Thursday, April 24, 2014
I don’t chew gum often, but when I do, I chew it a lot. It’s particularly hard to find gum that’s still sweetened with only sugar and not artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucarlose. I enjoy gum as a candy, which means that I chew all the sugar out of it and before the flavor has much chance to fade, I swap that piece out for a fresh one. (It’s probably a style of consumption that gum companies should welcome.)
I love chiclet style gum because primarily because it’s attractive, but also because it has texture to it; the crunchy shell has its own flavor and goes with the pleasing experience of chewing until the sugar is depleted. I can line up the pieces like Skittles or M&Ms on my keyboard. I got a huge sample bag of Oakleaf Refresh Triple Mint Chewing Gum from SweetWorks late last year and have been making my way through the bag. This is the kind of gum you’d find in a quarter twist vending machine, a little handful of pieces for some of the change in your pocket.
Wintergreen - these white pieces have little speckles of blue on them, some of the time. The flavor is clean and soft, with a good note of wintergreen. It’s not overpowering, but definitely strong enough that others nearby may think you’ve been rubbing lineament into your joints. There’s a little numbing tingle towards the end, as wintergreen can have that sort of effect. The flavor lasted longer than the sugar, but did taste a lot more medicinal after the sugar was gone.
Peppermint - is a nice medium blue. I don’t really need this much food coloring in my gum, as the point of minty gums is to act as a bit of a digestive but mostly to freshen my breath. don’t want my tongue looking blue when I’m done with it. It’s fresh, it’s not terribly strong but very sweet. I found it comforting but not challenging.
Spearmint is a pretty rare flavor in gum these days, so it’s nice to see it here. It’s green, for some reason spearmint is green and peppermint is blue (or red and white). The flavor is good, it’s peppery at first and quite strong, but mellows out after chewing and mixing with the sugar.
Of the three flavors, I preferred the wintergreen, but I’m usually mindful of not smelling like wintergreen in social situations or closed spaces. So the spearmint was my go-to flavor of the variety, especially since I can get peppermint chiclets in the form of actual Chiclets that don’t have blue food coloring. But since I already have these, they’re being consumed.
I did find that they stuck to one filling in my teeth (just that one old amalgam, even though I have other fillings). It’s hard to rationalize the large amount I have, but it works for my consumption style. It would be nice if they came in boxes like Chiclets or perhaps a tin like Altoids. The company that owns Oak Leaf, SweetWorks was recently purchased by the Swiss company called Frey which makes chocolate but also has their own line of gums, so maybe they’ll start doing some more gum packaging.
Friday, February 7, 2014
The weblisting for the product says that they’re pastel, but they’re much brighter than that. It’s hot pink, magenta/purple, turquoise blue and light yellow. The heart shapes are small, rather pillowy in form and about the size of a nickel.
I wasn’t really interested in how they tasted, at this price, it was more about having a pretty candy jar filled with little hearts before Valentine’s Day to share with co-workers. That was about two weeks ago and the jar is empty. (I didn’t eat them. But they were popular.)
These are not tart candies. I don’t think there are any acid flavorings at all in here. They might be flavored, but it’s so mild it’s hard to say for sure.
Purple is a lightly floral grape. Red has some strawberry notes. Blue is a kind of bitter raspberry, really the only flavor in the bunch I didn’t care for. Yellow is lightly lemony, quite fresh.
They’re pretty. They make a nice decoration, but not really very good candy. There’s nothing to offend anyone, no weird flavors because there’s barely any flavor at all. But I’m not saying that they’re not compelling, they’re gorgeous to look at and easy to munch. I’ve had other much more flavorful Oak Leaf candies before, so this must be from a much more subtle line of candy than I like.
Ultimately the review around the office was that they were too pretty to pass up. But no one wants me to buy them again. Kind of a weird relationship to have with candy. Personally, I’d prefer the Wonka Heartbreakers, so that’s what I’ve been eating while others have emptied the jar.
The SweetWorks website lists these as gluten free and nut free, though take care if you get them from a bulk bin (if you have concerns about cross contamination, it’s always best to get it in a factory sealed package).
