Friday, February 12, 2010
I reckon there are some very excited people out there to find the new Q.Bel 70% Double Dark Wafer Bars. Not because they’re all natural, preservative free and free of hydrogenated oils. Nope, it’s because they’re vegan. No dairy, no honey, no glazes and no colorings.
The package doesn’t herald the vegan-ness (but the Q.bel website does). The package feels, to me, collegiate. I don’t know if it’s the colors that remind me of a library or a winter scarf (no, none of these were colors for the colleges I attended)
The bars are the same format as the Mint Wafer Bars and the Dark Wafer Bars. There are three layers of crispy flavorless wafers (like ice cream cones) with a chocolate creme between then. Then the whole thing is covered in 70% dark chocolate.
These are not a sweet treat, they are dark and a little bitter and all delicious. The chocolate punch is substantial. The bar smells like chocolate and except for the lightly malty crisp wafers, that’s really the only flavor. It has a dry and bitter bite to it, a good silky smooth texture, but probably a little too much on the smoky and bitter side for me to eat as a plain bar. But in this format with airy wafers and grainy sugary chocolate cream centers I found the perfect balance.
Q.bel gave me an insane amount of “samples”, full display boxes, again. And like the last time I put them on my bookshelf in my office and found that even the folks in my office who don’t normally go for dark chocolate liked them, and of course those who do love dark were enthralled by the textures and deep flavor. Now that I’ve found a source in stores (Whole Foods stocks them for $1.39 a bar) I will definitely buy them, now that my inventory is gone.
The only thing I’d like would be for the bars to be slightly bigger, maybe 1.3 ounces. However, the calories per ounce are pretty high, so keeping each finger below 100 calories is probably a good idea. (The package is 180 calories.)
Thursday, January 14, 2010
This year they’re expanding their line with two new bars. Today I have the Mint Wafer Bars. In the compact package are two wafer bars with a mint creme filling sandwiched between crispy light wafers covered in dark chocolate.
It’s not a big package, though it has a sharp design that fits with the rest of their candy bars. They seem to have a color coding thing going on; as you’d expect this one is green for mint. Though there are two bars in there, it’s still pretty light, only 1.1 ounces. The ingredients are all natural and have no hydrogenated oils or preservatives (though honestly, few candies do use preservatives).
The bars are about three inches long and a little under one inch wide. The dark chocolate coating is glossy, rippled and rather thin, just enough to seal up the wafers and cream. The dark chocolate coating is made in Belgium, but the candy bars are manufactured in The Netherlands.
The wafers inside are light and mostly flavorless, there’s a slight hint of toasted rice (though they’re made with wheat flour). The cream center is white and slightly cool on the tongue. The mint is very light and fresh with a slight note of real mint leaves instead of just peppermint oil. It’s smooth for the most part with just a little bit of a tiny grain to it. The chocolate coating is deep and rich with a dry and bittersweet bite.
The combination is quite nice, not too sweet and refreshing. The portion size is insufficient though: I know, my Americaness is showing. I’d love the package to have three instead of two. But glancing at the teensy print of the nutrition label it is clear that each finger is about 95 calories. But that means that these are jam packaged with calories - that comes out to 173 per ounce. Mmm, crispy, minty and chocolatey fat.
The earlier Dark Chocolate and Milk Chocolate Wafer Bars featured crisped rice, while these just have the wafer planks and dark chocolate with cream. While this limits the crunch, it does mean that the cream and its flavors are more forward.
On the whole, they’re very tasty. My only hesitations with them are the price (usually $1.50 or so) and how hard they are to find. I’m told that they’re available at Whole Foods, but you know how WF likes to move stuff around to confuse their shoppers so I find it difficult to grab them on a regular basis.
The other new flavor is Double Dark Chocolate Wafer bars which feature 70% cacao chocolate and are actually vegan. I’ll review those in my upcoming Vegan Week.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
I was more than pleased with the Q.Bel Crispy Wafer Bars that I reviewed last week.
The other half of Q.Bel Foods’ all natural candy line are their Wafer Rolls.
Unlike the bars, which are made in The Netherlands and not Kosher, the Wafer Rolls are Kosher and made in the United States.
They come in three companion varieties: Dark Chocolate Wafer Rolls, Milk Chocolate Wafer Rolls and Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Rolls.
The packaging is a bit overly-protective and perhaps deceptive.
They come in a plastic wrap around a plastic tray. The tray does a good job of keeping the rolls in good shape. But I think if you’re going to position yourself as an all natural product, less packaging is a good idea. (Especially when your tagline is Be True - Be Honest - Be Good.)
I would suggest doing a sealed top on the tray with all the label on that and ditching the over-wrap. (Kind of like most yogurt got rid of the plastic lids and just went with a foil seal.)
The rolls are lovely to look at. A slender stick about .5 inches in diameter and 4.75 inches long, the enrobing is nicely rippled and usually has a matte shine to it. The sides were sometimes scuffed a bit from being tossed around in my bag inside the package.
The dark chocolate is quite dark looking though like the bar counterpart, did contain milk in the ingredients. Not that it would make any difference towards the non-dairy status of the bar. The wafer roll under the chocolate was crisp and flaky, with a light malty note, a bit of salt, it reminded me of a fresh waffle ice cream cone.
The chocolatey cream inside was also a dark and firm cream that melted pretty readily with the help of some palm kernel and coconut oils. It tasted a lot like a good cup of hot chocolate with some wafer cookies.
The portion size of two sticks means that the whole thing has only 120 calories. Even though a lot of them are from fat, the price tag alone should keep most folks who weren’t sent a whole box as samples from wolfing them down.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Milk Chocolate Wafer Rolls looked a little different than their wafer bar counterpart, this time wrapped in blue instead of orange & red.
