Any high quality seafood can be served as gourmet food. It’s not the cost or availability that’s important, but ingredients and preparation. However, there are seafoods that are typically considered gourmet, such as caviar, salmon, and even oysters.
Because seafood tends to absorb many toxins and pollutants, it’s even more important to know where it comes from, which areas are best, and whether wild or farm raised seafood is better in each case.
Salmon live along the costs of the Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans, and more recently in the Great Lakes of the United States. They’re born in fresh water rivers and lakes, then migrate to the saltwater oceans, coming back again to fresh water to lay their eggs. Nowadays salmon are also farm raised, however the farm raised variety are not as healthy (less Omega-3 fatty acids) and can contain high levels of toxic dioxins.
The vast majority of Atlantic salmon are farm raised, while the majority of Pacific salmon are caught in the wild. Therefore when buying salmon you’re much better off purchasing those from the Pacific.
Salmon can be served raw, cooked, or smoked. Smoked salmon are generally the highest priced, and are first cured before being either hot or cold smoked. Cold smoked salmon are uncooked, whereas the process of hot smoking cooks the meat. In either case, the vast majority of smoked salmon is farm raised. Wild smoked salmon are both rare and expensive.
Oysters invoke strong feelings from many. People tend to either love them or hate them, which is unfortunate considering their health benefits and how many ways they can be prepared and served. Oysters have very few calories, and are a great source of minerals (iron, calcium, and zinc) and vitamin A. They’re especially loved in coastal regions, and have been eaten around the world for millennia.
Oysters can be eaten raw and fried, but also pickled, smoked, stewed, and even baked. The most important thing to remember about preparing oysters is that they should not be cooked dead. Raw oysters should also only be eaten alive, and are a true gourmet food according to raw oyster lovers, with complex flavors akin to fine wines!
Because oysters absorb bacteria and toxins in the water around them, people with compromised immune systems should be very careful about eating oysters, especially in summer. During the warmer summer months oysters are likely to have a much greater concentration of harmful bacteria.
Caviar, or “Black Gold” as it is sometimes referred to, is one of the most expensive gourmet foods fetching prices of well over $10,000 per kg. It is an umbrella term for the roe (eggs) of different sturgeon varieties from the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Sea of Azov. The raw eggs may be lightly salted (called malossol) and pasteurized or unpasteurized and are sold in small tins. Only sturgeon roe may be called caviar, all other types of fish eggs (such as salmon or trout roe) are not authentic caviar.
There are three different types of caviar based on the sturgeon variety the eggs originate from. Beluga is the biggest and most expensive caviar. The eggs are light gray to charcoal colored with a very thin skin and delicate taste.
Osetra (also called Ossietra) is smaller, silver-gray to black with a golden shimmer and a nutty flavor. Sevruga is the same size as Osetra with a very thin skin, colored in different shades of gray, and with a strong taste.
Caviar should not be eaten with metallic or silver spoons as they can negatively distort the taste. It is traditionally eaten with spoons made from mother of pearl, and is either served on its own, or with blini (small Russian “pancakes”), crème fraiche, and onions. Champagne and dry white wine beautifully complement the unique flavor of this most exquisite delicacy.