Valentine, oh, Valentine

Valentines+Day_Web+Banner

Well, it’s that time of year where restaurants like ours try to entice you to bring your paramour to their establishment for what is promised to be an exquisite evening of fine food and wine, and, as a possible / hopeful prelude to uhm… other enticements.

Valentine people phote

We’re no different, this post is a shameless promotion of our Valentine’s Menu.  Our locally sourced Here’s the Love Menu will be available starting at 5 pm on Friday, February 14.  The menu is a prix fixe menu with several choices available in each course, priced at $65 for 3 courses and $95 paired with wines chosen by our beverage director Dan Harrington.  The menu is vegetarian friendly and we can always accommodate our vegan friends.

If you’re trying to impress your date, don’t go to the super expensive, over-the-top formal place where their only concern is their bottom line.  Impress them at EVOO where we believe that if we take care of our co-workers and our community, our bottom line will take care of itself.

We take pride in being the Massachusetts’s only Good Food 100 Restaurant.  This is a really big deal to us.  We have their highest rating of 6 links, which is solely based on our food purchases; it means the vast majority of the food we serve is sourced locally and ethically.  The point i’m trying to make is- dining at EVOO will not only impress your Valentine, it will help us support our local farming community.

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Me and my Valentine!

So, come on in and spend some time with me and my Valentine, we’ll both be here, working hard to exceed your Valentine’s expectations.

Here’s a little Valentine’s music for you…

 

 

Lamb Sandwhich

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Continuing with the lamb we received from Feather Brook Farm- A sandwich on our lunch menu.

Slices of Roast Lamb Leg with Smoked Cloumage, Pickled Green Tomatoes, Lettuce, Red Onion and Carolina White Barbecue Sauce on Mark’s Cumin Focaccia

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lamb leg in the immersion circulator

We marinated the legs in a mixture of garlic and spices and then sous vide’ the legs at 137 degrees for 3 hours. We then chilled them in an ice bath, finally put a nice sear on them before slicing them.

The cloumage is an artisanal fresh, creamy cheese from Shy Brothers Farm in Westport MA, which we smoked in our backroom smoker.  The Lettuce was grown in The Food Project’s greenhouse in Roxbury, MA. We pickled the Kimball Fruit Farm’s green tomatoes last September.  Mark our excellent lunch sous chef made the Focaccia.

More Lamb Love

Just like I said in the previous post- ” the chops will sell out quickly”, they did.  We’re on to the loins, which also will be gone fast.

I marinated the loins with a lot of herbs, shallots, garlic, mustard and EVOO

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Next I vacuum sealed them and sous vide them for 2 hours at 137 degrees.

 

At pick-up I seasoned the loins with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and then seared the loins.

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After letting the it sit for a few minutes I put a few thick slices on the plate with the rest of the ingredients. The final result is perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious!

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We got a lamb

Tad in a Hat

Farmer Tad

Farmer Tad from Featherbrook Farm in Raynham, MA brought us a lamb.  It’s our first lamb in a long while, unfortunately our long-time supplier of local lamb bought-the-farm and we had been looking for a new supplier.

feather brook logo

 

Tad, who already brings us chickens, rabbits and eggs mentioned to me that he was growing a few lamb and wanted to know if we were interested in one of them.  I jumped right on it, telling him we would happily take one of them off his hands.

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Tad’s lamb awaiting processing

We have a long history of serving locally produced lamb.  I have been butchering and cooking them since long before we opened EVOO.  I became quite proficient at it; I would time myself to see how long it would take to butcher the lamb into the desired pieces for roasting and braising.  I can easily break-down a lamb in less than 7 minutes; my record is 2 lambs in 11 minutes.  Keep in mind butchering is my least favorite job to do in the kitchen, I’m a closest wanna-be vegetarian and I just want to get it done as quickly as I can.  The below video of me breaking-down a lamb is a couple of years old.

 

 

We have already started serving the chops with some braised meat:

Herb Marinated Grilled Lamb Chops and Braised Lamb with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Crushed Olives, Pickled Cauliflower, Parsley, Marcona Almonds, Goat’s Milk Feta and Mint Salsa Verde

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Being just one lamb there are not a lot of chops, even paired with braised lamb meat we will only have 7 orders before we switch the chops out with roasted loin which will only make an additional 5-6 orders. Later this week or perhaps the beginning of next we will have a roasted lamb leg sandwich on the lunch menu and a braised lamb dish, possibly a pasta dish. Then it will be gone…

 

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loins to be sous vide

 

 

 

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legs waiting to be marinated, roasted and sliced for sandwiches

 

 

New Vegetarian Dish

Polenta Croquette with Braised Spinach, Stracciatella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Parsley, Last Summer’s Tomato Sauce and Pine Nut Crunch  

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I have written in the past about my approach to vegetarian dishes, you can check out my previous post here.

