If a virtual chocolate tasting sounds a little like … well … showering in a raincoat, don’t worry; Ethel M Chocolates is on it. In the wake of two highly successful virtual tastings, the company has scheduled three more and is announcing them to a wider audience.
Lisa Vannerson, the company’s marketing and public relations manager, said in this case, a pandemic was the mother of invention.
“Our stores have been closed for about nine weeks now,” she said. “As we started thinking about how to sort of reinvent ourselves in the COVID world, we thought about this offering that’s already really popular in-store. Why couldn’t we take it to a virtual experience?”
They started small — or at least they thought so — reaching out to their customer base through social media and email. Some 200 people participated in the first one April 10. The Cinco de Mayo tasting attracted 300 people.
“We’re hoping to make it bigger and bigger,” Vannerson said. “We do it via Zoom and have not had any problems with technology. We’re seeing so many people from out of state coming into these.”
Here’s how it works: Those who want to participate sign up at ethelm.com. Their tasting kit — which contains the chocolate tasting pieces, two tasting place mats and pens — arrives via FedEx, shipped on ice in an insulated cooler bag. When it’s time for the tasting, they tune in to the hourlong livestream by chef chocolatier Mark Mackey, which covers the origin of the chocolate, tasting it with all of the senses and more.
The next installment, which will kick off Memorial Day weekend, is the Satin Creme tasting at 5 p.m. May 22. The kit, which contains 12 Satin Cremes and wine recommendations, must be purchased by Monday.
The Dark Chocolate Lovers Tasting at 5 p.m. June 5 includes 12 dark chocolate pieces, including the Welcome to Las Vegas creamy caramel and a dark chocolate espresso truffle, and must be purchased by June 1. And the Father’s Day tasting at 5 p.m. June 19 comes with 12 chocolate pieces, including milk chocolate sea salt caramel and a dark chocolate XO cognac truffle, plus beer-pairing recommendations, and must be purchased by June 15. Each tasting is $50, which includes shipping, and spaces for all are limited.
Vannerson said the company probably will continue the virtual tastings.
“We don’t know at this moment when the stores will be reopening,” she said Tuesday, although she added that the factory store at 2 Cactus Garden Drive in Henderson and the store at Town Square probably would reopen within a week. “Even when they do, we’ll probably keep the tasting room closed for now, just because of consumer concern.”