Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

Magnum White King
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Where The Eating is Down Home Good

posted by in Continental, Restaurants

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I have utmost respect for the readers of Dessert Comes First. A lot of them come here for suggestions on where to eat and in turn, I receive a lot of emails and texts on what they’d like to see featured on the site. In the span of a week, I received numerous emails to feature a restaurant called Mom & Tina’s Bakery Café along Libis: “… come and visit this place…we absolutely love eating here because of the food, ambience and the service, and oh, did I mention the food?” goes one email, while another one a few days later reads: “I think Mom and Tina’s is really homey and laid back, para ka lang kumakain sa bahay ng Tita”. I trust the veracity of these claims and I can assume that the email senders aren’t in any way connected to one another so off to Libis I go.

at Mom & Tina's Bakery Cafe

I’m familiar with Mom and Tina’s Bakery Café since I’ve driven by it a few times in the past few months. Its country American motif is difficult to miss even from the outside and it looks like a place I’d want to settle in for a few hours. I remember they started out as a stall beside Panciteria San Jacinto which is in the same compound. That stall sold baked goods (courtesy of Tina) and early American crafts (courtesy of Mom, aka Belen Torres), thus Mom & Tina’s. “I’ve always liked to bake,” Tina Santos (née Torres) tells me. “Mom used to bake every afternoon and she was the one who taught me [how to bake]. She started me on a cake mix and we soon progressed to other things. I started selling desserts from the house and Mom would do her crafts.”

at Mom & Tina's Bakery Cafe (3)

at Mom & Tina's Bakery Cafe (4)

The stall was home for 10 years until just last March when the stall-slash-little shop moved to its roomier digs next door; thus Mom and Tina’s Bakery Café was born. It’s stayed true to its early American interiors (“We got all the décor from Mom’s house,” Tina chuckles) accented with specially made wooden counters, display cases, and flooring. I’m drawn to the little cabinet with glass sides lettered with “Mom & Tina’s Freshly Baked Pies” on the front; and I especially like the relaxed blue couches. Indeed, relaxed is the ultimate feel of this café. In spite of the lunch rush, the overall volume of the room is almost a pleasant hum. “Acoustics,” Tina says pointing to the ceiling.

at Mom & Tina's Bakery Cafe (5)

Blackboards hung on the walls announce the café’s specials — Caesar salad (P160/P85), Paella (P140), Lasagna (P100), Roasts (pork, turkey, beef; P155-P245) – but that’s not all. A wide menu offers everything else from Shepherd’s Pie (P105) and Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich (P195), to Rib-eye Steak (P265). Definitely home-cooked food served in bountiful portions priced most reasonably. “We serve only what we like to eat,” Tina proclaims.

steak and salad

kani salad

My pleas to Tina not to serve me too much fall on deaf ears. The amount of food that arrives at my table and — just for me! – is staggering. The Caesar Salad has enough dressing (homemade) to satisfy me with plenty of large croutons for crunch. I squeal in glee at the Mango Kani Salad (P160/P85), a Japanese-Filipino collaboration. Strips of kani (processed crab sticks) and mango slivers alternate on a bed of greens with generous squirts of Japanese mayonnaise. Shredded nori wrappers garnish this salad that’s a meal in itself.

ribeye steak

lasagna

I’d like to finish both salads but I have other dishes waiting to be tried. The Rib-eye Steak (P265) lacks its characteristic amount of fat but I can’t complain especially since the meat is unfailingly tender with that particular “liquid seasoning” taste that Filipinos love. I’m amazed and delighted when Tina tells me that her meats come from a local purveyor. The Chicken & Spinach Lasagna (P105) comes in a large ramekin perfect for individual servings. While the chicken is not immediately detectable, I admire the way the spinach has been chopped so finely making it appear like the noodles are flecked instead of layered with it. Possessing enough sauce and that orange oil that all good lasagnas should have, it’s at once pleasing and comforting. Note the cute spiral rolls that come with it.

roast turkey with all the fixins'

I’m a big sucker for roasts so it’s no surprise that my favorite dish is the roast turkey (P245). I normally consider turkey a boring meat – dry and insipid – but at Mom & Tina’s it’s roasted in such a way that it remains moist, even the white meat. I appreciate that I’m given slices of the stuffing, my absolute favorite part that I eat together with heaping spoonfuls of the cranberry sauce. The meat’s flavor suggests nutmeg and a medley of other spices. I hear a calming melody. Served with mashed potatoes, corn, and rice, this is a true bang-for-buck meal.

As I eat, I enjoy my conversation with Tina, who keeps me company. She’s a fair-skinned soft-spoken woman with a most attractive sprinkling of freckles across her nose. While I desperately try not to look like someone eagerly stuffing her face, I ask her what it’s like having her own place. “Oh, it was a nightmare at first,” she laughs at the recollection. “So many things that needed to be done. But now that things have settled down, it’s so fulfilling.” The restaurant is truly a family affair not just in name. Aside from Tina who manages the cooking and baking done in the central commissary, other family members and a nephew, Miguel (Esguerra) who is the General Manager, is there to ensure that everything is working as it should.