 

This dish came about when I was thinking about what should we do with all of the plum tomatoes that we put up in Mason jars this past summer.  To me that’s the coolest thing about this dish; we are using local tomatoes in the middle of January. Sure they’re not fresh tomatoes. However, they were bought from local farms (Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA and Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, MA) during the height of the local season. So.. we are still supporting the local community and best of all- they’re freaking delicious!

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To go with the tomatoes-we made polenta croquettes with Four Star Farm’s (Northfield, MA) cornmeal.  We braised The Food Project’s (Roxbury, MA) spinach and topped the croquette with  stracciatella from The Mozzarella House (Peabody, MA).

This one of the many vegetarian dishes that we have produced where you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy.

Spotlight on Peter and Colleen McCarthy

About a year ago (maybe, closer to 2) we got a new website; with the new site my blog got lost in the shuffle for a while. Well it’s back and I’m going to start with a post that Steve Kurland our business partner and the general manager in Kendall Square produced for EVOO’s 20th anniversary.  At the time we had been periodically writing a spotlight about different employees.  Steve would ask them a bunch of questions and I would write an intro with a few anecdotes about the employee and through in a few photos. For EVOO’s anniversary post Steve wanted to Spotlight Colleen and I.

I’m pretty sure that this post did go out on social media, so it may be old news to some of you.  But I do think it should be in a blog since there is so much of our and EVOO’s history in it.

 

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Me and Colleen in Spain.

Spotlight on Colleen and Peter McCarthy, by Steve Kurland

I first met Colleen and Peter when I lived in Union Square. EVOO was just opening in its original location on Beacon Street in Somerville and I loved the place. The food was locally-sourced, unique, and of course delicious. It was the atmosphere though, that first attracted me. I could feel the love and care in EVOO. The staff truly cared, and everyone did their best to make EVOO successful. As a guest, EVOO was warm,welcoming, and customers quickly became regulars. 

evoo's old sign

EVOO’s original sign from Beacon Street in Somerville

I soon became friendly with Peter and Colleen, so when I looked to get out of the corporate restaurant world, I asked if they knew of any opportunities at independent restaurants. Luckily, this was just as Za, in Arlington, was getting ready to open. so timing was perfect. It has been 14 years. and I am genuinely happy I found such great partners.

Zarlington

Za, 138 Massachusetts Ave. Arlington

Colleen is one of the kindest people I know. She truly cares about all the people she comes in touch with at the restaurants. Long-time guests are friends, and Colleen goes to great lengths to take care of employees who need her help.

I admire Peter’s high standards and drive, but mostly appreciate his passion. He puts his imprint on the restaurant every day–through his concern for people, and for our environment. He has taught so much to so many, and has worked on sustainability long before it became the popular thing to do.

Colleen

You are a proud and capable CPA. How were you drawn into the restaurant business?

Pete dragged me in… For years, Pete aspired to open his own restaurant. I knew he would someday open a restaurant but honestly didn’t think about how it would impact my career. At the time I was working for Parent, McLaughlin & Nangle, CPAs, and really enjoyed my job. 

PMN

We opened EVOO in June 1998, and for the first two years I worked both jobs. I would work at PM&N during the day, and then head to the restaurant most nights. It was pretty exhausting (especially during tax season), but hey, I was only 29 and we didn’t have kids yet, so it’s what I did. 

A few years in, the front of the house manager told us that she was moving on, so Pete and I talked it over, and I made the decision to leave public accounting and work at EVOO full-time. It wasn’t an easy decision, but a decision I’m glad I made. Of course, we weren’t sure about how we would be working together, but figured we’d give it a shot. It’s been great. As long he understands that I’m always right things will go smoothly! 

As EVOO comes up to its 20th Anniversary, how is it different than you thought it would be in 1998?

I never thought we’d be operating in a larger space in Kendall Square, that’s for sure. 

We opened ‘old’ EVOO on Beacon Street in Somerville. It was a 70 seat restaurant with a small bar and open cooking line. We had an amazing core staff and a lot of long-term regular guests. One of our regulars was developing the Watermark Building, and invited us to take a look at the space. At the time, our son Shane had just been born, and we had recently opened the first Za in Arlington, so I was in no position to take on that move. 

