Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sans Rival Shootout

A slice from Red Ribbon on the left, a silvana from Goldilocks on the right.

Sans Rival.

Nothing warms my heart more than this classic Filipino dessert. It's what I grew up dreaming about. Crispy sweet, baked meringue layered with sugared butter and chopped cashews. Immense. So good and so desired that for many years I was forbidden to eat it. It's that good.

As I got older and started leaving the nest of home for the great expanses of the world, my dreams of Sans Rival went with me. During my years in Hawaii, I would have the odd occasion to sample it here and there. Then I started traveling to the Philippines and found it occasionally there as well. Typically, I'd find it in the form of something called "silvanas," a sort of mini-Sans Rival. One of the best I found there was at a cafe called Figaro.

Fast forward to today. I haven't had Sans Rival in at least a year. Last year, we introduced the Sans Rival to our customers at The Spro. It sold decent numbers and we'll re-introduce it again this fall. I can't wait.

But today, we've decided to have a Sans Rival Shootout.

In Manila, one of my favorite bakeries is Red Ribbon. I just love their ham and cheese ensaymada. It's killer. In fact, whenever someone comes to visit from the Philippines, I always ask them to bring me a few. Please. Some people are fanatical about Goldilocks, but for my money, I prefer Red Ribbon.

While driving around Cerritos, I spotted the Red Ribbon and we stopped in to see if they had the ham and cheese ensaymada. No luck. Evidently, they just don't make the ham and cheese ensaymada in America. Bastards. But they do make Sans Rival and for eleven bucks you can have one to take home.

How could I say no?

With Sans Rival in tow, we pressed on and happened upon the local Goldilocks. Unlike Red Ribbon, they make ham and cheese ensaymada in the United States, but you've got to get here early because they sell fast. Too late for us. And while they also sold whole Sans Rival cakes, I thought that bringing home two would just be gluttony - even though it was in the name of science. We opted for the small, single serving Silvana instead.

Back at the house, it was time to put these two rival Sans Rivals head to head. Which one would prevail? Freshly brewed coffee was at hand and we were ready with our forks.

The Silvana from Goldilocks had more of a dry texture. Crumbly with a light sweetness but a waxy finish. The Sans Rival from Red Ribbon had a more pronounced butter flavor but also a light sweetness. It's meringue texture was softer and slightly chewy.

Truth is, both had their pluses and minuses, but neither emerged as the definitive leader.

To my mind, the perfect Sans Rival features chewy layers of baked meringue, with just a slight crisp resistance and is layered with sweet butter frosting that leaves a clean finish on the palate and some bits of cashews to chew on. It's addictive and evil in it's intent to lure you to continue eating the whole thing. It's sinful pleasure that you fantasize about after without guilt because you covet it so.

Someday, I'm going to find Sans Rival perfection. Until then, I'll be forced to make it at home.

Red Ribbon Bakeshop
11900 South Street 106
Cerritos, CA 90703

Goldilocks Bakeshop
11489 South Street
Cerritos, CA 90703

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