An Alice in Wonderland Café Serves Gluten-Free Goodness in Marlboro
Fall down the rabbit hole of thumbprint cookies, crème brûlée French toast, and savory scones in Ulster County.
Photos provided by Mad Batters Pastries & Café
As a wise, albeit slightly mad hatter, once declared, it’s always time for tea.
That’s the motto at Mad Batters Pastries & Café, which extends the Hatter’s declaration to encompass not just tea, but all the sweet treats that make tea time so special. At the Alice and Wonderland-themed spot in Marlboro, lemon pastries, cocoa cupcakes, and cream puffs abound, singing sweet siren songs to famished visitors who crave crumpets and scones to fuel them on day trips through the Hudson Valley.
Yet the Ulster County café, with its black and white tiled floors, teapot lamps, and Cheshire Cat-approved décor, has a secret. While each and every one of its scrumptious muffins, brownies, and biscotti appear to be standard sweet tooth fare, they’re missing one key ingredient.
Not that you’d know it, of course. In fact, the treats at Mad Batters are so decadent that a glimpse at the counters or a taste of the wares would never so much as hint to the fact that every single one of the shop’s goods are gluten-free. And that’s precisely how owner Kristin Barney wants it.
Barney, a Marlboro native who is gluten-intolerant herself, relishes the opportunity to serve quality, baked treats that just so happen to be gluten-free. Instead of seeing her allergy as a limitation, she approaches it as a challenge to find better, more flavorful alternatives to what is currently on the market. In 2014, she established Mad Batters Pastries as a wholesale business in the Hudson Valley, stocking her sweets in locations like Adams Fairacre Farms, Fishkill Farms, Samuel’s Sweet Shop in Rhinebeck. In no time at all, she found success – and her treats attracted followers. Five years after getting off the ground, she took a leap and opened her own brick-and-mortar extension of the business in February 2019. Since then, she’s made a name for herself as both a wholesale supplier and a café owner in the Hudson Valley.
“We opened a brick and mortar because it has always been a dream of my mother Alice, as well as mine,” she says. “We love meeting our customers and being able to provide a comfortable, sit-down environment with delicious food that’s safe for the celiac community.”
Through Mad Batters, Barney seeks to break down the stigma associated with gluten-free living. She’s perfected her flour mix and her recipes to ensure that each and every product is genuinely good – not just “good for being gluten-free.” To help with this, she sources as many ingredients from local vendors as she can. Wilklow Orchards in Highland is her go-to for apples, while Hudson Valley Fresh provides her with all the milk and yogurt she could need (and need them she does, since, according to her, sour cream and yogurt are the secret to success when it comes to concocting super moist cakes). Then, using only these simple, quality ingredients, she whips up the bestsellers that keep locals coming back for more.
“We take pride in all our products and love the look on our customers’ faces when they are told it’s gluten-free,” she says.
Some treats that garner the “wow” reaction? Barney’s lemon surprise cookies, fudge brownies, and walnut coffee cake are repeat hits at the bakery counter. When it comes to café fare, meanwhile, Mad Batters pours perfection with its crème brûlée French toast, which is made even more sumptuous with Grand Marnier marinated strawberries, local maple syrup, and whipped cream. On the savory spectrum, the Alice’s turkey wrap, a riff on a BLT with bacon and housemade thousand island dressing, is always a winner.
“It’s a great feeling to know that our products can be enjoyed by all, not just those living a gluten-free lifestyle,” Barney notes. To this end, she hopes to expand the Mad Batters presence in the Hudson Valley even further throughout the rest of the year. Coming up, look for her table at the Woodstock-New Paltz Arts & Craft Fair in May and at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties in September.
All the while, she’ll continue to keep her commitment to gluten-free innovation in the Hudson Valley.
“It means the world to me to offer delicious food for everyone to enjoy,” she says.
Call us crazy, but we think the Mad Hatter would approve.