BY JANET MANDELSTAM
Linda Armes says it is her “personal mission” to educate the public about chocolate truffles. “A lot of people don’t know what they are, that they are really delicious,” she says. Her educational vehicle is Peacetree Mountain Truffles, a three-woman business founded a year ago that sells a variety of the chocolate confections through local retail outlets.
Peacetree makes truffles filled with a variety of products sold in the outlets that carry them. Cookie truffles, for example, are made with organic cookies from Bloomingfoods; coffee truffles with coffee from The Daily Grind in Nashville, Indiana. There are even wine truffles made with wines from Oliver Winery. But because Indiana law restricts alcohol in candy, “we boil off the alcohol and just get the flavor in,” says Armes.
It’s logical that Armes would eventually go into the confectionery business. She had been making candy, cookies, and desserts since she was a child. After she won an Emeril Live cooking contest and appeared on the Food Network, friends urged her to turn her culinary talents into a business. Once she had settled on making truffles, the self-taught Armes honed her skills at the Chocolate Academy in Chicago where, she says, “I learned new techniques, and the experience gave me confidence.”
Back in Bloomington, the “R and D person,” as Armes refers to herself, joined forces with two friends who could give the nascent business a solid footing. Gretchen Handlos, an administrator at IU’s Kelley School of Business, is Peacetree’s director of operations. Lisa Hornibrook, who has a doctorate in psychology, is the director of marketing. Her job is to connect Peacetree with retail outlets.
The three women, longtime friends who met through home schooling their children, get together once or twice a week at a rented commercial space to make the truffles under Armes’ direction. “We just say, ‘Yes, ma’am, we will do that,’” says Handlos.
The research and testing of new varieties still happens in Armes’ home kitchen, but all of their families “are eager to taste the truffles and give feedback,” says Handlos.
And to continue the educational mission, Peacetree offers samplings at retail outlets where customers can learn about truffles one piece at a time.