Employee Spotlight: Ryan Krystoploski

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January’s Employee Spotlight is Ryan Krystoploski, he is someone who I have a great bond with.  Ryan first joined EVOO in 2010, soon after we moved to Kendall Square; while he was still in culinary school and not yet old enough to drink.  Ryan had a brief reprieve from working with us, he was a sous chef in a north shore Italian restaurant, fortunately for us he decided to EVOO was the place to be.  He was very green, with limited experience in real food cookery.  Through his hard work, perseverance, and some guidance Ryan has become a very good cook.  Ryan is hard-working, conscientious and well liked by his co-workers.

One of Ryan’s best attributes is how much he cares, he really wants to do a good job; making great food, keeping the kitchen clean and organized.  He helps us strive to ensure every guest has a great experience.

Ryan, even with his poor taste in music, think adolescent female pop, is a pleasure to work with. He has become a big part of the core team here at EVOO.  His efforts are greatly appreciated, I look forward to watching Ryan grow as a cook and as a person.

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As is the new custom, Steve Kurland, EVOO / Za general manager and co-owner came up with the following list of questions for Ryan to answer.

January 2018, Spotlight Questions

How long have you worked at EVOO and in which jobs?   On and off for about 5 years, starting off as the fry guy going to culinary school and worked my way up to lead line cook with aspirations to be sous chef one day.

What’s your favorite food item on our current menu?   I’m a big guy so I always go for the studded beef tenderloin. In late summer, when we have the heirloom tomatoes I like to substitute the vegetables for a creamy tomato and onion salad; delicious!

What have you learned working at EVOO?   I could write a 15 page paper on what I’ve learned at EVOO. This place has taught Me how to care, cook, plant, think, and become an overall better person. This place has helped me reach goals I never thought I could obtain. The best part is I’m still not done learning, even after knowing Pete for seven years!

If you received $1,000,000 tomorrow, what would you do with it?   Tell Peter [McCarthy-chef/owner] and Randy [Platt-sous chef] I’ll be back in a month!

What’s the last book you read?   I am currently reading It by Stephen King.

What was your favorite class in high school?   My favorite class in high school was Art and Animation. I took 3 years of that class and enjoyed every minute of it.

Do you have a pet?   I personally do not, but the rest of my family does. Combined they have 5 dogs and one cat. My sisters puppy Max is my best bud though.

What do you do on your time off?   I try to stay active as well as visit new restaurants and catch up with family and friends. Life is too short to let it pass by.

What was your first car?   ‘91.5 Acura Integra 3 tone crapbox; drove that bad boy to the ground.

Do you speak any languages other than English?   Thanks to my friends in the back kitchen and prep room, I can carry on a conversation in Spanish.

What is one thing you are passionate about?   I’m passionate about cooking and I can attribute that to Peter, Randy, and Anthony [Mazzotta], the old sous chef. They continue to show me what it means to be a chef and not a plain old line cook.

What’s your favorite song right now?   Anything but Wilco…[Peter’s favorite band-always on the EVOO music playlist].

 

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Don’t diss Wilco or I will post photos like this.

 

 

 

Ryan is looking for an apartment in the Medford, Somerville area, if you know of any availabilities, comment to this blog.

Za final cooking instructions

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1/2 cooked, not cut ‘za

As many of you know Za is EVOO’s sister restaurant with two locations, one in Kendall Square, Cambridge, abutting EVOO and the original Za is on Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington.  When the timing is not right for you to dine at either restaurant, you can still enjoy ‘za on your own schedule.  Below is the best way I have found for finish cooking or re-heating ‘za. So, if you are not sure what time you want to eat, but you know you want ‘za, don’t serve it soggy and cold.  Follow these simple instructions to eat crispy crusted hot pizza whenever you want with little effort.

The first thing you need to do is order a stack of za from either location.  They are 10″ pizzas that will serve one hardy appetite or two can share one za paired with one of Za’s amazing salads.  Order a bunch and finish cooking on your time.  I tend to order them early in the day, asking for them to be 1/2 cooked, not cut and refrigerated until pick-up. There is no need to take them home hot.  When I get home I refrigerate the pizzas until I’m ready, whether it’s a few hours or a few days it doesn’t matter.

When it’s time, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Once your oven reaches 375, place a heavy duty cookie sheet on the middle rack in your oven and heat the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, this will ensure a crisp bottom.  If you have multiple racks and multiple sheet pans you can finish cooking several pizzas at a time, however, be careful the temperature on the bottom and top racks can vary greatly from the middle one.

Now add your pizza, I have found it takes between 8 and 12 minutes to get the crust crispy and the cheese to gooey.  Use a burger flipping spatula lifting the ‘za in the middle.  The sides of the ‘za not being held by the spatula should not droop, the topping should be hot and bubbling in spots. Remove the Za from the oven place on a big cutting board, cut into eight equal sized pieces and serve.

