French Butter


Although you can get a good amount of excellent food in the US, the one thing that I haven’t quite found an equal to is French butter. In my life, I’m probably responsible for a couple of tons of butter being baked, melted, sautéed, rolled, crumbled, cubed, smeared and creamed.

When I arrived in NY late last evening, I made a beeline to Whole Foods to stock up on provisions for the week since they’re open late. (I love America!) But after a search that involved engaging the entire cheese department in a discussion of butter, the conclusion was that they only had regular American butter and fancy European imports. And I didn’t come all the way back to the states to eat French butter.

Bordier Butter


It wasn’t until I moved to France and tasted the sunshine-yellow butter that’s easily available at most fromagers and even in the supermarket, that I noticed a remarkable difference. I’ve become rather picky, and for eating on my morning toast or melted over vegetables—I’m at the point now where I’ll only let the butter from the likes of people like Jean-Yves Bordier cross my lips. I know I sounds like an insufferable snob (more than I normally do), but like chocolate, if you’re going to eat it, you may as well eat the best.

There are some decent American butters, such as Straus and Land O’ Lakes, but why is French butter often better than ours?

French Butter

Part of it is the quality of the cream, and what the cows eat. It’s also due to the fact that the butter is made from slightly-soured or cultured cream, which gives it a nutty, mellow tang and reacts differently when baked.

Here are some sources to find good butter in America, and some links about French butter….

Related Links

Vermont Butter & Cheese Company sells handmade French-style butter.

Gourmet Food Store online sells French butter, including Echiré and Beurre d’Isigny.

Try a French butter sampler!

A butter tip sheet and recipe for brioche from Dorie Greenspan.

Wikipedia on butter

Sablés bretons: French salted butter cookie recipe

French Échire butter available in America

How to make your own cultured butter.

Excellent photo set on French butter-making and molding.

Sam weighs in on British Butter

Jean-Yves Bordier butter is available in Paris at Le Bon Marché and da rosa.

Strauss Organic Butter

Another good photo-post on churning up your own organic butter.

Butter With A Pedigree by Dorie Greenspan

Egg Farm Dairy in New York (no website found) 1-800 CREAMERY

Bordier butter is also on my list of Ten Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

Beillevaire raw milk butter in France



  • September 30, 2007 10:14am

    I agree 100%! We tried to find good, hand made butter in Wisconsin at the farmers’ markets, but they just looked at us like we were from another planet and tried to get us to buy “squeaky curds”. (Yech.) Frankly, the fancy Euro butter just isn’t the same, even the french stuff. And not worth 4 bucks for a tiny piece.

    My favorite was a butter I got at the Blanqui market (Tues., Fri. and Sunday). The fromager (halfway down, on the left) had it, and other kinds. I don’t know the specific name, but I knew what it looked like, and when he didn’t have any prewrapped and tried to hand me the other kind, I said, “no no, not that one, the good one.” His wife would laugh and cut me a piece. When I told her we were moving back to the US, she offered to mail it to me here! (I should have taken her up on it–I miss it so!)

  • Sandy
    September 30, 2007 10:57am

    Right on! I say the same about desserts! Why would you eat day old soggy desserts (such as pie!!) when it has the same calories as fresh! Eat the whole pie the first day! ;-)

  • September 30, 2007 11:22am

    In NYC, on Wednesdays at the Union Square Greenmarket, Ronnybrook Dairy sells their butter. I think it is FABULOUS. Give it a try while you are here.

    I wish I could meet you! I love this blog :)

  • September 30, 2007 11:37am

    Apparently they do make good butter in Italy, but apparently they also ship it all to the US and UK. Feaugh.

  • September 30, 2007 11:39am

    One of the best things is a hot slice of sourdough with (salted) butter on it…I didn’t know I was missing salted butter until I came to Italy. :) Now if I want it, I have to sprinkle it on or buy “Danish” butter.

  • TamiM
    September 30, 2007 1:00pm

    After a recent trip to Seattle, I picked up some Vermont Butter and Cheese company butter and was astounded by it. I agree, we don’t make good butter here in Canada either, or at least we can’t seem to buy it if someone is making it. With the wealth of Artisan food products everywhere I don’t understand why good butter is such a rareity. But the Vermont butter was amazing and I urge you to get your hands on some before you head back to where butter is better!

