Possibly the most bizarre product Derrick and I encountered at the recent NASFT Fancy Food Show was a product called Soy Kaviar which is available in Beluga, Osetra and Sevruga flavours.
It looks authentic. In fact it is uncannily like the real thing in appearance, but the taste lacks the level of saltiness and fishiness you would find in the genuine article. We tasted a fine selection from Tsar Nicoulai shortly afterwards in order to make a comparison. The difference was marked.
I have to commend the idea behind Soy Kaviar. They are trying to create an environmentally sound product which has no negative impact on the world's endangered supply of living sturgeon. From what they told me, they are constantly doing research to try and improve the product. I think they still have some way to go with the balance of salt and the flavour before they convince diehard caviar aficionados.
You would naturally expect a soy product to be vegetarian, but this one isn't. If it was a totally animal-free product, then it's appeal would broaden to a whole new audience but currently they use gelatin to form their faux roe. They would consider an agar substitute if they could get it work satisfactorily, they told me.
After my caviar tastings I tried a slice of smoked surgeon at the Tsar Nicoulai stand which was sweet, moist, very mildly smoked and quite delicious. The fish was farmed, so I hope I won't be in too much trouble with concerned enviromentalists.
Tsar Nicoulai have a cafe in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza where San Franciscans and visitors can try their products for themselves. Soy Kaviar have a sales representative who can be contacted here if you are more interested in the new age fish-free version.
Fond of a wee dram? The Whiskies of the World Expo 2005 takes place in San Francisco at the beginning of March. Tickets must be purchased in advance. More details can be found here and tickets can be purchased here. Soy Kaviar