 

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Step 1: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

 

 

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Step 2: When oven reaches 375, place sheet pan on the middle rack in the oven for an additional 5 minutes.

 

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Step 3: Place ‘za on hot sheet pan.

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Step 4: Look at doneness, brown edges, bubbly cheese.

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Step 5: Check bottom, za is nicely browned and not droopy.

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Step 6: Cut and enjoy your za.

 

Employee Spotlight – Alex gladwell

Each Month we are going to spotlight one of our employees.  I hope these segments show what a wonderfully diverse workplace we have at EVOO.  This month being the first in the series we choose Alex Gladwell to be our first victim.  Alex is one of our long-term EVOO employees who has worked as a server, bartender and a supervisor.  I also keep trying to get her to work in the kitchen as well; I think she has the right temperament and work ethic to be a very good cook.

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Alex working a recent shift at the bar

Steve Kurland, EVOO’s general manager and business partner, put some questions to Alex, here are her responses-

EVOO’s Employee Spotlight Questions

How long have you worked at EVOO and in which jobs?

I have worked at EVOO since 2013, as server, supervisor, and bartender.

What’s your favorite food item on the menu?

The beef tenderloin and, when in season, the bluefish.

What’s your favorite drink that we serve?

Catcher in the Rye! (Old Overholt Rye, St Elder – Elderberry Liquor, Lemon Juice, Cava)

What’s your favorite app?

Oh man, this is a tough one. Think it’d have to be the Country Pate. That, and the rabbit confit salad. And all things charcuterie.

What’s the last book you read?

 “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay. And I just picked up Barbara Lynch’s “A life of Playing with Fire”. Both books by strong, inspirational women.

What’s your favorite music?

 Can’t really choose a favorite, per say. Love jazz, R&B, folk, old school country, hip hop. I would say most genres, except for maybe heavy metal and techno—not so much my jam.

Do you have a pet?

No.

What do you do on your time off?

 I love to hike, hang with friends/family, and travel as much as possible. This year I was fortunate to travel to Cuba as well as New Orleans. Hoping 2018 also consists of some adventure, as I’m hopeful it will.

What was your first car?

 Mazda 626

Now that you have gotten to know Alex a little bit better, if there are any other employees that you would like us to spotlight, as well as questions you would like us to ask, just add comments to this blog.

Pie in the Sky

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We are proudly baking pies for the twentieth consecutive year in support of Community Servings’ annual fund raiser Pie in the Sky.  Every year since EVOO opened in 1998, we bake 25 to 30 pies, for pick-up a couple of days before Thanksgiving. Many of the areas best restaurants, bakeries and caterers bake a total of 2500 pies to support Community Servings.

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Fredy getting ready to par-bake some of the pie shells

Each pie costs $30, which provides a week’s worth of nutritious home-delivered meals to a Community Servings’ client and a tasty Thanksgiving treat to the buyer.

 

Follow this link to find to buy a pie.  https://pieinthesky.org/buyflow/cart.cfm

 

EVOO’s Sweet Potato Pie Recipe

Ingredients:

1 each      pre-baked Pie Shell

¼ cup      Dark Brown Sugar

2 cups      Sweet Potato Purée

(from 3-4 baked sweet potatoes)

2 TB        Unsalted Butter

3 TB        Bourbon

1 TB        Molasses

3 each      Eggs

2 each      Egg Yolks

1 cup       granulated Sugar

½ ts         ground Nutmeg

¼ ts         Salt

1 ts          Vanilla Extract

2/3 cup    Milk

 

Method:

Find your favorite pie shell recipe make and pre-bake it.  Evenly spread the brown sugar inside the pie shell.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the sweet potatoes until cooked, while they are still hot, scoop out the pulp, measure out 2 packed cups. Place the sweet potato pulp in the bowl of a food processor and add the butter, pulse until butter is melted and sweet potatoes are a smooth puree. Add the remaining ingredients, pulse until smooth. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the prepared pie shell. Bake until set 45 minutes – 1 hour, until set.

Cool at room temperature for 2 hours and serve with top quality apple butter and lots of whipped cream.

 

 

Seasonal Fruit Crisp

Blackberry - nectarine crisp with corn crisp

Blackberry – Nectarine Crisp with Sweet Corn Ice Cream

At EVOO we almost always have a fruit crisp on our menu.  Starting in the spring with raspberries usually paired with rhubarb, moving into strawberries, blackberries, cultivated blueberries and then my favorite wild blueberries.  Peaches and nectarines are often in the summer mix of crisps sometimes mixed with berries and at times mixed with basil from our rooftop garden.  Going into autumn we like to make pear filled crisps, some years it’s just pears flavored with a little brandy, as is on our current menu; recipe is below.  Other years we pair the pears with dry fruit such as raisins, currants and / or dry cranberries.  Later into the fall and through the winter we are able to get apples cellared at local farms for use in our apple crisp.

