Clover Food Lab

Meet a farmer this Thursday 4/17, sign up for a summer farmshare, pick it up at Clover

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We sent our staff on a little field trip the other week. That’s Clarice and Nicole making friends with some of the chickens at Stone Soup Farm. While we can’t promise you a trip to Western Mass, we’re offering you the next best thing this Thursday at our annual Meet the Farmer Night.

A little background. For the third summer, we are hosting farmshare pickups at 4 Clover restaurants. A farmshare or CSA is an agreement between you and a local farmer. You pay money up front, the farmer uses that money to buy seeds and hire people. Then, as a result of your up-front investment, you get a box of just-harvested produce every week from June-October. We think it’s the most cost-effective way to eat the best food. So we’re offering our restaurants free for farmers to drop their shares, and we’re offering our website for you to sign up.

Come to Meet the Farmer Night this Thursday, 6pm-8pm at the CloverHUB, 1075 Cambridge Street in Inman Square. It’s free and open to all. You can tell us you’re coming via this link.

FEATURED FARMS FOR SUMMER 2014:
Stone Soup Farm, Saturday pickups
Crimson and Clover Farm, Sunday pickups
Next Barn Over Farm, Tuesday pickups
Queen’s Greens Farm, Wednesday pickups
Enterprise Farm, Thursday pickups
Red Fire Farm, Friday pickups

Learn more at www.cloverfoodlab.com/farmshare.

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Spring Dug 2014

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We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. I first learned about Spring Dug Parsnips the second year of Clover, back in 2009. They’re a little known item, farmed by only a few. Most Parsnips are harvested in the fall, and they’re parsnip-y. Like big white carrots that taste a bit like Rutabaga. Unlike their root vegetable cousins Parsnips can winter. And some farmers still do this. You leave the parsnips in the ground and pick them in the spring when the ground thaws. We’ve hooked up with Michael Docter, our favorite organic root farmer in Western Mass and we’re buying these by the pallet.

That’s right, the Spring Dug Parsnip is the first harvest of the season in New England. That thawing normally happens in March, but this year we’re a bit late. The best thing about Spring Dugs is that they’re super sweet and deep in flavor. Roasted they’re one of my favorite foods, hands down. Texture is awesome. They’re sweet, but savory. The flavor is complex and deep. This is what vegetables can be if we pay attention to them.

We just launched our Spring Dug Parsnip and Cheddar sandwich company-wide. This picture is from this past Wednesday, the second day of the sandwich. We’re pairing the parsnip with spring onions (which admittedly aren’t from New England quite yet, but will be soon), first pick spinach (which I think is from New England greenhouses, need to check with Chris on that), and sharp Cheddar cheese from our friends at Grafton in VT.

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Coffee robot

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Our friends from the Media Lab at MIT invited us to check out a demonstration the other day of a robotic coffee pouring machine. They’re calling it “Steadypour.” Fun project. It does some stuff we wouldn’t need, wetting filter, pouring in spiral, one arm that moves back and forth instead of a dedicated spout per cone. These features make it really fun to watch but are probably not necessary for great coffee.

The basic idea: a machine that does pour-over coffee is interesting to me. They told me one of the pieces of resistance they are experiencing is that Barista are afraid they wouldn’t get tips. Makes sense. They asked if we’d be interested in a pour over robot. If it delivered coffee that’s as good or better than what we do now I think we’d love it.

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Eat the future… Clover meals

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I have a feeling these could be huge. Who knows, maybe they’ll eclipse everything we’ve done to date. But in a way that would be fine. We’ve been working so hard over the past few years to build a company, not a sandwich.

This is one of the fun and surprising discoveries we made last week at Brookline when testing our Clover Meal Bar for WFM. A customer asked: “Am I going to fill this, or will you have these already filled.” We honestly hadn’t considered making these up ourselves at that point. And it may seem obvious after seeing this picture. But so many discoveries are like that. They feel obvious after you’ve seen them, even if opaque prior.

So we thought we’d give this suggestion a try. And they’re beautiful. And filling. And delicious. We have a few: Clover Winter Meal, Clover Mediterranean Meal, Clover Spicy Meal, Clover Southern Meal, Clover Protein Meal (the one you see here). They’re all a combination of hearty vegetable salads, pickles, and bean dips of some sort. Think hummus, white bean dip, etc. They’re nutritionally balanced. This one packs a hefty 60% of the protein Daily Recommended Value (for a 2,000 calorie diet). We’re hawking baked pita chips on the side for those who want them.

I brought some home. My kids were nuts for them. I shared them with my parents in law, they loved them. And I don’t think they were just saying that. Customers have been coming back for them, and telling friends. It’s been really fun and delicious. They’re super packable, sharable, delicious the day after (even though we’ve only been selling them same day). They’re packed with seasonally appropriate local produce, beans, etc. It’s just awesome.

We’re going to be piloting these at Kendall Square next week. Get ready folks. These are going to be really fun.

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Clover returns to Boston: DWY opens at 7am tomorrow!

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Tomorrow, we return to Dewey Square, which means Clover food is available at last in Boston proper. Come by from 7am-11am for popovers, coffee, and breakfast sandwiches. At lunch (11am-1:30pm) we’ll have chickpea fritter sandwiches, French Fries w/rosemary, and some other surprises.

In other exciting news, we’re going to have a truck at the Boston Marathon this year! If you’re planning your marathon-watching experience, may we suggest Heartbreak Hill?

