The 9th Ultimate Taste Test kicked off last Sunday, July 29, 2012. The annual food event was held at the Soderno food market in the Molito Complex in Alabang, and featured over 30 different dishes from family-owned food vendors and local restaurants in Manila. Food lovers from the south of Manila grabbed the opportunity to sample different foods and drinks from local restaurants, bakeshops and vendors from across the city.
Ultimate Taste Test Food Picks
What made the Ultimate Taste Test a unique food event was that the people were not just treated to a wide variety of dishes. They were also given the opportunity to rate the food of each of the vendors participating in the event. Not wanting to miss this, I decided to head over to the Ultimate Taste Test, and take part in both the sampling and the judging.
For the next few hours, I went through the different stalls, sampling each of their foods and drinks. They were some that were really delicious, and there were some that were doable to say the least.
So out of the over 30 different dishes I’ve tried during the Ultimate Taste Test, here are my top food picks, in no particular order:
Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen’s Panzarotti
First on my Ultimate Taste Test food picks is the is the panzarotti from Mama Lou’s Italian Kitchen. Panzarotti is a deep-fried savory pastry popular in the central and southern Italy. It is one of those kinds of food that you don’t need to sit down to enjoy it. You can eat it while you’re on the go–a plus if you’re in a food market like Soderno.
I was quite pleased with the amount of the meat filling inside the panzarotti. The blue cheese sauce complemented it really well. But what sealed the deal for me was the pastry shell. I’m pretty picky when it comes to pastry shells. I easily get turned off if it’s bland and dry. The pastry Mama Lou’s used in their panzarotti was crunchy on the outside, yet moist and soft on the inside. It has a slight sweet taste, which blended perfectly well with the saltiness of the cured meats in the filling, and peppery taste of the fresh arugula.
Bread Winner’s Pulled Pork Sandwich
The last time I’ve ever had a pulled pork sandwich was when I was in Houston a few years back. Having tasted it from one of the BBQ capitals in the US, I have to admit my expectations were quite high when I tried this during the Ultimate Taste Test food event.
I must say, it was a tad different from the ones that I had in the US, but it was a close second. The amount of pulled pork in each sandwich was quite generous. The BBQ sauce drizzled over the pulled pork had a tangy sweet-sour taste which, for me, could have been better if there was a slight tinge of chili heat in it.
The addition of the shredded cabbage on the top may be something that pulled pork sandwich purists may frown upon, but I found it a welcome addition. Aside from giving you a bit of fiber (which is always a good thing), it adds a bit of crunch and dimension to the entire sandwich.
Polland’s Fresh Chinese Lumpia
Next in my Ultimate Taste Test food picks list is the Fresh Chinese lumpia (Filipino word for spring roll) from Polland’s. This is what I would consider to be the healthiest of all the foods I’ve tried and really loved during the Ultimate Taste Test (as you will see in a bit).
The fresh spring roll was generously filled with all sorts of vegetables and fresh herbs, with just a little bit of meat to balance everything out. It was very light and refreshing on the palate, but quite filling at the same time.
I particularly liked the fact that instead of pouring the sauce over the fresh lumpia like they normally do, Polland’s drizzles the sauce on the filling before it is rolled. This slight change makes it easier to eat, but it can still be quite messy with all the sauce oozing out; so make sure that you arm yourself with napkins before you eat this, and lots of it.
Dads and Moms Kitchen’s Squid Sisig
Sisig is a popular Filipino food enjoyed as a bar chow, or eaten as a main dish with rice. But while it’s tasty, it’s also considered as a health hazard. Sisig is quite high in cholesterol so it should be eaten in moderation. Many have tried to provide alternatives to the original sisig recipe so that you can enjoy it without the potential spike in your blood pressure. Dads and Moms Kitchen’s squid variety is one of them.
After tasting their squid sisig here at the Ultimate Taste Test, I realized that they are on to something. The chewy consistency of the squid is very close to the texture of the original version, which uses the different parts of a pig’s head. And because squid has a very neutral flavor, it absorbs all the flavors of the original sisig recipe without lending its own flavor. I still prefer the original sisig, though, but if I need to find a “healthier” alternative, I’d go with Dads and Moms squid sisig.
Nina’s Grill’s Fried Pork Isaw
Isaw is a popular Filipino street food. It’s basically the small intestines of the pig or chicken which is marinated and then grilled over some hot coals. Nina’s Grill did things a little bit different. The intestines are cut into bit-size pieces, marinated with vinegar and salt, and then deep fried until they are really crunchy.
Just like the sisig from DadsMoms Kitchen, I found this variation of a popular Filipino dish to be a great idea. Because they are bit-sized, Nina’s Grill’s deep-fried pork isaw can be eaten as a snack with your favorite alcoholic beverage, and a bit of vinegar infused with garlic and chili, or as a crunchy main course with a bit of garlic rice.
Frisch Liquor Ice Cream
This was a real treat for those at the Ultimate Taste Test looking something sweet with a grown up twist. Frisch offered four different flavors of ice cream. Each ice cream was infused with different liquors and spirits carefully chosen to complement the ice cream’s base flavor.
I particularly liked two of the flavors they offered during the Ultimate Taste Test. The first was their Wine Berries ice cream. This is a strawberry-based ice cream infused with red wine (I’m guessing to be either a Shiraz or Merlot), and dotted with fresh strawberries. The slightly acidic taste from the berries gave this a really tangy flavor that leaves this fresh feeling in the palate, almost like a palate cleanser. The alcoholic content was a bit strong, giving you just that kick with every spoonful.
The second one that I liked was the Choco Rumboozle. This one used chocolate ice cream for the base, infused with rum, and filled with bittersweet chocolate. I actually enjoyed this one over the Wine Berries. Aside from the fact I’m partial to chocolate, the taste of the alcohol in the Choco Rumboozle was more mellow than the one in the Wine Berries. The presence of the dark chocolate chips in the ice cream added bit of a crunch to the ice cream, and a tad bit more caffeine to keep you awake.
Bambi’s House of Desserts’ Vanilla Cupcakes
I liked the clean and straightforward way how they displayed the cupcakes. No fancy cake designs. Just bite-size sponge vanilla sponge cupcakes with a bit of buttercream frosting piped in the center. The simplicity of the presentation gave me this confident message from the bakers: our cakes speak for themselves.
True enough, they did. There was just enough icing so you get the taste of both the cake and the frosting. The light and fluffy cake balanced out the otherwise rich and smooth buttercream frosting. The petite size makes this a really handy way to end a meal sweetly without feeling too guilty, especially if you’re on a diet. Just make sure that you keep an eye on how much you’re popping in your mouth.
So that concludes my top picks for this year’s Ultimate Taste Test event at Soderno. Have you found any particular favorites from the list? Share your thoughts below.