Delicate salt-cured eggs from sturgeon make up one of the finest and oldest delicacies in the world… caviar. Since the 13th century, caviar has been an item associated with luxury and opulence. On the second course of the February menu at The Kitchen, you can relish in luxury with locally harvested caviar from our friends at Passmore Ranch.
Caviar is harvested from sturgeon, a prehistoric fish that has been on earth for nearly 250 million years. Sturgeon are large non-scaled fish, ranging from 7-12 feet in length. Due to their large size they were quite difficult to catch in earlier times, making their eggs even more prized. It can take 8-18 years until a sturgeon’s eggs are ready to be harvested, and like fine wine their flavor develops the longer they age.
On a brisk January morning in 2015, the Selland Family Restaurants team made a trip to Passmore Ranch in Sloughhouse, California to harvest caviar exclusively for our restaurant. The 86-acre premium freshwater fish ranch is owned and operated by our good friends Michael and Vandy Passmore. The Passmores sustainably raise their sturgeon in 80-million gallons of freshwater from the Cosumnes aquifer between lakes and tanks on the property. On this particular outing, eggs from two sturgeon were hand harvested by SFR owners Randall Selland and Josh Nelson, Corporate Chef Ravin Patel, Executive Chef of Ella Dining Room and Bar Rob Lind, and Michael Passmore.
The wader suited group made their way into one of the massive sturgeon tanks. Large square nets were already in place, as the sturgeon circled around.Taking each side of the net the crew lifted it along with a large sturgeon. Passmore demonstrated how to extract a few eggs from the sturgeon to test for quality and flavor. After a couple of tries, the group decided on two fish for harvesting, fishes 30 and 31. The net holding the fish was pulled out of the tank with help from a tractor. Outside of the tank, the fish were carefully weighed and prepared for extracting the egg sacks. The eggs were placed on ice and then transported to the kitchen, where they were delicately and thoroughly hand cleaned. Once cleaned, the group added to the eggs hand harvested sea salt from the Oregon Coast, though they had a different opinions on what the perfect amount was. Good thing we had two batches to create!
We think the end product is incredible. The outcome of batches 30 and 31 resulted in a pure caviar, we’re proud to call ours, as well as very fond memories for the team. Our team project with Passmore Ranch continued in 2016 on return trips to procure more signature caviar, giving us an amazing, unique and delicious product to share with guests both at The Kitchen and our sister restaurant, Ella Dining Room and Bar. We look forward to a long and bountiful relationship with one of our favorite local ranchers!