Dessert Comes First

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

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

posted by in Food Purveyors

“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.

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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

9 Responses to “Christmas Gift List Purveyor #8: Gene Gonzalez of Café Ysabel & Pasteleria Mallorca”

  • Now this is worth flying to Manila for.

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  • I so agree that those argellanas are dangerous! My former boss gave me a large box of it last Christmas and it disappeared into thin air! Apparently, my mom ate the ENTIRE BOX by herself. Gosh.

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  • I really wish I can fly to Manila for this. Just looking at the photos makes me oh so hungry now.

    My litte boy would love the lenguas de gato which happens to be his fave. We’d love to try those from Pasteleria Mallorca!

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  • I’m pretty sure that my extra money is so worth spending on the goodies on Chef Gene’s table.

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  • Will it be possible to buy the Pasteleria Mallorca pastries/sweets from Café Ysabel?

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    Lori Reply:

    Hi Rowina,
    No, Pasteleria Mallorca products are only available by order at their Quezon City outlet.

    –lori

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  • Cafe Ysabel’s tocino del cielo is still my favorite! :)

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  • Argellanas and Palillos de Milan were some of my favorite cookies (if you can call them that) when I was growing up! I’d ask my mom to buy them for me whenever I saw them. Unfortunately, I stopped seeing them after some time, and no one I mentioned them to seemed to even have heard of them! But more recently, I’ve been happy to see them both at Blue Kitchen. I’m glad to know there’s still a bakeshop that makes these nostalgic goodies, though I do wish it were nearer. :-/ I’ve been hearing about Pastelleria Mallorca for many years from friends (I had no idea, though, that Gene Gonzales’ family owned it), especially because of their ensaimada, but never got to visit the shop since it’s so out of the way. So you can imagine my delight when I saw they’d be part of your event! :-D

    I haven’t been to Cafe Ysabel in ages, again because it’s a distance away, but I’ve never been disappointed with their food. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted their desserts, though, so I’m glad that — granting I can go to this event — I finally will have the pleasure.

    I’m also looking forward to the Tocino del Cielo. I haven’t had that in years! Each time I’m in Terry’s and see it on the menu, I order it, but it’s always unavailable. :-( So, I hope that my craving will, AT LONG LAST, be sated! And that Tarta de Madrid looks truly elegant, in an old-fashioned way. I wonder how I could justify buying the whole thing… :-D

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  • Hi Lori,

    Silly question, but is it possible to try these goodies by the piece at Pasteleria Mallorca? I know it will be hard to decide, but I’d like to try and winnow down my choices to two or three to buy in bulk!

    [Reply]

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