The site of this indulgence was the Graycliff Hotel in Nassau, the Bahamas. It’s hard to imagine a more cigar-friendly restaurant and hotel. I had stayed at Graycliff in 1999, when I wrote “A $20 Nassau,” a Cigar Aficionado feature about the cigars made at the hotel. The room was ornate and comfortable, done in old-world style, but what really struck me was the number of ashtrays. They were everywhere. This was really a smoking room. I walked around, puffing on a cigar, tapping an ash into about a dozen different ashtrays in the bedroom, bathroom, wherever I was.
This is how a hotel should be.
On this recent winter night, my wife and I joined about 200 others from the cigar industry to close the Tobacconist Association of America trade show in style. I started by firing up a nine-inch long Graycliff with a ragged foot while my wife puffed on a slim freshly rolled panetela. We sipped Champagne before heading to the covered outdoor seating area where dinner was to be served. (I tried to stress to my wife that most of my trips are not like this—they typically involve quite a bit of hard work with far less luxurious meals and accommodations. I’m not sure she’s buying it.)
We sat with Manny Ferrero of Ashton Cigars and Rocky Patel, and this turned out to be a good thing. Manny and Rocky are wine lovers, and they simply couldn’t turn down the wine list, which holds the Wine Spectator Grand Award, the magazine’s highest accolade. The list is thicker than many phone books with jaw-dropping selections at jaw-dropping prices. We went from Amarone, to Zinfandel to Cabernet, enjoying each stop along the way.
Dinner was up to par with the wines, starting with a lobster bisque made from Caribbean lobster, small bites of salad and other appetizers and then a parade of skewered meats from the Graycliff’s new churasscaria, a Brazilian style restaurant. Between courses, we were entertained by a dancer who made like Spider Man and limboed under a flaming pole while carrying some of the TAA attendees. Lucky for him, he didn’t try to carry me.
I passed walked by the sweet desserts and made my way to the selection of cheeses. Enrico Garzaroli, the owner of the Graycliff, pointed out a ripe bleu cheese to the waiter who sliced me a slab, then he grabbed a spoon and dunked it into a jar of golden liquid.
“Truffle honey,” he said in his booming voice, pouring it over the cheese. “Try it.”
(If you’ve never had truffle honey, take this advice from me—go buy a bottle. Now. It’s addictive.)
We smoked cigars the entire evening, right at the table. This is Enrico’s home. Lucky guy.
The dinner made me miss the early days at Cigar Aficionado, when dinners like this happened all the time, in cities around the United States. Now it seems the only time I can smoke while eating is when I’m overseas, or downstairs at home in my smoking room.
I know some cigar lovers don’t particularly enjoy having a cigar while dining, but I do. Not all the time, not every meal, but when I have the chance to keep my cigar going during a great meal, I’m usually happy.
What about you?