  • Terrie
    September 30, 2007 1:11pm

    Hi David, Maybe the pretzel croissants will make up for having to be sans beurre. :-)
    Thanks for the Jean-Yves Bordier link. I loved this line – “What needs pointing out is when things aren’t the best”. Interesting point of view (not that THAT would ever happen).
    Last week I stood in front of the butter section at Grand Epicerie searching for his butter and they must have been out. Next time, I hope.

  • September 30, 2007 1:13pm

    Parabens are preservatives commonly found in beauty products (helps them to stay wet without mildewing). They are strongly suspected to be an hormonal disturber and a cause of cancer.

    Laws do not restrict its use right now, but it probably will and the manufacturers started not to use it first (because of people’s fear, but also because of *weird* results of some studies…)

  • bleep
    September 30, 2007 1:15pm

    TamiM, do you mind letting me know where in seattle you got the butter from? maybe i could check it out next time i go to the state. (i live in canada too!)

  • Steve
    September 30, 2007 1:28pm

    I arrived in Paris yesterday and headed for the Bastille market this morning (gee it’s big). I came home with, among other things, beurre cru extra fin (which I assume means butter made with raw milk) made by Fontaine des Veuves (Widows’ fountain??? Hmm.). I’ll look for the Bordier later in the week and conduct my own little taste test.

    P.S. Do you get a cut of the chicken lady’s sales? I stood there for a while and everyone purchasing a poulet crapaudine spoke English. I think that’s your doing.

  • September 30, 2007 1:37pm

    Steve! Hope you had fun at the market. Make sure to get fleur de sel from Régis. Because of the rain this summer, there’s going to be a shortage. And yes, I wish I did get a cut of her chicken profits…she’s quite a character, isn’t she?

    Nicole: I am hitting the Greenmarket this week, so I’ll look for it. Although I do really want to try to the Vermont butter. Will try Balducci’s.

    Krysalia: Thanks. Now I don’t have to worry about growing a beard anymore, green or otherwise! ; )

  • September 30, 2007 1:49pm

    Also, Alleosse in the 17th sells Bordier butter, so when you go to get your cheese there, you can pick up your butter at the same time.

    Terrie, usually the Bordier butter at La Grande Epicerie is on the top top shelf in the butter cooler. They often are sold out.

    David, where is the chicken lady located at the Bastille market? When I went last week, there were three chicken booths, and two had ladies staffing them. We ended up getting a roast chicken from one of them, way down on the right of the left aisle from Bastille, but would like to know for future reference. And thanks for this post. I’m planning on using Melissa’s recipe for butter when I get back to Canada, as I don’t know how I’m going to survive otherwise!

  • Sara
    September 30, 2007 2:37pm

    The Vermont Butter and Cheese Company sea salt butter is the most amazing thing on the planet. I affectionately refer to it at “butter in a basket”. I used to work at a cheese shop and we carried it; people cried when we didn’t have it in stock. I brought it to a party once and we couldn’t find one of the guys and there he was in the kitchen making butter sandwiches. I hope you get a chance to try some, it is truly amazing.

  • Susan
    September 30, 2007 3:44pm

    No argument about the state of butter in the U.S., and raw ingredients in general! This summer I finally tried making my own butter, from organic cream. Totally worth the time, minimal effort, and expense — but you probably won’t be making your own butter on your NYC visit.

    You already are acquainted with the kind of run-of-the-mill ingredients so prevalent in the U.S. Whole Foods has a lot more “real” food (for a price) than most grocery stores, but they’re hardly the last word in locavore goodness. Even in a big city it takes research, footwork, and cash to find healthful and tasty food these days. Whenever I travel to France I gain weight *after* I get home–French food tastes so much more vivid that I eat bigger servings at home, trying to satisfy a craving for those intense flavors. Butter is just one of many things that’s better there.

    And now I’m off to City Bakery to meet you!

  • September 30, 2007 3:57pm

    I’ve been known to bemoan the fact that a culinary wasteland begins just outside my rural Missouri farm gate. But a few little culinary gems are hidden out here in the middle of nowhere. Last spring I found a source for milk a few miles away that goes from grass-fed Jersey cow to glass jar to my refrigerator.

    This stuff is incredible. Each gallon has several inches of cream on the top, and the owner of this cow regularly makes her own butter (and every other dairy product you can imagine–mozzarella, cottage cheese, yogurt. . .) for her family of eight. As soon as the cow has her calf next week and they’re back in the milk business after the past two (extremely long!) “dry” months, my plan is to try making my own butter. I’m half afraid to launch into this project, for fear that I’ll become a complete butter snob and never be able to eat commercial butter again.

