by Gretchen Gaede
Pretzel buns, pretzel bites, pretzel chips, pretzel rolls. It always surprises me when something that’s been a part of our food culture for centuries makes a mighty comeback. We’ve seen the rise of the beet, chef mastery of meat loaf, and culinary revival of the deviled egg, and now the soft pretzel has taken a proud spot on nearly every bar menu. While I am not normally a sucker for snack food trends, I must admit that I’ve been happy to devour some of the local pretzel variations that our food scene has to offer.
A great pretzel is great. A bad pretzel is really bad, which is why I snubbed the snack for so long. I’m a German girl, and I’ve had a lot of twisty treats over the years, including one that I snagged right off of the arm of a Bavarian blonde at Oktoberfest, so impressing me with a pretzel isn’t an easy feat. And why should I be impressed? The soft pretzel that many Americans have come to know is the dry, bready, cotton-mouth-inducing mass found at family fun parks and stadiums that not even a neon orange blob of cheese-flavored ooze can improve.
Invented by Italian monks around 610 AD, as a replacement for the richer foods that were off-limits during Lent, the pretzel has seen many faces. According to history, the criss-cross shape of the pretzel was to represent the crossing of one’s arms, as an homage to the traditional posture for prayer. And as the twisty treat spread through Europe, the three holes came to represent the Holy Trinity, associating the snack with good luck, health and prosperity.
Hopefully the good luck still abounds, as my waistline has taken a hit since discovering so many great pretzel bites in our own backyard. And while I haven’t been able to try every offering in town, I have stumbled on a few worth mentioning.
Social – I cannot get enough of their version. It is perfectly buttery, soft, and salty and paired with brie mustard, which is truly addictive.
Black Bottle Brewing – Black Bottle’s take is traditional, and very filling. They give you a nice hand-rolled pretzel with a choice of mustard or cheese. I opt for both to bring out the Ger-merican in me.
Fort Collins Brewery – If you love bacon, try Fort Collins Brewery’s bacon-wrapped pretzel. This dough wrapped in a pig blanket is accompanied with Haus Brew Beer Cheese Soup and Stone Ground mustard — a great partner for a delicious draught.
Styria Bakery – Found at the Old Town Farmer’s Market on Saturday, these pretzels are bigger than anyone’s head and a great snack for wandering though the market or snacking later in the day. Since the market only runs through October, you better get one soon.
The Mayor of Old Town – While you can get a standard pretzel here, it’s the Stuffed Jalapeño Cream Cheese Pretzel served with raspberry jalapeño jelly that has foodies clamoring for more.
So when you’re out and about and need to absorb the slosh in your stomach, give the mighty pretzel a try. You don’t have to spend much to avoid that hangover and get a much-needed cushion for that last drink you wish you hadn’t ordered.
Gretchen Gaede serves up The Hot Dish: a casual look at what’s hip and happening with Fort Collins food and culture. Outside of her day job as President of A-Train Marketing Communications, Gretchen Gaede is a world traveler, writer, and self-proclaimed non-authority on all things related to booze, food, and the enjoyment of life.