakes) are a traditional favorite vehicle, and we particularly love to make them with buckwheat.

Different kinds of crackers or toast points (crustless triangles of toast) also work well, but you’ll be surprised how great caviar tastes on a simple, unsalted potato chip. (Caviar is salty enough on its own, so salted potato chips can be too much.) Honestly, potatoes in practically any form are a great match for caviar, so try it on baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, French fries, or even tater tots. Trust us on this! Eggs, sushi, and all kinds of sea food also complement caviar beautifully.

Red onions, chives, and crème fraiche or sour cream are all great additions. Just don’t overdo them and overpower the amazing flavors of the caviar.

What drink should I serve with caviar?

Ice cold vodka or champagne are the traditional beverages to complement caviar. Plain water or sparkling water can also work to cleanse your palate between tastes. You don’t want anything overpowering like a heavy red or white wine. That said, a milder white wine can work. Finding the perfect pairing is a matter of personal taste and experimentation, but what experimenting could be more fun to do?

From all of us at Culinary Crafts, may your Valentine’s Day be the most romantic and delicious ever!

Eat well.

January 30, 2024

For Kings and Commoners: The Weird History of Caviar


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Did you know that caviar used to be so cheap in the United States that it was given away for free in bars just to encourage patrons to drink? It’s true! Caviar—the delicacy that was once reserved for British royalty—was as cheap as popcorn and peanuts in the U.S. How did such a common food become a symbol of opulence and the epitome of fine dining? Read on to learn the wild and wacky history of caviar.

What is Caviar?

First, let’s get our terminology straight.

Not all fish eggs are caviar.

According to all the regulatory agencies that determine this kind of thing, the word “caviar” refers to the salt-cured, unfertilized eggs of a certain group of fish called sturgeon. The eggs of any other kind of fish are called “roe,” and even though they may be delicious, they aren’t caviar.

Unfortunately, the United States has not been very strict about regulating how the term is used, so the word “caviar” can get confusing in this country. You might see packaging that advertises “salmon caviar” or “trout caviar” when what’s inside is really salmon or trout roe. If that’s what you’re looking for, then great! Just understand that it’s not actual caviar. Don’t get us wrong; we love roe and will gladly serve it to guests or eat it at home. But it’s important to understand what you’re eating and what you’re paying for.

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The Weird History of Caviar

People have been enjoying caviar at least as far back as the Crusades in the 1200s and probably much earlier than that. Cultures around the Caspian Sea and Black Sea, especially Russia and Persia (now Iran), harvested caviar from huge sturgeon populations that once swam there. In fact, the word “caviar” came from the Persian word khâvyâr, meaning “egg-bearing.”

When caviar reached Europe in the 1500s, it was all the rage and was generally reserved for royalty and social elites. In Britain, sturgeon were even designated “royal fish” which meant that, by law, any sturgeon that was caught immediately became the property of the monarch.

Meanwhile, in the American colonies, European immigrants discovered that sturgeon were abundant in American waters. In fact, native tribes had been eating sturgeon and their eggs for thousands of years. In the early years of Jamestown (the first permanent English settlement in America) sturgeon and caviar were the primary food that saved the colonists from starvation.

Knowing that sturgeon and caviar could fetch a high price in Europe, the Jamestown colony sent boatloads of sturgeon back to Britain, but the fish were too perishable to survive the long voyage, especially during the hot summer months when sturgeon were plentiful in the James River. As the Virginia colony became more established, sturgeon fell out of favor with the colonists. They considered it food for the lower class, livestock, and slaves.

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Caviar’s Rise and Fall (and Rise)

The strange history of caviar took a surprising turn in the mid-1800s when thousands of new European immigrants to the U.S. began to favor sturgeon as a cheap source of meat. At the same time, European supplies of caviar were drying up due to overfishing. If there’s one thing Americans have never failed to do, it’s to identify a demand in the market and make money off it!

Caviar processing plants began springing up along the East Coast. For two decades, America became the leading exporter of caviar to Europe! But, just as Americans drove the passenger pigeon to extinction and decimated the immense herds of buffalo, it didn’t take long to wipe out the sturgeon. From 7 million pounds of sturgeon that were caught in 1887, the East Coast sturgeon populations plummeted until just 20,000 pounds were caught in 1905. By 1989, that number was down to 400 pounds.

In another weird twist, much of that caviar that was shipped to Europe was then reshipped back to America and sold as “Russian caviar” at a higher price. Meanwhile, American caviar that didn’t have that “Russian” label was being given away for free in bars as an inducement for patrons to buy more drinks.

As the East Coast populations of sturgeon disappeared, caviar producers moved on to the Great Lakes and then to the Pacific Northwest where sturgeon populations soon suffered the same fate. Overfishing, water pollution, and habitat loss have plagued all of the world’s sturgeon populations. Today, sturgeon are endangered or threatened everywhere on earth.

But the story isn’t over. For these magnificent fish that have been around since the age of the dinosaurs, these amazing creatures that can live for 100 years and reach sizes over 2,000 pounds, there may be some good news.

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A New Hope

In 2022, Iran, Russia, and the other countries bordering the Caspian Sea renewed a ban on the fishing of sturgeon in that body of water. Similar laws and regulations are meant to protect sturgeon populations in the U.S. and many other countries, and these conservation efforts have prevented sturgeon extinction despite a thriving black-market for caviar.

Although America’s wild sturgeon populations have never really recovered, producers have developed other ways to meet demands for caviar. Today, nearly all the caviar consumed or produced in the U.S. comes from surgeon raised on aquafarms. Additionally, American producers have promoted some excellent alternatives to true caviar, including “red salmon caviar” and “golden whitefish caviar.” Political unrest in Russia and Iran, historically the two main suppliers of caviar for most of history, has widened the door for American caviar and caviar substitutes to become more popular.

While you aren’t likely to catch bars giving away free caviar anymore, you can still find quality caviar or caviar alternatives at reasonable prices if you know where to look. Keep an eye on this page next month to see our tips on how to buy, prepare, serve, and enjoy quality caviar.

Eat well!

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