One of the casualties of smoking bans is the increasing rarity of the cigar dinner. A staple during the cigar boom, the nights when one could sit down with friends, be served a mighty steak and a big red wine with cigars before, during and after your meal are few and far between. A sad thing indeed.
Last night was like a trip into the past. I paid a visit to the Davidoff Lounge of Greenwich, a standalone cigar lounge in Greenwich, Connecticut owned by the team behind the Tobacconist of Greenwich cigar shop. It's a glorious cigar lounge, with private nooks for gentle conversation, an extensive array of Davidoff and other cigars for sale and a conference room for meetings. It just celebrated one year in business. It's a club of sorts, with annual memberships, but you can also get in by buying a pass for a day, week or month.
I was invited by the owners, Michael Caffagno and Michael Stelutti, and we were joined by Rob Colangelo and John Minnec. When I arrived the conference room table had been turned into a very pleasant dining room. The Davidoff Lounge doesn't have a kitchen to prepare food, but a nearby restaurant—Gabriele's Italian Steakhouse—walks over meals. Caffagno handed me a Davidoff Royal Robusto, I handed him a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape I had brought to go with the meal, and we started smoking, eating and talking.
Cigar dinners are about much more than the meal, but it certainly helps when the food is good. Gabriele's delivered (figuratively and literally) with a tomato and beet salad, raw oysters, crab cocktail and chilled shrimp, and impressive steaks. Several of the diners opted for the filet, which is a bit dainty for my taste. I went with the rib eye, which was presented tomahawk-style. The cut was big enough to bring comments from the group, and the long rib extended far across the table, giving it the look and feel of a beef lollipop. I was in heaven.
The beauty of cigar dinners lies in the conversation that is spawned over these relaxing, rewarding meals. We chatted about all manner of things: Cuba, the cigar industry, movies, travel, history, charity. We were even grilled on trivia by the maître d' of Gabriele's—and quickly determined that none of us should sign up for "Jeopardy" just yet.
When the remnants of the steaks were taken away, Michael Stelutti brought out a bottle of 1985 Armangac, an ideal pairing with our cigars. We sipped, chatted some more, then it was time to go.
Cigar dinners are rare nowadays. When you see one, go. Or make one happen yourself. I bet you will enjoy the evening immensely.