Herbaceous, savory, slightly hot, a touch salty, and, of course, a little bit sweet, the Spicy Togarashi Caramel Truffle ($2.50) made by Twenty-Four Blackbirds Chocolate is a confectionary revelation. The obvious attractions — butter-soft caramel, glossy cocoa butter shell, dark chocolate expertly crafted by Santa Barbara’s homegrown bean-to-bar factory — take a backseat to togarashi, the seven-spice Japanese blend of nori, orange peel, chili pepper, orange rind, and more.
“Unique flavors done well,” says Twenty-Four Blackbirds founder Mike Orlando of his new truffle offerings. “I want a curated list of things that are really delicious.”
The togarashi is but one of about a dozen truffle flavors to buy at Orlando’s first-ever retail shop on East Haley Street; the Pink Peppercorn & Licorice Salt is another eye-opener, and the Rosemary Caramel finds a beautiful balance with that piney herb. There are also all five of the Twenty-Four Blackbirds chocolate bars to try on the back wall, so see if you agree with Orlando’s tasting notes on bars from Madagascar, Bolivia, Ecuador, Tanzania, and the Dominican Republic.
Orlando started importing beans and making chocolate in Santa Barbara eight years ago, which makes Twenty-Four Blackbirds one of the very first craft chocolate makers in the United States — today, there are more than 300. “We were one of the first people to do it,” said Orlando, who currently sells to nearly 400 retailers in the U.S. and another 100 in Tokyo. “We lucked into the timing of craft chocolate.”
In the meantime, he’s expanded into this 3,000-square-foot factory, which he designed and built over the past 18 months, and started making truffles, which also makes him a chocolatier as well as a chocolate-maker, which was a constant source of confusion before. “Now I’m both,” he said. “I don’t have to correct anybody.”
Open Thu.-Sun., noon-7pm; 428 E. Haley St.; twentyfourblackbirds.com