Martin's Pretzels@Greenmarkets-what gives?
Is it just me, but can we place Martin's Pretzels on the "watch" list?...apparently, there's been some change in management and quality seems inconsistent.
I've been told that the pretzels actually hail from TWO different bakeries (Phila, NY and Akron, PA), and that water quality is only part of the issue.
Anyone care to comment...the last truly great batch was one I bought in August and introduced to my brother in Oakland, CA...I pray they can return to the former glory.
"One for the road?"
I brought a bucket back from Akron, PA when I was home for the Holidays. (And ate nearly that many there in three days). Good as ever. You can walk in through the back screendoor at the tiny Akron bakery, and buy them freshly made, still warm and a little bit soft in the middle. That's a side trip worth taking, if you're ever in or around Lancaster County.
I think the ones at the Greenmarket are from the NY bakery. That's what I've understood. I've tried them a few times over the last year and found them to be really good, but not to Akron's level. (Could just be hometown pride.)
How do you think they've changed? Why didn't you enjoy the most recent batches as much?
Regarding the "classic" Martin's which I prefer on the dark side:
-They vary in freshness (I've had more than one batch that tasted pale and old).
-Where there once was a snappier, richer, maltier flavor, I find many flat and cardboardy.
-Is so much road salt necessary?...seems like a waste and unhealthy. (I'm aware of the no-salt variety).
-When is the next price increase?...no matter how you cut 'em, four-for-a-buck is a bit much for pretzels, even at the gourmet level.
re: Mike R.
-Freshness is really, really important. I don't like them if they're not absolutely fresh. The Greenmarket operation doesn't seem to preserve the freshness as well as it could. Too much open air and the bags they put them into are flimsy. And I guess you can't be sure how old they are to start with.
-The snappiness and richness might also have to do with freshness. I think you're close with the 'cardboard' taste. There's a distinct flavor they take on when they begin to stale. Or it could be that the NY plant tweaked its recipe/is using different ingredients. I haven't noticed any difference in Akron's quality over the years. They are still the best I've ever had.
-'Road salt', another good description! Actually, I love the salt. And I search through a bucket of them to find the ones with the most salt first. You can get them extra salty or extra dark (almost black) at the bakery. The extra salty are about twice as salty as the saltiest you will see in a regular batch at the Greenmarket. Too much for me.
-They are expensive at the Greenmarket. I guess the transportation and labor adds cost. Still a better value than buying a small bag of Rold Gold's out of a vending machine for the same price.
It's easy to get caught up in a discussion of our two bakeries. Pretzels at the market come from both. Same exact ingredients, same flour from the same mill, same yeast, same process, and from one day to the next, one month to the next, there are differences between the two, and within each bakery. There has been no management change--Lloyd and Clarence are brothers, their wives are sisters. Lloyd turned the PA bakery over to Clarence in 1984 and opened the upstate bakery in 1993. You might tune into Food Finds Snack Food Episode airing on Jan 22 at 3:30 on the Food Network (it will air again on a couple of dates in March) for a pretty good view of the bakery in NY and the Greenmarket. After the show first aired this summer we sent out a lot of pretzels and got lots of raves and lots of customers coming back for more. As for the market, if there are any problems with your pretzels we're happy to replace them. For those who are very particular we always recommend testing a piece before you buy. I've been eating pretzels for almost 30 years and there are days when I can guess which pretzel came from which bakery and days when I can't at all. And for the true connoisseurs it so happens that when we taste test different batches of pretzels the "winners" seem to see-saw between the two bakeries. No matter what, we try our hardest to keep up the standard, and appreciate all comments.
I sincerely respect that you've taken time to respond to our discussion...unlike the Keebler's of the world - who've gone out of their way to screw up our old friends, CHEEZ-ITS, the last remaining product with the "Sunshine" brand-name.
Martin's has a product which is, at its very best, IS THE BEST...especially those "dark-side" pretzels, which your excellent salesperson keeps in a separate stash for "by request" customers.
As your customer for (you fill in the blank) "X" number of years at the Greenmarkets, since you guys began there, I'd pass the booth and do the quick taste from a sample tin...this is no more, perhaps do to the health issues related to pickers and choosers. On the best days, you could be certain that a three-dollar-bag would hold me 'til next time...and I NEVER purchase TOO MUCH AT ONCE because I ALWAYS want 'em at their freshest!
So, can you give us any clue (stock-rotation cycles, pull-dates on the boxes?); Are all the varieties baked at both bakeries? I hate being a nudge on your pretzelmongers.
Anyway, thanks again for your up-frontedness!...now, if only they'd restore those double-decker and "dark-edged" Cheez-Its! (Probably culled by overzealous quality-control EXPERTS).
Wow, I'm really excited to have such a personal comment from a Martin's person! Martin's Pretzels have been a staple in and slice of my NYC life -- a treat/outing I always look forward to. You're salespeople at the Greenmarkets are great as well. Thanks again for the comments!