The Curious Fork expands beyond Solana Beach store


When Barbara McQuiston first opened The Curious Fork, her goal was to bring healthy, gluten-free cooking to Solana Beach and surrounding communities.

“Our mission is simple: to bring wholesome, healthy, fun gluten-free cooking into people’s lives,” McQuiston said at the time.

Two years later, McQuiston has not only met her goal, but surpassed it. The Curious Fork has expanded beyond its storefront in the Ocean Pointe complex just north of the Del Mar Racetrack at 512 Via de la Valle, Suite 102, Solana Beach.

“It’s been a lot of growth in two years,” said McQuiston, a former Del Mar resident who recently relocated to Encinitas. “It really surprised me.”

The Curious Fork is a completely gluten-free all-in-one café, shop and cooking school.

Since June 2014 The Curious Fork has operated as a quick-service café, serving organic, gluten-free pastries, salads, soups, sandwiches and more. The café is open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, with breakfast ending at 10:30 a.m. during the week and 11 a.m. on Saturdays.

The café now offers gluten-free carne asada, carnitas and shrimp tacos on Taco Tuesdays. And about nine months ago, The Curious Fork launched its brunch hours from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Sundays. Due to demand, McQuiston plans to soon extend Sunday brunch and add bistro seating.

With a growing demand for gluten-free baked goods as well, The Curious Fork will soon nearly double in space. Although The Curious Fork currently carries breads and other baked goods, McQuiston plans to open a 1,500-square-foot retail bakery adjacent to the 1,800-square-foot café.

“The market’s demanding it,” McQuiston said.

The Curious Fork has already expanded its once small pastry station to a full bakery kitchen, which is now operating and accepting wholesale orders.

The shop currently offers gluten-free baked goods at Seaside Market. The Cardiff store has carried pies from The Curious Fork since Memorial Day weekend. Other fresh-baked pastries from The Curious Fork have been available at Seaside Market since the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“We’re wholesaling a lot more through grocery stores and restaurants,” said McQuiston, noting that local restaurants such as Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach carry treats from The Curious Fork.

McQuiston is currently in talks with Seaside Market and the “Jimbo’s…Naturally!” grocery chain to soon bring The Curious Fork’s gluten-free baguettes, bagels and waffles to store shelves. She is finalizing the packaging for the gluten-free backed goods.

The Curious Fork also serves as a retail shop and cooking school.

From cookbooks to cookware, the retail shop at The Curious Fork features products that promote healthy living and improve at-home cooking techniques.

In the evening, The Curious Fork hosts a variety of cooking classes for all skill levels, as well as guest chef demonstrations and special events, such as San Diego Opera’s “Taste of Opera” cooking class, where earlier this year attendees tasted an all-American menu inspired by the opera.

Just as The Curious Fork’s menu is “unapologetically gluten-free,” so are the cooking classes and other events at the café.

The café hosts “Vegan and Vegetarian Corner,” a class on the first Wednesday of every month that shows attendees how to make healthy, plant-based home meals.

On Thursdays the store offers “Farmer’s Market Basket Classes” where participants learn about produce and receive recipes for the fresh vegetables from San Diego-based Garden of Eden Organic Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture program. The Curious Fork is a distribution point for Garden of Eden Organics CSA boxes, which can be ordered online and then picked up from the store on Friday mornings.

Authors and guest chefs often make appearances at The Curious Fork.

Among a long list of events, some upcoming classes include a class about macarons with Chef Lisa Porfirio at 3:30 p.m. July 16, a class about curries with Chef Katherine Emmenegger at 6:30 p.m. July 18, and a class about vegan barbeque with Chef Katie Farina at 6:30 p.m. July 27.

The café is hosting a book signing and cooking class with Vanessa Barajas, author of “Clean Eating with a Dirty Mind,” at 3:30 p.m. July 23. On the following day, Freddi Pakier, author of “52 Weeks of Food for the Soul,” will be at the café for a book signing and cooking class at 3 p.m. July 24. Colleen Duffy-Someck, co-owner of “Jimbo’s…Naturally!” and author of the new cookbook “Dancing in the Kitchen,” also has an upcoming book signing and cooking class at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 6.

“We want to educate people on how to live a wholesome life,” McQuiston said.

McQuiston grew up cooking with her mother and grandmother using fresh ingredients from the garden. She and her children were later diagnosed with celiac disease, a digestive and autoimmune disorder that can damage the lining of the small intestine. After switching to a gluten-free diet, her family’s health, along with her own, dramatically improved.

With a passion for culinary arts and healthy-living, McQuiston transitioned from her 30-year career in aerospace and national defense and studied at the San Diego Culinary Institute before opening The Curious Fork in June 2014.

“You do this because you have a passion for it and you love it,” McQuiston said.

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