A Tale of Two Cigars

The other night a group of friends assembled at The Grand Havana Club, a private membership club, that provides a bespoke atmosphere for the increasingly rarefied pleasure of enjoying good cigars. Happily, the GHC is also blessed with a superb Chef in Alberto Gomez and an urbane, astute and highly capable manager in Randall Denman. Randall joined us for the evening, and good cheer, bon mots, wonderful food and wine accompanied two memorable cigars.

It was a fairly august gathering we were fortunate enough to cobble together. Three were fellow Chaine des Rotisseurs Board Members. John Shalam, Audiovox innovator and business pioneer is a gentleman’s gentleman. In fact the affinity his name has with “Shalom” meaning “peace” (“Salaam” in the Arabic ) I’ve always thought isn’t accidental — he is a civilizing presence. Phillip Davis is the very picture of Southern gentility and grace: banker and real estate investor and much  more, he embodies a certain wry take on the human condition, though always administered with elegance. The third Chaine Board member present was Jim Wallick, CEO of Mercer Tool, a highly successful global gadfly, fellow quixotic rogue (in the best possible way), and a wonderful life enthusiast. Completing the group, other than my wife and I, were Jack and Lori Broesamle. Lori is the Annie Oakley of cigar smoking, a capable manager in her own right, and along with Jack, a great demonstration of both business acumen and success, as well as a captivating personal openness to a wide range of  both ideas and adventures. We have deeply enjoyed their company and warmth on many occasions.

We opened with Soft Shell Crab, Lump Crab Cocktail with a Yellow Tomato Coulis. The Crab flavor was expressively conveyed by the preparation, rather than being the soggy anonymous mush that so many versions of this dish so often. are. This was married very successfully with a Kistler “Les Noisetiers” Sonoma Coast 2007. Noisetiers refers to hazelnuts and the terroir is certainly very distinctive. This wine comes from grapes from several of the Kistler vineyards. It was a golden wine, with some hints of ripe lemon and nut oil…it delivered a vibrant zing. We smoked with this a Nestor Miranda “Special Selection” Lancero.  This is a Honduran cigar with a Nicaraguan wrapper. It is rolled so that most of the flavor is in the wrapper (which is where cigars need to shine anyway). At the beginning and end of the smoke it was quite woody, with hints of fruit in between. Lovely, gentle, elegant.

Our next dish was Rabbit Saddle, with Ginger Baby Carrots, Pan Jus and Micro Greens. The absence of the classic “mustard” with the rabbit gave us a more delicate, subtle but yet still succulent dish — more tender than gamy. This was caressed by a Viognier de Rosine, Michel Ogier, Vin de Pays, 2006.  These grapes come from just west of the famous Condrieu vineyards, the spiritual homestead of Viognier. The 2006 was lovely. Good acidity, a peachy richness, lovely aroma.

The main course was Venison Striploin, Yukon Gold Potato Gratin, Port & Cherry Glaze.  It was succulent, tender, gamy in just the right measure. It had none of the dehydration that inept versions of Venison are guilty of…and the glaze wasn’t overpoweringly sweet…just a lovely contrast. The accompanying wine was a knock-out. Gigondas, “Prestige D’Hautes Garrigues”, Domaine Santa Duc, Rhone 2003.  A gorgeous super-concentrated Gigondas with exotic berries, amazingly aromatic for its age, spicy, with a big finish. With this we smoked our second cigar of the dinner, Camacho “Triple Maduro” Torpedo. Wow! “Maduro” means “ripe” in Spanish, and this is considered the only “true” Maduro because the wrapper, binder and filler are all Maduro. It was a powerful, rich, sumptuous cigar, that took a while to get going and then let loose — really expressing its complexity and power.

Dessert was a lovely way to cap the meal — Caramel Apple Tart, Vanilla Bean Gelato, White Chocolate Ganache. The richness of the gelato worked wonderfully with the warm flaky pastry and the sweet yet slightly tart apple flavor of this rich dessert. We capped our wine experience no less memorably with Dolc de L’Obac, “Late Harvest Granacha”, Priorat 2000. This Spanish masterpiece blends Grenache, Cabernet and Syrah, is naturally sweet and non-fortified (!) and comes from a unique one hectare property with a distinctive micro-climate that helps the grapes to ripen faster to produce this exceptional wine — subtle sweetness and lushness at the same time.

We went home basking in the after glow of wonderful company and an evening of abundant palate titillation indeed — the progression from the Lancero to the Camacho was a wonderrful metaphor for an evening that similarly developed, evolved and unfolded — a patchwork of many pleasures.  Something to reprise!