2011 New England Dessert Showcase

By Hairee Lee

This past Saturday, Sheraton Hotel near Hynes hosted the New England Dessert Showcase 2011. Even before you checked in there were platters full of baked goods outside the door and on bar-height tables. This was going to be a glutton-sugar-chocolate fest.

And if I never see another cupcake ever again, it'll be too soon. But more on that later.

Here are the highlights.

The Best In Show goes to...

BudiBar

Creator and president, Michael MacCarthy, pitches his bar as happy food. It will, he claims, improve memory and mood and energy level. I learn that he took courses in pharmacology at the Harvard Extension School and learned about superfoods at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC. He goes through the ingredients which he has on display in bowls.

Michael switched gears from being a top stock market time--managing $250 million, who was admitted to MGH back in 2004 as a stroke risk patient--to becoming this superfood bar maker.

I'm not really buying it and his ingredients seem like run-of-the-mill all-natural-energy-bar stuff. The one ingredient I haven't heard of is the chia seeds. Soaked in water, they look unappetizing: sticky, lumpy, brownish.

I try a piece of the bar and it's surprisingly fabulous. The chocolate and almonds are high quality and very fresh, and the moist, chewy texture from the chia and hemp seeds is super satisfying. My skepticism is tossed aside.

Michael envisions BudiBars as a great breakfast alternative. Ironic because when I give a sample to my boyfriend later that day, he says, "These would be perfect for breakfast. Not too big. I can eat it in a couple of big bites on the way to work. It's really good. I like it." I almost don't tell him that it's good for him because this is a man who will shun wheat thins because of "wheat" in the name. My boyfriend is also a surgical resident at MGH, which is another irony, because Michael switched gears from being a top stock market time--managing $250 million, who was admitted to MGH back in 2004 as a stroke risk patient--to becoming this superfood bar maker.

By far the most innovative and promising product at the New England Dessert Showcase in my book. And what's going to make it successful besides all the superfood stuff is that BudaBar tastes fantastic, which is the only thing I put down money for. ((Post Scriptum: Michael generously gave me a whole bag of samples, which I shared with my coworkers this morning. They loved it. So much in fact, they asked me afterwards for the product name and how much it costs.

I looked into it and seem that at the moment, you can only purchase them online for about $27 for 10 bars, which I think is totally reasonable for what you get. Think about how much you pay for that bagel egg and bacon sandwich or the carrot muffin or cherry danish you get with your coffee every morning. The stuff in the BudiBar will keep you going for a lot longer and helluva a lot better for you.))


Other highlights:

Golden Cannoli

These guys made the giant cannoli that greets me the moment I walk into the exhibition hall. I want to reach over and pluck one of the chocolate chips off and see if it's real. I opt for the miniature cannolis that the Bresciani brothers, Eric and Edwin, are pipping the ricotta cannoli cream right there in front of you.

These guys work fast but the cannolis are picked off their platters even faster.

I manage to grab one and I get it; they're amazing. The shells, which is what the comapany specializes in and is famous for, are crunchy and buttery. The cannoli cream is also nothing to laugh about although it does make me want to giggle with pleasure.

Eric or Edwin, not sure who's who, tells me, "We make over 100,000 cannoli shells a day."

batch

Ice cream making women, Susie and Veronica, are good at what they do. The ingredients list is what makes their ice cream special: absolutely, totally natural. They don't even use vanilla extract, but opt for the bean instead. If you want ice cream made 100% form scratch, Batch is it.

I try their most unusal flavor--cinnamon & chocolate bites--and it's awesome. Especially for the fall with the spice. Veronica's favorite is the chocolate so she give me a sample of that. It's good, but the cinnamon will be the one I'll pick up at Whole Foods at Fresh Pond or Savenor's in Somerville. For a complete listing of their retailers, check out their web site.

Kueh

A totally local and passion driven dessert cook named Florence makes kueh, the name of her company and a kind of Singaporean dessert. She's about the age of my grandmother and she makes some fantastic sweet rice cakes, Singapore style. This was the only entry of it's kind amongst a room filled with cupcake, after cupcakes after boring, snoring, I-could-make-this-crappy cupcakes

I am so over cupcakes. If I see another cupcake or some overpriced cupcake store or that cupcake truck at Harvard Square, I'm going eat a dozen of their dumbass cupcakes and promptly vomit on their doorstep or their bumper. That's how I feel about the totally yesterday, totally overrated cupcake craze that people are still going stupid gaga about.

Back to Kueh. The colors of the traditional dessert is appealing and it tastes great. Not to sweet and just the right amount of nuttiness and chewy texture. But I'm inclined to like this sort of thing because of my Korean background. I love Korean sweet rice cake desserts. But if you like to try new cuisins and/or you like rice cakes, Kueh does a great job.

The Food In My Beard

Is an unexpected entry into my top showings at the NEDS, because Dan ((I don't know his last name, but I'm assuming his beard's the one with food in it)), creator and chief blogger of The Food In My Beard, doesn't actually have a booth.

It's a food blog.

Rather, he provided the nibblies for the Just Add Cheese booth, a blogging duo of Jacki Morisi and Michell Zippelli called Peach Habanero Dessert

Jacki and Michell's blog declares Dan's dessert as best in show. And dang did Dan come close. Want to know how good it is? Try making it at home with the recipe available on his blog. Hey says it's easy.

Rago Events

Owner and table stylist, Maria Rago Cohan, has the best display at the showcase, hands down. It shouldn't come as a surprise, I suppose, since she specializes in dessert buffets.

In business with her is O'Sugar! Cakery. They provide all the baked goods for Rago Events. Bring the baker and the stylist together and they have a wonderland for the eyes and mouth, the sort of thing I imagined before I got to the showcase, something akin to a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I especially like a bright pink bonbon looking cake by O'Sugar. I'm not sure what's in it. It just tastes damn good despite the fact that the pink is carcinogenic pink. I spy a girl with a white paper bag, throwing in one, two, four of these pink things and scurrying away before anyone can stop her. Knowing what they taste like, I can't blame her.