Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ultimate Taste Test 2015: A Verdict

I’ve been a reader of Anton’s blog for years. I love that he has almost every restaurant in Manila covered, and then some.

So when he announced that he was holding an Ultimate Taste Test 2015 (UTT15) event in September, I immediately informed the foodie family and friends. Our group of 13 trooped to Glorietta mall on September 12 to sample the offerings of over 40 food purveyors.

After getting our names verified at the registration counter, we were provided a map to the venue as well as a “Passport”, a score sheet with the names of all the concessionaires whose food we were supposed to rate and comment on. The vendors signed the sheet after handing out their dishes. Most booths offered two items for the participants to sample.

Since Judd, my nieces Joanna and Jenna, and I were the last to arrive in our group, we went straight to eating. Our bigger group claimed the peripheral area of the stage as our own so after sampling and/or collecting our food items, we would take a break, go to our spot, and write down the scores on our individual sheets.

Truth be told, we didn’t really use the map. We sort of intuitively agreed to cover the outer circle first and then the inner cluster. But we didn’t strictly follow that rule either. Mostly, we were following our nose.

One of the first things we tried was the beignet of Kapeng Mainit. I am a beignet fiend but it is so hard to find a good one here in Manila. We made quite a scene while having a taste of these doughnuts because we were making unintelligible sounds of appreciation.

 Kapeng Mainit’s beignets have a light crunch, with a puffy, chewy interior that oozed green tea cream with every bite. I didn’t mind that I was covered with powdered sugar after finishing my piece. I wanted another one.

I cannot quite forget the tiny bite of fat-rimmed, beautifully crusted roasted Angus U.S. beef at The Beef Barn’s station. Dipped in the wild mushroom sauce, it was quite fantastic. They are set to open in Eastwood Citywalk in October so that’s something to watch out for.


Some of my friends regard Hainanese chicken as nothing more than just tinolang manok. Maybe they have a point but, in good Hainanese chicken, you get a bird that is perfectly moist and silky, something I’ve never quite experienced with tinola. Being a fan of this dish, I was thrilled to find Chivy & Co.’s Sous Vide Hainanese Chicken Rice. It was difficult to truly appreciate the subtle flavors of Hainanese chicken rice in a single mouthful, and it was hard to tell if the sous vide process made a marked difference, but the taste was sensational. I look forward to having this as a meal and comparing it with my favorite Stevie’s Hainanese chicken.

For me, callos is always a reason to break bread. It’s a family favorite and I am happy to report that the one purveyor who offered it at UTT15 did so exceedingly well. Tarlaquena’s callos was melting with tripe and tendon that seem to have been braised forever.

Other noteworthy bites included the following:

The flavor-packed Al Pastor taco of Su Casa Grill

The salted coco caramel of First Harvest, a social enterprise under the Gawad Kalinga Farm

Actress Maricar Reyes’s uber-moist choco-liquor cakes
Poco Deli's juicy kielbasa classic

Of the more than 40 food stations, I was able to cover only 15. Next time we join the UTT, we’ll make a day of it. It’s a fun activity for the family and a group of friends because you get to discover new things together, play food critic for a day, and interact with food entrepreneurs whose passion for their products are inspiring and infectious. On top of that, it was a well-organized event. It helped that Anton published a Survival Guide days before so we knew exactly what to expect.

‘Looking forward to the next one.

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