I’m writing this on a massive sugar high after the delicious SWOT dessert-off which was held at The Lantern Chinese restaurant today. All my dietary good intentions evaporated in the face of the likes of Ferrero-Rocher Brownies and Mini Sticky Toffee puddings. Admittedly this was pretty much what I expected when I decided to attend SWOT’s third such event.
SWOT is one of Karachi’s biggest Foodie groups on Facebook, with almost 8000 members. It’s an open forum for members to review all sorts of commercially available food in Karachi and is a great place to get honest feedback from like-minded people on restaurants and caterers. Whether you’re craving halva poori or sushi, there’ll be foodies ready to point you to the best in Karachi.
|So many delicious things to choose from|
The SWOT dessert-off is an event aimed at promoting home based bakers and caterers. Basically participants bring in two or three desserts in bite-sized portions and people pay Rs500 a head to try the desserts and vote for their favourites. The top three bakers share all the proceeds. It sounds like a dessert-lovers dream come true, especially as some of the best bakers in Karachi work from home. In actual fact it is pretty amazing. There were lots of yummy desserts to try from some fabulous bakers. The trouble is that to rate the participants, you have to try everything. After the fourth or fifth dessert even the sweetest tooth starts to feel less enthusiastic. After the eleventh or twelfth, tasting can become a little taxing. Still everyone persevered as the participants had made a fantastic effort and for the most part even when your stomach was saying “no”, your eyes were saying, “yes”!
By all accounts this year’s dessert-off was a little smaller than previous years’, with only seven participants. However with two or three desserts each, there were still enough desserts to make tasting everything a challenge. Bearing in mind that we eat with our eyes, the marks were split equally between presentation and taste.
Presentation varied wildly from the very polished to basic home-style. Taste-wise, the competition was much closer as the overall standard was very high.
|Lovely presentation by Smackin’ Treats|
Smackin’ Treats were undoubtedly the best when it came to presentation, with perfect little desserts on a lovely little black and white baroque stand and lovely sparkly little labels with the names of the desserts. They had made strawberry chocolate mousse tarts, lemon poppy seed cakes and pistachio white chocolate truffles.
|Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes|
All three looked simply wonderful but the mousse lacked the chocolate hit and texture I was looking for. The lemon poppy seed cupcake was delicious, wonderfully lemony but could have been a little lighter. The balance of flavours was almost perfect, but Smackin’ Treats was up against some pretty stiff competition. They eventually took third prize.
|Taha’s Chocomania was the winner of the competition|
|Oriental Dessert by Taha|
The ultimate winner was Taha’s Choco Mania whose desserts also looked incredibly professional, little pieces of perfection that simply screamed “eat me”. Their oriental dessert was deceptively simple cup of fruit and custardy cream but it was simply sublime. The “custard” was actually a yoghurt based gelatine concoction but you would have sworn it was cream. It was light, fresh and not too sweet; a million miles from the packet custard monstrosities you find on buffets and the perfect foil to the fresh strawberries and kiwi. Taha also offered some deeply chocolately Ferrero Rocher brownies. He is somewhat famous for his brownies and rightly so as these were totally yum, rich and intense. His lemon Philly cheesecake bites were also pretty good, but I’m not a great fan of set cheesecakes. Give me the New York style baked cheesecakes any day.
My personal favourite participant of the day was Mad Hatter’s Tea Room who won second place in the competition. Roomana Nasir of MHTR had brought in Mini Sticky Toffee Puddings and Mini Chocolate covered choux buns filled with Crème Patisserie.
|Runner-up Mad Hatter’s Tea Room offered Sticky Toffee Puddings with extra sauce – my favourite dessert of the day!|
|Delicious Choux buns by Mad Hatter’s Tea Room|
The presentation was simple but polished. I particularly liked the little candle burner of extra sauce for the sticky toffee puddings. What I loved however was taste. The choux pastry was simply perfect as was the crème patisserie. The mini sticky toffee puddings were possibly the best dessert of the day. Subtly spiced and light, with a lovely warm toffee sauce they were out of this world. I even went back for a second one at the end, which just shows how good they were because by that point even my sweet tooth was ready to wave a white flag.
Another participant whose desserts tasted incredible was Mikashes Kitchen, who in fact won a token prize. Mikashes lost out on presentation, as their desserts looked very amateurish and obviously homemade. Their Sandtorte was a home-style confection of fresh fruit biscuit and cream that tasted lovely but attracted few because it simply looked like a dish of cream. Mikashes delight was a lovely rich desi-style cooked milk dessert, somewhere between a halva and a barfi. It was studded with nuts and coconut and was simply delectable. It would have been nice if it could somehow have been presented in bite-sized pieces in pretty wrappers.
Naghma’s cakes looked very pretty although the cupcakes did need a little more care during transportation.
|Naghma’s blueberry cheesecake tasted marvellous|
Her blueberry cheesecake was light and tasty and looked wonderful too. It was very moreish and I would have gone back for more if I hadn’t already been stuffed to the gills.
Nibbles and Cupcakeology hadn’t yet made it to the event when I left at 5 o’clock so I have no pics or review of them. The event was originally billed as starting at three, though this was later amended to 4 so really all participants should have been there by that time. I was told that both did arrive later but it would have been nice if they had been punctual enough to give everyone a chance of sampling their wares.
Overall SWOT’s dessert off was a great chance to try out some new bakers and confectioners. It wasn’t quite what I expected however considering that SWOT is such a large foodie group. I would have loved to see some of the more senior home based bakers and caterers showcasing their wares too. Among others I really missed Aysha Jamil of Sprinkles and Fatemah Rawjiwho are the people I would order from if I wanted something that looked and tasted “wow”. I would also have liked to try things from some of the people SWOT members’ recommend on the group; bakers like Mavmade and The Anti-CupcakeSociety.
|Philly Lemon Cheesecakes by winner Taha|
My other crib is that, while The Lantern staff was very accommodating, it wasn’t perhaps the best choice of venue for the event. The restaurant is a tiny intimate restaurant and for an event like this you really need more space. It also doesn’t serve tea or coffee so it was impossible to order the perfect foil to all those yummy cakes. Some people were happy to order hot spicy starters to counterbalance the delicious desserts on offer. However, I really felt short changed in not being able to savour a cappuccino with my sticky toffee pudding and a light refreshing tea would have been the perfect palate cleanser between tastings. I hope next time the event is at a venue that offers a full range of hot beverages so everyone can order their own perfect match to all goodies on offer.
That said, it was a fun and delicious event and I met some wonderful, passionate home bakers that will definitely make in into my phonebook. Well done SWOT. I’ll be sending you the bill for my upgraded gym membership. My poor waistline may never recover.
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