Saturday, June 23, 2012

Trek through dessert

Seize the moment. Remember all those women
on the Titanic who waived the dessert cart.
                                     ~Erma Bombeck

No matter if the meal were multi-course or turo-turo fare, dessert -- for me, anyway -- is like oxygen. I would gladly pay for a slice of chocolate cake with two hours on the treadmill, but please, please, never deprive me of my bit of sweetness. Even the most humble streetside eatery makes a nod for a sweet end. Many serve hard candies, though, which doesn't really count as dessert. Others have the native rice cakes, which are usually too heavy to be considered, and are probably more merienda fare than a meal ender.

At this point, I would like to state for the record that I am one of those persons who, when eating something sweet need to offset the taste with something contrasting, like a salty or savory morsel. I usually feel sated with a couple of bites of sweet things -- cakes and the like, not people -- and the Tagalogs have a word for it, "umay." Its one of those non-translatable things. Umay is the feeling one gets when you get sick or gaggy over too much sweet. Try eating white chocolate or leche flan and nothing else beyond the point of saturation and thats the feeling. It has nothing to do with being full. It has everything to do with taste. Unfortunately for me, I get the umay feeling quite early in the eating of dessert. So, sometimes -- and my friends all attest to this, while rolling their eyes -- I eat dessert with the meal.

Yeah, you read that right.

caramel cake
Caramel cake
But dessert has been around since man probably discovered that certain fruits or plants which didn't kill him, had those dulcet tones for his tongue. Early desserts were honeycombs, dried fruit, dates. Before mass sugar production, sweets were -- as many luxuries were -- reserved for the rich. The birth of sugar plantations and machinery that hastened production resulted in a more democratic enjoyment. The Philippines in fact enjoyed a large quota for exports to the United States in the early part of the twentieth century, continuing on until the seventies. The strict enforcement of a diminshed quota, and rising competition led to the depression-like state of sugar producing provinces like Bacolod in the 1980s.

To this day, we remain a significant sugar producer, but so diminished now, due to the widespread belief -- I'm still hoping this could be debunked by some scientist -- that sugar is (gasp!) bad for you. Further discussion not needed, nor required as it may lead to another depression, this time, mine.

Dessert comes from the French word "dessirvir" meaning to clear the table. I take that to mean that dessert is meant to clear the palate or sweep it with a taste different from the meal so as not to get gaggy over the savory meal. This leads us to another Tagalog word for over satiated with a savory taste, "suya" Thus in Tagalog, one is invited to eat a sweet dish after a meal to remove the suya ("pampaalis ng suya").

To prevent umay, many people serve dessert with cheese as a counterpoint. Anyone who has eaten apple pie with edam or even with sharp cheddar or cottage cheese knows whereof we speak and is well aware of the symphony of tastes this provides.

Thus to clear the suya, especially after a turo-turo tour, we have found -- and continue to keep finding -- wonderful dessert places in the metropolis. I theorize that Pinoys have such a long history of dessert, every family has at least one favorite that keeps showing up at reunions and family gatherings, making many quite the experts at making them. Our love for them makes us skilled at it, and there are quite a few bakeshops, beyond the Goldilocks and Red Ribbon varieties which prove it.

Thus, evidencing the Pinoy's love for the sweet stuff and their skill at it, most coffee shops and restaurants boast of specialties or a line up of special cakes, pies, cupcakes or cookies exclusive to their stores. Others have gimmicks, such as Orange Hotel's eat all you can cakes and coffee.

black and white cake
black and white cake
The one we went to is located on Santolan and featured on that day, caramel chocolate cake, double chocolate cake, and black and white cake, making it my decadent day for choco. The coffee they served was a very mild arabica, smooth and classy. The caramel cake was moist and lightly sweetened, making it
a perfect partner for the hot and only faintly bitter drink.

The double chocolate cake may have been sitting in the freezer a bit long because it was dry and not quite as flavorful. The coffee made up for it, as by then I was on my second cup.

The best part of the day was the black and white cake. Subtly made, sweet highlights, but never overwhelming or cloying, though the cream could very well have headed that way.

All cakes could have suffered from dry roughness of a commercial cake, but these had an almost home-made quality. I only wish I had more thumbs for a more convincing sign of approval. Three thumbs up.


Sylvia Morningstar said...

Trixie Cruz,

You're a gourmet of mind, heart and palate. So glad you're in my life.

:) S

Anonymous said...

Maybe we could search for the best chocolate cake. Oh no! There goes my diet Trixie. Hehehe.

DeliSyosa said...

Sylvia, and I am honored to be in yours. :)

DeliSyosa said...

Tes, life is too short to diet! :D