pet peeve: cold butter at restaurants
One of my culinary pet peeves is cold butter at restaurants. You sit down, are served slices of hand-made, utterly delicious French bread with a perfect crispy crust and a soft interior, and... an ice-cold bowl full of these:
Argh! What are you supposed to do now? The butter is hard as a rock! It doesn't spread; it barely slices. You try to put it on your bread and the bread becomes a squished shadow of its former self. You try to thaw it over the candle and you burn your fingers. The only bright side is that Italian restaurants now usually serve olive oil instead of butter...
Clearly this is some misguided attempt to abide by (often misguided) health code regulations that require that dairy products stay below 41 degrees. But (I believe) products can be warmed if they're to be served, so all that's necessary is for the butter to be left out at room temperature for 15 or 20 minutes, and it'll be nice and soft and ready for spreading. Or if the butter's in paper wrappers, a few seconds in a microwave would do the trick nicely. This is my single most common complaint about otherwise good restaurants!
I was reminded about this pet peeve, and inspired to rant, by a new product that the Boston Globe mentioned today. Called the ButterWizard, this thing is a rechargeable (!) electronic butter dish that keeps your butter at a specified temperature for hours. Cute, but totally superfluous! The B.G. reporter says "We're vulnerable right before Christmas. You've run out of ideas and suddenly that mechanical dog that wags its tail to a catchy tune sounds just right for impossible Uncle Ed.... I might have sprung for that ButterWizard a few weeks ago when I was desperate for one last gift. But now January's thriftiness has set in. And who's eating butter this month, anyway?"
Although the ButterWizard might in fact be useful if you're hosting a party in sweltering summer weather, and wish to keep the butter from melting into a greasy puddle, I personally would advocate central air conditioning to solve that particular problem... Otherwise, a few minutes of forethought will avoid annoying your guests, or your customers.