Monday, February 11, 2013

Ethel M.-your new grandma

While I was visiting Las Vegas we did a few fun things. One of them was to venture through the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory Tour (and then wander through the Botanical Cactus Garden). I had not heard of Ethel M. chocolates and I had no clue that there was a person -a Chocolatier!- behind the  Mars Corporation. (It certainly makes sense, but Mars today is such a conglomeration of products that I could never think of it as a "mom and pop" business--just stockbroker overload.)

*In 1981, Forrest Mars Sr, retired to Henderson, Nevada and created Ethel M.® Chocolates to honor his mother. This line of gourmet chocolate candies reminded him of how he learned about quality chocolate making. No Preservatives: Ethel M.® Chocolates contain no preservatives and are therefore perishable. Ethel M.® Chocolate treats are made to be enjoyed right away, so you can taste the quality.

The factory tour is self guided, meaning you walk down a long hallway and look through huge windows into the chocolate factory. As tours go, it was actually a pretty great space. Not quite the tiny close-up thrills of the original Oakland Schaffenberger tour, or the hands on farm to table approach you get at Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory. However, you can stand as long as you want with your nose pressed against the glass watching people make chocolate and candy. We seemed to have arrived at lunch time, but things picked up later on after we had visited the chocolate shop and returned to the viewing hall. They fixed a problem in one system, and then we watched several men talk about one of the antique copper kettles for a while. Pretty neat if you like factories and chocolate!

Worker bees are off at lunch.
Info cards tell about the machines you see in the factory.
Handy overhead signs help guide you along.
A Chocolatier gets the machine fixed.
Wooot! Back from lunch, back to work.

Is it ready?
Let's make some chocolate bars people!

Why do they need a siren? Chocolate Disco Night!!
That's ready to wrap.
Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make me a chocolate Match!

In the hallway, opposite the windows to the factory, there are is a montage of photos and historical information about the company. This space features the companies background and ethics as well as how they relate to the cacoa growers and environment. There are several TV's that also provide info along the route as well.

They don't just create chocolate here, they make electricity!
No one can frown when they work with Chocolate all day.
A little background media about the company founder.
Can't argue with that quote!
M & M World is actually at the entrance to the Ethel M factory. The only thing missing from this store is the opportunity to write your own words on the m&ms. Otherwise they have every color from the extended rainbow, plus lots of chotchkies with the logo on them.

M & M WORLD awaits.
Taste the Rainbow. Oops! Wait, they don't melt, that's it.

The green lady.

Once you get into the Ethel M. chocolate gift shop at the 'end' of the tour, you'll find a plenty of treats to take home. In fact if you're looking for Las Vegas souvenirs, this is the tastiest spot. You can buy prepackaged favorites, or create your own box from their counters that feature everything made in the factory. At the time we visited they also had a deal for customers who use social media (specifically twitter and facebook).

Yes! Please do...
Premade boxes of factory favorites are available.

We chose to make our own box to go.
Hey, bring me something good.

A wide variety of goodies in the shop.

Lovely store presentation.
Finally, we had to stop and enjoy the cactus garden. The grounds keepers were taking down/off all the Christmas lights while we wandered and marveled at the landscaping. Here are some of the photos I liked best from the array we took that day. If you get the chance to visit Ethel M in Las Vegas, make sure to give yourself a few hours. It's not a big factory, but when you include the chance to walk in the garden and munch on chocolate, it's a great retreat from the hustle and bustle of the Strip. Enjoy!

*from the website of Ethel M.

Eat Chocolate Not Preservatives at Ethel M Chocolates