Have you ever eaten more than one can of sardines at the same time? Me neither! That’s why this idea of sardine tasting intrigued me. The products ranged from young to old, smaller sized (the sardines, not the cans), with added flavor or regular. The cans looked mouthwatering, not that I am a big fan of sardines usually, but I do love it when the can already looks pretty.
We decided to start with the oldest, canned in 2017, and the youngest, from 2020. Right away the difference was obvious from the looks of it. The older ones looked darker, a bit larger, and overall less shiny. Each can held five sardines, one of the younger ones was already on my plate.
The aroma test took me by surprise though. The younger sardines had a distinct fishy smell, but in a fresh kind of way, while the older ones smelled only of the olive oil in which they swam. Swam might be exaggerated, because they were literally packed like sardines.
The sardines from 2020 had soft and tender flesh, almost melting in your mouth. The fresh aroma intensified the pleasure of eating them. The older ones from 2017 had a rather dry, flaky texture, which is kind of weird come to think of all the oil around them. But this is how I would describe it.
Next up was a can of ‘Les petites sablaises’, which were smaller sardines. As you can see, eight little sardines snuggled in this can.
Despite the ‘old’ look, the sardines had really tender ‘meat’. ‘Les petites sablaises’ were my overall favorite. I also found them to taste way more intense than any of the others, upcoming included. Really very good sardines in excellent quality. And here the front side of my favorite sardines.
Number four of the tasting menu were sardines with lemon confit. The can alone already spoke to me. Great design with the nun and the policeman chasing the sardine. It can’t get anymore French than this.
Despite the appealing look these were probably my least favorite sardines. I found it astonishing that there was no hint of lemon in the aroma but rather a totally different smell. I couldn’t quite put my finger to it, maybe liver? Also, rather than a lemony taste, the sardines were quite salty. As it turned out, Moroccan salt lemons were used in the making of these sardines. Furthermore, this was the only can of sardines where I noticed bones. The confit by the way is all the way at the bottom of the can, so put some on top of your sardine.
Even though we had still lots of cans to taste, we decided we would open only one more. Sardines, already to begin with a fatty fish, are, when canned, a real heavy meal. So for our last tasting I decided on the ‘Sardines à la pissaladière’. Pissaladière is actually a flatbread topped with caramelized onions, black olives, and anchovies. It sounded like a tasty combination. What helped my decision though was again the pretty can. This time it’s topless sardine with really long eyelashes. This time she lounges on the beach, checking out another female sardine, while she herself is observed by two policemen behind a bush.
If you thought the lemons from the serving board were only decoration, wrong. Here the lemon got to task and we squeezed a bit on the sardine. I learned, for the best squeeze, you only make a slanting cut at the tip of the lemon. With such a method you can squeeze all you want without getting dirty and juice all over. Very neat indeed!
As already mentioned with the lemon confit sardines, the good stuff stays at the bottom of the can. So get that out and on top of your sardine. The lemon elevated the sardine, I also liked the onion olive mix. The lemon helped to cut the oil but it’s the overall taste which got a boost. The sardines right out of the can have again a rather dry and flaky meat. I wonder how this is even possible with all the oil around?
Sardines are definitely not alike. After tasting five different cans of fish, I know what I am talking about. There is more to sardines than what the supermarkets offers, so I am thanking Grand Cru for making this tasting experience possible. For tasting and testing reasons I ate only dry bread with the sardine, so as not to change the taste of the individual sardine. Drink of choice for the tasting was champagne. And it worked. Champagne definitely works in every situation.
After all the sardines though I needed a real drink. Gin Tonic is always my go-to pleasure. How great then that the Herz König Gin from Vienna Craft Distillery was on hand. Juniper, raspberry, and Yuzu give it its distinct taste.
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Note: all opinions are my own and I did not get paid for this.