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Hello Asheville!

Let’s talk snacks. Gosh, I sure do love snacks. A lot. So much so, that I’m having a really hard time not typing a bunch of over-enthusiastic swear words about them right now, but I try not to curse in the first paragraph of my pieces for Ashvegas, because it shows up on the front page, and Jason doesn’t need the hate mail pouring in, so I’ll just wait until the 2nd paragraph, and thennn…

… ermerferkin’gerd, I fucking love the fucking shit out of some muhfuckin’ snaaacks! For the first several decades of my life I could accurately be described as a “potato chip person.” Specifically, a friend once commented to me, as I power-vacuumed my way through a giant bag of potato chips, “It’s always the whole bag with you potato chip people.” True story. If I was in for a chip, I was in for the bag. At least back then in my 20’s. Now days I’m mature, refined, dignified… aaand more of a popcorn person. Mmm. Cheese popcorn. Gim. NOW!!!

I’ll crush a giant bag of cheese popcorn in one Saturday afternoon of sitting around smoking grass and catching up on Days of Our Lives, or even worse, watching hockey and stress-shoveling it into my maw with the non-stop rhythmic consistency of a robot-arm on a Japanese assembly line, until I get down to the crumbs, the broken bits, the chafe if you will, and then I will crimp the corner of the bag, tip it ass-end-up, and dump the remaining contents directly into the desperate hole in the middle of my upturned face that I call a mouth. “Feed bagging it,” as Dawn says.

Whatever. As far as obsessive-compulsive behavior goes, it could be a lot worse. Try to imagine for a minute the same exact mentality that I bring to snacking, but focused instead on a case of beer rather than a bag of delicious cheese popcorn. Yeah. Not good. In other words: I used to be drunk a lot. Now I have cheese fngers and maybe a popcorn remnant in my beard. So, I choose obsession B, please.

POPCORN!

Here are my top three favorite brands of cheese popcorn currently in existence, listed in ascending order:

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There are worse things I could be… have been… addicted to than organic popcorn!

#3 – 365 BRAND ORGANIC CHEESE POPCORN  – Yeah, that’s right. Especially for the price, 365 is one of the best cheese popcorns out there, in my opinion. It packs a good cheese-punch, and has a cumulative effect of becoming somewhat buttery tasting as you plow your way through the bag.  The popcorn itself is big, and light, and has a great texture — never squishy, always crunchy — and is made with some pretty basic, organic ingredients. Good stuff, good price.

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When I complained on FaceBook that The French Broad Food Co-op had a million kinds of corn chips, but no cheese popcorn, the grocery manager Ryan actually read and responded to my kvetchings. He stocked Popcorn Indiana brand all natural aged white cheddar cheese popcorn, and took this picture to prove it! Thanks, Ryan!

#2 – POPCORN INDIANA –  Just look for the big red bag, but don’t accidentally grab one of their other flavors! The srirachi is sri-raunch-a, in my opinion, and the kettle corn is just too fuckin’ sweet. It’s their aged white cheddar cheese popcorn that I’m talking about because it is over-the-fucking-top-goooood. Like, the chee-chee-cheesiest, Mang, and tangy as fuck. It’s got so much “authentic aged Wisconsin cheddar cheese” powder on it that you have to scrape it off your fingers with your front teeth when you’re done devouring the bag. Top front teeth for your thumb. Bottom front teeth for the rest of your fingers. And then suck suck suck lick lick lick to get every molecule off.  It’s disgusting to witness, but a necessary and delicious epilogue to the popcorn itself. I recommend this brand with 100% of my cheese-loving heart.

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Halfpops are what Corn Nuts wish they were.

#1 –  HALFPOPS – Ok… I’m reigning in the giant-sized squeeee that’s building -up inside of me just thinking about this snack…  It is thee superstar snack of my life at the moment, and if it were a human being, and I was a member of the paparazzi, I would be chasing it down the street, desperately snapping pictures, and calling after it, “Halfpop! Halfpop! Who are you dating? When’s your next blockbuster coming out? Is it true about Kanye?!?” I’m telling you what.

