Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kernel Seasons Review-A-Palooza: Nacho Cheddar Seasoning


It was bound to happen, ladies and gentlemen: our first dissenting opinion.

As I mentioned in my introduction to popcorn and why the Hell we eat so much of it, I prefer sweeter, more complex flavors to my popcorn seasonings, while Richard prefers savory seasonings with a bite and a kick to 'em. This is not to say I don't love spicy food - I can put away a bowl of salsa and some chicken wings - but I don't always love food that's complicated, sometimes I prefer just a daub of flavor, right where it packs a punch.

We were torn between Nacho Cheddar and Jalapeno Cheddar, and ended up with Richard putting both behind his back and me selecting a hand, which led us to Nacho Cheddar. I was skeptical because there is a seasoning we've tried before - Bacon Cheddar - that comes much lauded by my boyfriend, whereas I don't like it. To me, it's way too heavy-handed and can be a little overpowering, but he can't get enough of the stuff. Considering this was kin to that, I was a little hesitant.

My fears were not unfounded, but didn't need to run as deeply, either. The Nacho Cheddar seasoning is rich, to be sure. It tastes like cheddar cheese curds with that little devil-may-care "this is bad for you" aftertaste (except it's not, at 2 calories a cap-full) that you get from movie theater nacho cheese, without having to eat nasty ... movie theater nacho cheese. It's flavorful and you can identify what it is from the get-go (the problem I have with Bacon Cheddar is that it doesn't taste like bacon and cheddar, it tastes like chemicals and cheese, blech).

That said, Rich went on to enthusiastically coat the popcorn with it, and about 3/4 of the way through the bucket, I had to stop. We are usually in sync with when we need more butter or seasoning, but this time, he wanted way more than I did. To me, this was a subtle seasoning, but to him, it's a "layer it on it's so good oh god" seasoning - which is great! It's just not for me, and that's okay. I'll definitely eat it, I might just have to ask him to lay off one corner of the popcorn bucket and be a little lighter-handed with it, haha.

Overall, this is a good one and we'll probably repeat purchase it. I am interested in seeing how it sizes up to its Jalapeno Cheddar brother, when we get around to eating it. (perhaps tomorrow night?)

Taste: 9.5/10 from Richard, 8/10 from me
Practicality: 10/10 across the board
Total: 8.75



Monday, September 16, 2013

Kernel Seasons Review-a-palooza: Garlic Parmesan Seasoning


We love garlic. A lot. "A lot," a lot. If a recipe calls for 3 cloves, we're more apt to put in 6. To my knowledge, there has never been a time where the phrase "too much garlic" has come out of either myself or Richard's mouth. I don't think it ever will, either.

So it seemed natural that the garlic parmesan seasoning would be next on our proverbial "hit list," so to speak. We popped a bucket of popcorn and sat down with our butter spray and the little salt shaker, apprehensive after our previous fight with that spicy temptress, Buffalo Wing, but fairly confident that our much-beloved garlic could not fail us.

And, to our delight, we were right! This one packs a flavor punch without having to use too much seasoning. You can taste the garlic and the parmesan in equal amounts, and it's flavorful without being heavy, you can still tell there's popcorn underneath there and not Styrofoam packing peanuts. We were impressed, and put away the bucket without much discussion because it honestly didn't really merit any: this was an amazing product. It's not found locally here (that I've seen, and I've tried Publix, Kroger, Wal-Mart and Food Lion), much to my dismay, because I can tell this one is a repeat. I don't think it quite holds up to our beloved ranch, but it's so close you can feel its breath on the back of your neck.

The only complaint we have, and it doesn't even really qualify as a complaint, is that it could stand to be a little more garlicky. But we can always try some garlic powder with it, and honestly I'm glad it doesn't totally bowl you over - much more would be murder on your breath! While it hasn't dethroned our favorite, it's crept up right beside it, and I can't wait until we've tried all of these flavors so we can get back around to this guy! He's welcome in the Tupperware-cum-popcorn-seasoning cabinet any day.

Taste: 9/10
Practicality: 10/10
Overall: 9.5/10

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Kernel Seasons Review-a-palooza: Popcorn Spritzer & Buffalo Wing Seasoning


Overwhelmed with indecision with regards to which seasoning to try first, we did what any sane couple would do: made the six flavors we were given into a pyramid and took turns alternating between each other, removing them as options one by one. In the end, we were left with buffalo wing. To ensure that we got the optimal buffalo wing experience, we decided to pair it with an aerosol can from the company labeled Popcorn Spritzer.

Popcorn Spritzer
The Good: It's pretty nutritionally bereft. If you'd like your popcorn to have a butter flavor but not be full of calories, this is an option on the market that isn't too shabby.

The Bad: Just about everything else. It seems we both had this opinion, unfortunately. It came out in a cloud of aerosol spray and I caught a whiff of a particular chemical smell that I couldn't seem to shake. Undaunted, we sprayed it directly onto our popcorn and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, "the best" wasn't very good, as neither of us could really detect a butter flavor. There is a possibility that maybe we just didn't apply it right, or used too little, so I wouldn't discount it right out.

Overall: On the store shelves, this stuff costs just as much as a spray bottle of butter like we use, and if I'm paying $3 for fake butter, I'd like for it to look and taste like the real thing.

