THE LATEST ON CLAVEL AND MORE
a conversation with Lane Harlan
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!
Photo credit: Christopher Myers
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 more than once, once after a close friend of mine passed away suddenly and another time when she just knew I was going through a rough patch. 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 Instagram 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.
ps. I love this photo of Lane and Carlos from a Saveur magazine article last year.
(Photo credit: Juniper July)
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 they 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 and below is a photo of him following the ceremony. 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 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 at the mid-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.
So, 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 till summer, at the earliest. But it will surely be worth the wait. In the meantime, stop by Fadensonnen this coming weekend 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. 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.
Thank you, Lane, for all of these updates!
A FEW EXCITING UPDATES AROUND TOWN
My favorite kind of burger is the simplest. This smashburger from John Brown General and Butchery in Cockeysville is amazing. From the toasted bun to the slightly crispy burger to the very melty cheese. So much flavor. I loved it so much. [Side note: I knew I liked JBGB owner Robert Voss when he said he liked simple burgers cooked on a flat top with very few toppings…] And the fries? Holy moly. You can sit at tables on the lawn out back behind the shop. Get there early! Stoked to be able to get this cheeseburger five minutes from my house when JBGB opens their restaurant and butcher shop in Remington later this year.
Soon, The Helmand will be offering online ordering and DELIVERY via Toast. YES, you will be able to order your Helmand favorites and it will be whisked off to you. Kaddo Borwani at your door! In the meantime, they are open for indoor dining (50% capacity) and you can also now dine outside in front of the restaurant in their parklet.
More info: 410-752-0311 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Quality Snowballs opens for the season this coming Friday, April 2. Snowballs are one of the very few things I order the same way every time — egg custard with marshmallow. Only now that Quality Snowballs torches the marshmallow, that is my absolute go-to. SO good! Look for the colorful shipping container across from The Food Market on the Avenue in Hampden.
In other news, The Food Market opens in Columbia very soon.
If you’re closer to downtown, maybe you’d rather check out Ice Queens in Locust Point. I have yet to make it there yet, but I’m gonna make it happen this summer for sure! I love snowballs so much. They’re so Baltimore. Ice Queens opens for the season this Thursday, April 1. They’re located at 1648 E. Fort Avenue.
The courtyard at Magdalena at The Ivy Hotel opens this Thursday (April 1 is a big day in Bmore, no jokes, fools!) Last year, they did a refresh on the restaurant and also updated the menu to reflect more local Maryland ingredients and dishes. Here is the menu. I’ve always wanted to have dinner outside there, so this makes me very happy. Chef Mark Levy is incredibly talented and a really nice guy.
This week, The Baltimore Sun and other outlets reported that Streets Market will be going into the space of longtime grocery store, Eddie’s of Charles Village. (Not connected to Eddie’s of Roland Park.) No word on when they are planning to open the new store, but hope it’s soon for the neighborhood. Streets has two locations here, one at Charles Center and a (very) new one in Highlandtown. I have fond memories of grabbing lunch with my friend Lisa Pupa and our late friend, Ken Ingels at Eddie’s when we worked together at the BMA. On Fridays, they had half-priced sandwiches and I always remember splitting one with Lisa. They were huge for like $5.00. The ladies at the deli counter knew us and were always so nice.
Thank you, Jerry!
ps. I wrote a few weeks ago about the new Italian Deli opening in the former Schnapp Shop at the corner of N. Calvert & E. 30th in Charles Village. I understand the new owners (they also own Toscana Market in DC) are hoping for a summer opening. Lots of changes for the neighborhood…
I really hope you are enjoying these newsletters. I am trying very hard to make my newsletter really genuine. Like, things I learn about via Instagram or recs about places that people tell me they are loving. Also, projects that my friends are doing. I want to be clear about the vibe I am trying to maintain. That word that’s often overused: authentic. Less press releases, more text messages and screenshots, if that makes any sense.
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