Tour Clover HFI pre-construction

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We’ve been pretty quiet on HFI here. Sorry about that. We’ve been waiting for what seems like ages to get our construction permit. Our landlord waited over a month just to get the permit to install the storefront.

Well we’re getting closer. LL work is complete and we’re expecting our building permit shortly. So I thought I’d share a little video tour that shows the space pre-construction. This is going to look very different very quickly. It’s super exciting. We’ll give a series of video tours, like This Old House! And along the way I’ll post here about what it takes to get a restaurant up and running.

To start with I thought I’d share some basic timelines for those interested. I would have loved this sort of data when I was writing my Clover business plan. I’m including here the fastest we’ve ever done it and typical. We’ve had some worse than “typical” situations, but not many, so I’ll keep this simple:

  1. From finding a space we like to Letter of Intent (LOI): 1 day (fastest) – 1.5 months (typical)
  2. LOI to Lease: 1 month – 2 months
  3. Architectural Drawings: 3 weeks – 2 months (sometimes we begin this while still working lease, a risk but can speed things up)
  4. Engineer Drawings: 5 weeks – 3 months (this is brutally long, and cannot be done until after architectural drawings)
  5. Construction: 3 weeks – 6 weeks (we’re pretty fast here, many in our industry take longer)
  6. Pre open: 0 days – 2 weeks (we’re starting to play with longer pre-open periods. They cost us money, and keep you from great food, but they support a cleaner open and better more consistent operations from day 1)

So that’s a rough timeline. We typically budget a minimum of 6 months give or take for a new restaurant, though many take twice that time. For HFI we started this process late spring, so even though it feels like forever we’re actually sort of on time. And we got that 24 hour license : )

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Yeah, I was a Brussel for Halloween

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I have no shame. Thanks, American Apparel, for providing me with a stalk-colored onesie.

You can eat Brussels (the sandwich) for another week or so, before we switch to another immensely popular seasonal sandwich. Did someone say Pushpir?

Don’t worry though, the Brussels will remain at MIT year-round. You can thank me for that one too.

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What will you find in a Winter Moon Roots farmshare?

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This picture was from the root-washing station at Michael’s farm. Some of you have been asking exactly what’s going to come in this winter CSA we’ve been talking about. This is a true deep-winter share. Every two weeks, you’ll get a bag with a total of between 10-12 pounds of certified-organic carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, parsnips, garlic, rutabaga, and potatoes grown by Michael Docter in Hadley, MA.

NEW THIS YEAR. You’ll also receive 1 package (of 12) fresh-made tortillas made from heirloom non-GMO corn harvested in Hadley and baked by Jorge at Mi Tierra Tortillas. These tortillas will be baked the morning of the share so they’ll arrive in Cambridge warm out of the oven.

Sign up for your share here. 

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An artichoke grows in Massachusetts

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Ray showed us a little side project: artichokes.

He didn’t grow these for customers, but for himself, just to see if it would work.

I was still having trouble believing this. Land so good that an artichoke will grow in Massachusetts? We’re still trying to persuade Ray to grow some for Clover for a 3pm special next year. In the meantime you can support Ray and Michael by joining their Winter Farm Share.

 

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Alton Brown ate at CloverDWY on Friday!

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I got a note from James, team leader and fry-guy at the Dewey Square truck.

“We served Alton Brown at DWY Square today. I wasn’t positive til I checked his FB and twitter feed when I got home. Really cool. Good Eats made me love cooking.”

Alton, thanks for braving the cold for those fries! We know you’re not from New England! If you want the recipe for the fries, here you go:

1. Cut a potato into quarter-inch fry. We use Chef Potatoes from Hatfield, MA or Prince Edward Island. Cover with water. Soak for 15 minutes.

2. Fry in deep-fryer at 375 degrees for 5 minutes, or until stiff but not over-cooked. Fry should break easily in your hand. Shake fry basket once or twice. Pick a large sprig of fresh rosemary, and add to fry basket. Fry for a few more seconds.

3. Let drain for at least 30 seconds. In a large bowl, toss with Kosher salt to taste. Serve and eat immediately.

*Pics from Alton’s Twitter feed. Follow him here.

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Brussels sprout sandwich leaving

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One of the most magical things about our trip to see our farmers in Hadley was seeing where the fields are located. I was imagining one massive field. I was wrong.

Hadley land is gold. It’s fed by the Connecticut River Valley and it’s been farmed since Native American times. New fields are scarce. Ray and Michael’s fields are scattered throughout Hadley. We drove through someone’s driveway so Ray could show us the brussels field.

