Spreading the Wealth

Butter is essentially a mix of fat and water—the more fat, the richer the taste. Standard supermarket offerings are about 80 percent butterfat and 20 percent water, but European butters can be 83 percent or more. If you don't think that makes a difference, you've never had a croissant at Poilâne, my favorite bakery in Paris, on the Rue du Cherche-Midi.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten likes unsalted butter from the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company (cofounder Allison Hooper learned the craft in Brittany; the company also sells a crème fraîche to die for, which I serve at my events). Gordon Ramsay prefers Lescure cultured butter from Charentes-Poitou, France, while Laurent Tourondel uses Dairyland USA's unsalted Grand Reserve for finishing sauces at his Manhattan steak house, BLT Prime. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se swears by butter from Animal Farm, a small provider in Orwell, Vermont. Animal Farm has just six cows, all Jersey breeds (with names), and most of its supply goes to the French Laundry. But igourmet.com has a fantastic array of gourmet butters, including those shown here. Most important, once you've picked a favorite, make sure to present it on a proper serving dish—sterling silver, of course.