When Josh and I moved to Seattle, I dragged him to the Market as often as I could, because I loved all the stores, shops, and businesses to be found on virtually every street. When I owned a nutrition consulting business in Colorado, I learned the deep value of customer loyalty, so it was important to me to begin that loyalty and relationship in my new community.
One business that we started getting to know was Kukuruza Gourmet Popcorn. I know, you might think, “gourmet popcorn like that orange stuff in the big tins given at Christmastime?” Yah, sort of that. But GOURMET! And by that, I actually mean legitimately gourmet.
Kukuruza sits just down the street from the Pike Place Market and the scents of caramel and vanilla waft from the storefront all day long. If you take a peak in the door, you’ll see staff cooking caramel and mixing popcorn flavors throughout the day. The freshness of the popcorn is really evident, since the batches are cooked and served fresh.
I instantly fell in love with Kukuruza, both for the unique flavors – maple bacon anyone? – and for the family feel. I went there frequently enough to allow me to pretend that I was friends with the crew. I remember getting excited when I saw a gourmet popcorn bar at an Allrecipes event I attended, and I was even more thrilled when I realized that the popcorn had been furnished by Kukuruza.
In 2010, I helped the owners host a Fall Flavors release. It was a really intense learning experience, because I planned and marketed the event. I was very new to Seattle and didn’t have the strong connections to food writers and businesses in the area that would probably have been helpful. However, I met some great people, and I hope the business gained some connections through it. Ultimately, it resulted in making me a lifetime customer, and I’ve stopped in periodically over the years to buy my favorite flavors.
Two years later, Kukuruza is still there. Mary, who I met right as she and I were both looking at or starting culinary school, is now the manager of the Seattle location. Grant and his business partner, who come from Seattle Popcorn Pavilion, bought the business and have grown it. They recently opened a location in Ballard, and Grant said that it has been received really well.
Grant’s eyes sparkled as he described Kukuruza to me. He emphasized that Kukuruza popcorn is all about pure imagination, that the popcorn is both unique and gourmet. They are constantly testing new flavors reaching for the next unique flavor. At the same time, it’s simply popcorn. They don’t use all sorts of crazy bells and whistles to get customers. They simply sell good popcorn.
Mary’s proud smile widened as she added that the popcorn has a homemade feel – and is truly handmade. You can see the steam-jacket kettles that stand along the back wall of the Seattle store. The popcorn they make is natural and as unrefined as possible, and it’s a familiar product to a customer. Sure, some of the flavors are …creative… but the popcorn itself is a staple in American snacks.
The top selling flavors include Hawaiian salted caramel, which is a flavor that the Brides Magazine featured; Brown butter and sea salt, a flavor from the Popcorn Pavilion that has become very popular; and the Chicago-style, which combines caramel and cheddar popcorn flavors in a balanced sweet and savory blend.
Some of the zaniest – and sometimes not best-sellers – included Wasabi ginger, which sounded great on paper but became super green in the kettle; and Green tea sea salt, which also sounded like a future hit but wasn’t especially popular.
Gourmet popcorn is a fun and easy snack because it’s easy to eat, it’s easy to bring to parties, and it’s easy to keep fresh, as long as you rezip the resealable bag. There are also health benefits associated with popcorn, though the sugary qualities of some of the gourmet flavors might offset that a little.
I really like its versatility. I’ve seen gourmet popcorn bars and popcorn gift bags. I’ve mailed it to my mom, sneaked it into movies (ahem), and craved it when I didn’t sneak it in. It’s easy to ship to friends, and it is often a gift that has univeral appeal (unlike the great dark versus milk chocolate debate).
This week, we witnessed the transition from late summer to autumn, and Kukuruza was prepared. They’re starting to bring out the seasonal flavors, including my top pick for the season: Pumpkin spice pecan. The sprinkling of pumpkin spice balances nicely with the rich, dark caramel. The pecans give you just enough protein to allow you to imagine that it’s healthy. It really satisfies the craving for a holiday treat without being a pie. We snacked on it while watching a weekly television program last night, and we liked the balance between the pecans and caramel-covered popcorn.
Am I making you crave popcorn? Well, I hope so! Grant has generously offered to allow Peas on Moss readers to receive 10% off their next purchase in store or in person. Use coupon code: PEASONMOSS , or mention my blog at the store!
If you order holiday gifts by Halloween, you’ll be able to get non-holiday shipping, which naturally increases as more orders are placed. My picks for the autumn and early winter:
215 Pike Street (Pike and Third)
Seattle, WA 98101
2211 NW Market Street
Seattle, WA 98107