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2 under-the-radar sweet makers in Marin – Marin Independent

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Nadia Montoya, creator and owner of Nadia’s Dessert, was beginning to take strides toward her dream of having her own bakery and café when she lost her nine-year job as a pastry chef at Boca Tavern in Novato and Boca Pizzeria in Novato and Corte Madera at the start of the pandemic.

In early 2020, she was participating in a 10-week series of classes called “Construyendo Mi Negocio” (“Building My Business”), a program sponsored by the Marin Small Business Development Center in partnership with Canal Alliance that empowers Marin-based Latinos with the tools and resources for launching a small business.

Determined not to let the pandemic shutdown put a wrench in her business plans, Montoya continued to bake, sharing desserts with friends and neighbors. Now, three years later, she fills the pastry cases at grocers in Mill Valley and Point Reyes Station and sells at four Bay Area farmers markets.

Montoya’s current repertoire of traditional desserts, some of which are gluten- and dairy-free, includes cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, shortbread, molasses, coconut, caramel pecan and oatmeal raisin); brownies; breads (banana, pumpkin, zucchini and pound cake); fruit tarts; and cakes (cheesecake, strawberry shortcake, tres leches, chocolate Oreo and vanilla with butterscotch mousse in layers, slices or sheets).

Nadia's Dessert's treats can be found at grocers and farmers markets in Marin. (Photo by Carlos Garcia)

Photo by Carlos Garcia

Nadia’s Dessert’s treats can be found at grocers and farmers markets in Marin.

“Baking is a happy thing, and I never thought of it as a business but rather a hobby,” says Montoya, referring to the time she spent in the kitchen to alleviate the pressures of a stress-inducing job in El Salvador, where she lived until coming to the United States 15 years ago. “I dedicate many hours a day to baking and decorating and love when people eating the desserts are smiling and can’t believe I made it. I am very grateful to the community for all the support.”

Montoya covers the bases, including the baking and packaging with the help of her husband, mother, and college-age niece and son. Two years ago, the family moved from San Rafael where she bakes at a commercial kitchen, to Petaluma, where Central Milling, her regular and gluten-free premium organic flour supplier, and Skippy’s Egg Store are located. Fresh fruits come from the farmers market.

Montoya’s vision for owning a retail bakery remains strong.

“My dream is to bake healthy desserts with more gluten-free options and plants and fruits as sweeteners,” says Montoya, about the inspiration she’s felt in creating her popular maple date cookie made without wheat, sugar, eggs and dairy for her mother who is diabetic.

You can find a variety of Nadia’s Dessert goodies at Mill Valley Market at 12 Corte Madera Ave. in Mill Valley; Palace Market at 11300 State Route One in Point Reyes Station; the San Rafael Thursday Marin Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. that has moved temporarily to the Northgate Mall parking lot in front of the movie theater; the Saturday Point Reyes Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Nov. 4 in Point Reyes Station; the Sunday Stonestown Galleria Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on 19th Ave. in San Francisco; and the Jack London Square Farmers Market in Oakland from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.

For more information or to inquire about ordering for a special event, go to nadiasdessert.com or call 415-795-0246. For special order cakes, fill out a form at the two grocery stores or contact Montoya by phone, email (nadia@nadiasdessert.com) or direct message on Instagram @nadiasdessert.

Legacy bakery

San Rafael's Armida's Bakery & Cafe continues the tradition and legacy of Muffin Mania. (Photo by Sophia Scopazzi)

Photo by Sophia Scopazzi

San Rafael’s Armida’s Bakery & Cafe continues the tradition and legacy of Muffin Mania.

After a decade selling her baked goods under the name A Midnight Kitchen at the Town Center of Corte Madera Farmers Market on Wednesdays, lifelong Marin resident Armida Scopazzi paused earlier this year to focus exclusively on the 40-year-old Gerstle Park neighborhood bake shop she purchased in spring 2022.

Muffin Mania, the original home of an assortment of 25 cornmeal-based vegan muffins and hand-made croissants, is now Armida’s Bakery & Cafe, and some of those recipes have carried on. But in addition to preserving the humble legacy and timeworn ambiance of the San Rafael corner bake shop, Scopazzi is augmenting the menu with her scones, coffee cake and seasonal fresh fruit tarts and galettes with house pie dough that can be purchased ready to eat or frozen to bake at home. These are made with organic flour, sugar and eggs, as are her cakes, cookies and sweet breads.

Golden Gate Meat Co. and Fra’ Mani, both in the East Bay, are her meat purveyors for the egg, bacon and/or ham breakfast sandwiches on house croissants and in breakfast burritos. And on the abbreviated lunch menu, Scopazzi prides herself on her daily soup (seasonal tomato at present) and roasted chicken thigh and slow-cooked trip tip sandwiches on house bread.

Lifelong Marin resident Armida Scopazzi is behind Armida's Bakery & Cafe in San Rafael. (Photo by Sophia Scopazzi)

Photo by Sophia Scopazzi

Lifelong Marin resident Armida Scopazzi is behind Armida’s Bakery & Cafe in San Rafael.

Scopazzi’s culinary career began at a gourmet deli at Red Hill Shopping Center in 1983, the same year Muffin Mania opened, and includes stints at Casa Madrona in Sausalito, the Caprice and Corinthian Yacht Club in Tiburon, Comforts in San Anselmo, All Seasons Catering in Mill Valley and her eponymous restaurant Scopazzi’s that she and her now-ex-husband closed in 2005 after seven years on Fourth Street in San Rafael.

The operating pressures of this first solo venture are taking a toll as prices for ingredients rise and long-term help is difficult to secure.

“Muffin Mania has been a part of San Rafael’s community for 40 years, and we cannot let it fade away,” she writes about her challenges in increasing sales.

The café offers tables indoors and on a gravel, fenced-in garden area. It is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fridays; and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at 2 Bayview St. in San Rafael. The bakery is closed on Sundays.

For more information, go to armidasbakerycafe.com or call 415-485-1027. You can also find a menu and place orders for cakes, cookies, pastries and more at amidnightkitchen.com or call 415-720-5882.

Leanne Battelle is a freelance food writer and restaurant columnist. Email her at ij.lbattelle@gmail.com with news and recommendations and follow on Instagram @therealdealmarin for more on local food and updates on the launch of The Real Deal Marin restaurant search guide.

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