Let me explain…

Y’know how, when you make popcorn at home, most of the kernels get popped, while some of them remain un-popped, and some…  some precious nuggets of snacking gold… only get half-popped? Every popcorn lover knows those rare, coveted half-popped kernels of yum have all the flavor of a fully popped piece of pop-corn, concentrated into the crunchiest little bit of pure awesomeness ever imaginable. Well, it seems that brainiac snackologists in a test-kitchen somewhere deep underground in Germany or on the Moon have determined how to create these half-popped kernels of popcorn in great abundance, saturate them with magic cheese powder, and package them for mass consumption. It’s a miracle of modern science, I tells ya, and I do not care how many lab rats — or human test subjects — had to die in order to develop this half-pop technology. It is the absolute apex of snack evolution in my opinion. Go buy them now, but leave me at least one bag. Assholes!

Halfpops and Popcorn Indiana are available in your better grocery stores, and obviously 365 is going to be on the shelves of any Wholefoods, as it is their house brand.

I’ll give an honorable mention here to Smart Food, which I started eating as a teenager when it first came out in the 1980’s. I still buy Smart Food when the above-mentioned are not available. Back in the dizzle, when it first made the scene Smart Food was concidered a “healthier” snack, as compared to potato chips, and we thought of it as being kind of cool and alternative, because of the black bag and the name, which was a little different than the usual snack branding. It’s still really good, has limited ingredients, no chemicals, and that black bag is always a welcome sight, especially when I’m out in the hinterlands, and snack choices are limited.

One last tip o’ the kernel to Kettle brand, aged white cheddar popcorn. Kettle has been making some of the best and most flavor-packed potato chips around for years sand years and it seems as though they recently(?) got in on the popcorn game. They do a great job, and while they didn’t make it into my top three, they’re in my top five for sure.

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Kettle brand cheese popcorn, not to be confused with kettle corn, which is usually sweet.

So there you go. My Top 3 or 5 cheese popcorn brands. Nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom nom etc etc infinity forever…

***UPDATE!***

Halfpops saw this post, and responded to my paparazzi questions on Twitter!

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stu_helm_2013Stu Helm is an artist and writer living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook. 

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10 Comments

  1. Yep, love cheesy popcorn snacks too. I have tried a couple on your list…but I am a loyal Pirate’s Booty fan. I’d be okay with trying a new one to see if I could be converted, but that’s going to be a hard sell.

  2. High-larious article! I might give those halfpops a try, sho nuff.

  3. Popcorn freak says:

    Stu,

    I am totally with you on this one.
    But have you tried making your own using a hot air popper at home and then drizzling with olive oil, salt, and Braggs nutritional yeast? I figure I have saved hundreds of dollars by DIY at home and I like it sooo much better than bagged and cheesed. Just try it.

  4. Kimboronni says:

    Get ready to get greedy… and they have it at Orbit DVD: http://quinnpopcorn.com/popcorn/parmesan-rosemary/

  5. oooooo! Poppy’s Raspberry Habanero is THE BEST. Hopefully they’ll have it back in rotation again soon.

    THE BEST.

  6. You should know, it’s hard to top Garrett’s.

  7. Just wondering if you’ve tried Poppy? It’s on Merrimon, in the plaza where the Hop is. It’s upstairs. They have great cheese popcorn! And the ‘Asheville mix’ is a cheese and caramel combo!

    • Tried Poppy’s twice and won’t go back. The popcorn was stale, like it had been popped several days before. And, 1/4 to 1/3 of the bag was essentially crumbs and unpopped kernels. Taste-wise, I thought it was salty, too.

      • But don’t forget the outrageously high price! Their five dollar bag struck me as about the same amount you would get in a Big Grab of Smartfood for 99 cents.

    • weavervilleman says:

      is Poppy overpriced?

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