    The whole process is a bit time consuming, too. On the other hand, if the taste of the milk is any indication, I have a feeling it will be amazing. ; )

  • September 30, 2007 4:09pm

    Have you looked for Organic Valley unsalted, which is cultured? That’s the best butter I was ever able to get in the States, and I thought it was quite good. They do have it at WF.

  • Steve
    September 30, 2007 4:18pm

    In response to Colin’s question, on finding the chicken lady, 2 observations: she is the only one selling poulet crapaudine, and David has a photo of her on his Flickr page–I recognized her from that (especially her distinctive glasses).

  • Steve
    September 30, 2007 4:18pm

    In response to Colin’s question, on finding the chicken lady, 2 observations: she is the only one selling poulet crapaudine, and David has a photo of her on his flickr page–I recognized her from that (especially her distinctive glasses).

  • September 30, 2007 5:04pm

    I am surprised that you would have such trouble finding good butter in the US. Especially in New York, which I have frequently heard described as the foodie capital of the world – everything you can dream of foodwise you can apparently find there.

    I only started using butter on a regular basis when I moved to Ireland. They are very particular about butter here, and I don’t think you will find a bad version of it on the island.

    Also, I visited the Wholefoods store when I was in London last – thought I had died and gone to heaven…

  • Nancy
    September 30, 2007 6:10pm

    David, lovely to meet you at the CIty Bakery this afternoon. Brought the book home with the postcard about the ‘chocolate tour of paris’ info. Hope my hubby gets the hint. And thanks for the Bailey’s.

  • September 30, 2007 7:26pm

    Hi David,
    Thanks for signing my book, just made it back in time to bake my Poilaine like loaf with some fabulous 85 % flour I had from Switzerland, can’t get that stuff here! I made a tarte with plums too, gosh your such an inspiration!


  • Joseph
    September 30, 2007 7:46pm

    Animal Farm in Orville, Vermont is said to have best artisan butter in US. They supply The French Laundry and Per Se.

    It can be done in US if there is passion and a market.

  • Laura
    September 30, 2007 8:41pm

    Cultured butter by Vermont Butter & Cheese is wonderful butter. I buy it only once a month because we eat the whole package in 4 days.
    A very pleasant regional butter is Kate’s Homemade Butter from Old Orchard Beach in Maine. It’s on the salty side but tastes so fresh.

  • Terrie
    September 30, 2007 9:13pm

    All this butter talk inspired me to go to the Whole Foods and look for the Vermont Butter & Cheese cultured butter and our Whole Foods has it. I baked a loaf of cranberry, pecan rye bread today and that butter puts it way over the top. Outside of France, it’s the best butter I’ve ever tasted.
    btw, thanks to Colin for the info on where the Jean-Yves Bordier butter is at Grand Epicerie.

  • September 30, 2007 9:15pm

    So sorry that Izzy and I couldn’t make it to meet you this afternoon at City Bakery. I had certainly planned on going but Izzy was not just not that into it. I could have dragged him along but believe me, dragging an unwilling four-year old is not always fun. I even showed him your book which I thought would do the trick. This did pique his interest and he said, “Can’t we meet him another day?” Maybe we will see you at Union Square. I am always there on Wednesdays.

  • September 30, 2007 9:22pm

    I totally understand. But then, I drive from OC to LA to get my favorite butter (Le Marin, which you probably know, but for those who don’t – made in Brittany and studded with sea salt from Guerande). Sometimes I get multiple bricks, on request from others whom I have turned into addicts. And I mean, I put butter in the name of my blog. So…

  • good enough cook
    September 30, 2007 10:07pm

    So inquiring minds want to know…what are you eating for breakfast while you’re in New York?

  • September 30, 2007 10:19pm

    Hi David,
    It was great seeing you today. You’re just as nice in person as you are online! When I went to NOLA, I had delicious butter at the farmer’s market. I thought it was just as good as the butter in France. It’s Smith Creamery, I believe. Grass fed and all that good stuff, plus it’s made from unhomogenized milk. They do ship, if you want to give it a try.

  • Val
    September 30, 2007 10:25pm

    What, no lip balm? I can’t seem to get out of Whole Foods without another tube of Kiss My Face.

    Have a great trip!

