2005_12_food_caviar.jpgThe holidays are about friends, family - and decadence. And, for foodies "decadence" often translates into one singularly luxurious word: caviar.

But with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banning beluga caviar imports from the Black Sea after taking the same action with the Caspian states, true gourmands with a taste for black pearls have been turning to a rather unusual source: Tennessee.

Yes, you read correctly. Caviar connoisseurs have long known that Tennessee paddlefish roe has often been compared favorably to beluga and sevruga caviars. But Tennessee doesn't have the corner on the American-made market. Paddlefish, also called spoonbills, are harvested for their eggs in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and Kentucky.

Roe from those locales might not sound as glamorous and authentic as caviar from Mother Russia, but it should be easier to find - and a heck of a lot easier on your pocketbook. For example, seafood specialty store Wild Edibles is currently charging $20 for a 1 oz. tin of American paddlefish caviar at its Manhattan locations, while 1 oz. of its upscale cousin sevruga comes in at a cool $105 - and beluga can't even be had at the moment.

So, when it comes to holiday delicacy decadence, don't throw caution to the wind - and buy American.

Wild Edibles Locations:

Grand Central Market
Lexington Avenue
at 43rd St.

Murray Hill
535 Third Avenue
Betw. 35th and 36th Sts.