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- More from Where to Smoke
Pace's Steak House, New York
Steaks and cigars come to port in Long Island.
Posted: October 25, 2006
Once a town where shipbuilders and whalers drank whiskey together, historical Port Jefferson offers one of the most picturesque, not to mention one of the last, places in New York State to smoke a cigar and have a steak. This quaint and charming port town is located on Long Island's north shore and is home to Pace's Steak House and, a stone's throw away, Smoke Signals tobacconist and cigar club. Together, they make for perfect good-life complements, well worth a trek out of the city.
Walk down the village main street as ferries and fishermen pull in and out of the harbor, and you can't help but feel that you have discovered a tranquil gem away from the strip malls and chain restaurants that plague today's suburbia. Hidden behind the facade of the port town's shops is Pace's -- a family-owned chop house cozily designed with an old-world feel that might fool you into thinking it has been serving steaks since the days of Teddy Roosevelt. Funny thing is, the restaurant has been around only for a few years, but no matter. The classic ambience is one that you'd expect -- exposed brick walls, dim chandeliers, tin-stamp ceilings, a vibrant bar and local politicians seated in remote, candle-lit corners.
If you're lucky enough to get a table near the windows, and your timing is right, you can watch the sun set behind the trees while you peruse the well-balanced menu of seasoned and unseasoned steaks, which are carefully dry-aged on the premises. A hearty selection of seafood, lamb, chicken, duck and pasta dishes make Pace's a happy meeting point for carni-philes and carni-phobes alike. While the Cabernet-heavy wine list won't exactly make an oenophile swoon, there are solid selections from France, Italy, California, Spain and other regions. None of the wines' vintages are printed on the menu -- a no-no for a serious restaurant. Many mid-level steak houses are guilty of this omission as well, perhaps with the assumption that steak eaters will drink whatever the house is pouring, but an establishment pining for an upscale clientele, especially in the wake of wine's current hyper awareness, should really know better.
|Pace's dining room has an old-world elegance.|
I thought the Frog's Leap an appropriate segue into the 12-ounce filet mignon I decided on. The $33.95 price tag that came with it was easy enough to swallow too -- one thing I can't stand are city prices outside of the city, and fortunately, Manhattan's prices have not emigrated to Pace's. In addition to the steak, I sampled three side dishes, all priced in the $6 to $7 range.
Now I love a rare steak and if I trust the steak house, I'll even order it blue with a cold center. But it's common for cold-center steaks to continue cooking by way of their own heat, fading the cut's ruby-red core to a lighter shade of pink. This being said, my steak arrived exactly with the cold core I asked for, which is something even some of the Manhattan steak houses have been having trouble serving up to me lately. The tender filet gave the knife little resistance, and had a great flavor profile of subtle minerals, beef blood and even slight buttery accents, though as far as I know Pace's kitchen does not cook its steaks in butter.
Sides of creamed spinach and mashed potatoes were enjoyable, but what really took the Best Side award was the three-cheese baked macaroni and cheese. It arrived in a hot plate, bubbling with a pleasantly browned top skin. After allowing it to sit, as per the waiter's suggestion, I dug in. Pace's uses a tubettini-shaped pasta, an interesting variation of the normal elbow macaroni. The flavors of the three cheeses really took me by surprise with their complexity. I have never tasted a mac n' cheese that actually had a long finish, but this one did. Thinking back, it makes sense that Pace's can do al forno pasta such as mac 'n cheese so well, as its menu also includes a solid selection of traditional Italian-American pasta dishes (The family started out in the restaurant business serving Italian food.) Had I not been so full, I would've ordered another side of the macaroni, but I needed to save room for dessert, which ended up being crème brûlée.
|Inside the humidor at Smoke Signals|
"That's a cigar Rocky Patel makes for us. Why don't you try it?" Scott suggested, handing me a few. Then we stepped back into the antechamber and into the cigar club smoking lounge for a sudden change of ambience. This room is not merely some little cigar shop appendage with a few chairs, but a deep, alluring space designed with the serious, sophisticated smoker in mind. The lounge is dimly lit and warmly furnished with leather chairs, leather couches and cigar lockers. A big-screen TV is usually on, but in no way disturbs the mood. A coffee bar at the end of the room offers a nice selection of espresso, cappuccino and café Americano. You won't find alcohol being served at Smoke Signals, but you're welcome to bring your own.
|The Smoke Signals cigar lounge|
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