Friday, February 23, 2007

Carlton's log, day 2, Ethel M.

What to do after a day hiking? Why go to a chocolate factory of course! Henderson, just south of Vegas, is home to Ethel M. Chocolates. For any who may not know, she and her husband became famous for making a tiny contribution to the war effort in the manner of a convenient tasty, non melting energy source that came to be known as M&Ms. Named for Mr. & Mrs. After that came Mars Bars, and a variety of other chocolate bars and later grandsons added things like Skittles.

In the late 80's Mrs. Mars got an idea that she should make "fancy" chocolates like Mr. Mars' Grandmother did way back in the day. Bada Bing, Ethel M. was born.

Today you can go to the factory in Henderson and hand pick assorted chocolates, everything from the run of the mill hand dipped to the extra fancy (and uber expensive) specials... things that resemble cocktails to fruit and spice. The "regular" chocolates run you 6 pieces for $5.00. The specials go for just under two bucks a piece. The specials however, are a higher cacao percentage and special ingredients, so you are supposed to feel better about purchasing them.

I have to tell you, I didn't go for the specials. I just couldn't bring myself to try it without Chronicler there. I passed them up and went for the 6 for $5 deal. Both Thor and I felt they were the same caliber as Ghiradelli, a bit waxy for the price. They were very tempting and extremely pretty, just not worth the price.

Back to the tour. It also is a self tour with signs along the way pointing out what is happening on the factory floor behind large glass windows. The day we were there the factory seemed to be shut down. There were workers all in one spot shining and cleaning and a few others down the assembly line finishing up a few items, but all in all the place was shut down for the day. As the tour came to an end, we talked with a provider of free samples who mentioned the factory had a malfunction and blew chocolate all over the place. They had to shut down and clean. Oh. My. If you look at the hand wheel in the photo that was the last proof of the meltdown as it were, chocolate still covering it and the floor and space around it.

There was a small gift shop as you entered the factory and also one at the end of the tour. The first for run of the mill Mars products, mainly M&Ms, the latter strictly Ethel M. The center of the self tour brought you to what looked like a candy store. I am not sure if you can purchase items there, (it was empty the day we were there) but the cases were full of candy and there were display cases on pedestals with chocolate sculptures spotlighted on the floor.

I have to say that the employees were friendly but uninformed about both product and displays within the tour. We read the signs and asked questions of the hostess and she pretty much argued the point. The hostess actually went down to a particular sign to "prove" what we read was wrong information, however apologized when she read the sign herself. Others in the store were less than informed about ingredient and percentages of cacao, paraffin, and other ingredients.

You may purchase pre-packed boxes or hand pick, however you may not mix regulars with specialties. Just FYI. One sales person gave an extra piece of candy to one of us, while another sales person stuck to the 6 for $5. Go figure.

They do offer a free sample of chocolate. Our choice was a "Espresso Truffle" of "White Chocolate" name or what was inside (a white chocolate ganache -nice but all the same flavor). As you make your purchase you are offered a small brochure that pictures and describes their specialty line of chocolate.

Another very nice part of this factory is the botanical garden of native desert plants that are on the property and free to anyone to stroll around in. Lovely and fragrant.

Ethel M. is located near the corner of Sunset and Mountain View in Henderson. If you have children I would definitely put this on my list of places to go if I were in the area. Plan on early in the day as that is when the factory is most busy and the "views" are better. Everyone gets a free piece of chocolate and there are plenty of M&M gifts to please any little gal or guy.

add to sk*rt


The Pea said...

I miss you!!!!

chronicler said...

yep, I would have gone for the expensive stuff. just for the lower wax/parafin issue alone. too bad the employees are so ill informed, it's tragic that they don't expect their personnel to be somewhat schooled in chocolate.

s'mee said...

Pea, yeah- same... it was weird to be there and not visit with you.

Chronicler, I am not sure that the parafin went down in the expensive looked very shiny and very painted, does that make sence? I am sure they used an air brush with edible paints, however the vivid colours (neons even) were making me wonder about how and what is in a paint and the effects on the chocolate. And like I said, I questioned the sales staf and no one knew, some even had a look on their faces like..huh? I flt I knew more about the process than some and I got my education on chocolate from that tour last year!

Lisa M. said...

I haven't been there, before!

I am actually going to VEgas on Thursday! Maybe I will check it out.

Oh, but honestly, I have been to the Cadbury chocolate factory in the UK, and Honestly, I don't know if you can get better chocolate than that.

(Oh and samples come with the entry price)

At the end though, they have the neatest discount shoppe.

Okay, waved from the thread, talk about a jack.

Sounds really neat!

s'mee said...

Lisa, Cadbury vs. Ethel? Cadbury will win I am sure. This tour is however, free and you can explore the space as long as you need to. The gardens were very nice if you are in to desert plants.

....Need to jet for now, will write more later.

chronicler said...

The bright neon colors are actually done through the use of acetate sheets and cocoa butter with edible colors. Easy to do and it doesn't affect the taste at all. And parafin actually affects the taste and doesn't enhance the shine. The shine in the more expensive chocolate comes from the higher butter fat/chocolate content. It gets its sheen and snap the more pure the chocolate is.