Taste: 0/10
Practicality: 0/10
Total: 0/10

Buffalo Wing Seasoning
The Good: We both love a good spicy treat, so it's really no surprise that we gravitated toward this one. When perusing the online list of flavors offered, both Richard and I agreed that we'd really like to give Buffalo Wing a try. And I'm glad we did! It packs a punch and really made my eyes water, I ended up admitting defeat about halfway through the bucket as I just couldn't take the spicy with the amount we'd applied to the popcorn, but Richard made it 90% of the way before he had to throw in the towel. We did try to add a little ranch to it to make it a bit less spicy, which helped. If you love the taste of buffalo wing sauce but don't want any of that pesky chicken in the way, this is the way to go. I imagine it would be really good in a spicy chicken dish, or to liven up some types of baked chicken.

The Bad: I read some Amazon reviews prior to trying this one, and a lot of them came to a general consensus: this is a really good flavor, if you don't mind breathing it. Jessica, the amazing Kernel Seasons PR rep, gave us a pointer when she mailed it out: she said that the buffalo wing and jalapeno cheddar are thin and powdery flavorings derived directly from their spicy brethren, so be careful when you inhale. I, not listening to reason, did what any reasonable person would do upon taking the seal off a new food item: I sniffed it and began to immediately cough and sputter. When we put it on the popcorn, I had to stay a good distance away. It was great in my mouth, but here's the key: as long as I didn't inhale while eating it.

Overall: It tasted great and I'd highly recommend it to anyone, but only if you're okay with not inhaling while eating it. (inhaling caused both of us to cough a bit, sneeze, generally have a humorous reaction. But we don't always look for comedy in our food!)

Taste: 8/10
Practicality: 4/10
Total: 6/10

Popcorn And Me: A Primer


I love popcorn. "Love" might not actually be strong enough, since what I feel is less of a love and more of an all-encompassing, all-consuming swooning desire to be eating popcorn at most times in my life. Watching a movie? Popcorn. Watching TV? Popcorn. Too lazy to cook dinner? Popcorn. It always, always wins.

I was blessed enough to have a boyfriend who is if not equal to me in popcorn passion than beyond it. Richard loves popcorn with a fervor I initially thought only viable by just myself, but fortunately for me, this is not the case. It is true love when you can both just Kirby-inhale a large bucket of popcorn while watching television and feel that true bliss of contentedness wash over you like a wave crashing onto the shore. Where there is popcorn in either of our apartments, there is love, my friends.

We love popcorn so much for varying reasons, but presumably this is mostly because of two things: 1) it's cheap, 2) it's healthy. It's not exactly a health food, no, but you can eat massive piles of the stuff (when it's done right!) and barely put a dent in your caloric intake for the day. This, of course, assumes a few things: you air-pop your popcorn and you don't use real butter on the stuff.

I have a trusty Rival-branded popcorn popper that I've had since maybe a year and a half ago. I liked it enough that when a friend absconded with my first one inadvertently upon moving (which is okay because I "own" about 5 of her DVDs), I just bought another one. It was worth it. We combine this air popper with bottle upon bottle of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!-branded spray, which is almost nothing nutritionally but still tastes just like you melted a stick of butter and slathered it on.

Here is where it gets interesting, sports fans.

Back when I first got my air popper, my good friend-former-next-door-neighbor and I were knee-deep in marathoning Supernatural. We would douse the popcorn in butter spray and Kernel Seasons white cheddar seasoning, and go to town on a giant plastic bowl of the stuff. Flavoring popcorn anything but "salt and butter" was a novelty for me, and I loved the idea. Later, we learned that they made a (now defunct) standalone jalapeno flavoring, which we paired with the white cheddar to make a delicious (and now sadly unrepeatable) spicy white cheddar topping.

When Rich and I began to eat popcorn together, once we'd moved and both lived in the same town, he brought home a shaker of Kernel Seasons ranch seasoning. I was a mite skeptical at first, but I tried it and was 110% blown away with how delicious it was. I could not get enough of the stuff. Since then, we've tried Kettle Corn (meh), Bacon Cheddar (he loves it more than I do) and Caramel (I like it more than he does), but our local stores just lack a variety of flavorings.

Emboldened by a taste for new and exciting flavors that our Georgia town is not privy to, I emailed the Kernel Seasons customer service line, hoping that perhaps someone could point me in the right direction or give me a coupon or perhaps a sample-sized shaker of seasoning. The amazing Jessica with the Kernel Seasons company said that she would mail us some flavors to try on our own, not to worry. A week later, this was sitting on my boyfriend's front step:

*fans self*
We were expecting maybe a coupon and a shaker of seasoning, but we were blown away with the sheer volume and amazing giving spirit that the Kernel Seasons company has for its customer base. Not only do they not mind sharing their wealth, but they went above and beyond anything we could have ever hoped for! I still can't quite believe that we have all of this just sitting in Rich's cupboard, waiting to peruse at our leisure when we pick something to watch most nights.

This is all to say that the following days will encompass a good number of reviews, each focusing on a different flavor of popcorn seasoning and our thoughts. I have different tastes than Richard does (he likes things spicier and I prefer sweeter seasonings), so you'll definitely get a variety of opinion on what matters most: taste.

So thank you, Kernel Seasons, and thank you, reader at home, for dealing with a deluge of popcorn-related entries in the coming days. Remember, stay flavorful! :)