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A few years later, when the residential piece was complete, we were approached by yet another regular who was in charge of leasing the space at the time. This time around, the move made sense… so after twelve years, we moved EVOO to Kendall Square. The ‘new’ EVOO has 120 seats, including three rooms that can be private rooms. We also opened a second Za location in an adjacent space, with a shared bar. I’m not sure what I was thinking taking on this project when our kids were one and four, but it was a good decision. Kendall Square is a pretty cool place to be!

dining room

You are surrounded by your family and long-time friends at work. How did this happen?

First and foremost, I’m really lucky to work with my husband, Pete. The rest sort of just happened. Dan, my brother, was the first employee; he worked the bar a few nights a week to help us when we first opened. 

Nina, who I’ve known since I was 16, and grew up with Pete, started working with us a few years later. Steve was a regular and friend at ‘old’ EVOO, and he became a co-worker when we opened Za in Arlington. He became a partner when we opened in Kendall.

Then, there’s a whole lot of people that started working at EVOO and Za who have  become long-time friends. I joke I’ve known Tiego for over half of his life. We’ve even had a few nieces and nephews of long-time employees come to work for us, so that’s pretty cool. We are really lucky to have such a great bunch to work with!

Do you have a favorite all-time EVOO menu item?

Beef Tenderloin EVOO

The Garlic and Parsley Studded Beef Tenderloin with Sweet ‘n’ Smoky Onions, Sour Cream Whipped Potatoes, Carrots and Orange Béarnaise is my all time favorite EVOO dish. I used to joke with Pete that if he ever took it off the menu, our marriage may be over. He did take it off the menu for a short time (was he testing me??) because he wasn’t able to locally source the cut he wanted to offer. Thankfully, he was able to find a new source for local grass fed center cut tenderloin, so our marriage survived! 

What do you look for when you go to other restaurants?

Good food and good service. Sometimes you want to just go out and grab a quick dinner, but the food should still be good and the service, welcoming and friendly (see pet peeve below!). Obviously, the restaurant has to be clean too. It’s always interesting to watch the way the staff interacts. My kids even comment on various things we see. We usually joke those are the things we discuss in the car on the way home

What makes you crazy when you go to other restaurants?

My biggest pet peeve is when no one thanks me on the way out, or says goodnight. I find it especially frustrating when employees and managers are standing right there, but don’t acknowledge us, or bother to thank us. There are so many dining options, and feeling appreciated on the way out or not impacts whether or not I want to go back. It’s your last impression on the way out.

Who cooks at home, and what’s your favorite dish to make?

When he’s home, Pete cooks, we are pretty spoiled. Unfortunately for me, Pete’s not home most nights, so the nights I’m home, I’m head chef. I call myself a mom-cook. I cook pretty basic food, but I think I cook it pretty well. 

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Our son Shane (13) will eat anything, and I mean anything. He was the kid who wanted to try a fish eyeball when he was 11 (no thank you). And then there is Caitlin (10). She’s a little fussier, but she’s come a long way. The other day, I asked them what my best dish is. Shane said steak and cheese subs, and chicken piccata.Caitlin said homemade mac ‘n cheese, and fettuccine alfredo. We always make it a point to try to sit down for dinner together on the nights we’re home. 

 

Peter

You have spent so much of your life and career working with and promoting local food and local purveyors. What motivated you to start working this way?

seasons bostoian

While working at The Bostonian Hotel in the 1980’s and 90’s, I was exposed to a few local farmers: Eva Sommaripa from Eva’s Garden, Verrill Farm’s, Ken Ryan’s Van, and Roger Jones to name a few. They were so passionate about what they were growing, I wanted to support them by buying as much as of their produce as we could use. It helps put meaning into what we do; we strive to be a part of our community.

As EVOO comes up on its 20th anniversary, how is it different than you thought it would be in 1998?

I don’t know, in 1998 we were just trying get by; there was a lot to figure out. We were mostly thinking day to day not really looking too far ahead. After a few years, we settled in and moved ahead, opening Za in Arlington. A few years later we moved EVOO to Kendall Square and opened a second Za location in an adjacent space. It will be interesting to see what the next 20 years will bring. 

You are surrounded by your family and long-time friends at work. How did this happen?

They all threatened to expose me for what I really am. So, we’re stuck with them.

Where do you like to eat when you’re not working?

My favorite place to eat is at home, with Colleen and our children–whether it’s a simple meal on the grill, or an elaborate all day experience, there is no place I would rather be. 

