Meggie Kraus doesn’t like marshmallows. This isn’t too strange, until you consider the fact that she is the owner and proprietor of a gourmet marshmallow business and newly opened s’mores bar, Quaintrelle Confections.
“I hate store-bought marshmallows,” Kraus says from the kitchen of Quaintrelle, which opened in November at 1210 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine. “I think Jet-Puffed is just disgusting. I like s’mores — I’ll eat them roasted — but I’ve never liked marshmallows.”
The Cheviot resident graduated from Ohio University with a degree in anthropology and focused on archaeology, working as a contractor. She discovered a fondness for her marshmallows while in the middle of a stint as an assistant at an orthopedic office. Before that she worked as a hotel manager in between archaeological digs and hated what she was doing. Inspired by a painting she saw while looking for art to buy for the hotel, she realized that she needed to change her path.
“I walked into (the artist’s) studio and this painting was there and I’ve never understood art, ever. I don’t get it when people say, ‘It just spoke to me.’ I’m like, ‘It’s a painting; how does it do that?’ This changed my life. I was mesmerized by this painting. I could not stop looking at it,” Kraus says.
The piece, by artist Jennifer Mujezinovic, features a woman from the shoulders up in a suit jacket and button-down with an elongated neck and serious eyes. When Kraus saw it, she says she felt like it might as well have been a painting of her. She didn’t know then what she wanted to do, but she knew that what she was doing wasn’t it. (She now has a print of the painting at Quaintrelle.)
Always interested in creative pursuits, Kraus had already tried her hand at making beef jerky, gummies and drink koozies.
“I ended up randomly making a batch of marshmallows (about) a year and a half ago and it just felt right,” she says. “Everything about it. I enjoyed making them. I loved them, and I don’t even like marshmallows.”
Lots of other people liked them, too.
Indeed, though she didn’t know it quite yet, Kraus was well on her way to embodying the definition of her company’s name: A quaintrelle is a “woman who emphasizes a life of passion expressed through personal style, leisurely pastimes, charm and cultivation of life’s pleasures.”
But she started small, first at farmers markets such as the Historic Harrison Farmers Market.
“If you’ve ever tried her marshmallows, you know,” says Kraus’ friend Crissy Moses. “I remember when she first said, ‘I want to sell handmade marshmallows.’ It wasn’t until I actually tried one of hers that I was like, ‘Oh, my god, this absolutely could be, like, a thing.’ At the farmers market, I don’t think she’s ever attended (and) hasn’t sold completely out every single time.”
Those sell-outs combined with online demand led to scaling up and joining the Incubator Kitchen Collective in Newport, Ky. Kraus kept climbing the proverbial ladder to success before going all-in on her venture.
“Because I was doing so well I figured, ‘Why not? I’ve risked so much so far and it turned out (well), I might as well make the jump,’ and it was the best decision I’ve ever made,” she says.
The premise of the retail location is slightly different from her wholesale business: It’s a s’mores bar that focuses heavily on the marshmallow portion of the s’more. Kraus makes all her own marshmallows in house — she says her perfectionism keeps her from letting anyone else take the reins. Each small batch is made with simple ingredients: water, sugar, gelatin, some salt and natural flavoring.
She doesn’t use egg whites, which give other marshmallows a more airy, quick-dissolving mouthfeel. Hers are creamy, more dense and pillowy.
You’re meant to get a bite of marshmallow in every bite of Quaintrelle’s s’mores. The distinctive square is sandwiched in between two graham crackers after being hand-roasted with a kitchen blowtorch, cradling generously layered toppings. (The graham cracker was gone all too soon from our attempts at consuming the pistachio s’more, so we scooped out the rest of the chocolate, nuts and mallow with our fingers.)
The s’mores offerings on the hand-written blackboard change every month. For January, you can stop in and grab a White Chocolate Pretzel, which is self-explanatory; a Turtle, with vanilla mallow, milk chocolate, caramel and pecans; the D.C. Pistachio, with swirls of dark chocolate and crunchy pistachios on top; the Classic s’more (mallow, graham cracker and chocolate); or Build Your Own. For this option, you can mix and match from any of the toppings featured on that month’s s’mores’ board.
In addition, Kraus offers “crispies,” which are variations on classic Rice Krispies treats, subbing in ingredients like Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Oreos or Ruffles potato chips for the puffed rice cereal. The s’mores are each $5, the crispies are $3 and bags of marshmallows — in flavors including snickerdoodle, chocolate chip, peanut butter and jelly and more — are available in the store for $6.99. The cost goes up to $7.99 for a bag of the boozy variation — marshmallows infused with alcohol, like this month’s bourbon mallow. For purists, you can buy an à la carte marshmallow for 50 cents.
February and beyond offers lots of potential for Kraus. She’s toying with the idea of bringing back champagne-flavored mallows for Valentine’s Day (they enjoyed a limited release around New Year’s) and eyeing a vegan mallow option.
She is quick to update her social media feeds, whether that means notifying customers of sellouts or identifying the crispie of the week, and is very attentive to her customers. In fact, the day we spoke with Kraus, she opened the shop on the only day it’s closed (Monday) to make s’mores for a family of three who had driven down from West Chester exclusively for her treats.
“As long as people are happy with what I’m making, I’m happy,” she says.
Quaintrelle Confections is located 1210 Main St., Over-the-Rhine. More info: quaintconfections.com.