Caviar may be a delicious classic worldwide, but it might be fair to admit that it only really started to kick into high gear in Louisiana in 1986, when Louisiana Caviar Company made its debut with a variety of unusual versions of the famous fishy snack. The unconventional yet delicious product known as Cajun Caviar originated in the swamps of Louisiana and has been expertly crafted by Cajuns themselves. Coming up on 30 years as a successful caviar producer, expert John Burke knows his caviar and, even better, knows how to put a fun, innovative (and affordable) spin on it.
While Russia is known for its superb caviar, there’s no need to go past even state lines for a taste of the good stuff. Burke’s local fish eggs stem from a sort of prehistoric fish called choupique, and promise an unforgettable eating experience. Caviar is a truly timeless delicacy, having originated in the 1200s and still making its way onto menus and plates in the present day. Unlike most foods enjoyed in previous centuries, caviar only continues to gain popularity with each year that passes.
New Orleans might sometimes be overlooked as a spot for supreme caviar, but the city offers much more than just spicy gumbo and colorful parades. The Big Easy is a city of unconventional fun and growth, which is why otherwise unconventional versions of a classic dish fit right in. The fish eggs are served not only alongside toast points and blinis; treat yourself to a plate of Louisiana caviars and shallots or dine on Cajun Caviar ice cream—the options are endless. Whether you’re looking to test the company’s most popular distribution (Cajun Caviar) or are seeking to be a little more adventurous (give the Ghost Pepper Caviar or the Catfish Caviar a try), Burke’s Louisiana Caviar Company knows how to please the palate no matter what.
Some might argue that any classic treat doesn’t need to be messed with, but those people clearly haven’t experienced Burke’s popular Cajun Caviar, offered in some of New Orleans’ top restaurants. The Louisiana version of the garnish was originally distributed throughout New York and Texas, and quickly became so popular that restaurants began demanding orders of 10,000 pounds of the new-found favorite. While it was at first served only as a mixer with other caviars, Burke believed that the dish was strong enough to stand on its own, hence its current success in restaurants and shops worldwide. NOLA’s own caviar connoisseur provides some insight into the popular product, his company, the rise of caviar’s popularity and the best places to taste it.
WYAT: How would you describe Cajun Caviar to readers? How does local caviar compare to exported caviar?
Burke: Cajun Caviar is not as salty and also is less fishy-tasting than most other caviars. It comes from a 200-year-old fish that makes an excellent caviar. It’s smooth, very delightful and preferable to the American palate. Cajun Caviar is not as crunchy as foreign caviar.
WYAT: What makes Louisiana Caviar Company stand out against other caviar companies?
Burke: The quality. Fresh caviar of high quality that’s locally produced and great for the holidays helps our company stand out.
WYAT: How is it that Cajun Caviar is so affordable?
Burke: The best part about the price of Cajun Caviar is that it’s affordable while still having high quality. People can afford to taste real, local caviar thanks to our Cajun Caviar.
WYAT: What, in your opinion, makes caviar so popular? What makes it a classic delicacy?
Burke: I always say that Cajun Caviar is Louisiana’s foremost seafood delicacy. It’s a delicacy that has been around since Aristotle; even to this day, you see caviar just gaining more popularity. I love distributing it in a creative way. Caviar body shots are my favorite. We give it away as free samples with good service and good quality. The body shots work on your hand, just as you would take a tequila shot.
WYAT: What local restaurants would you recommend to those seeking a dining experience with caviar? What five places would you suggest?
1. Commander’s Palace
2. Bourbon House: they serve our Black and Gold Caviar on oysters as well as our Catfish Caviar.
3. La Petite Grocery: La Petite carries our Ghost Pepper Caviar, which is infused with ghost pepper but without the burn. It’s one of our award-winning caviars, winning two best in show awards.
5. Johnny Sanchez
Here in New Orleans, both tourists and locals know that we do things differently in the Dirty South. There’s no need to stay formal all of the time, even with a classy product like caviar. Burke not only introduced a new version of caviar, but also came up with a new way to try it: caviar body shots. They aren’t just for tequila anymore (although you’ll find a lot of that in NOLA, too). Burke found that the easiest (and most fun) way to distribute his new product to testers was by luring them in with easy body shots by hand. But that’s not the only way to eat the local dish. Burke’s Cajun Caviar is available at gourmet dining spots around the city, including at New Orleans favorite Johnny Sánchez, an authentic Mexican taqueria with menu items featuring Cajun Caviar.
Johnny Sánchez’s executive chef, Miles Landrem, is a Cajun Caviar aficionado and a personal friend of Burke. Landrem says that Cajun Caviar is very popular, and that it “absolutely sells like crazy.” Landrem speaks highly of the restaurant’s raw tuna tostada featuring a dollop of Cajun Caviar and avocado mousse. The chef loves that Louisiana is using its local fish for caviar, praising Burke for his great use of the seafood: “I think it’s great to use the Louisiana fish. We incorporate the Cajun Caviar as much as we can, usually for private events, but if we like it and it’s popular, we like to keep it on the menu for a while. We love caviar ranch with oysters and hot buttered crabmeat topped with butter and caviar.” The popular caviar menu items are enjoyed frequently by pleased diners.
Whether it’s served alongside butter and oysters or stands alone by hand, any food that is available as a gourmet dish as well as a body shot is one that’s likely to remain a worldwide favorite. Cajun Caviar is proof that not every Southern dish needs to be doused with fatty garnishes and fried to a crisp. John Burke has clearly created a winning product that only makes the South even more appealing to both Southerners and out-of-state caviar-lovers alike.