Do you have a favorite dining experience (other than EVOO and Za, of course)?

It’s sunset on the beach in Nerja, Spain. I’m with my brother Steve, brother-in-law Dan and a couple of friends, and we go into the beach-side bar and for some beer, and ask about food. The proprietor sends us out to the beach with our beers, assuring us food will be taken care of. 

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A few minutes later the proprietor is making a wood fire on the beach, stoking it, adding a bit more wood as needed, replenishing our beers. Once the coals are just right he brings a bucket of fish out to the fire. He skewers the fish on fairly thick planks, slits the skin to keep it from curling while cooking, and seasons the fish with coarse salt. He then jammed the planks into the sand, so the fish would lean over the fire, with their drippings creating a pleasant smoke while gently cooking them. All the while, he kept the beer flowing. When the fish was finished, he simply slid the fish off the planks on top of some crisp romaine lettuce, adding a healthy squeeze of lemon juice and a long drizzle of EVOO. It was so good!!! Quite often the simplest preparations are the best.

Paul Bocuse

The other extreme would be upon visiting Paul Bocuse’s eponymous restaurant in Lyon, France, where the master himself met Colleen and I at the door with flutes of Champagne, giving us a wonderful personal tour of the restaurant, followed by a perfectly prepared and presented 8 course meal. 

You mentor many people? Any hints for others, and did you have an important professional mentor?

Treat people how you would want to be treated. 

Kitchen work is stressful enough; you don’t need some egotist with a tall hat and limited skills yelling at you, blaming you for their inadequacies. 

Give good directions and constantly follow through with critiques that will make your cooks better. Understand that everyone is different, so you should find ways to use an individual’s strengths, and guide them to better their weaknesses.

Bill Poirrier

Chef Billy Poirier

Professional mentors? Billy Poirier was the Executive Chef at the Bostonian Hotel when I started working there in 1987; it was an eye-opening experience. My previous experiences at lesser quality restaurants, and at culinary school paled in comparison to the food being prepared at the time, which was, all made in-house with seasonal ingredients.

Other mentors whom I did not work with, but respect their work, are Gordon Hamersley, Jasper White, Lydia Shire, and Alice Waters.

 

 

Employee Spotlight – Athena Hay

Athena Photo

March’s Employee Spotlight is a shout out to Athena Hay.  Athena’s contagious smile has been welcoming our guests at EVOO for almost a year.  As a host she is often the first and last person to interact with our guests, and she is exactly the type of person we want for that job:  friendly, outgoing and affable.  When you arrive at EVOO she may be there to greet you with her professional yet vibrant demeanor shining through, assuring you that we will take great care of you.

As usual Steve Kurland our General Manager and business partner, took on the task of presenting this month’s employee spotlight, Athena Hay, with questions.  Read on and get to know her a little better.

How long have you worked at EVOO and in which job(s)?   I’ve worked at EVOO as a nighttime host for about a year or so.

What’s your favorite food item on our current menu?   Current favorite is the Beef Tartare, but the Chinese Box is still my go-to item.

What have you enjoyed about working at EVOO?   Often when beginning a new job and learning about the “behind the scenes” work, the magic of a place can be lost. But, what I loved about EVOO is that the magic just grew. Learning how much EVOO takes to heart the mission to be environmentally conscious and support and serve local.  And, the actions taken that not all patrons might first notice, like how we reuse all our plate liners and how the server notepads are made from our re-purposed menus.  Or how we grow our own herbs and little tomatoes right on the roof of our building!

What are you watching on TV these days?   Planet Earth II on Netflix is a must see if you haven’t watched it yet!

Do you have any pets?   I do not unfortunately! I do try to keep animals in my life as much as possible however. When I’m not working at EVOO, I have an independent dog boarding and walking job so it is not uncommon to see me walking around town with a posse of pups!

Where did you attend college? What was your favorite class?   I attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design where I graduated with a BFA in Architecture. I loved all my design studios but it was also great to step out of my comfort zone with classes like Introduction to Jewelry Metal smithing.

What is the last show you attended?   Last show I attended was a jazz show at the Beat Brasserie in Harvard Square.

Where did you grow up? How did you end up in the Boston area?  I am from the suburbs of Boston and first moved into the city for school, Boston is definitely my hometown!

What is your dream job (other than EVOO)?   Researching and designing public outdoor communal spaces is what excites me most in design so my dream job would be working with a like-minded, passionate team designing for a future communities.

Athena

In 1982, at least 15 years before she was born The Who wrote a song about her.