Monday, September 16, 2013

Rockwell's Ultimate Taste Test 3.0

Last Saturday at Rockwell's Ultimate Taste Test 3.0 is where all the foodies come out to play and where passionate business owners with innovative food concepts showed off their wares. Jericho and I made our way to the Rockwell Tent, our tummies tingling with anticipation at all the glorious food we'd be stuffing our faces with! We even brought Jericho's sister, Justice, along for good measure.

When we got to the Rockwell Tent at around 1 o'clock in the afternoon and happily buzzing with people going around trying the food, chatting with vendors, or listening to the short talk that was about to happen on stage. It wasn't too hard to find the rest of the KTG (Kain Tulog Gang), they were right smack in the middle of the fray and had commandeered a table, cheering on our three friends who would be in the hot seat in the next few minutes.

KTG represent! From left to right: Gerry San Miguel of Dude 4 Food, Spanky Enriquez (who also happened to be the host of UTT) from, Jane Chua of Between Bites, and Richie Zamora of The Pickiest Eater.

It was an all star cast as far as food blogging was concerned. Most of the talk was spent promoting Jane and her being single but unwilling to mingle, with Spanky (a.k.a Papa San) and his big pink fan pimping her out like he did the Original Monkey Bread (we'll get to that later). Gerry finally parted with his beer to hold the mic and talk about his food adventures and his favorites at UTT 3.0 thus far. The afternoon was still young  and there was a lot of eating to be done.

After listening to the guys chat about food, and my tummy grumbling with the smell of grilled meat wafting through the air, I couldn't take it anymore and we started our afternoon of gluttony degustation. There was so much food going around, it was hard to choose my favorites.

After a whole weekend of mulling it over, here are 12 of my favorites in no particular order:

Our first stop was The Plaza Catering's glorious Premium Baked Ham. With the catering company having served everyone from Pope John Paul II to Gloria Macapagal-Potato, their ham is perfect for the upcoming Ber celebrations, and a definite hit at the table. Served using The Plaza's own pandesal, the tender porcine already tastes fantastic on its own - quite sweet with a touch of salt - but mixing and matching them with The Plaza's sauces like Gutsy Garlic, Honey Mustard, and Wasabi Mayonnaise takes ham eating to a whole new level of delicious.

Manning the stall of Bad Decisions was the owner and resident badass himself, Al Echavez. Sampling The Patriot, it was everything I imagined it would be - meaty and juicy with a nice char. And with his tasting portion size being a quarter of the actual burger, I was stuffed! Just check out how thick that patty is!

I love the guys at Schmidt's! Not only does their quirky name elicit a few chuckles (It was named after the ultra vain metrosexual PR guy in New Girl), but their hotdogs are pretty solid! Being gourmet, their sausages are custom-made and extra long so you aren't left eating air when you get to the end of the bun. Their bread is custom ordered as well, so it keeps its form without breaking off or crumbling in your hand.

Schmidt's Wagamama was topped with a light coleslaw, some Japanese mayo, and nori flakes, giving the spiced sausage meat a whole new Asian flavor profile. Delish!

There were two lechon stalls at UTT! One of them was the Negros import, General's Lechon, that served their special Garlic Lechon. Obviously, there wasn't much left anymore, but we were fortunate to get to taste it before they ran out (the next roasted pig arrived a little after 5 o'clock).

The skin was crisp and crackling, typical of lechon, with a liver sauce that nicely complimented the tender pork. Lechon is always a winner in my book and it's nice to appreciate other lechon styles and have the native lechoneros show off their stuff for us gluttons foodies.

Move over, cronuts, 'coz we have Bronuts! The donut hybrid came in Belgian Chocolate with Sea Salt Caramel, Cream Cheese & Bacon, and Blueberries & Cream. I got a sample of the Belgian Chocolate, Jericho sampled the Blueberries & Cream, and Justice got a mouthful of the Cream Cheese & Bacon. I think the savory bronut is the most unique of the three - slightly salty, sour, and cheesy.

There's that, and the cute owners were just barrels of fun to hang out with! No one at UTT could resist the power of the Bronut.

Methinks Barney would approve. Brobump!

The other lechon scene stealer at the event was Diplahan Lechon that came all the way from Zamboanga! Well, not really. They're based in Manila but the style of lechon is from Zamboanga - you know what I mean. The skin is quite different from that of normal lechon - it's a lot paler and crispier, almost like it's been dunked in the fryer. Instead of the usual liver sauce, they serve their lechon with a special type of vinegar.

