Reason to be happy or depressed?


Le Beurre Bordier, once hailed by many as the best artisanal butter in the world, found in "convenient" disposable plastic cups at a breakfast buffet.  It's a fancy buffet at an exclusive resort in the South of France, mind you, but a buffet line just the same.

The proverbial grape vine has it that he found a big investor and is now ramping up his production, which would explain the sudden and nearly omnipresence of said butter in practically every gourmet corner of France.

Is this reason to be rejoice or depressed?  I'm not entirely certain.  What do you think?

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39 Responses to “Reason to be happy or depressed?

  • Katie B said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 11:56am

    Oh, for a second I thought you were depressed about the waste involved with the disposable plastic cups.

  • Pim said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 12:11pm

    Oh, absolutely, the plastic cup bothered me as well. So did the seeming lost of yet another artisan to the world of high-volume, high-profit commerce. Then again who am I to begrudge their hard-earned success.
    You see, I am truly torn?

  • oakley said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 1:13pm

    Well, that’s a bummer.
    BTW – The cups look like the condiment things you can buy from Smart & Final…

  • Arnold said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 1:33pm

    I understand the dilemma, but I think that as long as the end product isn’t being compromised by taking short cuts, then it’s good for him and good for the consumer. It would be nice if there was more eco-friendly packaging.
    I’m not a big Scharffen Berger fan, but does anyone know if their chocolate has gotten better or worse since being bought by Hershey?

  • Jeff D said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 2:41pm

    I agree with Arnold. So long as the taste of the butter is still the same as it was, more power to him. If he gets to the point that he compromises taste for profits, he’ll eventually see his niche eroded away and people will not consider his butter a delicacy (and will no longer pay a premium for it.)
    I hope he finds the balance, it’s very very hard.

  • Frank said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 2:50pm

    I think your answer to the question defines whether you’re a “foodie” or a “food snob”.
    For a foodie, I feel like there should be an appreciation that a high quality food item is being made more readily available. Granted, quality might dip very slightly, but it’s still essentially the same wonderful product, and now thousands more will be able to enjoy that.
    For a food snob, the mere fact that this high quality item which before required great effort to attain is now available to the masses makes it a lesser good and less special somehow.
    Clearly, I like to think I keep the company of foodies (a term I still dislike) rather than food snobs.

  • Katie said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 3:46pm

    Pim, these days I’m very weary about “convenience” packaging. I think we should be becoming more aware of the ecological pitfalls of this type of packaging which creates more waste and uses more resources. That said, the definition of artisan is – one that produces something (such as butter) in limited quantities…it’s hard to imagine being able to do both for long without quality and taste suffering.

  • Little Chi said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 6:53pm

    Good food should be made easily available to everyone…..even in a buffet line. Trying to keep it niche and available only to a few is just plain selfishness.
    I am all for it as long as the quality is still the same!

  • KatyBelle said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 7:59pm

    I agree with Frank’s comments about foodies vs. food snobs. As long as the quality of the butter isn’t being compromised, is there anything really wrong with wider availability for this product?
    As for the individual little polystyrene tubs, I’m sure there’s a more ecologically-friendly packaging they can use, (wax paper, maybe?)

  • suzy brown said:
    October 6th, 2008 at 10:55pm

    great food should be available to *everyone*, not just those in fancy resorts or at high cost.

  • Hande said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 12:53am

    I agree with everyone: As long as the taste remains the same and nothing nasty or short cuts are used, it is a thing to rejoice, that something this delicious is available to more people (and also that a great artisan earns money! it shouldn’t be mutually exclusive). I just detest the small, eco-unfriendly tubs….

  • Florentine said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 1:00am

    Rather a reason for being depressed. I think the “good food should be available for everyone everyhere”-argument is a little too simple here. It’s a scandal that there is so much bad food on the market, but this has to do with the power of the big-investor food industry, who is first of all interested in making money. And if people are willing to pay for a famous butter, well, let’s sell the butter then! I doubt this will improve the butter or the way it is produced.

  • faustianbargain said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 8:30am

    yes…great food should be available to all…to fix that, food standards should improve and cheap, crappy food ought to disappear. why is cheap food crappy…is what we should ask ourselves. it doesnt ahve to be sublime, but it can be decent, yes?
    but the real question it cheaper now that its widely available now?
    p.s. and yes..its ghastly..the sight of those plastic containers. UGH!
    i think i know the answer and thats why you should be depressed.
    (but dont forget to enjoy the food in between mini bouts of depression!)

