I have a confession to make. I am a fan of reality TV. Okay, not all reality TV, but I firmly believe that some reality TV is better than other reality TV. For example: Top Chef is (was) an excellent example of reality TV that showcased brute talent, unfettered ambition, and improbable setups that lead to astoundingly inventive creations, much like its Bravo forebear, Project Runway.
Inevitably, all of this talent, ambition, and creativity leads many Top Chef contestants, winners or not, to open their own restaurants. Such was the case with Dale Talde, cheftestant on Season 4 of Top Chef, who opened an eponymous restaurant, Talde, and a pork-centric bar, Pork Slope, within the span of a year, both in Park Slope. Of course, Pork Slope has no dessert on offer. Talde, however, now has two: a newly developed chocolate pudding, and the standby classic, halo-halo.
For anyone who remembers this moment from Top Chef, the choice becomes a no-brainer.
Halo-halo it is.
Q: So what is halo-halo?
A: Halo-halo is a Filipino shaved ice dessert whose name translates to “mix-mix.” It is usually topped with fresh fruits and jellies, possibly some beans, probably some evaporated milk.
Q: So this is what you got at Talde?
A: Not quite. See picture below.
One of the problems with the halo-halo at Talde is that it isn’t listed on the menu, so when the waitress rattles off the fifteen or so distinct ingredients that comprise this dish, it’s hard to remember it all. This is problematic because, when you get your metal mixing bowl’s worth of halo-halo, you’ll probably have the same reaction my dining companions and I had: What is in there?
Aside from the shaved ice, some things are easy enough to make out. Sliced bananas, mango, pineapple, shredded coconut, and Cap’n Crunch cereal – the wildcard! – are thankfully identifiable. The herbal note of promised lemongrass is also easily distinguishable.
The rest becomes a guessing game.
If you look closely at the bowl, you can pick out some cloudy colored gelatin blocks. To me, they tasted like bricks of lychee. You’ll also notice lots of tiny white, green, and purple balls. The white ones had the consistency of mochi. The green and the purple ones were simply unidentifiable. After doing some reading, I have come to the revised conclusion that the jellies were more likely to be coconut, and the mochi was probably tapioca. But without the research, I would never have been the wiser. Anyone who knows anything about the rest, please! Enlighten me.
By the time we stirred everything together and ladled the concoction into individual bowls, the ice had melted down significantly, leaving us with something akin to elaborate yet questionable bowls of Cap’n Crunch. It was… weird. Not bad, but definitely bizarre.
The upside is that, compared to last week’s overpriced pudding, the halo-halo is a steal. For $8.00, you get a bowl large enough to feed four adults.
Would I call this a reality show prize-winning dessert? Probably not. Was it memorable? Definitely.