The reason brussels are so hard to find locally at volume is that they’re not a money-maker. Once the stalk is picked, it’s done. And farmers have to cut the brussels off the stalk before sending them out, which makes them a relatively low-yield crop. We’ve depleted our supply of local brussels. So with a heavy heart we must announce that we’re only going to have the Brussels Sprout Sandwich company-wide for another week (last day is Wednesday 11/26). After Thanksgiving you’ll have to become a Brussels pilgrim to the MIT truck only.

[If you want to support the amazing farmers of Hadley, sign up for a Winter Farmshare today]

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This crack is the secret to Winter Moon Roots flavor

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If you’ve already signed up for your Winter CSA, read on to learn how your vegetables will be stored. If you haven’t signed up, but are interested, do so now. We started with only 200 shares and they’re going fast.

Michael Docter picks most of his roots* right before the first frost when they’re at the height of taste and flavor. He stores them in a barn during the cold months.

It’s a spotless barn. Each of these cracks in the wall is height of 1 pallet. The cracks let in outside air, and circulates it through a system of solar-powered ducts that I won’t pretend to understand. Basically Michael has figured out a way to avoid the humidity that comes with artificial refrigeration. The roots are kept cool all winter long by none other than fresh Hadley air.

*All except for the parsnips. They will stay under the snow, developing more and more sugars until they are harvested in the spring.

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The sweeter sweet potato

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Remember how we were talking about those 9,000 pounds of sweet potatoes? The ones that inspired Enzo to create the Japanese Sweet Potato sandwich so many of you have been raving about? When we visited Next Barn Over the other week, Ray showed us the sweet potatoes that were headed for Clover.

He told me a crazy fact. Sweet potatoes are not sweet right out of the ground. They need to cure for a few days to develop their sugars.

Ray knew this had to happen but admitted he didn’t quite know why. I was thinking maybe it’s similar to cooking, like you’re slightly caramelizing the sweet potatoes. We are finished with those 9,000 pounds of Next Barn Over sweet potatoes (and we cleaned them out of organic red cabbage too), but we are getting a few thousand pounds of sweet potatoes from Enterprise Farm and 750 pounds of organic red cabbage from Red Fire Farm to tide us through the end of this sandwich’s run.

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Coffee: it’s a crop too

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Pete (the guy in the black shirt) wrote us a handwritten note about the El Bosque, the new Guatemalan coffee we’re pouring right now. He said he was really excited because, for the first time, customers in Cambridge are asking for a specific farm by name. It’s an exciting thing. It makes you realize coffee is a crop, picked by farmers. And if you have really skilled farmers, you can have really amazing coffee.

Barismo has bought 100 percent of El Bosque’s production this year, and they’ve been working on this particular lot for the past four years. Barismo only sends coffee to Cambridge and the surrounding area. No New York accounts. No West Coast accounts. This is on purpose. They want to roast a couple times a week, and send the coffee out in small shipments by bike so it tastes the best it can when it reaches customers. It’s Direct Trade, but it’s so much more.

20 TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR BARISMO EL BOSQUE TASTINGS AT CLOVER

Join us for a tasting of Barismo’s El Bosque coffee, a Guatemalan coffee procured via a unique Direct Trade relationship that’s existed between Barismo and El Bosque Farm for the past 5 years. Head Roaster Pete Cannon will lead the tasting. Your ticket includes 2 homemade donuts.

We’re doing two coffee and donuts events, one at CloverHSQ on 11/20 and one at CloverKND on 12/5. Click on the left-hand side of this website to get yours.

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Winter Moon Breakfast

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It’s 9am. I’ve gone through a couple different modes of transportation. A 4:30am Uber to Harvard Square to pick up Tracy, and bring us to South Station. A 45-minute commuter rail ride from South Station to Framingham, where Chris meets us in a dark parking lot. Chris’s car (he’s taken out his son’s car-seat to make room for me, Tracy, and Paul) to Hadley, Mass.

We drive out to Western Mass, and it’s the perfect fall morning. Brown and gold leaves, a little bit of frost in the air. We’re finally going to see the place that we’ve been talking about for the past 3 years. Michael Docter is our favorite farmer, the one responsible (directly and indirectly) for most of the local produce on our menu in 2014. During our first or second year in operation, he ate at the Clover truck, and said to himself, “I want to grow food for them one day.”

Michael is making breakfast when we arrive. He’s got a griddle on, heating up tortillas made by a Mexican family using non-GMO corn grown in Hadley. Later on, we’ll see the corn growing in a field a few miles away. There are fried eggs. We’ll later visit the chickens that laid them. And Michael’s own beautiful watermelon radishes, which we’ll pick and eat straight from the ground. Obviously it’s the best breakfast ever, and a wonderful preview to what the day will hold.

If you join Michael’s Winter CSA, you too can eat delicious breakfasts like these, all winter long!

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