Three-Star Heaven: Europe's Top Restaurants
From the Print Edition:
Groucho Marx, Spring 93
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At Michel Guérard's health-spalike, three-star restaurant in Eugénie-les-Bains, in southern France, an extensive selection of cigars is available. "I understand you like a good cigar because that's part of life," says Guérard, who describes himself as a "one-pack-a-year cigarette smoker. And when a friend comes to see me and offers a cigar, I don't say no."
For a cigar lover faced with an increasingly antagonistic climate, Guérard's restaurant, Les Prés d'Eugénie, offers a relaxed environment because the restaurant opens onto the gardens and spa areas, and smoke is unlikely to bother anybody. "If we feel that a cigar is annoying him, we just ask someone to go to another room or to go to the billiard room," says Guérard.
If there is a place cigar lovers will feel right at home it is at Troisgros, the three-star restaurant in Roanne, where the late founder, Jean-Baptiste Troisgros, was big on cigars. He passed his love for an excellent Havana onto his son, the deceased Jean Troisgros. Now brother Pierre Troisgros continues to provide one of the finest cigar experiences any cigar aficionado may wish for.
Consider this: next to the 80,000-bottle wine cellar stands the walk-in, glass enclosed humidor, where the three-star Michelin restaurant's extensive collection of aged cigars rests in perfect condition. Walking down the stairs to the cellar are 120 museumlike pieces with cigar themes.
The cigar collection includes Davidoff's châteaux series, like Château Margaux and Château Haut-Brion, even though Troisgros finds these cigars are a bit excessively priced. Troisgros's own taste runs more to the Partagas Lonsdales ("a marvelous cigar") and the Partagas Lusitanias ("just delicious").
"I am not a big smoker, but I adore cigars because it is a just complement to gastronomy. I don't smoke the very fat ones. I am at the level of Montecristo No. 2 and No. 3," says Troisgros.
Somewhere in the restaurant, like Silva and Girardet in theirs, Troisgros keeps a cache of specialties that include some Rafael Gonzalez cigars which are hard to find in France. "That's the boss's box," says Troisgros proudly.
At top restaurants like Troisgros you can enjoy in peace a Romeo y Julieta Corona or a Punch corona after a grand meal. Even though the new antismoking climate in Belgium and France may be the beginning of the end of European tolerance to a distinguished tradition, no one is writing an epitaph for cigars. For people who care, smoking a fine Havana is a way of life worth preserving. No one expects the tradition to disappear.
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