Evelyn Fortune Bartlett loved the finer things, and she loved the visual.
She was lady of the house at the Bonnet House for more than six decades, but she was not the Bonnet House’s original resident. The land the Fort Lauderdale landmark sits on was a wedding gift from Hugh Taylor Birch – part of his own sprawling property that eventually became the state park bearing his name – to his daughter, Helen, and her new husband, Frederic Bartlett, as a winter home. The couple began building Bonnet House a year later, in 1920, but Helen wouldn’t live to see it completed – she died of cancer in 1925. The young widower mostly stayed away from the beachside residence for a few years.
But in 1931 he married Evelyn, and the Bonnet House Fort Lauderdale knows today began to take shape. The Bartletts collected art and had a strong sense of the visual, and that’s reflected in their eclectic oceanfront home. He died in 1953; she continued to winter here until her death in 1997. Hers are the fingerprints that most cover the colorful Fort Lauderdale landmark.
So when Fort Lauderdale’s new oceanfront Four Seasons needed a name for its restaurant, they didn’t need to look far. Just about exactly a mile north on A1A, in fact.
Chef Brandon Salomon runs the kitchen at Evelyn’s. He wants an evening at the restaurant to be one for all the senses – the sort of thing the art collector and tropical garden builder the place is named for would have liked.
He mentions a smoked octopus dish with carrot puree and carrot crumble that tastes amazing but also just comes out looking good. All the senses get exercised.
Since the restaurant opened in March, feedback he’s received from patrons – including locals who have become repeat customers – indicates his approach is working. “Locals have been really excited about what we’re doing,” he says. “I keep hearing it over and over again and I’m so glad that it’s an experience; that’s what I wanted to accomplish.”
Salomon has been with Four Seasons since 2015, when he went to the luxury brand’s Palm Beach hotel. Before that he’d worked at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco, upmarket Gaylord Hotel operations in Washington, D.C. and a handful of top New York restaurants while a student at the Culinary Institute of America. In September of last year, he was offered the opportunity to open Evelyn’s.
“I’ve been really excited to see everything evolve,” he says.
The menu is eastern Mediterranean with a focus on local and seasonal; Salomon works with local producers including Harpke Family Farm just west of the airport. Four Seasons, Salomon says, always expects a high standard, but the use of the name “Evelyn’s” isn’t an accident – the brand tries to make its restaurants local and specific to the place it’s going into. The trick is to make the menu local and the standard universal.
“Yes the kitchen might be different, the people might be different, but at the end of the day people buy into the brand,” he says.
He enjoys working here.
“For Lauderdale to me is a vibrant and fun city,” he says. “There is definitely a growing culinary scene.”
Evelyn’s modern take on a seafood-led cuisine fits right in, he reckons.
“I think the eastern Mediterranean in general – we want to make more of a contemporary style of it, which is fun,” he says.
“It’s more about the whole experience.”
Evelyn would approve.
The Dish: Charred Red Pepper
- 1/3 cup cooked, peeled red pepper (equal to about 1 large red pepper)
- ½ cup sundried tomatoes, chopped fine
- 4 ½ tablespoons Lebanese extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic, small diced
- ¾ tablespoon toasted cumin
- 3/4 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups toasted walnuts
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 5 tablespoons harissa
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt/ or to taste
(All garnishes to taste)
- Fresh cilantro leaves, torn
- Toasted walnuts, chopped fine
- Pomegranate seeds
- Lebanese olive oil
Roast peppers on grill until completely charred. For oven: place on sheet pan rack in oven and broil on high until charred on all sides.
Place red pepper in a small bowl. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and set aside for 5 minutes.
Peel skin off pepper, remove stem and seeds, rough-chop and set aside.
Place all ingredients in a food processor, and pulse until ingredients combine; you want the mixture to be a little chunky, not finely pureed.
Add kosher salt, to taste.
Place red pepper spread on a plate and spread evenly.
Garnish with toasted walnuts, torn cilantro leaves, pomegranate seeds, and Lebanese extra virgin olive oil.
Enjoy with pita bread, crudités, or crackers of choice.