KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn

Nothing goes together better than popcorn and a movie. But why settle for the over-salted and the over-greased when you can have the gourmet?

KuKuRuZa Gourmet Popcorn says you don’t have to. Their nearest location at 2211 NW Market Street in Ballard is conveniently close to independent Majestic Bay Theatre across the street and makes for a tempting duo that’s impossible to pass up.

But back to the popcorn. This Seattle-based company opened their first location downtown at 3rd and Pike in 2008, bringing these artisan treats, originally a mid-West phenomenon, out to the West Coast.

KuKuRuZa’s corn is popped daily in a large, $25, 000 air-popping machine, which uses no additional oil and leaves the corn light and airy. They use two different kernels, butterfly and mushroom, both available for purchase.

Butterfly kernels, which pop in the traditional shape and carry classic corn flavor, are found in most of KuKuRuZa’s creations. Mushroom kernels have the largest expansion rate, popping up big and round; they are also GMO-free.

KuKuRuZa takes its name from the Russian word for corn – the owner’s wife is Russian – and its creative seasonings range from chocolate to cheddar. Sweet-tooths might opt for the irresistible Cinnamon Bun: perfectly-popped kernels drizzled in white chocolate icing and dusted with cinnamon. Or for a more fruity concoction, try the Black Raspberry with Vanilla Cream, a French-inspired rendezvous that unites rich fruit with creamy white chocolate.

The house favorite, dubbed the RuZa here but traditionally known as Chicago Style, combines sweet caramel with tangy cheddar in a savory Midwest marriage. The cool and zesty Buffalo Blue Cheese blends cayenne pepper into its buttery base and is guaranteed to put the twang in your tongue.

More traditional options include classic caramel, cheddar cheese, white cheddar, and sea salt and vinegar. Or you can throw calories to the wind and hit up the Tuxedo (caramel corn latticed with dark and white chocolate), Rocky Road, or S’mores (yes, real marshmallows are included).

KuKuRuZa popcorn is available in small, medium, or large bags. Prices vary by flavor and though they’re higher than the theatre, you’re paying for quality here. Samples of all available flavors are readily available from KuKuRuZa’s smiling staff, so you’re sure to find exactly what you like.

Most flavors are enticingly-displayed in a large glass showcase, which keeps the corn warm. Those with chocolate or other ingredients that might melt are stored in air-tight containers. The waft of butter, hanging silver scoop, and quaint green-striped walls are all redolent of old-world charm.

KuKuRuZa’s proximity to the Majestic Bay is a happy coincidence popcorn and movie lovers are sure to take advantage of. The historic Ballard theatre, originally opened in 1914, is the oldest continually operating cinema in America. It featured “talkies” in the late twenties and played features during World War II.

The initial wooden structure was torn down in 1998 and rebuilt with modern amenities but its narrow staircase leading to second and third floors, old-style box office, and era-specific film posters help retain its classic appeal.

We think its old-world charm is a perfect match for the pure and succulent indulgence of gourmet popcorn. But don’t take our word for it; find out for yourself. The Majestic Bay now plays current films and KuKuRuZa’s take on movie popcorn – melt-in-your-mouth browned butter and sea salt – is Oscar-worthy.

 Published 10 April 2013 in The Falcon as “Popcorn taken to the gourmet degree” 

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