Friday, September 15, 2017

Quinn Popcorn

I've reviewed a lot of popcorn by now.  You know it is my favorite snack food.  You know I have ... a problem.

But I also have a new discovery.  A real innovation in microwave popcorn.  Yes, really.  They have changed things.

Let me introduce Quinn Popcorn.  Their tag line is that they are reimagining food.  I don't entirely disagree.  They make bagged, popped popcorn, microwave popcorn,  and pretzels (gluten-free).

I know that doesn't sound very interesting, but, Quinn took the concept of microwave popcorn, and made it ... more work for you.  More work, but, more payoff.

You have to add the oil.  You have to add the seasonings.  You have to shake.  A lot.  They don't have make crazy flavors, and you likely have all the ingredients in your own pantry to do this without their popcorn kits.  You could just pop plain popcorn and add oil and seasonings from your own pantry at a fraction of the cost.  But they do combine it all together in one pretty box, and use quality ingredients.  I'm not entirely sure it is worth the rather high cost (I paid $5.99 for 2 bags of popcorn ... nearly movie theater prices!), but, it is clearly a high quality product.  I also tried their more mainstream popped bagged popcorn.

Microwave Popcorn

Microwave Popcorn is available in 5 varieties, 4 savory (Just Sea Salt, Real Butter & Sea Salt, Real White Cheddar, and Parmesan & Rosemary) and 1 sweet (Vermont Maple Kettle Corn).  I tried one of each category.
The boxes are all cardboard, which I guess all popcorn boxes are, but these felt ... nicer?  They weren't covered in glossy writing and bright colors.

The packaging really matches the product.
Descriptions: Aged Parmesan & Rosemary.
Inside each box is two bags of popcorn, two pouches of oil, and and two seasoning packets.

On the back side of each is info on what's inside, down to the details such as "rosemary: grown and dried in peru and spain"  and "sea salt: harvested in brazil".
Clearly Labelled Packages: Aged Parmesan & Rosemary.
On the front,  the packets are clearly labelled as steps #1 and #2.

So, how easy to make was this?

Well, the popcorn step was like any other microwave popcorn.  Put in microwave on high for 3 minutes, stay close by, listen for popping to slow, grab it before it burns.  Elevate if you have convection oven.  Easy enough.

The bag itself seemed to just be paper.  It even said it was compostable on it.  It wasn't coated in plastic inside.

The popcorn comes out entirely plain, very unlike any other microwave popcorn I've made.  Not only did the bag not have a plastic lining, it didn't seem to have anything but popcorn in it.  No "butter", "oil", or other chemicals in there.  Just a paper bag.  And out of it?  Just, plain popcorn.  Good plain popcorn.  So far, not very interesting.

Now, to transform it.  Pouch #1, for both varieties I tried, was sunflower oil.  I easily opened the pouch with one hand, given the little slit in the packaging.  Points to them for that.  And I poured in some oil.  I'll admit, the first time, it felt a bit weird pouring in so much oil.  I poured on about a third, and started shaking it.  I actually thought I wouldn't use it all, and could go a bit lighter.  But ... it really does all soak in.  So I added more.  Shook again.  And more.  It felt a bit gross adding so much oil, when you can see how much you are adding, but, it was the right amount, and I used it all.

Finally, step 3, the seasoning.  It was a bit harder to get evenly throughout.  I dumped some in, shook, and then went to add more, and saw most of it still on top.  So I shook even more, but still, it didn't distribute very well.  I started creatively adding more, down the sides, and then shook, and it all worked out, but, it wasn't quite as easy as they make it seem.

This popcorn does take effort.

The second time, I did it kinda in batches.  I did probably 60% of pouch #1 (oil) in a few batches, and again, felt crazy adding so much oil, but every taste test I did, tasted better the more oil I added.  I set the rest aside, to see if I really needed it, and got to work on pouch #2 (seasoning), again, in little pours with intermixed shakes.  I taste tested as I went.  Then, I poured out the top half off the bag, and got back to work on the bottom half of the bag.  Sure, it had some of the oil and seasoning already, but, I added the rest to the second half of the bag, and again, taste tested as I went.  The more oil and seasoning you add, the better it gets, so, yeah, just use it all.

Next time,  might just dump it into a big bowl for easier mixing?
Final Product: Aged Parmesan and Rosemary.
"Parmesan & popcorn, we totally stole your idea."

The end result?

Pretty good popcorn.  The base popcorn was actually really quite good, nicely crunchy, kinda light.  The oil wasn't too oily.  And the coating?  Really tasty.  Slightly cheesy, hint of rosemary, slightly salty.  The seasoning for this really was just parmesan cheese, sea salt, and dried rosemary.

Overall, really quite good, and, yes, different from regular microwave popcorn.

Ojan came out when he heard me shaking and shaking and shaking some more, and asked to try it.  He also loved it, and asked for his own portion.

Of course, there is nothing about this that required that you buy Quinn popcorn.  You could pop any good quality plain popcorn (they do sell the kernals too), add a high quality oil, and dump in parmesan cheese, salt, and dried rosemary from your own spice rack.  I'm sure you could achieve the same quality level.  At a fraction of the price.  But, Quinn does make it easier, if you want quality popcorn.
Final Product: Vermont Maple Kettle Corn.
"Like a fresh stack of flapjacks that you can eat with your hands."

I love kettle corn.  There is a stand at the farmer's market in my hometown that makes the most amazing kettle corn ever.  No other kettle corn ever compares, but, of course, I try it everywhere I see it.

More context: I grew up in New Hampshire, on the border of Vermont, with a family that makes their own maple syrup.  And somehow, maple kettle corn was entirely new to me.  I not only had never had it, I honestly just never even thought of it.

The popcorn and the sunflower oil for this were the same as the parmesan and rosemary flavor, the only difference is the seasoning packet, this time filled with just two things: maple sugar and salt.

Given my sugaring upbringing, maple sugar is not new to me (I have a shaker in my pantry, alongside my other sugars).  Putting sugar and salt on popcorn is the classic recipe for kettle corn.  Why it never occurred to me to put maple sugar I don't know.  But I'm glad I have now.

As with the other flavor, the popcorn itself was light and fluffy, quality stuff.  As with the other, I felt crazy adding so much oil, but, it was necessary to make it even tastier.  The maple sugar and salt was a nice combination, not super maple-y, but sweet, a bit more fun than regular kettle corn.

It still wasn't as amazing as the farmer's market kettle corn, but I liked the maple flair, and would get it again.

Packaged Popcorn

Quinn also sells bagged, popped popcorn, in 3 plain (olive oil, coconut oil, or sea salt), 1 quasi interesting flavor (white cheddar), and 1 .. strange one (super kale and sea salt).  I went for the later.
Super Kale Popcorn.
"Organic kale + popcorn = snackable superfood."

I obviously like popcorn.  I obviously like it both sweet and savory.  I don't mind kale.  

But kale popcorn?

This did not work for me.

It was green.  Very green.  That was fun.  It was a healthy option, only 43 calories per cup, compared to the standard oh, 240 calories per cup of caramel corn I usually go for.  But.  That didn't matter.

It tasted like kale.  Too much like kale.  It also had carrot, onion, and garlic, but I just tasted kale.  When eating popcorn, it turns out, I don't want to taste kale.
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