Monday, December 09, 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 09, 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.)
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Less than 1% of the US population is allergic to peanuts (it’s estimated at .6% actually). But for families that have a peanut-allergic member it means that the whole household has to go peanut free (and sometimes classrooms as well). So finding candy that everyone can have is an issue. And there’s no reason that there can’t be excellent, no-compromise peanut free candy.
Enter the new P-NOT BUTTER flavored Sixlets ... yes, they’re Sixlets but instead of being mock chocolate they’re mock peanut butter.
This little flip top box boasts that it contains 44 pieces peanut butter flavored but peanut free candy.
The little spheres are bright and attractive ... if a little rolly. I’ve got to say that I appreciate M&Ms for their pleasing roundness but ability to stay put after playing with these Sixlets.
I’ve seen another review of these and thought maybe she had a bad batch. And I was curious what a fake peanut product would be like. What’s in there?
So it’s soy butter? That’s not so bad. I’ve bought that before for sandwiches.
The shells are strangely crispy & crumble and are cool on the tongue. The insides are soft and pasty, like super-smooth peanut butter.
But oh, after a few chomps on the trio I put in my mouth and I was repulsed. It reminded me of something but I couldn’t quite place.
At first I kept thinking of purses, basements & babies. I thought it was the soy part and it reminded me of strained pea baby food. And then I thought some more and realized that it reminded me of the smell of vomit in a hot car. The initial flavor is grassy and a little milky ... but then there’s this awful acrid tangy note that just hangs there like spit up baby formula. But it’s not like some distant vomit ... it’s something inside my own mouth, it give me the feeling that maybe I threw up a little while ago and forgot about it, except for this awful taste in my mouth.
Ultimately I think that these are a fantastic public service. Give these to children who are allergic to peanuts but have never actually eaten them and they’ll be sure to never be tempted to touch them again.
(For the record, I gave some to Amy-Who-Spits-Things-Out and she was miffed to say the least and wants to give them a negative 4 rating.)
UPDATE 9/22/2009: I heard from SweetWorks who manufacturers & distributes P-NOT Sixlets. They assure me that the product was discontinued (and the package I reviewed was possibly expired - but it had no expiry date marked on it and was only introduced a year ago, so how was I to know?).
Monday, October 22, 2007
Here’s one of those candies that I only saw in my Trick-or-Treat haul: Sixlets. Oh sure, they were probably in stores that I frequented. They come in a variety of packets, including the “changemaker” size that holds eight little candy spheres and used to sell for a two cents.
The big reason I shunned Sixlets was I was never quite sure what they were. Are they like M&Ms? Are they candy coated peanuts? Are they a jawbreaker?
Eating them never really answered those questions. They definitely don’t have nuts in them, but taste a little nutty. They’re not like M&Ms, though there is a chocolate-like center. They’re not jawbreakers, in fact the shell is pretty thin.
Sixlets are currently made by Oak Leaf, who makes bubble gum and other confections in Canada that are usually sold in bulk and dispensed in gumball machines that are sold by the handful. Before that they were made by Hershey’s, which purchased the Ovation brand that made Sixlets under management of Leaf (they also made Whoppers, which Hershey’s kept).
Sixlets are certainly cute. They come in vivid colors: Yellow, Green, Red, Orange and Brown. They’re spherical and consistent looking, with a shiny candy shell. The center is a malty-flavored mockolate. Made from partially hydrogenated palm kernel oil, sugar and milk protein, they’re not really that appealing as a confectionery item to eat on their own. Cocoa powder is way down at the fifth position on the list of ingredients. The candy shells are pretty ordinary, except for the orange one, which has a light orange flavor to it (just as Smarties from the UK do). The mockolate barely has a chocolate taste, and the whole thing is a little grainy and a bit greasy.
What they lack in taste they more than make up for with economy and portion control. What other candy comes in little tubes of 8 pieces? Not to mention the fact that each little tube has only 35 calories!
Why Oak Leaf came out with the Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Flavored Sixlets is beyond me. The regular ones barely taste like chocolate and any health benefits of “dark chocolate” will be ruined by the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.
The package is attractive, the Sixlets mascot is some sort of an insect ... well, maybe he’s an insect, he only has four legs. And he wears glasses ... and wants us to eat one of his segments.
These little packets were unmarked. Just generic clear cellophane tubes with little unbranded spheres inside.
