Clover Food Lab
We’re trying to make the crudite thing stick, but it’s a tougher sell than some ...
We’re saying goodbye to the Pushpir sandwich (Thursday is your last day to get one) ...
In Turkey and Greece, you can find “mezze” (small salads/dishes) at the start of each ...
It’s exciting to ring in the New Year with a snowstorm. We’re open normal hours ...
I discovered Guru the Caterer via Yelp. I can no longer eat at any other Indian restaurant ...
Element Beer is from Miller’s Falls, Massachusetts. Ben and Dan wanted to create a brewery that would fuse styles together, and create totally new styles. Last year we featured Element’s Red Giant and we’ve been dying to see what Ben and Dan have come up with next. Next Thursday, Element returns to Clover with a totally new beer.
Brewer Ben Anhant is going to be in the house at CloverHUB Thursday with a keg of ELEMENT PLASMA, an IPA brewed with sake yeast, malted buckwheat, malted millet, brown rice, and Aramis hops. 9.5% ABV. This beer was developed after years of experimentation, happens to be gluten-free, and is a cross between an IPA and a Sake.
First ten people to register will get to attend a private talk with the brewer and a snack from us. Here’s the link to get tickets. If you’re dying to try Element before Thursday, you can occasionally find bottles and Central Bottle or Formaggio Kitchen, but it’s hard to get on draft anywhere.
Join us Thursday, 3/13 at CloverHUB, 1075 Cambridge St., 8pm if you pre-register, 8:15 for general public.
My mom has been asking me why Ayr is writing so many posts and not me. So I’m giving her a present – a post by me (and a cute picture too).
This was the scene on Dewey Square on Thursday. Backyard Farms invited us to come up with an all-tomato menu for their fundraiser for the Boston Food Bank. We premiered our new Maine Tomato Sandwich, and an awesome chipotle tomato soup, and served to long lines all lunchtime.
We were thrilled to be back on the trucks. It was still really cold, but really invigorating in only the way trucks can be. We’re rolling our trucks back on to the road for the spring, starting with the MIT truck at 20 Carleton Street (open now, lunch 11am-2pm weekdays, follow @cloverfoodtruck for updates). The next batch of trucks will open mid-March or early April. We’ve got some brand new sites in the works, so stay tuned…
We’re trying to make the crudite thing stick, but it’s a tougher sell than some of our other 3pm specials. We’ve been working on the art of convincing with this one.
Maybe it’s the fact that the majority of this item is not fried, or maybe it’s the foreign sounding name (WordPress keeps auto-correcting the poor name to “credit”). Some of you have tried this and become Crudite insiders, and you’re ordering it every day. Others of you are smiling and nodding when we describe it, and then asking when the apple fritters will be back. But we’re not giving up. We challenge you to come by at 3pm special and give Crudite a chance.
CLOVER WINTER MOON ROOTS CRUDITE (all vegetables from Hadley, MA)
-Pickled Winter Moon Roots beets (they taste like candy)
-Pickled Winter Moon Roots carrots
-Fresh Winter Moon Roots watermelon radishes (they are the most beautiful root on the planet: bright magenta with a light green rim)
-Clover pita chips
-Hungarian smoked cheddar dip
We need a local graphic designer. We’d love this to be an in house role someday, but for now we’re looking for somebody who can help us freelance. We’ve worked with great people in the past but other work, or distance or other factors have just gotten in the way. We’ll pay competitively, but we need the right person.
If you know somebody you think may be interested send them our way.
In a couple of days we’ll gather up the responses and set up an interview day.
I think the ideal would be somebody who is an artist with technical skills. I’d love to find somebody with vision who could move our visual communication forward. We’re going to need a range of things designed: T-shirts, packaging, merchandising, signage, in-store-communications, posters, promotional cards, some stuff I haven’t thought of yet.
(wondering what the picture is? that’s some of the crazy “cat bug” art on the wall at the HUB. if you haven’t seen them there are a ton and they’re nuts. I think Antoria’s starting to spread them because I saw one at KND today)
I put up a post discussing some of the decisions we’re facing for DC the other day. It was awesome. Why?