Oh, and if you asked the guys at Diplahan's booth nicely, they'd let you have a little bit of fried lechon skin, too! Yes, lechon skin that's been deep-fried til it looks like chicharon but tastes so much better! This was definitely my favorite stall at Rockwell's Ultimate Taste Test!

While taking a short break from all the debauchery, I spotted a few foodie superstars in the crowd. You will rarely get a picture of these three food innovators together: Celebrity chef Sharwin Tee, the #1 food blogger in the Philippines, Anton Diaz, and the Manila Boy himself, Spanky Enriquez.

Anyone who reads this blog knows what a sucker I am for buffalo wings. Yuan's Original Chicken Wings is no exception. Regular ol' buffalo wings now taste boring after I tried Yuan's. It was spicy, salty, savory, with a dash of vinegar at the end - all at the same time! I wanted to go back for six more but had to restrain myself - it was a tasting after all. Ah, gluttony, at times you get the better of me.

Named after the owner's son, I think the name Yuan's Wings is quite apropos. Yuan is their baby after all, so having the successful wings (I'm looking through a looking glass here) being another baby with a bright future is like the name coming full circle.

The localized marshmallow fluff, Shmallows, gives you all the fluffy marshmallow-y goodness without the import tax. The Shmallows Marshmallow Spread comes in a few different flavors and I got to try the plain flavored one. It was a bit too thick for my taste and not airy enough. It's a nice idea, but personally, anyone with a dessert cookbook can make this version of a soft peaked meringue. Points for making people realize they can buy local though!

I was torn between Dennis the Grill Boy's Crispy Pork Sisig and the The V Deli's vegetarian sisig, but in the end the Veggie Sisig Shawarma won me over. This was Jericho's favorite. Everything was vegetarian, right down to the crackling pieces of chicharon (blasphemy!) and we got to enjoy it without the guilt of bad cholesterol and calories. They're pretty affordable too, so I'm definitely ordering from them and experimenting at home soon!

Duck burger, anyone? I smell the good work of the folks at Gawad Kalinga with their GoldenducK's Premium Burgers. Since duck is primarily made up of dark meat, it makes for a good burger patty, and this is what we got a taste of. I was expecting the duck to either be incredibly dry and crumbly or too oily and fatty, but nope - it was perfect. If I didn't know they were feeding me duck I'd assume this was some grade of Angus I was eating - it was tender, but had a nice bite and char, which is what everyone looks for in a burger.

And hey, with cute French dudes manning the station and promoting social entrepreneurship, there is more than one reason to circle back to them!

For dessert I happened to really like Noodle Bakes, not just for the quirky names of their cupcakes, but because of their presentation and cupcake flavors as well. They had Garth Vader - a peanut butter cupcake with a surprise center, and Tosi, which tasted like crack pie in magical cupcake form.

I had been stalking The Juice Barista online for a while now, so it was nice to see they had a booth at Rockwell's Ultimate Taste Test. Being one of the more affordable juicing options in the Philippine market, I sampled their King Kong Apple Pie which was really, really refreshing! I couldt taste the sweetness of the apple and it did feel like it did my body some good after trying all those yummy, calroie-laden fatty samplings.

Justice liked Ruby Red Kitchen's Original Monkey Bread made with potato flour that tasted a bit like Cinnabon. Treats dusted with cinnamon is apparently her Achilles' heel. It isn't on my top 12 list, but if you're a sucker for cinnamon, I'd highly recommend this.

L-R: Eugene Constantino of Hefy Foodie, Jericho San Miguel, and General's Lechon owner, Lynn Ong.

That wasn't all. Before we threw our hands up in defeat and left, Jericho got pulled into a beer tasting competition courtesy of Spanky and San Miguel Breweries. Each contestant had to guess the names of the beer in the order they tasted it: San Miguel Premium All-Malt Beer, San Miguel Super Dry, and Cerveza Negra. Jericho won, naturally. His last name is San Miguel after all. I was expecting at least a crate of beer of his choice, but he got a laser pointer in the shape of a beer bottle. Lol. at least the dog would be happy.

When mucking around Manila, try and catch the next Ultimate Taste Test! The tickets for this year's UTT was sold at P585 - this came with a free San Miguel beer and a pass to taste all 50 stalls and the sweet and savory tasting portions they had in store. This was as good as breakfast, lunch,and dinner for me - so all in all it's a pretty sweet deal! Congratulations to all the organizers for the event! You all did a brilliant job!

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel of The Pixel Project Manila