The Sweet Smell (& Taste) of Success

Published December 5, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Heard It Through the GripeVine: Our New Abnormal

Philip Cu Unjieng

Earlier this week, I was invited by Spanky Enriquez to drop by Our Awesome Planet’s Ultimate Taste Test: Masters Edition 2021 at Gallery MiraNila by the Blue Leaf at Mariposa. This is at the old ancestral grounds of the Benitez family, and it’s a wonderful venue – a serene oasis of sorts when you consider how close it is to EDSA and Santolan. All of us invited were asked to fill out an online survey, as the UTT is something of an incubator for the upcoming food trends.

A host of curated food entrepreneurs and businesses are asked to display their wares, and it’s their opportunity to elicit reactions, suggestions, and recommendations on what they can do to tweak their offerings, and hopefully, take that next step and ‘explode’. For these food entreps, it’s a chance to further road test their products; while for the invitees like myself, it’s crystal ball-gazing of what food items could be on everyone’s wish list this Christmas, and in 2022.

While there were a little over 20 exhibitors and food merchants, you’ll have to forgive me if I call the event Operation: Sugar Rush. Throughout my tour of the booths and my sampling the food products, I could envision the faces of my dentist and dietician shaking their heads… and smiling. If this is the future of our local food trends, it only confirms what we’ve known all along, the Filipino ‘sweet tooth‘ is very much alive and well.

For while it may have actually been otherwise, it felt like if you put the desserts, ice cream, ice cream infused with alcohol, and sweet food items such as sugared waffles, into one bunch – you’d have accounted for over 15 of the 21 booths. I know there was a Mushroom Sisig from Kabute Farm (I actually liked this one), a Salmon dish, a Deli meat products booth, a pulled pork and mussels offering, a porchetta recipe, and a long table of the most imaginative and fiercest peppers and chilis. But beyond those, it was all sinful sweetness, and dessert fare.

Two dessert booths that stood out for me in terms of visual presentation, and taste, would be M Artisanal Cakes by Monique Tancongco, and Nelusko Cakes by Chelley Belly Bakes. The samples from these two also got the Issa Seal of Approval, when I dropped them off at her house after my visit to the event. Issa had been invited to join me, but was busy with work – so given her penchant for cakes, I knew who the slices of cake really belonged to.

The winning Mushroom Sisig of Kabute Farm; and Monique Tancongco beside her cakes.

The sampler box of Monique had her famous Guava Cake, her Strawberry Shortcake, and her Grand Slam. The latter is named after Roger Federer’s tennis accomplishment; and consists of four winning ingredients – chocolate, caramel, chocolate wafers, and a moist decadent layer. The unique Guava cake is chiffon mixed with organic guava jam. I honestly couldn’t decide which was my favorite among the two. Head to her IG @moniquecakesph to learn more about these fantastic cakes.

Nelusko Cakes is located in Biñan Laguna, and they create amazing Retro cakes based on handwritten recipes handed down from the Lola of Chelley, who’d bake them in the 1970’s. They use Natilla filling – not Nutella; and my personal favorite was the Nelusko with Pecan Pralines. It was an engaging combination of soft, luscious chocolate, with the crunch of the pralines. There’s also one with Almond flakes; that I hope to try very soon. Their IG page is @nelusko_cake_chelleybellybakes.

I made mention of the long table of chilies, and the one proprietor I got to converse with, Radi Custodio of Aleros N’ Sauces, had this excellent pineapple-glazed chili sauce. It was hot and fiery, and yet the hints of pineapple gave it a subtlety that was unexpected. Right beside Alero, they were offering one that was Pineapple and Mango-flavored, but I felt this one had one too many flavors swirling with the chili base. Guess I’m just wired for simplicity, and the purity of flavors.

As it turns out, the Mushroom Sisig of Kabute Farm came out tops in terms of scoring. While it tasted like pork sisig, it was healthy vegan mushroom, and I loved the spicy variant. Angela Yu of Kabute Farm hails from Lucban, Quezon; and explained how these oyster mushrooms sizzled with native onions and chili peppers are lard-free, organic – and was part of their search to create something healthy and delicious, something to indulge in without the guilt.

In closing, thanks to Spanky for the invite, and congratulations to Anton Diaz and Our Awesome Planet for mounting another successful UTT edition. Have to sign off, as my dentist is waiting…

 
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