  • Pam
    September 30, 2007 10:26pm

    I simply cannot believe that I will miss you by a single weekend. I arrive in NYC on Friday :( Could you possibly share any tips on where to find lovely food in NYC? I would love to make our weekend into the ultimate foodie experience but so far we only have reservations at Gordon Ramsay @ The London (I know, I know – what can I say). We’ll be staying in Times Square. Please? :)

  • September 30, 2007 10:53pm

    Nancy, Jessica and Jeremy: Nice to see you all as well…thanks for stopping by!

    Good Enough Cook: So far I’m eating bread and fruit ‘spread’, cottage cheese (yum!) and coffee. Must get some bagels in me from Zabars soon…

    Rbt: Well, not everything is available here. I went to Best Buy on Fifth Ave today and they didn’t have something that’s on their web site. I said to them, “This is your flagship store, on one of the greatest (and perhaps most famous) shopping streets in the world, in New York City, and you don’t have it in stock?”

    And why, oh why can’t we get a Whole Foods in Paris? (Although I can’t imagine that…) Heck, I’m still holding my breath for an Apple store.

    Pam: Since I’m not a New Yorker, I’m not a font of knowledge about NY restaurants. I must say it’s vital to hit Katz’s Deli when you’re hear. It’s the best!

    Perhaps some of the readers can leave some tips for Pam? (And me!)

  • TamiM
    October 1, 2007 12:49am

    To answer “bleep”, the Vermont Butter is available in Seattle at the Pike Place Creamery as well as the De Laurentis market. Do pick some up, its amazing. They also had a large selection of French imported butters that I stocked up on. For some reason no one in Vancouver imports French butter either.

  • Terrie
    October 1, 2007 1:57am

    David, I was in NYC in July and we stayed at the Parker Meridien. They have incredible breakfasts (I think the place in the hotel is called Norma’s) and they also have a burger place there that is terrific (if you have a craving for something like that while you are in the States). Blue Smoke was great for lunch and our best dinner in NY was at Tabla. It was expensive but memorable. All this added up to why I needed to be on a petit regime once I got back to LA. ;)

  • swan
    October 1, 2007 4:43am

    Dear David- I AM JEALOUS – just returned from NY three weeks ago after a week of being there – there’s never enough time in NY!! And for all of you travelling to NY soon I have to refer you to Clotilde’s blog Chocolate and Zucchini, we have been and are still talking lots about New York and at least 10 pages of (foodie)advise can be found both in the blog and the forum!

  • Susan
    October 1, 2007 9:51am

    Nice to meet you yesterday! What a nice time of year to visit NYC. Hope our weather holds for you. (Go ahead and visit Connecticut — you can always go apple picking. There’s a place that’s supposed to have amazing cider donuts…)

    I think I would go crazy with only a week in NYC for foodie exploration. Here are just a few spots off the top of my head:

    For breakfast: If you don’t pick up a bagel with a schmear at the corner deli, try Bubby’s in Tribeca, Penelope’s (Lex near 29th? or 30th), or for the quintessential New York breakfast, one of the innumerable Greek diners in the neighborhoods — try to avoid the ones in Midtown, they’re touristy and expensive. Oren’s Daily Roast (a few locations around the city) has superb coffee, not Seattle style.

    Other meals: Florent, an affordable French diner in the uber-trendy meatpacking district, open very late. Gennaro’s, Amsterdam near 93rd, excellent moderate/mid-priced Italian food (cash only, no reservations, go early. They used to be endorsed by the Buon Ricordi people–not anymore and not sure why, they’re still fabulous). Gramercy Tavern, E. 20th — for an exquisite blow-out meal or simpler “tavern” meal. Pizza: Lombardi’s in Nolita (Prince St.?). Indian food: Haandi, Lexington at 28th — not elegant but delicious. Or try some of the others across the street — dosas make a great lunch, or try one of the new Indo-Chinese places. Bring a big shopping bag and after lunch stock up at Kalyustyans. For oyster fans, Aquagrill in Soho (Spring near 6th Ave) has many many kinds, and a lunch deal.

    Ice cream: Grom, B’way near 76th (? look for the queue) — before or after Zabar’s, B’way at 80th. Cones on Bleecker St. is a good stop if you’re going to stop at the little shops on Bleecker W. of 6th Ave: Faicco’s/Murray’s/Amy’s/Wild Edibles/the Italian Pastry stores across the St. Of course, in that neighborhood you could also check out the little places on Cornelia St (Pearl’s Oyster Bar, Po, Home, etc.) The Savoy on Prince St is very special…. Uh, I’d better stop now. Others can borrow work time to chip in. (Oh, but do check out the Chelsea Market, too…)

    Happy eating!