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The recipes for all of the crisps are quite similar; fruit mixed with some sugar and flavors topped with an oatmeal – nut topping, baked and served with our in-house made ice cream.  The ice cream flavors depend on which fruit is filling the crisp.  The berry and stone fruit crisps often get creamy, yet mild flavored ice creams such as vanilla, sour cream, buttermilk or even sweet corn.  The pear crisp that is on our current menu is topped with ginger – brown sugar ice cream and our apple crisp is almost always paired with salted caramel ice cream.

 

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Pear Crisp with Ginger – Brown Sugar Ice Cream

EVOO’s Pear Crisp

Ingredients:

Topping:

¾ cup         Granulated Sugar

¾ cup         Light Brown Sugar

¾ lb           ½” cubed Butter

1½ ts           Vanilla Extract

1½ ts           ground Cinnamon

½ ts            Kosher Salt

3 cups        All Purpose flour

¾ cups       Rolled Oats

1½ cups     toasted slivered Almonds

Filling:

5 cups        peeled, cored, large diced Pears

1 TB           Brandy

2 TB           Lemon Juice

1 ts             Vanilla Extract

1 ts             Ground Cinnamon

1 ts             fresh ground Nutmeg

1/3 cup      Granulated Sugar

1/2 ts                   Kosher Salt

3 TB           Corn Starch

1/8th lb       1/4″ diced Butter

 

Method:

Topping:

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment combine the sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt until smooth and creamy. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.

Filling:

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients.

Baking:

Pre-heat oven to 310 degrees. Fill individual portion sized ceramic ramekins with the filling. Place filled ramekins on a sheet pan. Top each ramekin with 1/3 cup of topping. Bake for 25 minutes. Top each crisp with an additional 3TB of topping and bake for an additional 25 minutes. The filling should be bubbling over the sides and the topping nicely browned. Let cool a bit and serve with ice cream.

Cuba with Dad

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My parents were visiting us over the Thanksgiving long weekend and my father Walter mentioned that Americans are now able to travel to Cuba and that he wanted to go.  He noted that my mother Carolyn had no interest in going.  I immediately chimed in that I would be happy to go with him.  My dad had visited Cuba before the embargo, while attending the University of Miami in the mid 1950’s.  He has always talked fondly about the country and has often expressed a desire to return.

Within a few days I reiterated my willingness to go with him, that was all the motivation he needed.  He jumped on it, in no time flights and an Airbnb where booked.

Wally, as his friends, and sometimes I refer to my dad, is conversational in Spanish.  I on the other hand understand quite a bit and speak very little, which is a shame.  I work in restaurants where at least half of the employees first language is Spanish.  I also have a brother who has lived in Spain since the early 90s whom I have visited upwards of twenty times.  I should really have a much better grasp on the language than I do, hopefully I will suck-it-up and learn more.

I met my dad at his house in Florida so we could depart very early the next morning for our flight on JetBlue from Fort Lauderdale to Havana.  The flight was very sort, 45 minutes total flying time.  The first thing I noticed in Havana was how nice and accommodating the Cuban people were, very outgoing yet relaxed.  We arrived several hours early to the Airbnb and were greeted warmly, told not worry, it was not an issue.

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I have always heard about the old American cars in Cuba and figured that they would be a few here and there for the tourists.  I was wrong about that, I would estimate 70% of all cars were American models from the late forties and fifties.  No car, old American or new Russian, had anything that we would consider pollution control.  Straight exhaust streamed out of tailpipes or up through floorboards, as we experienced in one taxi.  It was really nasty, walking around the city you could taste it!  For many reasons this needs to be fixed.

I had read in several publications not to expect much when it came to food.  Most of the restaurants are government owned and there was not much emphasis on creativity or quality.  This proved to be very true, the food we experienced was blah!   We went to a couple of restaurants recommended to us by locals and they just kinda sucked, no love for the food at all.  Considering the quality of the food it was also expensive, $20 -$25 for a piece of grilled fish or some braised beef is fine, but it should be at least adequate.  At each of the restaurants we visited we ordered the main item – fish or meat and it was served with rice, beans and vegetables, nothing interesting.  I have read that some privately owned restaurants, Paladares,  located in private homes are supposed to be better than the government run restaurants.  The problem is they don’t have websites, not that with the very limited wifi you would be able to Google a Paladare.  Next time I visit I plan do more research ahead of time to find some better dining options.

A few of the restaurants we dined at.

