Smile Politely

Elevate your summer with popcorn from Cool Bliss Popped Bliss

The exterior of Cool Bliss Popped Bliss in Champaign. Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.
Caitlin Aylmer

A couple months ago, I made a bet with my daughter around finishing homework and going to a waterpark. My husband called it incentivizing, but given my dislike for waterparks, the situation was absolutely a gamble for me.

When it became clear last month that I had lost, and we’d soon be heading out for a long weekend of watery activities, I knew I needed to at least bring some good snacks. With this in mind, I headed out to get the best snack of them all (popcorn) from a shop I had wanted to try for a while, Cool Bliss Popped Bliss (CBPB).

On a Friday after work, we popped (I’m sorry) over to their shop on South Neil.

Caitlyn Aylmer

The unpretentious shop was a colorful mix of bright walls, assorted popcorn tin, and — of course — bags of popcorn.

Caitlyn Aylmer

I had quite a few questions and can happily say they were all patiently answered. After perusing the selection for the day, we settled on a large bag of cheesy bacon ($10), a large Chicago mix ($9), and a small choco-mel ($7).

Caitlyn Aylmer

Since our purchase was more than $20, it also came with a reusable drawstring knapsack, which can be brought back for 15% off any future purchases for the rest of the year. (No stipulations on if the whole order has to fit in the bag or not.)

Caitlyn Aylmer

Choco-mel was the clear favorite. The popcorn was first coated in a toffee-like caramel to create a delicious crisp shell which helped maintain that ‘freshly popped’ kernel texture. Next was a thin layer of chocolate, which by some sort of magic, did not transfer to hands. The sweet and crunchy bites made the perfect little snacks between swimming and activities. Even now, as I’m eating while typing on my white keyboard, there is minimal transfer. It was an impressive, very tasty combo.

Caitlyn Aylmer

Chicago mix in general is a favorite of my daughter and mine. I’ll admit that the combination of cheese and caramel might look odd to the uninitiated but it is, in fact, absolutely delicious. The two classic flavors meet to form the perfect balance between sweet and salty, although I’m also an advocate for picking out the cheese pieces if you’re feeling more salty or plucking out the caramel if you’re feeling more sweet — the opportunity to customize is one of the best features of this mix! 

CPBP really excelled with the caramel popcorn once again in this mix. The aureate sugary shell caused the kernels to practically gleam, while the crisp coating and soft crunch popcorn created the perfect blend of textures. We’re typically balanced when it comes to caramel side vs cheese side consumption, but in this case, the caramel side went flying. I do think we had a bit of bad luck with our cheese side; there was a tinge of a flat, acrid flavor that distracted from the otherwise harmonious blend. The cheese kernels were also not as fluffy as the caramel or choco-mel, which further indicates bad-luck rather than intent to me. 

Caitlyn Aylmer

My husband selected the cheesy bacon for himself and encountered the same flavor undertone as we did. Which makes sense, as all the base popcorn flavors, like cheese, are likely made as a big batch before being divided out. As all the popcorn is made fresh and in-house, our issues likely steamed more from the weather the week we made our purchase. Hot and humid summer days are not forgiving to anything, especially popcorn.

With summer being so clearly reflected on the thermometer lately, I had hoped to sample some of the Cool Bliss side of the shop. However, supplier issues, coupled with the growth of co-owner Al Allison’s BBQ joint, meant that shaved ice is off the menu for the time being.

Another seasonal item that I’ll need to return for is the caramel apples. After sampling what they can do with caramel popcorn, I have no doubt that they’ll do an excellent job with this autumnal favorite as well. 

Summer is the time for outdoor movies, picnics, pool breaks, and general outside merriment. While each of these activities are lovely in their own right, they can definitely be elevated by adding a snack like popcorn. Personally, I have cashew clump next on my to-try list. For those who are more oriented to crowds and cheering, never fear, you can also find CBPB popcorn at many of the University of Illinois sporting events. 

Inside CBPB, there are popcorn bags for sale. Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.
Caitlyn Aylmer

1506 S Neil St
T-Sa 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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