MANILA, Philippines — We expected a crowd, but this was ridiculous.
At the launch of the book “Inquirer Lifestyle’s Best Desserts 5” on June 3, the line that formed outside SMX Convention Center of SM Aura in BGC, Taguig City, snaked out of the reception hall and threatened to spill out into the mall’s third floor lobby.
Right before the actual start of the event, Lifestyle editor Thelma San Juan warned, “Let’s open the doors already — there’s a mob out there!”
Not an unruly one, but certainly, the biggest attendance we’ve had since we launched the first book in 2014, with some 2,500 people winding their way through the crowded hall to visit the 100 tables.
As San Juan noted years ago, what started out as a compilation of the best desserts in the city and, more frequently now, from outside the metropolis, sought out by Inquirer Lifestyle’s tireless food writer Vangie Baga-Reyes, has become an institution of sorts.
Ironically, this diabetic has copy-edited the books since “Best Desserts 1,” and swimming through the text full of buttercream and ganache, meringues and marshmallow icing, has been a mild form of torture.
All bets are off come event day, however. As veterans have learned from each edition, it requires strategic planning to get a good sampling, as you can’t possibly eat everything and still live. So it’s about reconnaissance and decision-making before the actual attack.
In the blink of an eye
Also, over the years, we’ve seen how enthusiastic guests have carted away boxes of goodies in the blink of an eye. This year, exhibitors were asked not to give away the samples before the program was underway, giving more people a chance to view the sumptuous displays and ask the bakers questions. An excellent package was devised: a purchase of a book entitled the buyer to two tickets — and two empty boxes for takeouts!
Many veterans of past Best Desserts events were back for more. There was Dedet dela Fuente of Pepita’s Kitchen, first featured for her dizzying super suman who this year presented her halo-halong bilo-bilo. Marriot Hotel, another regular, threw in their itlog na maalat cheesecake by Chef Felinio Afable. Other faithful returnees were Chef Roselyn Tiangco-Siapno of Kitchen’s Best, whose croquants were a sophisticated, crispy almond treat perfect for afternoon tea; Chef Baba Ibazeta-Benedicto’s double-powered chocolate chocolate cheesecake, and Cravings Restaurant, whose fruits and cheese squares combined fruit, cream and cookie crumble.
Most significantly, however, it was heartwarming to note how familiar Filipino desserts we grew up with—the comforting ensaymada, the humble cuchinta, and for a couple of years now, the once rustic-only ube—have evolved, leveled up, and shone alongside the crepes, tortes, cheesecakes and gateaus of the desserts world.
Fancy a truly authentic ube cake all the way from Auntie Nitz’s Bakeshop in Zamboanga? How about an ingenious sapin-sapin cheesecake (with bukayo, too) from Chef Carol Lavin? And my own find for the day—the cutechinta by Aging’s Food Delight, flower-shaped versions of the dessert drizzled with caramel sauce and perfectly toasted coconut.
“Indeed,” as San Juan wrote in this edition’s foreword, ‘Best Desserts’ has become a sweet nationwide success.” And the success was unbelievably sweeter the fifth time around.
Inquirer Lifestyle’s Best Desserts 5 is now available at the Philippine Daily Inquirer office in Makati City, and soon at all National Book Store and Powerbooks branches