Today, there are numerous gluten-reduced beers on the market thanks largely to Clarity Ferm, an enzyme from local company White Labs that greatly reduces gluten content in finished beers. But even before that revolutionary product was introduced, Matt DelVecchio was determined that every beer from his eventual Duck Foot Brewing Company would be fit for consumption by the gluten-intolerant.
He’s made good on that venture with his three-year-old, Miramar-based business, and recently took things a step further, opening Duck Foot Tasting Room and Kitchen in downtown San Diego’s East Village – the first brewery-owned venue to serve gluten-free food with beer to match.
DelVecchio and his team spent nearly two years combing the county for an ideal space to house a satellite venue. They started on the coast but felt most beach communities were already saturated with hospitality venues. While the same could be said for much of downtown, the team was attracted to the still-emerging East Village and the heavy development the area is experiencing.
Additionally, they were looking forward to installing a kitchen. “We feel food is the one thing our tasting room in Miramar lacks. People get hungry after a couple of beers and a lot of our customers have gluten issues, so they can’t order just anything,” says DelVecchio. “Duck Foot is a creative platform for all things. We view food as another outlet to showcase our creativity and enrich the experience for our fans. Our East Village tasting room is a safe harbor for anyone with Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, but also a damn good dining experience for people that don’t need to worry about those issues and are foodies, too.”
Located on Park Boulevard in a 1,500-square-foot space across from the Park and Market Street trolley station, it’s outfitted with a contemporary, sophisticated motif, courtesy of local designer Jessica Kovarsky of Studio Aya, who helped transform the space that formerly housed The Parlour. The space seats 60 indoors and 20 on an outside patio, with 16 taps dispensing a variety of Duck Foot beers.
The menu is split into four sections—snacks, specials, small plates, and desserts—all of which are the work of chef Stevan Novoa, an Air Force veteran who graduated from the local arm of the Art Institute of California. Novoa’s spent the past five years doing pop-up dinners and consulting for the likes of Nobu, Bivouac Ciderworks, and Cannonball, while also developing background in beer as a part-time bartender for Groundswell Brewing.
DelVecchio is happy to have found a chef who approaches gluten-free food simply as food. “We are going to be doing food-and-beer pairings like it’s our job,” says DelVechhio. “I mean how awesome is it going to be to team our brewers up with our own chef and have them create unique, one-time dinner experiences for our fans? I can hardly wait.”
The same goes for Chef Novoa, whose everyday menu is concise yet adventurous, mixing different cultures and coming across as anything but restrictive. Packed with flavor and imagination, the bill of fare reads as one of the most creative in an area replete with solid menus. Like Duck Foot’s beer, it’s purposely gluten-free, but it’s meant to be more than that. It’s built to be good for anyone who orders it. And that ethos is a welcome addition to the East Village.
Birds of a Feather
Chef Steven Novoa shares dishes from the menu that best communicate his cooking style, alongside Duck Foot beers that make for perfect, gluten-free pairings.
Pão de Queijo Basket
“This snack dish is modeled after the traditional Brazilian cheese bread of the same name, which we knew we wanted to include because of our co-founder Suzy Pessutti’s Brazilian roots. The bread is baked fresh to order and served warm, and we’ll have three different renditions of it on the menu. Pair with 2018 GABF Silver Medal Winner Redrum Rum Barrel-Aged Red Ale.”
Farmer Cheese & Tomato Jam with Flax Seed Crackers
“I love fresh cheese and tomatoes as a snack, so I knew I wanted to incorporate that combo in one of our snack dishes. Growing up, we used to make our own cheese and pick tomatoes to make a jam, which is what inspired this dish. We keep it local with fresh cherry tomatoes from Maciel Family Farms for the jam, and the flaxseed masa crackers are also made in-house. So, while this dish seems simple, it takes two-to-three days to prepare each component. Pair with Secret Spot West Coast Hazy IPA.”
Beets with Molé Sauce & Beet Chips
“My inspiration for this molé dish actually came from my great grandmother’s recipe—except that hers was made up of random pantry items. This is a more refined take with all the heart of that dish from my childhood, using beets slow-cooked in plum umeboshi stock and Duck Foot’s Chocolate Hazelnut Porter in the sauce. Pair with Bourbon Barrel-Aged London Calling Imperial Porter.”
Sticky Short Ribs with Blood Orange Glaze, Chermoula & Brocollini
“I wanted a strong protein for the small plate menu that was shareable and not drowned in a gravy as I so often see, so for this dish we char the short rib in a hibiscus glaze and finish the broccolini in a lemonade broth. They’re then stacked in individual ‘bites’ and plated with a dab of chermoula and a sprinkle of salt to balance the sweet glaze and broth. Pair with Rojoe Red Ale.”
Trout Crudo with Corn Dashi, Citrus Vinaigrette, Bonito Flakes, Melon Sriracha & Charred Fruit
“Again, this dish is another good anti-tradition example. Mixing two of my favorite cuisines and flavors, five pieces of sashimi-sliced trout are served with citrus oil, corn dashi and melon sriracha, and finished with local smoked katsuobushi. I’ve said before that I am very influenced by Japanese and Mexican cuisines, and this dish embodies that. Pair with Drink This or the Bees Die Honey Ale.”