Cigar Aficionado

Cigars, Economics and Cardiology

The irony of my job at Cigar Aficionado and my participation on its tasting panel is that I don’t often buy cigars. I don’t have to. About the only time it happens is when I’m in a country with more liberal policies about selling the bounty of the island nation to the south of Florida. And then I’m always sort of stung by the idea that I have to pay for them.

An exception occurred over the weekend.

I had taken the family to Nantucket—another island, this one off the coast of Massachusetts—to visit my wife’s sister’s family and my mother-in-law, Diane, who was visiting from Washington State. On the last day there my sister-in-law’s husband, Thatcher, told me he’d made reservations at Topper’s in The Wauwinet inn to treat Diane to a “nice meal.” I’ll admit that Topper’s is arguably the best dining on the island, but I thought the lobsters we’d had at home the night before constituted a “nice meal.” But not wanting to seem the piker and lose any ground on our continuing battle to be Diane’s favorite son-in-law, I agreed. So we left the kids and trekked out to the end of the island.

By the decor of the place and the idyllic setting, I could tell right away that this little freak was going to cost me. Opening the menu I got an inkling of how much: the prix fixe rate was listed in troy ounces. Now, my wife, Ellen, claims I’m tight, but in my defense, I didn’t start to audibly squeak until Thatcher suggested we all order the tasting menu, which rings up half again more than the standard dinner. But I was still willing to see his wager in this dangerous game of impressing Diane, so I let it go. Then he raised the stakes again: “They have a thing here where they pair a different wine with each of the six courses. Let’s do that.” The supplement for the tasting from Topper’s Wine Spectator Grand Award would add almost the cost of each meal—per person—to the bill.

I was reaching for my nitroglycerin pills when Ellen leaned over and whispered, “Settle down, Titus." Then she mercifully bailed me out, tactfully telling Thatcher, “I don’t think we should drink that much wine. It’s late and we have to drive back.”

“She’s right,” I agreed, “Temperance,” and ordered a Manhattan to celebrate the group’s decision to honor her suggestion.

As good as every bite was and no matter that I had dodged the bullet on the really big bill, all the while we ate my mind couldn’t keep from tabulating my side of the damage and despairing of ever buying that Rembrandt I’ve been saving up for. After dessert, I even refused a Cognac in an effort to rein in the cost.

When the tab finally came, the miracle occurred: Thatcher intercepted it before it even hit the table and then refused my half-hearted attempts to protest. In doing so my brother-in-law had managed a complete U-turn in my estimation of his character. This person whom I thought of all through dinner as “the big fat jerk” was suddenly Prince Thatcher, St. Thatcher, even.

Such was my gratitude that I wanted to repay him in the best way I knew possible—with a cigar—one that I would actually pay for.

Now, there was a time—before legislators decided cigar smokers were outlaws—that I wouldn’t have gone out for a pack of gum without packing several emergency heaters. But this trip—what with the kids around and the general environmental consciousness of the island of Nantucket—I’d brought nary a smoke. But happily, Topper’s has an excellent bar that sells cigars, even though the law prevents their consumption there. In a moment of unusual largess, I actually paid for two of them and we headed back to the cottage.

It was only when we were sitting on the back befogged in the aroma of two beautiful Fuentes, the problems of the world half solved, that I realized that Thatcher had sandbagged me. If I’d known he was going to pay for it all along, I’d have had that wine-by-the-course menu and gone for the postprandial Hennessey XO. Oh well, I’ll forgive him and cede him the title of favorite son-in-law.

Impressing my mother-in-law with a great dinner on Nantucket: more $$$ than I care to contemplate.

Two cigars (with tip): $20.

Getting out of spending more $$$ than I care to contemplate: priceless.

"Thatcher emails that he has made reservations at Manhattan's Per Se, and not to worry, he'll supply the cigars if I pick up the food." —July 2, 2008 09:47 AM
"Great post Jack, based on this information, I guess you're not going to rush out and buy up all the Black Bowmore anytime soon? Maybe Thatcher can pick up a couple of bottles for the next get together." —July 2, 2008 00:33 AM
"Great post! :-)" —July 4, 2008 07:13 AM