Expand Your Knowledge and Your Palate this National Caviar Day!

by A Fare Extraordinaire

Happy National Caviar Day! Caviar is one of our favorite items to add to your menu to bring an extra touch of elegance to any event. In honor of National Caviar Day, we would love to share some fun facts, recipe tips and secret tricks to our favorite menu item!

When most people think caviar, they think of the traditional caviar display possibly seen at their grandmother’s house on Christmas morning. Caviar on ice, warm blinis, crème fraiche, red onions and hard boiled eggs all presented in silver bowls with small mother-of-pearl spoons. While this always creates a beautifully traditional display, HMNS loves to think outside the box and add our modern take on things for functions, parties and more.

PASSED HORS D’OEUVRES

One way to modernize your caviar experience is to create a fun passed hors d’oeuvres option with your caviar bite. Passed hors d’oeuvres are a great way to get your crowd mingling. We have two takes on our caviar passed hors d’oeuvre:

Caviar Blini

Corn and Caviar Blini: Warm blini topped with caviar and crème fraiche. Garnished with chives.

Ingredients:

1 cup of All-Purpose flour                                           

1 cup of cornmeal

2 teaspoons of salt

1 tablespoon of sugar

2 eggs

1 cup of yogurt

2 cups of creamed corn, pureed

1 cup of butter, melted

Procedure:

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the butter, and blend in the Vitamix.

Emulsify the blend in the butter.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper.

Cook small cakes on a griddle or cast iron pan.

Top cooked blini with lemon crème fraiche, caviar and minced chives.


Caviar Chip

“Fare-ly Sweet” Chips and Caviar: A Fare Extraordinaire brand sweet potato chips topped with lemon crème fraiche and caviar. Garnished with chives.

Ingredients:

A Fare Extraordinaire Signature sweet potato chips

Lemon crème fraiche

Minced chives

Caviar of choice

Procedure:

Assemble as desired. Use photo as serving suggestion.


SWEET TREATS

Chocolate Caviar Tart

Who says caviar is limited to savory bites? Another unique and creative way to incorporate caviar into your menu is through your dessert! Caviar has been trending in the pastry world, and we would love to share one of our new favorite desserts with you. Our Chocolate Caviar Tart will make your mouth water! Our pastry department has been working to perfect the art of chocolate caviar for this fun-filled tart.


CAVIAR FACTS

As simple and small as caviar may seem, there are many origins and differentiations. The more you learn about caviar, the more interesting and enjoyable it becomes to eat. Caviar, in the most basic explanation, is a salt-cured fish egg originating from a sturgeon fish. 

sturgeon

There are four types of caviar: Beluga, Starlet, Ossetra and Sevruga. The rarest of these four is the Beluga. These sturgeons are located in the Caspian Sea between Europe and Asia. At A Fare Extraordinaire, we prefer to use the roe from Ossetra Sturgeon. This caviar is the most prized and expensive next to the Beluga. The Ossetra Sturgeon range from 50 to 400 pounds and live up to 50 years in age. The Ossetra caviar ranges in color from deep brown to golden. The lighter colors are more sought after because they are the richest in flavor.

We hope that these recipe tricks, sweet treats and fun facts have helped broaden your caviar knowledge and helped you in celebrating National Caviar Day!

Editor’s Note: A Fare Extraordinaire is a luxury full-service event and catering company servicing the greater Houston area, and a partner of the Houston Museum of Natural Science Special Events team.

Son of ‘Bridge of Spies’ pilot to deliver father’s story at HMNS Wednesday

When it comes to American espionage, few people are as close to the truth as Francis Gary Powers, Jr., and fewer have a story to tell as exciting as his father’s — one that inspired director Steven Spielberg to make a movie out of it. Bridge of Spies (2015) tells the declassified tale of New York lawyer James Donovan, who brokered the international prisoner exchange that brought home American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, Sr. The narrative lives on through Powers’s son, who will tell his own story of historical preservation Wednesday night at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

bridge of spies

May 1, 1960, during the height of the Cold War, Powers, Sr. was shot down over Russia during a spy mission to take photos of the ground from an altitude of 70,000 feet. Using specialized camera equipment, Powers’s plane gathered information on ground movements from 13.25 miles above the Earth’s surface, more than twice the cruising altitude of a commercial airliner.

