Dessert Goals: A Sprinkle of Smiles and a Nougat of Nostalgia
Nestled in between summer activities like beachside walks and late night bonfires is a sweet new addition: LA Dessert Festival. Upon entering the festival, you are welcomed by sweet aromas and colorful arches tacked with balloons saying “Yay,” “Dessert,” and “Party.” It's simply fun. This is exactly the vibe Liang Shi and Miraya Berke hoped for when planning the event. These longtime friends wanted to bring their favorite desserts together in one space. They have planned two dessert festivals in New York City and happily shared the sugary magic with the west coast on June 17, 2017. The festival boasts “Instagrammable moments” from the desserts to the decor.
By Riki Robinson
Photos courtesy of Dessert Goals
GR: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Liang Shi: My name is Liang Shi. My background is in creative direction and design.
Miraya Berke: I'm Miraya Berke. I’m an event planner and co-founder of Dessert Goals with Liang.
GR: Why desserts?
LS: Because dessert is always a good idea. Desserts are so fun to eat and they make me really happy. It's something that's nostalgic for people. When I was a kid, I always wished, “Oh my god, I just want to eat only desserts!” So we kind of created an event where there's permission to eat just desserts for an hour and a half and then you can go back to your normal day to day. This is the ultimate cheat day.
MB: Liang and I just really love desserts. We were friends and when we were in New York, we would eat dessert together. We realized there wasn't anything in New York that brought all of these amazing dessert vendors under one roof for a day. So we thought: Let's be the first to start it because people would love it just as much as we would. One of our things is: More eating, less walking. So it fits altogether.
GR: Do you have any favorites at the Dessert Festival?
LS: I love Gresescent’s ice cream bouquets. They're adorable and they taste amazing. At this point, Amazebowls is one of my favorites because that's the only thing I can eat that I don't feel bad about.
MB: The Peninsula Hotel made these decadent, decorated golden eggs that you get to smash open and there's peanut butter and jelly and whipped cream inside. It's just a fun experience where you're not just eating it. It's beautiful to take pictures of and you get to interact with it. Cookies are just my go-to, so I really like Milk Jar Cookies.
GR: Your festival was in New York and now in Los Angeles. What was that transition like?
LS: Miraya actually moved to LA a couple of months ago. We decided we wanted to expand and we thought LA would be an amazing city to do it in because there's such a variety of desserts here, just like New York. It's kind of our cheat way of getting all these amazing vendors so we don't have to drive around LA to eat at them. Now they're all here in one room and we've been eating everything.
MB: We've had two festivals in New York and this is our first in LA. The more we're doing it, the more we realize how passionate people are about dessert, especially in a new city. We thought, “Maybe LA is really health-conscious and people aren't going to want to come.” We realized that's not the case. People love desserts here just as much as New York. It's fun getting to be in this community of other dessert lovers and small businesses.
GR: What differences have you noticed between New York and Los Angeles?
LS: One of the main things we’ve noticed is that our LA vendors have more gluten-free and vegan options available, so that's really nice. Differences in terms of the event? Health permits here are so different. That's been one of our biggest learnings.
GR: Were you able to bring any of the dessert places from NY here?
LS: Yes, two of our vendors are from New York and one's actually from Salt Lake City. One of the two from New York is Jae NYC Eats, who makes artisanal twinkies. She calls them cakies because twinkies are trademarked. Ring Ding Bar is the other from New York. We’ve brought two of our bestsellers from New York here to Los Angeles.
GR: How did you find vendors in a new to the city?
LS: There are a lot of vendors that I've been following on Instagram or I have friends who travel to LA who post photos. We also had some vendors reach out to us. We went and tried and vetted them. We did a lot of research on Yelp and Instagram, just to make sure everyone was top notch before we let them into the festival.
GR: Has it been more challenging in Los Angeles?
LS: Getting the vendors has been just as easy as it is in New York. Everyone's super excited about the event and our vibe. We try to keep everything small and manageable so that there's no crazy lines. As far as people being interested for the event, they're just as excited. Our facebook page went viral and we have over 40,000 people interested in attending the event, but we only had 1,600 tickets.
GR: Did you sell out?
LS: Yes! We sold out in an hour.
GR: When I was walking around earlier I noticed that there's some really interesting fusion desserts. Do you find that to be particular to LA or was it also in New York?
LS: There are a lot of things coming here to the States now that are originally from Asia. I feel like that's starting to be a big trend. For example, Bolo makes pineapple buns with ice cream. That's brand new. I've never seen that before. In New York, we see a lot of Filipino flavors becoming popular. People actually know what ube is now and pandan is being used in a lot of things.
GR: Would you consider expanding to another kind of food?
LS: TBD. Our name right now is “Dessert Goals.” We've considered something along the lines of Ice Cream Goals or Cookie Goals, or Matcha Goals. There's so many! We could definitely do very specific goals.
MB: Just one category but people do really different things within that category.
GR: I was walking around the festival and I saw there is a piñata petting zoo. Can you talk about some of the non-dessert activities?
LS: One big part of our festival is to create beautiful, Instagrammable moments. We put a lot of thought into the decoration. The theme for this one was inspired by LA. It's our first time doing Dessert Festival in LA and we took inspiration from the beach, LA vibe. Then going down to the piñata district we were like, “Oh my god, we have to buy these piñatas.” So we have a bunch of these animals and thought, why don't we make a piñata petting zoo? We also created little vignettes of photo moments for people to take photos.
MB: I think a big part of the event is we didn't want it to feel like a standard food fest. So it's supposed to make you feel like a kid: really interactive, really fun, like a fun day out with your friends. In addition to eating, you might need some breaks in between, like photo ops. We have other food related activities. We have a salt bar with salty snacks as a palette cleanser between all the sweets. We tried to think of what you would want at different times of your dessert goals journey.
GR: What was your favorite dessert when you were younger?
LS: It wasn’t really a dessert. It's more of a candy. The white rabbit candies. I loved those growing up.
MB: I don't know what age counts as younger. Frozen yogurt has been a family outing thing we would do.
GR: I like what you said about how desserts let us reconnect with our childish side. What else do you do to connect with your inner kid?
LS: For the festival, we play 90s, early 2000s throwback music. It's all stuff that we love from our childhood. Another trend that we're noticing now in the food spaces is nostalgia. Now we're seeing vendors creating newer, better gourmet artisanal versions of desserts that I used to have in my childhood. I'm seeing twinkies we ate growing up and now there’s artisanal versions of it. Same thing with ring dings. We have the Ring Ding Bar here. It's a remake of the original ring dings but they are healthier and so much tastier. It makes it so much fun.
GR: What makes you nostalgic?
LS: Cereal, Spice Girls, and eating ice cream for breakfast.
GR: Are you able to blend what make you nostalgic with Dessert Goals?
LS: A trend right now is colorful things. There's fruity pebbles that are super colorful. I love our vendors who top their desserts with cereal. It's going back to that nostalgic trend in desserts.
GR: What's next for you?
LS: We are doing our next festival in New York on August 19th and 20th. That will be our 4th one in general and our third one in New York. We're looking forward to being back in LA next year!