Friday, December 20, 2013
SweetWorks, which makes many flavors of the break apart chocolate orange and Sixlets, also makes a wide variety of foil wrapped chocolate pieces and figures for all occasions.
Their holiday range is quite diverse, featuring chocolate balls, disks and semi-solid figures. The company sent me a huge box filled with confections to sample before Thanksgiving, and I’ve finally made it through all of the items before Christmas.
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Ornaments are one of the classics. They’re just a little solid chocolate sphere wrapped in foil.
Foil Colors: Solid Hunter Green, Solid Red, Diamon Silver, Diamond Blue, Diamond Red.
Taste: The milky chocolate is very smooth and has a lot of dairy notes to it. It’s on the sweet side but also has a lot of vanilla notes to it.
Verdict: Very nice, easily munchable. This sort of piece will appeal to kids and adults.
Rating: 8 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Crisp Balls
Foil Colors: Hunter Green, Silver & Red
Taste: The milky chocolate has a nice ratio of crisped rice. It’s creamy, a little softer than the solid chocolate bars but not quite as sweet.
Verdict: This is what I want from my candy in my stocking. It’s comforting and filling but still attractive.
Rating: 8 out of 10
SweetWorks Dark Chocolate Balls
Foil Colors: Hunter Green, Gold & Red
Taste: These are extremely dark looking, almost black. I checked and noticed the ingredients list: sugar, chocolate, chocolate processed with alkali, cocoa butter, butterfat (milk), soy lecithin, and vanilla. So this chocolate contains alkalized cocoa, which makes it darker. It also has butterfat in it, so it’s not vegan, which is too bad, because it’s hard to find vegan holiday treats. The flavor profile is a little odd. It’s definitely not overly sweet, but the particle size of the chocolate gives it a slight grain and a dry finish.
Verdict: I liked them well enough to pick them out as something to eat in combination with other things, like nuts, but I didn’t like the dry afterbite.
Rating: 7 out of 10
SweetWorks Solid Milk Chocolate Bells
Foil Colors: Hunter Green, Silver & Red
Taste: These are a bigger bite than the balls, about 2/3 bigger, so it’s a lot more chocolate at once. I noticed the smoothness of the melt much more in this shape.
Verdict: These are easier to peel and eat, though one piece is a little bigger than I prefer a bit of chocolate to be. But they don’t roll around, so that’s a plus.
Rating: 7 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Bells
Foil Colors: Green with Silver Trees & Red with Silver Trees
Taste: These didn’t smell like much in the package, but once unwrapped there was a nice fresh peanut scent. The milky chocolate is really smooth and the peanut center was part meltaway, part peanut butter.
Verdict: They’re not the same texture or peanut flavor profile as Reese’s, so as long as you’re okay with that, these are very satisfying.
Rating: 8 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Medallions
Foil Colors: White Snowman, Blue Santa, Green Teddy Bear & Red Reindeer
Taste: Milky, sweet and creamy.
Verdict: This was the most disappointing design as far as I was concerned. They seemed dated and missed an opportunity for something a little more splashy. A simple patterned foil or perhaps better artwork for the illustrations would have put these over the top. I like the format of the disks, as they’re easier to bite than bells and something that can be used in S’mores very easily.
Rating: 6 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Santas
Foil Colors: Dominantly Red with Green & Yellow Accents - 4 designs
Taste: Thin and long, it’s an easy two bite piece. They were exceptionally shiny.
Verdict: Like the medallions, the design of the Santa foil is a little dated. But in the case I found it utterly charming, especially since I could walk them around on my desk and set them up in little tableaus as if they were interacting. The bonus here is that the Santa is molded with quite a bit of detail, so even unwrapped they’re beguiling.
Rating: 7 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Santas
Foil Colors: Dominantly Red with Blue & Bronze Accents - 4 designs
Taste: This has a similar light peanutty flavor to the Bells. It’s not a deep roasted flavor, it seemed a bit saltier and a little thick/stickier in the melt.
Verdict: I didn’t like the ratios as much as the Bells, but I have to appreciate the cute little Santa expressions.
