San Francisco chocolatier Michael Recchiuti composes his recipes as if he were delivering a symphony.
The “laboratory” of Michael Recchiuti’s chocolate factory and workshop isn’t equipped with surplus tempering pots or candy molds, but rather a glittering green-and-gold drum kit and various electronic sound mixers (though eau de cocoa is always lingering in the air). You might think that the space—tucked away at the main office/manufacturing kitchen behind a few quilted moving blankets and plastic refrigerator curtains, a kind of makeshift soundproofing system—is the chocolatier-slash-musician’s escape from the sophisticated confections that command most of his waking hours. Alas, such work-play separation isn’t always neat and tidy, especially where creatives are concerned—music has always informed Recchiuti’s chocolate.
So, on a recent—and particularly warm—autumn day, he cues up eclectic music samples from his favorite artists and selects truffles to match. Arranged on a white plate, the chocolates have gone pleasingly soft in the semiswelter of the concrete bunker, but, luckily, such conditions only emphasize their flavor nuances and velvety mouthfeel. In the realm of creative culinary pairings, we were about to have a singular tasting experience.
Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador varietals, part of the Noir truffle box dark chocolate collection, $28
“Music has always been a comfort zone, even a Pavlovian signal for me to create things,” says Recchiuti, 59, who spent much of his Philadelphia upbringing in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother, who was from southern Italy. While they were scratch-making, say, cavatelli pasta, music was always playing in the background, from an operatic “Ave Maria” on the record player to his mother’s piano-playing.
Nowadays, Recchiuti tends toward the melancholy stylings of San Diego alt-rock band The Album Leaf; Australia’s “Prince of Darkness,” Nick Cave; and the experimental-instrumental band, Dirty Three, also from Down Under. “I like music that takes me to a deeper place,” says Recchiuti. “That’s where my creativity is.”
He presses play on “Strange Meeting” by one of his heroes, legendary jazz guitarist Bill Frisell. The wry, laid-back tune might inspire you to pour some whiskey, neat, and ruminate about a complicated star-crossed relationship. And, in fact, it inspired Recchiuti’s tarragon-grapefruit truffle, which juxtaposes two dissimilar flavors—a licoricey herb and a bittersweet citrus—to create curious compatibility.
In “Funeral Singers,” from the Watch Dogs original game soundtrack, the raspy, off-kilter voice of Tim Rutili, frontman of the Chicago experimental rock band Califone, leaves a particularly indelible mark on Recchiuti, which he likens to biting into a sunny lemon. “Tim doesn’t have a beautiful voice, but it’s still really infectious,” he says. The citrusy bergamot oil-Ceylon tea truffle, enrobed in milk chocolate, has similar sweet-sour notes that the chocolatier detects in the song’s vocals and melody.
Star anise and crushed pink peppercorn, infused in semisweet ganache, is one of Recchiuti’s favorite confections, distinguished in the famous 16-piece Black Box (a regular fixture on The New York Times holiday gift guide) by its tip of Venezuelan white chocolate. In the song, “Tin Tin Deo,” off the canonical album Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section, the percussionary achievement of another jazz legend, drummer Philly Joe Jones, is feisty and bright, not unlike the fruity-sharp flavor profile of the pink peppercorn. “I put on that song whenever I need a boost of energy to create new flavors,” says Recchiuiti. He takes a bite of the candy and taps his fingers on the table in sync with the music, and, just like that, he’s gone, transported.
Mon.-Fri., 10am-7pm; Sat., 8am-6pm; Sun., 10am-5pm, Ferry Building, 1 Ferry Building, No. 30, 415.834.9494; Tue.-Fri., noon-7pm; Sat., 11am-6pm, Recchiuti Confections at the Lab, 801 22nd St., 415.489.2881
Photography by: Courtesy of Recchiuti Confections