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Similar to Plugra Butter, in flavor and price?

maria lorraine May 12, 2009 11:40 PM

Now that Trader Joe's no longer carries Plugra, I need some suggestions for butter that has that same depth of flavor. Less than $5/lb, or slightly more for a high-quality product.

Any brands and stores come to mind?

I'm in the North Bay, but suggestions of any brands found at chains (Whole Foods, etc.) are welcome!


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  1. Melanie Wong May 12, 2009 11:47 PM

    Los Angeles hounds are reporting finding Plugra for under $3/lb at the Smart & Final chain, but not every store carries it.

    1. s
      sugartoof May 13, 2009 03:28 AM

      I would guess Trader Joe's will actually come up with a substitute with their own branding just as they did with the King Arthur flour....which may still be King Arthur flour.

      17 Replies
      1. re: sugartoof
        LarryW May 13, 2009 04:03 PM

        Once Trader Joe's gets a product that people like, they have this annoying tendency of contract manufacturing it and selling it in place of the real product (makes TJs a boatload of money). The trouble is, their contract manufactured food is generally substandard, to say the least.

        1. re: LarryW
          Zeldog May 13, 2009 05:16 PM

          Agreed. And there's another thread out there where someone contacted King Arthur and they say the do not produce TJ's house brand. They are still a good store, but I find the number of items I buy routinely is decreasing. No more KA flour, Plugra butter, picholine olives, Tasty Bite curries.

          1. re: LarryW
            maria lorraine May 13, 2009 08:48 PM

            In the case of Plugra, the situation was a little different.

            I checked with Trader Joe's management about the reason for the discontinuation of Plugra, and, instead of Plugra being greatly liked by folks like you (Larry) or Zeldog or me, it turns out Plugra was not liked *enough.* There wasn't enough demand for the product for the chain to continue to carry it. Which amazes and saddens me. I thought Plugra was wonderful and a great buy for the money. Had I known of it's demise at TJ's, I would've loaded up my freezer!

            So, ideas of alternatives would be helpful. Or where to find Plugra elsewhere.

            1. re: maria lorraine
              JasmineG May 14, 2009 10:14 AM

              Yeah, that's been what people have said, but I'm not sure about that -- I know a lot of people who bought it all the time, and it's surprising that they would continue to sell Kerrygold, which I think of as more as a specialty butter, if that's the case. I did send TJ's an email about it, though, in the hopes that it will come back. I'm glad that there are some other good options in this thread, though!

              1. re: maria lorraine
                Pinkster May 14, 2009 11:22 AM

                TJ's also discontinued my favorite brand of French Madrange ham - they told me due to low demand. Which was kind of hard to believe because it actually used to sell out every few weeks - so much so that I would buy 4-5 packs at a time. I wonder if that's their standard reason...

                1. re: Pinkster
                  sfbing May 14, 2009 12:51 PM

                  I kind of suspect that is their pro-forma excuse. I used to be obsessed with the Mario Batali basic sugo for convenience and it was always really hard to find in stock because people were buying it like crazy. Then they completely discontinued it and told me "not enough people were buying it." I think that they wanted people to switch to their TJ brand sauce.

                2. re: maria lorraine
                  sugartoof May 14, 2009 01:57 PM

                  I'm not going to say it's the same as Plugra, but I actually really like the Trader Joe's branded bar butter. Much better then the brand name bar butter. If you must have European high end butter, you'll probably start to notice it's not too hard to find. Adronicos, Molly Stones, Whole Foods, and many neighborhood markets are carrying Plugra or equivalent. TJ's just had really good pricing on it.

                  1. re: sugartoof
                    rworange May 15, 2009 08:46 PM

                    Yeah, that's why I didn't mention Mollie Stone which carries Plugra, but the price is not inexpensive. Also Greebrae might be out of ML's territory. I figured the many other nearby upscale markets in the North Bay must carry it but the price might not be as good.

                    1. re: rworange
                      peppatty May 16, 2009 09:49 PM

                      For those in the peninsula, I was just at the Mollie Stones in San Mateo and they did not have Plugra.

                  2. re: maria lorraine
                    Ruth Lafler May 14, 2009 04:33 PM

                    People have mentioned that they've seen it at Smart & Final, so if you really want a freezer full, you might try going to your local Smart & Final, and if they don't carry it, ask them if they'll order a case if you promise to buy a large quantity. Who knows, you might even talk them into carrying on a regular basis.

                    1. re: maria lorraine
                      rworange Jun 24, 2009 10:31 PM

                      Having finally finished my Pacific Market tri-fecta today, I can say all three markets, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa carry it. Although only Rohnert Park had both types that I noticed ... regular (?) and European style. They were $3.99, but I forgot about looking at the weight ... standard Plugra size, I guess.

