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Lining Up the Roe

Ventura firm intends to buy caviar early and beat April price hike.

September 18, 1997|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species earlier this year environmental leaders worldwide agreed to place strict regulations on the import and export of caviar.

Trade restrictions, set to take effect next April, is aimed at limiting the illegal fishing of sturgeon that are the source of the gourmet fish eggs. The most severe limits are likely to be placed on Russian caviar, harvested predominantly from the nearly extinct beluga sturgeon from the Caspian Sea.

As a result of the new regulations, the price of caviar is expected to take a huge jump. Everyone knows it's no discount item as it is, with an average retail price of about $50 an ounce.

But for folks who need their roe, Ventura's Andrew Dunstan has a plan--buy early and avoid the price hike.

"We can provide people with caviar that meets their quality requirements, but also has a long storage time so that they can buy in advance of the shortages and the cost increases," said Dunstan, president of Ventura-based Seyco Fine Foods, a mail-order specialty food operation.

Fresh caviar must be consumed shortly after it is purchased, so Dunstan suggests stocking up on vacuum-packed caviar (which can last about four months when refrigerated) or a pasteurized version (which can last about a year when frozen).

Another option for caviar consumers, of course, would be to eliminate the dish from the household cupboards. But Dunstan said the gourmet eggs have their die-hard fans.

"Christmas is the big popular time and at New Year's, special events, weddings, anniversaries, special holiday parties," Dunstan said. "In some groups the cost increase may make it even more popular. Some people seem to have all the money in the world. They like to throw their money around."

Folks planning a caviar craving sometime around May can call Seyco at (800) 423-2942.

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Chef Marcell Mustafah of the Spanish Hills Country Club of Camarillo will prepare a multi-course gourmet dinner Sept. 25 to benefit the Oxnard College Hotel and Restaurant and Management Program.

The menu will open with hors d'oeuvres of seared salmon with black peppercorn crust, followed by a Napa cabbage and mixed green salad prepared with pine nuts and warm goat cheese.

Following a palate-cleansing lime pepper sorbet, Mustafah will prepare an entree duet of lamb chops and halibut en croute. Dessert will be a fruit couscous served in a peach and cherry broth.

The no-host cocktail and hors d'oeuvre hour will begin at 6 p.m., with dinner to follow. Cost is $50. Spanish Hills is located at 999 Crestview Ave. For reservations call 986-5869.

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If low-fat eating is in, we eat low-fat foods. If oat bran is the latest fad, keep those muffins coming. That's our pattern.

But Ventura's Tiffany von Emmel, a graduate of the Ohashi Institute, the natural gourmet cooking school of New York, suggests we pay more attention to what our own bodies are telling us to eat rather than what the ad executives recommend.

Von Emmel will be offering a "Conscious Cookery" course to help people do just that, beginning Tuesdays and running in three-hour sessions weekly through Dec. 9. The classes will be held at von Emmel's home.

"I want people to explore for themselves what foods are appropriate for them," von Emmel said.

In groups students ultimately will prepare menus that they themselves find enriching.

"There is a constant surge of information about food, but how often do people use themselves as the text?" von Emmel said. "Food is like a mirror for us."

Cost of the class is $300 (meals included). For directions and information, call 339-9875.

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