For close to 15 years, Rina Go and her sister Maggie have been supplying restaurants, coffee shops and hospital cafeterias with baked goods from their commissary in Sampaloc, Manila.
A few years ago, Rina opened the first Nic’s Gourmet Desserts, a small coffee shop with a menu listing more sweets than savories.
Last year, she was given an enviable space at UP Town Center in Quezon City, right next to a main entrance. The mall is part of Ayala Land’s newest mixed-use property in Katipunan, Quezon City.
Now, Nic’s is a 40-seater with classy refrigerated showcases of desserts, with a floating bar in the middle that serves as another display area.
Aside from hot meals and desserts, Nic’s has prepacked snacks and desserts for takeouts. Each treat comes wrapped with a tiny pink bow, a signature touch.
Nic’s best-selling wheat parmesan crisps, oatmeal fudge bars and parmesan ensaymada are ordered by the dozen.
“I came up with my own version of spiked tinapa after trying some at a dinner,” said Rina. “I thought, ‘I can make my own and I’m sure it will be better than this.’”
The result is the one-two punch of spicy, smoked milkfish with tomato and basil, and smoked milkfish with mushroom capers under the “Dip ‘n’ Toss” range. These bottled items can be served as dips with her miniature bruschetta, or tossed in hot pasta.
Rina has become known for roast turkey, which she based on Maggie’s recipe. (Maggie died a few years ago.)
Although it’s available year-round, the number of turkey orders increases during Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.
Last year, in New York to accompany daughter Nicole—after whom Nic’s is named— when the college student worked as intern in the publicity department of designer Stella McCartney, Rina decided to enroll in short culinary courses. Among them were a day-long course at Sur La Table on artisan pizza and others on French bistro fare, macaron and bagel making.
“I learned that one can make artisan pizza by buying a pizza stone,” she said, “putting it in an oven and letting it reach the required temperature before placing the hand-rolled dough on top of it. We now serve four pizza variants and we just came out with French onion soup, a dish I learned in class.”
Those who want something new can look forward to Rina’s macarons and bagels.
“I’ve always been the creative one,” she said. “I have many ideas and dishes I want to experiment on and roll out, but our kitchen can produce only a certain volume.
“It’s a good thing my cousin who worked in the restaurant industry in the US is back home. She steps in every so often, when we have too many dishes, to help weed out, unclutter the menu. If I tell her I plan to bring in new kitchen equipment, she says she has to take out an older appliance.”
Rina, a former fashion designer, became known for her ready-to-wear like ViseVersa.
She now enjoys running a restaurant, coming up with new dishes and keeping customers happy—heavy load, no doubt.
That afternoon, she chatted easily with customers, asking them what they liked or whether it was their first visit to the store.
Many were repeat customers with favorites like the Salmon Crunch, juicy salmon topped with crunchy garlic bits; the hefty Chicken Parmigiana that comes with a side of pasta; the Crispy Adobo Flakes with two fried eggs and fried rice; and the Tinapa Brown Rice with salted eggs and tomatoes that is a meal in itself.
“Since we opened,” Rina said, “we’ve been getting a lot of groups—female barkada and complete families, from grandparents to grandkids. Whatever they end up ordering, they know that they’ll also be having dessert. We have close to 20 cakes to choose from as well as dessert bars and sticky toffee pudding.”
Nic’s is at G/F, UP Town Center, Katipunan, QC (tel. 9585574 or 0999-9933234); and 172 A. Mabini St., Addition Hills, San Juan (tel. 5711818 or 0999-9933231). E-mail [email protected]