Nancy Zinno finishes a batch of scones
Photo: Katharine Egli
Image and story originally published in Taos news
Taos Farmers Market vendors and habitual customers will readily point to the booth manned by Frank and Nancy Zinno when asked about a place to buy scones and coffee.
“Not just regular ones, but the best scones in Taos,” says Mariah Arencibia, who comes from Valdez every Saturday to buy half a dozen from them.
Frank and Nancy Zinno, owners of ‘Z Best’ Scones, met in Santa Fe in the late eighties. They got married and moved to Taos to build an earthship and establish their massage business—they became licensed massage therapists in 1992.
“But there came a time, in 1997, when we needed some extra money and thought about baking scones,” Frank Zinno said. “We started with a couple of accounts in Taos and in a few months we were selling them to Alfalfa’s and Whole Foods in Santa Fe, and several local coffee shops.”
Soon, the business took on a life of its own. The couple opened a brick and mortar store called ‘Z Best Café’ in the John Dunn Shop plaza but later decided to focus on Taos and Los Alamos farmers markets.
Trying out recipes
Nancy Zinno grew up in a bakery.
“I guess baking is in my blood,” she said, laughing. “I’ve always enjoyed sweet things.”
Her family didn’t make scones, but she treasured some recipes that were later used in their business.
“We couldn’t find any scones like the ones we wanted to make so we went through a lot of testing,” Frank Zinno said. “We had to get the right combination of flour, butter and other ingredients, like the orange zest and the rising agent. We needed to try everything at first.”
No wonder they both gained weight during those initial stages. Frank admits he was up to 240 lbs at one time. Now, he is down to a comfortable and healthy 175 lbs.
“Then we found out we were sensitive to wheat,” he said, “and we started to use a white organic spelt flour that was lower in gluten.”
They now use organic flour from Costilla as well as spelt flour, plus local ingredients when available, such as peaches, apples, raspberries, apricots, pears, peppers, green chile, and corn.
Sweet and sour
Frank and Nancy Zinno have created sixteen different varieties of scones. Three are savory and the rest are sweet.
“The breakfast sausage scone is our newest creation,” she said. “It has become quite popular. We also have lemon raspberry, lemon blueberry, cinnamon walnut, chocolate, and many more.”
Every week, they bake from eighteen to twenty dozens. That means around two hundred and forty scones, which are often sold before noon.
Unlike many other vendors, they do not offer samples to their clients.
“We tell people, ‘If you are not satisfied after your first bite, we will give you your money back,’” Frank Zinno said. “In all these years, no one has ever asked for a refund.”
Love through thick and thin
The couple has been married twenty-two years.
“The key ingredient of having the business work is our commitment,” he said. “We really enjoy each other’s company. We built two businesses and a house, all by ourselves. We have been through thick and thin and our commitment to our spirit has made it work.”
“Yes, we are together constantly,” she agreed. “It can be challenging at times, but it is very rewarding.”
“You just have to get rid of the small stuff, the little I, the ego, and breath,” he said.
They also share responsibilities. Frank Zinno has a background in accounting and auditing, so he can do their bookkeeping and taxes.
“That helps a lot,” he said.
They usually bake on Fridays at TCEDC— a 5,000 sq. ft. commercial kitchen that provides a space to work for many enterprising cooks and bakers in town.
“On Fridays, we spend from four to five hours there,” he said. “The next morning we got up at 5 a.m. so we can be at the market at 6:30 a.m. and have everything ready. These are two intense workdays.”
Looking for a partner
Though the couple enjoys their work, it takes a lot of energy. They currently have one helper, and have had two in the past.
“But we aren’t getting any younger,” Frank Zinno said. “So are considering the options of selling the business or finding an investor, a business partner that we could work with. It would also be a way to ease into our retirement.”
They have a lot of recipes and a wealth of knowledge, plus a loyal clientele.
“This is a fun, sweet and profitable business which has made us happy and self-sufficient so I hope to find the right person to entrust with it,” he said. “It if is you, call me!”
To get in contact with Frank and Nancy Zinno, call 741-8288 or find them at the Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 to noon.
Z Best Scones recipes
(6 to 8 medium-sized scones)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Place 1 lb. of mix in a bowl
Measure 2/3 cups of water (non chlorinated). Add water to dry mix and stir 20-25 times just until moistened. Add more water, if necessary.
Drop mix (after adding fruit or add-ons) onto greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown on top and bottom.
Blueberry scones: Add 2 tbs. of sugar to the mix. Stir in 1 cup of frozen or fresh berries. Stir in about 2/3 cup cold water (to keep the berries from turning the batter blue). Sprinkle with sugar before baking.
Peach scones: Add 2 tbs. brown sugar to the mix. Stir in 1 cup thawed frozen or fresh peaches. Sprinkle with brown sugar before baking.
Blueberry peach scones: Same as blueberry, except use ½ peaches and ½ blueberries.
Raspberry chocolate scones: Add ½ cup chocolate chips to the mix, follow package directions. After putting the scones on the baking sheet, poke in frozen raspberries. There are great with the lemon glaze!
Lemon glaze: Zest and juice of 1 lemon. Add powdered sugar and stir. If glaze is too stiff, add a little warm water. If it is too thin, add more sugar. Glaze should run easily off spoon.