Why Restaurants Are Charging $12 for Fancy Butter

Inside Dedalus, a wine market and restaurant in Burlington, Vermont, I sat puzzled. Bread and butter have been on the menu for $12, priced the identical as a tempting hen liver mousse. Unconvinced that the age-old duo ought to carry such a value, I went with the cow itself: beef tartare dotted with caviar and shavings of horseradish. Nonetheless, the waiter returned to push the bread and butter. And ultimately, curiosity received out; I caved.

I grew up in an America the place butter has solely ever been the warm-up act at a comedy present. Folks may discover it as a result of it’s tossed onstage, they settle for it as a result of it’s sometimes free, they usually semi-appreciate it as a result of it quickly stops the group from complaining that the primary act is taking too lengthy to point out up. Butter is definitely by no means the rationale one would purchase the ticket within the first place. However due to a handful of eating places and creameries across the nation, that’s all beginning to change.

When the very fancy butter arrived, it was perched on a country wooden board, deep yellow and sitting reverse a loaf of olive ciabatta. The kitchen had dressed it up with coarse sea salt and a dusting of floor black pepper. This was not restaurant butter as I remembered it: a tragic, foil wrapped rectangle melting right into a pool subsequent to a dinner roll.

I dipped within the knife, unfold the golden fats, and took a chunk. I used to be immediately floored. It was candy and tangy, creamy and easy, and it lingered on my tongue. The waiter, happy with their work, defined that only some locations on the planet carried this particular model—Animal Farm Butter, which got here from a small and cleverly named dairy in Orwell, Vermont.

In contrast to the cows in George Orwell’s novel, who’re mistreated by a neglectful farmer after which duped by a tyrannical pig and his brainwashed henchman, Animal Farm was constructed on a foundation of respect for their animals. In 2000, Diane St. Claire opened with a mission: make gourmand butter, keep small and preserve high quality management, and supply life to her herd, which on the time included simply three grass-fed Jersey cows, a breed that produces milk with excessive butterfat content material.

After studying concerning the profession of famend chef Thomas Keller and his California restaurant, the French Laundry, St. Claire despatched Keller 5 kilos of her butter and requested whether or not he’d be interested by buying some for his restaurant. “Two days later, there was a message on my machine,” St. Claire says.

“It was far superior to something we may do,” Keller tells me, earlier than recalling the voicemail he left for St. Claire: “How a lot do you make? As a result of we’ll purchase all of it.”

In addition to daring asks of Michelin star cooks, St. Claire jumped by way of a major variety of hoops to make her butter additional particular. She gave the cows house to relaxation and roam and fed them what they have been biologically designed to eat: grass. (Their weight loss plan was supplemented with hay year-round, and grain within the winter.) She crossbred her American Jerseys with Jerseys from Holland (which produce extra butterfat) and Jerseys from New Zealand (that are extra environment friendly grazers). Nonetheless, she stored her herd small so she may fastidiously assess their well being, habits, and wishes. All this translated to higher, albeit costlier, milk.

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