#1, I’ve never talked here about real estate because I was afraid I’d piss off landlords (who are sensitive about a lot of stuff I’ve learned). So it was really liberating to speak honestly about one of the very few parts of Clover that hasn’t been transparent.
#2, The response was just amazing. Between this blog, emails to us directly, and other blogs that picked up the story (Eater, PoPville) we’ve had literally over 200 comments. And many of them are multi-paragraph, super thoughtful and unnecessarily kind. DC, we can’t wait to get to know you better.
So a bunch of people asked for more detail about what we’re doing. So here’s a quick summary.
WHAT WE DO: We do so so much, but the heart of everything is making our food. We’re committed to making the best tasting whatever we make. So that means we do somethings and not others, we’re constantly trying to improve, we use a ton of organic ingredients (often tastes better), we buy a ton locally (often tastes better), we make everything from scratch (excl ketchup, mayo, and bread). We’re focused on plant-based foods, on a mission to make them exciting to the meatiest of palettes. So think of this as a new chance for fast food.
OUR FAVORITE REAL ESTATE: We do some massive volumes at our locations in Boston. 800-1,000 customers/ day at some of our trucks (DWY, PRK, MIT), more than 1,000 customers per day at some of our restaurants (HSQ, KND). 80% of our customers travel less than 5 minutes to eat with us. So to hit those numbers we’re loving very dense areas. We love to have huge impact, so we love the volumes. Daytime population greater than 10,000 within 5 min or high foot traffic. (developed site)
Lowest volumes we can operate profitably would be around 200 customers/ day. We do a few of these in the Boston area (BLV, HUB, BUR) (developing site)
Lunch accounts for between 40and 80% of our sales, like most fast casual. We have really nice dinners in some locations (HSQ), but most of our high volume experience is lunch. We love breakfast, at HSQ today we served about 200 people at breakfast, but they are low tickets and don’t generate a lot of sales/ profit.
RENTS: We can afford big rents, if the traffic is right. I haven’t heard of any rents in DC that scare me off yet (now LLs, please don’t take this the wrong way, we’re not out to make stupid decisions). Our experience is that it’s better to pay more for the right location and do really well vs. skimp on rent and location and work hard to make it survive.
We also do well just off the main drag, we’ve been known to operate in alley ways. So this helps us on some of our rents.
DC STRATEGY: Obviously there is a lot of detail and nuance to our thinking about how to enter our first every market that is not Boston. But the simple version is: (a) open a restaurant in a less developed area where we can afford to experiment, get to know a community, etc., (b) open a restaurant in a busy area where we can hit huge numbers. We’d love both to start off strong. We’re used to hitting profitability in our first month or two of operation. This isn’t a “let’s invest now hoping we’ll have a business in 5 years” sort of thing.
I’m so pumped about the response I’m going to start posting regularly about sites we’re checking out. I’m going to be down on Monday. Anything you’d have me look at?
It’s no secret we don’t do much sweet at Clover.
Why? It’s pretty personal. I’m not in this business to douse you with baked goods. There aren’t many people who benefit from that afternoon cookie, or the dessert at lunch.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t like sweets. We just don’t want them to become a daily addiction for our customers. So we do sweets occasionally. If you haven’t had the opportunity to try our cupcakes (or donuts) keep an eye on the twitter feed. These are typically spontaneous happenings. They’re always ugly. And really really delicious.
This cupcake was one made by Michael T. at Harvard Square. I helped a bit. It’s a vanilla cupcake with a rum frosting. Not just any run, Mount Gay. It was Tracy’s birthday, so we made up 150 or so and gave them away to customers, which is a longtime Clover tradition. Tracy is from Barbados and loves rum.
[PLUG: COME TO DEWEY SQUARE TOMORROW, 11AM-2PM - THE CLOVER TRUCK IS GOING TOMATO CRAZY!]
I’ve been learning about tomato production. In this part of the country, we know tomatoes are not in season in winter. But most people don’t abstain from tomatoes. Instead we buy the tomatoes in the grocery store. And most of those tomatoes were grown in Latin America, California, or Florida, under horrible working conditions (some famers have even been convicted of slavery!). The tomatoes have traveled a long way to get here, so they were picked unripe and injected with gases to ripen along the journey.