Powers’s U-2 was damaged by an SA-2 anti-aircraft missile, which exploded near the tail section, breaking off a portion of the tail. The plane disintegrated as it fell through the atmosphere, tearing off both wings. According to his son, Powers never ejected but still survived the crash, and the middle of the aircraft remained nearly intact, leaving advanced technology available for Russian engineers to investigate.

Francis Gary Powers, Sr.

Francis Gary Powers, Sr., in the specialized pressure suit that allows U-2 pilots to survive at 70,000 feet.

Powers pulled himself from the wreckage and was later captured by the Russian military and detained in a Soviet prison for two years. In the media and history books, his capture and brokerage back to the United States became known as the U-2 Incident of May 1960.

At this point, Powers’s story grows muddled in rumor and conspiracy theory, which his son has passionately and patiently resisted for decades through his work with the public. Many Americans considered Powers as a traitor, believing he should have taken his own life to preserve U.S. secrets and that perhaps his return home meant military secrets had been exchanged.

U2_Powers_Senate_model

Powers, Sr. used this model to explain in legal hearings how the aircraft broke up as it fell to the ground.

“It’s never too late to set the record straight,” Powers, Jr. told the Houston Rotary Club at a special luncheon Tuesday, where he delivered his story as a guest speaker. He explained that the U-2 Incident happened when he was a child living in California, but he was old enough to understand his father’s POW status.

Later in life, after his father published his 1970 memoir, Operation Overflight: A Memoir of the U-2 Incident, Powers, Jr. became instrumental to the preservation of the U-2 Incident and Cold War espionage. His father died in a tragic news helicopter accident in 1977, and after many years of mourning, Powers, Jr. picked up the torch.

overflight

With the help of John C. Welch, Powers, Jr. founded The Cold War Museum in 1996. Inspired by decades of research into declassified documents, his father’s memoir and personal experience, he first established the museum as a traveling collection with the preservation of truth in mind. Over the years, the museum traveled around the world to build interest in the creation of a permanent home, and in 2009, Powers, Jr. announced a physical address in Vint Hill, Va. He currently resides in Richmond.

For 15 years, Powers, Jr. pitched his father’s story to the film industry to further build interest in the museum, the memoir and the U-2 Incident. In July 2014, Steven Spielberg requested to option Powers’s book for Bridge of Spies, released last October. The movie stars Tom Hanks as Donovan.

Powers, Jr. will deliver a lecture Wednesday in the Wortham Giant Screen Theater at HMNS. He will discuss the U-2 Incident, the history of Cold War espionage and his experience establishing The Cold War Museum and serving as a technical consultant for Bridge of Spies. Tickets available online or at the box office.

Don’t miss our temporary espionage exhibit Spies, Traitors, Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America, open through next Monday, Jan. 18. Learn the secrets of spies before they disappear!

Still interested in espionage and counter-terrorism? Come back next week for a second spies lecture titled Terrorism, ISIS, and Emerging Threats — Evolution of Terrorism StrategyWednesday, Jan. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Wortham.

Never a Dull Moment

chain-mail-armor-resize
A coat of chain mail armor from
the Genghis Khan exhibt now on
display at HMNS. Find out more
here

As the Houston Museum of Natural Science prepares to show the sequel to the hugely popular Night at the Museum, I could not help but think how interesting a “day at the museum” sometimes can be as well. I am not just talking about the different exhibits we currently have at the museum, but also what is going on at the museum behind the scenes.

I have often thought that one of the taglines associated with the museum should be “never a dull moment.” Here is why I think that would be particularly appropriate: consider Tuesday, February 24, 2009. On that day, a crew of museum people as well as representatives from museums in Mongolia and Russia were busy putting the final touches to the Genghis Khan exhibit. That day, we also received the Mongolian ambassador to the US, H.E. Ambassador Khasbazaryn Bekhbat, who was traveling to Houston for the formal opening of the exhibit two days later. Accompanying him was the second secretary of the Mongolian embassy, Dawadash Sambuu. In the weeks leading up to the opening of the exhibit, he had been very busy working in Houston, helping with the set up of the show. Representing the Hermitage Museum, Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, flew in from St. Petersburg, Russia that day as well.

darwinAlso on February 24, the museum hosted a lecture as part of the year-long Darwin celebrations. Joining us that day was Dr. Francisco Ayala.  He came in to talk about his research into evolution. Dr. Ayala, a recipient of the National Medal of Science, recently published a book on this subject, entitled Darwin’s gift to science and religion. In a well-attended lecture in the museum’s IMAX movie theater, Dr. Ayala carefully explained his reasons why science and faith can go hand in hand. Dr. Ayala took time to meet with High School students from the Houston area, who are participating in the museum’s Young Scholars program. In a closed meeting preceding his talk, Dr. Ayala explained how he got interested in his field of study and what one needs to do in order to achieve what he did.

