It’s not easy to coax me out of my cozy apartment on an icy February night, but when a friend invited me to have dinner at Cow and Clover, a farm to table restaurant on South Second Street and Kent Avenue, I was happy to put on my long johns, wool sweater and chunky neckwear and bolt out the door. It’s been a long winter and I sure could use a healthy hearty meal. To get there, I had to hop, leap and dash over quite a few icy patches, but I arrived at Cow and Clover on time and in one piece.
Cow and Clover opened in September 2014 with four partners—Jason Lloyd, Mickey Lee, Felipe Avalos and Randall Williams. It’s housed in a spacious industrial space, with high ceilings, clean architectural lines and minimalist blondish furnishings. On the Northern wall are a set of four imposing double-height picture windows, so the space is drenched with natural light during the day. At night the restaurant glows with candle light and soft music. A massive chandelier made with several dozen etched wine growlers crafted by a local artist adorns the entrance giving the space a cool urban edge.
Jason Lloyd, who worked as chef and manager at Spoonbread Catering, is the managing partner here. The name Cow and Clover was suggested by Lloyd’s girlfriend, to highlight the restaurant’s naturalistic approach to food: you are what you eat. “Felipe Avalos and I used to make driving trips to Vermont where we kept seeing these cows grazing in clover fields…” Lloyd explains.
The restaurant has twin large wood-burning ovens that can go from 200 to 900 degrees. Chef Morgan Schofield, alum at Il Bucu and Blue Hill was brought in to make good use of these impressive ovens. The owners share his philosophy that the menu should offer dishes made with fresh, local ingredients—grass fed beef, sustainable fish, and fresh local produce—and seasoned just enough to bring out the food’s natural flavors.
There are plentiful cocktail, wine and beer selections, but tonight I chose the house-made ginger beer which was light and refreshing with just a subtle ginger kick. We ordered a series of appetizers: Chanterelle mushroom salad, chicken liver pate with house made sourdough bread, and lovely fried salted cod croquettes.
My favorite was the wood smoked Delicata squash with slices of ruby grapefruit, sprigs of bitter dandelion and toasted almonds. The flesh and skin of this thin-skinned winter squash were roasted to a golden translucence; it was tender but not mushy. The seared Rhode Island squid was fresh and tender and came with fennel and dressed in a sherry almond sauce. The chanterelle mushroom salad on a bed of fresh greens is a nice reminder of spring and the outdoors on such a cold, frigid night. All the dishes were lightly seasoned, and prepared with care. The most popular entree on the menu is the burger, which is made from juicy, voluptuous baby short ribs and accompanied by sharp cheddar and spring onions. It comes with a generous serving of crispy fries and house-made spicy aioli. This crowd pleaser is offered for lunch, brunch and dinner.
Another signature dish is the Piri Piri chicken. This organic chicken was marinated in a vinegar based Piri Piri sauce for two days and roasted in a 700 degree oven for exactly seven minutes. The end product is not at all fiery, more like a roasted chicken with a tang and a hint of the famous Portuguese chili sauce. The dark meat was super juicy, but the white meat was probably roasted a minute too long. There is also a grass fed Bavette steak and a North Atlantic Hake. At Cow and Clover, you will not see much brown or cream sauces slathered on anything. But with quality and seasonal ingredients, all you need is a little olive oil, a dash of salt, a hint of exotic chili and a splash of good vinegar.
The dessert here is rich and decadent. There’s bread pudding, salty caramel ice cream, Calvados Panna Cotta and freshly baked cookies. The chocolate tart is made with a bitter sweet chocolate ganache and sits on a gooey caramel macadamia nut base; yup, a high-falutin Snickers’ bar. As you bite into it, flashes of your childhood will light up in your head. There is also the popcorn gelato, concocted by one of the partners, Mickey Lee, who also made the elegant steel frame for the picture windows and some of the tables in the restaurant. According to Lloyd, Lee is a professional “steel erector”; sounds like a really handy guy to have around.
Having dinner at Cow and Clover is like taking a mini spa vacation—flickering candle lights, soft music, and pampered service—all put you in a relaxed mood; a taste of roasted squid, a bite of the short rib burger, a sip of refreshing house-made ginger beer or inventive cocktails, and a few bites of forbidden sweets, and I’m rejuvenated and ready to brave the rest of winter.
On the night I was there, the restaurant was getting ready to host a dinner party for 40. Lloyd says they have done quite a few catering events since they opened; the capacious space, the communal tables and a large catering kitchen on the lower level make this a perfect events space. Later this year, they hope to open up the rooftop terrace for outdoor dining.
On my way home, while standing under a bright street lamp, I saw my shadow, all bundled up with layers and layers of wool and cotton quilting. I predict four-and-a-half more weeks of winter!
Cow and Clover
291 Kent Avenue
Corner of South 2nd Street and Kent Ave.