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We Tasted That Orwellian Butter from "The Bear"—You Should Too

We Tasted That Orwellian Butter from “The Bear”—You Should Too

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Creatively speaking, “The Bear” is a lean show with hardly any filler. Viewers often rank episodes from best to least online, but its overall consistency tends to hook people, making them binge-watch an entire season in one sitting before carefully rewatching it. For the truly devoted fans, industry nods and shopping suggestions are a draw, especially for those passionate about food.

The third season is here, featuring Carmy (Jeremy Allen White), Syd (Ayo Edebiri), and the rest of The Original Beef crew as they launch an ambitious bistro in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

The menu’s elevation to haute cuisine brings astonishing elements such as beef slices with perfect rosy centers, blood orange reductions, and gleaming roe pearls.

The ingredient that truly caught my attention isn’t on film but in dialogue. “I have a bill in my hand for $11,268 for butter!” exclaims Oliver Platt’s Uncle Jimmy, Carmy’s rich financial backer. The bill lists “Orwellian Unsalted Butter” and “Orwellian Salted Butter,” leading Uncle Jimmy to sarcastically question if it comes from a “rare Transylvanian five-titted goat.”

Carmy responds, “It’s Orwellian,” as if that explains everything. To those in the know, mentioning Orwell, Vermont alludes to Animal Farm Creamery. This small dairy is famed for its cultured butter, which is so luxurious that it supplies some of the most upscale restaurants in the United States.

Some of these establishments, like Per Se and French Laundry, get mentions or features in “The Bear.” Thomas Keller, who appears in the third season finale, has been instrumental in making Animal Farm the top choice for high-end restaurants. His relationship with Animal Farm dates back about 25 years when Diane St. Clair, the farm’s founder, started making European-style cultured butter.

In a 2005 New York Times profile, St. Clair recalled sending Keller a sample of her butter overnight to ask for his opinion. Keller’s response? “He wanted all the butter I could send him,” she said. Since then, her client list of five-star establishments expanded slightly but remained exclusive.

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Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto and Oliver Platt as Uncle Jimmy in “The Bear” (FX)

In 2022, Diane St. Clair handed over Animal Farm to Ben and Hilary Haigh of Rolling Bale Farm in Shoreham, Vermont. The Haighs have kept the tradition alive, ensuring that St. Clair’s production methods remained in place. When the New York Times contacted Saxelby Cheesemongers, who still sell Animal Farm products, the report confirmed that the butter’s quality remained unchanged.

First, Hilary skims the rich Jersey cream by hand, preserving its fat globules. The cream is cultured for 24 hours using buttermilk as a starter. She then churns and kneads it by hand until she creates a product fit for the table. This artisanal care comes at a price: $60 for one pound of butter divided into four 4-ounce balls.

Initially, I was unaware of Animal Farm Creamery until I searched for “Orwellian butter” and read about this exclusive treat. As a butter lover, I’ve smuggled bricks of Le Beurre Bordier back from Paris, seduced by their taste and texture. If Bordier is the best, why did Carmy mention “Orwellian butter”? I had to find out what made it special.

One reason is its exclusivity. Saxelby’s is currently the only online source that ships Animal Farm butter nationwide, and they offer it in limited quantities. Watching the latest season of “The Bear” gave me a head start, so I checked Saxelby’s site and found it available.

However, at $60 plus overnight shipping, the cost approached a week’s worth of groceries. Living in the Pacific Northwest, where rare ingredients are more affordable than in Michelin-rated cities, I have access to excellent local dairies. Even without them, Kerrygold’s cultured unsalted butter is a delicious and accessible alternative.

Despite these considerations, my love for “The Bear” and inspiration from its culinary world tipped the scales. I likely won’t dine at Keller’s restaurants or The Inn at Little Washington, but I could justify splurging on their butter of choice. Once the season premiered and like-minded foodies jumped on the bandwagon, Animal Farm butter would become harder to obtain.

Added to cart.

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Animal Farm Creamery farmstead Butter (Photo courtesy of Melanie McFarland)

In a few days, a chilled box arrived containing four unsalted butter balls. My husband arranged a breakfast with friends, one of whom makes divine sourdough. When his starter dough failed, we opted for a wonderful loaf from a local bakery, Macrina.

We prepared eggs and sausage to accompany the butter, piling a small mound of briny black salt on the side. Once we started, that first taste made everyone pause. It made regular butter taste like nothing.

Animal Farm’s butter is slightly sweet and dandelion bright, with an 87 percent butterfat content adding a rounded richness. Salt brings out its savory notes, perfect with good bread.

Heavenly is an apt descriptor. While the taste didn’t make me envision a five-titted goat, it did remind me of a line from the 2015 thriller “The Witch”: “Wouldst thou like the taste of butter? … Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?” With this butter, the demonic bargain might seem worth it. Suddenly, $60 didn’t feel so steep.

Some might balk at spending that much on butter. The “chef-core” accessories from “The Bear” like Birkenstock Tokio Super Grips or custom T-shirts offer longer-term value. But for the discerning palate, not all butters are equal. When combined with the right bread, salt, and company, Orwellian butter is worth the splurge, if you’re not financing a restaurant.

All episodes of “The Bear” are streaming on Hulu.

Source: Salon, New York Times