Posted: Mar 31, 2008 12:37pm ET
My friend Chuck, the proud owner of a new Audi R8, planted the thought a few weeks ago. “There’s this cigar lounge up the Hudson Valley. Let’s take the cars one Saturday, drive up and have a cigar.” I said sure. This past week, I realized I had a chunk of free time on Saturday. There won’t be many Saturdays left open with golf season kicking off in the Northeast, but this past weekend, it was still a bit too cold and blustery for an old guy like me. So I called Chuck on Friday morning, and said, “Let’s do it.” He was free.
I knew where I wanted to go. For at least a decade, Glynna Schlesinger, the owner with her husband Neil, of Hudson Valley Cigars in New Windsor, had been bugging me to come up and visit. Soccer and golf had always conspired to keep me on my own side of the Hudson River. Dave Savona had been there a couple of times and always raved about the cigars, and the food in the adjacent Schlesinger’s Steak House, which they own.
Saturday dawned frigid and sunny. I worked for a few hours on my taxes, but at 11, the phone rang and Chuck said, “Where are we going to meet?” I described an entrance ramp to the Taconic State Parkway, one of my favorite driving roads in the world, and we set a time. I quickly showered, but left myself enough time to take a cloth to the car and wipe off a few rain spots that had gathered since the car’s last wash. Oh yea, I have a new S5 which I’ve blogged about here. It was glistening in the sunlight, and ready for a road trip.
I got to our meeting spot first. I watched in the rear view as Chuck turned his low-slung 420 horsepower beast onto the ramp, its ultra cool LED daytime running lights blazing twin arrows across the car’s grill. I thought he might stop to chat before zooming off but he roared by and onto the highway. I was on his tail in flash, and we proceeded to trade off leading the way up the Taconic. Now, I don’t want to give anyone the idea that we were reckless. No one got cut off, there was no weaving and darting in and out of traffic and I didn’t pull the old Autobahn tricks of flashing my lights at cars sitting in the left hand lane. But since I’m very familiar with every nook and cranny of the Taconic, it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that when I was flashing my lights at Chuck, it was to warn him of a favorite lurking spot of New York State’s finest highway patrol. In between those spots, and especially on the winding curves of several stretches of the highway, we put our cars through their paces. Let me add. It was a blast.
Of course, there were the few unwise souls, most apparently teenage boys, who tried to keep up with us. At one point, I happened to be going close to the legal speed limit and I looked in my rear view mirror to see the driver taking a picture of the car. I thought, what the hell is going on, and slowed down. When he passed, he just nodded and smiled.
I missed the turn to Hudson Valley Cigars, but Chuck saw it and pulled into the parking lot. When I got there, he was talking with Glynna, a truly beautiful woman. Chuck laughed as I walked up. He said, “Here am I in this car and I look out the window after I stopped and there’s this beautiful woman standing there saying, ‘Nice car.’ I thought to myself, this is worth the sticker price.’” In fact, you all should really give me a hard time. I had taken my video camera home with me this past weekend with the idea of taking it along for the drive, and then, I FORGOT it at my house. Too bad. You would see that I’m telling the truth about her.
Glynna gave us the tour. She and her husband originally bought the restaurant, which had a small cottage like structure on the property that had been a gift shop. In the mid-1990s, they decided to open a cigar shop. She had been mostly involved with the restaurant, but after she visited RTDA, she took full responsibility for the business side of the cigar operation. Later, when they realized that patrons of the restaurant were walking over the buy cigars, in the rain and snow on bad days, they decided to build a bar and lounge that connected the restaurant and the cigar shop. Lucky for them. When New York State passed it’s strict no-smoking law, they were able to keep the lounge as a smoking area because it was deemed to be part of the cigar shop. Voila, you can smoke and drink inside!
So, we sat down in the lounge, lit up two Rocky Patel Decades while Glynna put together a small plate of food for us from a catered event in the restaurant (The restaurant doesn’t open usually until 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.) We smoked, talked about the cigar business, and Chuck explained his involvement with an organization called Bridges to Community, a charitable organization, which builds houses in Nicaragua. Keep an eye out for an announcement of a fund-raiser for the group at Hudson Valley Cigars sometime in the near future. Glynna is intrigued by the group’s mission, and loves the idea.
We spent a couple of hours there, and then finally, got back in the cars. We drove down route 9W, which stays on the west side of the Hudson River, and at one point crosses over a series of peaks with views stretching out over West Point and down to the Tappen Zee bridge in Tarrytown, New York. 9W is a four-lane road so there was plenty of room to let the cars run, but I would say we were more conservative on our drive home. It crosses the Hudson at the Bear Mountain Bridge; you can see some of West Point’s building from the bridge. From there, it’s a quick 15 minute drive to my house.
So, if you are anywhere in the Tri-State area, and want to have a cigar after a great steak, head up to New Windsor. You can take Interstate 87, otherwise known as the Thruway, or choose to head up the Taconic to I-84, and then head west across the river to the 2nd exit. Directions are available on the web at hudsonvalleycigars.com. You won’t be sorry. Be sure to ask for Glynna and Neil, and say hi for me.
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