Jalapeno soda


I’ll admit more than a little skepticism about this one. Sometimes ideas come to our Food Development meetings that seem… well… ideas we’re not sure are going to work. But we taste everything. And sometimes I’m spectacularly wrong. The first time I remember this happening was with cinnamon lemonade. An employee wanted to make cinnamon lemonade. I thought that sounded awful, but said let’s just make sure we don’t make too much. It turned out to be a stroke of genius, or luck, or both. And we stumbled into this amazing territory of spice lemonades (star anise is one of my favorites).

Craig, of Clover KND, had this idea for Jalapeño soda. Those little peppers are starting to hit harvest. And if you’ve had a good fresh jalapeño you may have noticed that alongside the heat there’s a beautiful fruitiness.

This soda is a little hot, but not too much. And it has an awesome fruit quality. It’s really amazing. Showing at Clover Kendall and elsewhere soon. Thank Craig! and bring your crazy ideas by on Tuesdays, 3pm, at the HUB. Open to all.


Join us for Food Dev


Our Food Development meetings happen every Tuesday at 3pm at the HUB. They’re open to the public. You can sit in and listen and taste. Or you can bring a sample of something you think we should try. Next meeting is going to focus on ideas for summer salads that use all the produce we’re getting from farms right now (think tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, scallions, melons). We’re also going to taste the second iteration of a sandwich that Sharron, one of our kitchen employees, developed based on Indochinese food he grew up eating in India. And as always there’ll be new coffee and beer to try.

Email Lucia (info@cloverfastfood.com) if you want to join.




Zero-Waste Catering Trial


Ali (Clover catering manager) here. I think some folks who knew me as an environmental engineer might find it strange that I’m working in catering now. I grew up in Alaska where my mom was a park ranger, I worked in environmental engineering, and after a lot of soul (and internet!) searching, I eventually found my way to the food industry. I’ve always been fascinated by food and packaging and waste.

This spring, MIT chose Clover to pilot an idea they’ve been interested in for a while: Zero Waste Catering. I was really excited. Most catering produces lots of garbage. If you’ve ever been to a conference you might have eaten a bagged lunch with plastic wrap, forks, knives, spoons (many of which aren’t even touched). No one likes to see all that waste, but it’s really common.

MIT hired us to cater a 3-day, 300-employee celebration at the Media Lab, and challenged us to create zero waste. Our catering is already pretty low-waste, but we made a couple adjustments. We wrapped sandwiches with our butcher paper, set them up on racks, sent our salads in our reusable “third pan” containers, and loaded everything onto rolling carts.

SIDE NOTE: If you have experience in catering, and something like this excites you, I’m hiring for my replacement! I’m moving to become the account manager for our Whole Foods partnership, and we’re actively recruiting for the next Catering Manager. You can apply online through the Careers tab of this website.


You can call it the Massimo


Enzo wanted to create a sandwich that celebrates 3 ingredients that are in season at the same time: red peppers, summer squash, and cabbage.

We’re jokingly referring to it as the Massimo. That’s Enzo’s younger brother. And it’s true: the sandwich is the slightly healthier version of the Enzo sandwich you all might have loved this winter.

Sweet, tangy pepper relish with lots of coriander, two slices of Grafton 1-year cheddar, thick-cut summer squash, and a fresh cabbage slaw with lots of parsley. Almost 100 percent of the ingredients are locally sourced – from Next Barn Over, in Hadley, MA (a relationship we’ve been working on for several years). The Italian red peppers are from Next Barn Over, squash from Next Barn Over, cabbage (when we can) is from Next Barn Over. And the cheddar is from Grafton, VT.


Arrivederci Panelle!


The Panella is on its last days. You can get it today and tomorrow, and then it’s gone until this time next year.

It’s been a wild ride. We caused a stock-out of chickpea flour at Christina’s, where we buy our spices. We made a lot of people very happy. But we also screwed up the sandwich more than a few times. (Please, if you had a panella you didn’t love, reach out. We’ll make you right again.)

So what’s replacing the Panella? We’re moving to one of our simplest and most popular sandwiches of all time. Any guesses? First person w/right answer gets theirs free on Wednesday.


NUTS AND BOLTS: Temperature monitoring


You probably know we’ve had big plans for Clover since day 1. You may not know how critical technology is to our vision. I’m not exaggerating when I say that Clover just couldn’t exist 10 years ago. Not because eating plant-based is hot now and wasn’t then (thought that might be true to some extent) but because the way we build our food systems requires modern technology. It simply couldn’t be done without. Same with training, employee scheduling, communications, etc.

Almost a year ago I shared our recipe template, which is pretty great and open for all to use. Since then we’ve had a ton of people use that recipe template. And daily I have others ask me about what we do and what tools we use. Eric Moskowitz from the Boston Globe wrote a really detailed article about what we do with data at Clover that’s generated even more interest. So I thought it might be helpful if I share some more specifics on tools we love. Today: temperature monitoring. We’re working with a company that actually spun out from some technology developed at the Media Lab at MIT.

One of the most critical controls for food safety is temperature control. If you’re not in the business you may have to pause for a moment to really understand this. I know that before I started Clover it wasn’t anything I knew about. Rolando had to teach me. Because unlike your fridge at home that may get opened a few times a day, refrigeration in foodservice is in constant action. At home when you want to store something you just throw it in the fridge. In foodservice cooling is an active action you’re doing to the food. At the end of the day you need 2 data streams:

- Temperature of cooling devices (e.g.,. refrigerator)

- Temperature of food

The standard approach in the industry is to have a couple of thermometers in your refrigeration and, if you run a clean operation, record those temperatures periodically through the day. You use a small probe style thermometer to test food. And if you run clean you do this throughout the day and record the temperature to a clipboard.

