A food review by Daniel B.
In the depths of a New York winter, soup isn’t a nice idea, it’s practically a necessity.
One of my favorite soups to stave off the cold and warm myself up from the inside out is a classic split pea. Whenever possible I get the ham hocks from Rolf’s in Albany. Not because of the pedigree of the pork, but because of the flavor of the smoke. As the hocks simmer with the pulses and aromatics, the pork fat renders into the broth and helps to give the soup a silky texture.
But even this hearty soup on its own doesn’t feel quite like a meal unto itself. It needs a little something more. Crackers won’t cut it. Toast points don’t quite hold up. Crusty bread is good, but if you just use the crusts then there’s all of those soft insides that need to be made into bread crumbs or croutons.
The answer obviously is bread sticks. These old world crispy biscuits from Arthur Avenue Baking Co. have an unexpected ingredient that may not put them on anyone’s short list for a healthy snack, but make them ideal for winter soup dunking.
Most places really just don’t make them like that anymore. But at this Italian bakery in the Bronx that also bakes coal and brick oven breads in addition to other traditional sweets, lard is alive and well.
As a result, these bread sticks are super crunchy and decidedly savory. For what it’s worth, there is more salt in these sticks than lard. They aren’t exactly health food, but each 9 g stick only has 40 calories, and only 15 of those come from fat. Still there isn’t enough saturated fat or cholesterol to even register on the nutritionals. But each bread stick does carry with it 65 mg of sodium.
On their own, there are enough toasted sesame seeds pressed into the surface, that they are perfectly tasty as a snack. But it’s their hidden ability to serve as an edible spoon for thick and hearty soups that make them shine.
They steadfastly hold their shape. Their crunch never diminishes. There are no soggy mushy bites. And as a result, they bring a surprising lightness to the soup eating experience.
When you finish one, there is no need to toast another. Nor do you need to pick up the bread knife and slice the next piece off the loaf. Nope, you just simply dig another sesame spoon out of the bag. It’s the epitome of a convenience food.
You don’t even have to go down to the Bronx to get them. Hannaford has them at locations throughout the Hudson Valley. And in the Red Hook store a 7 ounce bag will set you back a mere $2.69. That’s less than the tolls to get down to Arthur Avenue.
Now break out your soup pot and get warm, because despite what Phil the groundhog may have predicted, in upstate New York it’s going to take a while for spring to arrive.
About Daniel B.
A west coast transplant now living in Albany, Daniel Berman is applying his communication strategy background to food writing with the ultimate goal of improving the culinary landscape in the Capital Region. He writes the FUSSYlittleBLOG and contributes regularly to All Over Albany.