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Spot Check: Curious Fork

You won't miss the gluten at Solana Beach bakery cafe

By Troy Johnson

Gluten took the last doughnut.

Gluten’s not pregnant, but it parks its Lamborghini in those spots.

Gluten never fills the ice tray.

Gluten erased the show you DVRd, because it needed the space for the one you don’t like.

Gluten made your shoes. In its sweatshop.

Gluten wore Crocs to your wedding.

Gluten narrates movies out loud in the movie theater.

Gluten drives its Smart Car in the fast lane.

Gluten leaves the seat up.

Gluten says “Right?” to everything you say.

Gluten would like to talk to you about why it became a vegetarian last week.

Gluten reclines its seat on the airplane to eat its curry.

Gluten has a bumper sticker of the president you don’t like.

There is no shortage of accusations against gluten these days. It is the new monster under America’s bed. According to the Celiac Central, approximately one percent of Americans have Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder in which the body mistakenly reacts to gluten as if it were a poison. It’s a serious disease.

Reports of gluten sensitivity, a much less severe condition, really hit a crescendo a few years ago and have lead to millions of more Americans self-diagnosing and taking carbs out of their diet.

The research is still young on gluten sensitivity. But regardless of whether or not the threats of gluten to the average non-Celiac individual have been overblown, the gluten-free food industry has grown 34% in the last five years.

And Curious Fork in Solana Beach is evidence of that growth. Owner Barbara McQuiston and her chef/GM Daryl Biggs met at the local San Diego Culinary Institute. McQuiston’s son has Celiac. Cooking healthy food that doesn’t suck the joy out of life was her challenge by family necessity. So she left her job at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—the mad scientist arm of the Pentagon) and started Curious Fork. The menu is 100% gluten-free.

One day you’re part of a top-secret government team that creates drones, prosthetics and soldier robots. Next you’re operating a gluten-free, organic healthy restaurant, bakery and culinary education center. Same old story.

Curious Fork’s in a tough location, the same stretch of aging malls that’s also home to Pamplemousse. It’s no North Park. Word will be the Fork’s saving grace.

Well, here’s some word. Chef Biggs’ banh mi with pulled pork, soy-ginger reduction, jalapeno, carrots, cilantro, lime aioli and a sliced cucumber on a gluten-free baguette is a hell of a sandwich. The baguette of course is more dense, but flavorful, and the pulled pork with the acidity of the lime and the cucumber crunch is excellent. Also good is the carnitas taco with corn tortilla. Biggs begged and borrowed the recipe off one of his family’s favorite taco shops down in the East Bay. The marinated beef is the star, with pico de gallo, cotija cheese and lime.

The Fork also does breakfast, with the cult-loved Blue Bottle Coffee. People sell their least favorite child for that coffee. They also serve very good gluten-free baked goods from pastry chef Sonja Knowles (try her scones, especially).

The Curious Fork is good, gluten or not.

Banh mi sandwich, minus mi gluten.

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