Lotus Fudge Blossoms On Kaua‘i

Katie Ranke and Jeff Florimont

Katie Ranke and Jeff Florimont. Daniel Lane photos

Considered by many to be the premier vegan restaurant on Kaua’i, the Blossoming Lotus closed its doors Dec. 31, 2009. Not much is left of the restaurant that’s still being talked about, except for silky Lotus Fudge.

“This recipe is the original from the Blossoming Lotus restaurant,” says Lotus Fudge owner and fudge-maker Katie Ranke. “I worked there in 2005, and the fudge was one of the first things I ate, and I loved it.”

While working at Hoku Foods Natural Market in Kapa’a, Ranke met Jessyka Murray, who created the recipe. “She was selling it to a few stores on a small scale,” says Ranke. “She wanted to sell the business, so we bought it from her.”

Initially Ranke’s boyfriend and business partner Jeff Florimont (who cooked at the Blossoming Lotus, where he and Ranke met) made the fudge. But a short while later, Ranke quit her job at Hoku to make fudge full time.

Today, Lotus Fudge creates seven varieties made with organic, raw, gluten-free and vegan ingredients. For the average consumer, those descriptors may not sound very enticing, but I have to tell you, this fudge is rich, silky smooth and delicious, and may even make you feel healthy.

The tricky part is choosing a flavor.

Raw, organic, gluten-free -- Lotus Fudge has something for everyone

Plain Fudge is creamy and rich, like a well-made ganache. Dark cacao is suspended in a healthy base of coconut oil. Lowglycemic agave nectar sweetens the chocolate, and Hawaiian sea salt brightens the flavors. Indulging is easy, because it’s not tooth-achingly sweet.

Whole nioi, or Hawaiian chili peppers, are blended into the Lava Fudge and an extra pinch of Hawaiian sea salt adds salty to the sweet. At first, I don’t notice the heat, but as the fudge slides down my throat, a warmth is left in its wake.

Mint Crunch Fudge is made with mint extract that Ranke makes by steeping peppermint in Maui vodka. At first bite, there’s a bracing hit of mint, and cacao nibs add a satisfying contrast in texture.

Coconut Fudge is dotted with dehydrated local coconut from Noni Land, and the stiff chunks lend a pleasant chew to the smooth fudge. Ranke adds her own coconut extract, intensifying the flavor.

Reishi Mushroom Fudge is a decadent dose of immune support.

“It’s not so much of a flavor as it is a supplement,” Ranke explains. “It’s not totally raw because the mushroom has to be boiled to bring out the medicinal properties.” Ranke grinds the mushrooms into a powder, and it makes the fudge taste a little earthy, and not at all medicinal.

Mac Nut Fudge is topped with crunchy bits of Big Island macadamia nuts. The mac nuts are raw, rich and meaty, and elevate the fudge to full-bodied heights.

A new line of truffles

Honey Fudge has a toothy texture because it’s made with local coconut butter and honey. Where the others remind me of a frosting made with chocolate and cream, this one is chewy, like the inside of a candy bar.

Ranke received a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental systems and has transferred her passion for malama aina into her fudge. Lotus Fudge is made with organic, GMO-free ingredients, and she implements a number of energy-saving and waste-reducing practices such as using biodegradable sponges and invoices made of recycled paper.

Each 1.5-ounce chunk is wrapped in colorful recyclable foil and is found in the refrigerated section of 17 stores around the island.

A new line of soft and chewy truffles comes in four flavors: Mac Nut, Coconut, Mint Crunch and Lava.

“Coconut oil melts easily, and I wanted something that was shelf-stable,” says Ranke. “So I made the truffles with cacao butter.”

My favorite is Lava – it’s rolled in cinnamon, so at first there’s a warm sensation, followed by slow-burning heat.

Mac Nut Butter, Roasted Mac Nut Butter and Chocolate Mac Nut Butter will be released soon, as well as a dry fudge mix. So far, Cafe Coco is the only restaurant that offers Lotus Fudge for dessert.

“Being gluten-free or vegan, there’s not always a lot of dessert options at restaurants,” says Ranke. “Serving Lotus Fudge is a great go-to if you have a customer who comes in with special dietary needs.”