Never tried octopodi? Chris Euripidou suggests you get yourself over to St. George's 43rd annual Greek Festival this weekend and give your taste buds a treat.
"The way we serve it, it's cut up into little pieces, and people either have them on a salad or as a small side dish," said Euripidou, who's in charge of all the cooking all the octopuses and everything else at the three-day event beginning Friday at 11 a.m. at St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Clinton Street and the congregation's Hellenic Center right around the corner on Liberty St. "There's no real fishiness to it. The texture is similar to a nicely-cooked chicken. It should be tender, but it should have a bit of a bite to it. It really is delicious."
Before the event concludes Sunday at 6 p.m., Euripidou expects to have cooked quite a bit of Greek food, including 600 pounds of chicken and 120 pounds of pork.
"When the festival starts on Friday, they'll be a big Price Chopper truck outside the center filled to the max," said Euripidou. "After three days it will be completely empty, and that's a pretty amazing thing to see."
Along with the food - which includes souvlaki, loukaniko, pastitsio and lamb shanks - the Greek Festival offers plenty of musical entertainment, traditional dancing, arts and crafts and church tours. Euripidou enjoys all of that, but the food is his responsibility, and the role of chief cook and prepare has been in his family for quite some time. Before Euripidou took over as head chef in 2006, his father had been in charge for years. His brother, Evan, is also parish council president at St. George, and has been chairing the festival for more than 10 years.
"Growing up as a kid I was involved in the dancing groups, so I've been going to the festival from the time I was old enough to walk," said Euripidou. "All through high school and my college years I would help out in the kitchen, and since I came back from culinary school in 2006 I've been pretty much running the kitchen. My father did it for a very long time, so I learned under his leadership."
Along with his father's tutelage at the festival, Euripidou also learned the ropes at the family business, the Farmer Boy Diner & Restaurant on Central Avenue in Colonie. The Euripidous have run the place for 41 years.
"I majored in computer engineering at Villanova, but after school I realized I didn't like sitting at a desk," said Euripidou. "I think I had too much restaurant blood in me, so I went to Johnson and Wales Culinary School in Denver, Colorado, and when I was done I came back home and told me father I wanted to get back into the family business full time. I also did my school internship working at some fine dining restaurants in New York City, and I learned about Greek food from a different angle there. When I was done, I told my father, 'I want to take over the business.'"
Euripidou said that while growing up, it wasn't always pastitsio and moussaka.
"Yeah, we had occasional hot dogs and the typical stuff you might eat," remembered Euripidou. "But if we had a big meal at home the stuff we put on the table was a traditional Greek meal. My parents had recipes that were passed down through their parents."
He says the most popular item on the festival menu is probably the lamb shanks youvetsi.
"People are always walking past, asking us when they're going to be ready," said Euripidou. "They are a big favorite. They're braised in the oven with red wine, honey and tomato sauce. I've had a lot of people walk up and tell me that they used to think they didn't like lamb, until they got here. We'll probably cook over 400 pounds of lamb."
Also this weekend:
- Schenectady: Italian StreetFest: Falvos to be honored, Sept. 6, 2018
- Amsterdam: River Ridge ItaliaFest visits Amsterdam's Southside, Sept. 6, 2018
- SPAC: Saratoga Wine & Food Festival adds flavors, flair, Sept. 6, 2018
As for the octupuses, it won't be quite as much.
"I'm sure I'll cook all five cases I'm getting and it's about 33 pounds of octupus, octupi, whatever it is, a case," said Euripidou. "So that's about 180 pounds of raw octupus, and I believe each case has about six of them. Each tentacle serves about two people."
While the festival makes for a very long weekend for the Euripidou family, Chris wouldn't have it any other way.
"The church is always going to be important to me, and this time of year we always expect to be real busy with the festival," he said. "Come September our family knows what they will be doing. We know we have to get ready. It's a lot of work, but we also try to enjoy it as much as we can. We appreciate our community coming together the way it does, and we enjoy sharing our culture with other people."
'St. George 43rd annual Greek Festival'
WHERE: St. George Greek Orthodox Church and Hellenic Center, 107 Clinton and 510 Liberty Street, Schenectady
WHEN: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: Admission is free
MORE INFO: Visit www.saintgeorgegoc.com