When One Dish Cuisine owner Maureen Burke was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1988, she felt as though she was instantly cut off from the world as she knew it.
“There were no health-food stores, the Internet or support groups to help me out,” says the Crofton resident. “I spent six hours in the grocery store reading labels to try to discover what foods might be safe.”
The experience was frustrating and frightening, but it steeled Burke’s resolve to learn how to cook without gluten. Over the next two decades, she honed a broad variety of recipes, which were constricted further when she eliminated casein (milk proteins) and soy from her diet.
In the spring of 2009, she began One Dish Cuisine as a wholesale business, selling frozen meals to area restaurants, hospitals and grocers. In September of this year, Burke, 49, expanded by opening a cozy cafe about a mile outside downtown Ellicott City. It has patio seating and about a dozen tables inside where you can hang out while you wait during the 10 minutes or so it takes to prepare your order. The walls are dotted with pictures of historical figures who inspire Burke, including Martin Luther King Jr., Harvey Firestone and Benjamin Franklin.
Diners with almost any kind of food allergy will appreciate the easy-to-use, color-coded
labeling system on the menu. There are nine markers, including green for gluten-free, red for casein-free and black for soy-free. The kitchen is peanut-free and certified gluten-free by the Celiac Sprue Association.
Burke developed almost all the recipes, which are executed by chef Ben Anderson. The choices span salads, sandwiches, pizzas and soups. A crackerjack vegan black bean burger ($9.99) is well spiced with hints of the Southwest, while chopped hot peppers and horseradish cheddar on top give it real pep. Like many gluten-free dishes that lack protein binders, it tends to fall apart, but you might finish it, as I did, quickly enough to avoid a problem there. The side of spot-on, skin-on fries disappeared equally rapidly.
Floppy cheese pizza ($17.99) the size and shape of a lunch tray seems reminiscent of the cafeteria lunchtime staple but tastes immeasurably better. On the other hand, the bigger-than-your-mouth BLT is bookended with gluten-free white bread toasted into an unsatisfyingly dry, crispy consistency.
For dessert there’s a hearty little cookie ($1.50) pocked with plenty of chocolate chips, an apple cake ($2) that resembles a small zucchini bread and a muffin ($3.50) that is dry on top but moist on the bottom from what seems like a bushel full of blueberries.
If you want to stock up, several refrigerated cases are filled with frozen grab-and-go options like pizza ($5.99 to $21.99), chicken tenders with fries ($9.99), salads ($6.50 to $8.99) and a decent drink selection.
One Dish Cuisine 8001 Hillsborough Rd., Ellicott City. 443-759-6344.www.onedishcuisine.com. Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.