Sometimes the best food can be found in a tiny, unassuming establishment. Granted, sometimes those locations are abandoned because the food is absolutely dreadful, but this is not the case at Manena's Pastry Shop and Deli on Westheimer outside Beltway 8.
After hearing that the cookies at Manena's were scrumptious, I decided to look into this Argentinian pastry shop. Once I read the menu, I knew I had to visit. Manena's serves an array of sweet and savory pastries (facturas), desserts (postres), empanadas filled with meats, cheese and vegetables, as well as sandwiches served on French baguettes.
Thankfully the menu online provides English translations for the various items. The second I read the menu I knew I wanted to try the alfajores, one of my all-time favorite cookies. And I'm willing to say that the ones at Manena's are some of the best around town.
You can choose a few types of alfajores. I couldn't pass up the classic version with a dulce de leche filling and coconut coating around the edges. The tender cookies made of cornstarch and flour crumbles and melts in your mouth the second you take a bite; it's the perfectly sweet treat with a light dusting of powdered sugar and smooth, creamy dulce de leche filling. The added crunch of coconut shavings is an extra sweet bonus.
Because I'm a sucker for chocolate, I had to try the alfajores de chocolate as well; it like a petit four because it has been completely dunked in melted chocolate, creating a beautiful shell. I sliced the treat in half to reveal a chocolate cookie sandwich with a thick dulce de leche filling. The crumbly cocoa powder cookies and sticky filling made the perfect after-dinner treat.
In an effort to try something new, I also ordered the colaciones and a medialuna con dulce de leche. If you have never had a colacion, then you are in for a quite a sweet surprise when you take a bite. These Pringle-shaped cornstarch and flour cookies are topped with dulce de leche (you're catching a theme, right?), followed by a sugar glaze; some recipes online suggest the glaze is made from heated pouring fondant, or fondant patissier. Whatever it is, it's excellent and the perfect shell to seal in the creamy filling.
Because you can't have too much dulce de leche, I also ordered the medialuna con dulce de leche, a sticky, sweet croissant filled with the creamy boiled sweetened condensed milk. Don't expect this pastry to be flaky and buttery like the ones from France. This Argentinian croissant is almost as thick as a bread roll -- the exterior is tough, but the interior is soft, especially with the ribbon of dulce de leche in the center.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.