The Caviar Buffet

How Insane People Celebrate New Year's Eve

Delicacy Food Caviar Eat

There’s a well-known theory that the meal you consume on New Year’s Eve plays a determining role in your quality of life for the coming year.

It’s not a theory, in fact, nor is it well-known. I made it up many years ago to justify binging out on caviar during New Year’s Eve. Few people have ever questioned it.

I can’t remember how the tradition got started, but I suspect it was traceable to examining lots of restaurant menus, seeing one lousy ounce of Osetra selling for $200 or more, and concluding over and over that we were not worthy. One ounce of caviar doesn’t get you very far in the hedonism department, particularly when you’re forced to pay retail and share it. We decided to stay home and quickly graduated to one miserly ounce apiece as an appetizer, then two ounces each so we could really experience it. From there it was a short journey to eliminating the rest of the meal altogether and making New Year’s a caviar fest.

This year there were three different varieties on the menu:

  • Siberian Sturgeon: small, glossy black beads, pleasantly briny, with an intriguing hint of the sea. Too subtle for me, but my wife loved it.
  • Sevruga: tiny gray beads that clung together, far saltier and more intense than the Siberian Sturgeon, with an echo of seaweed.
  • Russian Osetra: Grayish-black, distinctly separated eggs with impeccable balance, combining the richness of game fish with a distinct saltwater tang.

At this point, you’re wondering about the price tag for this indulgence. Let me break it down for you: 1) It’s not cheap, 2) They don’t sell this stuff in the afterlife, as far as I know, so you might as well stretch, and 3) You can easily spend $500 per couple or more by going out to a restaurant that night and being surrounded by drunken idiots. If this last situation sounds more appealing to you, you’re certainly not alone.

Speaking of drunken idiots, the Champagne of choice was Palmer Brut Reserve ($45), a brand just starting to make inroads into the American market. It’s aged four years in bottle on the lees and blended with 30-35% reserve wines, resulting in a broad structure and rich texture. To balance that, vibrant acidity enlivens the flavors of lemon, lime and poached pear, filling the palate and carrying onto the long, persistent finish. The price may go up after it’s “discovered,” but it’s a bargain now—allowing you to spend more on caviar.


Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture. Friend of the Devil, his first novel, was released in 2016; his second novel, The American Crusade, a political thriller set during the invasion of Iraq, is now available on Amazon.

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