                      1. re: rworange
                        Ruth Lafler Jun 24, 2009 11:10 PM

                        Nope. Not "standard Plugra size" -- the Plugra TJ's has been selling in the red and white wax paper comes in a one-pound block. But it's more commonly sold in 8 ounce gold or silver (salted/unsalted) foil packages. So size does matter.

                        1. re: rworange
                          maria lorraine Jun 24, 2009 11:12 PM

                          Was the Plugra butter in gold or silver foil-wrapped blocks?
                          Those are the half-pound blocks. The 1-lb. blocks of Plugra come in a red-and-white wax paper wrapper.

                          And, and, luckily, last week I found the 1-lb. blocks at Whole Foods for $3.99!
                          Just 20 cents more than Trader Joe's. I'm jubilant!

                          I'll still continue my tasting of other Euro or Euro-style butters.

                          1. re: maria lorraine
                            rworange Jun 24, 2009 11:29 PM

                            yep foil-wrapped

                    2. re: sugartoof
                      adamshoe May 14, 2009 04:10 PM

                      sugar, It is emphatically NOT rebranded KA @ Trader Joe's. See other threads on this or the chains or home cooking boards. adam

                      1. re: adamshoe
                        sugartoof May 14, 2009 11:16 PM

                        I've read the KA blog page denying it already, so I get that, but they've since produced a substitute with similar TJ packaging.

                        1. re: sugartoof
                          Nancy Berry May 15, 2009 08:34 PM

                          And last week, King Arthur sued Trader Joe's in federal court for trademark infringement re the packaging of TJ's new flours.


                    3. Ruth Lafler May 13, 2009 08:47 PM

                      Whole Foods carries Jana Valley -- IIRC it's less then $5/lb (comes in half-pound blocks) and it's delicious.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                        SteveG May 14, 2009 09:49 AM

                        Isn't Jana Valley a sweet cream butter? It's my go-to baking butter for sweet items, since the price is the same or cheaper than standard clover but the flavor is very clean and sweet. Doesn't Plugra have more of a cultured flavor?

                        1. re: SteveG
                          Ruth Lafler May 14, 2009 01:50 PM

                          Yes, Jana Valley is as you say, clean and sweet, and so is Plugra -- despite some people's misperceptions, Plugra is *not* cultured.

                        2. re: Ruth Lafler
                          Melanie Wong May 14, 2009 03:25 PM

                          Have you tried the Cabot butter? Grocery Outlet (locations in Novato, Vallejo, Santa Rosa) has one-pound blocks for $1.99.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong
                            Ruth Lafler May 14, 2009 03:42 PM

                            I think I have bought it at GO in the past. IIRC isn't not a European-style high-butterfat content butter, just a good-quality "regular" butter.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              Melanie Wong May 14, 2009 03:58 PM

                              The Challenge European-style butter is also at GO now, but its not as high fat as Plugra.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                itaunas Jun 10, 2009 01:40 PM

                                Cabot 83 is a better comparison to plugra, I thought that Restaurant Depot was offering it nationwide but if they don't have it in SF they would probably have another substitute. Don't think they have any North Bay locations.

                          2. a
                            alfairfax May 14, 2009 10:30 AM

                            Maria, what is your opinion of Straus Creamery Butter? I am a committed user of their sweet butter. Its taste changes with the seasons, a good and interesting attribute to me, but I realize some may find it almost too cheesy for some uses.

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: alfairfax
                              maria lorraine May 15, 2009 04:02 PM

                              I certainly like the Straus Dairy, and have enjoyed the Straus butter at a few restos in the Bay Area. But I cannot recall its flavor precisely. I do remember liking it.

                              What I think I need to do...and CHs please feel free to join me...is to arrange a butter tasting.

                              Wackier things have been done. Plugra, Jana Valley, Cabot, Kerrygold, Straus, Luvpak Danish, Cremerie Classique, Land O’ Lakes, Berkeley Farms, Celles sur Belle, Challenge European, Beurre President and other domestic and European brands. Ideas are welcome on other brands. Unsalted, tasted blind, all at the same temp. Perhaps I'll separate the cultured butters from the uncultured. I may blow $100 bucks or so on this, but I'll have my answer. I'll judge for taste but also can do a quality-price ratio analysis and see what's the best buy. At least for my palate.

