PORTLAND, Maine — February first marks National Dark Chocolate Day. To celebrate the occasion NEWS CENTER Maine reporter Hannah Yechivi spent the morning making chocolate with Dean Bingham, co-owner of Dean's Sweets, at one of the two storefronts he and his wife, Kristin Thalheimer Bingham, run.
Bingham said making chocolate truffles with love and passion is the key to the success behind his nearly 20-year streak of keeping Dean's Sweets open.
Bingham was an architect, but his passion for fine chocolates led him to switch careers and open a store, offering some of his unique creations.
Throughout the years, Dean's Sweets has expanded its offerings. Just this year, its Maine Sea Salt Caramel Sauce was a finalist in the confections category of the national Good Food Awards competition.
Valentine's Day is the No. 1 day of the year that he sells the most, with people buying heart-shaped chocolates for loved ones, he said. Dean makes heart boxes, marshmallow hearts, XOXO chocolates, small conversation hearts and solid hearts.
Bigham said inflation led him to feel obligated to bump up his prices a bit, after the price of chocolate, butter, and other locally sourced ingredients he uses saw a significant increase. He said he only works with Belgian chocolate for his productions and uses local products whenever possible, such as butter, cream, blueberries, maple, beer and sea salt.
"For years we kept prices the same, and this past fall we decided finally it was time, and part of it is because we want to be able to pay our staff," he said.
Dean's Sweets is a nut-free shop, too.
Bingham truffles can be refrigerated, but they will sweat when they come out of the fridge. If they are not refrigerated, they do keep for several weeks at room temperature.
"Chocolate with nothing in it has a two-year shelf life," Bingham said.
Dean's Sweets can send their delicious creations all across the state and country. Click here for details.
The two stores are located on Fore Street and Cove Street, both in Portland.