(photo: tarallini made with red pepper flake)
I’m going to ask the inevitable question; how many bags of chips did you consume this weekend? And did you include some dips like sour cream and chives or salsa to go with the multiple bowls of corn and potato chips? Well, I’m not going to scold you because it was Super Bowl weekend and what better to go with a cold beer than some salty chips (my favorite beer/chip combo is Brooklyn Lager with Cape Cod Chips; don’t tell any of my foodie buddies!). Oh, burgers go great with beer as well; here’s my recipe!
When I’m not consuming chips and beer, however, my favorite all time snack food are taralli (sometime called tarallini or Italian pretzels). Tarallini are very popular in Southern Italy and go well with wine. Tarallini are formed into tiny rings and baked and have a crunchy texture and the better varities are made with wine, olive oil, and any number of fresh spices (including red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, and black pepper).
Like buying a good quality extra virgin olive oil, the selection process for finding a good quality Taralli can be hit or miss (unfortunately, this is the case for many Italian specialty products). Most Italian specialty shops carry a local product, probably made from a near by bakery (this is the case in my area) or have the bread snacks imported from Italy. Most of the Taralli that I’ve tried in the NYC/NJ area have been poor representations of the original product that I first tasted in Calabria. Taralli should have a crunchy and flavorful consistency and the olive oil and wine components should be nicely pronounced. Moreover, the bread flavor shouldn’t be stale or flat. When Taralli are made with a particular spice, such as fennel seed, then the spice should be baked throughout the taralli and really stand out as the main flavor component.
(photo: Aroma Antico tarallini and aroma stix <or bread sticks> made with red pepper flake, sesame seed, and fennel seed)
Recently, I had the chance to sample some taralli made by a Lynbrook, NY company called Aroma Antico (translated as “traditional flavor”). Aroma Antico makes a wide range of products, but their bite size, and flavored, tarallini (branded as Rallini) stand out as one of the better Italian bread snacks I’ve tried in the US (and believe me my mother kept a well stocked Italian pantry!).
Aroma Antico’s Rallini are made without preservatives, artificial flavorings, and GMOs. Aroma Antico also uses real extra virgin olive oil, NY Finger Lakes region white wine, and unbleached Dakota wheat flour to make their product. The spices used in the Rallini are also top notch and include red pepper flake, black pepper, garlic, and fennel seed.
(photo: tarallini made with black pepper)
I sampled all four of the spiced Rallini and each tarallini had the spice baked all the way through the product and the flavor component was huge. The red pepper flake Rallini was nice and spicy and you could see how the olive oil and red pepper flake baked into the product when examining the Rallini closely. The black pepper variety had a pronounced flavor and was quite good, but my favorite, slightly ahead of the red pepper flake flavor, was fennel seed. Like the Columbus’ Artisan Finocchiona salami), the Rallini fennel tarallini had great fennel seed flavor and were nutty, vibrant, and slightly tart. I went through a bowl of the Fennel Rallini within minutes; they were that good.
On a separate occasion I had my parents over for a quick taste and we consumed the remaining Aroma Antico Rallini with some cacciatore, extra sharp provolone, and a bottle of Morellino di Scansano. My father enjoyed the fennel variety while my mother was impressed with both the garlic and red pepper flake flavors. We also sampled the Rallini without meat or cheese. Rallini are especially good as a sort of wine cracker.
(photo: aroma stix made with extra virgin olive and tons of sesame seeds)
Aroma Antico also produces Aroma Stix, Pastelle – tea cookies, and Friselle. Without sounding overtly bias, I didn’t try a product that I didn’t think was well made and incredibly authentic (in relation to the same varieties made in Italy). The sesame seed Aroma Stix were particularly good (and full of sesame seeds!) and both my mother and wife enjoyed the tea cookies (and commented how “home made” the product tasted).