White sturgeon is farmed in the Sacramento Valley for at least three reasons: One, in the wild, many sturgeon species are under stress from overfishing or water pollution. Two, the fish make excellent eating. And three, salted sturgeon eggs (roe) make the only true caviar (all other caviars must be labeled with the name of the fish they came from).
At Stolt Sea Farm California, it takes 8 to 12 years for farmed sturgeon to produce roe for the company's Sterling caviar, which connoisseurs praise for texture, size, and flavor. Stolt offers four grades of white sturgeon caviar ― currently 7,000 pounds per year total ― ranging from $30 to $45 an ounce, plus shipping. Refrigerated unopened, they keep their quality for four weeks. Call (800) 525-0333 or go to www.sterlingcaviar.com.
Serve the caviar well chilled, nested in ice. For simple luxury, scoop the plump, glossy beads onto thin slices of white toast and top with a dab of sour cream and a smidgen of minced green onion. For absurd indulgence, mound the caviar onto open-faced egg salad sandwiches.