These bagels and breads don't crack like sticks when bent, nor taste like cardboard. Mina Makram has tried most of the commercial gluten-free items out there and made sure what he bakes covers new territory -- a delicious one. Ducks & Dragons, his tiny bakery launched in early 2015 in San Mateo, produces Montreal-style bagels and baguettes that deliver the pleasing properties of wheat-based comfort food.
His bread is moist (although it contains no oil), springy and has a nice crumb, toasting like a dream. There's no distracting sour aroma of apple cider vinegar (frequently used in gluten-free products). His bagels are dense and nicely textured but not rock-like, with the shiny outside that proclaims having been boiled, like a bagel should be but often isn't.
With the gluten-free craze continuing to skyrocket, Makram's petite output is being gobbled up by his growing fan base. Followers include the miniscule proportion of people actually diagnosed with celiac disease -- the serious autoimmune disorder that can damage the lining of the small intestine after the consumption of the gluten in wheat, barley and rye -- as well as the many more individuals who have decided they want to cut gluten out of their diets for a host of reasons.
Makram himself is one of those who determined that carbohydrates can be problematic when it comes to health. In fact, this is what led to the creation of Ducks & Dragons. Obese since childhood, he decided to reinvent his diet and lifestyle beginning four-plus years ago, weighing a distressing 400 pounds at the time. "I used to eat anything -- pizza, fast food, whatever," he recalls. "I didn't know about nutrition."
He also didn't exercise and increasingly found that even short walks between buildings at work -- he was then a research engineer for GE Healthcare -- were an ordeal. "I'd break into a sweat," he explains. "I was wasting so much time because I was waiting for the elevator."
His personal overhaul involved learning to ride a bicycle for the first time, then expanded to workouts at the gym -- where he met his girlfriend -- and the reconstruction of his diet based on healthy principles. Makram sampled "all the various diets -- low fat, low calories -- but I didn't like the food," he says. "Eventually, I came across the low-carb diet and I adopted that and started seeing results. I stuck with it for three-and-a-half years," losing half his body weight in the process.