Rating: 7 out of 10
SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Hollow Foil comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. They have Turkeys in full feather, Santas, Nutcrackers and a Rocking Horse. (I think they also do a Teddy Bear.) These are very sturdy, the foil is thick and well designed. Instead of a bit piece that wraps around to the back, these are crimped. This means that there’s a full front and back design with a large seam where the two sides are pinched together.
The sizes vary, as you can tell from the photos. As an example, the SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Santa is a little shy of 6 inches and weighs 70 grams (2.5 ounces). The base of the Santa is thick, which makes it very stable when standing. They’re all very attractive designs and would be good as either stocking stuffers or as decorations on a cookie plate or as place settings at a table.
The SweetWorks Hollow Chocolate Rocking Horse is 3.5 ounces, so the same as a standard tablet bar, only in a fancier format. SweetWorks uses all natural milk chocolate for their hollow molded figures. The ingredients list only: sugar, cocoa butter, milk, chocolate, soy lecithin and vanilla. They’re also kosher and gluten-free though processed in a facility with tree nuts and peanuts. The SweetWorks Hollow Chocolate Nutcracker is the largest of the pieces they make for Christmas, at 4.5 ounces and is nearly 7 inches tall.
The SweetWorks Milk Chocolate Turkey is only 1 ounce, but seems like a far larger portion. The base, like the others, is mostly solid which keeps the figure upright whether it’s wrapped or not. The chocolate tastes milkier and smoother than the foil covered balls. (My guess is that the formulation is just a little different for the molded chocolate because of the production demands of filling the intricate molds.)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Like the others, the molding details are great, it really is a nicely sculpted turkey and completely recognizable when it’s unwrapped. I liked these much better than the Hershey’s or Dove versions found at Easter, but they’re not quite as rich as the Lindt foil figures. I really liked the Rocking Horse though, I thought its design set it apart from the other offerings on the store shelves. I saw the Turkeys at Dylan’s Candy Bar, and I think they were $2.99 but online they’re a bit less. I just wish they were easier to find. For Easter they make a 3.5 ounce Yellow Chick and 3 ounce sitting Rabbit. It makes me wonder if there are figures that could be more “year round” or generic for parties and decorations since the Teddy Bear seems like a natural item for a baby shower.
SweetWorks can be found in the bulk bins at Dylan’s Candy Bar (and probably other places). Their foil balls actually come in a dozen colors and are also available as hearts year round in a wide color and texture palette. You’re more likely to find these online (you can buy direct from SweetWorks.net) and usually for a pretty decent price for all natural chocolate that isn’t Hershey’s Kisses.
Monday, December 9, 2013
One of the special items for the holidays would be what I consider the anchor item of a well-stuffed stocking. Usually, a good stocking has a mix of candy, perhaps some small gifts and then a specialty food item. Like the Chocolate Rabbit anchors an Easter Basket, a chocolate orange fills a similar role for Christmas.
There are a few brands out there, though the Terry’s Chocolate Orange is probably the most ubiquitous, it’s also probably the most disappointing for adults as the chocolate quality has declined over the years. It’s fun to see some more upscale versions, but also some that incorporate other flavors and new production techniques to achieve a unique experience.
I’ve reviewed quite a few of the Ovation chocolate oranges, which were also sold under the name Florida Tropics and made by SweetWorks. It’s an American company using all natural ingredients in their chocolate. Today I have two of the holiday versions: Ovation Dark Chocolate Mint Filled and Ovation Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Spice.
I’m starting with the Ovation Dark Chocolate Mint Filled because I was really excited about the construction. It’s mint filled. So not only is it a chocolate sphere made of 20 sections molded like orange segments, each one of those is filled with a minted white confection. That’s crazy!
The Ovation oranges are wonderfully structured. They’re a bit overpackaged, but it does pay off. All of my oranges were in excellent shape. Though the sticker exhorts the consumer to BREAK then OPEN, I usually choose to pry it apart. This means less chocolate dust, though it’s possible that some sections will still get broken.
This orange is a bittersweet chocolate base (though made with dairy fats) filled with a minted white confection. It smells lightly of mint once removed from the foil. Though there’s not listing on the package, I’d estimate that the chocolate is about 55% cacao.
