CLAVEL REOPENS NEXT WEEK
get ready for queso and margs
Photos by Clavel
Clavel has announced a reopening date: Thursday, April 29. They will offer outdoor seating only, no reservations.
Lane, Carlos and their team have been working hard to get things ready for you. I wanted to share my conversation with Lane Harlan which was in my newsletter from one month ago.
Clavel, Remington’s much beloved Mexican restaurant hasn’t offered indoor dining since March 15, 2020. That is a long time to be without this wonderful place. A place where you see all walks of life, the vibe is warm and relaxing. One of those places that feels like it’s always been there. And, while they have done the pivot of all pivots (and the burritos!) I have been missing that amazing queso. Are you with me on this? I love how when you get to the bottom of the pan (it comes to the table sizzling in a little cast iron skillet) you have to ‘fork + knife it’ to finish the cheese that’s baked into the pan. You might be nodding and smiling right now. Gracias, Carlos!
I seriously don’t really remember when I first met Clavel co-owner Lane Harlan. Not like I’ve known her forever and ever, but she’s just so easy to be around. She’s been my friend for a long time. I am often in awe of her. How she dives deeply into things, learning and experiencing the things she will eventually have you fall in love with. Just look at how she has immersed herself in sake, mezcal and natural wine. I love how she treats her employees like actual family. How she rallies for people who need help. How she always goes with her gut. How she is kind. She’s left goodies on my front porch when I needed a lift. That is Lane.
With all four of her businesses in Remington and Old Goucher — WC Harlan, Clavel, Fadensonnen and Angels at Lemons — Lane has been pivoting and pivoting and pivoting. That word. Pivot. Yes, overused but dang, it applies. I hope you are following all four on Instagrams to see how they have handled the challenges of a global pandemic and also to see the changes that are coming.
Lane and I spoke by phone (she had just made a hardware store run with her husband, Matthew) and we grabbed 40 minutes to catch up on things.
Let’s start with what’s going on at Clavel.
They are in the middle of a huge new project: building a nixtamaleria, which is at its core, a space to turn corn into masa to make tortillas. But it will, of course, be more. Clavel always does more. The more? A space for carry out, a shop, a place to make their new soft serve ice cream (Lane is doing R+D currently and I can’t wait) plus, of course, the tortilla shop. They will be milling corn flour, too. Lane: “You know how serious bakers mill their own flour? We definitely wanted to make that happen, too, now that we are building out more work space.” She said via IG: “This has been a long dream of ours only now made possible through the great pause of life, this brutal pandemic that has both given and taken with the same hand.”
But, why go to the trouble of nixtamalizing the corn? And what does that even mean? Well, the process allows for more nutrients to remain and also they are much more flavorful. Lane adds that they will definitely be different, better. Here’s a very basic explanation of the whole process.
The corn will come from farms Clavel is working directly with in Oaxaca and Puebla, Mexico. The first step of the nixtamalization is washing the corn with an alkaline solution to remove toxins. Then it’s cooked, steeped, washed, ground and eventually turned into dough. They will likely have multiple people working into the wee hours to keep up with the demand at Clavel. The launch of the new tortillas will not coincide with the outdoor seating opening due to needing time to train the staff on the new equipment and putting the right systems of production in place. But they soon will be, and hopefully the tortillas will be sold on-site! Lane said that this is like the extra kitchen they always wanted to have. When Clavel opened, it got so busy so quickly that they had to just put this idea to the side for a while.
Last weekend, Carlos Raba — Clavel’s co-owner and chef — was up in Brooklyn checking out the nixtamaleria run by TJ Steele at his Michelin-rated restaurant, Claro. I loved the seafood collaboration TJ and Carlos did at Clavel a few summers ago – it was incredible! Anyway, Carlos got to work with TJ’s corn nixtamalization set up (the same equipment is being installed at Clavel) and he posted some photos on his IG. Also! Carlos just became a US citizen. Congratulations, Carlos!!
While the nixtamaleria is coming together, a new outdoor dining space is being built in front of Clavel by Lane’s husband Matthew and his friends, James and Johnny Alonso. Lane adds, “James and Matthew went to Goucher together. He and his brother have worked on every one of our projects together. We don’t have typical contractors. We manage all of the work ourselves. So, maybe it takes a little bit longer, but we have more control over the work, the costs, everything. We always cycle our profits back into the businesses. We want to make them better — always.” Through our conversation, Lane and I kept referring to the nixtamaleria as “the shop.” I like that. It keeps it kind of open-ended in my mind.
A few other important points: the outdoor seating on the side of Clavel will stay and will be used once they open for outdoor dining. So, you will be able to sit out front (on the newly built deck) or along the side. (But not inside for some time. Again, depends on data, vaccines, etc.) The food truck is now gone and FOR SALE! If you’d like more info on that, drop me a line and I will give you the contact info.
