Life for Matthew Jennings, the chef and owner behind the forthcoming farmhouse eatery Townsman in Boston, just got a bit more interesting. “…Ordering up some #snail #caviar for a snack. NBD,” he Instagrammed on Thursday, along with photo of an order from online distributor Caviar Express.
That left us scratching our heads. Sure, there’s plenty of “caviar” out there besides the salty, black roe of beluga sturgeon. Vibrantly orange salmon roe and slightly-less-salty smoked trout roe come to mind, and even vegan-friendly eggplant caviar. But snail caviar?
It’s the real deal. Back in 1987, the Los Angeles Times wrote about a peculiar delicacy beginning to catch on in high-end restaurants from Paris to London to Southern California: the pearly, opaque eggs of escargot. But ”snail caviar seems destined to remain a rarity,” declared the article’s author.
The taste—which is nothing like traditional caviar—might have something to do with that prediction. “The best way to describe the taste is earthy, like a baked asparagus, and sometimes… like the juice from a baked mushroom,” Caviar Express’s description reads. “It is quite refreshing however, as there is absolutely no aftertaste. You can definitely taste hints of rosemary on the surface of the eggs, but that quickly disappears once the individual eggs burst.”
So far, the L.A. Times’s prophecy seems to have proved true. Online retailers appear to be the best procurement avenue, and prices are prohibitive: Caviar Express sells a 50-gram tin of the stuff for a whopping $225. Another e-retailer, Escargot Norway, offers a slightly better bargain: $146 for a 100-gram tin. And if you’re looking to buy in smaller quantities, Beverly Hills Caviar sells a 12-gram jar for $29.95 before shipping.
None of these price tags are exactly mainstream. And if you have a hankering for the briny burst of cured sturgeon roe, we hardly think snail caviar is going to cut it. But hey, Chef Jennings’s Instagram certainly got our attention. It’d probably make your dinner party guests sit up straighter, too.