First, I was given some hot chilies. I mean, really hot. My godmother grew them accidentally, a plant she bought, thinking it was banana peppers was mislabeled. They look more like cayenne or Thai bird chilies and they were as ripe as can be-beautiful red color! But Brandon and I like heat so we brought them home with us. It was cold that day so when we got home I put the kettle on and put the chilies in a bowl on the counter to wait for me to decide their purpose. The kettle sang and I made a cup of tea for myself. But when I offered one to Brandon, he requested I make my from-scratch hot cocoa.
Now Brandon is the fella who, when ordering at restaurants, will say he wants authentic hot. like “Mexican hot”, “Thai Hot” or “Indian hot” He’ll say it to distinguish his meaning from white folk hot levels that some restaurants default to for safety. This usually gets an appreciative laugh from whoever is taking the order. When my parents hosted an exchange student from Thailand, last year, it became a sort of competition between him and my new little brother, Por, on who could handle more heat. The entertainment was boundless.
Anyway, so it’s cold and Brandon wants cocoa… okay. I start heating the milk and mix in the cocoa powder, sugar, etc… While I’m whisking, the chilies’ bright red catches my eye. I snip off a tiny end and touch it to my tongue. It’s hot… but doable. On the ethnic food scale, I’m a “white folk hot” kinda girl, an 8 to Brandon’s 10. Now I know that typically the mildest part of a pepper is the tip and it gets hotter as you get nearer the stem, so I was conservative with how much I used. But Brandon loves the heat, and he loves those red chili chocolate bars. So I toss a couple small pieces of chili into the cup and set it on his desk. It’ll cool enough to drink by the time he comes back inside from being gross (smoking), and they float, so he’ll see them in the cup.
Well Brandon took longer than I expected to come back in so by the time he did, his cocoa was plenty cooled down (do you see where this is going yet?) He takes a big gulp of it and promptly starts coughing and sputtering. The chili has steeped long enough in the cocoa that Brandon went looking for milk to cool his mouth! “Honey I’m sorry, I tried, but that’s way too hot, even for me!”
I’m a nice girlfriend, so I made a new batch, sans chili.
A week or two later, I received a mortar and pestle for my birthday, (Thanks, Aunt Donna!) and suddenly I had ideas for those chilies that had by now dried in the bowl.
Meanwhile, I had been playing with a base recipe I found online for a homemade dairy-free chocolate sauce. I was thinking I’d make and can it as gifts. …then I had ideas for variations. I reworked the recipe to be more of a super thick hot fudge than the original which was more of a great chocolate syrup. I made it my own and came up with some fun flavors.
The first one, when I got that mortar and pestle was a Maya inspired hot fudge with hand ground red chili, orange zest, and sweet spices, plus a generous splash of Grand Marnier. OH, Maya, that was yummy!
From there, I came up with a bunch of flavor ideas. I initially produced 6 variations, each one flavored with a different adult beverage. I came up with a name/hashtag, #chocolateisavegetabledammit and slapped some labels on the pouches then started selling them at holiday craft shows. I put out samples alongside my artwork, thinking I might make a few bucks…
I sold about 75 pouches in 2 shows! Didn’t sell much else… So I decided to start taking this hot fudge thing seriously!
I started looking around at shops that feature locally made stuff and there’s nothing quite like it.
Hot fudge is hot fudge… usually. It’s an accessory.
But then so are mixers for cocktails, and there is a huge market for craft mixers now. If you have a G&T with really good craft made tonic water, it’s incredible how disappointing one made with generic tonic is afterward! I will happily just drink the elderflower tonic from Fevertree by itself, it’s delicious! Anyways… I decided to look at my potential business from this angle and follow the lead of my brilliant inner fat kid.
I did some internet searching and found the Cleveland Culinary Launch Kitchen and Co-op. It’s a commercial kitchen downtown that rents time to small businesses that don’t need to have a kitchen every day. They also do small business launch courses, which run bi-monthly. Man, mine came up quick!
Catch me if you can, ya Shiny Squirrels!!
I’m calling the brand “OH Fuuudge! ” (as you must know by being here) and I’m sourcing my ingredients, especially the sugar and cocoa from fair trade producers (hopefully) in parts of Central America where I’ve traveled. I want to give back to the communities such as Santa Maria de la Concepcion, Alta Vera Paz, Guatemala, where we wrecked our motorcycle in 2014, that have made such positive impacts on my life.
I want to build symbiotic relationships with other Ohio small businesses too so I am tweaking my established recipes again and making everything with locally sourced flavorizors (technical term) I have spoken with CLE Urban Winery, Cleveland Whiskey, and Butcher& the Brewer who have all agreed to collaborating with me me to use their creations in OH Fuuudge. Each of these craft beverage makers has a unique take on their genre, and they make excellent products.
Say what you will about sports ball, but our food and bar scene is as good as the Browns are bad! These three are personal hometown favorites of mine, so as I’m sure you can imagine, I was bouncing up and down (like this little guy)
with excitement when I heard back in the affirmative to my proposals. If you’re in the Cleveland area, please go check them out! The Flavorizors, I mean.
So far, yes, all of the Flavorizors are booze (it gets cooked out), but they won’t all be as I expand the varieties- I grew up in nearby Geauga County, maple capital of Ohio, so clearly I need to make a maple sauce. I’m also going to re-work my Maya one because it’s delicious-maybe local coffee roaster as a partner…Mocha Maya? And I’m working on a vegan Rum caramel idea…
OH Fuuudge officially launches at the end of February (pending licensing) but I’ll be doing my first big foodie event, giving out samples and hopefully selling a bit at the sold-out “Adult Swim” Wine and Chocolate night at the Cleveland Aquarium on Feb 9! That’s the first of 6 events scheduled at the time of writing this post.
My goal is to get OH Fuudge into local markets and maybe even on a couple restaurant menus! I’ll do flea and farm markets as well as food shows, and I’ll be selling online too.
If you think this sounds delicious, you can now pre-order!
If you feel more comfortable placing your pre-order through my gofundme entrepreneur page, that works too!
As soon as my FDA approval and retail licensing go through at the end of February, I’ll be able to start shipping out orders! The goal is to beat that bunny and get some good chocolate to you before that waxy egg-shaped stuff is there to tease you.