The snap is excellent and the individual slices have a pretty consistent stripe of minted white confection in the center (not a true white chocolate). The melt is good, very smooth with a silky, cooling note from the mint. If you’re fond of something like Andes Mints, this is a similar product, except much cooler to look at. I wish it was real white chocolate in the center, but it is all natural. It’s made in a facility with peanuts and tree nuts, it contains milk and soy. There’s no statement about gluten. It’s also Kosher, which means it would be a great Hanukkah item as well.
The Ovation Milk Chocolate Pumpkin Spice is also very well made with all natural milk chocolate and flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cloves and natural pumpkin flavor. The pieces are like the dark chocolate version, 20 segments held together in a spherical form by a dollop of chocolate in the core. They’re easily broken apart by either smacking the whole thing on a hard surface, or just prying it in half.
These smell milky and sweet with a light spice note. The flavor is overly sweet with a lot of milk components and a warm hint of the pumpkin spices. Mostly I got the nutmeg and ginger, not as much of the cloves and cinnamon. It’s a lot sweeter than I like my chocolate, though didn’t quite arrive at the throat searing level. I’m finding now after a couple of years of these spiced chocolates that it’s not my preferred genre. My usual use for chocolate that’s too sweet to eat or bloomed is to make it into hot chocolate or chocolate pudding. I think this is an excellent candidate for that.
Their standard chocolate versions are also very good, and a great value for 6.17 ounces of all natural chocolate. If you have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you’ll also notice that their chocolate oranges are made by the same company under the Trader Joe’s holiday packaging. Ferrara Candy also makes chocolate oranges, which I’ve seen on sale at Walgreen’s.
Friday, October 18, 2013
Name: Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cups
Name: Lancaster Caramels
Name: Werther’s Original Caramel Popcorn
Name: Werther’s Original Baking Caramel
Name: Jelly Belly Camo Beans
Name: Fruit Vines Bites
Name: Ovation Mint Filled Break-A-Part
Name: Ovation Milk Pumpkin Spice Break-A-Part
Images courtesy of the respective candy company
Update 10/31/2013 - An earlier version of this post listed Welch’s PB&J Snacks, but I was just informed that the information is not accurate, so I have removed it.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Ovation Chocolate Sticks are one of those candies that you’ve probably seen before but rarely thought much about them one way or the other.
I got this box of Ovation Cappuccino Sticks in a box of samples from Sweets & Snacks Expo. They’re made by Sweet Works, the same company that makes Niagara Chocolates, Florida Tropic Chocolate and Sixlets.
The box is a great presentation format for chocolate sticks. It’s hexagonal with a wonderfully colored and folded lid (that would make an excellent hat if done in felt). The colors are great and actually made me rethink my position (or lack of one) on Ovation sticks.
Inside the box are about 44 individually wrapped sticks of chocolate flavored with real coffee.
The sticks are rather small (but also low in calories, about 15 calories each) at 3.33 inches long. The construction is fun, the center is a coffee milk chocolate (with plenty of actual ground coffee in there) covered in bittersweet chocolate. The effect is a strong coffee flavored stick. It’s creamy, a little on the sweet side, but with plenty of coffee punch. It’s a little bitter at times and I’m not that keen on the coffee grounds left over in my mouth. But the flavors are really good - the woodsy and deep roasted coffee, a light touch of milky cream and of course the background of chocolate.
I don’t see myself just eating these as a candy, but they are a nice accent for a dessert tray, with coffee or perhaps stuck into a bowl of ice cream.
Online these look a bit pricey. The box holds 4.4 ounces (about .1 ounces per piece) and looks like it might retail for about $5 a box. For that I might opt for a bit better chocolate bar, but for sharing, especially for a little hostess gift, this is a nice presentation and decent quality item.
Friday, February 26, 2010
I have three varieties, which are all small foil-wrapped milk chocolate balls in a fruit flavor. Key Lime, Raspberry and Orange. The flavors are familiar to those who have had the Florida Tropic Oranges (which come in far more flavors).
The little stand up bags are nicely formatted, cleanly designed and compact. Of course they’re color coded - raspberry is hot pink, orange is orange and lime is green. (They’re also bilingual, half is in French.) There’s 5.3 ounces in there, so it’s enough to share, but not quite enough to fill up an ample candy dish like a bag of Hershey’s Kisses might.
