Butter. I've always taken it for granted. Certainly I've always preferred it to margarine or any type of "butter flavored" spread, but up until recently, butter was butter.
A few months ago, a listener of the podcast emailed me and suggested that next time I shopped the cheese truck, I should ask for French butter with salt. I did so, and the same day went to the grocery store and purchased German unsalted butter, and Irish unsalted as well (Irish Gold, I think, which also happens to be sold in the states). We had American butter already at home (both Organic Valley and Land 'O Lakes), so I also got a nice crusty baguette and we conducted an Official Taste Test. To my utter surprise, they all tasted completely different (you didn't see that one coming, did you?).
Five butters, five distinct flavors.
The Land 'O Lakes was tasted both first and last, since it's the "regular" standard in this house. At first bite, it just tasted normal, like butter should. After all the others, it had a slightly off flavor. It reminded me of when you leave milk out and re-chill it, and that "warm", ever so slightly sour edge it gets.
Organic Valley was quite good, with a balanced creamy butter-fat to salty flavor.
The German was pure and sweet, and we decided that it was "good".
Irish was not only sweet, but it was the creamiest butter I've ever tasted. The fat melted quickly on the tongue, and when I made Irish Soda Bread the next day, it was an absolute match. This butter never needs to be left out to soften. It would never tear bread, and has the highest percentage of butter-fat in the sample group.
And then we tasted the French butter. Oh my. It tasted of fresh cream and cheese and salt and... well, would you be shocked to find that it stood up to the baguette perfectly? And who wouldn't love something that comes packaged like this, anyway?