A day of Bavarian boozing wouldn’t be the whole *gestalt* without fistfuls of salty snacks. What’s German for, “These pretzels are making me thirsty?” And that’s the idea, of course — the munchies just prep the palate for another round of barrel-sized steins. But as the afternoon wears on, that refrain will soon swing into its converse. All that beer, and you’ll start getting hungry — this time, for something substantial. While your average bar snacks might be purely functional — salt to prime the pump; starch to soak it up — traditional German bierhalls aren’t your average bars, and the snacks there are anything but. We’re talking real, belly-warming, hangover-abating Teutonic comfort food: hand-made mustard, gourmet sausage, pretzels, of course — though you’ve never had any like these. So fill a glass, grab a plate, and bring an appetite. You’ll need it.
Smoked Sea Salt // Bulls Bay Saltworks // McClellanville, SC
On every table, in every takeout bag, on every pantry shelf: shakers and packets, boxes and bags. Salt: ubiquitous and placeless. It’s everywhere, so it comes, it seems, from nowhere. But the funny thing about salt, is despite the industrial-scale machinations that dust it so liberally into our lives, it’s damn low-tech to make. One part seawater, two parts sun. Oh yeah, and the most important part — a person. At Bull’s Bay, that’s Rustin and Teresa Gooden, who wade out into the South Carolina seashore (a national wildlife refuge no less — the water’s filtered by delicious Bulls Bay oysters), to harvet seawater they then dry under the southern sun and smoke over oak chips. After all that work, these crystals deserve a proper setting: like a homemade artisanal pretzel.
Soft Pretzel Mix // Haldeman Mills // Manheim, PA
We’ll start with a disclaimer. Your hand-rolled pretzels won’t look anything like those perfect twists you’re used to. And that’s OK — because they wont taste anything like them either. Either tooth-caking and dry when hard or airy as a pool float (and even less flavorful) when soft, there’s a reason most bars give commercial pretzels away for free. Not these. Made with hearty whole grains from a family mill whose German stock runs centuries deep (they know from pretzels, in other words), these are the real thing, and they require a bit of effort. Mix the dough, wait for it to rise, roll out and twist (as best you can), dip in a mix of water and baking soda for that perfect crust, then bake. So good, no one will care what they look like.
Trees Knees Spicy Syrup // MixedMade // Brooklyn, NY
While the “hot” in your go-to hot sauce might come from an honest-to-goodness pepper, the “sauce” part is often a slurry of vinegar, salt, and water, resigning it, if not to the processed foods aisle, then at least to the savory side of things. But thanks to a base of Catskill-harvested maple syrup, Trees Knees is a spicy-sweet switch hitter. Eggs? Pizza? Of course. But why not morning oatmeal? Iced coffee? Cocktails? Or, our favorite, a perfect bath for pan-fried brats, just pour over and simmer to glaze.
Black Truffle Mustard // Mustard And Co. // Seattle, WA
Seattle’s first and only artisan mustardmakers — mustardmongers? — started simple, with a coffee grinder, some spices, and a dream. Founder Justin Hoffman wanted something a little classier than the distilled vinegar base of most mustards. His tux to their t-shirt? Rich balsamic. And thus a plain, white-bread spread turned fancy food. The coffee grinder is bigger now, and the flavors are varied (think honey curry, garlic dill). But the blackest of the black tie has to be this, their black truffle-infused mustard. Alone, a perfect spread. With a bit of lemon juice or good cider vinegar (anything but white) an epic potato salad vinaigrette.
Smoke & Stout Caramel Bar // Vosges // Chicago
Inspired by founder Katrina Markoff’s mix of traditional training (she’s a Le Cordon Bleu alum) and avant garde inspiration (she worked a stint at El Bulli), Vosges is as far from Hershey bars — in both directions — as it seems possible to get. Think Willy Wonka in a Saville Row suit: the Chicago-based chocolate factory makes everything from über-classic truffles to a whole shelf’s worth of bacon-infused bars to this particularly hybridized creation, a blend of Rogue Brewery’s chocolate stout, rich dark chocolate, and alderwood-smoked sea salt.
Alpine Soppressata // Schaller & Weber // Queens, NY
One hundred years ago, the original Schaller moved his Stuttgart butcher shop to Manhattan, but, as the saying goes, you can take the butcher out of Germany, but… well, the tongue-twistingly Teutonic names speak for themselves: bauernschinken, touristenwurst, nuss schinken. And so do the awards: a dozen gold medals at the Austrian Welser Fair alone. In fact, Schaller & Weber is the only American sausage maker to regularly challenge its German brethren on their home turf. Yeah, it’s that traditional. But should you need even more proof of their pedigree, slice into this German spin on a northern-Italy classic, an air-dried sausage made with good Berkshire pork.