Christmas Gift List Purveyor #8: Gene Gonzalez of Café Ysabel & Pasteleria Mallorca

“Must we stick to dessert?” Chef Gene Gonzalez asks me. After much discussion over dessert (!) we decide to stick to the sweets.

Previously featured Christmas Gift List purveyors .

Everybody knows who Gene Gonzalez is: chef extraordinaire, wine connoisseur, cookbook author, and owner of his own cooking school among many other things. Chef Gene and I have been co-judges at cooking events and we share an inordinate obsession for durian, with him once regaling me on the phone over the various varieties he was enjoying while in Davao. I remember many meals enjoyed at his restaurant, Café Ysabel, which will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next year.

“Try our Strawberry Shortcake, Lori. We can’t make it fast enough whenever we’ve got strawberries on hand,” Chef Gene says. Square-shaped like the gift that it is, the red berries glisten under their translucent coat, a prelude to the spongy and sweet cake underneath. It’s just one of a trinity of cakes that Chef Gene will be serving at the Dessert Comes First Christmas Gift List. The two other cakes are a Chocolate-Bourbon, dark-complexioned and deeply chocolatey; and Carrot, strips of the vegetable visible in a velvety, lightly-spiced crumb.

Chef Gene will also be showcasing his tocino del cielo, utterly devilish globules of edible gold. Alternately referred to as “bacon from heaven” or “heaven’s little pig,” it’s a demonstration of the alchemy among just egg yolks, water, and sugar.

The Argellanas are right smack in the middle, the Palilos de Milan are on the upper left.

Pasteleria Mallorca is an old Spanish bakery owned by Chef Gene’s family. It’s a special little business dedicated to producing and proffering pastries from Spain, specifically of the flaky, puffy, shatter-in-your-face type. There’s the Argellanas, long, buttery “tongues” of puff pastry flecked with sugar and an amber glaze. A tin of this is so dangerous to have lying around because one (or five or six!) are never enough.

There’s also the Palillos de Milan, a most exotic name for sticks of pastry lavished in meringue. Both components – pastry and meringue – are so sweet and light that my tongue forgets them instantly but my mind calls out for more.

Then there’s Pasteleria Mallorca’s ensaymada. Oh baby, let me tell you about this baby. For one, I probably shouldn’t call it that – it’s as large as a dinner plate and would dwarf a real baby’s head. Cushion-soft and sugar-sweet, it holds its weight in lashings of queso de bola and an aroma reminiscent of delicious Christmases past. Inside, almost separate layers of dough lavished in butter envelop my mouth in their embrace. A real knockout this one, and not to be missed.

Aside from those already mentioned, both Café Ysabel and Pasteleria Mallorca will also be selling an abundance of other products. Mention must be made of one item for sale, the truly noteworthy Tarta de Madrid. Once the de rigueur dessert at every special occasion in the 1950s, its elegance gives it a timeless appeal. A puff pastry “pie” contains a cache of meringue and Bavarian cream, soft nuzzles against the crunch and crispness of a sugar-cloaked crown and crust. Bring extra money for this one.


Café Ysabel
455 P. Guevarra St., San Juan
(02) 725 5089 / 726 9326

Pasteleria Mallorca
18 Scout Fuentebella, Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City
(02) 373 2789 / 373 2790

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