On February 24, the museum hosted Mongolian diplomats, a Russian museum official, and a Spanish-born geneticist. While this kind of line up does not happen every day, it does occur often enough to warrant what I wrote earlier: “never a dull moment at HMNS.”

A Tale of Two Rulers

This is a story of two powerful rulers. They stand apart from most other rulers because of their achievements; they differ from each other for many reasons. One ruler was much respected, the other was feared. Archaeologists know of the whereabouts of one ruler’s tomb, although they have not excavated it. The location of the other ruler’s tomb is unknown, but that could change. This rather enigmatic introductory paragraph refers to Genghis Khan and Qin Shi Huang, China’s First Emperor.

Genghis Khan ruled over the world’s largest contiguous empire about 800 years ago. (The term “contiguous” is important here; as the British ruled over more territory during the heyday of their empire. However, those territories were dispersed across the globe).

Genghis Khan, or Temuchin (the spelling varies) as he was first called, had a very eventful childhood. Born in 1165 AD, he was betrothed at a very early age. His father was poisoned by the Tartars and his bride was abducted. Genghis was able to regain his wife with the support of other steppe tribes. Temuchin officially became Genghis Khan in 1206. It is thought that this title means “Oceanic ruler,” or “Firm, Resolute Ruler.”

Mongolian
Creative Commons License photo credit: asobitsuchiya

By that fateful year of 1206, Genghis Khan had united the tribes of Mongolia into one tribe. The stage was set for him to embark on one of history’s most astonishing campaigns of conquest. Historians suggest that there may have been several reasons why Genghis Khan went down this road: a quest for treasure, seeking revenge for past offenses, even megalomania. His conquests would take him into China and Tibet, as well as farther west into the Khwarazm empire which ruled over most of what is now called Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

In 1226, during a campaign against the Xi Xia in northern China, Genghis Khan fell from his horse. He died from his injuries in 1227 and was buried in a secret location. Numerous scientific expeditions have been mounted to try to locate his tomb. Currently yet another attempt is being mounted to find Genghis Khan’s last resting place.

The Mongol Empire continued after Genghis’ passing and his descendants continued to expand it. By the late 13th century, it reached from Hungary to the Sea of Japan. By that stage, the empire was divided into four nearly autonomous areas called khanates: China, central Asia, Persia, and Russia.

In 1294, after the death of Kublai Khan, the empire broke apart. There was a brief resurgence in the late 14th century when Timur (the Lame), who claimed to be descended from Genghis Khan, conquered Persia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and parts of Russia. On the way to attack China, however, Timur died, and the Mongol era was finished.

Pre-dating Genghis Khan by fourteen centuries, an individual by the name of Qin Shi Huang, rose to prominence in what is now China. In 246 BC, when he appeared in the scene, China was going through what historians call its “Warring States” period. In about twenty years, Qin Shi Huang managed to unify the country under one ruler. Qin Shi Huang became China’s First Emperor.  The old feudal system was replaced with a central government. China’s writing and currency was standardized. Commerce benefited from a vast new network of roads and canals. Last but not least, gigantic construction works got started during this emperor’s reign; among them the Great Wall (which would be extended many times in later years) and the Emperor’s mausoleum.

Soldiers
Creative Commons License photo credit:
SmokingPermitted

The mausoleum complex was – and still is – huge, covering approximately four square miles near the modern city of Xi’an. While the tomb itself is not excavated yet, the accompanying army of terracotta soldiers was found and partially excavated.

Both men have left lasting legacies. Without Genghis Khan, there would be no Mongolia today. Moreover, it is said that about 16 million men today can retrace their ancestry back to Genghis Khan. This has led to some people getting their 15 minutes of fame, occasionally incorrectly. China looks back at Qin Shi Huang as its founding father. Many aspects of modern Chinese culture can be retraced to this time period, more than 2200 years ago.

But there is more.

Aside from both rulers featuring in Hollywood made movies – one more recent than the other – both Genghis Khan and the First Emperor are soon taking up residence at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Come see for yourself what made these two individuals so special.