                              Here's a NY Times article on butter that explains how the Straus butter is made with its 85-86% butterfat, comparable to European butters in fat content. Straus makes butter in batches, using a churn similar to a centrifuge, in contrast to big commercial operations that use a "continuous" churn in which the fat molecules from cream are extruded through a filter and collected, and then re-infused with buttermilk to obtain 80% butterfat.

                              The SF Chronicle rated a variety of artisan and commercial butters for flavor and use in a variety of applications from baking to pie crust to beurre blanc. The results were surprising to me:
                              When Put to the Test, Here's How Butter Brands Stack Up

                              And another article from SF Chron on artisan butters:
                              Butter's Back: Markets are filled with more brands than ever -- and yes, there is a difference

                              Maybe I'll find a butter better than Plugra for the price. And actually, I don't need a freezer full of butter. In all honesty, I use very little of the stuff. But perhaps that makes it all the more important that when I do use it, that it really has lots of butter flavor.

                              1. re: maria lorraine
                                JasmineG May 15, 2009 04:23 PM

                                My cookbook club did a butter tasting a few months ago, actually, with most of the butters listed above. We did unsalted and blind, and Plugra and Kerrygold were the favorites. I think that we didn't get Straus, though, so that would be interesting to try.

                                1. re: JasmineG
                                  sugartoof May 16, 2009 10:22 PM

                                  I'm pretty sure TJ's currently carries Kerrygold, if that's any help to anyone.

                                2. re: maria lorraine
                                  sfbing May 15, 2009 04:47 PM

                                  You might also add Organic Valley pasture butter to your testing. It's cultured with a pretty interesting flavor.

                                  1. re: sfbing
                                    maria lorraine May 15, 2009 05:35 PM

                                    Organic Valley is on my radar, but I didn't list it above. Thanks for the lead.

                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                      sfbing May 15, 2009 05:40 PM

                                      I think they sell more than one type of butter and the pasture butter is definitely the way to go.

                                      1. re: sfbing
                                        maria lorraine May 15, 2009 06:35 PM

                                        Good deal, thanks. I'll be on the lookout. Where do you buy it?

                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                          sfbing May 15, 2009 10:56 PM

                                          Actually, bought some at Andronico's when they were out of Strauss. It is more of a spreading on bread butter than a baking butter.

                              2. Paul H May 14, 2009 10:52 AM

                                Costco is currently selling Kerrygold at a very reasonable price. What are folks' opinions of Kerrygold vs. Plugra?

                                1. l
                                  lrealml May 15, 2009 11:39 PM

                                  This won't help the anyone in the North Bay, but for those in the Peninsula or even the South Bay who used to buy Plugra at TJ's (like me), the Milk Pail market in MV has Plugra. I normally don't shop there because the produce is more miss than hit, but I guess I'm going to have to start (at least when I need butter).

                                  Milk Pail Market
                                  2585 California St, Mountain View, CA

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: lrealml
                                    maria lorraine May 16, 2009 01:09 AM

                                    Maybe I'll have to make a butter run!

                                    Sort of reminds me of the oleomargarine runs folks would make across the state line when its sale was outlawed in Wisconsin.

                                  2. c
                                    California Sunshine Jun 7, 2009 01:44 PM

                                    I found the red-wrapped, pound packages of Plugra (unsalted) at Whole Foods on Stevens Creek in Cupertino. I think I paid $3.99.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: California Sunshine
                                      maria lorraine Jun 7, 2009 07:20 PM

                                      Oooooh. Good lead.

                                      Many thanks,

                                    2. f
                                      FiveWorkingStomachs Jun 11, 2009 06:07 PM

                                      Did you try the store finder on the Plugra website?


                                      It tells me I should check Ralph's.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: FiveWorkingStomachs
                                        maria lorraine Jun 11, 2009 11:15 PM

                                        Love. That. Screen. Name.

                                        Ruminator, that's a dandy tool you linked to. Narrowed in on a likely store.


                                      2. Ruth Lafler Jun 13, 2009 03:59 PM

                                        The new West Berkeley Bowl had the familiar red and white wax bricks of Plugra for $4.19. They also had Challenge "european style" butter (83 percent butterfat, according to their website) in one-pound paper-wrapped blocks for $3-something (the also had it in sticks in boxes for more).

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                          Ruth Lafler Sep 2, 2009 10:54 AM

                                          I saw the red-and-white wax bricks of Plugra at Dubai Market in Oakland yesterday for $2.49.

                                        2. AntarcticWidow Jun 14, 2009 03:18 PM

                                          If you don't mind traveling down to central San Rafael, United Market on Third Street carries Plugra, both sweet and salted. I'm not sure of the price but it is less than Andronico's or Mollie Stone's.

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