Of taste testing, food coma and lessons learned (OAP’s UTT 6.0, Part 1 of 2, Mang Pedro Food Products, Yoh-gee, Empire French Macarons, Theo & Philo Chocolate, Daims Deli Farms, Dek A Thai Authentic Cuisine, Baked by Anita, Spring by Ya Huan, Casa Empanada & 5 Loaves & 2 Fish)

I’m inviting 25 of Manila’s Best (hungriest :-)) Foodies to the Sixth Edition of the Ultimate Taste Test…

I have not even finished reading that e-mail invitation and my heart skipped a bit already. (I told you it was an “Ako na!” moment… :-D)

Two weeks ago, I was invited to the sixth installation of Our Awesome Planet‘s Ultimate Taste Test. Held at Rockwell, 55 food purveyors were put under pressure by a thousand hungry food critics. Yep, you read that right. A thousand food critics! Armed with grading sheets, taste testers rated the food with scores ranging from “1 – Thanks, but it could be better.” to “5 – Awesome! I would recommend it!“.  Man, I can tell you right now, it was a tough job but one I’d do again anytime. :-)

With Mr. OAP, Anton Diaz.

Of course I had the mandatory photo with Anton (finally!), the person who invited me, Spanky, and his co-host Marian the Foodie. For this food coma inducing adventure, I tagged along my Kite.

With Spanky and Marian the Foodie, UTT 6.0 hosts. My gulay, I'm so chubby. :-!

Enough with the back story. Here are my top ten picks of that day. Took me two weeks to finalize this post ah! Haha! I have to lay down some disclaimers here. I was only able to finish 33 out of the 55 stalls, so I may have missed some other people’s favorites. Also, food preferences being a very subjective matter, these choices included factors other than flavor such as uniqueness and yes, even the friendliness of the people behind the counter.

Now go ahead and drool.

10. Mang Pedro Food Products: Chocolate Taho

Mang Pedro Food Products: Chocolate Taho

Chocolate taho! I initially thought the chocolate flavor would be from the arnibal (silly me), but it was in the taho itself. The chocolate flavor was very mild and surprisingly went well with the warm treat. Kite had the almond variety and it reminded me of the almond gulaman I had at Serenity in Binondo. Read: good too. A million points for the two charming ladies who manned the stall, too.

The youngest, and possible the nicest, sweetest and cutest, of that day. :-D

9. Yoh-Gee: Assorted Kefirs

I think I may have found my new froyo.

Yoh-Gee: Assorted Kefirs

Kefir? Yogurt?

One of the differences that can be seen between Kefir and yogurt is in the fermentation process. While Kefir is fermented with yeast and bacteria, Yogurt is fermented only with bacteria. Read more: Difference Between Kefir and Yogurt | Difference Between | Kefir vs Yogurt

What I liked about kefir was the consistency, and therefore concentration of the flavor. It was much thicker and less watery compared to the usual frozen yogurt. I loved this, but was bitin because the tasting portion was just a small teaspoonful. I promised myself I’ll have a full serving of this next I time I pass by Mercato.

8. Empire French Macarons: Triple Chocolate Macarons

Tell me this ain’t cute.

Empire French Macarons

We were able to sample four flavors: rose, lemon, pistachio and chocolate. All were delicious, but the triple chocolate stole the show. The shells were light and pillowy and the filling stayed true to its name while not being overtly sweet. Kite loved this! Number two daw to dapat. Haha!

Empire Triple Chocolate Macaron

7. Theo & Philo Chocolate: Dark Chocolate with Siling Labuyo

Controversy notwithstanding, Theo & Philo piqued my interest because of two things. First, it claims to be 100%  Pinoy down to the beans (Davao) and sugar (Bacolod) used. Second, well, this.

Theo & Philo Dark Chocolate with Siling Labuyo

Siling labuyo? In chocolate? Challenge accepted. At first bite I was like “Huh?” but a few seconds after, boom, it hit me. Wild! Really, really interesting contrast to the bittersweet chocolate. Two other not so usual combinations – one with green mango & salt and the other with calamansi – were there, but these were much more milder than the earlier.

Dark chocolate with green mango & salt and with calamansi.

