Tomeu Arbona

October 19, 2018
Tomeu Arbona   Going through the door of Forca de la Soca is like entering a time tunnel and travelling to the past. Upon landing on the other side of the threshold, anyone visiting Tomeu Arbona’s bakery discovers a fascinating world of recipes recovered from old cookbooks, sweets that had practically disappeared, and traditional creations made using bygone techniques.   Arbona is a faithful defender of Mallorca’s gastronomic culture and the island, and in the same way that he seeks to preserve its baking and pastry-making traditions – both savoury as well as sweet – he promotes local produce by using the island’s flour suppliers, Mallorcan porc negre fat, and vegetables from nearby potagers like that of Sa Pobla.   For those who love anything made with dough, going to the wonderful world of Fornet de la Soca is an absolute must-visit, but it is also essential for anyone who loves gastronomy because their work goes far beyond those delicious breads, ensaimadas, pastries and coca flatbreads that are displayed every day. What’s this? And this other one? And that? These could be the most common questions asked by an outsider finding themselves there, like a child wandering through Charlie’s Chocolate Factory, and, at the end of such a dazzling array choose, as I did, one of everything.   A wooden table at the back of the small premises, surrounded by other furniture – also of wood – that all probably come from the country house of a grandmother in the area, wait in the austere workshop glimpsed in the background, nothing new-fangled or of aluminium here: a large table, the hands of those who work here, long fermentation times and lots of love. That’s how the best ensaimadas you will ever try are made: elegant puff pastry without the usual ‘angel hair’ pumpkin-strand filling; their delicious savoury pastries such as their pea and sobrasada empanada, their mahi mahi variety; and their cocarrois stuffed with vegetables, made with a particular, and very moreish, dough.   There is also a special place for quite a few varieties of bread, found at the back on the right in a rather battered, and now somewhat empty, cupboard: you have to get here early because Tomeu has conquered his countrymen, among them the island’s great cooks such as Andreu Genestra and Santi Taura; they immediately recommend a visit to this wonderful place if asked what unmissable things there are to do in Mallorca. The absence of salt in everything – a characteristic feature of the area – allows the flavour of the local variety of wheat to come through and you discover a different way of tasting bread.   The wording of the sign over the entrance of the Fornet is a statement of intent: rebosteria artesana [artisanal bakery and pâtisserie]. And it is in this magical pantry where, someone who was once a psychotherapist, decided to delve into our roots and recovered everything that the course of natural evolution led us to abandon and forget; a tradition that involves a great deal of work, but also imbues us with the memory of who we are.   By Clara Villalón