The Five Questions: Patrick Evans-Hylton
September 16, 2010
Patrick Evans-Hylton found me on Facebook. I have followed his soft spoken- easy going Southern ways for many years now. In a way he reminds me of food culturalist John T. Edge who I’ve also asked to participate in this project.
Patrick is a cook, a celebrated bon-vivant, a story-teller and a true Southern Gentleman. He has impeccably good taste, writes with a smile and has that uniquely lovely, Southern accent. I found myself slipping into my old Southern accent immediately when speaking with him.
1. What is your favorite Soul Food restaurant near you. what do they prepare that is different than any other place. Do they have any specific ingredients that resonate with you?
There is no real soul food where I live and that’s too bad. Interesting area here in Virgina. Our cuisine is a mix of Southern and Mid-Atlantic. One or two places do Soul Food but they are not really great. One really great place went out of business. Unique area with a blending of Southern Cuisine. Collards or fried okra. Stove restaurant in Portsmouth is a unique place. Sydney Meers is the chef. He’s a folk artist. Primitive type paintings. Deep South feel. It has a new Southern twist … think tasso ham and collard greens. It’s not your typical soul food. He makes the most incredible homemade pimento cheese. I’d walk across a dessert carrying a backpack full of bricks wearing a velvet jumpsuit, to have some or his pimento cheese and he makes everything from scratch. He’s an amazing Southern cook.
My favorite Soul Food restaurant is Mary Mac’s Tea Room in Atlanta. I’m a very emotional person. Eating that food makes me want to cry. It’s so good. Okra. Vegetable soup.. suddenly I’m eight years old and everything is beautiful.
I’m not very far from the ocean so I can taste the saline tang of the sea when I eat.
2. Who taught you how to cook? Mother? Father? Grandparents? What are your earliest memories of food? Did you sit down to dinner as a family when you were growing up?
Grandmother is 85 and slowing down. When I’m in Atlanta it’s my childhood again . She’s young and vibrant. Food is a time machine. Grandma is a big inspiration for me. My father’s parents raised me. Grandmother was only 39 Grandfather was 40 She was born in North Georgia in Dalton. She was part of the generation being a housewife. My grandmother cooked the majority of meals.. used to eat at the Magnolia Room -Biscuits, cornbread.. I watched that and early on came to realize the importance of food.. Many Southern Baptist church suppers. If someone was sick she would fix something and go to their house. Planned a week or two in advance what cake, what foods we would eat. Aunt Brenda was a big inspiration. Her parents raised me too. Late 1960’s she moved to Washington to be a flight attendant. At 6 years old, I started flying to Washington. Ate at Shoney’s after church. Pizza was a rare treat. This was the summer of 1972. Went to a Chinese restaurant and ordered sweet and sour shrimp. Remember seeing the orange colored sauce and gigantic peppers. It was my 1st real foodie moment. My Aunt was a big influence. As a flight attendant she saw the world. She opened my eyes.
It’s wonderful to be a part of the food community. You know, it’s based on the premise of hospitality. There are so many people who are sincere and genuine.
3. Do you have in your culinary songbook any recipes that bring a tear to your eye when you prepare them? What are they? Who taught you to make them?
Food is so emotional anyway. There is eating and there is dining. Over the last couple of years I’ve come to appreciate that. I’d cook different things like simple cherry tarts with chocolate on them. A close friend got very sick with breast cancer. She was still able to taste sweets while she was in the hospital. She died and the things that she enjoyed, that I cook still makes me think of her. When I cook biscuits I think of my grandmother. She used White Lilly flour, real lard, buttermilk. Cooking them was as natural to her as fixing her hair and doing her makeup. 20 minutes later they are golden brown and hot.
Food is extremely emotional. Food writing doesn’t get you lots of feedback but I do get good feedback on restaurants from readers.
A lot of very emotional things like food is life and life is food.
4. What is your favorite cocktail? Made with what?
I’m a firm believer of the Tennessee Williams axiom of a pitcher of Daiquiris. I like a drink before dinner. Old fashioned kind of way linger over the beginning of a meal. I like to start with a gin and tonic or a gin martini. After a really heavy meal I like a glass of Jack Daniels for an after dinner cocktail. With some lighter foods, it’s nice to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine. My 1st legal cocktail was a long island iced tea with my grandmother. Went to eat at a Ruby Tuesday 2 for one drinks. Happy hour was still legal. Fast forward to the floor! At 18 years old.
I worked as a banker for 13 years. Started right out of high school. Grandfather was very sick when I was growing up. I worked part time in a grocery store. Scotch came out every afternoon at the bank where I got a job.
I do like Woodford Reserve. Pappy Van Winkle. Editor of the Statewide wine magazine. Only drink Virgina wine. All but three wines in my cellar are Virginia wines.
5. Social Media has become the darling of the real time internet. How do you see yourself using social media to define your goals as a food journalist. I love your blog and learn much from it. Where do you see food journalism going in the future?
So many things. It is the way things are moving now. There may not be a wonderful companion to print. I love print. Social media is informal and immediate. Real time reviews. Posting while I eat.. 40 or fifty people live email me and ask me what was on my plate. My name often appears in a newspaper or magazine or on TV. Sometimes it makes people think I’m not approachable. Social Networking levels the playing field and it breaks down barriers. How is that steak prepared? People will ask me questions on Facebook when I’m eating.
Commonality that brings us together is food.. I want to know what their grandmother made them an obsession. Breaking bread. How great is it when you share a great meal with people, either virtually, or in person.
Thank you Patrick for participating in this new version of the Five Questions!
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
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Blue Hill/Stone Barns: Time Exists in Harmony with Nature
The Cocktail Whisperer asks Anthony Bourdain Four Questions about Scotch
The Five Questions: Andrew Bell, American Sommelier
The Five Questions Catherine Reynolds
The Five Questions: Lincoln Henderson (Master Distiller)
The Five Questions: Natalie West (Foppiano Wines)
The Five Questions: Randall Grahm
The Five Questions: Sustainable Sushi
A Glass of Bourbon, Branch, and History
Midnight in the Bronx: Visit to Hunt’s Point Wholesale Fish Exchange
A Modern Day Absinthe Alchemist
A Summer Cocktail Party for Artie Shaw
Tales of the Cocktail: New Orleans, Louisiana