It was 2 a.m. on a fall morning in 2013 and Melissa DiMinico couldn’t sleep. She had been wrestling for quite some time with the question: What makes us different? Ignoring the late hour, DiMinico sent a text to her new business partner, chocolatier Shauna Semenza, looking for an answer.
A flurry of texts and more than a few test batches later, The Candy Dish’s chocolate lobster was born.
The Candy Dish is a North Andover-based party favor and corporate gift company that specializes in hand-dipped, binder-, filler- and gluten-free artisan chocolates. The company’s signature sweet reimagines the classic candy turtle, or terrapin, as a lobster. It’s made with your choice of cashew, macadamia nut or pecan claws, a rich dark, silky milk, or creamy white chocolate body, and a zigzagging drizzle “shell.”
With the chocolate lobster, DiMinico and Semenza wanted to create something distinctive that set The Candy Dish apart from big-name chocolate brands. They also aspired to make a candy that invoked a homegrown spirit.
It was an idea that has generated local and national attention. Boston’s Legal Harborside, the destination dining hot spot known for its modern interpretations of classic seafood dishes, uses the lobsters as favors for convention attendees and wedding guests. The lobsters also have found a home at The Harvard Coop, one of the world’s most famous bookstores. The store began offering The Candy Dish’s delectables as an alternative to the rock-hard, super-sweet lobster lollipops commonly found in New England souvenir shops.
Despite its mass appeal, The Candy Dish is more than just a purveyor of confectionary crustaceans. In fact, not a cashew claw was in sight at the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony. Instead, celebrities were welcomed to their VIP hotel suites by chocolate caramels dusted in champagne-gold sea salt.
Happily, you can have a little of that melt-in-your-mouth Oscar gold at your next event without plying the Academy. If glittery gold gift boxes aren’t you’re style, don’t worry. The company’s Facebook and Instagram pages offer plenty of party favor, and flavor, inspiration. Still not sure what you want? Call DiMinico directly to brainstorm together.
Throwing a party isn’t the only way to sample some of The Candy Dish’s hard-to-resist chocolates. And you need not drive to Boston to nibble on some “caramellows,” also known as chocolate caramel marshmallow heaven. While The Candy Dish does specialize in custom goodie bags for special occasions, you can also just pop into Good Day Cafe or Andover Classic Wines and pick up a quick housewarming gift for a friend or a little something special for yourself.
After such a sensational start, it’s hard to believe The Candy Dish is only 2 years old. If recent history is any indication, the company’s future looks bright. DiMinico and Semenza are particularly excited to launch their new summer cocktail-inspired candy, “The Mojito Truffle.” It will include white chocolate, fresh mint, lime and, of course, rum. It’s an herbaceous, tangy flavor combination that even the most staunch peanut butter and chocolate fan will be able to appreciate.
How about the fact that each and every party favor is created by just two people. From double boiling to boxing, DiMinico and Semenza are responsible for every step of the process. It’s this attention to detail and love of their craft that took what started as party favors for DiMinico’s son’s fourth birthday and turned it into one of Merrimack Valley sweetest success stories.
Editor’s note: The Candy Dish does not have its own retail store. Its products can be purchased at local shops and through special orders.
The Candy Dish
North Andover, Mass.
Photography by Deborah A. Venuti
Candy Dish, based in North Andover, is a party favor and corporate gift company that specializes in hand-dipped, binder-, filler- and gluten-free artisan chocolates. Their salted caramels, shown here, are one of their most popular items.
Shauna Semenza (left) and Melissa DiMinico started The Candy Dish in 2013. Although they don’t have a store of their own, their products can be purchased at local retailers, including Cakes By Design in North Andover, and through special orders.