It's better with BEURRE SALÉ DE BRETAGNE
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.