The $50 “Luxury” Costco Find I Always Gift Myself and My Holiday Hosts

published Dec 13, 2023
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The holidays are undeniably the most wonderful time of the year, but what makes them so wonderful varies by person. For some, it’s all about spending time with the people they love. Meanwhile, others are eager to deck their halls with boughs of holly and watch Home Alone for the umpteenth time. But for Costco and myself, the holiday season equals caviar time. 

Two years ago, my now-husband and I made a late November trip to our Costco in San Francisco to stock up on some essentials: toothpaste tubes, chicken breasts, affordable bottles of wine … you know, the basics. But when we swung around the meat and cheese aisle, we spotted a  1.76-ounce container of Tsar Nicoulai Caviar for a whopping $50. Wow

You don’t have to be a caviar aficionado to know that this deal is downright shocking. For what feels like the beginning of time, caviar has been as intrinsically tied to “luxury” as a bottle of bubbly or a cashmere sweater. A canister of caviar can often cost hundreds of dollars, yet here it was in front of me for $50, which is less than some takeout orders (and, because Costco only sells a 4.4-ounce version on its website, cheaper than you can buy it online).

Credit: Kelsey Mulvey

Costco might be known for its affordable prices, but this felt like a culinary unicorn that was simply too good to be true. Naturally, we succumbed to curiosity and bought one of the retailer’s magically affordable caviar canisters — and have religiously purchased one every year since. Listen, I don’t slurp down roe like I do party water, so if you’re looking for a caviar connoisseur who can dissect all the flavor profiles, you’ve come to the wrong place. But what I can tell you is that Tsar Nicoulai Caviar is fishy, salty, and decadent — everything that caviar should be.

Credit: Kelsey Mulvey

Although this caviar might be a mind-boggling bargain, I don’t buy a bunch or dole out roe on the regular. Rather, it’s an attainable luxury — something I love to treat myself and my inner circle to sans sticker shock. I sprinkled some fish eggs on crème fraîche-covered latkes one friend brought to a pre-Thanksgiving hang. After our annual holiday party, I enjoyed a caviar bump (aka dollops of roe you slurp off your hand) with my husband and another friend.

That said, the best way to use Costco’s Tsar Nicoulai is to give it to someone special. It’s a foodie-approved gift idea that feels slightly more special than a good bottle of wine. And before that your loved one insists this is far too generous of a gift, let them in on the secret! Not only will it be a great conversation-starter, but you’ll also give them permission to wow someone else with a container. (After all, revealing Costco’s best-kept secret is the gift that keeps on giving.) The only thing I do wish is that Tsar Nicoulai came in a larger, Costco-sized container. Now wouldn’t that be something? 

And of course, if you are looking to splurge on a gift for a fabulous friend or yourself, you can spring for a caviar gift set, like this one from Harry & David, that comes with blinis, crème fraîche, a cute little spoon, and the roe all packaged up in a tote for $150.