In northern Belgium, one unique farm has gone from down-market to highbrow. Once a place where the cheap commodity fish tilapia was raised, the aquaculture facility is now used by Royal Belgian Caviar to nurture sturgeon and harvest some of the world’s finest caviar.
Here, sturgeon in tanks swim for years in conditions that marine biologist Willy Verdonck and his wife, Mia Verdonck, have carefully honed to allow them to thrive. “It’s all controlled: light, water quality, food, everything. They create a great environment,” says Rod Browne Mitchell, founder of Browne Trading Co. in Portland, Maine. The Verdoncks have employed cutting-edge technology to provide the fish with the most pampered existence possible, all of which pays off on the palate. “They’re pioneers in farm-raising caviar,” says Mitchell. “With wild caviar you get different qualities and tastes. Here they get all the same food and light, and these fish don’t have to worry about anything. The taste, texture, and color tone of the caviar is consistently great.”
That’s no faint praise. For years, Mitchell’s company has been a go-to supplier of fine caviar for some of the United States’ best chefs, from Thomas Keller to Eric Ripert. And after he got the opportunity to try the Verdoncks’ product, Mitchell became the exclusive U.S. importer of Royal Belgian’s Osetra, Platinum, Gold Label, and White Pearl caviar.
Mitchell is offering a Robb Report reader more than just a tin of roe. He’ll give the gift’s recipient and one guest an exclusive tour of this groundbreaking home of delicious caviar, to experience how the finest varieties are made. “It looks simple, but it takes true expertise to know when the caviar is ripe and how to cure it properly,” says Mitchell.
While at the Royal Belgian farm, the recipients can join the mature, friendly sturgeon in the water for the fish to playfully swim around their legs. They’ll be there to help Royal Belgian’s experts harvest the eggs from the fish, clean and sort them, and learn to cure the caviar firsthand. The recipients will leave with tins of the caviar they have personally cured. Mitchell will then curate and send 1 kilogram of black gold selected from Browne’s full premium assortment from around the world every month for a year, to keep the memory of the gastronomic adventure fresh long after the recipient has returned home.
- Tour Royal Belgian Caviar—one of the world’s premier sturgeon farms—with Rod Browne Mitchell, founder of Browne Trading Company.
- Participate in harvesting, processing, and curing caviar to take home.
- Receive 1 kilogram of premium caviar every month for a year.
Browne Trading Company, Rod Browne Mitchell, 800.944.7848, extension 107.