SOMETHING that is not often touched upon when it comes to cigars – but is a seriously intense way to explore them – is by pairing them with foods.
There was a time when cigar dinners were ten a penny – in fact, any dinner became a cigar dinner because the cigar trolley would often follow the cheese one in the restaurant and guests would select and light up their chosen stick with a suitable libation in most fancy restaurants around the world.
Alas, that is no longer the case, but you can still occasionally find a cigar dinner organised by a specialist lounge or one of the better hotels. If you get the offer to attend such a gathering, it is our advice that you should grab the opportunity with both hands.
Smoking and dining – whether before, during and/or after – adds a whole new dimension to your tastebuds and the art of pairing cigars with food is a whole new ballgame too. The idea of taking a puff of your cigar in between mouthfuls may seem repellent to you, but it is our advice that you should perhaps reserve judgement.
Take a quality cut of beef, well-seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Fry a generous knob of butter in a very hot skillet pan and wait until it begins to brown. Sear your steak for a few minutes on each side, as you like it. Then remove and stand for 10 minutes while you prepare the accompaniments. Deglaze the pan with a splash of water and reduce the jus which can be poured over the steak before serving. Slice a generous portion of this steak and savour its meaty, oily flavours as they coat your palate; then finally take a puff of a suitably decadent and powerful cigar – perhaps a Partagas Serie E No.2 or maybe a mighty Belicosos Finos. We would recommend you wash it down with a full-bodied red – a claret, for our preference – and you will, we humbly submit, have found Nirvana. It isn’t just the combination of flavours; it is the combination of flavours; of textures; of ‘mouth feel’; of how the fat globules in your juicy steak line the taste buds, ultimately allowing more of the taste of the cigar to be expressed. You miss out on these experiences at your peril.
The beauty, once again, of this enjoyment, is that it is endless. You can pair food and cigars until the cows come home. The sweet, spicy, salty and sour combinations of Asia are amazing when paired with the right cigar, and seafood – fresh, ozoney seafood with a light and ethereal aged cigar, is to die for.
And that’s before you get onto casseroles, and winter stews, and desserts (hint – try vanilla ice cream) and cheese (Roquefort with walnuts) and, and, and…
We will revisit this topic occasionally going forward, suggesting some food and cigar pairing ideas for you to try and we’d love to hear if you have any personal favourites.
After all – this is supposed to be fun.