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Melissa Romano offers me a tub filled with milled black malted barley, the same Blackprinz malt used in Ocelot Brewing Company’s beer.
Eric Lundberg passes me malted wheat and I inhale. It smells like a brewery.
Lundberg mills malted barley and malted wheat, turning them into flours, turning the flours into dough. He cold-ferment proofs the dough, rolls it, gives it a traditional lye wash, scores the dough and bakes it for, according to Romano and Lundberg, the area’s only artisanal pretzel. And soon, the basis of a stand-alone bakery.
Nordic Knot started in Lundberg’s Reston kitchen, as he and his daughter attempted pretzel-making at home. After trying a dozen recipes, the engineer (he consults these days) concocted his own. Lundberg uses the words “manufacturing” and “process,” but also “art form” and “craft.”
Baking is a blend of exactness and creativity, and Nordic Knot’s pretzels represent the best of both.
Romano, who owns neighboring Lake Anne Brew House with her husband in Lake Anne Plaza, was introduced to the pretzels when Lundberg dropped samples at her doorstop.
Though pairing pretzels and beer is nothing new, the way Lundberg incorporates brewing ingredients makes for a product ripe for the age of craft collaborations. Each brewery can sell a pretzel featuring the same malt used in its beer.
Lundberg got his home kitchen certified, but the growing demand for pretzels led him and Romano to lease a commercial space. Nordic Knot now sells pretzels to area coffee shops (Rare Bird in Falls Church, Weird Brothers in Herndon) and breweries (Black Walnut in Leesburg, Loudoun Brewing in Leesburg). There’s also online ordering for bulk purchases and local delivery available, with pretzel options of cinnamon sugar, everything, salt and a $96 party box.
Nordic Knot is strictly a baking space, but this spring, the business partners will open a walk-up bakery also in Lake Anne Plaza. Carbs, if you didn’t know, are back. The carry-out space will feature European-style sandwiches on a pretzel-batard mash-up, baguettes, loaves (experimenting with sourdough and sprouted-grain), plus coffee, espresso, beer from Lake Anne Brew House and pretzels.
The pretzels themselves are hard to categorize. They are in some ways the stereotypical pretzel with a shiny, barely buttery (he uses a spray gun filled with butter prior to baking) and salty crust and a doughy-soft inside. But they aren’t Bavarian, or Philly or any other widely recognized version. The name Nordic Knot reflects Lundberg’s ancestry,though Scandinavia doesn’t have its own pretzel. It’s a pretzel in flux.
Lundberg quotes a regular customer who can taste the difference between a pretzel baked today and a pretzel baked from a prior formulation. Where consistency is a point of pride in mass-produced food, it can stifle ingenuity in small-batch entrepreneurs. He’ll send different batches of pretzels to the brewery for A/B testing, letting customers fill out comment cards with comparison notes. Says Lundberg, we’re on a “quest for pretzel perfection.” // Nordic Knot: 11424 Washington Plaza West, Reston