 

 

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New T-shirt designs

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Normally we make the T-shirt a big surprise. We make small editions (say 200) and match the content with the season. Like strawberry in May, etc. But for the winter T-shirt I’ll normally do something that’s not food. You know, because no food grows here in the winter.

This time I’m going to let you in on the new T-shirts pre-release. We just hired an amazing designer, and this is his first project for us. We pulled images from our customers, crayon drawings. I’m loving them. Order went in yesterday. Should be in next week. We’ll be selling these retail (very limited quantities).

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Olive oil that tastes great

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Chris had a big cat grin on his face at this past food dev meeting. He finally found us some delicious olive oil.

I read this book about olive oil the other year. Most of it is phony, it contains oils that are not from olives. It’s been treated with heat, over processed, over filtered. And it’s old, oxidized. This all means it doesn’t taste as great as it could and should.

And when you’re buying large quantities it’s even harder. Restaurant olive oil is just terrible. Worse than you can imagine. We’ve tried them all and most have been terrible. We’ve used the best we could find, which wasn’t great.

Then Chris brought this box in. It’s awesome. The distributor works for the farm. It isn’t the best olive oil I’ve ever had, but compared to that stuff with the phony flags not he label, it’s just nothing the same. I mean the difference is really dramatic. This is so fantastic. Now I’ve got a dumb smile on my face.

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Bitcoin at Clover

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That’s a bitcoin kiosk at Clover HSQ.

I was approached by Chris and Kyle. Chris is a former MIT student and the two of them are building a new business called Liberty Teller. Liberty Teller is deploying “Bitcoin ATMS.” They asked is we could pilot the ATM at one of the Clover restaurants. I thought why not. They are paying us $220/ month, which is slightly less than we pay Harvard for that space.

What is Bitcoin? Bitcoin is a “virtual” currency. Some programmers figured out how to create a platform that would allow people to hold and trade a “currency” called Bitcoin. The idea is that this virtual currency would allow for less friction in transactions. In this case friction mostly means banks. It’s an interesting idea and it harkens back to pre-1792, when the US Mint was first created. Back then, and for years after, money was decentralized. There have been minor experiments in local and alternative currencies over the years, but nothing as large as Bitcoin. This is an interesting time, and a lot of people, including me, are curious to see what happens.

How does it work? You put cash into the ATM, Bitcoin is then transferred to your “wallet” which is something you’ve already set up online or, if you’re not already a bitcoin person, a piece of paper you pick up at the machine. You then own these “bits of coin” that you can transfer or sell in the future. We’re working to figure out how to accept bitcoin at Clover. It’s not as easy as I was hoping, but I think we’ll work it out. Right now I don’t know of any retailer in Boston that accepts bitcoin. So locally you can’t do much with your bit. But there are online services and exchanges that let you trade with others.

You cannot use the ATM to get cash. Basically when you use the ATM you are buying Bitcoin that Kyle and Erik already own at a price that they set. They are getting your cash. You are getting their bitcoin.

Why would you want to use this? I can only speculate on what folks are using this for. I used $5 to buy bitcoin for Lucia (Dir of Communications) because we were curious. I don’t know what, if anything, she’ll ever do with that coin. Others have made very large (greater than $500) purchases. It’s occurred to me that this would be a great way to launder money. White collar money laundering, right? I’m not saying I know that anybody is doing that, but it would work really well. You deposit cash. And you have a transferrable and untraceable asset. Crazy, right? Legal yet untraceable. You can imagine tax evasion, purchasing illegal goods, etc. White collar of course. But you know what, cash can be used for all of those things too, right?

The IRS just issued guidance yesterday on bitcoin. It is being treated not as currency, but as a speculative asset. This means that you owe the IRS on any gains you achieve if you sell bitcoin for more than you paid for it, just like a stock. It’s subject to capital gains.

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Aleppo is not Aleppo anymore

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Chris brought us a challenge at our recent food dev meeting. Turns out that the Aleppo pepper we’ve been loving for years is no longer available. The conflict in Syria has destroyed the Aleppo pepper production.

Christina’s has a blend that “simulates” Aleppo. It’s not the same, not as smoky. We’re exploring alternatives, but the most likely outcome is that we stop using Aleppo pepper for now.

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Kimlee’s whoopie pie development

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Kimlee runs prep at Harvard Square. She’s been doing an amazing job. I believe that food tastes great when it’s made with love. Some of you may think that sounds cheesy when you read that, but I’m dead serious. There are so many minute decisions you make when you’re working with food, tiny little decisions. And if you don’t care, if you’re not making something with love, it’s rare you’re going to find the right combination of decisions that results in something beautiful.

Think to the best meals you’ve ever had, I bet they had a huge helping of love. I know my best food memories are meals my father or grandmother cooked, or pies my mom made, a meal Brooke made for me, or snacks shared with my sister Asa and brother in law/ best friend Alex. Love.

Kim supports my theory. She cares deeply about the food she’s working, and it’s beautiful as a result. For example, she cuts your tomatoes for the cucumber tomato salad by hand everyday, because it tastes better than using the machine. We’re all really lucky to be working with Kim.

These whoopie pies were made on Tuesday, not the day we typically do whoopie pies, specifically to test a new recipe. We loved the chocolate chocolate, and you can look forward to buying boxes at Clover Harvard Square (HSQ) in the near future. Thanks Kim!

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