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Our best meal each day was breakfast, prepared in our flat by Juanita, our maid.  She would arrive before we woke, have coffee ready at the predetermined time, then she would proceed to make us breakfast which included fried eggs, ham, cheese, a selection of fruit, toast, butter, jam and juice.  Then she would clean up after breakfast as well as the rest of the flat. The breakfast cost the equivalent of 5 U.S dollars, a real bargain, and Wally was able to practice his Spanish with her.

Wally with Juanita, the remnants of Juanita’s breakfast.

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If you like light crisp Caribbean style beer the indigenous Cristal is adequate, I drank several.  I was able to find an ocean-side table with a nice view at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba each evening.  The locals have an affinity to Heinekin, personally I would rather not drink than let that insipid liquid touch my lips.

mediocre beer with a great view

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I had a great trip with my dad, we have not had a lot of opportunities to spend undisturbed time together like this. It was a wonderful trip and I will cherish the time spent with my dad.

Havana is a beautiful city steeped in culture, here are some scenes from around the city.

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A fisherman avoiding the sea spray on the Malecon

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Che Guevara immortalized in the Plaza de la Revolution

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Commonplace food service out of the windows of private homes

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Morro Castle guarding Havana Harbor

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Gypsy lady smoking a Cuban Cigar

A couple of markets, note that there was no refrigeration for the meat.
City streets
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A long queue at La Casa Del Perro Caliente (The Hot Dog House)

 

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Scooter taxis

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Hotel de National Cuba

 

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Walking by a school, these kids knew an obvious tourist when they saw one and asked me to take their photo.

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Looking from Morro Castle towards downtown Havana

Along the Malecon

All photos credited to me Peter McCarthy

Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving! A true family holiday, no gifts, no forced professions of love, no candy for over stimulated kids, just good food, friends and family.

16 years ago when we opened EVOO Colleen and I thought it would be great to have family Thanksgiving dinner at the restaurant.  Having enough space to gather both of our familys and friends together would no longer be a problem.  Back then dinner at my house was not really an option, 800 square feet, a closet sized kitchen and only one bathroom would have made it very difficult for more than just a few people getting together.  Colleen and I both have large familys that get along quite well and we thought it would be great fun to get everyone together without worrying about space.  So a tradition was born.

Every year my parents arrive from Florida, my sister from Saratoga, brother from Maine, most years another brother shows up from Madrid with at least part of his family.  Some years my other sister even shows up from St Augustine, Florida.  Colleen’s family is not as scattered as mine, most of them are still in eastern Massachusetts.  With the exception of a brother who lives in Moultonborough, NH.  To that we add our extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and their family’s.  That’s not it, add to that friends, people we work with who either do not have local family or are not close to them.  We end up with a real rocking family party, with infants,  kids, teenagers, young adults, us middle agers and elders.

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Me with my sister Kathleen and Brother Dennis, Dennis is sporting the purple and orange Gobble Gobble Gobble shirt from the road race that we ran earlier in the day.

I obviously cook the main course, a very traditional roast turkey with all the fixings.  Others bring first courses, cheese and desserts.  I order 4 each 25 pound organic turkeys from a farm in southern Vermont.  The days prior to Thanksgiving I prep most of the vegetables, make turkey stock, prep the stuffing.  I always make 2 kinds of stuffing, one is referred to as Harrington Stuffing, plain and boring.  The other changes each year and will be full flavored and interesting.  This year’s was packed  with spiced pork sausage and leeks.

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a close-up of the delicious real stuffing.

On Thanksgiving morning there is usually a group of us that run Somerville’s  Gobble Gobble Gobble 4 mile road race.  This year we were surrounded by slackers, only my brother Dennis and I ran the race.  After the race with some combination of mine and Colleen’s brothers and brother-in-law, some of which are professional cooks, show up to do the final cooking.  Roasting the birds, finishing up the vegetables and making gravy.  By the time we are slicing the turkey, beer and wine are pouring freely.

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Dennis and I pulling together the last of the dinner prep.

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The main course, one of 4 turkeys that were cooked.

We set up a big buffet line and let people have at it (tradition is my mother-in-law, Marilyn Harrington is first in line), replenishing as needed.  For the most part everyone shares in the clean-up.  Kids enjoy pouring soda and bussing tables.  The past few years I have scheduled (paid volunteers) 2 dishwashers to help with the cleaning.  I insist that they join us at the table for dinner.  They get to see how this large dysfunctional American family celebrates it’s uniquely American holiday.

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The buffet line showing off 8 year old Shane’s hand written labels.

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5 year old Cate showing off her bartending skills.

Inevitably dinner is finished, each year the same group of us ends up watching, with limited interest (unless the Patriots are playing)football.  Friends who had dinner with there own family’s will often stop by for a night cap.

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Cate and Julia doing what girls do best, talking.

My 16 year old nephew Zach McCarthy recorded and produced the this time-lapse film documenting our day.

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Zach McCarthy