McCandless and his crew have carefully researched, sourced, tasted and tested almost every recipe for the new restaurant in his Spokane Valley test kitchen. Ask a question about anything on the menu and McCandless smiles broadly before launching into a description of where the ingredients were purchased and how they came to Clover’s kitchen. Those with a napkin or notepad and pen might even catch the recipe for the shrimp brine or the citrus-based house salad dressing. He ends with mouthwatering details of every step in the recipe, along with a description of how the dish will look when it emerges from the kitchen.
It’s hard not to get excited about it, too. As one server put it, he could be stuffed from a day of tasting olive oils, breads, entrees and desserts, but McCandless’ description of the next dish would make him hungry all over again.
The restaurant, in a renovated house near Gonzaga University, is the culmination of more than 15 years of work and dreams, McCandless said. The house at 913 E. Sharp Ave. was briefly home to the Dawg House Eatery. Clover is expected to open to the public today.
McCandless owns 40 restaurants, most of them Subway franchises, including the first two-story Subway restaurant in Ellensburg. His other holdings also include Edible Arrangements on West Third Avenue and Loco Dogz in Cheney. A second Loco Dogz opens mid-May in the nearby building on North Hamilton Street built on the former David’s Pizza site.
McCandless and his wife, Liz, have partnered with friends Paul and Marta Harrington to open Clover. Scott McCandless first met Marta Harrington when she was hired to be his assistant. She is perhaps best known in the area for her work with the Epicurean Delight fundraiser for the Inland Northwest Blood Center.
Paul Harrington brings another layer of complexity to the partnership. Although he’s been semi-retired from bartending and working as an architect for the last 10 years, Paul Harrington is a former San Francisco bartender who was widely credited with saving classic cocktails from the dark days of cheap ingredients, bad booze and drinker ignorance.
He was known for re-introducing the popular Mojito cocktail to the West Coast. Fans knew him as The Alchemist, and he wrote cocktail columns for HotWired’s online site. He and Laura Moorhead wrote the book “Cocktail: A Drinks Guide for the 21st Century,” which was nominated for a prestigious James Beard culinary award.
Paul Harrington said that although he won’t be behind the bar often, his influence and his book will guide the bartenders at Clover. The drinks will be designed to complement the food served. They’ll also offer from-scratch drinks for those who don’t want a cocktail, including a Ginger Lime Mint Soda that tastes like a Mojito.
Don’t let McCandless’ quick-service restaurant background fool you. He learned to cook from his mother but honed his skills over the years with culinary classes and practice. He has plans for seven more fine dining restaurants based around recipes and themes he’s been perfecting in his test kitchen. He’d like to open an Italian place with an influence from the Italian immigrants who taught their recipes to his mother and a Szechwan-influence place – just to name two concepts he’s planning.
He hopes Clover will be about more than serving people great food, McCandless said. He and his partners want it to change the way people think about their food and ultimately how they eat. He said it’s already getting hard to ignore alarming revelations about the food consumers are actually getting from producers. The time was right for Clover, he said.
“I think people want to know where their food comes from,” McCandless said. “I think people want to know and I think they deserve to know.”
Here are just a few examples of the way food is sourced for the restaurant: The beef from Snake River Farms comes to the restaurant still in primal cuts and is dry aged at the restaurant for at least 14 days. All of the baked goods, rolls, buns and bread are made on site in the bakery in the small building just behind Clover from Shepherd’s Grain flours. The Sciabicas olive oil is purchased from one of the oldest California extra virgin olive oil producers, which labels each lot of Sevillano olive oil with the date it was pressed. Some of the herbs and other ingredients will be grown in the small gardens inside Clover’s new fence and in a greenhouse behind the restaurant.
Former Davenport Hotel executive chef Scott Schultz heads up the kitchen team. Schultz also worked as sous chef at the now-closed, but much-loved, Paprika, where he was mentored by chef Karla Graves. Teresa Whitney is the pastry chef and also moved to Clover from the Davenport.
The renovated house seats 64 people on two levels, including a bright sun porch near the small bar on the main level. There is room for some 90 diners on the patio outside.
Lunch prices range from $10 for Portobello, pulled pork or Basque panini sandwiches. The burger features equal parts sirloin and chuck ground in-house, wrapped around a bit of herb and truffle infused butter, and topped with Gorgonzola, bacon and arugula ($13). Entrée choices include blackened halibut ($24), spinach and ricotta ravioli ($18) and chicken breast stuffed with pesto, fontina, roasted red peppers and bacon ($22).
At dinner, starters range from jerk marinated dry-aged beef served with pineapple-mango chutney for $12 to Gilroy garlic bread for $6. Entrees range in price from $18 to $34. Beef Wellington ($32) features a dry aged, 6-ounce beef tenderloin with prosciutto de Parma, wild mushroom duxelles, béarnaise and demi-glace sauces. Paella is offered for those with 30 minutes to wait ($24).
The brunch menu includes some of the lunch starters, salads and sandwiches, along with breakfast fare. Oatmeal or granola with yogurt are $7, Pancakes, eggs Benedict, French toast, biscuits and gravy and frittata are served ($8-$12). A crab melt omelet or corned beef and hash are $12 each.
Clover has a new distinctive gate and metal sign in the front. Inside, historic pictures of Gonzaga University students, clubs and teams from the school’s library are interspersed with photos from McCandless’ own family and childhood.