A surprisingly good cheesecake and a tiramisu that might make me change my mind about this dessert.
As I go about my Christmas shopping, I’m keenly aware of the glittering lights and the array of edible treats offered at this time of the year. Because I’ve decided to delve into discovering more sugar free goods, I look for them while I’m out and about, and I’m thrilled to find them in cafés and restaurants. These are the things I can enjoy ‘on the fly’ without having to order them in advance.
UCC Coffee Café Terrace
This Japanese coffee shop is one of my go-to places when I desperately need a sugar fix and it’s (most often) late at night. Like an addict, I scan the gleaming chiller, the cakes beckoning. I’ve been craving for cheesecake lately, probably because I’ve been fulfilling Christmas promises to certain people in my life who demand only one thing: my cheesecake. Now I want it too but I want something that I haven’t made.
UCC’s Splenda-sweetened cheesecake is charmingly called Sugar Free Blueberry Cake (above;P245). I think that it might be a type-o on my receipt because there’s only one cake of this sort and it comes with a strawberry cream not blueberry. It’s a piddling matter because this cake is divine. Intensely creamy, the first bite leaves a blush of sweetness that blooms in the mouth. I’m learning that this sweet aftertaste is a characteristic of Splenda, and it’s infinitely better than the metallic end note of other sweeteners. This cheesecake’s smoothness is delicately interrupted with pebbles of what I believe to be ricotta. Enriched with milk, the ricotta’s richness echoes the cream cheese, amplifying the cake’s lush texture and lightness. Try one bite alone, and then another dipped into the strawberry cream.
There’s another quirkily albeit redundantly named dessert at UCC, the Sugar Free Splenda Tiramisu (P295). No one is more surprised than me to find out that I like it, considering that this dessert is on my list of desserts I don’t like. But what’s not to like about a sponge cake accented with coffee, its moist crumb further moistened by dips in espresso, bookended with layers of mascarpone mousse anointed with Marsala? That it’s scattered with shards of dark chocolate and then showered with cocoa powder is a delicious plus.
At all UCC Coffee Shops, UCC Café Terraces, and UCC Vienna Cafés
Art’s Cream Gallery
It has a unique concept – a reinterpretation of an ice cream parlor while incorporating elements of an art gallery. Its similarly unique name – Art’s Cream Gallery – is equally thought provoking: what is a cream gallery? But when I look at their core product, gelato, it makes sense. A look at their website shows that their many stores are indeed quite artfully decorated, but their Robinson’s Magnolia branch is sparse by any stretch.
Still, this place is always full on the occasions that I’m here, their Waffle Cones and Banana Split Grandes seem especially popular. My friend, Mahar, likes the Toblerone gelato, chunks of this nougat bar mixed into an unusual coffee base. I’ve always ordered the Sugar Free Chocolate Chip Gelato that has enough of the cookie it’s named for to keep me happy. “Can’t believe it’s Splenda!” Mahar remarks between (large) spoonfuls, averse as he is to anything sans sugar. The gelato is occasionally icy but I blame that more on transport issues than on the quality of the gelato.
In Cebu: Café Georg
In Cebu, I taste two things that instigate a paradigm shift: a pineapple upside down cake that henceforth turns me on to this dessert, and a salad – of all things – sweetened with Splenda. (!) The wonders will never cease on my discovery of all things sugar free.
The Mango Tahini Salad (P245) is a merry jumble of crisp vegetables – cucumber, jicama (singkamas) and lettuce tumbling with cashews for maximum crunch. Mango is the star here as its honeyed-citrus flavor rings through the dressing, Splenda- sweetened yogurt and tahini, a one-two tandem of tang and the smokiness of sesame seeds.