Black Dinah’s chocolates, made from local Maine ingredients, taste as good as they look. If you think flamingos aren’t local, that chocolate honors a flock of plastic pink flamingos that inhabit the east side of Isle au Haut. Photo by Corey Lugg | THE NIBBLE.
STEPHANIE ZONIS writes about specialty food and organics.
America’s Boutique Chocolatiers:
More Great Artisanal Chocolate
Page 1: Black Dinah Chocolatiers
CAPSULE REPORT: America’s boutique chocolatiers is one of our most popular features. Part I debuted in the February 2007 issue, followed by Part II in 2008. Now, for your Valentine gift-giving and year-round chocolate-eating pleasure, we present Part III. Stephanie Zonis eats box after box of chocolate, month after month, to find the best recommendations for you. This is Page 1 of a six-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.
Who opened the floodgates? The number of small-scale, artisanal chocolatiers in the U.S. continues to increase on a seemingly exponential scale. I admire the optimism and persistence of these businesses more than I can say, and, of course, such a plethora results in nothing but choices for the lucky consumer. The chocolatiers in this year’s selection are deserving of your attention and hard-earned money.
The usual guidelines apply here. That is to say:
- Please give these nice folks plenty of time, especially near major chocolate holidays. They make everything fresh, and don’t have huge warehouses full of their chocolate creations to be shipped out at a moment’s notice. And yes, they can sell out.
- Be prepared to consume these chocolates when they are very fresh. They aren’t made with preservatives, and they’ll simply taste better that way. While it’s tempting to conserve the goodies, the reverse logic is true.
- And yes, these chocolates will be more expensive than those you find in your local grocer or drugstore. That is because they are produced on a vastly smaller scale by individuals who genuinely care about what they’re doing, the ingredients they use, and how their products taste.
I tasted chocolates from quite a number of small-scale chocolatiers over the past year. Believe me when I tell you that the mere fact of being a small-scale producer does not guarantee good chocolates! This article includes six of my favorites, in alphabetical order.
Black Dinah Chocolatiers
These chocolates are made on the remote Isle au Haut off the Maine coast in Penobscot Bay, between New Hampshire and Nova Scotia. How remote is it? The population was 79 at the 2000 census, and it is only accessible by mail boat—no auto ferries.
Yet, stumble onto the island and, in addition to portions of Acadia National Park, you can stumble upon the chocolates that belong on Fifth Avenue, Michigan Avenue, or in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Made with a deft hand, Black Dinah Chocolatiers promises you “adventurously flavored chocolates,” and many of their selections are exactly that. How about a Rhubarb bonbon (with cloves, in milk chocolate)? Perhaps you’d prefer a Blueberry-Black Pepper (with spicy Indian pepper, in dark chocolate—the op-art blue piece in the photo above) or a Gonne, Maude (milk chocolate truffle, Irish whiskey and a sultana)?
By the way, if your tastes aren’t quite so cutting edge, you’re still covered. Try the heart-shaped Lemon, with the classic flavor duo of white chocolate and citrus, or the Bees & Flowers, a milk chocolate truffle with orange blossom honey, covered in dark chocolate (easy to spot in the photo at top).
This business includes a small café, at the base of the eponymous Black Dinah Mountain, serving pastries, chocolates and beverages (and free wi-fi). The café is open from June to September only (the proprietors may be adventurous, but they’re not completely mad). But of course you can order online year-round. According to the website, if you find yourself on the island during the months the café is closed and are in need of chocolate (who wouldn’t be?), feel free to knock on the door. After all, these are not city folks who will growl “Go away!” through double locks and a chain.
What elegant, sophisticated chocolates are
produced on such an isolated, rustic isle. If you want to escape to a remote island, this is the one to choose!
There is quirkiness to spare here, an attribute I admire. More importantly, it all works. During an autumn when I saw too much bad customer service from other mom-and-pop artisan teams, these folks were friendly, timely, and got me a box of beautifully-executed, flavorful chocolates, sending me not only the varieties I had requested but in pristine condition! Alas, there are some small chocolatiers making very nice products who haven’t gotten this part of their act together yet; much as we appreciate each bite, we think you deserve good service, too. You’ll get it from Kathy and Steve Shaffer at Black Dinah.
Black Dinah Chocolatiers
Chocolates, Caramels & Bark
- 8-Piece Box
You can choose from dark, milk, and other assortments
Purchase online* at BlackDinahChocolatiers.com
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*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping is additional. These items are offered by a third party and THE NIBBLE has no relationship with them. Purchase information is provided as a reader convenience.
Photo by Corey Lugg | THE NIBBLE.
Do You Love Artisan Chocolate?
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