This will happen to you someday, if it hasn’t already. You’re at a fancy dinner or party. A caviar bowl is present. Everyone talks about the caviar, because when there is caviar in the room everyone likes to point out the caviar. You want some, but see there are small, weird spoons and odd breads and fancy ladies with their pinkies pointed upward and it occurs to you that you never learned the proper way to eat caviar — and yes, there is a proper way to do it.

Here’s everything you need to know about eating caviar so you can look all James Bond next time it’s served in your presence.

Know the cutlery
You only really need one piece of cutlery to eat caviar. But you might be presented with three. The important one is the mother of pearl spoon in the middle, below. This is what you use to eat caviar. Never a metal spoon. More on that below.


The palette, far right, made of non-reactive gold, can be used to scoop caviar from the serving bowl to your plate. The metal spoon, to the left, is largely unnecessary, and generally only used for applying an additional non-caviar spread. Neither is really necessary, but you might see them at some point and should know what they are. It’s OK if caviar is served and you do not see the other two spoons. Just use the mother of pearl spoon. It’s the only one you need.

Important note: Metal spoons should not touch caviar. If you ever tried caviar before and hated it, this might be why. Christopher Klapp, the general manager at Petrossian Paris in West Hollywood, Calif., said that one of the reasons that people don’t like caviar the first time is because they used a metal spoon. It spoils the taste. Other reasons people sometimes don’t initially like caviar on first tasting are inferior-quality caviar, the caviar not being kept sealed and at proper temperatures (air and heat are caviar’s biggest enemies) and eating imitation egg sold as caviar.

The different types of caviar
You might have to talk a little caviar at some point. Species names are how you differentiate caviar, which only comes from sturgeon. There is no such thing as salmon caviar, just like there is no such thing as California champagne. The three traditional types of caviar have long been sevruga, osetra and beluga. Restaurants such as Petrossian bring to market new sturgeon species caviar as a way to satisfy the market without depleting already endangered wild stocks. Several species of wild sturgeon, which are endangered, can only be caught in the Caspian Sea. There are other types of caviar besides the big three. One of the best is kaluga, which comes from sturgeon native to the Amur River Basin between Russia and China. It goes for $100-$200 per ounce.

caviar soup

The different uses of caviar
Caviar is often used as a garnish. At Petrossian, for example, the restaurant allowed me to sample several different dishes, including caviar on flatbread, caviar on cauliflower soup and risotto with caviar. What does this mean for you? It means you can cook with caviar. It’s not just a fancy appetizer. Rare is the woman who is not impressed by a man who prepares a caviar-infused dish for her. Here are a few such recipes from Food Network.

What to drink with caviar
Experts recommend chilled vodka, champagne or dry white wine over, say, Capri Sun. Snobs.