Friday, April 19, 2024

Tastesetters Victors Night: Celebrating Innovations in the Food and Beverage Industry


April was said to be the month when Filipino food is celebrated, and what a way to keep it alive and remarkable than having one at the Tastesetters Victors awarding night at the Yuchengco Museum last April 11, 2024.  It was when Tastesetters brought together culinary experts and enthusiasts to celebrate the innovations that continue to push the food and beverage industry forward. 

Tastesetters believes that food is a work of art, which is why they have chosen the snazzy Yuchengco Museum to be the setting of the event. By combining complex flavors and intricate plating techniques, gastronomic masterpieces are created that surprise and delight the senses. They also partnered with local artists Mario “Ram” Mallari Jr., Nina Bantoto, and Bimbo Yance, bassist of The Dawn, who generously exhibited their skill and expertise that commemorate the creativity that food and art share. 

Upon my  arrival, I was greeted with cocktails at the outdoor reception area.  Sweet and savory creations were served to set the tone for the evening.  Next to the registration table was a dirty ice cream stand, which I thought was just there to amend for the heat, it was actually a unique treat that transcends all your understanding of the ice cream.   I could'n stop myself trying out Manong Sorbetero’s Adobo Caramel Sorbetes with Pork Floss and Kare Kare Sorbetes with Tulip Dark Chocolate Paste and Jif Crunchy Peanut Butter.  They were absolutely and surprisingly yummy without being overwhelming.  the taste of savory melds in perfectly with the sweetness from the featured ingredients.  Had Chef Sonny not told me about them I would not have tried them.

On to the appetizers such as Palabok in Pani Puri, using San Remo Angel Hair Pasta with Clara Olé Cream-based Pasta Sauce Crab Flavor, Kinilaw na Hamachi at Scallops with TABASCO Sriracha, and US Beef Belly Kansi, which were all=together impressive teasers for the feast to come.

At the main hall, the event started with Tastesetters displaying their expertise by speaking on the food and beverage innovations that they spotted. In the past years, they identified emerging trends that eventually made it big in the scene–like the dominance of matcha, the return of black-colored dishes, the craze for Korean cakes, and more. 

This year, they presented various upcoming innovations that will excite and inspire chefs and diners alike.

First is Gastronomic Artistry, which is the theme of the event. This interprets the plate as a blank canvas that encourages chefs to create illusions, illustrations, and even sculptures that turn dishes into awe-inspiring masterpieces. 

The second looks back on how Korean culture has increasingly influenced local industries, notably through its cuisine. Samgyeopsal and bingsu have become favorites, while ramyeon and kimchi are now pantry staples for Filipinos. The Next K-Wave invites culinary experts to discover the new ingredient, flavor, or dish that will be the next big sensation in the country. 

Tropical ingredients like coconut, mango, calamansi, and watermelon get the spotlight it deserves on the third trend. This invites industry leaders to get a Taste of the Tropics by incorporating these island elements into dishes in unexpected ways. 

Complex heat in food has slowly emerged through the years. From just challenging others with increasing intensity, this fourth trend creates a wider spectrum of spicy flavors up and down the spicy scale. Turn the Heat Up by being more clever in adding that more intentional kick of spice to food and drink.

Now is the opportune time to put Health on a Plate. This fifth trend rides on people’s shifting behaviors to, now, being more mindful about what they eat and put into their bodies. By swapping certain ingredients to go for more wholesome alternatives or indicating the calorie count of each item on the menu, restaurant owners can create healthy and refreshing plates that revitalize from the inside. 

Getting in on the Saucy Secrets may be easier said than done. With this sixth trend, popular dishes, like sisig, are remade into intriguing condiments. Its iconic flavors are taken from the sizzling plate and put into bottles that can be used as a surprising addition to other dishes. 

Lastly, Gourmet for All democratizes certain elements of upscale dining to create food that’s within the reach of a wider market. Fine ingredients like truffle and caviar are put into more accessible food like chips, instant noodles, fries, and more. 

After all the forecasted food trends were presented, the evening transitioned into the awaited degustation dinner. Created by Tastesetters’ very own Chef Sonny Mariano and Chef Wado Siman, the menu celebrated iconic Filipino cuisine. The chefs pushed the envelope further by adding surprising twists and flavors with SYSU products that updated these beloved dishes. 

