There’s a battle popping at Western Springs’ French Market

Published: Thursday, May 9, 2013 7:09 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Matthew Piechalak)
Customers shop during the opening week of the Western Springs French Market, 914 Hillgrove Ave. in Western Springs on Thursday, May 2, 2013. The market is held 2-7 p.m. every Thursday from May through October. Matthew Piechalak – mpiechalak@shawmedia.com
Caption
(Matthew Piechalak)
Dan Imbody, of Glen-Ellyn based Kernel Dan's Kettle Corn, transfers a cauldron of freshly-made popcorn into a cooling bowl during the opening week of the Western Springs French Market, 914 Hillgrove Ave. in Western Springs on Thursday, May 2, 2013. The market is held 2-7 p.m. every Thursday from May through October. Matthew Piechalak – mpiechalak@shawmedia.com

WESTERN SPRINGS – Do you like your popcorn sweet and salty, or peanut butter and jelly?

Both kinds are available at the French Market, which opened May 2 near the water tower on Hillgrove Avenue and runs every Thursday from 2 to 7 p.m. This year, returning vendor Kernel Dan’s Kettle Corn has competition in Wheaton-based Pop-A-Harrys Gourmet Popcorn, which offers a long menu of flavors including jalapeño, vanilla, coffee, Coke and peanut butter and jelly.

What Pop-A-Harrys offers in variety, Kernel Dan’s counters with a signature kettle corn popped on-site. Several Kernel Dan’s loyalists sounded surprised to see another popcorn vendor at the opposite end of the market.

“What’s with the competition?” Kate Vergara said as she bought a bag of kettle corn for her and her two boys.

Vergara said they have been counting down the Thursdays until they could buy the kettle corn.

Dan Imbody, aka Kernel Dan, said he plans to debut a cheese kettle corn in the next few weeks.

“It’s actually really awesome,” he said. “I don’t know how to patent things, but I’m going to figure it out.”

Also new at this year’s market is The Eating Well from Forest Park, an organic food company that offered samples of its triple mushroom soup and veggie burger on the market’s opening day. The soup is rich and creamy with plenty of mushroom. The veggie burger comes in flavors of mild, spicy and crucifurous crunch and is one of the best sellers. The stand also offers a variety of sweets, including a five-sugar chocolate chunk cookie.

The market also features several bread and sweets vendors, as well as stands selling fruit and vegetables, fish, cheese, smoked meat, Michigan blueberries, salsa, barrel-aged balsamics, oils and jewelry.

It’s all wedged between the two popcorn vendors: The red trailer of Pop-A-Harrys, which claims to be the only mobile popcorn seller in DuPage County, and Kernel Dan’s giant black kettle.

Imbody, of Kernel Dan’s, said it takes about six minutes to pop each batch of his kettle corn, which involves him stirring the kernels with a wooden instrument shaped like an oar.

“It’s definitely tiring,” Imbody said.

For all the work, the product doesn’t seem to last long. Vergara and her sons took their bag of kettle corn to a bench next to the water tower.

“It’s not even going to make it home,” she said.

See more photos from the Western Springs French Market online at http://shawurl
.com/leg.

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