Abi Balingit spends her days promoting concerts for her job in the music industry, a role, which like for so many others, has had to shift to the needs of the current nightlife landscape. She used to come home from her daily commute into Manhattan and used baking as a way to unwind, finding herself making treats at dusk. Now, working remotely from home, she’s launched The Dusky Kitchen, a nod to her former commuter life, that is part-food blog, part-way to sell her baked goods for the first time and share them with a new audience.
Though Balingit is not a baker by trade, she’s learned about making Filipinx desserts from her mother, who, she tells Time Out New York, like so many homecooks, “doesn’t write down the recipes.” Next month, Balingit will offer treat boxes filled with modern spins on Filipinx flavors (drawing upon other pan-Asian ingredients along the way), such as ube puto with cheese, mini peach-mango pies, black sesame cinnamon rolls with a matcha crème fraîche glaze, horchata bibingka, strawberry polvoron and pork floss-miso caramel brownies. The treat boxes—called pasalubong, which is Tagalog for souvenirs—cost $25 for six treats with an option for delivery. Much like the “Boocha Bear” kombucha makers over in Ridgewood, these pastry treats have a charitable mission. Fifty percent of proceeds will go to Bed-Stuy Strong, a local mutual-aid network of “over 3,000 people from across Bed-Stuy who are supporting the community during the COVID-19 crisis with contact-free grocery delivery to vulnerable neighbors,” she says. Balingit is a Bed-Stuy resident and wanted to use her skills to give back to a group that has been working to help the neighborhood during the pandemic.
Right before COVID changed New York, Balingit was able to travel to the Philippines for a family gathering. And though some Filipinx ingredients, she says, can be hard to find in her neighborhood, companies like Southeast Asia Food Group have made sourcing ingredients much easier with delivery during the pandemic.
“There’s so much stigma around fusion in recipes,” she says. “I feel really passionate about giving credit where credit is due. I am not here to bastardize these ingredients—I want to pay homage to flavors I grew up with—but I also want to repackage them for a younger, Gen Z audience and the kind things I know my friends would like to eat,” that is, she says, without making it feel like it’s only trying to appeal to a white palate.
While restaurants like Maharlika and Jeepney put new-wave Filipinx food on the New York map, the cuisine has remained largely underrepresented at new restaurants in the city. Nevertheless, there is a fervent, growing Filipinx pop-up scene happening in NYC right now that has afforded more space for the community. Earlier last month, Hunky Dory restaurant owner Claire Sprouse invited caterer Woldy Reyes to do a takeover for Philippines Independence Day and today, Sprouse is hosting another Filipinx pop-up called Flip Eats. Elsewhere in the city, Jessica Joan has been crafting colorful kakanin (rice treats) to raise money for organizations like GLITS and Philippines bail funds. And, lastly, in Woodside, Queens pastry chef Kimberly Mcamara has been making stunning Filipinx-inspired donuts. We're excited to see this scene develop even further.
DM The Dusky Kitchen on Instagram to place an order for her upcoming pop-up. There will be more coming soon if the desserts are sold-out.
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