They smelled a bit more like milk and cereal with a little chocolate cake note to it.
The chocolate seemed a bit silkier and creamier than the dark version, but also much sweeter. The toasted-flavored wafer kept it from being too cloying.
Rating: 8 out of 10
The Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Rolls smelled like fresh roasted peanut butter. (And I get to smell that often at the LA Farmers Market.)
The silky milk chocolate sets off the wafers, which seem even more flaky in this version than the others.
The peanut butter center on this tastes different than the wafer bar. The bar is sweet and sticky, a little oily. This is salty and pasty - just the right balance. The peanut butter is very strong with a slight bitterness to it, as it tastes very darkly roasted. (This version has 130 calories.)
Rating: 8 out of 10
Besides the packaging & price for the size (retail $1.39) I think these are a resounding success. They’re not unique, they remind me of Pirouline, except more decadent. Other products on the market that are similar are the Nestle Stixx, which I do like quite a bit but avoid because of all the hydrogenated oils in them. It might be nice to be able to get them in a large tray for entertaining. They’d be the perfect garnish for ice cream, sorbet or just an after-meal coffee.
Friday, February 6, 2009
One of the issues these days with candy bars isn’t the empty calories, it’s the ingredients. There’s a difference between bad for you (sound cue: giggle) and bad for you (sound cue: medical equipment).
I don’t usually feel bad about calories, fat or sugar. But I do feel weird about eating partially hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavors.
Enter Q.bel with their line of all-natural candy bars. No artificial colors, no artificial flavors, no hydrogenated oils, no high fructose corn sweetener and no preservatives.
The happy thing to report is that candy bars never needed any of the above to be good ... they just needed them to be cheap. So quality will cost you $1.39-$1.69 (but if you’re buying your candy at Whole Foods, that’s hardly a surprise).
Their inaugural line has six products. I’m going to review three of them today, their Crispy Wafer Bar which come in Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate and Peanut Butter.
The Dark Chocolate Crispy Rice Wafer Bar (purple wrapper) is a stack of three crisp, flavorless wafers filled with a chocolate cream, sprinkled with crisped rice and then covered in dark chocolate.
They come in a two pack of fingers. Each is about three inches long and three quarters of an inch wide.
If the photo and description sounds vaguely familiar to you, it might be because this is very similar to the Hershey’s Bar None. (Except there’s no peanuts in this version.)
The crunch is light and crisp, airy and a little like an ice cream cone. The chocolate is slightly bitter, creamy and sweet with a dry finish. The cream center is sweet and a little grainy but rather buttery.
The whole experience is extremely satisfying. It’s not really a chocolate bar, it’s definitely a candy. I am in love with this bar.
Rating: 10 out of 10 (as long as I can find it in stores)
The Milk Chocolate Crispy Rice Wafer Bars are just like the dark version except with 10 more calories.
They’re a lighter taste and seem to have more crunchies to them, but that just could be variations in the manufacture.
The scent is milky sweet with a slight cereal smell. There’s less of a chocolate punch here and more of a creamy, dairy milk chocolate event going on.
I was very pleased with it (and at first though this would be like Bar None, but it didn’t have the same punch).
Rating: 8 out of 10.
The Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Wafer Bars are a little different in that they don’t have the crisped rice. Instead of a chocolate cream filling they have a peanut butter filling between the wafers.
As I’m writing this I’ve been following the RSS feed from the FDA with all the recall warnings about peanut butter & peanut products. I’ve been assured by Q.bel directly and their website that they did not source their peanut butter from Peanut Corporation of America. (And it’s easy to believe them since these bars were manufactured in The Netherlands.
As with most nutty candies, this pair of bars clocked in with the highest calorie count: 190. (Don’t get the impression that these are dainty when it comes to calories, they’re dense in sugar and fat, clocking in on the upper range of the calories per ounce that I track.)
The bars are lovely to look at with their rippled coats of chocolate. They smell like fresh roasted peanuts.
The bite on these is very different. The peanut butter cream filling tastes unsalted and unsugared - so it’s a startling pop of real peanut flavor. But it’s very oily and soft, so when I bite into the bar, sometimes I’ve broken it because it’ll slide around (you can see the kind of crack it makes along the wafer line in the photo).
The peanut butter, while not crumbly or thick really sticks to my ribs. I found just one stick here to be very filling. The milk chocolate holds its own in this battle as well, giving a sweet and milky component to bring it all together.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
I’m so pleased that someone is making a quality product and I hope Q.bel becomes a standard in the confectionery industry. That you can make something with real ingredients and still make people want to overeat it. The packaging is compelling and appropriate. It protects the product inside, doesn’t take up too much space and gave me all the information I wanted to know. The images on the front are tantalizing and the bars actually look like that.
The portions may seem a little small, only 1.1 ounces, but they appear large because of the light wafers inside (maybe a little smaller than a KitKat bar). However, this also lowers the calorie count per portion, all are under 200 calories (which means those 100 calorie folks can just eat one). The price point is a little steep too, but if I were faced with an array of these and something like Nestle’s Crunch Crisp bar (which is a one-bar version of this filled with partially hydrogenated fats and covered with mockolate), I’d pick these at twice/thrice the price.
The other half of their product line is a series of Wafer Rolls in the same flavor array. (I’ll have a review of those soon.)
Q.bel did some liberal mailing of samples, so expect more reviews to pop up on the other food-oriented blogs. They did send me a silly-huge number of “samples” which were a box of each (20 bars) flavor. I’ve been very popular with my co-workers this week.
UPDATE: They should be available at most Whole Foods nationwide and online at Natural Candy Store.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.