Monday, 11 June 2012

Panny's Chocolate Factory

Public holidays are, to us, a time to schedule odd family events. Today we're celebrating the Queen's Birthday by visiting a chocolate factory. There's some kind of logic there, I'm sure, but it might be more suited to Alice Liddell than to anybody with intact sanity... anyway. We came today, that's what matters, to the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory.

First, the bad news. The shop prices are... less than compelling. If you want excellent chocolate at a reasonable price, there are many places that I would recommend ahead of Panny's. But for a day-trip themed around the world's most awesome food? Definitely. For a pretty reasonable $12/head, you can mooch around in their exhibits as long as you like - allocate at least an hour, multiple hours if you're a fan of chocolate. A tip: Arrive early. The place got busier toward the middle of the day. That might be different on a non-holiday, but allocate yourself enough time to wait for things if it's busy.

The displays are awesome fun. There's the usual collection of informative and infotainment elements, plus a variety of chocolate sculptures, chocolate-themed carnival games (done with foil-wrapped solid chocolate balls, and when you win, you keep the ball), and specifically chocolate-factory-aligned activities. For anyone who's played the Baumeister Confections trilogy of Chocolatier games, the third game will come very much to mind: Panny's have a design-your-own facility, where you pick from a couple dozen flavors, a dozen or so scents, and a reasonable number of textures, from which you could pick 2-4 of each, giving rather a lot of combinations. The computer describes your creation for you (unlike in Chocolatier), and if you give them your name and email address, they'll add yours to a monthly competition: one invention gets produced in real chocolates, and the creator gets a box free. Yep, that's the Chocolatier game IRL!

A'many years ago, when I was young, Mum used to take us on excursions that were awesomely fun and somewhat educational, with a feeling of being "right there" with the action. Shepparton Preserving Company (a cannery) used to let you walk across the factory on a mezzanine catwalk, with just a cap over your head to prevent loose hairs from falling. In later years, I learned that such tours have disappeared some ages since. Even those places which did do tours, thanks to new health and safety legislation, had a perspex mask on Nature's face, as Lady Sophy put it, preventing the unwashed masses from getting too close to the sterile environment of the production line. But of factories of fairy lore, one, at least, is in existence! Not quite inviting you to the production line, but there's real chocolate that you can, for instance, draw into a design (five seconds to draw, twenty seconds before the next person can draw) and chill and then eat, and the entire 'production' is right in front of you.

The staff are extremely competent and unflappable. Everything's well maintained and efficiently handled. When the carnival games "play up", which is quite rare, their techs sort them out. It's a pleasure to work around such competence!

There are times when, quite regardless of expense, you want to enjoy a day. Panny's Chocolate Factory is an excellent way to do that.

Kondanapanny Letchumanan, the Panny after whom the factory is named, provided some additional information which is pertinent to the early paragraphs.
Thank you for writing about the Chocolate Factory.
The Chocolates are expensive, because 1. They are real & pure chocolate( no preservatives, no gluten, no eggs, no palm-oil, no hidden numbers such as 492 or 476, no colour). 2. it contains 12 % more cocoa content and 7 % more cocoa butter. 3. they have 10% less sugar than any other chocolate in the market. 4. It is handmade, and it labour intensive.

If buy a chocolate bar, it last longer than any other chocolates. If you had bought one, please try and see for yourself.

Please do not [chew] the chocolate, just leave it in your mouth for 40 seconds, and it melt by itself, and your mouth will be full with chocolate, and after the second piece, you will not take another one for at least 1hour.

Try them and tell me that you have found something better.
There's no denying that quality costs, and hand-made chocolates (the whole production line is visible from the tour) are something special. And as I write, I'm tasting a block of cola wasabi chocolate, enjoying a square of it by the method she advises (which, I might mention, is the same method that other master chocolatiers espouse), and it is excellent. It's something to be eaten in small quantities and savoured as a luxury.

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