The taste of the “dark chocolate” isn’t really noticeably different from the regular Sixlets. They’re just as disappointing as the regular Sixlets ... except that I paid for this whole bag (I picked the other little guys up at the All Candy Expo).
There are differing stories about why they’re called Sixlets. The current packaging has them in tubes with 8 pieces or 20. Some folks say that they used to come in tubes that had six for a penny. Others say that they came in boxes that had six individual boxes in each package and that’s how they were written up in the wholesale catalogs. It could be that someone just thought it sounded like a good name ... maybe they were into numerology. The number six represents “Reaction/flux. Responsibility” according to Wikipedia. If anyone else has any theories, I’m happy to entertain them.
Like them if you will ... just don’t call them chocolate. They might be good for decorating ... the rest of these are going in the Trick-or-Treat bowl (don’t worry, I’ll give the kids something good and just slip these in while they’re not looking).
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
I have a deep attraction to pretty candy. I’ve always enjoyed arrays of colorful candies spilled out on my desk. I like to arrange them in patterns, rainbows, color combos. I put them in glass jars, layered by color or shape. Mix them up, repeat and eat.
Most candies are pretty limited in what they can do with shapes and variety. Compressed Dextrose - the plain old chalky sweet and tart candies however, are extremely flexible when it comes to design (I call them chalk candies). With the loss of Tart ‘n Tinys, the time has come to find a replacement.
Oak Leaf (part of SweetWorks) is one of the few sugar-candy companies that really pays attention to the possibilities of pretty candy. At the All Candy Expo I got to see in person the huge variety that they make. I also got to bring home a good selection of those that attracted me most.
Holy moly, the green Baby Tears is actually lime! Who knew anyone made anything lime any longer? It’s all green apple these days. I think blue is Blue Raspberry, which was okay but certainly not sour.
There are a few versions of baby tears out there, (ZOMG has a review here).
Most of the candy is the same, the only differences are the colors and shapes. Some have different flavors depending on the mix. I was tickled by this Bonz variety. They sell it a couple of different ways, with just the skulls, just the bones and a mix of the two. (The plain bones are fun for a dog theme, the mix is great for Halloween or pirate themes.)
The bones themselves were super tart and kind of chalky on the inside instead of being dense. Pink (cherry), Red (also cherry), Yellow (lemon), Blue (sweet raspberry), Green (lime) and White (pineapple?). The candy shell was thin and easy to chomp through or dissolve off.
The skulls didn’t have an identical color line, there was a Purple (grape) and Orange (orange) and the Green was darker (watermelon).
These were dreadful. As cute as they are, they’re just as tasteless. The scale, for one, is just horrible. The Watermelon is the same size as the Strawberry and that’s bigger than the Lime! The Orange has a cute bumbly coating, but it’s so thick and flavorless I was worried it was actually a piece of plastic display. The grape had a similarly hard shell filled with a flavorless sweet powder. The Banana was the only standout, though I’m still not sure how I feel about it. Some days when I chomp on them I find the fake banana flavor comforting. Other days it feels rather cool on my tongue and slightly bitter I’m wondering if I’m eating fingernail polish remover. I had another small assortment of little fish in my mix and found the banana-yellow one in there even more alarmingly chemical-tasting. (I’m wondering if there’ll come a day when someone diagnoses Banana Candy Workers Lung.)
All of the candies are fun and at most places where I see them in bulk (at those pick-a-mix places at the mall) they’re way overpriced. You can buy them for about $2.50 a pound on Amazon (different brand) ... if you’re willing to buy 24 pounds of Bonz at a time. I wouldn’t pay more than $4 a pound for these unless I was depressed and nothing but bright food coloring and sugar could shake the doldrums.
They make Super Sours (different sizes, coated and uncoated), Smiles, Snaps, Lil’ Jewels (perhaps like the old Tart ‘n Tinys?) and Fishes along with all sorts yellow Bananas and multicolored Crazy Bananas.
The best way to buy these, as far as I can tell, is from those candy machines in kiosks at malls and arcades. At only a quarter for a little handful, it’s a pretty good pick-me-up.
If I wanted a fun and casual candy buffet (especially one that could stand the heat in summer), these could definitely be at the top of my list. Though some flavors are hit & miss, I still give them an 8 out 10 ... because they’re still pretty to look at if I don’t eat them.
EDITED 11/28/2007: I updated this to correct an earlier error. I attributed this candy to Concord Confections in error. These candies were made by Oak Leaf.
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