Foodies marched out of the SM Aura Premier convention center on Monday night with boxes of desserts, as if Willy Wonka switched to cakes and pastries and gave them all away for free.
But instead of the eccentric chocolatier, it was Inquirer Lifestyle hosting the launch of “Best Desserts 3,” the third of its yearly anthology of the country’s most sumptuous confections.
Written by Lifestyle staff writer Vangie Baga-Reyes, the new book features 96 desserts created by 80 different makers, including five-star hotels, restaurants, famous chefs, homemakers and budding restaurateurs.
The sugar-laden creations were served in several long tables sprawled inside SM Aura’s SMX center—a feast that celebrated both the book and the desserts recognized this year.
It was also the first time tickets were sold to the public, with the proceeds going to Gota de Leche, a 120-year-old Sampaloc-based nonprofit that holds nationwide feeding programs for indigent children and breastfeeding mothers.
“This is our yummiest event in the Inquirer; we are so happy it has gotten bigger and bigger each year,” noted Inquirer President and CEO Sandy Prieto-Romualdez.
Regulars from the two previous Best Dessert events held in the same venue noted that the foot traffic this year was much heavier. Dessert makers and their guests already numbered more than 600. This did not include walk-in guests who bought tickets.
Dessert fans are apparently fond of mash-ups this year. Confections that combined two (or sometimes three) treats were a hit. Salted egg has carved its spot as a rising star among dessert ingredients.
The Black Gold Egg Custard Bun by Conrad Hotel was a mystical blend of salty and sweet in the form of chocolate cake and salted egg.
Goto Monster Ice Cream distributed teeny cups of bibingka ice cream topped with slivers of salted egg, while Yvette Hipolito of Joconde Cakes and Pastries churned out a salted egg yema cake.
Queso de bola also held court with chef Sunshine Pengson of Gourmandise by Sunshine taking the traditional Christmas dairy and giving it a sugary spin via Queso de Bola Sans Rival, which had guests coming back for up to fourth servings.
Mara dela Rama Poblete of Dessert du Jour served a queso de bola cheesecake.
The youngest member of this year’s crop is a bemedaled skater. After a knee injury forced her to temporarily halt her regular skating schedule, 16-year-old Sabine Katigbak of Patisserie Sabine busied herself with baking.
“I would bake with my friends but I also baked at home. My younger brother Xavi loves Milo so I experimented in the kitchen and tried to come up with a Milo-based cookie,” she told Inquirer Lifestyle.
It took a while before she got the right consistency, one that her nine-year-old brother approved of.
The result, served at the Best Desserts launch, was a thin, chewy cookie that was unmistakably Milo—in cookie form.
Other memorable mash-ups were chef Jessie Sincioco and chef Noreen de Guzman’s Green Tea Matcha Cheesecake and Ube Leche Flan by Angelicah.
Pepita’s Kitchen reprised its 2013 Best Dessert called Super Suman—an over-the-top mash-up of sticky rice, mango, ChocNut, jackfruit, yema, pili nuts, pastillas de leche, peanut kisses and macapuno.
Dusit Hotel’s Khanom Tako reminded one of maja blanca from long-ago childhood meriendas, while Wicked by Cravings’s malted cookie shards looked like they were torn out of the cookie house in Hansel and Gretel.
Pepita’s truffle lechon—while technically not a dessert—drew the longest line and was wiped out in less than an hour.
Many other participants also took the occasion to showcase non-dessert products like paella, Ceasar salad, chicken salad and crispy pork belly “for free mileage.”
Guests said Monday’s event could already be considered a major national food event. This year also marked the inclusion of a Visayas-based participant—Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, which flew in several staff to Manila to present its hugely popular Malicious cookies.
Lifestyle editor Thelma San Juan, who conceptualized the book and the event three years ago, was on hand to entertain guests, including French ambassador Thierry Mathou, Monthip Upatising (wife of Thailand Ambassador Thanatip), honorary consul to Guatemala Mellie Ablaza, former Sen. Nikki Coseteng, basketball player Chris Lutz (co-owner of Mudpie Heaven restaurant), Ben Chan, Keren Pascual, Tonichi Nocom and the feisty Agot Isidro who had to oblige numerous fans with selfies during the event.
Inquirer CEO Romualdez, assisted by SM senior vice president for marketing Millie Dizon, handed certificates to the dessert makers recognized this year.
In her remarks, Romualdez pointed out the tedious process that Lifestyle’s Baga-Reyes goes through to come out with a new list of Best Desserts.
“They always go through before-and-after [tests] in the Inquirer before she does the Best Desserts. We try to weigh ourselves and we try to keep our weight, but today’s [food] is guilt-free. There are no calories in anything that you’re eating because you’re also giving,” she told guests.
“Vangie has worked tirelessly on this book. The vision that Vangie has had with the rest of the team has been to really support dessert makers whether they be at home, just starting off. We are very proud of the fact that we actually spotted them [first],” Romualdez added.