To Market Pantry: Black Dinah Chocolatiers
BY LISA ZWIRN / PHOTOS MICHAEL PIAZZA
Starting a chocolate business on a small island, one reachable via a 45-minute boat ride available only twice a day in winter, is quite the challenge. Yet Kate Shaffer made it work for a number of years—over half of the 14 or so that she and her husband, Steve, lived on Maine’s Isle au Haut. In mid-2015, the couple relocated to Westbrook, near Portland.
Shaffer, originally from the San Francisco area, is a self-taught chef and chocolatier. She makes delectable chocolate confections, including truffles, caramels and bark, using responsibly grown and produced chocolate from Venezuela and Peru. She melts, blends and re-tempers the blocks to create her stunning bonbons, two of which have won Good Food awards: her Maine Mint truffle in 2016 and currant-based Cassis de Resistance in 2015.
Whenever possible, and most noticeably in the Farm Market collection, Shaffer uses local ingredients, including raspberries, strawberries, apples, pumpkin, goat cheese, maple syrup and mint. Maine, she says, “has one of the strongest farm-to-fork cultures that I’ve ever seen.” Butter comes from Kate’s Homemade Butter in Old Orchard Beach, cream from Portland’s Oakhurst Dairy, black currants from a gardener on Isle au Haut and honey from Swan’s Honey of Albion. The new Pear & Champagne truffles, so pretty in the shape and color of pears, are made with fruit from a local grower. Moving their factory and retail store from a hard-to-get-to island to Westbrook was both a convenience for the chocolatiers and a very sweet thing for Black Dinah chocolates fans.