If you've sampled Black Dinah Chocolatiers' exquisite truffles, you know how good the company's chocolates are. Maine chocolatier Kate Shaffer handcrafts artistic confections using local butter, fruits, herbs, and flowers, and enrobes them in bittersweet or milk chocolate. Her chocolates have won awards and praise in national magazines. Shaffer and her husband, Steve, launched the business nine years ago on Isle au Haut, a Maine island seven miles out to sea with a year-round population of 40. Last year, the couple moved the production to Westbrook, near Portland. The chocolatier also crafts barks, ¼-inch thick bars made with Venezuelan chocolate, with ingredients strewn on top rather than encased inside ($5.75 to $6.99 for 2 ounces). Roasted coffee beans, peanuts, and sea salt are crushed and layered on the Coffee Peanut Bark; scattered on the bittersweet and smoky Ancho Chile Bark are crushed chiles, roasted pecans, and smoked sea salt. Shaffer also crushes dried English and French lavender buds and whole vanilla beans, and adds organic cane sugar dust, to crown bittersweet chocolate Lavender Bark. Says Steve Shaffer about his wife: "She was drawn into chocolate by its artistry." Available at Spirited Gourmet, 448 Common St., Belmont, 617-489-9463; Audubon Shop, Mass Audubon, 208 South Great Road, Lincoln, 781-259-2214; The Cave, 44 Main St., Gloucester, 978-283-0896; or go to www.blackdinahchocolatiers.com.
Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at email@example.com.