Last week, I caught the tailend of a Game Ka Na Ba episode where Kris was interviewing Maritoni Fernandez just before she plays the jackpot round. Maritoni’s sweeping comment that “there are no good cheesecakes in Manila” caught my attention. She said that the cheesecakes here in Manila are either the ones with jello or too crumbly because of the cheese. She’s looking for the one cheesecake which is like that of New York Cheesecake Factory’s. (This is my cue to roll my eyes). And so, as a service to the Philippines, she has put up her own cheesecake business because she has a well-kept cheesecake recipe, which is so much like the New York Cheesecake she is pining for. (Rolls my eyes again.)
Here’s my take on her comment to which I don’t at all agree. While I may have not tasted the New York Cheesecake which is Ms. Fernandez’ benchmark for good quality cheesecake, I don’t live in a cave and there are arguably a number of establishments in and out of Manila with good quality cheesecakes, and which I bet are at par with those from New York Cheesecake Factory. We have a lot of talented pastry chefs in Manila and some of them are even lured to work in luxury liners. From the top of my head, some of the places which offers a variety of oh-so-good cheesecakes are Cheesecake Etc., Goodies and Sweets, The Peninsula Manila Hotel, The Richmonde Hotel, Hotel Philippine Plaza and The Coffee Bean and Tealeaf. The Skyline Restaurant can also come up with one mean cheesecake and so can our wedding ninang, Tita Mars who’s been in the catering business amost all her life. Well, cheesecakes in Manila may not be “New York perfect” but there are a lot of good ones out there…you don’t even have to buy from Maritoni. :P
While I’m on the topic of sweets, I’d like to share the ones I have on my list and where to get them:
1) CAKES – The chocolate moist cake of The Richmonde Hotel Lobby Cafe is a must try. A slice goes for Php 48.00 pesos and is about 4in x 4in x 4in. It is melt-in-your-mouth goodness! A recent discovery is Kookie Korner’s chocolate roll which costs Php245.00 for the full roll, a few pesos cheaper than Red Ribbon’s. I also like Red Ribbon’s choco-caramel roll and their silvanas. The cheesecake resources I mentioned earlier are in themselves a treasure throve of other cakes…blackforest, chocolate mousse, etc. The chocolate mousse cake of my childhood is that of the old Cafe Elysee which used to be found in all SM outlets. Dexter’s Bakeshop has a unique orange chiffon cake which is popular among its patrons. Other favorites of mine are Alba’s canonigo and Dulcinea’s brazo de mercedes.
2) ICE CREAM – On top of my list is Fruits in Ice Cream otherwise known as FIC. My favorite is their Raspberry Rapture, but that’s only if I have to pick one. I love all the flavors! :) A sentimental favorite is Selecta’s cookies and cream and super chocolate. Goodies and Sweets and Fiorgelato have very good choconut flavored ice cream. A stall in Tiendesita, ECJ (or is it EJC) at the fresh fruits section/fastfood section has very fine and creamy durian ice cream. Their fresh durians are the best as well!
3) BIRTHDAY CAKES – Dexter’s Bakeshop for their moist birthday cakes in unique well-thought-of designs with goody goody frosting. Of course, you can never go wrong with Goldilocks, with which most of us grew up. You can choose the flavor and the filling. The Shoppersville Bakeshop in Katipunan Ave. is also a very good alternative.
4) ENSAYMADA – Again, I’m a big fan of The Richmonde Hotel’s supersized Ensaymada in plain and ube flavors. They are priced between Php50.00 and Php60.00 and can be shared by 2 people (but I can finish one whole!). It’s best to first have them microwaved for a minute to melt the butter and the cheese. I hear Cunanan’s is a good ensaymada but I have yet to try one. I often see the name Cunanan’s for the best ensaymada in newspapers when the Christmas season is at its peak. For pasalubong to relatives and friends abroad, one can never go wrong with Muhlach Melt. :) The Lord Stowe’s also has very good bite-sized ensaymada in ube, plain and quezo de bola.
5) SUMAN – Tita Paring’s suman latik is the best. It is soft and yummy. Some have tried to duplicate their suman but failed. :) Tita Paring’s has a special box for their suman for gift-giving and pasalubong purposes. I also love Antipolo’s suman, the long white kind wrapped in banana leaves which you just dip in sugar.
6) BIBINGKA – Bibingka Galapong in White Plains, Katipunan Ave. is the ultimate because it’s really made from galapong. :) One other favorite source of bibingka is Ferino’s. There’s also Via Mare’s bibingka galapong with salted duck egg and white cheese, but they tend to be inconsistent. I think some outlets don’t use the old-charcoal-style of cooking. I know there’s an equipment which can produce a number of bibingkas at a time. That must be it. :)
7) PUTO BUMBONG – I love Via Mare’s puto bumbong with queso de bola.
