Thursday, December 12, 2013
Most of us are familiar (probably too familiar, if you know what I mean) with Girl Scout cookies.
Well, did you know that the Boy Scouts sell popcorn? Me neither.
Popcorn is a lot less dangerous to the waistline than Thin Mints, so when the Pine Tree Council invited me to be a judge at their inaugural “Popcorn Bowl” in Monument Square Wednesday, I “popped” on board. The event was designed to raise awareness of the Boy Scouts’ popcorn fundraising efforts.
There were Boy Scouts on hand with displays of all the different popcorn products you can buy from them, from bags of plain gourmet popping corn and microwave popcorn to containers of cheese corn and caramel corn.
The Pine Tree Council asked local restaurants to come up with a creative, signature popcorn and pop it up in a whirley pop in Monument Square for judging. Elizabeth Armington and William Armington, line cooks at Hot Suppa, made a batch with bacon fat and maple syrup, then tossed it in spices.
Here they are just before the pop-off began:
James Tranchemontagne brought his son as his sous chef, and made a Creole popcorn with ground ancho, filo, onion and garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper, cayenne and smoked paprika.
Next came Jason Loring of Nosh Kitchen Bar just down the street. He made a dulce le leche popcorn with dulce le leche, peanuts and sea salt.
Chris Gordon of Sea Dog Brewing made three different kinds of popcorn: a chili version with cumin, chili powder, salt and corn nuts; a holiday popcorn with cinnamon, nutmeg, confectioners sugar, and dried cranberries, walnuts and apples; and a white truffle popcorn with cracked black pepper and parmesan.
Finally, we had Zapoteca, which came out swinging with a popcorn that contained granola, toasted peanuts, and agave nectar blended with super-fiery ghost chiles. They also made a kid-friendly version without the ghost chiles. Here’s sous chef Matt Burns mixing up a batch while Nick Stratis, a line cook at the restaurant, looks on:
My fellow judges were Wil Beriau, retired head of the culinary department at Southern Maine Community College; Erin Ovalle, an anchor at Channel 8, WMTW; and Robert Gonneville, 10, a member of Boy Scout Troop 311 in Saco.
Judging was difficult because the styles were all so different. The bacon-maple-spice popcorn from Hot Suppa sounded great on paper, but a couple of the judges said they couldn’t taste the seasonings.
Erin and I both loved the dulce le leche from Nosh, but it turned out a bit soggy.
And the winner is.....
(Staff photo by Gordon Chibroski)
In the end, our cute little scout, Robert, was head-over-heels in love with Sea Dog’s white truffle popcorn, so that one took the prize (who can resist that face?) which was a trophy bowl filled with caramel corn.
And you’re in luck, if you’d like to try it yourself: Gordon said he would put all three of his recipes on the restaurant’s Facebook page by Friday.
Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.
Susan Axelrod's food writing career began in the kitchen; she owned a restaurant and catering business before turning to journalism more than a decade ago. To relax, she bakes, gardens and hikes with her husband and their two dogs. A newcomer to Portland, she is an online content producer for the Press Herald.
Susan can be contacted at 791-6310 or saxelrod [at] pressherald.com.
On Twitter: @susansaxelrod