Caviar is a curious thing. It may be one of the most luxurious and exclusive foods known to mankind, but it elicits a marmite response. Chances are you either love it or hate it - there are no fence sitters. But the relentlessly upbeat, Johanna Thomas, is on a one woman mission to change this with Celesta Luxuries - a private supplier of the “food of the kings.”
The History of Art graduate’s conversation is full of affirmation for caviar which she started craving after first sampling “Beluga with a friend who was visiting from Saudi Arabia.”
“Between us, we ate three tins of 150g with all the trimmings and the bill came to more than £3,000! The experience was divine – true indulgence and luxury,” smiles Thomas.
Little wonder then that, after a stint working as Communication Manager at Annabel’s - quite possibly the poshest basement on the planet - the blonde beauty made the move to Caviar House and Prunier, “a great retail company that cemented my love for fine foods, especially caviar.”
The time Thomas spent at Caviar House “learning all about the traditions of caviar,” combined with her “strong desire to have a business I love, that can be executed from anywhere in the world” led her to set up Celesta Luxuries.
Within two minutes of meeting Thomas, her appetite and relish for Celesta Luxuries - which sources luxury fine foods from the best locations giving private individuals the highest quality at great prices for personal consumption, parties and events anywhere in the world” - is evident.
Make no mistake: Johanna’s devotion to the business is almost religious. “Celesta is all about quality,” she stresses. “I don’t deal in any caviar from China due to high likelihood of it being toxic from the green maldehyde and arsenic, that contaminates the waters over there. My clients appreciate this and know when they order from me they are getting the best.”
Speaking of which, what kind of caviar is - for Johanna - the creme de la creme? It transpires that Imperial with “its milder nuttier flavour” is, Thomas’ own personal favourite. She finds Beluga “too salty,” but says “that is the joy of caviar. There are so many variations and no two batches will ever taste the same!”
Thomas continues: “Many people think they should eat Beluga as, owing to the fact that it’s the most expensive, it’s considered the best. But in fact, it’s all down to personal taste. If you don’t like salty flavours then Beluga is not for you. The actual reason Beluga is so expensive is because the sturgeon have to be 30 years old plus, before they are killed for their roe.”
According to Johanna, the best way to eat caviar is “straight up! Open the jar or tin, grab a mother of pearl spoon (never metal as this would oxidise the caviar) and eat it as is,” says Thomas who gets genuinely excited about caviar, making those around her feel the same way.
“And I pair my caviar with sake, vodka or champagne - depending on my mood! They all go extremely well,” she enthuses - passion emanating from every pore.
And for good reason for there’s no denying that caviar is akin to luxury on a plate. Or as the author and internationally known gourmet, Ludwin Bemelmans, once said: “Caviar is to dining, what a sable coat is to a girl in evening dress.”
Fancy fish eggs aside, we’re curious as to how Thomas defines luxury? “I think it is about the overall experience of something – a food, a place etc,” muses the likeable business woman. “Often it is provided by expensive and beautiful things which are not usually necessary but desired and bring much happiness.”
Four Things You May Not Know About Caviar
Here are a few things you may not know about these exquisite fish eggs:
• Caviar is a nourishing complete food – its’s rich in calcium and phosphorus as well as protein, selenium, iron, magnesium, vitamins B12 and B6, Vitamin D and Omega 3. Subsequently it’s often - prescribed to treat depression, bipolar disorder, impotence..
• Caviar contains acetylcholine which improves alcohol resistance
• Russians call caviar ikra – the name actually hails from the Turkish word khavyer, (from khaya) which means egg in Persian
• Sturgeon fish thrive in saltwater, but spawn in freshwater. They can live for over 100 years and reach a length over six feet
The Low-Down on Celesta Luxuries’ Caviar
Acipenser: The smallest-sized and most abundant of all the Sturgeon caviars. It is a dark grey roe and typically rather salty
Oscietra: A very popular caviar with its size and price somewhere between Beluga and Acipenser. Its colours range from being as dark as black to a light brown. Typically it has a more nutty flavour
Imperial: The sturgeon are long lived, strong and genetically diverse so the caviar produced can vary from rich golden brown to light yellow. The eggs are small and very fine with a delicate nutty taste - a real showstopper and the most popular within the Celesta range.
Beluga: Can take up to 20 years for sturgeon to reach maturity. The eggs range in colour from dark grey (almost black) to light grey, with the lighter colours column from older fish with a salty taste. Beluga is the most valued and sought after caviar in the word, and unmistakably extravagant gift
Other Celesta Luxuries include...
Smoked salmon: Premium grade 'Fillet Tolstoy' - with rich deep colour and smooth flavour from the fish's Prime Back Steak (the Coeur) that the Connoisseur cuts vertically
Salmon Roe 'Saviar': Wild Alaskan, glossy translucent eggs that pop in you mouth
Foie gras: Raw produce from France brought into the UK and mixed to a special recipe creating an exquisite terrine
Smoked sturgeon meat: A fine delicacy of hot smoked fish that comes out like a carpaccio as 68% of the meat is lost to water in the smoking process.
Black and white truffles along with Black and white truffle salt: For those with a passion for truffles!