There's a lot to like about hard pretzels. The cool, loopy shape. They're a lower-fat snack alternative to chips, and they stay crunchy for a long time. Introduced to the New World by the Pennsylvania Dutch, they were local long before eating local was a thing.
So why are bowls of pretzels left untouched at parties? For all their positive attributes, pretzels often taste pretty blah — like compressed paper covered in salt chunks.
In a snack industry that covers everything in everything, there isn't much to entice the more adventurous pretzel-eater, besides a dusting of "honey-mustard." (The chocolate-covered pretzel is awesome, but that's a candy bar with a pretzel inside.)
Fortunately for Pittsburghers, there's Verona's Twirly Girl Baking Company, where Julie Steinhaus makes multi-grain hard pretzels in intriguing flavors. Like "fennel and orange," which delivers a slightly sweet pretzel whose aromatic seasonings call to mind a sunny Mediterranean afternoon, rather than a dark, beer-soggy tavern. Still sweet, but also savory and spicy are the curry pretzels — like an Indian meal compressed into a crispy nugget. Other flavors include: rosemary, chipotle, snickerdoodle, and garlic and parmesan.
The pretzels are large-format — their "tubes" at least a ½ inch thick — and are packaged pre-broken up for easy snacking; they are satisfyingly crunchy but not so dry they drain your mouth. (Butter is among the ingredients.) Sure, they cost more than standard pretzels, but it's a good bet party-goers won't leave these snacks languishing.
Available at many local grocery and specialty stores. See list at www.twirlygirlbakingco.com.