Being exposed to the food industry, I’ve come to recognize and know (my) food. They begin to imprint themselves in my memory, not just taste-wise, but also in appearance. Thus, it’s easy to tell just by looking, that this cake came from this shop and this bread came from that shop. Most quality food stores earn by supplying desserts to a restaurant, for example, since doing it in-house requires additional investment and another kitchen altogether.
Recently, I was at Café Xocolat, a new coffeeshop at the Greenhills Promenade that I have yet to blog about. I only had to take one look at their pastry display to know: this place sources their desserts from Goodies & Sweets, a pastry shop that also has a branch in Greenhills. The ube cake, tiramisu, and turtle pie were identical to those also sitting in Goodies & Sweets’ own display case. I was also familiar with the caramel-chocolate swirls and cake chunks on Café Xocolat’s brownies: those were made by Divine Desserts, another pastry shop along White Plains in Quezon City.
About 10 minutes after we had ordered the chicken-brie sandwich, I turned unexpectedly and happened to spy one of Café Xocolat’s waiters strolling in from the outside carrying a plastic shopping bag from Bizu, the French patisserie situated just a jaunt away. Inside the bag was the panini to be used for the sandwich we had just ordered.
After what I had already seen, I slumped in my seat and thought, “Alright, desserts from one place, bread from another. Is there anything that Café Xocolat makes for themselves?” Of course they do make some of their own food, which the server told me “comes from the commissary.” But alot is sourced out.
lemon torte from Classic Confections
This incident made me think of the other places whose desserts I identify as coming from somewhere else. Popular pastry supplier Classic Confections supplies the cakes of Segafredo and Press Café, the coffeeshop of Fully Booked bookstore. With a heavy made-to-order business, both for homes and restaurants, Classic Confections’ er, confections are recognizable everywhere. The white frosting on their Lemon Torte and Banana Cream Pie, and the polka dot chocolate band on their Chocolate Mousse is distinctively theirs.
The desserts of Purple Oven, a pastry supplier in Ortigas, are also frequently seen in coffee houses. Purple Oven used to make the walnut bars and pecan bars sold at Starbucks up until a few years ago. They were the favorite of plenty, including me ”“ a thick short crust, and a sticky filling with nuts that seemed to get less and less as time went by. Fans of these cookies wailed when they were pulled out of Starbucks, but behold! they’ve been available for the past two years at Baang! (pronounced ”˜bang’), a coffee shop along Tomas Morato. How do I know those bars are from Purple Oven? Those ruler-straight edges are un-mis-ta-ka-ble.
The supplier of the oversized chocolate chip cookies at Gloria Jeans’ Coffees also supplies Café Xocolat. The largeness and rounded edges of those cookies are dead on.
So, do I think all this is bad, perhaps detrimental to the enjoyment and variety of dessert lovers in Manila?
Yes and no.
No, it’s not bad because if a pastry supplier makes good desserts, it’s only natural that they’d make good business. I for one, wouldn’t mind if all the banana cream pies I ordered in coffeeshops would taste like the one from Classic Confections. It’s one good pie.
Still, I feel that relying on the same circle of pastry suppliers can backfire on both the supplier and the restaurant they supply to. First, no matter how delicious a dessert is, there’s such a thing as “too much of a good thing” ”“ people get fed up. Imagine if the same desserts greeted you every time you went to a different coffeeshop or restaurant. Once or twice is fine, but after that, you’d start to dread the next cake that comes your way. Soon, that great dessert becomes “so yesterday.” It doesn’t help either that these cakes always look the same in all the places they supply.
There’s also such a thing as “taste fatigue,” when the taste buds have become so sated with the same flavors that it can’t be appreciated anymore. Perhaps these pastry suppliers can look into changing the look of their desserts for the different places they supply ”“ a different type of piping or another mold perhaps (consider individual square molds). You don’t have to change the recipe, just the way it looks. Or why not take a chance on new suppliers? There’s a wealth of good baking talent in Manila, much of it underrated and underexposed. I have some bakers I’d like to see get some glory.
These are just suggestions. I’m shooting from the hip here because I don’t know how viable my ideas would be, I don’t run a business after all. Still, I am a consumer.
Tastewise, all these pastries are fine, but I just don’t want to know that I’m eating yet another cake from Goodies & Sweets when I’m at Café Xocolat, or some other new place. It’s like I never left the old place, and only the ambience changed.