Caviar might evoke old world images of a well-set table adorned by spirits, cheeses and “salt delicacies’’ as per Leo Tolstoy’s descriptions from Anna Karenina; yet The Caviar Co. is reenvisioning the caviar experience in a California context. Located in Tiburon, The Caviar Co.’s tasting room still glitters with small traditions like mother-of-pearl spoons at place settings, but the menu and experience are designed for approachability.
“Caviar used to only be a special occasion food; we are trying to lay it out in more fun ways,” says Petra Bergstein Higby, a Marin local and CEO and founder of The Caviar Co.The tasting room (and outdoor tables) on Tiburon’s Main Street is well-suited to a beautiful sunny day or as a cozy spot for indulging on a cold night. But when it comes to caviar, Higby aims for the experience to delight folks regardless of their level of familiarity with the niche food.
“Our main mission was how can we educate people on caviar, how can we make caviar more approachable … We think that creating a space where people can come in and ask questions or see the varieties of caviar is the most important thing.”
In the tasting room, local takes on caviar come in combination with Hog Island oysters or black truffle grilled cheese (featuring Point Reyes Farmstead’s Toma), which occupy the menu beside more traditional offerings including house-made blinis. With a sparkling wine and Champagne menu alongside other beverages, there is little better than the salt and bubbles combination, says Higby, who recommends the chips and dip with smoked trout roe as a starting point both in terms of palate and price point at under $20. Caviar flights are also an opportunity for learning more about varieties of caviar, much as one might taste wines.
California’s fresh produce and the farm-to-table culture initially lured Higby to the area’s hospitality industry away from her West Texas roots and continues to inspire her business. Beyond local food and wine pairings, The Caviar Co. also highlights Northern California farmed white sturgeon caviar — among other varieties — in both the tasting room and its San Francisco retail store. White sturgeon are deeply connected to California, being native to the West Coast and Bay Area, where some of the southernmost wild spawning populations are found in the Sacramento–San Joaquin river system — though all the white sturgeon caviar is farmed. California-farmed white sturgeon is listed as a “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program.
In an effort to appeal to those with diverse interests, The Caviar Co’s tasting room features an active calendar of special events. The location currently offers a traditional afternoon tea service on Thursdays, a chef series with local chef-curated dinners and an upcoming winemaker series. In addition to simply dining,
“We still want people to just come in and talk,” Higby says, emphasizing the goal of approachability. For all the fun and learning around the traditions and the nuances of caviar, Higby finds perfection in the casual California caviar experience: “Have a snack with some bubbles and just enjoy sitting in the sun.”