My earliest memory of dessert involved my birthday party, during which my parents took copious amounts of flash photography to commemorate their first child’s first birthday. The LA sunshine streamed through the windows while I was restricted by the tray table of my high chair, delighted with having my very own cake — a mini royal blue Cookie Monster ice cream cake. I could not contain my excitement and joyfully swung my legs back and forth, kicking my tray and the carefully decorated cake straight into my face. It was a delightfully cold mess that sparked my love for all all things colorful and sweet. Case in point, I made sure that my younger siblings shared my love of ice cream as soon as they could eat semi-solid foods (I’m the one lounging on the grass on the right).
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of helping Miraya Berke (Founder of Pop Productions) and Liang Shi (Creative Director + Experience Designer) launch Weekend 1 of Dessert Goals — Spring Disco at Sound River Studios in LIC. Dessert Goals brings together indulgence and discovery, featuring the best dessert vendors and tons of fun photo ops.
The day before the event, the hum of an electric balloon pump filling up silver mylar balloons accompanied the plink of silver wrapped candy settling into glass jars and the soft snips of scissors as fresh flowers were arranged in disco balls and vases.
Myself and several other volunteers ran around the warehouse unloading boxes from wooden pallets, constructing Instagram backdrops, and forming assembly lines to rapidly stuff gift bags with all sorts of goodies for the thousands of attendees that would be strolling through the space come Saturday morning. It was clear on all fronts that this festival is a labor of love, punctuated by bursts of excitement as the cold, empty warehouse transformed into a space bursting with silver accents and overflowing with flowers in keeping with the Spring Disco theme.
Miraya and Liang initially met through the women’s networking group Dreamers//Doers on Facebook when Liang posted about a dinner series she was hosting. Miraya applied and was invited to one of her curated dinners. After the dinner, the pair’s “first few friend hang-outs included desserts.” The duo said, “We would literally seek out fun dessert themed activities to do together, which is when we discovered there is a festival for everything in NYC, but somehow there wasn’t one for desserts — which is when Dessert Goals was born.”
Looking back at when Dessert Goals first got started, Miraya shared that “When we first started it was definitely more challenging getting vendors onboard than it is now. At first it was just an idea with a mood board of photos, so our first group of vendors really trusted us to see the event through.” Liang agreed, stating, “I think the craziest and hardest thing in the beginning was we absolutely went into this blind. It was honestly an idea that we hoped other people would like. We pulled from our own savings to book a venue, and kind of put it out there and crossed out fingers. Luckily, people loved the idea and trusted us to come to our first festival!”
Digging up early memories of her love for sweets, Miraya remembers her parents insisting on a healthy diet growing up, but shared one turning point: “I went to play at a friend’s house and there was a giant bowl of M&Ms and apparently I wouldn’t stop eating them. I don’t actually remember this, but my parents say [that moment] is when I got hooked on sugar and was always asking for M&Ms.”
Liang said her earliest memory of dessert is “A vivid image of being 2 feet tall and staring up at an ice cream counter with neon signs while with my mom. I recall being in awe at the bright lights and feeling excited to eat ice cream!” Nowadays, Miraya can never say no to a warm and gooey chocolate chip cookie and Liang loves strawberry shortcake with fresh cream.
The Veterans and The Newbies
During Saturday morning setup, vendors eagerly unloaded delicate pastries and touched up displays with flower petals, balloons, icing on cakes, and whipped cream, pocky sticks, and marshmallows on milkshakes. Cold temperatures and freezing fingers led Miraya and Liang to quickly usher several outdoor vendors inside to share their sugary confections in the warm and welcoming atmosphere.
As vendors put the final touches on their tables, I walked around chatting with them to see if they were returning guests or if this marked their first venture into the Dessert Goals realm. Both veterans and newbies were grateful and excited to share their creations with attendees, several even making exclusive creations for Dessert Goals and opting to premiere new flavors and sweets to a crowd that would enjoy them to the utmost. Liang shared, “We put a lot more energy and effort this year into making the event feel cohesive along the [Spring Disco] theme, from the music to the decor to even some of the custom desserts our vendors made.”
Chef Johan Halsberghe unveiled MOJO Desserts’ new Hazelnut Mousse on Day 1. The mousse is inspired by Belgian Pralines, small luxury bonbons filled with
hazelnut cream. Johan recalled being six years old watching his grandfather bake and going on to make his first batch of chocolate mousse when he was eight years old with his grandfather’s “simple, yet secret recipe.”
