Magical Filipino Cookies, Thomas Keller Speaks

Categories: Talking Points
Today's notes on national stories, local trends, random tastes, and other bycatch dredged up from the food media.

Jonathan Kauffman
House of Silvanas' cookies: pandan (top), ube, mango.
1. The Bay Area's other best cookie? On the way back from the Pacifica Fresh & Easy last week, I stopped in at a forlorn strip mall to visit House of Silvanas (2055 Gellert, Daly City), which specializes in a cookie many people call the Filipino macaron. As Tamara Palmer wrote on SFoodie a few years ago, House of Silvanas is an offshoot of a Manila-area bakery with several stores in southern California as well. Rows of its silvanas, two-inch cookies dyed Easter egg colors, glow in the light of the freezer case they're displayed in.

The silvanas ($1.15 apiece, discounts on boxes) are insane: Two cashew wafers sandwiching a layer of buttercream -- read: flavored butter -- are rolled in fine colored breadcrumbs. The reason for the freezing is clear the moment you bite in. They simultaneously crunch and pulverize upon contact, the buttercream melting a half-beat later in a brighter wash of flavor. While the original, ube, and pandan cookies I tried echoed the richness of the butter, the sweet-tart kick of the mango made it my favorite. I could see the cookies working in dozens of other fruit flavors.

Why aren't more people making silvanas? Why is there not a House of Silvanas in San Francisco? Why have I been contemplating a second trip to Daly City since the moment I fished the last silvana out of the freezer? If I proclaim silvanas the next cupcake, will someone get the idea?

2. Sir Thomas speaks. The national Eater ran a great interview with Thomas Keller yesterday in which he talked about his new legacy, how he has no plans to open another four-star restaurant in the United States, and why he thinks the difference between what the French Laundry and Ad Hoc serve is complexity, not quality.

Oh, and the whole pop-up trend? You children think it's something new, Keller scoffs: "My first experience with pop-ups was back in the '80s, when Paul Prudhomme's restaurant in New Orleans burned down. While they were reconstructing the restaurant, he took his restaurant on the road. He came to New York City, did two pop-up restaurants in New York, he went to Chicago, he went to L.A. before he went back to New Orleans."

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Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for writing about SILVANAS.  What a deal for $1.15 a piece compared to $1.75 macaron.  I'm glad you liked these magical cookies.  Perhaps more people will open up to Filipino Food.  My friend Jo Boston is right, House of Silvanas is the most perfect I have seen, too.

If you feel like experimenting, here's a link to my first try.  I kept it gluten-free and used more cashews instead of breadcrumbs.


Jo Boston
Jo Boston

Dear Jonathan,

Welcome to my hood!

House of Silvanas is literally less than 5 driving minutes from my house.  We hosted a Filipino Dishcrawl at Sinugba (the restaurant next door) in March and had Crissy from House of Silvanas present her silvanas and ube cake.  It's a family business, with another location in Southern California and of course in the Philippines.

I just came from the Philippines last week and I must say that HoS's silvanas are the most perfect ones I have seen.  Though silvanas are sold in many places in the Phils, the vendors there don't sell as many flavors as HoS.  They usually just stick with the original cashew flavor, so seeing the pandan, ube, and mango are a treat.

To address your questions:

Why aren't more people making silvanas? - people do. they're just undergound.  =)  i've seen people making them for their family parties rather than stores.

Why is there not a House of Silvanas in San Francisco? - Daly City is very Filipino-friendly.  It's a risk to open a Filipino restaurant in SF as well.  Which is why there aren't many Filipino establishments in SF proper to begin with.  I don't think the general public is educated enough about Filipino food to fully appreciate it.  Since "Little Manila" is just 15-20 minutes away (in a less expensive area), you will find more Filipino places there and down on the Peninsula.

Why have I been contemplating a second trip to Daly City since the moment I fished the last silvana out of the freezer? - they're heavenly, that's why you get a dozen ;-)

If I proclaim silvanas the next cupcake, will someone get the idea? - I think you should proclaim silvanas as the next cupcake!  A silvana can be described as a "Filipino macaron," but I say they are more satisfying.  The cold buttercream is great on a warm day.  Even when Gellert Blvd gets dark and foggy, the silvanas still hit the spot if you let them thaw a bit and enjoy them with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate...and maybe one of HoS's delicious and melt-in-your mouth ensaimadas!

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