Betty's Tasty Buttons moves into its first storefront.
Tents provide fine shelter for the short term, but four walls and a roof give a greater sense of permanence. For Liz Begosh, founder of local fudge favorite Betty's Tasty Buttons, the move from a tent at local farm markets to a storefront on Gray's Ferry Avenue also provides a kitchen of her own, breaking her reliance on borrowed space to produce fudge, chocolate sauces and other artisanal sweets.
Begosh is hoping to open Betty's Speakeasy by Thanksgiving. The 650-square-foot space will initially serve as both a kitchen and retail outlet.
"Fudge is such an unpretentious treat," says Begosh. "Because of its approachability, I wanted to create a place where you could relax--where you could speak easily about it." Begosh hopes the informality will encourage patrons to ask questions about the store and its products. "After all," she says, "there's always a story behind the items being made."
Eventually Begosh hopes to set up a farm table at the Speakeasy to allow for communal dining. The focus will be on comfort foods with an uncommon twist such as spaetzle, which Begosh makes using her father's recipe.
Betty's Tasty Buttons started from another family recipe. The first batch of fudge Begosh made came from her grandmother Betty's formula. After Begosh retired from professional bicycle racing in 2005, she returned home to Philadelphia. With the holidays approaching and no job, she needed gifts for family and began whipping up batches of fudge.
She was soon experimenting with new flavors, which she couldn't necessarily identify by sight after they were made. So she began molding flavors into different shapes to distinguish between them.
Two years passed after the initial holiday experiment before Begosh decided to take a shot at producing commercially, handling the cooking in the kitchen at Mugshots Coffeehouse in Fairmount. Other stages of production remained a cottage industry. Turning the fudge into the distinctive bite-sized buttons and packaging took place at Begosh's home.
For sales, Begosh took advantage of Philadelphia's extensive network of farmers' markets. Even with the forthcoming opening of the Speakeasy, she hopes to continue to sell at the markets in Clark Park in West Philadelphia and at Headhouse Square.
"It's a great way to stay in touch with other neighborhoods," says Begosh. "You never know what you'll find at the farmers' market."
While sugar and chocolate can't be found nearby, Begosh has found butter and honey from local farmers. She also uses locally produced goat's milk to make cajeta, a Mexican sweet. The milk is cooked slowly with sugar to create a lush syrup--redolent of caramel--that's delicious on top of ice cream or other desserts.
Begosh also relies on local herbs for several flavor combinations rarely seen in fudge. Basil makes an appearance with lemon, melded with white chocolate in the Summer Basil variety, while Lavender Mint combines dark chocolate with hints of fresh meadow herbs.
The balsamic fudge is another unconventional preparation that sells briskly. The acidic finish of the aged balsamic vinegar draws forth the fruity notes of dark chocolate.
While Begosh was confident in the appeal of her recipes from the start, she's still a little surprised to be opening up her own storefront.
"When I started, I had no idea where it was going to go," says Begosh. It turns out, it's going to 2241 Gray's Ferry Avenue.
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