It was great to see returning vendors greeting each other and catching up throughout the day, sampling each other’s desserts with smiles and exclamations. As I chatted about recipes and shared their process for creating deliciously edible art perfect for any Instagram feed, many of the vendors shared their earliest memories of dessert. Julie from Salty Road chatted with me about cooking up her latest taffy and reminisced on the delicious pink Barbie cake her dad lovingly constructed when she was young. Becky from [Becky’s Bites (https://www.instagram.com/beckysbitesnyc/?hl=en) and I chatted about how as kids we definitely believed that dessert was the 4th meal of the day, while we dipped graham crackers and Teddy Grahams into sweet S’Mores cream cheese concoctions.
Heading down the line, I also stopped to chat with Morgan and Christine from Petee’s Pie Co. who remember their first chocolate frosties and ice cream cake, and Elsa from John & Kira’s chocolates who remembers being four or five years old, eating fresh cinnamon rolls at her great aunt’s house.
Across the room, Tiny Kitchen Treats and Sugar Monster showed up ready to slay any Instagram feed as first year vendors and were excited to share goodies with attendees. New Territories NYC produced mini milkshakes topped with generous amounts of whip cream and colorful marshmallows or flowers and spoke about how they wanted the whole shop and experience to represent childhood. Supermoon Bakehouse displayed row upon row of fresh and flaky drool-worthy pastries with flavors ranging from Passion Fruit to Matcha.
The Dessert Devotees
Attendees came decked out in green, silver, and flower patterned accoutrement, mixing in their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with the Spring Disco theme, and were hardly deterred by the cold weather. This marks the first Dessert Goals to have a theme and heralds the promise of exciting themed events to come in other cities.
As guests lined the street, weaving between large delivery trucks and battling blustering gusts of wind, smiles adorned scarf-wrapped faces as layers were quickly shed in front of the first of many beautifully constructed Instagram walls.
Bright and colorful accessories matched perfectly with colorful desserts and shiny displays. Attendees held up giant donut pool floaties, disco balls, and desserts as laughter rang throughout the space.
Adorable dogs scampered throughout the venue, exploring the room and posing for Instagram pictures and quick cuddles with other attendees. The canines brought just as much contagious energy to the venue alongside their owners. Even Puppy Named Charlie was in attendance, with both Charlie and Sawyer decked out in cozy knit millennial pink sweater vests and looking suave, the pups happily explored the venue and posed next to various desserts.
I chatted with several attendees about their earliest memories of dessert and while cupcakes, ice cream, and ice cream cake were in the majority, people shared heartwarming stories about home-baked recipes passed down from grandparents. Some friends even laughed looking back at how they used to try lots of different candies at each other’s houses because their parents tended to curb their sweet tooth when they were at home. Several people, myself included, recalled how we made Dirt Pudding Cups with crushed Oreos, chocolate pudding, and gummy worms in science class!
Miraya and Liang love seeing both new and returning attendees. According to Liang, “When people tell us what a great time they had and how excited they are to return, it just makes my heart warm up! Our whole intention of putting this event together is to create a fun experience that lights people up. When we hit the mark, it makes everything worthwhile!”
Clearly everyone in attendance shared an insatiable sweet tooth, eager to sample items throughout the space. Luckily, Miraya and Liang anticipated that despite their best attempts, sometimes there can be too many sweets! The Salt Bar outside, next to the ZICO Coconut Water and hot chocolate stand, offered a plethora of salty munchies to help attendees cleanse their palettes in between all the sugary highs. From cheese balls to pretzels, there were all manner of snacks to choose from and hard working volunteers kept refilling the
snacks in a steady stream while attendees were free to enjoy their desserts and snap pics of their treats in the StyleLink.It Disco Gram Garden presented by Planoly, or hold up their desserts up against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline out on the pier.
To sum it all up, Miraya and Liang say that “[Dessert Goals is] shamelessly instagrammable and we are all about indulgence (within reason — that’s why our tickets are only for 1.5 hours!) Our largest audience is by far millennial women. We wanted to create something that appealed to us, which is probably why other millennial women love the event and branding too!” Both Miraya and Liang are already looking forward to a sold out Weekend 2 and are excited to continue enjoying desserts with people from all over NY.
The Heads Up
Where might these lovely ladies be uniting dessert lovers next? They’ll be back in LA for a 2-day festival in July and back in NYC again in October! Next on their radar is San Francisco, but after that the possibilities are endless!