Friday, September 26, 2014
Trader Joe's Caramel Popcorn
I love "The Sound of Music." But perhaps its greatest flaw is that in the famous song "My Favorite Things," Rodgers and Hammerstein listed "crisp apple strudels" and "schnitzel with noodles," but utterly failed to list "Trader Joe's Caramel Popcorn." That is such a grievous oversight that it should result in revocation of their Tony and Oscar awards.
I just discovered this stuff a few days ago, and it landed on my Top Ten list (which, I hasten to remind you, is not actually limited to ten items) about five seconds after the first handful landed in my mouth.
I can't say that this is the best caramel popcorn I've ever had, because caramel popcorn is best when obtained fresh and hot from the cooker at a candy store. I've had that, and nothing packaged, shipped across the country, and sold on grocery store shelves is ever going to surpass that. But this is, unequivocally, the best packaged caramel popcorn I've ever had. In fact, it's pretty much the only packaged caramel popcorn that's worth buying. Other stuff is just uniformly sad.
What's even more interesting is that, according to the label, they make this without butter, which I would have thought was an indispensable ingredient. Better-tasting and low-fat, too? Yes, please!
What is it that makes this superior to other packages caramel popcorns? Surprisingly, I think it's how lightly they coat the popcorn with the caramel. I'm used to the caramel layer being thick and hard--like eating hard candy with a little popcorn in the center. But TJ's isn't like that; it's regular popcorn with a very thin coating of caramel. When I first looked at it, I thought that was going to doom it. "Clearly not enough caramel," thought I. I was wrong. I can't analyze what it is about this caramel formulation that makes it so potent, but it somehow gets the caramel-to-popcorn balance exactly right. As an extra bonus, it's easier to eat than other brands, not requiring a massive crushing force with the molars to crack the hard exterior.
I have only two quibbles. First is the flagrant lie that TJ's tells on the back of the bag:
SEVEN servings in a 7-ounce bag? Who do they think they're fooling? My first bag, I ate the whole thing in one sitting. I went to the store again the next day and bought two more bags. The first of these I managed, with considerable self-restraint, to stretch to two consecutive nights of snacks. The fate of the remaining bad is yet undetermined as I write this.
Second quibble, somewhat related to the first: This stuff should come in packages about seven times bigger than it currently does.
Will I buy it again?
Yes. I'd buy the factory they make this in, if they'd let me. I'd move in and make it my home. I'd appoint myself Chief Taste Tester and insist on tasting every bag, to make sure that no sub-standard packages left the factory. And by "tasting" there, I mean "eating in its entirety." Admittedly, that sequence of events might make it difficult for the rest of you to enjoy this extraordinary snack, but that's your problem, not mine.