Monday, March 2, 2009

Cacti and Chocolate

Continuing my off-the-beaten-path Vegas series... here is my account of my visit to Ethel M Chocolates and Cactus Garden in Henderson, NV. Ethel M was founded by Forrest Mars (of Snickers and Mars fame). After his retirement 30 years ago he decided to build a new factory where he could make chocolates the way he remembered his mother Ethel making them when he was a child.

First stop, cactus.

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The cactus garden is pretty cool - it's Nevada's largest and one of the largest collections of its kind in the world with over 300 different species on 4 acres.

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The golden barrel cactus. Apparently these things are critically endangered and rare in the wild. Which is strange as they are very wildly cultivated - I remember we had one growing up.

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I thought this plant was cool - the Mojave yucca. According to the helpful label on display, Native Americans used to eat the flowers and fruit from the plant and use the stringy fibers to make rope, sandals, and cloth.

Currently it's used in animal feed, in herbal medications, and in pet deodorizers. It's been used to treat headaches, arthritis, and gonorrhea. How on earth does someone realize that this plant can be used to treat gonorrhea? I'm picturing some poor schulb with burning pee wandering around in the desert chewing plants.

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The Prickly Pear cactus. I use its fruit for margaritas and martinis. Not as noble as sandal making, but still important.

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I touched this plant. The prickly parts looked furry and soft. I tried a gentle touch. Then got more aggressive. Guess what? It hurt like a bitch.

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This is ephedra, otherwise known as Mormon Tea (heh - those silly Mormons).

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It contains ephedrine which is a stimulant for the central nervous system. It was used as a weight loss medication, but then was pulled off the shelves because it was screwing up people's blood pressure. But it still packs a wallop as an energizer. I should have taken some for the ride back to Los Angeles. Oh well.

Aloe vera...

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After my serene stroll through the catcus garden, it was a little jarring to step into this room - the preamble to the Ethel M chocolate factory tour. The ipod speaker in the upper corner was blaring some sort of techno music. Too much color. Too much stimulation.

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Too much junk.

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Okay. Let's begin the tour.

Apparently chocolate makers don't work on Saturday. Strike two. So nothing to see here.

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And nothing to see here either.

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But then I stepped into here. One fancy gift shop.

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With rows of chocolate truffles. And another counter for ice cream. And peanut brittle.

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I see that this whole tour and experience was just an excuse to sell me chocolate. Well I accepted the challenge and prepared my "present for Mr. Insomniac". The dark chocolate was okay, better than the rest of the M&M/Mars crap, but definitely no Pierre Marcolini.

The finished product after my picking and choosing. 12 pieces of dark chocolate. I got a cosmo flavored one, pudding pie, an espresso, a toffee crunch, blueberry, Tahitian vanilla, a Macadamian nut, and some others I don't remember.

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Nice.

3 comments:

Dunc said...

This reminds me of my father, who was alloted his own little cactus patch near the air conditioner at one of our homes growing up (and by "one of our homes" I mean I moved a lot - not that we had multiple vacation homes, lol). Oh, Howard.

WeezerMonkey said...

margaritas and martinis > sandal-making

Ann Marie said...

A cosmo flavored truffle? I'm intrigued.