Pairing Off: Supermarket Caviar

Yes, those little jars of whitefish roe, dyed black and resting on grocery shelves until someone gets the urge to bake up a caviar pie...or whatever.

This is the stuff nausea is made of: inky, heavy with brine, slimy in texture. Once opened, the air around the jar picks up a disturbing fragrance of yeast and tadpoles. The flavor is even less appealing, reeking of salt and bait.

Prized caviar from Iranian or the pre-poaching Russian fisheries pops cleanly, releasing the taste of fresh fish and seawater. Supermarket roe, bound in salt and water, comes across as something one might toss overboard to attract hammerheads.

Yet oddly enough, the same sort of wine works with both.

The folks at Pogo's walked immediately toward the sparkling wines section when I unveiled the jar of Romanoff Black Whitefish roe, the glistening tar color applied before packing. Schramsberg's Mirabelle Brut, a California product, strikes with light, fruity sweetness, followed by something of a nickel background that latches to the throat--then wraps up quickly.

This cleansing effect proves to be the wine's most welcome feature, at least when paired to cheap roe. Without a swig of bubbling acidity, fish eggs cling to your throat--in residue form--giving you the sensation of gargling with chum. At the very least, a sour realization of 'old man's breath' begins to haunt you.

Schramsburg's sparkling wine washes this away. Its acids cut through slime and that quick finish takes along any lingering hint of heavy, fishy taste. And it does so without losing its own way. Indeed, the wine remains sweet, fruity and effervescent, throughout the ordeal.

Yeah, the bottle is expensive--priced in the mid-20s--for $6 roe, of which you may nibble a small spoon or two. But should you ever grab a jar of 'caviar' from the grocery shelves, you will want something to clear the throat afterward.

Harsh vodka or decent sparking wine--either way. But in this case, I'd call Schramsberg a near perfect match.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries