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Dec 29, 2011 07:16 AM

Fake butter at restaurants

Went to a steakhouse last night with family for dinner. It's a fairly large nationwide chain, but they have pretty decent food. I ordered a baked potato with butter as a side. After receiving my food, I tasted the potato and realized that the whipped "butter" was not actual butter, but a butter flavored spread. I love butter, and I can recognize the difference between the real stuff and a fake. Honestly, I think this is probably the first time I've ever gotten a baked potato with the fake stuff on it. It annoys me enough when something is advertised as crab, when it's actually "krab," but now am I going to have start asking if I'm getting real butter or "butter spread?" Is this something more and more restaurants are starting to do? Am I going to have to start carrying a stick of butter in my purse? :)

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  1. having been in many commercial kitchens, what you experienced is quit common nowadays, especially considering the rise in the cost of butter....however, the practice of using whipped butter has been a staple standard operating procedure for many simply melts easier .

    My suggestion is to simply ask for the *real butter* on the side. For the record, there is a product made for the restaurant industry that is known as a butter blend. I find it is a good substitute for the real thing. One example is James Farm Buttery Blend.

    17 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      fourunder, margarine and fake food are never acceptable.

      1. re: sandylc about if you like buffalo wings

            1. re: fourunder

              I use butter, and they taste better for it.

              1. re: fourunder

                Curious where you got that information, fourunder. It's my understanding that the first appearance of a printed recipe for Buffalo wings was in a 1981 New York Times article by Craig Claiborne. That recipe calls for butter.

                1. re: JoanN

                  The original Anchor Bar recipe calls for margarine. It's been modified by many over the years to include butter. I've seen shows featuring the place and they clearly indicate margarine is proper for their recipe.


                  1. re: fourunder

                    Curious who “they” is. Even the Belissimo’s, the original owners of the restaurant, disagree on the circumstances of the first serving of the wings. Take a look at this article by Calvin Trillin from 1980 (this, by the way, is what inspired the Craig Claiborne article). No mention of either butter or margarine. And none of the Belissimo’s ever published a recipe. Maybe Teressa used margarine; maybe she used butter; maybe she used neither and just put hot sauce on the wings. No one knows for sure.

                2. re: fourunder

                  Oh! Well, many old or even current recipes call for shortening or margarine - I can guarantee you that you can use butter instead and get better results!

            2. re: sandylc

              The advice should be that if you are unwilling to compromise on ingredients then avoid large national chains. A "butter substitute is never acceptable" attitude is lost on a corporation that is seeking to shave pennies off a serving (multiplied by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of servings).

              1. re: ferret

                You are pointing out the greater problem!!

                1. re: ferret

                  Absolutely right.

                  Which is why we do not eat out, because you can never tell when margarine's been added to baked/cooked goods, or what's been microwaved, or God knows what else . . .

                2. re: fourunder

                  I have no problem with whipped butter, as long as it's actually butter. I suspect the stuff I had was a butter blend, because initially, it did taste like butter, but then there was the margarine aftertaste. Sure, use it if you feel you must, but call it "butter topping" or "butter spread" and I'll know not to order it.

                  1. re: gmm

                    If i recall, the buttery blend from James Farms is 40% real butter and 60% margarine.

                3. It may well be something "fairly large nationwide chain's" are doing - and I'd be pretty surprised that they all haven't been doing it.

                  1. When I order lobster or a baked potato or anything else requiring butter in a restaurant, I say something like "I don't mean to be obnoxious, but please make it real butter, because I don't like the substitutes." Only once has this been a problem, when it turns out they literally had no real butter. Never been back :P

                    1. Along the same lines, I despise "whipped topping" like this
                      Seems like many joints use this on their desserts and specialty coffees.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: porker

                        There may be an underlying reason why this product is used...besides the fact it holds it structure better.....I believe non-dairy products like this are Kosher that the correct phrase?

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Theres plenty reasons why its used - shelf life (frozen), non-dairy, and cost. I just don't like it advertised as whipped cream. Not only that, but many servers simply assume its cream and describe it as such. We once had a bartender pull it out of the fridge and describe it as the "best quality whipped cream there is". He was surprised when we pointed out it wasn't cream.

                        2. re: porker

                          but people who are lactose intolerant are thrilled that such a product exists :)
                          We just want the menu to state the truth.

                          1. re: porker

                            Deer God. It's HFCS, oil, an emulsifier & gum.


                            1. re: AsperGirl

                              Dear Lord. All I'm saying is don't call it whipped cream. Maybe call it whipped topping, or cream whip, maybe wheam crip, whatever, but don't call it whipped cream for crissakes.....
                              You order a crabcake only to find its made with surimi, you ask the waiter whats up, its imitation crab. The waiter says "Dear God. Its fish and stuff. Pollack, sugar, sorbitol, tapioca starch, egg whites, soybean oil, natural and artificial flavorings, caramel, paprika, and annatto extract."

                          2. I had a similar situation and went back to speak with the Chef. He defended his use of a butter substitute by claiming it was "a good product". I told him that I didn't come here for a "product": I came here for food.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Sommelier

                              Do you go back and complain when the kitchen uses vegetable oil instead of olive oil in preparing your meal as well?