8) PUTO – Oh, I can go on and on about puto. I love PUTONG UBE’s, you guessed it, putong ube. The Pangasinan puto (the small white ones) which can be bought from almost every nook and cranny of the metropolis has also turned out to be Abby’s favorite. DEC’s (a Chinese grocey) big triangular-shaped white puto which goes very well with dinuguan is also on my list. I also love the little round brown putos which an aunt buys from a supplier in Marikina and which I think is also available in Tiendesitas.
9) KUTSINTA – I personally like the kutsinta which are cut in rectangular shapes and with langka on its red top more than the regular round orange ones. There’s a stall in Shopwise Libis which sells kakanin and they have this particular kind of kutsinta at Php20.00 per slice. I believe Latik also has them.
10) SAPIN-SAPIN – Dolor’s is Malabon’s pride when it comes to sapin-sapin…until Dolores came along. Unlike some sapin-sapin which comes in a layer of different colors, Dolor’s and Dolores’ sapin-sapin in a bilao come in individual layers of white, red, blue and yellow and brown (bico). My favorite layers are the red (which is like kutsinta), yellow and white, which is why I like Doroles, because it is more generous with these layers. :)
11) Halo-Halo – The Legend Villas’ Lola Maria’s Coffeeshop halo-halo has home-made ingredients which are already good in themselves, especially the leche flan and ube. Razon’s also has good halo-halo but it only has about 3 to 4 ingredients plus leche-flan. The ice they use is very easy to crush and does not get rock-like. :)
12) CASSAVA – The best I’ve had is from Cassava Manila. Unlike other cassavas which loose their appeal once refrigerated, Cassava Manila’s retains its goodness even after being refrigerated. It only has to be re-heated in the microwave for a minute or so.
13) PICHI-PICHI – When I was still a little girl, My Mom would always bring home pichi-pichi from the Sampaloc Market every Sunday morning after she does her market shopping. It’s another childhood favorite kakanin. I’m glad my sister-in-law discovered ARNY & DADING’S in Katipunan for the best pichi-pichi. Their pichi-pichi has cheese and about the size of a pingpong ball. :) You can keep it in the fridge and it will still be good to eat after re-heating in the microwave.
14) DOUGHNUTS – Thank God for Gonuts Donuts. It is supposed to be the local version of Krispy Kreme (which I hear will make its Philippine debut in November). I haven’t tried a Krispy Kreme doughnut ever so I can’t really compare. Gonuts’ donuts are soft and they melt in your mouth. My favorite is their pastillas de leche stuffit and their peanut butter driz.
15) CREPES – I like my crepes simple…happy na ako with Nutella. :) Crepes and Cream have very good varieties of crepes.
16) PANCAKES – I’m partial to Pancake House’s chocolate chip pancakes which are served with peanut butter. I also like Heaven and Eggs’ butter pancakes which are served 3 pcs. per order. Yum!
17) EGG TARTS – The Lord Stowe’s egg tarts are very good. Bread Talk comes as a close second. Dexter’s also has very good egg pies.
18) LECHE FLAN – Again, Lola Maria’s of The Legend Villa’s has very good home-made leche flan, and so does Bon Appetit and Cafe Bola. But, in my personal opinion, my late Nanay (my maternal grandma) makes the best leche flan. Thank God her daughters, my Tita Luming, Tita Doris and Tita Baby inherited her leche flan making skills.
19) UBE – Lola Maria’s makes it to my list again. If my mom’s sisters can make drop-dead-delicious leche flans, her brothers, my Tito Paquito and Tito Dingo, can make a mean home-made ube. Ube is so labor intensive in that you have to stir it until its the right consistency and until your arms are numb. My Daddy Maciong (my late maternal grandad) and my late Dad used to be tag-team ube stirrers when I was a still a kid. My lolo’s brother, Tatay Turing, is also an ube expert (wala na rin siya :) ).
20) COOKIES – I’ve acquired a special liking to my sister-in-law’s favorite, Chewy Chips Ahoy. :) Mrs. Fields also has very chew chocolate chip cookies. And there’s another commercial brand, which I think is called Chips Deluxe which has the chewy stuff. Yum.
I know there are many more dessert finds out there. These are just the ones I could easily recall.
Now, I gotta go get a bag of chips. All this talk about sweets has made me a little suya. Haha. :)