The experience started off deliciously with the Benguet Corn Chawan Mushi and Reconstructed Tokwa’t Baboy with TABASCO Chipotle.  The above photo, which partially looks like sliced turon (sweetened banana rolls) evokes a staple Filipino savory snack with a hint of Mexican taste from the chipotle sauce.  While the other is inspired by the Japanese steamed egg custard but accentuated with truffle oil, which I truly enjoyed.

The guests, including  me dined salu-salo style enjoying reimagined Filipino classics such as Balamban Lechon Baboy seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning that had three sauces, including one made with Clara Olé Pineapple Jam.  It also included the "burong mangga" in local craft beer.  I went fancy over the three "sawsawan," as it was typical for us Filipinos to have one especially if we are eating with grilled or fried meat, in this case, the Cebu-based roast.  The addition of Clara Ole Pineapple jam gave the lechon an exquisite taste with the mix of sweet and tangy flavors, giving that Taste of the Tropic trend.

Making the feast healthier, the Adobong Pusit Adlai, was the absolute compromise from the regular rice dishes.  It was prepared using the Clara Olé Pasta Negra Sauce, and made more delightful with the Burrata cheese and tomato confit.  I love how it was presented, looking like a magical garden with a semblance of moss and edible florets, makes you really dig in for the priced carbs.

Of course, a meal course isn't complete without a vegetable dish, hence, Kare-Kareng Gulay, which was made with Jif Peanut Butter complimented with a vegan bagoong.  The addition of crispy pechay or Chinese cabbage was a game-changer.

A homage to the Quezon fiesta is this Seafood Habhab, the chefs' rendition of pancit habhab,  When the triangular bowl filled with vinegar was placed on the table, I instantly knew what was served next.

More meat dishes came in the form of saucy and vibrantly presented and executed manner.  If you think there's nothing more to do with Kaldereta as it is glorious in itself already, wait till I tell you how I enjoyed their version.  

The tender and succulent beef was rendered in Bugnay wine and it was evident they used US Short ribs cooked ala Bourguignon served with a yummy mash of sweet potato and carrot.  But wait, the experience was made more elevated with braised onions, making me remember Julia Child.

How about a different Chicken Inasal, something that is drenched in its own juice but with a citrusy flavor already?   Too bad, I was not able to try the crunchy chicken skin served with it.

The final course included a Cassube Flan, made with McCormick Ube Flavor, and a Cashew Mazapan, made using Embassy Chocolate’s Zen 33% White Couverture and McCormick’s Vanilla and Ube Flavors, intended to be eaten with the edible menus–much to everyone’s surprise. 

Once the guests were delighted by the feast, the much-anticipated awarding ceremony commenced. The Tastesetters team identified three nominees that embodied each of the five categories and one winner that stood out from the pack. 

First, the Rookie-Up and Coming award celebrated the businesses new to the Tastesetters scene. They are the ones to watch and are anticipated to make it big in the industry. While Lawson and Chick n’ Juicy were nominated, Mrs. G Cakeshop Corporation took home the custom trophy by artists Ram Mallari and Nina Bantoto. 

Second, the Operations Efficiency award highlighted establishments that optimized workflow, customer service, resource management, and the like. Binondo Foods Corporation clinched the award after being nominated with Waffle Time and Philippine Seven Corporation. 

The Marketing & Promotions award was up third with the nominees being Pho Hoa, Binondo Foods Corporation, and Frankie’s New York Buffalo Wings. This accolade puts marketing efforts front and center. Frankie’s New York Buffalo Wings ultimately won because of their impactful strategies that made waves online and offline. 

Being the bread and butter of Tastesetters, the Menu/Product Development award focused on those who create innovations that consistently impress their customers–whether they’re regulars or newcomers. Philippine Seven Corporation won the prize after being nominated with Bon Chon and Hopia King Bakery. 

Finally, Collaborator of the Year celebrates establishments that initiate productive partnerships, keep good supplier relationships, and more. Frankie’s New York Buffalo Wings and Hopia King Bakery were nominated alongside the category winner, Authenquick Foods Corporation. 

To close the event, Miss Sandy Cu, the Product and Business Development Head of SYSU International, led a toast to celebrate the coming together of industry experts and enthusiasts for an evening of impeccable food, beautiful pieces of art, and inspiring displays of innovation.

Stay tuned for exciting news on Tastesetters’ upcoming events, workshops, seminars, and more. Be the first to know when you follow Tastesetters on Facebook. For more information, visit their website. 


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