To Butter, or Not Butter, Your Bread

Butter or Olive Oil: How do you like your bread?

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Dining recently at a swank new restaurant, I enjoyed dipping some crusty bread into a pool of olive oil spiked with a bit of vinegar. And though my arteries may prefer this healthful stuff-tasty though it was-I was craving a slather of old fashioned butter.

This got me to wondering: How does a restaurant decide whether to offer olive oil or butter with its bread? Considering a few places I've visited recently, it seems Italian places tend to serve olive oil for dipping, while French, or French-influenced restaurants seem to veer toward buttering their bread-or letting us do it, anyway. Specifically, Serafina and Machiavelli offer oil, while Le Pichet and Boat Street Cafe serve butter.

When restaurants don't fall into either of these two major culinary camps, how do they decide what to serve with their bread? It is about price, or does the decision have more to do with a certain unquantifiable feel of expensiveness? Not that a fancy olive oil is necessarily any less pricey (or rich) than good butter, but perhaps it's more about that feeling of indulgence that comes with butter.

Maybe it is because we know that butter is less healthful than olive oil, so butter is even more of an indulgence. And if fancy restaurants trade in this idea, offering butter may be a way to up the spoiling-oneself-with-a-fancy-dinner-out factor.

But then, do you know anyone who dips bread into olive oil at home?

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