As smoking restrictions become increasingly draconian across the United States and the world, it takes some creativity for innkeepers and restaurateurs to accommodate those who love a great cigar. Here we turn to two lodges with a focus on outdoor activities, each of which has a very intriguing way to allow cigar smokers to puff in peace.
A Sanctuary in the Adirondacks
By David Savona
The Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York, offers one of the most picturesque (and creative) smoking spots in the great outdoors-a pair of high-end cigar and Cognac lean-tos created specifically for cigar smoking.
Located in the Olympic town of Lake Placid, New York, and designed in the tradition of the great camps of the Adirondack Mountains, The Whiteface Lodge looms like a sanctuary in the woods above Lake Placid. Made of stone and local timber that was milled on-site, the all-suite resort is ideally situated for fishing, hiking, spa treatments (the spa boasts a 5,800 square foot spa) and all manner of winter sports. You can try your hand at skiing or snowboarding or even bobsledding, luge or skeleton.
The resort holds awards from Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler and AAA, and its wine cellar has won the award of excellence for four straight years from Wine Spectator, Cigar Aficionado's sister publication.
Whiteface is a classic lodge. The game room is devoid of Wii and Guitar Hero, opting instead for pool and shuffleboard, activities that invite conversation and family interaction rather than catatonic devotion to a TV screen. The lodge even has a two-lane bowling alley and a movie theatre and an all-season indoor/outdoor pool allowing you to swim from the interior of the lodge to the outside.
The cigar lean-tos, also known as the cigar and Cognac outdoor lounges, began as simple shelters for adults watching their children as they took to the ice.
"It was a gathering place for people to watch the kids ice skating," says Scott Waller, sommelier and beverage manager for the resort. "Then it got a little more comfortable. We added leather chairs, rustic wood furnishings. We had some management that was very into cigars."
The lean-tos are remarkable creations, with electricity, warm blankets to guard against the Lake Placid cold, and a menu of cigars and spirits to add warmth where blankets fail. Adding an extra element of luxury is a dedicated phone line that connects guests to the concierge, who will expedite delivery of cigars and a fine beverage. The Whiteface Lodge has more than 20 Scotches (from Abelour to Springbank), eight bourbons and ryes (including Michters), a trio of rums (Plantation and Ron Zacapa) and ten Ports by the glass. There's also Cognac, Armagnac, Grappa and Calvados.
"I've been building our cigar collection," says Waller. His list has 14 selections, ranging from mild cigars (Davidoff, Montecristo White) to medium bodied (A. Fuente Rothschild, Padrón Anniversary, Gurkha, Rocky Patel Vintage 1990, Avo Maduro) and to full bodied (Oliva Serie V, Fuente Fuente OpusX).
An open fireplace sits between the two lean-tos, adding warmth and ambience. The one thing you won't find at Whiteface is good cell-phone service, but management will offer no apologies. Waller calls it "centrally isolated."
The Whiteface Lodge
7 Whiteface Inn Lane
Lake Placid, New York 12946
Beauty in the Blue Ridge Mountains
By Irwin Greenstein
Some sportsmen call it a trip, but for others it's a pilgrimage up a winding, seven-mile timber road through Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains where you finally reach Primland-an avant-garde interpretation of a rustic lodge whose domed, stainless-steel silo houses an observatory.
But we weren't here for the stargazing, or for that matter the golf, hunting, fly fishing or ATV trail riding. Primland features the most beautiful sporting clays course in the country, and it was one of our destinations as we were driving home from an eight-day barnstorming trip through Kentucky and Tennessee for bourbon tasting and sporting clays.
For the uninitiated, sporting clays simulates upland bird hunting by positioning trap machines in natural and landscaped habitats. Call "pull" and the trapper launches any variation of small clay targets set to emulate game birds flushed by dogs, such as pheasants, chukars and quail, which you try to hit with a shotgun.
At Primland, you navigate the sporting clays course in off-road golf carts along rugged paths carved out of the property's 12,000 wooded acres. Our trapper, a native Virginian, told us that the surrounding environs still hold the secrets of abandoned stills and Confederate family graveyards that he stumbles upon guiding deer and turkey hunts at Primland.
In fact, even now the lodge itself remains somewhat of a secret. Although Primland's outdoor activities have been available since the 1990s, the building is only two years old.
A spectacular architectural feat of local recycled lumber, Italian tile and state-of-the-art green technologies, it features an 8,100 square-foot spa that honors the healing traditions of Native Americans. Best of all, the lodge is also home to a contemporary restaurant called Elements where we had dined the night before our sporting clays outing.
Although Elements provides sweeping vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the menu and wine selections clearly reflect time well spent in Napa and Sonoma by Karl Kazaks, Primland's director of dining and beverage.
The centerpiece of Elements is a horizontal gas fireplace encased in glass. It casts a romantic ambience that infuses the dining experience. That evening, I started with the lobster bisque while my wife ordered an appetizer of diver scallop with butter pecan ice cream, fennel, white chocolate and coffee.
She moved on to the sous-vide lobster accompanied by mushroom capelletti, and I had the Strube Ranch Wagyu Beef calotte, and it was far away the best beef I had ever tasted. Our meal was accompanied by a 2007 Cakebread Merlot. By the time dessert arrived, night had settled on the Blue Ridge Mountains and it was clearly time for a cigar.
We took a leisurely stroll along the torch-lit trail to the Tobacco Barn, a special place reserved for cigar smokers. Tobacco was a cash crop for most local families in this area who raised it in small plots. The region is dotted with tobacco barns used to cure the leaf.
Primland had moved a sterling example onto the property. The rough-hewn logs are packed with mortar. Inside there was a country stone fireplace, big screen TV, comfortable furniture and a couple of high-top tables. The temperature was set to near-humidor conditions.
The Tobacco Barn cigar menu includes cigars from Punch, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta and Padrón. Your smoke can be accompanied by a variety of single malts, Cognacs and Ports. The Tobacco Barn was quite cozy, but you may just want to wander outside with cigar and spirit to enjoy the starry night.
2000 Busted Rock Road
Meadows of Dan, Virginia 24120
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