I like butter. Good butter at the very least – but great butter is my norm. I seek it out. I fixate on its potential in my favorite recipes. I even quest for great breads to pair with my butter. And I know I am not alone.
As we all know, butter is delicious alone on a warm biscuit, layered on a baguette sandwich, in sauces, on pancakes...the list is seemingly endless. Butter adds a special satisfying richness to anything it touches, and the better the butter, the better the dish. This article is on three of my favorite butters: one classic French, one Vermont homestead and one artisan-crafted by a California Chef for the guests at his world-renowned restaurant.
This butter is named for the small village that is home to the Coopérative Échiré in the Deux-Sèvres region of western France. The co-op has been making butter since 1894, and they only use milk from fifty farms that fall within a twenty-mile radius of the dairy. It is made in very small batches, and then cold-packed so as not to change the texture of the finished butter. It is rich, creamy and elegant. In addition to traditional formats, this butter is available in single-use portions and packed in Limoges China with a silver spreader. This is the butter served exclusively to guests at the Ritz-Carlton in Paris, so you can be assured of its standard of excellence.
Vermont Butter and Cheese Cultured Butter Sea Salt Baskets
When Allison Hooper, the co-owner of Vermont Butter & Cheese, worked in Brittany, France, she learned all about making great butter, and has thankfully brought that knowledge back home to Vermont. At VB&C, she makes incredible cultured butter, topped with big, crunchy sea salt crystals. This butter has the highest butterfat content of any American-made butter: a whopping 86%. It is made in small batches, cultured until the sweetness of the cream is just right, churned delicately and topped with Celtic Sea salt for the perfect balance. Then it is packed in the most adorable little basket you’ve ever seen – complete with gingham! – just like the kind you’d imagine taking to your grandmothers house.
I recently received Manresa: An Edible Reflection, the new cookbook by Chef David Kinch, from some very dear friends. It is an amazing book, with great recipes, interesting stories about the Chef and the restaurant and high-art photographs.
It also includes the recipe for the house butter Manresa makes and serves to their guests. Reading the recipe made me recall the last time I was in Los Gatos and saw Chef David. He was so proud to show me his butter and let me know he was making it on-site at the restaurant; they even own cows just to get the cream. The process is a long, slow culture, which develops a depth of flavor you can’t achieve in a shorter-make process.
My favorite part of their description for making this butter is, “It will take some time and a bit of practice to smack the butter properly.” Luckily for us, Manresa certainly knows how to smack it properly! I remember this butter’s flavor right now as if I had just eaten it; it is truly memorable. Since this is a house-made butter only served at the restaurant, it’s not easy to get a taste, but if you happen to find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area and want to really treat yourself, book a reservation at Manresa and just wait for the butter to arrive. I guarantee it will be a taste revelation.
Additional reporting by Madeleine James.