Clover Food Lab

Join our next knife skills 101 class!

Ever wonder how our prep cooks get their awesome knife skills? Clover holds regular knife skills classes, right in our very own kitchens. Our next class, Knife Skills 101, is 7/30, @8am taught by Ayr himself. Sign up on our website. Spots are limited.

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This is 24 hours Cambridge

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This happened Tuesday night. After our delayed hearing our application for a 24 hour license was heard and approved. That’s right. We’re going to open the first 24 hour Clover, and it will be the only 24 restaurant in Cambridge. We’re really excited. We’re used to unanimous support. Every hearing we’ve had since I started Clover and asked for a license to operate our truck at 20 Carleton St. has been decided unanimously. From truck permits, to zoning changes, restaurants, sign approvals, etc. But this one was a bit more contentious. The Police Commissioner, Mr. Haas, abstained from the vote after expressing concerns. He thinks we don’t know what we’re doing and are making a mistake.

He could be right. But I don’t think he is. I see a different future. I think folks of Cambridge and Boston are going to love having a clean bright and positive place to grab delicious food in the middle of the night. I think Central Square is approaching a beautiful future. As one a member of the community who spoke in support of our application put it at the hearing: “Why should we be denied this amenity [Clover brings] just because of fears that night club down the street is dangerous.” As much as I love Boston sometimes it feels like this City is trying to hold you down. I felt that as a student. Why on earth does everything shut down so early when we were all up late? It’s not like this is some big crazy idea. Cities all over the country operate at all hours. We’re the strange ones in Boston. I remember visiting Austin a couple of years ago and just being shocked at how free and vibrant it felt. Given these feelings I wasn’t optimistic that we’d be granted the 24 hour license. But here we are! It’s a bright day. I’m thrilled that Clover has been allowed the opportunity to be a part of moving our city forward.

And yeah, I know that Cambridge and Boston are different things. If you’re that person please don’t bother writing that email. When I say “Boston” I mean “Boston Area.”

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Spelling rosemary in Chinese

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Shanshan is my communications intern. She’s originally from China. We were writing up the menu one day at Harvard Square. In the summer, as you may know, tourists flood Harvard Square.

We’ve never been quite able to get as many tourists in the door as we’d like. I think we just don’t feel as “safe” as some of the chain restaurants in the square. But I know that people would love our food if they tried it. And we have dreams of introducing hoardes of international folks to Clover.

We tried a little experiment Monday. I wrote up a little welcome message: “Hi, we’re Clover. We make sandwiches, platters, and French Fries w/Rosemary.” Then to the right of that message, Shanshan translated into Chinese. I can’t attribute this entirely to the message, but we did welcome in a bunch of Chinese students that day. Maybe something to consider for Clover locations with lots of international folks? What do you think we should do to appear more welcoming to travelers?

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Clover July Survey

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You’re probably here because we asked you to help us out with a little survey we’re running. Would you take a few minutes to help us out? Here’s the link to take the survey. 

I saw this yesterday on the wall at CloverHSQ. I think a customer drew it, or maybe an employee. Anybody know this artist?

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You’ll never taste this salad, and that’s a good thing

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It’s heading to the grave of good ideas that just don’t scale up.

I made this amazing salad with ingredients from the Union Square Farmers Market. I wanted to build the salad around Fiore di Nonno string cheese. They make this unbelievable braided string cheese studded with nigella. It’s nothing like the string cheese from the supermarket. I cut cucumbers from Kimballs Farm and cilantro from my friend Steve Parker of Parker Farms. I dressed it simply with olive oil and cider vinegar.

Everyone loved it at the food development meeting, but when we put it into production and scaled it up, something just didn’t work. The cucumbers held up really poorly, and got all limp and tasteless. It tasted like one of these Greek salads you get at pizza places. But I’m not giving up on a salad that features this amazing cheese. My next version is going to have matchsticks of summer squash, which we’re thinking may hold up better than the cucumbers. Stay tuned!

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Mayo Tasting

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Ali’s the only vegan in our Food Development meetings, but she never makes a big deal out of it. However, I think this moment had to be a proud one for her.

You may remember we’ve been opposed to veganaise for a long time. Ayr and Rolando tried it back in the beginning, along with vegan cheese. And there was never a vegan mayo that could hold up taste-wise to regular mayo.

