A new crowd cultivates a taste for caviar

They like it "because we're not serving it in some drab kind of way," he said. "This fits very well with our target group. It's elegant, it's young, it's sexy."

Matthew Zubrod, co-owner and head chef at DishAspen in Colorado, acknowledged it was a hard sell when he experimented with a new dish for his self-described "casually elegant" restaurant: french fries with a side of lemon zest, chive and caviar cream dip. So he slipped out a few fries on a plate with a dollop of dip, complimentary, and watched his well-heeled patrons return to pay $15 for a full order.

"I pushed it a little," he said. "Once they started ordering it on their own, I put it on the menu."

If hipster diners need more convincing, there's New York's Russian Tea Room, where the weekday "vodka hour" draws throngs of young professionals.

The $25 Royal Martini comes with a caviar-topped cucumber slice floating gently over cold vodka. Actually, it's the classic Russian way to enjoy caviar, alongside a swig of fine vodka, although most customers don't know that, says Ken Biberaj, spokesman for the Russian Tea Room.

"Some of the new patrons might not know how to enjoy caviar yet," says Biberaj. "But we're easing them into it, with a martini."

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