Caviar is one of those ingredients that is heavily laden with cultural imagery and meaning that automatically sends our minds into a montage of experience. Love it or hate it, the delicacy of lightly salt-cured sturgeon eggs holds a lofty place in the world’s cultural subconscious as the ultimate luxury food.
It shouldn’t really be any surprise then that someone as luxury-obsessed as I am would jump at the opportunity to attend a Caviar Masterclass held at QT Canberra as a part of the 2018 Good Food Month events taking place in Canberra.
Last week I treated myself and a friend to a ticket each for the Caviar Masterclass, held in the deliciously opulent QT Canberra Lounge. Chances are you’ve never actually been to the Lounge, which is an invitation-only member’s lounge housed on the 15th floor of the hotel. Boasting spectacular views of the city and the sort of silver-service most of us can only ever dream of, I have been hosted in the Lounge by QT several times now, and I can assure you that it lives up to its exclusive reputation. I can’t think of a better venue to host a caviar masterclass, except possibly one of the caviar farms.
The masterclass was presented by the delightful Lisa Downs, Caviar Ambassador for Simon Johnson and world renowned expert on all things caviar. Lisa proved to be not only a knowledgeable and engaging presenter, but a warm and vivacious host with an infectious love for caviar. Throughout the course of the masterclass Lisa shared her knowledge of the origins and culture of caviar, first produced in ancient Persia, and not Russia like you might expect. Lisa taught us all about the production and import of caviar, providing a pond-to-plate understanding of the world’s most luxurious ingredient that I was simply not expecting, but delighted to absorb.
The Caviar Masterclass allowed us to experience a vertical tasting of three of the most famous styles of caviar produced around the world and currently stocked by Simon Johnson: Siberian Oscietra, Russian Oscietra, and Beluga. The caviars are named not for their country of origin, but rather for the species of sturgeon from which they are sourced. Each course was matched with Perrier Jouet champagne and a small tipple of vodka as a pallet-cleanser. We were shown the correct way to taste caviar like the masters who make and grade it, and then encouraged to enjoy the three varieties with delicate blinis and cream cheese.
As far as evenings out are concerned, the caviar masterclass represents an interesting juncture between a seminar and a tasting. The portions may have been physically small (10 grams of each of the three varieties), but they were very generous when you consider the retail price of what we were eating. That said, 30 grams of caviar eaten with blinis does not a meal make, and realistically it represents a very expensive entree. Not an every-day sort of experience to be sure, but in my opinion definitely worth the $150 price tag.
Because it wasn’t just our mouths that ate, but our minds as well. Lisa has worked at two of the world’s largest caviar farms and has been importing caviar into Australia for 6 years now. Lisa was able to bring to life an amazing understanding of the world of caviar right here in Canberra, sharing insight into what the market is like today, the incredible reality of how despite being sourced from prehistoric and critically endangered fish it is still sustainably sourced, and above all else, how and why we should enjoy it today.
I had a tremendous time at the Caviar Masterclass at QT Canberra, and if the opportunity ever presents itself I thoroughly encourage you to go along. These types of events that give us the whole experience of the life cycle of an ingredient, the paddock-to-plate sort of knowledge, are incredibly important and so much more rewarding than simply enjoying a nice dinner. I think that Lisa provided the exact balance of information and indulgence n her masterclass, and I for one walked away much better informed, and hungry for more in every sense.
It is worth noting that this is not a sponsored post, I did pay for our tickets to attend the event and I would happily do so again – I was honestly that impressed with the masterclass, Lisa and of course QT Canberra.