  • Kendra said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 1:59pm

    Butter always makes me rejoice despite the way of getting it. I hope you’re enjoying your time!

  • Julie said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 2:04pm

    Wow, Bordier must be keeping pretty busy, hand-paddling all that butter and packaging it into those little tubes, and the special cows he’d get his milk from must be beat. Personally, I don’t like the elitism that comes with food, especially in a day when people needing the biggest upgrades in nutrition can’t really afford organic. But I do fear losing nuances when artisans become commercial. I doubt this will launch any kind of grand butter enlightenment across the globe, showing nonbelievers the greatness of artisanal butter. I just hope lowered expectations, if there are any, don’t lead to lessened quality and lost art.

  • Karen Peters said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 4:50pm

    I agree with the fact that it is a fine balance indeed. I want to celebrate and have others enjoy the artisans of my region but it takes larger markets to ensure their survival. I’m thrilled that I have a local butter producer and don’t have to resort to the largest dairy marketer in the world, Parmalat. All the same, I know that they need to succeed and be available to more. Same with my favourite eggs and pretty much any product. The packaging is disturbing and won’t likely last an EU rule.

  • idele said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 6:14pm

    Has anyone eaten the original artisan butter with reasonable frequency and also tried the industrial product?

  • idele said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 6:15pm

    Has anyone eaten the original artisan butter with reasonable frequency and also tried the industrial product?

  • idele said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 6:15pm

    Has anyone eaten the original artisan butter with reasonable frequency and also tried the industrial product?

  • Jack at F&B said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 8:31pm

    Depressed. Rarely is quality the same for a food product when the scale of production changes greatly.

  • elarael said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 9:48pm

    May as well be happy. It will bring that much more attention to artesian producers and inspire new developents. Eventually, the message of pure food made with love will be widespread, thusly improving quality of life for many. Those plastic tubs weren’t very well thought out for someone with big money behind him. I’d prefer to see one inch cubes wrapped in waxed eco-paper or something similar.

  • Jimmy-in-Seattle said:
    October 7th, 2008 at 11:52pm

    Pimmy…I just saw Zimmer’s “Bizarre Foods, Paris” tonight. I couldn’t help but think of you. He had Clotilde Dusoulier and David Lebovitz on. Their ideas, tips and insight have been a real help to me over the last few years. Not to mention how easy on the eye Clotilde is on tv…wow!
    I learned of them by reading ‘you.’ THANKS!………Jimmy

  • Katie Kid said:
    October 8th, 2008 at 12:20am

    Sadly I think that big companies and good food are mostly incompatible. Most modern companies are under tremendous pressure to increase their profits year on year. Eventually, that means they either overprice their product and force it into the realm of inaccessibility or – more likely – they start to compromise on ingredients and production methods. I can’t think of any food I’ve liked that has actually improved after being bought out by a larger company.
    PS. Just found the blog and I love it. Thank you!

  • Foodie@Foodista said:
    October 8th, 2008 at 7:54am

    It is good that it will be made available to a lot of people, but I also share the same concern about the quality and the packaging, which I hope they will address soon!

  • Erin said:
    October 8th, 2008 at 7:57am

    Not a fan of the plastic cups, but I’m finding it hard to pass judgement on someone for success. There is something special about someone who makes their product for the love of it and refuses to compromise for the almighty dollar (or euro). Would I have done it any different? Who knows.

  • bb said:
    October 8th, 2008 at 10:32am

    Bigger…especially when it comes to food production….is never better. And definitely depressing. If anyone thinks they can keep the same, artisanal, hands-on care with their product when they’re cranking out millions of these little cups, they would be sadly mistaken. It’s like when you’re favorite restaurant decides to open more locations. It almost never maintains the original quality. Sorry for your loss!!

  • Phil said:
    October 8th, 2008 at 3:03pm

    While I’m not a fan of quality food items served in plastic, I certainly won’t put my nose up to it. If it doesn’t affect the flavor of the butter, I think it’s great – especially since it’s making it’s way to the masses. Good food is good food, whether it’s served from plastic or fine crystal.

  • Jordan said:
    October 8th, 2008 at 5:19pm

    Its always a shame when these small luxury items become more widely available. Even if the quality remains the same (like Chimay beers) the product is no longer as much of a specialty item, and thus a large part of its mystique disappears.