A few years ago, Backyard Farms decided to change that. They started growing hydroponic tomatoes in greenhouses in Maine. Everyone told them they were totally insane to try to grow tomatoes in a glass box in the middle of winter. We came across these tomatoes early on at Clover. I think Tony Russo told us about them. They’re the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes you can buy this time of year. For the first 5 years of Clover, we only used the cocktail tomatoes for our BBQ, BLT, and breakfast sandwich. Now we’re deepening our partnership with Backyard Farms. They’re selling us their beefsteak seconds, and we’re featuring them everywhere there’s a tomato at Clover. And you know if we have an amazing supplier, we’re going to want to create a seasonal sandwich highlighting it. This time we’re shooting for an All-Maine sandwich. Think deep-fried seaweed, a thick steak of Backyard Farms tomato, and a Sriracha mayo.
If you want to eat the brand new Maine Tomato Sandwich before it hits the menu, come to Dewey Square tomorrow for lunch, and look for the Clover truck. We’re helping out with a Backyard Farms fundraiser for the Boston Food Bank. For a $5 donation to the food bank, you get a tomato sandwich plus your choice of tomato side (soup or salad). We’ll be there 11:30am-2pm, there’ll be all kinds of other fun activities, and I may be dressed as a tomato.
We taste new beers every week at our Food Dev meeting. I think this is the 3rd time we’ve tried Idle Hands over the years. I think they started a couple of years ago. They’re based in Everett, and available in local stores and I think they have a tap room if you want to check them out.
They’ve been really really small. They’re still tiny, even by our standards. But we’re thinking it may be time to explore a relationship. I always feel the best way to see what somebody thinks about food is to see if they eat it all. You can see from this photo we’re loving the Idle Hands.
FYI: At food dev meetings we taste food as well as beer. If you have something you think we should add to the menu, bring a sample by: 3pm on Tuesdays at the HUB. The recently added Beet Sandwich is a customer creation.
We just tasted this year’s Peak Simcoe. This is a beer we ran last spring and people loved. Peak buys the entire supply of organic simcoe hops. I’ve heard this is a bit controversial in the industry, because others would like some of those hops. But Peak is the largest organic brewer and maybe they’ll help develop the market for organic hops. In the meantime, you’re going to have to hit Clover this spring to get some of these. (Right now we’re running BBC Rasberry, until it runs out, and Allagash White at HSQ, Pretty Things Meadowlark IPA at Kendall Square.)
Simcoe was first sold in 2000 by a farm in Washington State. It is used for both bitterness and aroma. It has a ton of a certain essential oil: myrecene which is responsible for a lot of its properties.
It smells awesome and tastes so great. We’ll be bringing it in soon.
(Oh yeah, and for those of you who are super observant, that is a garlic peel there. This was the same food dev meeting where we were considering garlic sources as discussed in a recent post.)
Just about everybody who works in the kitchen has beef with me. A long time ago I decided Clover would use fresh garlic. We’d started out that way. But then I think Rolando had brought in an already peeled product, which is really popular in kitchens. And I thought the hummus was off and couldn’t figure out why until I tracked this down. So we went to exclusively fresh garlic.
Fresh as in still with all it’s paper. So today at Clover the kitchen peels a massive amount of garlic every day. See that bag. That’s what I mean by massive. Imagine peeling that much garlic every day. You may hate me and my unwillingness to use already peeled garlic from China.
Garlic is this crazy market I’ve been learning about. Most of it is grown in China. Isn’t that nuts? We can buy 5lbs of peeled Chinese garlic for about $7. Isn’t that nuts?
Chris has been searching for something better. We’re discovering that most of the year our garlic (even in it’s papery form) is from China. We don’t like that for a bunch of reasons.
So Chris found this farm: Christopher Ranch. They’re from Gilroy, CA. I remember driving through Gilroy. They have a garlic festival there where they have garlic ice cream. That really impressed me as a kid. This farm grows their garlic, peels, and packages it. I’d like to go check it out to really confirm. I’m suspicious about the food industry in general. They claim we’ll be getting garlic that is a couple days from the ground.
Chris brought some in to test. We’re going to see what it tastes like and then go from there.