It's bet­ter with BEURRE SALÉ DE BRE­TAGNE

Taste & Travel - - Dining -

One of my ear­li­est me­mories of be­ing in the kitchen with my Mum is of her stand­ing at the kitchen ta­ble, her small hand rhyth­mi­cally mix­ing but­ter and sugar to­gether.

I knew my pa­tience would be re­warded with the al­most-empty bowl, the last traces of but­ter and sugar ea­gerly savoured. I quickly em­braced the love for but­ter, as much for the sweet­ness that led to so many mem­o­rable cre­ations in my fam­ily's kitchen as for the taste of it melt­ing on my morn­ing toast.

In the French coastal re­gion of Brit­tany, I dis­cov­ered the Bre­ton ado­ra­tion of beurre salé de bre­tagne is a stereo­type the lo­cals hap­pily per­pet­u­ate.

My first meal in Nantes was at his­toric brasserie La Ci­galle, the tra­di­tional Art Nou­veau dé­cor a wel­come en­vi­ron­ment to soothe a newly ar­rived trav­eller. And it was here that I had my first taste of Bre­ton but­ter. As my host ex­plained, in Brit­tany but­ter al­ways con­tains sea salt, un­like the rest of the France, which is com­mit­ted to my first love, sweet but­ter. I hap­pily slathered the Bre­ton but­ter onto a fresh baguette, savour­ing the creamy and salty taste.

Each time I dined, bread and beurre salé de bre­tagne were placed on the ta­ble, and I in­dulged. I was a new con­vert, mak­ing sure the duo was part of ev­ery meal while in Brit­tany.

Ar­riv­ing in Rennes, I wan­dered the Halles Cen­trales, a daily mar­ket for veg­eta­bles, fruit, meat, seafood and other nec­es­sary sta­ples of the pantry, each stall fea­tur­ing beau­ti­ful dis­plays that would out­shine most depart­ment store win­dows. One of the best known ven­dors is La Fro­magee Jean Yves Bordier, helmed by a chef who spe­cial­izes in dairy prod­ucts such as cheese, yo­ghurt, and Bre­ton but­ter.

Le Beurre Bordier is a must-visit at Halles Cen­trales, and although the brand first be­came known to chefs and res­tau­rants in Rennes and through­out Brit­tany, it's now just as pop­u­lar with res­i­dents, who reg­u­larly make their way to the mar­ket to pur­chase beurre salé de bre­tagne.

As I stood at the counter, an em­ployee took a small wooden pad­dle and carved a smaller piece of but­ter from the mas­sive chunk. Her rapid mo­tions with two pad­dles shaped the but­ter into the tra­di­tional rec­tan­gle in less than a minute, ready to be wrapped in the sig­na­ture wax paper of Le Beurre Bordier.

And as I dis­cov­ered, clas­sic churned but­ter ( beurre de baratte demi-sel) is just one of the op­tions for but­ter con­nois­seurs to con­sider. Le Beurre Bordier also of­fers but­ter with smoked sea salt; sea­weed; buck­wheat; Madgas­car vanilla; olive oil and lemon; yuzu and Espelette pep­per — each one a tempt­ing op­tion for a meal or to in­clude in cook­ing. Ad­di­tional op­tions in­clude rasp­berry and gar­lic and fine herbs with Szechuan pep­per.

But then I was asked to do some­thing I have never done be­fore — a but­ter tast­ing. Le Beurre Bordier is proud of its high qual­ity, and pro­vides cus­tomers the op­por­tu­nity to taste their prod­ucts. Four types of but­ter are of­fered, each on a small spoon. Like the way I've been taught to taste wine, I first tried to de­tect a scent and then swirl the soft but­ter around the in­side of my mouth, let­ting the dif­fer­ent

parts of my palate en­gage with this taste of Brit­tany.

As I tasted demi-sel, buck­wheat, sea­weed and Madgas­car vanilla, I no­ticed the uni­form colour of pale yel­low, high­lighted by the choco­late brown of buck­wheat and the bold green of sea­weed. The scents I de­tected as soon as the but­ter dis­solved on my tongue, the ex­cep­tion be­ing the Mada­gas­car vanilla, whose aroma I noted as soon as the spoon came close to my nose and lips.

I ad­mit­ted a pref­er­ence for the demi-sel and Madgas­car vanilla, and liked the buck­wheat more than I thought I would. The sea­weed was my least favourite of the four tastes, but then I won­dered if it was served with seafood how I might re­act to the flavour.

I tasted the iconic demi-sel again, want­ing to savour the smooth tex­ture of the clas­sic, know­ing I will al­ways crave beurre salé de bre­tagne.

PHOTOS THIS SPREAD CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT

Jean Yves Bordier; Château Nantes; Bre­ton but­ter; At the mar­ket.

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