Fast forward to 2014, and there might be something on the horizon to change our point of view. At our last Food Development meeting, we did a side-by-side tasting. Chris made 2 Clover potato salads, one with Hellman’s and one with Just Mayo, a new product Whole Foods has been using. Since Ayr was leading the tasting, we did this totally scientifically. 6 tiny portions of potato salad, Hellman’s and Just Mayo, mixed up on a tray. Megan and I each randomly grabbed 6 of each and had to place them in 2 columns: Hellman’s and Just Mayo.

We each got 3 right and 3 wrong. We had no ability to distinguish a difference. And I am a proud lover of mayo. What does this mean? We may consider using Just Mayo for items in which there is no distinguishable difference.

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Best and worst sandwich we’ve ever served

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The first Panella sandwich I had at the PRK truck made me sit down and write a post asking if it would be the next Chickpea Fritter. It was just knock-dead awesome. So so good. The panella was warm and comforting, mild but flavorful, very satisfying. The lemon was awesome, and the fennel was subtle and olives and olive oil were just perfect. (We just upgraded our olive oil to some serious stuff, and this sandwich was in part a way to feature that change.)

But this post is about something we screwed up. A bit intimidating to write right now as I’m working to raise money for Clover’s expansion. It’s tempting to stay quiet about our challenges and talk about how great that sandwich was. But if you’ve been around for a while you know that’s not our way.

I had my second Panella and it was almost inedible. One of the worst sandwich experiences I’ve had at Clover. And the third was as bad.

This sandwich has been humbling. Chris did an awesome rollout of this sandwich, training videos were on point, it’s inventive, the ingredients are great, the recipe is awesome. But we had a scaling issue in production that was causing variability in the panella itself. We also had issues with the fennel salad not being made to spec. I leaned on some materials processing knowledge (thanks Professor Cima!) and we were able to move to a method that made silky smooth panella in large batch sizes. We worked out the fennel with some revised training.

I just read this note today from a customer:

I had this yesterday. One of the best sandwiches I’ve had at the Clover Food truck. I loved the fennel and the consistency of the chickpea fritter. Will go back again!

That’s awesome. But the question I’m working on with the kitchen is how to we avoid the not-so-impressive sandwiches that were served in the time between the first awesome one and the most recent batches? We’re working on new systems of testing scale before we go into full production. If we do our job right we will not face this again. In the meantime, if you had a Panelle you didn’t love PLEASE EMAIL or mention to your favorite order taker. We’d love the chance to make it up to you.

 

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Summer salads

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We have a ton of summer salads rolling out of the kitchen. This is such a fun time of year for us. Everything is starting to come out of the ground and it just starts to feel electric in the kitchen. This is a picture I snapped the other day of one of our bean salads. I love 3 bean salad. I used to have that in Michigan with my Grandma in the summertime.

We do food development meetings every Tuesday afternoon, 3pm. And they’re open to the everyone. If you have a recipe you think we should try shoot it our way or come on by with something to taste. In turn we’ll let you in on our tasting which usually involves some new sandwich ideas, beer, coffee, salads, sodas, etc. Hope to see you there.

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3D printed light “field”

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One of the ideas my architects presented for Clover HFI was to use “corncob” LED lights to make a field of lights. As with most of the ideas they have that I can’t picture I said: “sure, can I see what it looks like?” I’m really bad at imagining spaces that don’t exist. It’s why I need these little physical models.

They used a 3D model printer to print simulated lights. I’m including a picture here of the lights “hanging” upside-down off the ceiling. That is, the ceiling has been removed in this picture and placed on its back, so those lights would normally be “hanging” down not up. We thought the LED cloud would be a nice extension of the fluorescent clouds we started with in Harvard Square and have continued to improve through Kendall.

They made a little movie too. I like the effect. What do you think?

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3pm special: Zucchini Fritters

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Local zucchini is in! Look out for it in a raw zucchini salad and in our current 3pm special.

We’re grating up zucchini, frying it in a batter, and tossing with cinnamon and sugar. These fritters are pillowy and light, and if you are a parent of a child who is afraid of zucchini, this may be the perfect introduction.

Come on by after 3pm at the restaurants – and at CloverPRK for a taste.

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