We sometimes pop corn for popcorn at home, but it just ain’t the same as what a fine popcorn shop can make. Especially one of the finest popcorn shops we’ve ever visited: KuKuRuZa in downtown Seattle’s historic Kress Building. It helps that they’ve got a $25,000 machine (air-popped, without added oil) that’s pretty much continually popping high-quality, butterfly and mushroom (the shape, not the taste) varieties of corn at about 450 degrees. And that Popcorn Chef Robert Hicks is continually creating new flavor combinations.
Robert doesn’t say much, so it’s co-owner George Marema who gave us a culinary tour of the corn. We must have sampled most of the 25 or so flavors, as well as seasonal ones like Gingerbread Frost, Egg Nog with Chocolate Brandy, Candy Cane Caramel, and Peppermint Krackle. (They’re already working on some Valentines Day concoctions.) The sweet varieties tend to be the most colorful and eye-catching, but as we usually simply sprinkle brewer’s yeast on ours at home, it’s not surprising that we liked the savories best—especially the spicy ones. Actually, George says that Seattleites gravitate toward the spicy stuff, such as Jalapeno Cheddar (our favorite) and Chipotle cheddar. (And unlike Smartfood, our popcorn of choice in the eighties, KuKuRuZa’s doesn’t turn your hands into a gluey mess.) There’s talk of experimenting with black truffle and pink peppercorn, though we’d love to see them use some Sichuan peppercorn and perhaps wasabi as well.
But it’s all personal preference. And it’s all fun. Part of that fun is to simply stroll into the store and start sampling to find your favorites. If you’re like us, you’ll find it hard to walk out without a box, bag, or basket (or maybe even a decorative tin) of popcorn to take home and enjoy—if you can resist eating it all on your way there.
Cross-posted at Seattlest, where “we” = me.