The Oscars are on Sunday, and a bucket of popcorn is necessary for properly enjoying the ceremony. But which local kernel popper should be in your bowl?
In an effort to determine which popcorn is the best, I picked up caramel and cheese popcorn from the Velvet Creme Popcorn Co. and from Topsy's. The popcorn was judged head-to-head on packaging, appearance, texture, taste and the combination of flavors.
Velvet Creme's small bag of popcorn is actually a traditional cardboard box, reminiscent of a 1950s movie theater. The cashier puts it inside a white paper bag and then overfills it. Topsy's comes pre-bagged in a plastic bag with a twisty tie.
Velvet Creme gets the edge here based on nostalgia -- and because it gave me a built-in excuse for finishing the entire box in one sitting: It won't stay fresh like a bag of popcorn.
Topsy's uses a flavor sledgehammer. The cheese is salty and stings my lips and mouth. The caramel is also salty -- and wildly addictive. It's the kind of popcorn you want to shove into your mouth by the handful when nobody is looking.
Velvet Creme is more muted. The caramel has a richer, darker flavor that comes through at the end, while the cheese is slightly sharp.
Velvet Creme doesn't leave my mouth tingling afterwards, which gives it the advantage, even without its superior consistency and ability to taste like the flavor it is named.
This is the true test of flavored popcorn. Eating the two flavors together is the only way to simulate how you experience flavored popcorn from one of the massive holiday tins that arrive in offices on Christmas.
Topsy's feels like I'm alternating between salty and sweet, as if I'm simply taking bites of caramel and cheese consecutively. I'm not even sure that should be done on a dare. The Velvet Creme's two flavors enhanced each other -- the sweet amplified the cheese and vice versa.
This was essentially a battle between kid's popcorn and adult popcorn. The 12-year-old me would have picked the Cracker Jack-like Topsy's in a heartbeat. But the me of today believes that Velvet Creme is the clear winner.