When I first interviewed Pat Connors more than a decade ago, I learned about the pairing of fried avocados and Irish whiskey.
For those of us who were privileged to know Pat along his short 48-year journey, this was a “Purely Pat Moment.” Take two things that work beautifully on their own, and combine them for a next-level experience.
While reflecting on Pat’s passing last week, and quietly celebrating every moment I had with this giant on the Tucson hospitality scene, I realized that Pat made our community a better place, just because he was here.
Two things that work beautifully on their own, combined for a next-level experience—start with a wonderful community and just add Pat.
His commitment to community was visible in everything he did. There was rarely a local charity event that he wasn’t a part of. His loyalty to the spirit of local was immeasurable, as manifest by his tireless advocacy for the local and independent eateries of the Tucson Originals.
Fundraising dinners for the Primavera Foundation, Bald Beauty Project, Dine Out for Safety and others were always important for him to host at Pastiche, his midtown restaurant, and his chef and bartenders were regular fixtures at virtually every local food-related event in town.
Why? Because Pat was about sharing, whether it was greeting you with a hug, telling a story, humming an Irish tune, or introducing you to a new whiskey that you’ve probably never heard of.
That happened to me on February 23, 2013, when he treated me to a wee dram of Poteen, an Irish moonshine distilled from potatoes.
The scene was a live broadcast of my food and beverage radio show, and Pat suggested
that we sip the Poteen together – a 160-proof spirit, mind you – on the air.
“Fear not,” he said comfortingly. “I’ll put an ice cube in the glass to release the serpent.”
With such a high proofing, I was prepared to cut to a commercial break for quick recovery after my first sip, but I was surprised to discover how smooth and flavorful this high-octane spirit really was. It didn’t make sense to me at first, but Pat explained it all, of course, with a great story.
And that was Pat: Taking conventional expectations and assumptions and using them to educate and inspire.
Another assumption that Pat turned on its head was that Guinness beer was meant only for drinking.
While Guinness has always been on tap at Pastiche, Pat thought it worked just as well in a dish as it did in a glass.
In an interview for a story in this newspaper a couple of years ago, Pat shared with me that he used Guinness in a number of dishes on his St. Patrick’s Day menu, from meatloaf gravy to chocolate cake.
“Guinness is a great beer for cooking because it introduces different layers of complexity to each dish featuring it,” he said. “From the coffee aroma it releases once it hits the heat to the toffee notes it produces as it begins to caramelize, this beer just pops.”
Two things that work beautifully on their own, combined for a next-level experience – beer and cake.
Thanks for your friendship, your family, your spirit, your grace, your influence, your life. You shared it all with us, and we’re a better people and place because of it.
God only knows when I’ll be called home, but it’s comforting to know that I’ll be greeted by Pat on that very day, with a smile, a hug, some fried avocados and a dram of Poteen.
Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at email@example.com. Russell is also the host of “On the Menu Live” that airs 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays on KQTH 104.1 FM, as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.