CLINTON — For “Game of Thrones” television series fans, Blend Superfood Cafe created the Mother of Dragon Acai bowl. This culinary delight blends coconut milk, pitaya, mango and banana with granola, kiwi and strawberries with honey drizzled on top.
This creative and tasty entry is exactly what’s drawing foodies into the new “superfood” cafe at 25 E. Main St. Open since May 3, the newest eating establishment to open downtown has already developed a roster of regulars.
“The show was popular and that’s one of our more popular bowls,” says co-owner Connor Page. “We’ve had people turn it into smoothies.”
The business venture is a partnership between Chow Food and Beverage Company owner Jeff Mastroianni and fellow Clinton resident Page.
It is also a family affair for the Mastroianni family, with Jake Mastroianni as general manager and his sisters, Neena and Sonia, in addition to his mother, Shelley, regularly working beside him.
While the original idea was to open a coffee shop, the scope was expanded and Mastroianni says it is proving to be the right decision.
“I think they’re just excited to have a new option that not only is good for them, but tastes very good, as well,” said Jake Mastroianni, talking about their customers.
Page, owner of Westbrook CrossFit, says the cafe is in keeping with his focus on the healthy lifestyle.
“It’s something that made sense for, I think, the community,” he said. “I’m pretty health conscious in my own right and it kind of aligns with my views and values. We’re very happy with the early success.”
The popularity was evident within a week of opening the doors, when the cafe closed for a day of restocking. They had gone through 160 pounds of frozen bananas, about three cases of shrimp, eight cases of chicken and lots of rice, says Mastroianni.
The extensive menu includes the Golden Snitch Acai Bowl with mango, banana, pineapple, coconut milk, topped with coconut shreds, house made granola, mango and pineapple; Prawn Star with pineapple, shrimp, avocado, coconut, scallions, topped with mango sauce over rice; breakfast cauliflower flatbread with egg, avocado and tomatoes; Tri-Carrotops, rice topped with carrots, broccoli, peas, bell peppers, tomatoes, sea salt, roast garlic drizzle and saba; smoothies and bacon, egg and cheese or brisket egg and cheese on toast, bagel or English muffin.
Blend will also custom make items upon request.
“We have what we have, but then we also have the ability to customize things,” Page said.
Jeff and Jake Mastroianni talk about the care they take in preparing the acai bowl that incorporates a reddish, purple berry native to Central and South America, touted as being rich in antioxidants, low in sugar and high in healthy fats.
“It should be almost like a gelato,” Jeff Mastroianni said. “It should be a thick consistency,”
“It’s like a treat,” said 23-year-old Jake Mastroianni. “If you sit down and have ice cream at two o’clock in the afternoon that’s a treat within itself, but at 3:30 p.m. you’re going to be asleep or lethargic.
“This is something you can have before you go to the gym, it tastes like ice cream, there’s fresh honey on it,” he said. “You can have it for dessert, you can it as a snack or a meal and it’s going to keep you up and awake.”
Clinton Town Clerk Sharon Uricchio, making a stop on her way to work with her assistant, Lisa Barbour, has tried a number of the acai bowls and smoothies.
“I like that it’s all natural, fresh ingredients,” she said. “So far everything I’ve had here is delicious.
“I want to try the rice bowl next,” she said. “I haven’t tried the hot food, yet, but that’s next.”
The granola, cauliflower crust flatbreads and toast are all gluten free, which is appreciated by patrons like Sarah Donnelly.
“I have celiac, so they have gluten free granola,” the Lewin G. Joel School paraprofessional said. “It’s different. There’s nothing like this in Clinton, so to be able to get fresh salads and smoothies and the rice bowls, it’s a good variety.”
In addition, there is Aqua Vitea Kombucha on tap, including blood orange, strawberry sage, peachmint and blueberry.
“No one else has it in town,” Jake Mastroianni said. “It’s a fermented tea, it’s a probiotic, so it’s very good for your gut.”
They boast of locally sourcing some of their menu items including, Cohen’s Bagels, Willoughby’s Coffee, Chow Food and Beverage Company salad dressings.
The sauces are made right on site and include the mango chutney for the shrimp, marsala reduction for the brisket, peanut Thai sauce for the chicken and roasted garlic, coconut water and sea salt reduction for the vegetables.
All fruit is fresh and there are no sweeteners or ice in the smoothies or acai bowls.
“It would be taking away from the fun of it to not have fresh ingredients,” said Jake Mastroianni.
“The whole point is to give people a new healthy option,” he said.
All orders are made to order in the open prep area.
“It’s definitely fun to work in,” said Jake Mastroianni.
“There’s something enjoyable about knowing that you get to see the customer as you make what they’re excited to have, and you get to watch them enjoy it,” he said.
He admits there is a bit more pressure, preparing food in front of customers, but “there’s a lot more engagement,” he said. “I like to talk a lot…so I’m always able to talk to whoever’s coming in, eating or waiting.
“I can talk to everybody and gauge their response and gauge their experience,” he said. “So, that’s incredibly pleasing and I really enjoy that.”
Customers can choose to enjoy their food at one of the 12 seats inside, eight cafe tables outside or take it to go. In addition, orders can be placed via blend-ct.com to be ready at the cafe for pickup.
The local flavor spills over into the interior decor with large wire spools upcycled into cafe tables and vintage Clinton photos and postcards displayed under glass.
“This building’s been here since the 1800s so we wanted to have a little nostalgia from that period,” said Jeff Mastroianni.
Based on comments from customers they are working on using eco-friendly containers including serving drinks in reusable cups, with paper straws and using paper and biodegradable plastic bowls
John Allen, chair of the Economic Development Commission, is pleased to see this new business open amongst other thriving downtown businesses, including Scottish Dave’s Pub, Cindy Stevens Fine Art and Nataz Restaurant, which opened in November 2018 at 1 West Main St.
“Between having Nataz open last year and Jeff and Connor opening Blend, it really has added a vibrancy, which is important,” Allen said.
“That one little section of the town has got like a real heartbeat,” he said. “It’s important, because the only evidence of any kind of growth is some kind of life and there’s life there. So, it’s good for everybody.”
Jeff Mastroianni is looking forward to increased downtown traffic when the trolley, a new local initiative, starts running in July and August on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from the marina to local businesses.
“I think that’s going to be real cool for the community and for Clinton,” he said. “Not many towns have a trolley that runs around to local businesses.”
“Being in the middle of town and being with the Clinton people is something that I’ve always loved to do,” said Jake Mastroianni who grew up in town, graduating from The Morgan School in and is currently an assistant baseball coach at the school.
“I’ve always loved the people in this town,” he said. “I’d like to see it grow and become more popular. I want Clinton to be a tourist destination.”