  • syoung68
    October 1, 2007 10:16am

    David, I live outside of NOLA and Jessica is right, Smith’s Creamery makes a fine butter. I buy it over any of the imports at Whole Foods. So much that my four year old son knows that when I say “butter roll” I mean a roll of butter, not a baked good.

  • Alexandra
    October 1, 2007 10:44am


    As far as I know (and according to MacWorld) an Apple store was launched last July as the largest (300 m2) store-in-a-store inside FNAC Digital on Boul. St. Germain. Just thought I’d share that tidbit of info with you ;-).

  • October 1, 2007 11:47am

    Jessica and Syoung68: Thanks for the tip on that butter, except their web site doesn’t say where it’s available outside of where it’s made.

    I did find some Vermont Cheese & Butter Co butter at Balducci’s, but on the way home, I flipped it over and the expiration date was Sept 3rd, so sadly, I had to go back and return it. The poor folks had to practically pry it from my hands!

  • Steve G
    October 1, 2007 3:20pm

    As you mentioned, Le Village/Made in France importer in South San Francisco imports French butter, but they also carry “Beurremont” which bills itself as French Style (83% fat) butter and must be in competition with Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. I like butter best when it is sweet with maybe just a hint of “culture” so I can taste the grass and creamy goodness, so I like Beurremont’s product. My boyfriend likes Vermont Butter and Cheese better, because he likes the cheesy flavor due to their robust culturing.

    Supposedly, you can get both butters at Zabar’s, which is probably already on your agenda for bagels, pastrami, or both!

  • October 1, 2007 6:16pm

    Never apologise for being insufferable.

  • October 1, 2007 7:35pm

    Hello David,

    I am the cheesemaker and buttermaker at Vermont Butter & Cheese Company and came in US 4 years ago from France. I am so glad to see all the peoples on your blog talking about our butter—it is really nice. When I first came here on my next morning in the US ground, my boss Allison Hooper made me breakfast and brought on the table The Butter, I felt right at home!

    Our butter is the made in really small batches in a very old and antique Barrel churn “la veille barratte” after pasteurization we add culture to the cream for a long maturation then only we churn. The maturation by the bacteria results in a wonderful compound and aroma production (such as hazelnuts).

    We buy all our cream from a local coop in VT that makes very high quality rBST free fresh cream. The other things about our butter is that it is 86% butterfat and as a pâtissier you know what that means: awesome pastry!

    Anyway this was the butter making 101 for all the VBCC butter fans. I invite everyone to Vermont to see how we make it, otherwise keep asking for our butter in the Whole Foods Market or other stores.

    Merci tout le monde!


  • Charlotte
    October 1, 2007 7:53pm

    Hey — I can get Beurre d’Isigny way out here in Montana at my local gourmet cheese store. But I hear a rumor that the lady I buy raw milk from also makes butter — once I figure out what to do with a whole gallon of gorgeous milk a week (I’m a single gal), I’ll start hitting her up for butter. I usually try to eat local, but French butter is too good to live without!

  • October 2, 2007 3:36pm

    Mmm butter. The best part of breakfast and the better part of my tubbiness. I love Ronnybrook’s butter but now I will HAVE to try Vermont. Hope it doesn’t have me running all over town!

  • October 2, 2007 7:59pm

    I must admit we buy plain American butter for everyday cooking. But when we’re making something special we splurge on the Beurre d’Isigny. I must see if I can find a farm somewhere near Louisville that does their own butter.

  • rockinthejoint
    October 3, 2007 7:14am

    Hi! I live in France but have traveled and love food. I stumbled upon your blog and I agree completely. That goes for ALL dairy products in my opinion, lol! Try to find some decent sour cream at the supermarket. Or eatable yogurt…

    Even a visit at a specialty store failed to give decent goat cheese made in the USA. I haven’t read your whole blog, but you should check out Francois Simon’s blog, famous critique gastronomique, you know, the guy in “Ratatouille”, lol!

  • Guy Thornton
    October 5, 2007 10:31am

    Beppino Occelli make good butter. I imagine you can find it in New York. I used to import fresh cream candy (Gartner Pralines) twice a week into Dallas in the early eighties but the hassle complying with FDA, D Ag, Customs, etc was so onerous I threw in the towel after a few years.