Each 3/4” ball of milk chocolate is wrapped in matte foil keyed to the flavor. While they’re not quite Easter eggs, they colors, the fact that they’re individually wrapped & ready to nestle in some basket grass makes them an ideal choice. Especially since there really isn’t much out there like this.
The first is Florida Tropic Milk Chocolate Key Lime. Key lime is an interesting flavor. While it’s tempting to call all lime flavors the same, there is a perceptible difference between key limes (sometimes called Mexican limes) and the larger Persian limes that are found in most grocery stores. Key lime juice isn’t clear, it’s rather milky and has a more zesty and chalky flavor to it.
The flavor profile is softer than the Persian lime notes, which are a dichotomy of bitter zest and sour juice but little in between. In this case the slightly floral notes and powerful zest goes well with the milk chocolate. It doesn’t immediately call to mind cleaning products like Persian limes do. The aftertaste is strong though, strong enough to make me want to either eat more or something else.
The milk chocolate itself isn’t particularly notable - it’s smooth enough, better than the Terry’s Chocolate Orange I was once accustomed to. The milk and dairy notes are good, and give this a bit of a yogurty note.
The Florida Milk Chocolate Raspberry smells strongly of floral berry notes right away. Raspberry is a tough flavor to do, it’s strong and can be cloying and put off some folks who actually like the fresh berries. This one is pretty close - there are strong flowery odors along with some good deep woodsy components. There’s a slight aftertaste again, the lingering flavoring. The chocolate combines well and the natural tang of the milk in there gives it a bit of a chocolate cheesecake vibe.
The Florida Tropic Milk Chocolate Orange is probably the crowd pleaser in the set. The chocolate is sweet but has a passably creamy melt, milky texture and well rounded orange zest flavors. I liked the texture better than the orange shaped one, and oddly it didn’t seem as orangy (maybe it’s just that they’re smaller morsels). There’s a little salt in the milk chocolate, which keeps it all from tasting too sickly sweet. It’s far better than any of the novelty-flavored Hershey’s Kisses I’ve tried recently.
I don’t have a price on these, but judging by the prices of the Oranges they make, I’d expect a bag to be tagged at less than $4 for the 5.3 ounce bag. A little more than Dove or Hershey’s but offering something they don’t ... a little fruity note.
Monday, December 14, 2009
I see the Florida Tropic oranges from time to time in the stores, but I haven’t really payed much attention to them until this year. When I attended the convenience store show in Las Vegas (NACS) a while back the folks at SweetWorks, the company that makes the Florida Tropic chocolate product line gave me a set of almost every flavor (I got eight of the nine).
Since there are a lot of flavors of their version of the segmented flavored chocolate “orange”, I’m going to deal with just three of them today: Dark Chocolate Orange, Milk Chocolate Orange and the 70% Cacao.
The boxes are quite simple. A plastic holder for the sphere of chocolate segments, which is wrapped in foil. The boxes are simple and show off the product well, but are frustrating to open. They use so much glue on them that it’s nearly impossible to just flip open the top, instead pulling it apart shreds the usability of the box to store the product.
While Terry’s Chocolate Orange tells us to Whack & Unwrap, the Florida Tropic Orange says “Break then Open” with a little drawing of a hand cupping the orange firmly. As I’ve opened a lot of these in the past few weeks I can say this: don’t whack or smack or break. Just open it up and either break it in half then or use a knife to wedge in and loosen a slice. It’s far less messy, though probably not as satisfying.
The foil wrap is great. I’ve been frustrated with the plastic stuff that Terry’s has been using for a few years now, it’s slightly too small for re-wrapping, and of course it doesn’t actually stay the same way foil does. This foil is great, it’s heavy and of course pretty. It’s also, for the most part, color coded by flavor. (Except for the milk and dark orange flavored ones, which are similar shades of orange.)
The pieces are a nice two bite size. They have a textured “rind” and one side of each section is designed to look like an orange slice complete with peel and pulp. There’s a distinct ridge on the edge which makes the pieces a little lighter, which might account for the difference in weight between Terry’s Chocolate Oranges and Florida Tropic. (There are 18 slices, so that also accounts for it.)
