You probably can tell how much we love cooking, dining, and dinnerware...but the Dinner Series has one more love. Local business. We love small businesses and entrepreneurs doing new and interesting things, providing personal service and unique products to customers, and getting involved in their communities. In short, doing all the great things big business and chain stores can't. In the past, we've partnered with and posted about Season to Taste Catering, European Country Antiques, Cuisine en Locale, Formaggio Kitchen and American Provisions, and we're always on the lookout for more.
Paul McMahon, one of the supper clubbers from Dinner 2: A Perfect June Evening in New England, recently retired from the corporate world and opened The Happy Chocolatierin Acton. Paul's been experimenting in his kitchen with fudge for 10 years, and after much trial and error and many sticky pans, he came up with his signature product, a kind of fudge/truffle hybrid he dubbed 'Fudge Cubze.' Paul's Cubze aren't as dense as the fudge one finds at country fairs and Christmas parties. It's softer, more like truffle filling, and each cube is coated in chocolate--milk or dark, depending the fudge flavor.
Ever the businessman (although he doesn't let it undercut his desire to reach customers on a personal level and spend his days selling what he loves), Paul has assembled a store on a shoestring budget. Country kitchen oak cabinets house all sorts of confections and Fudge Cubze, already specially packaged for Valentine's Day. Baskets, bowls, and decorations are sourced from, well, wherever he can find them; from baskets from Wal-Mart to a leftover vase that once held a bouquet he received at his opening in October. Ever see giant Christmas presents in shop windows around the holidays? Well, Paul had giant Fudge Cubze this year and now they're re-purposed as store decorations. They still leave local children wondering if they're real.
The real center of activity is the back counter. Paul doesn't do much chocolate making on the premises. But what he does do he does out in the open, in view of any customers who wish to press their face up against the Plexiglas window in front of the counter. Customer watch as employees wrap Fudge Cubze in foil, melt down chocolate in a small tempering unit (kind of like a large crock pot with very precise temperature control), and ladle chocolate into molds--I had a heart. Shift your gaze to the left from this position, and there's a case of fine chocolates to feast your eyes upon. We sampled some velvety liqueur flavored truffles. Note well that this is where you go to order a Fudge Cubze ice cream parfait.
Fudge Cubze come in a variety of boxes, but they're always wrapped in foil whose color corresponds to the flavor. Tucked inside each cube is a brief adage on happiness; "happiness is a path you can choose on your journey in life," "Happiness is a direction, not a place," "Happiness is not a reward, it is a way of being." Many of these were contributed by kids, who as Paul remarked, seem to have uncanny perspectives on happiness. Speaking with Paul, it's impossible not to notice how much he cares about his customer's experience and how well he knows some of them. He could've gone on all afternoon with anecdotes about customers and community involvement, and he's only been open since October. The Acton Patch even syndicates his blog. But, if there's one thing you really need to know, it's that Paul makes sure everyone who walks in his doors get a sample of his signature confection.
There are eight flavors of Fudge Cubze; Plain, Peanut Butter, Cranberry Walnut, Chocolate Walnut, Cappuccino, Maple, Chocolate Mint, Cookies & Cream. I had to resist trying all of them, but I did treat myself to a pretty thorough tasting and am looking forward to the fall, when Paul brings back his seasonal pumpkin flavored fudge.
Peanut Butter: By far my favorite. Like many, I find sweet & salty combinations irresistible and the creamy peanut butter filling and milk salt-topped chocolate exterior of this cube hit the mark.
Cappuccino: The coffee flavor is weak and, as a coffee lover who's been know to munch on chocolate-covered coffee beans, I would've liked a little more coffee flavor than the every-so-slight bitterness of this confection's milky chocolate center.
Maple: One of New England's signature flavors runs strong in the white chocolate of this cube. The heavy maple flavor takes a second or two arrive, but when it does, it does, pairing fantastically with the dark chocolate shell and rich white chocolate center.
Cookies & Cream: Not one of my favorites. The creamy white chocolate center of this cube has the slight taste and texture of cookies that melds well with the dark chocolate exterior. Recommended for white chocolate junkies and fans of creamy confections.