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Butter, but better

We thought we were purists on the subject of bread and butter.

After all, the pairing excels on its own, and it blooms with the most modest sprinkle of salt.

But restaurants' recent updates to this reliable staple have us rethinking our stance, one dinner roll at a time.

Chicago might be the most creative in its consideration of the classic couple. At Girl & the Goat, diners choose from three different bread-service offerings, which include the "Not Campbell": a loaf of bread that comes with mushroom-soup butter and tomato oil. At the just-opened Vera, bread is accompanied by three butters--made with black garlic, duck cracklings and goat's milk, respectively.

At the new Fatty 'Cue in New York's West Village, an order of "Ham, Jam, Butter and Bread" is anything but mundane. A pretzel roll is augmented by butter that's been soaked in rye and aged for three months before receiving a dusting of fermented shrimp powder.

In Boston, it's the bread that gets fancy at the Cambridge restaurant Bondir, where Lan Lam bakes fresh loaves nightly and adds such ingredient combinations as fresh hops and barley, dried shrimp and nori, and cornflower and pumpkin seeds.

Consider updating your home spread with the butter from Animal Farm in Orwell, Vermont. The stuff is almost never available for retail purchase (chefs such as Thomas Keller often clean out the stock). But you can get it for a limited time from New York's Saxelby Cheese--if you can stomach the price tag ($59 for 2 pounds).

Bondir 279A Broadway Cambridge MA 02139 617-661-0009 Vera 1023 W. Lake Street Chicago IL 60607 312-243-9770 Girl & the Goat 809 West Randolph Street Chicago IL 60661 312-492-6262 Fatty 'Cue 50 Carmine Street New York NY 10014 212-929-5050

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