When my plates are removed and I’m getting ready for dessert, Tina tells me that she’d like to open one more branch of Mom & Tina’s. “Perhaps in a mall or someplace with a lot of foot traffic.” Then she muses on whether she’ll still accept orders this Christmas. “Having your own restaurant is like working non-stop. There are a million and one details.” Catching me looking longingly at the desserts, she smiles and says, “We focus on American desserts like pies and stuff. What would you like?”

mini pies

Oh, just about everything, I want to say. And I actually come close to that. We start talking about sugar free desserts so Tina has me try her Mini American Apple Pie (P80) that boasts a gorgeous lattice crust and the Mini Mango Cream Pie. While both are sugar free it’s difficult for even me to tell that the desserts are devoid of sugar. The Mango Cream Pie especially has an utterly luscious cream base punctuated with bursts of mango.

My favorites
But now I want to try real desserts with sugar so I ask for the shortbread (P10), my absolute favorite cookie in the world. Glittering with sugar that provides crunch, it’s buttery and tastes a lot like Walkers Shortbread, those in the trademark red plaid cans. I try the other cookies (P8-P18) which don’t appeal to me as much; the shortbread’s my fave.

bar cookies

Among the bar cookies (P9-P20), I like the Mango Square (P11) the best. Mango preserves (or is it dried mango?) is layered atop a short crust covered with a light streusel that creates a sort of mosaic atop.

fudge cupcake

cupcakes

Seeing me spy the cupcakes (P11-P24), Tina tells me, “We’ve always had those, even before the trend. Those are the old recipes pa.” The cupcakes are divided in two, those with a golden (yellow) crumb and those that are brown (chocolate). Unlike the rainbow variety prevalent these days, there are only two kinds of icings used here, a marshmallow-like white icing and a divine fudge frosting that sticks to the teeth. The yellow cupcakes (carrot, chocolate swirl banana, mandarin orange butter, rum butter, butter, banana) have a fluffy crumb and are light in hand. So light are they that I can’t tell when my teeth sink past the celestial white icing and latch onto the cake itself. Before I know it, I’ve tasted my way through almost half a dozen cupcakes. The brown cupcakes are deep cocoa through and through and are heavier than their lighter counterparts. Tina tells me that the Chocolate Fudge is their bestseller.

I had my doubts about the cheesecakes (P90-P100) at Mom & Tina’s. It’s an expensive dessert to produce considering the price points of the other sweets. Thankfully, I am proven wrong. With a texture halfway between that of a baked and a no-bake cheesecake, it has enough density to quell a cheesecake craving, and I don’t feel like I’m eating air either.

Icebox cakes — think: ice cream cake — are very popular at this café. They however, remind me of trifles – a mishmash of cake and caramel and chocolate and graham crackers and other assorteds. I have a spoonful of the Choco Turtle Ice Cream Cake (P395 – 1.5 liter/P795 – 3 liter) and put it aside. There’s too much going on and no specific flavor that stands out. Not for me, this one.

I end my dessert tasting (er, splurge?) with one of only two Filipino desserts. Unassuming in appearance the Sansrival (P40/P550) is crispy, a mean feat to achieve in Manila’s humidity; cloaked in perhaps the best buttercream I have tasted – celestial and light, it almost dances on the tongue. While delicious, it’s layered too, too thickly – almost an inch across the top and half that in the middle. If they reduced the amount, this sansrival will give even the high end bakers a run for their meringue wafers.

at Mom & Tina's Bakery Cafe (1)

The Brazo de Mercedes (P30/P175) is a model of marvel, cushy in its meringue with oozing, gleaming yellow ends of yema, it’s something I’m coming back for next time. Ditto the carrot cake (P650) and the Chocolate Fudge Cake (P22/P525). Mom and Tina’s Bakery Café is the place to go to when you want to relive a time when life (and desserts) were simpler. Kick back on the couch, order yourself a roast dish, and afterwards, savor it with a dessert and some of their good strong coffee. Life can’t get any better. Or down home good.

Mom and Tina’s Bakery Café
106 E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave.
Bgy. Ugong, Pasig City
632. 914-0833

Acknowledgments:
Special thanks to Tina Santos, Miguel Esguerra, Emilio Esguerra, and to loyal Dessert Comes First readers Zee and Michelle – you know who you are.

26 Responses to “Where The Eating is Down Home Good”

  • Oh, we love this place! I think we’ve been there three times in the past month alone. Their seafood pesto, chocolate fudge cupcake, and ensaimada are among our favorites.

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  • wow! those pictures really make me crave and urges me to try them out. The place looks so homey! And the food all looked delectable. It’s an added bonus that they serve sugar free desserts!

