Isabel Walsh knows a thing or two about baking. She spent her whole childhood in her family’s bakery in her home country of El Salvador, where batches of Alfajores, a traditional dessert in South America, were whipped up on the regular: Two, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread cookies sandwiched together with dulce de leche caramel. “They’ve always been my very favorite cookie,” she gushes. So, when she set out to learn English in the states with her sister, and settled in the Lewes – Rehoboth area, everyone she met immediately swooned over the delicious cookie rounds.
Finding herself baking in the kitchens of half full, Kindle and Station on Kings, she was fully immersed in the local culinary scene, but it was her second job at Bella Luna Boutique where she learned she had the makings of her own business. Owner Janice Alder suggested she sell them there. After a sellout Presidents’ Day weekend in 2022, she and husband Matthew Walsh, who assists Isabel in every aspect of the business, decided to dive headfirst into full-time entrepreneurship. The couple soon found themselves baking in Station on Kings. “Lisa Berlin, the owner, agreed to let us rent her kitchen when they weren’t using it — she didn’t even charge us at first, she just wanted to see us succeed,” Isabel says.
Now, Isabel and Matthew are baking six nights a week from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. to keep up with overwhelming demand. You’ll find their cute bundles of cookies, a mainstay at local farmers’ markets, at pop-ups around town, and at Schellville, accruing countless fans in the process — one of them Dogfish Head. On Aug. 19, Dogfish Head and gather released a sweet collaboration: their latest small-batch brew appropriately named Gather Rounds.
Where did the name gather come from? Before I started the business, I would bake for friends and family but never birthday cakes or wedding cakes. My focus has always been to make things that taste good, but nothing fancy. I like that my cookies are good to bring to a gathering with friends.
Do you get asked to make other types of cookies? No, because in addition to the traditional Alfajores, we make Alfajores Supreme, which has a layer of jam that we make with whatever seasonal fruit is on hand. We’ve been asked about getting just the shortbread cookies without the filling, so we now offer a chocolate chip shortbread cookie with Henlopen Sea Salt. And we just launched a pistachio variety.
How did the collaboration with Dogfish happen? We were doing DAC holiday events on Saturdays and kept seeing Ali Selders (the wife of the head brewer at Dogfish, Bryan Selders). At the last event, we were joking and suggested an Alfajores beer, and she loved the idea. A couple months later, we were doing a pop-up at Patty’s and Mariah Calagione walked in and recognized me. She bought a bunch of my cookies and when I told her about our run-in with Ali, she said she would be bringing the cookies she just bought to a Super Bowl party with Ali. A week later we got an email from Dogfish. They included us on everything, from the brewing to the marketing.
Gather Rounds seems like the perfect name for the beer. Are you happy with the final result? Yes! It’s actually not an Alfajores beer, but a spiced ale which complements the cookies really well.
ISABEL + MATTHEW’S LOCAL FAVS
- Beach Lewes Beach
- Coffee spot The Station on Kings and Gaia Coffee
- Shop Bella Luna
- Restaurant Confucius and Woody’s
- Sunset spot Dewey Beach
- Trail Gordon’s Pond Trail