Goodies at Marin bakery are indeed good for the Jews

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Before Jenn Shepard started working at Arizmendi in San Rafael three years ago, the artisan bakery sold challah and maybe a few macaroons. Nowadays, the worker-owned cooperative cranks out hamantaschen for Purim, honey cake for Rosh Hashanah and sufganiyot for Hanukkah.

And with the first candle getting placed into menorahs on Dec. 16, that last item takes on added significance.

“No one who was working there was Jewish, so they didn’t know about Purim or what to make for Hanukkah — things like that,” said Shepard, 26. “But the crown challah for Rosh Hashanah sold so well, I was surprised they didn’t do stuff for other Jewish holidays. That’s when I started advocating for expanding the Jewish menu.”

Sufganiyot and hamantaschen at Arizmendi San Rafael

Shepard grew up in Berkeley, a big fan of Saul’s Deli, but her Jewish food knowledge really blossomed when she attended college in New York and discovered places like Russ & Daughters. Oh, she also was the chair of the Hillel chapter at Sarah Lawrence College, but that’s neither shmear nor there.

To expand the Jewish offerings at the San Rafael Arizmendi, Shepard approached, and ultimately joined, the store’s production committee. At each of its five independently operated stores — as well as at the flagship Cheese Board in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto — Arizmendi gets things done by a collaborative process; each store’s employees are also its owners.

Arizmendi San Rafael started with hamantaschen (poppy seed and prune-apricot) for Purim two years ago. They sold out. More were made this year.

At Hanukkah last year, more than 20 dozen sufganiyot were sold, and similar numbers are expected this year. They had better be a good seller, because the process of frying the doughnuts in oil (at a constant temperature) and hand-filling them with jelly isn’t easy.

“It’s not like making a muffin, where you just scoop out the mix, bake it, then put it out for sale,” Shepard said. “When you’re making sufganiyot, you can’t really multitask.”

Jenn Shepard

The San Rafael Arizmendi opened in 2010, joining locations in Oakland, San Francisco (two) and Emeryville. Each has its own lineup of goods, so don’t expect to find the San Rafael items (aside from challah and macaroons) at the other locations.

Moreover, the idea of making bagels has been tossed around, and Shepard is advocating for a vegetarian matzah ball soup for next Passover, as the San Rafael location sells sandwiches, soups and salads in addition to baked goods. Stay tuned.


1002 Fourth St., San Rafael    (415) 456-4093

Open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m., Arizmendi San Rafael Bakery & Pizzeria on Facebook, @Arizmendi_SR on Twitter


Falafel purveyor Gotta Eatta Pita is celebrating one year in business with freebies from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 17. Israeli-born owner Yaniv Benaroya says each customer can get a free pita bowl or sandwich, plus a drink, at the restaurant’s first location at 110 Hartz Ave., Danville. Already there are additional spots in Pleasant Hill and Pleasanton. To read the Israeli backstory on the nonkosher casual eatery, visit … Kosher caterer L’Chaim Sushi is reporting that it has expanded its offerings to include pasta dishes, salads and housemade gravlax. Send an email to [email protected] to get a copy of the South San Francisco business’ latest menu … Shorty Goldstein’s recently added a “Sloppy Shorty” to the menu. It’s a sweet, tangy and little-bit-­­spicy mix of ground beef, ground pastrami and tomato sauce served on a housemade kaiser roll. … Augie’s Montreal Smoke Meat, a succulent brisket sandwich that was No. 12 on a list of the San Francisco Chronicle’s 50 favorite Bay Area sandwiches, is available at limited pop-ups in Oakland and San Francisco. Find the schedule at … The owners of Max’s restaurants have opened Mixx, at 420 Castro St., Mountain View. A contemporary restaurant with a large, multicultural menu, according to the eat-drink-play blog, Mixx features a happy hour menu with a Bronx pastrami board. And matzah ball soup and Reubens are available at lunch. … The special Hanukkah menu at Baker and Banker won’t be available this year, as chef-owner Jeff Banker and his wife, co-owner and pastry chef Lori Baker, recently decided to close the 5-year-old San Francisco eatery.

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Andy Altman-Ohr

Andy Altman-Ohr was J.’s managing editor and Hardly Strictly Bagels columnist until he retired in 2016 to travel and live abroad. He and his wife have a home base in Mexico, where he continues his dalliance with Jewish journalism.