Displaying Block Of Filtered Products

I don't like the way you many Hot Products / Featured Products because it requires the store manager to go into the layout editor. It seems far more intuitive if designating hot / featured products were done in the Product manager! I don't want store managers potentially screwing up the layout.

Is there not a block you can use, specify a product filter, and it shows those filtered products in a grid? That way you can designate which products are featured through Products > Features instead of through the layout editor.

So for the block you need to be able to specify which filter and the filter selected value.

Possible? How?

The only way I see - is to create new block with "most popular" and change popularity value on the "update product" pages. If it is not suitable for you, additional code modifications are required