When one thinks of cigars, one of the first things that come to mind is relaxation. Especially if you’re running from one meeting or one restaurant to the next, and you’re always on a deadline or adhering to a schedule—when you finally are able to sit down with a good cigar and a drink, you can relax and say, “OK, the day’s over.”
I was introduced to fine cigars when I was in my early twenties by my chef mentor/friend Leon Dahenens, who taught at the Culinary Institute of America at the time. We traveled to Belgium to visit some of the restaurants where he had worked and apprenticed, a trip that exposed me to a level of cigar smoking I hadn’t realized existed. For the first time, I experienced expert cigar service in a fine restaurant, where a staff member came to the table after dinner carrying a huge humidor, presented me with a cigar, clipped it, and then lit it with a cedar spill. The ritual was as enjoyable as the cigar itself.
I used to smoke a lot of Cuban Punch and Davidoffs, and later, Davidoff’s Zino brand. I especially like Davidoff's because the brand reflects quality and consistency, the same values I strive for in my restaurants. I used to smoke a lot of them, about three cigars a day. But as life goes on, your tastes change. I once was a big Bordeaux fan, but as I grow older, I find I’m drinking more pinot noir. In this same way, I’m now drawn to lighter cigars. On average, I smoke from four to ten cigars a month. I keep a small humidor in my office, but I usually select my cigars from my restaurant humidors. I also receive a lot of cigars from manufacturers and customers, and that also influences what I smoke.
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Fall 2019: Style Issue