Melody Lorenzo is best known for her pies, these colorful confections celebrating flavors from her childhood in the Philippines, such as ube, calamansi and pandan. The pies debuted in 2019 at Undiscover, a nighttime market featuring Filipino makers and dishes from chefs and bakers including Lorenzo, and have since gained a cult following under his company Sweet Condesa, which was a market staple. farmer from San Ramon since July 2020. Fans who couldn’t get enough of the purple-hued ube or the sweet and tangy calamansi pies shared photos of the Filipino and Latin-inspired desserts, hashtag Lorenzo on the networks socials as #PinayPieLady.
Despite growing his reach at the Farmer’s Market, where customers traveled from all over the Bay Area (and even out of state, Lorenzo says) to sample Sweet Condesa pies, Lorenzo took a break from the market in December 2021 to focus on making desserts for local weddings. Now she’s back to sharing her desserts outside of the restaurant world, closing a production space in the Mission District from August. She sells her desserts through Pastel, a local baked goods delivery service with pickups throughout the Bay Area. And while the Mission District spot won’t be a showcase for Sweet Condesa’s products, it will be closer to Lorenzo, whose family moved to San Francisco last summer, with potential pick-up orders, share- she.
The foray into selling pies at the San Ramon Farmer’s Market has become a necessity in 2020; Lorenzo had just quit his job with the state in February to officially start a full-time catering business, rather than cooking on the side – only to have several events canceled due to the pandemic. The pies were a huge hit at Undiscover and sold out, and Lorenzo decided to bring the items back to the farmers’ market, finding fans in the Filipino community and with those less familiar with Filipino flavors. “Born and raised in the Philippines, I grew up with these flavors – ube, calamansi, pandan – all these flavors that are part of my identity, basically,” says Lorenzo. But rather than the traditional Filipino dessert format, Lorenzo translates those flavors into the aforementioned pies (and smaller tarts), as well as scones, banana breads, and more. The result is a sense of nostalgia for customers who grew up in the Philippines and for customers whose grandmothers and mothers look at the menu and “get excited” about the flavors, she says.
But pies and tarts are only part of what Lorenzo can do, even though that’s what she’s known for, and Lorenzo has quite a few other desserts to offer. Along with the guava cheese, dulce de leche, and brazo de mercedes tarts — and wedding cakes — she bakes for her clients’ nuptials, Lorenzo also hosts a dessert-filled tea event, which she advertises. via her Instagram, featuring the same Filipino and Latin flavors as her popular pies. This is where she gets more creative, with a 10-course pastry and dessert tasting for up to 40 people, with the ticketed event held at San Francisco’s Victory Hall or other local venues. Imagine ube queso scones, calamansi financiers covered in calamansi curd, guava cheesecakes or a tasty bite of quiche longanisa, all devoured on long tables with linens and china tea cups , in a family setting. “It’s nice to create that sense of community,” Lorenzo says of the tea parties.
With Lorenzo selling her wares through Pastel as she sets up the new production space, she’ll be bringing back more of the favorites her fans have come to know, with flavors rotating. Expect a number of pies, of course, but there will also be white chocolate scones and vegan tsokolate banana bread. Lorenzo is at the forefront of a new wave of Filipino and Filipino-American bakers in the Bay Area, and that’s only making Northern California more delicious. “There are just a lot of creators coming, which is great, but I think the most important thing — because there are so many of us — is what makes you unique,” says Lorenzo. “It’s very important to keep sharing your story.”