Snack Review: Bacon Ranch Popcorn from Popcorn, Indiana
I’ve never really understood the whole bagged popcorn phenomenon. I mean sure, I’d sit at the same lunch table as the kids munching on bags of the ubiquitous black Smart Food bags, but the chalky, white cheddar taste of those sandy kernels wasn’t something I was trading my hard-earned Halloween candy for. To me, popcorn was something that came smothered in detestably bad-for-you but oh-so-yummy soybean oil in large movie theatre cartons; or, at the very least, from a microwave.
Fortunately, both wanting to live to the age of 30 and a recent (ie. 10 year) deluge of horrible cinematography has caused me to forgo the latter of these popcorn eating habits. But it has not led me to put away the microwaved packets. Often confined to butter and kettle corn flavors, however, I yearn for more in the way of a snack which will actually satisfy my curious taste buds. I also yearn for something which won’t make my residence a 911 call waiting to happen, as a certain tendency has led to a few close calls in the microwave before. If only, I was thinking to myself as I roamed Walmart during a recent stop, I could find some way to access the flavors of smoked pig and cultured buttermilk in bite size from?
Obviously a quick stop in the meat and dairy aisle could have availed this curiosity, but munching on raw bacon and slurping buttermilk wasn’t something I wanted to do on the car ride home. Thankfully the snack aisle provided a cure in the form of Popcorn, Indiana’s Bacon Ranch Popcorn.
Unlike some blogger friends of mine, I fancy myself as enough of a bacon eater to discern whether or not the endless variety of bacon “flavored” products out there actually taste like bacon. While the lingering smoke aroma and unmistakable umami factor (not to mention the texture of rich and chewy fat laced against crispy, caramelized proteins) is something no powder is ever going to accurately capture, there are products which do a much better job than others in replicating the tastes of bacon. Baconnaise was not one of those, but Bacon Ranch Popcorn is.
I was a little skeptical at first. Bacon obviously has a very distinct aroma, and the popcorn smelled ominously neutral, albeit for that characteristic ranch smell that comes from buttermilk powder. Small green and even smaller brown specks dot the popped kernels, which have enough of the crunchier bits to make up for the sometimes hollow bite that bagged popcorns are notorious for. It’s a light crunch, but one which definitely holds a strong tang of buttermilk and ranch, as well as a curious smokey-meatiness which lingers on the way down. It’s not the most distinctive of bacon flavors, but in the realm of snack foods, it’s as “fake” authentic as they come. I’m altogether impressed with the liberally applied seasoning. As any
seasoned veteran snacker will tell you, one of the main draws of ranch flavor is the lickability of the tangy and cheesy powder. It’s the kind of lickability which leaves stains on your keyboard, just like the ones I’m leaving now. But it’s a small price to play given the depth of flavor.
A few minor complaints keep me from giving this an “exceptional” rating. First, there’s an off and altogether ambiguous sweetness that some of the kernels display on first bite (I’m guessing from the maltodextrin, in any case, it tastes off and manufactured). Likewise, you won’t go without getting temporarily choked up by one of those little husk things that dot the popped kernels. And as I mentioned before, the level of sticky-fingerness is worse than a bag of Cooler Ranch Doritos. Overall though, I’m impressed. So impressed that, should I somehow find myself transported via time-machine to an elementary school lunch table, I might just trade that Kit-Kat bar for a bag of popcorn. Provided, of course, that bag come from Popcorn, Indiana and not some bottom shelf vending machine filler like Smart Pop.
Nutrition: Bacon Ranch Popcorn from Popcorn, Indiana
Pros: Liberally applied ranch seasoning has great balance of tang and umami. Doesn't come across as overly salty. Lingering smoke flavor on the back-end. Licking my fingers. All natural. Not running the risk of burning down the house while I run to the bathroom during popping.
Cons: Weird initial sweetness. Hollow kernel syndrome. The disgusting state of this keyboard. Memories of Smart Food. Lack of time transport medium.
Price: $2.50 (Rollback! at Walmart)
Overall GrubGrade: 7.75/10 (Good)
More Info: www.popcornindiana.com