I first encountered bottarga when I visited the French Laundry. If my memory serves, the dish was a warm Caesar salad with butter poached lobster. The server brought the dish to the table, along with a napkin-wrapped block of bottarga and a grater, and shaved a few curls over the dish. It might have been the presentation (we all know I'm a sucker for packaging), but I was instantly hooked. The hunt was on.
Bottarga is salted, pressed and dried mullet or tuna roe. It has a rich and savory, very slightly fishy, salty flavor and a tacky, waxy bite and mouth feel. Bottarga is imported from Italy and is very expensive - around $10 an ounce, but it has a shelf life of over 6 months in the fridge, making it a long-lasting investment. Husband's new Chef ordered this bottarga for us, and it came in at just under $30 for 3 ounces (wholesale). You can find bottarga at Amazon.com; I haven't been able to find it locally, but I believe Curds & Whey in the North Market has sold it in the past. Although you can purchase pre-grated bottarga in smaller (therefore cheaper) amounts, I imagine it significantly decreases the flavor. The whole bottarga:
So what might one do with bottarga? Despite its cost, my impression of bottarga is a comfort food; it is very good on plain pasta - think of it as the oceanic equivalent to really good Parmesan - you'll grate it with the same sort of grater; I wouldn't be surprised to find it contained large levels of naturally-occurring MSG. Bottarga is also at home on eggs and vegetables. Look for a few recipes in the coming week. Grated bottarga shreds: