After a short holiday weekend, I have finally found some time to sit down and reflect – on popcorn that is.  I managed to secure myself a 7.5oz bag of Ike & Sam’s light n’ fluffy kettle corn popcorn and indulged myself.

Now let me get straight to the point here. This “kettle corn” light n’ fluffy was more of a knock off then a Chinatown Kalvin Clein handbag. This snack gave off absolutely zero kettle corn flavor. How in the world do they market this as a kettle corn product? There must be some mistake. Now if they want to come back and claim the bag manufacturer screwed up and printed “kettle corn” accidently, I may consider buying that, but I will not buy into the idea of this being a kettle corn popcorn. As I mentioned in my previous post, kettle corn popcorn is cooked in sugar, honey or molasses. There is no way in the world they did that here. This popcorn was as plain and white, and regularly unflavorful as plain white rice cakes. I will give Ike and Sam’s the benefit of the doubt and either accept the “bag mess up story” or even buy into someone in quality control falling asleep on the job, but I know my taste buds didn’t fail me here – this stuff is a fraud.

The smell that emitted from the bag was typical, not great but not poor; a freshly popped-off-your-stovetop kind of scent, but that coupled with the pretty bag and nutrition facts are sadly the only somewhat positive things I can think of. The popcorn tasted extremely, extremely bland – and other than this faint burnt taste – there was no other taste present. The back of the bag states that the popcorn was actually lightly salted. Now “lightly” is an arbitrary measurement, but it should be taken extremely literal here. I tasted no salt whatsoever; unless you consider the somewhat bitter flavor the burnt gave off. It was however, relatively easy popcorn to get through, having pretty low crunch output but minimal loose shells. Perhaps an analogy to drinking water when you’re thirsty or chewing the same piece of gum for 5 hours straight. The 7.5oz bag did do its job though, as sitting through 9 hours of Wimbledon nearly emptied the bag. Can’t be that bad then, right?

In terms of being “light n’ fluffy”, I do have to give Ike & Sam’s credit for finally getting the name right. True to its name, the popcorn is both very light, and I guess it could be deemed fluffy. Nutritionally speaking, this popcorn has been the best of the pack. They say there’s no Trans fat, cholesterol, or preservatives, and given the taste and look, I’ll buy that information. Seems to me like they needed another flavor, ran down to the grocery store, bought some raw popcorn, threw it into a pot, and over-cooked it by about 45 seconds.

Perhaps I should have started with this flavor and worked my down (rather up) to the kickin’ cayenne. I’d be singing a whole different tune regarding Ike & Sam’s.

{1-10, 1 being poor and 10 being wow!}

Verdict:

Crunch Factor – 5
Sweet to Spice contrast factor – 0
Taste true to its name – 8
Kernel shell sticking to my palate element – 7
Aroma – 5

Overall: D+

To further my goal at sampling ike & sam’s entire inventory of popcorn, my next victim was their crunchy caramel kettle corn popcorn. I’m not much a fan of straight up caramel popcorn, as I’m more of the spicy kind of guy, but I was actually looking forward to experiencing the kettle corn caramel. Now my understanding of kettle corn tells me that an actual kettle corn is essentially corn that gets popped in iron kettles and is then sweetened with sugar, honey, and even molasses before salt, spices and what-not gets added to it.  Equipped with that knowledge, I wasn’t sure what to expect – what with a corn that is cooked sweet to be then covered in more sweet.

To tell the truth, perhaps I still have a virgin popcorn palate, but I really couldn’t tell the difference between crackerjacks and this gourmet kettle corn popcorn! There was a tiny hint of plain salt at the end of the taste, but it could have just as been leftover lunch I was tasting. Now I’m sure the good ol’ folks at ike & sam‘s didn’t repackage crackerjacks into their awesome bags, but it seemed very familiar and cheapened.

The crunch on the popcorn was good right out of the bag, but after sitting around for a bit in the opened-but-rolled-shut-bag, it became kind of stale. Still, I need to give credit where credits due: the out of the bag crunch (which is what counts) was nice and there. One other thing, the popcorn was very consistent; each piece tasted exactly like the next. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing but I felt it was worth noting.

The kettle corn flavor ratio was simply not there as explained above. It all tasted sweet to me, and I really tried to feel for a differentiation in sweets, but it was all crackerjack to me. Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t like crackerjacks? I was just hoping or expecting something a bit different, and with the exception of this really faint salt conclusion, this was crackerjacks-gone-cute-bag.

You must know by now that the thin corn shells are one of my pet peeves; thankfully this flavor yielded zero shell defections. This was probably due to the popcorn being saturated with sticky caramel that caused all the moveable parts to stay put. In any event, no shells equals happy me.

Now the smell out of the bag was exactly as I described with the taste: nice and sweet. It smelled fresh, pumped baseball game nostalgia into me, and smelled everything it tasted like. Nothing wrong with a good whiff of sweet every now and then.

Well this’ll wrap up my review on ike & sam’s crunchy caramel for now, and here are its assigned grades:

{1-10, 1 being poor and 10 being wow!}

Verdict:

Crunch Factor – 8
Sweet to Spice contrast factor – 1
Taste true to its name – 8
Kernel shell sticking to my palate element – 10
Aroma – 7

Overall: B-

On day two of popcorn blogging and I’m loving the research involved. So today I got me a small 2oz bag of ike & sam’s Original sweet & salty kettle corn popcorn. To be fair, this was eaten on a very empty stomach, so the review may need to skew to the fact that it was somewhat of a hunger appeaser in addition to a taste testing. Anyway, back to the popcorn.

Coming off my experience with the ike & sam’s kickin’ cayenne flavor I knew I would subconsciously compare the two from the moment the popcorn hit my mouth. True to my beliefs that’s exactly what happened. Unlike the “instant wow” I had with the cayenne, this flavor worked me slowly. I was quite unimpressed with the crunch factor of the sweet and salty and while it wasn’t like rubber, the kernels definitely gave off a somewhat stale crunch.  It wasn’t until I had 3 or 4 mouthfuls that I got into rhythm and the stale feeling went away.

The sweet to spice ratio was very proportioned, though the flavoring was pretty bland. The popcorn starts off with this faint salt flavor and then eases into a barely-there sugary bit. I vividly remember re-checking the front of the bag to see if I had misread the label. This wasn’t very salty and yes this wasn’t very sweet. Proportionate yes, but flavortastic no. One thing that actually struck me was the fact that they call this sweet and salty and yet the first thing I felt was the faint salt taste that just barely gave way to a sweet feel. They got it backwards. They should have named this flavor “diet salt and sweet”, “salt and sweet (um, kinda)” or “salt and sweet light”.

One good thing about this flavor was that the shells stayed very attached to the corn, and I experienced almost no shell chaos in my mouth. In fact roughly an hour after I had the popcorn, I actually examined my mouth and didn’t find a single shell. This pleased me.

The most bizarre thing of this entire flavor and my tasting experience was the smell factor. I initially whiffed into the bag and caught a scent of something familiar. I knew that smell. I tried to place it, but just couldn’t, and then I proceeded to taste it. After I was done, I made another go at trying to identify the smell, but I am still clueless. It does not have that fresh buttery popcorn smell, but that’s normal of kettle corn. It didn’t give off this sweet, caramel smell either. It smells so, so familiar to me, but I really cannot place it. Maybe Pringles, maybe corn pops cereal, I just can’t place it. If any of you can identify what the stuff smells like and maybe run some of your suggestions by me, I would greatly appreciate it.

So that said here’s my verdict:

{1-10, 1 being poor and 10 being wow!}

Verdict:

Crunch Factor – 3
Sweet to Spice contrast factor – 4
Taste true to its name – 2
Kernel shell sticking to my palate element – 9
Aroma – 7 (for still causing me to ponder its smell)

Overall: C-

I am a still a popcorn amateur so forgive me in advance for any ignorance portrayed as I attempt to critique my first example. I tried ike & sam’s kickin’ cayenne out of the 7.5oz bag on an empty stomach at about 3:30PM on 6/30/08. This was my first time having it. At first indulgence, my immediate reaction yielded a “wow this is crunchy, in a non-having-to-worry-about-making-crumbs-in-my-car kind of way.” One of the best parts of popcorn is the crunch factor which is why I have decided to incorporate it into my rating system. I was very impressed by this popcorn’s crunch output.

The thing that I am now appreciating with kettle corn is the contrast between sweet and spice. To me, this is where all the equity of the popcorn lies. This particular popcorn yielded very pleasing contrast; in fact it was awesome. It starts out sweet, but not too sweet – and eases into its climax of cayenne, but not too cayenne.

In terms of this being “kickin’ cayenne”, i don’t really feel it was kickin! I actually bought this flavor hoping for an extreme sweet/extreme kick, but I didn’t really get that with this. A more apropos name would be “not-so kickin-but-not-so-bland cayenne”. More of an in-betweenish kind of burn. Some other sites I have seen stated that the kernels varied from one to another; I honestly feel completely different. I thought this popcorn had a very consistent taste. I knew what I was getting in every bite.

The most annoying thing about popcorn is the kernel thin shell. It seems to find its way into the most annoying crevices of the mouth and palate. I hate it big time, and it often deters me from eating it. This popcorn was surprisingly easy on my mouth, and I only find myself with a few loose shells now 5 hours later (eew!). I guess it depends on the over/under cooking time of the popcorn. A more well cooked kernel will likely yield less shells but more burnt taste, while a lighter cooked corn will have more fluff but more shells. At least that’s how I feel now. Either way, this wasn’t too bad.

Lastly is the smell. Nothing drives me to the concession stand like the smell of buttery popcorn. Unfortunately, this popcorn didn’t give off a great smell, but it wasn’t too bad. It actually smelled caramel-ly, which is strange because the sweetness doesn’t really have any caramel flavor to it. Not sure what to make of it, but the smell is nothing to write home about.

Well, that’s about it on this baby!

{1-10, 1 being poor and 10 being wow!}

Verdict:

Crunch Factor – 7
Sweet to Spice contrast factor – 8
Taste true to its name – 6
Kernel shell sticking to my palate element – 7
Aroma – 4

Overall: B

Ok I hate bandwagoning, following the crowd and keeping up with the Joneses. Sometimes I deliberately stray from the norm just as not to appear to be “copying” anyone. However, I must admit I am guilty of all the aforementioned, as my buddy Kent aka Howard aka Popcorn aficionado got me hooked. See for years I was a social popcorn eater; ate some at get-togethers, the movies, maybe a home movie – but that was pretty much it. I loved the salty, buttery crunch but hated the corn shells pasted against the top of my palate. This all changed in the past few months, as Kent introduced me to kettlecorn gourmet popcorn. At first the thought of eating something as pedestrian as popcorn gourmet style scared me and made me feel all borgeoise, but it has completely grown on me. I cannot get over the eclectic synergy of sweet kettle corns mixed with the salt or spice of the popcorn. It actually mystefies me. So today, while running to my car for a quick 3 minute lunch break, I broke out a bag of ike & sam’s kickin’ cayenne style kettlecorn and was officialy bandwagoned, borgeoised or whatever you call it. I am now a devout follower – so thank you Kent for enlightening me.

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