Oscars party: The red-carpet flavors of gourmet popcorn
Food • Beyond butter: Top 10 snack food has a national reputation, while earning a Utah following.

By Kathy Stephenson

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: February 22, 2013 10:41AM
Updated: February 22, 2013 10:22AM
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Gourmet popcorn is creating such a buzz that the National Association for Specialty Food Trade called it one of the Top 10 snack foods of 2013.

It used to be that butter was the go-to flavor for popcorn, with caramel and bright orange “cheese” worn for holidays and special occasions.

But food fashions change. Today this fluffy white snack has a red-carpet wardrobe, showing up at parties and events flaunting rosemary and truffles, maple syrup and bacon, and even dill pickle flavors. (See recipes at the bottom of this story.)

Gourmet popcorn is creating such a buzz that the National Association for Specialty Food Trade called it one of the Top 10 snack foods of 2013.

And Utah is on-target with this national trend. “People come in and they are so overwhelmed with how many flavors we have,” said Holly Walker Roose, who with her husband and children owns and operates Roosters Gourmet Popcorn in South Jordan.

Riding the cusp of a trend • Roosters, which opened about three months ago, offers 60 gourmet popcorn flavors. The colorful smorgasbord includes salt-and-vinegar, Buffalo wings, loaded baked potato and Southwest jalapeno as well as white chocolate pretzel, blueberry muffin, cake batter and cinnamon toast.

The store uses fresh ingredients to flavor its popcorn, Roose said. “We use real cheese, not powdered, and the loaded baked potato gets real sour cream and chives.”

The couple got the idea for their specialty shop, located in The District shopping center, while visiting family in their home state of Texas. “There were popcorn stores with all these flavors and we thought the concept would go so well in Utah.”

During the holidays, the shop sold a lot of individual and corporate gifts. Customers also have ordered the gourmet popcorn to give as party favors for baby showers and birthdays.

Lately, popcorn bars at weddings and special events “are becoming huge,” she said. That’s because popcorn serves as a blank canvas that allows brides to create a color and flavor scheme that fits their big day. “If you want a purple, apple-flavored popcorn, you can have it,” Roose said.

Roberta Murdock, of Salt Lake City, was in the Roosters Store last week buying a bag of the Southwest jalapeno popcorn, a flavor she had tried at a recent party. “I was surprised at how good it tasted,” she said.

Elevating an all-American snack food • Gourmet popcorn does cost more. At Roosters, bags range from junior ($3.50) to extra large ($51), but prices can vary depending on the ingredients, with candy and nut flavors costing more.

Venesa Dobson, co-owner of PopArt Gourmet Popcorn, attributes the popularity of the snack to maturing tastes. American palates have become more adventurous as they travel to other countries or simply learn more about food through television and the Internet. “People are exploring new flavors and looking for something unique and different,” she said.

Dobson and husband Michael, who have art and theater backgrounds, launched PopArt in the spring of 2011, selling rosemary black truffle popcorn at the Millcreek Farmers Market. Shortly after, they added cracked pepper Parmesan, white cheddar jalapeño and Thai coconut curry.

Using organic kernels and top-quality ingredients has helped the company grow exponentially, with gross sales increasing 1,000 percent a year after the company’s launch. Today, PopArt popcorn is sold in Harmons Grocery Stores, Whole Foods, Liberty Heights Fresh and nearly a dozen other specialty stores around the state. Prices vary at each location, but online a 5-ounce bag costs $4.50.

The Dobsons are hoping to buy new equipment this year that will allow them to make sweet flavors. “Our goal is to take this all-American snack and elevate it to the next level,” Dobson said.

The flavor of the cinema • While gourmet flavors are currently exploding in popularity, they likely never will surpass traditional buttered popcorn at the movie theater, said Lisa Call, whose family owns the Kaysville Theatre and Lisa’s Passion for Popcorn. “If you come to the movie theater, you want the butter-flavored popcorn,” she said. “You want the traditional thing.”

