One of the true pleasures in life is good food. And on the world food scene, Chicago has been holding its own. In fact, the international director of the coveted Michelin Guide, Michael Ellis, recently lauded Chicago for being, “really adventurous…more so than New York or San Francisco.”
So with pressure to up their game, local chefs have gotten creative. And just in time for National Popcorn Lover’s Day on March 13, we wondered how the drive to innovate might include this staple munchable.
NOT YOUR PARENTS’ POPPED CORN
Forget the Jiffy Pop of the 1970s, today’s popcorn flavors aim higher, according to Alan Petrik, COO of The Popcorn Factory in Lake Forest.
One of the hottest flavors coming out of the Specialty Food Association in the savory category is Sriracha, Petrik said. He believed so strongly that it was the hot trend, that the company launched a Sriracha popcorn flavor.
Petrik said other hot popcorn flavor trends include salt-n-vinegar, dill pickle, cinnamon toast and peanut butter and jelly.
HAVE POPCORN, WILL MIX
Mark Grimes, chef/owner at Tap House Grill in Highwood, infuses his beer cheese soup with Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale then garnishes it with cayenne and spicy cheddar cheese popcorn ($3.99 cup/$4.99 bowl).
“I think it’s fun for chefs and our guests when we put twists to traditional items,” said Grimes.
Ingeniously, Grimes uses popcorn in place of risotto in his pesto-marinated chicken breast dish. There is no rice in this risotto, just fresh corn, shallots, garlic, white wine, roasted red and green peppers, heavy cream and butter-flavored popcorn which Grimes purees into a risotto-like texture ($12.99).
For dessert at Tap House? What else but caramel corn rice pudding with whipped cream and raspberry sauce ($5.99).
GOLD ON RUSH
Like an exotic sea creature, the exclusive Pan-Asian restaurant, Jellyfish, peers out of its glass atrium onto Chicago’s legendary Rush Street. Executive Chef Jason Im proudly offers stylish “but clearly Chicago” savories and libations to his trendy guests.
One of the regular delicacies on the menu is the shrimp ceviche with the unique addition of nori-dusted organic popcorn ($12).
“I’m trying to bring something very familiar, like popcorn, to something unfamiliar like ceviche,” said Im. “I’m always up for a challenge and I love working in such a creative field where I have the opportunity to grow every day.”
You may never look at popcorn the same way again!Tags: Guide