Just a few months ago the only things I knew about truffles was that harvesters used trained pigs or dogs to dig the fungi up from among the roots of oak trees, that chefs used them sparingly and often to great effect in fine cuisine and that they cost an arm and a leg.
Then I met Dinah — Black Dinah to be precise. That’s how I discovered chocolate truffles, and learned why people snuffle happily after the confections produced in the kitchen of Black Dinah Chocolatiers like ardent hounds expecting a reward for searching out a precious truffle in the woods.
Black Dinah Chocolatiers is the creation of Isle au Haut residents Kate and Steve Shaffer. In less than two years, their company has grown from selling handmade chocolates and homemade baked goods in a tiny café attached to their home near the entrance to Acadia National Park to distributing exquisite handmade chocolates to a few lucky Maine retailers and a nationwide clientele via the Internet.
During a recent visit to Isle au Haut, I found Kate making Eastside Flamingo truffles, named for a flock of pink plastic birds that made a mysterious appearance on the island and that “migrate mysteriously” from place to place without any obvious help from Isle au Haut’s human inhabitants. Into molds holding fragile shells of Venezuelan bittersweet chocolate, Kate poured a white chocolate ganache infused with vanilla pods and fresh ginger, and spiked with “a nice healthy dose of dark rum.”