  • CD said:
    October 9th, 2008 at 7:11am

    It’ll be very interesting to see how such move would affect their niche. They’ll definitely win some and lose some.
    But the butter looks yummy all the same. I also hope they’d go for something more eco-friendly!
    P.S I saw you on one of the Discovery channels the other day. I enjoyed the show very much. That’s how I ended up here. 😉

  • Minnie Ha Ha said:
    October 9th, 2008 at 6:19pm

    The ones who are depressed are probably rooting for Obama. Good food for elitists only!

  • Melinda Ross said:
    October 10th, 2008 at 10:26pm

    I live in Barcelona (Spain). Every friday I go to Vila Viniteca gourmet place to find more than hundred kind of cheese, also the best iberic acom ham from Extremadura, Salamanca & Sevilla, sort of Extra Olive Oil and Bordier butter: unsalted, salted, fumée, aux algues, all packed in good paper, not luxury because the luxe is inside! Now is time to Savini Tartufi white truffle butter: easy way to make a delicious pasta.

  • SĂ©golĂšne LefĂšvre said:
    October 11th, 2008 at 12:51am

    i’m depressed, because a high grade food product cannot be product in large quantites. And it must stay where one is because the real gourmet likes discover a food in its original places where ils is always better;
    the discovery, the waiting, the rarity exacerbate the pleasure.
    I apologize to you for my pidgin english

  • cher128 said:
    October 11th, 2008 at 3:49pm

    Artisnaly produced product and mass produced product is, unfortunately, an oxymoron.

  • huebscher said:
    October 12th, 2008 at 4:16pm

    Way to make it political, Minnie.
    It’s not snobbery to say the Pim’s delicious baked gems couldn’t possibly have the same flavor if Hostess bought her out and started mass production. We certainly don’t wish poverty upon her, but selling out misses the point of the movement–the whole “art” in “artisanal” Thing. It seems to me that Slow Food should be appreciated by conservatives, especially, since it’s all about Values.

  • Erin said:
    October 21st, 2008 at 7:34am

    Elitist? I’m a military wife struggling to launch a career because I move so often. I’m on the fence about the butter, I didn’t go to Harvard and am voting for Obama. Don’t generalize, you can’t tell who people are through who they vote for or their feelings about butter.

  • Ptipois said:
    November 5th, 2008 at 2:52pm

    Neither happy nor depressed, for I do not think Bordier butter is that good in the first place. Seems sort of logical that its success as “butter of the elite” leads it to be dragged out of that status so that it can be called a case of “democratization”, which it isn’t really of course, but since it is intellectually satisfying for some and financially lucrative for others, well such a thing is to be expected sooner or later.
    Bordier butter is not ‘the best butter in the world’; it is the idea some people have of what the best butter in the world should taste like, and for most of them it is because they have been told so. This reputation started with chic Parisians who never had proper Norman or Breton butter before (because they don’t like the countryside very much to begin with and wouldn’t be caught dead visiting farms or tiny producers markets), or wouldn’t know real good butter if it hit them in the face: I always thought that Bordier butter was butter for Parisians.
    (Not that I don’t like Parisians, I am one too. But when it comes to real country butter I tend to trust people who have a more intimate relationship with butter, its history and its various tastes, and these people tend to be in the regions rather than in Paris.)
    Also, if Bordier butter is good (I said it’s not “best in the world”, not that it’s not good), it is not really a breakfast butter. It is a very particular butter that is rather meant to be served at lunch or dinner, as a condiment or as a food in its own right. Which explains IMO why Bordier’s real achievements are not his plain butter but the flavored butters, the seaweed butter being a treat. It doesn’t make much sense to serve it as small packaged portions at hotel breakfasts, except if the point is showing off for food snobs.
    And besides, yes, the plastic packaging is awful… With that kind of butter it would have been better to use small paper wrappings (as other brands do) and I don’t understand why they chose those stupid plastic cups.

  • Tiffany Pendant said:
    February 8th, 2010 at 10:26pm

    The pictures say it all, what a wonderful party this is! Great job!

  • Patrik Johansson said:
    February 28th, 2010 at 11:59pm

    I am a small buttermaker in Sweden who has had Bordier as my idol for two years. Finally last friday I got the chance to taste his Beurre au sel fumé. It gave me a soar throat for half an hour and by reading on the back of the package I understood why, it contains both glutamate and dextrose!!!! I am so surprised and above all disappointed. My idol has fallen.
    Once it was the Vikings who brought with them the knowledge of butter to France. I think we should return and show how to make real butter.

  • Tim said:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 10:42pm

    With plastic cups a machine can do it.

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