    I just wonder how can I get to the place since I’m not familiar with the area.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  • The sweets look very enticing indeed, but the combination of the savoury dishes seems a bit awkward – turkey with gravy served with mashed potatoes (again with gravy), corn, and rice – too much carbs overload with little veggies – resulting in lack of different textures and flavour. Same with the rib-steak – the elements are all dry. The ambiance does look homey – I think I’d rather stick to their sweets and coffee and have my savoury dishes elsewhere..

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  • Sounds like a nice place to have lunch or dinner. I shall now suggest to my parents so we can try it out sometime :) thanks!

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  • hi
    i am a regular reader of your blog
    i just love going through your lovely blog for your writing and your fabulous photographs.
    i really appreciate the way you click the photos and make them come alive in front of our eyes. Through your lens i can travel to all those places where i would love to visit but might never be able to.
    Thanks again and keep up your goody goody work.

    bye
    mahek

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  • My mom has been a fan of Mom & Tina’s since the “stall” days, and the cupcakes were pretty much a staple around the house. The mandarin orange cupcake is something else, and I must admit I’m guilty of taking an extra swipe of the “celestial white icing” even after I’ve reached my dessert quota. Your photo of the kani salad is wonderful…that really looks like a must-try!

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  • wow! can’t wait to try the sugar free apple pie!

    thank you – you see, i pass by c-5 every working day and i never thought that Tina and Mom’s would have sugar free desserts…..

    hmmmmm….maraming salamat po!

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  • Jenkie, it’s along C-5, across the street from SM hypermart and Tiendesitas. :)

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  • i better hoard on my fave cupcakes and toffee brickle cookies before they’re sold out :)

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  • my boyfriend brought me here last night and i loved it because it reminded me of Steak and Eggs and Grandma’s Kitchen in Beijing! :) what’s more, it’s better pa than the two i mentioned! :) sarap!! and sulit! ;)

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  • Those chocolate cupcakes look super yummy! I love the dark cupcake liners they use… do you have any idea where I can get some?

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  • Lori – its so great to have you feature Mom&Tina’s in your blog. I have always been a fan of this stall as my family and I frequent San Jacinto. Kudos to a great article! :)

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  • Thanks for featuring Mom & Tina’s. We’re based overseas. However, the next time we visit, we will surely add Mom & Tina’s to our itinerary. Don’t know my way around Manila anymore, BUT I have ‘connections’ who I’m sure will surely indulge this lambing.

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  • I can’t wait to try this resto! I’m definitely bringing my bestfriend over with me on friday!!! The pictures got me drooling, and the prices…I must say is very affordable while the place looks so homey. At this moment,i’m feeling so hungry, looks like reading your blog at lunch time is’nt a very good idea after all!

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  • ……..oh that’s tomorrow!!!I almost forgot!!Now I’m more excited!!!

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  • i went here a couple of months back and made a point not to come back again. i had a very bad experience with the payment of my dessert. i’ve been a regular since they were next to san jacinto with their cookies and trifles (did i spell it right?). every time i line up, they keep on letting people pay ahead of me. these people seem to be like the friends of the owners. i found this absolutely distasteful, but i let it go. what bothered me was when i was waiting in the cashiers with my frozen dessert with the cashier lady in front of me punching something in the machine. i kept on saying “excuse me” but she told me to wait. the last straw was when a woman in a doctor’s outfit entered and grabbed a cake from the freezer and asked the cashier what it was. the cashier immediately attended to her and even punched in her cake right off the bat. i was stunned to see this. i’ve been waiting in line in my crummy UP school clothes just for their strawberry trifle and i get this rudeness just because i’m not wearing a doctor’s coat OR am a friend of the owners. after seeing this, i told the girl “mukhang ayaw nito ata ang pera ko, at mas ayaw niyo ata ng customers!” and stormed out. the guard overheard me because he looked at me funny. since then, i’ve never entered that store. i was also with a fellow journalist when this happened and we were appalled with how we were treated. lucky for them food journalism isn’t my thing at the moment. but my friends and i now try to avoid going there as much as possible because there really is no excuse for how we were treated.

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  • my previous post put my many years in mass comm to shame. its just that whenever i recall that afternoon, i get extremely ticked off. arghhhh. sorry.

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    batch Reply:

    baket di kau nagreklamo sa management that time. You might have that girl fired or suspended that they if you found that distasteful and disgusting. hehehehe
    tama nmn db! *wink!*

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  • They’re opening another branch at Perea St. in Makati! Yey! =)

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  • It bothers me a bit that they call their ice cream cups “tortes.” Isn’t that incorrect? I guess it’s a ‘cutesy’ way to lure people into trying something that sounds foreign.

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  • The Prune cup-cakes are the best for me. Oh-so-yummy!

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  • nice blog and thanks for inspiring ideas..

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