Bottom line: The hope is for Clavel to open for outdoor seating in April. But stay tuned on IG for details. You will order food and drinks from a counter inside the new space. No table service is planned for this next phase. You will also still be able to order online and pickup in the drive through.
April and May will be a time for interior work at Clavel, WC Harlan and Fadensonnen. The way they work is pretty much, finish one and then start the next. Clavel has had a completely different setup inside since March of last year. And things take time. We need to remember that these are regular people, these small business owners.
You will likely not be drinking or eating indoors at any of Lane’s places for a while. But it will surely be worth the wait. In the meantime, stop by Fadensonnen and have drinks in the courtyard and check out the amazing food at Larder. Order some wine at Angels Ate Lemons, located above Sophomore Coffee. You can shop in person and they also do free wine tastings and offer FREE delivery two days a week to a 25 mile radius. Angels Ate Lemons is open Wednesday-Sunday 1-7pm. And of course, get takeout from Clavel. My new go-to menu items is the mixtas. They’re like mini-tacos with melty cheese inside – eep!
More on Fadensonnen and WC Harlan
Fadensonnen is set to open outdoors this Thursday, April 1, along with their courtyard neighbors, Larder. As for indoors, they are not ready to take that step. Similar to Clavel, they are looking at data and also thinking of their staff having those who want to have the vaccine to get it. Same goes for indoors at WC Harlan. Lane says, “Not for a while, hopefully summer. We’re taking this time to give Harlan a really good cleaning, finishing the floors upstairs in the wine bar at Fadensonnen.” I just want to add that they upstairs bar is my favorite place to sit. The bar staff is always hospitable and friendly, and they usually teach me something. I love sake, so it’s a great place to taste lots of different producers and styles.
One more important update on WC Harlan is that Lane and head bartender Pam Haner are planning to take the drinks there back to basics, like when they first opened. Lane explained, “Keeping things simpler feels good right now. As far as a menu, we’ll have the cocktail du jour, a light and a dark beer daily. It’ll be more like, what are you in the mood for, let me make it for you.” I love this. Getting back to creating an experience instead of following a menu. I always appreciated that opening menu of WC Harlan. You will still be able to order a cocktail, since they will of course stock lots of things behind the bar. As for indoors, they are not ready to take that step. “We’re taking this time to give Harlan a really good cleaning, finishing the floors upstairs in the wine bar at Fadensonnen.”
Thank you, Lane, for all of these updates.
SAYING GOODBYE TO A FRIEND
my sweet girl magnolia
Earlier this week, I said goodbye to my senior rescue, Magnolia.
Back in December, I noticed a lump. Turns out it was a mast cell tumor, which can have a few outcomes post-surgery. Hers was the worst scenario. More tumors followed and her most recent one was growing very, very quickly and it made her life pretty exhausting. She took a turn and for the worse last weekend, it all happened so fast. Big BIG thanks to HomeVets and Dr. Budge for taking such good care of her for the last six months or so (having a vet that comes to you is pretty wonderful), doing her surgery, all the follow up, delivering her cancer diagnosis with kindness and care and lastly, coming and helping me say goodbye. I cried the whole time. But know it was what was best for her.
And, thank you to my friend, Kelly Zimmerman for the help of additional walks and fun with her dog walker, Dan. His texts telling me what doggos Magnolia walked with and photos of her looking so happy, they made my day.
This little dog was my confinement companion. I adopted her at 10 and a half, six weeks before COVID changed the world. She brightened every day, she showed me that exuberance is essential in life and that treats should always, always be celebrated with a happy dance — and in her case, followed by a nice “sit” and tail wag.
I will miss this little nutjob so much. I only had her for 15 months but it was really good. All of it, even the rough stuff. Adopting a senior rescue was the most fulfilling thing I have ever, ever done. Highly recommend it. They love you more. (And you, them.) How lucky I feel to have been your person, Magnolia. Thank you.
FOREMAN WOLF’S SUNDAY MARKET
One of the best things to come out of the hellish year that was 2020, was the farmers market outside Johnny’s in Roland Park — and it starts up again Sunday, April 25. (8:00-11:00am) Between the warm empanadas from Bar Vasquez to lattes by Johnny’s, I really love this little market. It feels small and intimate, yet safe and very professionally run. They keep it to a certain number of shoppers, so you may have to wait a few minutes to enter.
Chef James of Cinghiale with all the fresh pasta, Patrick from Petit Louis selling lovely wine and Chef Mario of Bar Vasquez perfectly choosing avocados based on ripeness and when you want to use them. (This made me very happy.) Also, get his guacamole and ceviche! Plus, Foreman Wolf’s talented employees even play music most weeks. AND! There are a few other vendors including produce and flowers by Richfield Farm, Two Boots and Agriberry. Elisa from Two Boots told me she will have a ton of vegetable plants and cut flowers this week.
Newly designed Charm City Cook website coming soon! I’m working with Jess and Matt of Moondog Development and they are really, really wonderful. Stay tuned!