Saturday, February 12, 2011

Simple & Fresh for Success: A Review of Harvard Square Clover

Lesson learned: chocolate seduction is not an excuse to replace sweets & fried foods for a real meal

One of the best ways to cook and eat I've found is to be guided by how you will after the meal. If you're running low on fuel, high-sugary refined-grains may seem appealing, but the quick energy spike and massive crash you'll receiving after will leave you worse off than before. In this case some whole grains and nutrient-dense veggies (particularly protein packed options like spinach or quinoa) would serve you better presently and in the future.

Sometimes I forget this simple rule and go by misguided instinct rather than rational understanding. This is what happened last night and, boy, can I tell you, it is not pretty!
Years ago, when I used to be addicted to junk food (as many people now are; it really is addicting), it might not have phased me.... but after a night of (literally) unlimited, free greasy Chinese food, a plethora of vegan desserts, and tons of free appetizers samples (everything fried), I paid for it in more than a mere stomach ache. [This was less the result of choice, but more of happenstance and too many events in a night].

Food nourishes not only our body but our mind and our soul. There have been numerous articles suggests that poor nutrition leads to poor learning. Unhealthy food clogs our mind and skews our emotions. The bright and light feeling after a morning of muesli and fresh carrot/apple/kale juice could not be more contrasted to the faint twinge of depression accompanying the crash after a nutrient-low meal.

And I'm sure I'm not the only one; how have you experience food as a predictor of mood and bodily satisfaction? I'd love to hear to learn from others experiences and recommendations!


It is with this in mind that I am thankful for a new, fresh addition to Harvard Square: Clover Food Lab. Among the numerous greasy pizza and burger joints offer to Harvard students, Clover stands out as one of the few that serves up healthy, fresh, and simple food that is still outstandingly delicious (kudos also to Crema Cafe, Cafe Pamplona, Falafel Corner, & Boloco, among potentially others).

Clover started out as a food truck, parked just down the street near MIT. I remember numerous times of biking past it and thinking how I'd have to try it, it's consistently massive line indicating customer satisfaction. Imagine my luck, then, when I found out they were opening a permanent location in Harvard Square! All white, minimalist, it could double as an Apple store; perhaps not surprising, then, that your order is taken down by a greeter on an i-touch.

The best part? Clover is ALL vegetarian and most menu items can be easily made vegan! With its extremely reasonable price, welcoming environment, and friendly on-the-go style, Clover became an instant hit among the student population. Never have I heard so many of my omnivore classmates suggesting a vegetarian location for lunch.

It was no surprise, of course, upon tasting their unique menu items:

Chickpea Fritter Sandwich
It's clear why this sandwich is their most popular item; filled with a light hummus, pickled vegetables, fresh Israeli salad, and tender chickpea fritters (made with organic chickpeas, its similar to a falafel), this whole-wheat pita pocket steals the show.

Egg & Eggplant Sandwich
Made with the unique combination of hard-boiled egg and eggplant, drizzling with their light vegan tahini sauce over fresh veggies, my eating companion (Matt) informed me that it too was fantastic. All eggs are sourced locally from a family-owned farm. This sandwich can easily be made vegan by omitting the egg.

The Soup of the Day when I went, I thought it was very flavorful and hearty, but with a Polish boyfriend and close Russian friend, its hard to compare to generation old family recipes. Then again, who can say not to perfectly stewed beets?

CoffeeI wouldn't use the word connoisseur because it seems pompous but I do think I've tasted my fair share of coffee and have a palate now that can taste the subtle differences in flavor (and the not so subtle lack of flavor extracted from burn, over roasted chain "coffee"). This coffee met the test for a wonderfully made cup.

All the coffee is single origin, often organic, and made using a manual individual-drip process (as most of the best coffee places do, such as Monmouth in London). Furthermore the servers are very knowledge in helping you find the pick the right coffee. They also offer cold brew.

Clover also has daily sides, some of which switch, all of which seem intriguing: fried pickles, rosemary fries, hot honey ginger tea, and apple popovers in the morning.

One thing we can expect from Clover besides consistent deliciousness is an openness that fosters true trust (something we can only rarely expect from the food industry these days). The Harvard Square location has an open kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows allowing customers to view the cooking process; team meetings are held in the store and anyone is allow to come listen.

With a focus on fresh food that changes daily and the promotion of vegetarian values, Clover offers what many restaurants fail to: a commitment to serving real, honest food.

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