Call started her business more than 20 years ago, after her father-in-law taught her to make caramel popcorn. Today, Lisa’s Passion for Popcorn makes 80 different popcorn flavors, with the majority sold wholesale. For local customers, there’s a small retail shop next to the theater where gourmet flavors can be purchased in smaller amounts.

Carmel popcorn is sold at the Kaysville Theatre, but “it doesn’t replace movie theater popcorn,” Call said. “It replaces the other sweet treats.”

kathys@sltrib.com; Facebook.com/kathy.k.stsephenson; Twitter: @kathystephenson

Where to buy gourmet popcorn

Lisa’s Passion for Popcorn • 37 North Main St., Kaysville; 801-544-4255 or passionforpopcorn.com

PopArt Gourmet Popcorn •Available in Harmons Grocery Stores, Whole Foods, Liberty Heights Fresh and other specialty foods stores. For more information, visit popartsnacks.com.

Popcorn Express • 2550 Washington Blvd., Ogden; 801-335-9505 or facebook.com/popcornexpress4you.

Roosters Gourmet Popcorn • 11560 S. District Drive, South Jordan; 801-495-4505 or roosterspopcorn.com.

Sweet Pop’n Cafe • 155 25th St., Ogden; 801-603-8505 or sweetpopncafe.com.

Truffle popcorn

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons, white truffle oil, divided

1/2 cup popcorn kernels

1 tablespoon butter

3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, place olive oil and 1 tablespoon truffle oil. Add 3 popcorn kernels. Heat over medium-high heat until a kernel pops. Add remaining popcorn; cover. Once the corn begins to pop, shake pan constantly over heat.

When popping slows, remove pot heat and transfer popcorn to a large serving bowl.

Melt butter and mix in 2 teaspoons truffle oil. Pour mixture over popcorn and toss.

Sprinkle with cheese, salt and pepper. Toss to distribute evenly. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container.

Servings • 10 cups

Source: The Popcorn Board

Maple bacon popcorn mix

8 cups popped popcorn

6 slices thick-cut bacon

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

8 cups popped popcorn

2⁄3 cup pecan halves, coarsely chopped

2⁄3 cup dried cranberries

2 tablespoon butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon maple extract

Heat oven to 400 degrees, Line a jelly roll pan with foil.

Place a wire rack in the pan. Arrange bacon on a single layer on rack. Bake 15 minute or until end of the bacon star to curl.

Remove from oven and reserve 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings. Brush bacon with 2 tablespoon maple syrup. Return to oven and bake 15 minutes until browned. Remove from oven to cool; then coarsely chop bacon.

Combine popcorn, pecans and cranberries in a large bowl.

Combine butter, black pepper, maple extract, remaining 2 tablespoons maple syrup and reserved bacon drippings.

Cook over low heat until butter is melted. Drizzle over popcorn and mix thoroughly.

Spread popcorn mixture in a jelly roll or roasting pan.

Bake 5 minutes. Toss in bacon pieces, serve warm.

Servings • 2 quarts

Source: The Popcorn Board

Drizzled chocolate peanut butter party popcorn

8 cups popped popcorn

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

2 teaspoons shortening (don’t use butter, margarine, spread or oil), divided

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

Line a cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan with wax paper.

Spread popcorn in thin layer on prepared pan.

Place milk chocolate chips and 1 teaspoon shortening in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at medium (50 percent power) for 30 seconds; stir.

If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and smooth when stirred. Drizzle over popcorn.

Place peanut butter chips and remaining 1 teaspoon shortening in a separate microwave-safe bowl.

Microwave at medium for 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at medium an additional 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating, until chips are melted and smooth when stirred. Drizzle over popcorn.

Allow drizzled chocolate to set up at room temperature, or refrigerate about 10 minutes or until firm.

Break popcorn into pieces. Popcorn is best eaten the same day as prepared, but can be stored in an airtight container.

Servings • 8

Source: Hershey’s Kitchens