We went searching last fall for an upgrade. I want real time temperature monitoring, accessible from anywhere, with full stored history. I also want that history to track each food item, but we’re not there yet. There’s a company that spun out from the MIT Media Lab called FreshTemp. They make these wireless temperature monitors that you can put in refrigerators to monitor the temperature. We’ve installed them in our restaurants, commissary, and trucks. It’s a new project for us and the company, FreshTemp, is still young and developing their product. But overall it has been awesome. They send you a text message if your temps are out of range. You can pull up full temperature history from the cloud. It’s great.

For now we use simple probe thermometers to temp food and we log the data into cloud-based reports. But FreshTemp is working on a wireless temperature probe that would support direct logging of item temperatures. Can’t wait.


Why is it called Eggplant?


You know what this is? White and light purple eggplant. It means we’re buying heirloom eggplant from Massachusetts farms. Eggplant is one of a few items we serve that’s not sourced locally. Normally it’s shipped to us from South America, sometimes California.

But every year around this time we get to enjoy eggplant that hasn’t made such a journey. And it turns out there are all types of eggplant. It comes in many shapes and sizes. If you look closely you’ll see 5 slices of white eggplant in this picture. All of a sudden the name “Egg” plant makes a lot more sense.

Chris reported to me this week that we’re over 85% locally sourced ingredients right now. That’s nuts. And while we normally focus more of the hard stuff (hitting 40% local in April), this time of year is undeniably exciting for us all. Shipments are rolling in from local farms and distributors of local products. And it’s all so beautiful and delicious. Enjoy while you can!


Enzo is on Food Network, Guy’s Grocery Games at 8pm Sunday 8/3/14


Vincenzo mysteriously left us for a couple days this past spring. He hasn’t been able to tell us much about the shoot, but he was selected as a contestant on Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network. His episode premiers tonight.

If you’ve been eating at Clover for long you probably know Vincenzo. He’s at the center of a lot of what we do. If you don’t know Enzo, he’s one of Clover’s first employees. He’s currently our most senior Restaurant Manager (Clover KND) and is set to help us develop the DC market this coming year. Enzo is short for Vincenzo. And Pileggi is pronounced “pee-legi.” Enzo’s family is Italian by way of Venezuela, so he has a bunch of interesting culinary influences. And like the rest of us at Clover, he’s a bit obsessed with food. None of us have seen him on camera yet and we can’t wait.


Thank you breakfast


Right now if you give us feedback in any form, even if accidental (e.g., through a review or tweet), we’ll invite you to a thank you breakfast.

I think it was Lucia who had this idea a few months ago, and we’ve been having fun figuring out how it works. It’s pretty informal right now. If you tell us something about your Clover experience, good or bad, we follow up by inviting you to the thank you breakfast. I host these once a month. We buy breakfast for those who show up and thank you for your feedback. I’m there and answer questions you might have, etc.

We’ve done 2 so far, so I’d say it’s still in the prototype phase. Some of the folks who showed up seemed  bit unsure about why we’d be thanking them (a few had very critical feedback). But honestly, everything you can share with us helps make Clover better for you and others. We listen to it all. And we know that it takes energy for you to share, so we really appreciate the gesture.

Tell us what you think of something, good or bad, and maybe we’ll see you at our next thank you breakfast. I’d love to get to the point where these fill the restaurant. (To date they’ve been really small.)


I think our coffee can be better


The other week we joined George Howell to taste new coffees. Tasting with George Howell is amazing and the coffees were surprising and beautiful. Chris who runs our food set this up, two of his managers had a chance to join, as well as Sean who is going to run our DC region.

We just brought one of George Howell’s coffees in last week: Karatu AB. Everybody has been loving it and you can try it this week at any of our restaurants or trucks. It tastes sort of like jam to me, berry notes but dark. Maybe a bit like plum jam. Tell us what you think.

I had to run off to a flight to DC right after this tasting, but I asked George if he’d help us re-work our coffee program. We’ve put a massive amount of research into our current coffee program. When we started coffee at Clover 5 years ago I met George at this same spot in Acton and asked really stupid questions. I didn’t even know who he was or how important a role he has played in the industry, or that he was the inventor of the Frappucino. Since then we’ve visited nearly 20 roasters across the country and asked many more questions. We rotate in those that we love. We’ve tasted every coffeeshop we can find in every major city. And second to Blue Bottle, I don’t think there is anybody in the country with more experience serving pour over coffee. We’re talking more than a million cups of pour over coffee.

Each day we hear somebody tell us they just had the best cup of their life. I love hearing this, but I think we can do better.

In particular I’m not happy with the variability of our iced coffee. I haven’t wanted to do cold brew because I’m afraid of lethal doses of caffeine. OK, maybe not lethal, but make-your-hands-shake extreme. So maybe there is a way we can do cold brew with less caffeine. At home I’ve started making hot coffee with less grounds. When we started our portioning was 1/2 what we saw Blue Bottle doing (they were pouring 48grams for a 12 ounce cup, I have it on video, crazy!). But at this point I think we’re actually a bit heavy in the dosing department, using 25 grams where others would use 15 grams.

Of course, these sorts of adjustments need to be thoughtful and deliberate, and tested over and over with customers. Don’t expect this change to happen overnight. But if you’re at one of our restaurants in the coming months don’t be surprised if we offer you a sample and ask for some feedback. You may even see George around helping us figure out what the future of pour over should look like. We’ll all be in good hands.