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A Portrait in Design

Restaurant Architect Adam Tihany Captures Personality in His Work, Redefining the Spaces in Which We Live
Mervyn Rothstein
From the Print Edition:
John Travolta, Jan/Feb 99

(continued from page 3)

"I found that designing restaurants gave me the opportunity to marry all the disciplines," Tihany says. "It's a microcosmos--it has graphics, it has lighting, it has furniture, it has carpeting, it has drapery, it has china, it has silver. It gives me the opportunity to focus on one field but at the same time touch every other aspect of design."

Another of Tihany's loves is cigars. "I've been smoking cigars for almost 30 years," he says. "I started in Milan as a student. It was the fall of 1969, right after the Red Summer, the student rebellion. Smoking a cigar was a very sophisticated means of expression--it reminded everybody of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro."

His first cigars were not the best--"Toscani, the twisted ones. They were totally vile. They tasted as good as they looked. But the point at the time was not quality. It had to be a down-to-earth cheap cigar that the men in the factory smoked, otherwise you were not playing the proletarian part."

But as time went on and Tihany became more sophisticated, so did his choice of cigars. "As you grow you get interested in the quality things in life--better food, better clothing, better women,'' he says. "Everything you touch and everything you do becomes more sophisticated. You become high maintenance, and the cigars go up with it."

Now, he says, he smokes three a day. "I'm what you would consider a heavy smoker," he says. "In the morning I usually smoke Dominican cigars. I light my first one at about 11 a.m. It's preferably a Davidoff, which I like a lot--anywhere from a robusto to a corona. After lunch, I'll usually have a Cuban cigar--a Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 or even an Epicure No. 1, or a Partagas Serie D--they've been my longtime favorites. At night, if I have the time, I smoke a double corona--either a Hoyo or a Lusitania or a Romeo y Julieta Churchill--a big cigar. I don't like Cuban Cohibas--I'd much rather smoke a Hoyo. It's the taste. Hoyos are a bit more tightly packed, I think; they're a bit more robust in taste. The Cohibas are a bit mild for me."

"Cigar smoking," he says, "is a personal experience, a personal moment, a time of relaxation and reflection. I don't need to share the length of my cigar with other people, to sit in a room and discuss it with all the other people smoking cigars. I don't frequent the cigar clubs, because I don't find them interesting. Smoking a cigar is a time to reflect, a private time, a time to think, a time to work."

He has, he says, 26 humidors--"ten of them in the United States. My mother keeps a stock of cigars for me in Israel, which is the best place to buy Cuban cigars."

Tihany makes one exception to his rule on privacy and cigars. About two years ago, he and 14 friends--intensely successful men from Italy, France, Israel, England, Scotland, Singapore and the United States who work in television, movies, medicine, finance, the hotel business and other professions--formed a group they call the Cigar Clan. Once a year they meet for two days. Oh, do they meet.

"We just enjoy each other's company," Tihany says, "and it's rare that we find time to take two days off and get away. It's a sophisticated retreat. So our charter calls for us to meet in a different place each year. One member is the host, and he has to outdo the year before. This year it's Monte Carlo. One year we're going to Israel--we're going to get together in the Sinai Desert in black tie in a Bedouin tent, with chamber music and helicopters above."

In 1997, the get-together, the first, was in Scotland, at the One Devonshire Gardens hotel in Glasgow. It included many tastings of single-malt Scotch, box after box of Cuban cigars, a visit to a distillery, bagpipes and a formal dinner. The menu included Cuvée Dom Perignon '88, Beluga caviar en gelée with asparagus cream, roulade of foie gras with Sauternes, Schlossberg Grand Cru Riesling '93 (Domaine Weinbach Cuvée Ste. Catherine, Alsace), home-smoked lobster with herb butter, Château Latour '81 and fillet of veal, roasted kidney and sweetbreads with morels and Madeira sauce.

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