Food is fun. CrunchDaddy is fun. It's the brain child of a Columbia guy who wants to sell you popcorn -- sweet, savory, a little mix of both. It's delicious food, a special treat, a Howard County company making sweets for you sweet locals and anyone else on the Internet.
Check out the CrunchDaddy Web site now. Order something. I promise you'll eat well . . . if not now than a little farther down this post.
The sample bags are sitting across the kitchen as I write this. Let's start by sampling Movie Night. It's just buttered popcorn, but it's spectacular. Huge kernels. A light butter taste that somehow has all the flavor, but no greasy feel on my fingertips.
Quick switch to Sweet Butter Crunch. That's a kettle corn, a little butter, a little salt, a little sweet. That's also the base for a bunch of the other varieties. I could devour a bowl in one sitting.Dan started making popcorn a few years ago when his brother sent a caramel popcorn recipe. It was good, but Dan already knew how to make a rum vanilla caramel, so he kicked up the recipe and gave bags away for Christmas gifts. Soon he was filling bowls at family events, and people wanted more.
One thing led to another, and Dan now buys 50-pound bags of "mushroom" varieties. He works over vats of hot oil and pots of caramel. In 30-quart bowls, he can make three gallons of popcorn in a batch.
Walk back for some Peanut Crunch. That's the sweet butter augmented with powdered peanuts. This isn't a caramel corn. It's a dry feel. Dan gets the powder to stick to the kernel. Even with the full flavor, the corn taste comes through.
While I'm here, grab the first exotic variety. Chesapeake Crunch is the peanut variety with Old Bay. That's savory. The peanut actually makes a smooth base for the truly crabby flavor. Too much for Mrs. HowChow, but I could imagine people serving them with mixed drinks.
If not the Old Bay, then the Cheddar Horseradish Crunch that really tastes like cheese and fiery root.Last spring, Dan decided to try popcorn as a business. He worked on recipes. He found suppliers for items like fine-ground peanut, candied ginger, and horseradish powder. He created a Web site with nice photos by the blogger from Live Laugh Eat.
|A mix of the caramels|
Let's go caramel now. Caramel and Peanut Crunch is cracker jacks, except better. Thicker crunchy candy poured over the same enormous, light kernels. Where kid's candy might taste flat after a half box, Crunch Daddy's caramel tastes like hints of vanilla and butter, fresher, more interesting.Dan wants to sell you popcorn. He wants to sell anyone popcorn, but, for now, he'll deliver for free in Howard County (and nearby). Literally. He will drive it to your house a few days after you order. He is a local guy with a Twitter feed, and he has started to meet up with other local food folks like HoCoVittles and Jeff from Southern Skies Coffee.
Don't take just my word as gospel. The Popcorn Face blog -- also a local, I learned from Dan -- has reviewed several varieties, and he highlighted the Chesapeake Crunch and the Honey and Cinnamon Crunch. A guy who has reviewed dozens and dozens of popcorn varieties says CrunchDaddy is unique and exciting.
The Honey and Cinnamon Crunch starts into my favorites. These are really a reason to pay $9-12 for a bag of popcorn. The honey variety has the same crunch as cracker jack, but it's a unique flavor to me. Sweet honey as delicious as the stuff they harvest at Gorman Produce Farm, followed by cinnamon that starts mild but fills your mouth with just a few kernels.
Too much of either ingredient, and you'd have a cloying mess. But Dan is making restaurant food where he spent days testing recipes so that even exotic ideas seem obvious when you eat them. You'll see that talent in the Sesame Ginger Crunch. Again, cracker jack with better caramel and an adult twist. The toasted sesame flavor comes first, then bits candied ginger. Real candied ginger stuck in the caramel, so it's a light touch for most of a handful, then one kernel that fills your mouth with ginger because it got some extra mince.I'm serious that these taste like restaurant food. These are interesting, not just popcorn drenched in sugar. Dan and I talked for an hour over coffee, and he sent me home with samples of all these flavors. But I don't suggest anyone eat a gallon of Sesame Ginger Crunch at one time. A handful of most carmel varieties is a satisfying treat. They'd be great fun as party food or a hostess gift.
Dan is working on some retail locations. That's another investment in labeling and bar codes. Dan doesn't promote the "gourmet" label, but CrunchDaddy tastes like all the effort -- and the money -- that goes into personal attention and real ingredients. He makes caramel for every batch. He buys real ingredients. That's real maple syrup and real bacon.
Bacon? Yes, that's Maple Bacon Crunch, CrunchDaddy's current top seller. A caramel made with maple has character like the one honey. The crunch is familiar, but the taste is sweeter, sharper -- and balanced out by minced bacon. Just a few fragment per kernel. Enough to add smoke to your candy.Smoke in your candy is an exciting way to eat. I feel like one of you craft beer nuts could pair these with some exotic brews. Kloby's Smokehouse must be able to do something with smoky caramel popcorn. CrunchDaddy is a fun new part of the food scene. Give it a try.