The orange scent is a mix of orange oil and the smell or orange Tang drink. The dark chocolate is mostly orange flavored with both the citrus zest and a strange bit of juice note. The melt is quite decent, though not quite buttery and smooth, it’s still slick and only slightly gritty and chalky near the end. (I think the cacao content is about 50% on these.)
The orange is a bit too strong for my desires for this product, but when combined with non-oranged items like pretzels, plain almonds and the 70% Cacao version below, it’s quite a nice treat. I ended up using much of this orange for some chocolate pudding over the weekend. I combined 3 cups of milk, 3/4 cup of cocoa, 1/4 cup of corn starch and 7 finely chopped slices instead of sugar (see my earlier experiment with pudding). No, it wasn’t sweet at all, but it was very chocolately. (Next time I may try the milk ones, as they have more sugar.)
The chocolate is actually vegan however it’s processed in a facility that also handles milk products, so may contain traces of dairy.
The standard Christmas stocking treat, I would guess of all of them, is the Florida Tropic Milk Chocolate Orange.
What I thought was fun about this one when I opened up the wrapper, besides the lovely look of the puzzle of slices, was how it’s put together. I’ve had oranges before that are made of slices that are then melted onto a plastic stem & disk thing. (I think that was the Droste brand ... can anyone confirm?) What this photo shows pretty simply is that the slices are packed into a ball and then a small amount of molten chocolate is squeezed into the bottom to just hold everything together (you can see from the top dark orange photo that the chocolate anchor only extends about half of the way through the middle). Separating them from the sphere isn’t hard at all.
The dairy scent is easily teased from the orange and sugar. There’s a slight creamsicle vibe to the whole thing, maybe like dunking orange sherbet in hot chocolate. The texture is smooth for less expensive chocolate, but still a little fudgy and grainy for my liking. It’s quite sweet as you can imagine for a milk chocolate. Still, it has a good cocoa vibe to go with the strange orange flavors which are both natural and artificial.
Though I have another half a dozen flavors to profile at some point, I decided to include the 70% Cacao here because it’s such a basic and the only in the bunch that’s not flavored or has any inclusions.
The wrapper is a matte toasty brown. One of the things I really enjoyed about all the oranges I had is how stunningly beautiful they are when opened. They way the slices are all stacked neatly then slightly tilted, like some sort of puzzle. From distance it’s like a tightly tucked chocolate armadillo or pillbug.
As an unflavored product, it’s the only one in the Florida Tropic line that gives me a chance to really taste the chocolate. They use real vanilla and no butterfat or other dairy extenders - so it’s true dark chocolate. (So it also qualifies as all natural.)
The chocolate flavor is in the middle of all the profile notes: a hint of roasted coffee, a touch of tangy raisin, a little whiff of woodsy smoke and a comforting texture that’s both creamy, not too sweet and a slightly dry finish. There’s a small grit to it from time to time, something I noticed in the dark flavored orange so may just be the style for this brand.
Just a correction, I reported before that I believed that the Trader Joe’s version was by Ferrara. It’s now quite clear that they’re actually made by SweetWorks. There’s really not that much difference between them. The biggest is that the standard Florida Tropic is 18 slices and 5.3 ounces and the Trader Joe’s is 6.17 ounces and 20 slices. But besides the size, it’s the same product, right down to the sticker on the top and the color of the foil. Just the box is different (and I rather prefer the Trader Joe’s whimsy.)
I’m quite please so far with the Florida Tropic oranges. Overall the product design is great and their attention to detail is quite good. The flavor variety is large, besides those covered here: Key Lime (Milk), Almond (Milk), Peppermint Crunch (Milk), Pina Colada (Milk), Raspbery (Milk) and Toffee Crunch (Milk). The price is good and the fact that they’re made in the USA may be of comfort to some folks instead of the Terry’s Chocolate Oranges which are made in Poland by Kraft.
So while I’m not a fan of Sixlets, which are also made by SweetWorks, the orange line shows that they can do really cost effective, attractive and crowd pleasing candy. (Not that Sixlets aren’t cute as buttons.)
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.