6. Daims Deli Farms: Wasabi Sausages

I was so intrigued with this stall, I wasn’t able to take a proper photo. Rawr! I love stalls like hers because of the interaction. There were six sausage varieties with increasing heat levels, the last three having the most from the wasabi. Story goes that wasabi isn’t a simple flavor profile to incorporate into a known dish. A lot of science and testing went into developing the product, ergo, it’s something special. The smoky heat from the wasabi was indeed very well incorporated, but it wasn’t as spicy as I wanted it to be – level 6 was still manageable. The good news is those were still high quality and really tasty sausages.

I'm still waiting for my involvement in the further product development of Daims sausages. Ahem. :-)

Photo credit: Trip or Treats: Post Op on the Ultimate Taste Test 6.0

5. Dek A Authentic Thai Cuisine: Somtam Papaya Salad

We first shrugged this off because of it’s appearance. Amid all the sweets and eye candy, this just didn’t pop out. On our second round though, we wanted some diversion from the other rich and savory offerings of the day. And boy was I glad we did.  This was a revelation! Fresh and refreshing, sweet and spicy, that was one good salad.

Dek A Authentic Thai Cuisine: Somtam Papaya Salad

Dek A also had some light vegetable spring rolls, Popia, that were fried but wasn’t oily, and the Thai iced milk tea was one of the better ones I’ve tasted.

4. Baked by Anita: Roasted Strawberry Mini Cupcakes

Baked by Anita Roasted Strawberry and Maple Bacon Mini Cupcakes

Aaaah. Anita’s. I loved her mini-cupcakes ever since I tasted her Saffron and Black Salt and was made a fan by her Apple Pecan, so it wasn’t really a surprise that her newest offering, Roasted Strawberry, was a winner. Kite summed it up in one word: “Perfect!“. The strawberry flavor was thankfully not artificial (Anita roasted kilos of fresh ones) and again, the texture was spot on for the bite-sized cupcakes. I heard she’s making regular sized ones these days. Got to try that the soonest I can. :-D

Baked by Anita Roasted Strawberry Mini Cupcake

3. Spring by Ya Huan: KaPao Sesame-Crusted Teriyaki Tofu

This scored high marks from me because of the concept and the execution. Think steamed whole wheat buns filled with hearty tofu flavored with a not too strong teriyaki sauce with shitake mushrooms and bell pepper.  Whole wheat cuapao! Come on! The tofu almost had a meaty texture too, which made the whole dish very satsifying. They also had a braised pork variety with, wait for it, lychee! These guys are really innovative.

Spring by Ya Huan: KaPao Sesame-Crusted Teriyaki Tofu

This photo really doesn’t do justice to this one. Blurrycamlandia another. Rawr. But believe me on this one. This really blew me away. Where can I get this nga ulit? I want one. Now.

2. Casa Empanada: Chocolate and Bacon Mini Empanadas

This needs no further explanation, really. Just read what it’s made of:

Everybody's current "it" flavor combo: chocolate and bacon.

How can you not fall in love with that? This was understandably a crowd favorite. The owner was very nice too. She had us get two each (Or was that supposed to be a secret? Hihi.). Best eaten warm, this was sin enclosed in a light pastry shell. Their ham and cheese wasn’t bad too.

This is what dreams are made of. *drools* Casa Empanada's Chocolate and Bacon Empanada

1. 5 Loaves & 2 Fish: Vegetable Lavosh Chips

5 Loaves & 2 Fish.

This was both mine and Kite’s # 1 pick! Points all around for uniqueness, healthiness, showmanship and flavor. This was a crowd favorite too. We had to line up to get to have a taste of this extra thin chips. What we found out was that it was worth the wait.

That's pesto paste being roasted right there. Yuuuuuum I tell you!

These thin and crisp chips made from carrot, sugar beets, spinach and sweet tablea were a hit! We loved the perfect pates and dips it came with. The roasted pesto paste was looooooove – creamy and the basil having a depth of flavor from the on-the-spot roasting. I really think this would make one hell of a party food. Lalo na if we can do the flaming ourselves. Again, fun and yum!

5 Loaves & 2 Fish Vegetable Lavosh Chips

Whew! My goodness. That was just four hours! Imagine if we had stayed for all eleven hours. Recalling all of those got me all hungry. There were so many other good stuff and that’s coming up next. Ooooh! Some lessons learned too from that awesome food trip.

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