MANILA -- Time flies fast when you’re having a lot of good food.
The annual food event Ultimate Taste Test (UTT) celebrated its 10th year last August 31 at the SMX Convention Center Aura in Taguig with a full roster of food entrepreneurs eager to let diners become food critics for a day.
Curation was exemplary this year, with a good balance of savory and sweet options. On the menu were dips, sauces, drinks, delectable home cooking, smoked meats, as well as the always popular dessert fare of cookies and spreads.
There was even a sneak peek of "A Taste of Agos," where Philippine craft drink creators (coffee, chocolate, beer, gin, lambanog, whisky, etc) sampled their concoctions to UTT attendees as well.
With about 40 food purveyors serving as much as 3 items each, attendees had the daunting task of tasting and rating, to come up with the winners of this year’s Ultimate Taste Test.
In no particular order, the 2019 UItimate Taste Test winners were: Mad Mark’s Creamery and Good Eats, Joni and Susan Agroshop, Bao Asian Treasures, Chef Mira’s, Chip, Artisanal Food, LICK, Mama V Delicious, General’s Lechon, and Que Rica.
After three hours of tasting (and pacing ourselves), we’ve listed down our favorite savory items from the UTT floor, including dips and sauces.
1. General’s Lechon Sofrito
A previous UTT winner, General’s Lechon won again with its Lechon Sofrito. Anything with lechon should be a shoo-in for something delicious, and this dip (or sauce) didn’t disappoint. Lechon braised in tomatoes, peppers and herbs, I can imagine it on rice. Jeeves de Veyra
2. Bulaylay Laing
It took five years for Bullet Charvet to perfect this dish. This for-delivery laing is of the dry and nicely oily variety, rich in coconut flavor, and well-balanced. It received extra points for having leaves stewed and cooked through but still retaining their shape, giving the laing unexpected but welcome texture. Jeeves de Veyra
3. Artisanal Food’s OG Bacon
While Artisanal Food also had Spanish chorizo, it was the OG Bacon that caught our taste buds. The bacon is where you really taste the difference of smoking with mango wood. Not too aggressively smoky, with even a backnote of sweetness, and nicely salted, which made it delectable to eat with rice. Jeeves de Veyra
4. Kaien Buffalo Sauce
If you like your buffalo wings spicy and tangy, a bottle of Kaien Buffalo Sauce will not disappoint. Orange, fiery, buttery and packs a nice creeping heat, we see multiple uses for this sauce, besides the obvious wings. Jeeves de Veyra
5. Joni and Susan Agroshop’s Mushroom Dinakdakan
Serving farm-to-table fare from San Pablo, Laguna, Joni and Susan Agroshop won hearts with its mushroom dinakdakan with its beautiful texture (crispy mushroom akin to eating crispy fried pork skin) and hearty flavor. Jeeves de Veyra
6. Brad and Pit Ribshack’s Original Rib Mountain
With meat falling off the bone, this rib dish had many going back for seconds. Smokey with just a hint of sweetness. Jeeves de Veyra
7. Bao Asian Treasures’ Shrimp and Mushroom Pork Siomai
Frozen siomai at home without extenders and packed with flavor, Bao Asian Treasure served two flavors but the Mushroom with Shrimp was the clear homerun for me — clean tasting and "siksik." Jeeves de Veyra
8. Garlicious by CRAVEZA spread
There were a lot of delectable sauces and spreads in UTT 2019, but this one caught our eye because of its simplicity and versatility. You can put garlic sauce on your shawarma, grilled vegetables, or anything really. Jeeves de Veyra
9. Betty’s Best Sisig Sotanghon
Presenting a new delivery option for your office or party, this sotanghon tasted best when it was hot and when you got bites of that crispy sisig. Jeeves de Veyra
Some honorable mentions include: Bitbit Filipino Deli’s Hamonado Longganisa, Chef Mira’s Nori Cream Cheese spread, Que Rica’s Laing Longganisa, and Quezo City’s Cheese Pimiento.
Dessert has always been a strong point of Ultimate Taste Test, with more that 15 booths dedicated to saccharine options this year.
Many sweet creations from the traditional to the innovative have been tasted and rated by many of its attendees for 10 years.
Here were our favorites:
1. Waffable Churros
What’s better than a waffle on a stick? It’s waffle churros on a stick drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with fruits and other treats! Convenient and fun to eat! Jeeves de Veyra
2. Sunbright Agriculture Ventures’ Crunchy Mushroom Rolls
Think barquillos but with mushrooms. There’s no mushroom flavor, but you get the nutrition, and great crispy texture! Jeeves de Veyra
3. The Pastry Connection’s Premium Double Chocolate Pastillas Cookies
An experiment for kids of the baker yielded tasty results. Her best was this item -- a fudgy, chocolate-y crinkle sandwich with a filling of pastillas. Jeeves de Veyra
4. Dairy by Karabella Corporations’ Bazooka Bubblegum Ice Cream
It tasted exactly as advertised. I steered so many people (my age) towards this booth, and the look of wonder when they take a bite was what it was all about. Deliciously nostalgic! Jeeves de Veyra
5. Chip’s Dark Knight Cookie
This cookie is dark and chockfull of chocolate. A crosswise bite will show you all the chocolate in this cookie, it’s very hard to have just one -- pass the milk! Jeeves de Veyra
6. Lick’s Sakura Iced Tea
This local brand of bottled iced tea had us tasting all their flavors. We picked the Sakura because it was something new in the market, had just the right amount of sakura tea flavor and wasn’t too sweet. Jeeves de Veyra
7. Anastasius Homemade Flavors’ Alfajores
Alfajores are delicate Spanish biscuit sandwiches usually filled with dulce de leche. For the UTT, this booth filled their buttery biscuits with a filling of Biscoff. Simple, innovative and tasty. Jeeves de Veyra
8. Chewy Louie Cookie’s Choco Peanut Butter Cookie Dough
Frozen cookie dough has not gained ground in the Philippines, compared to the many supermarket brands available in the US, but this company is opting to change that. Order your frozen cookie dough, keep it in the ref, and bake when you want to get some fresh out of the oven. It’ll keep for 3 months, and the peanut cookie dough is addicting. Jeeves de Veyra
Some notable mentions include: Made in Matcha’s Nama Spread, Mad Mark’s Creamery and Good Eats’ Kombucha, Dolce Paulina’s Banana Walnut Bread, and the Nurture Wellness Village's Kidney juice.