Manhattan tobacconist De la Concha
has refined the formula for surviving a smoking ban. Every few months, the store invites its guests over for dinner and making the seemingly impossible come true: a cigar after a meal. While major restaurants such as Sparks and The Palm have had to end the practice of an after-dinner smoke, De La Concha has introduced a pre-cigar meal, circumventing the city’s smoking ban and littering the faces of guests with broad smiles.
New York joined a wave of smoking bans that swept across the country in 2003. Restaurants and bars could no longer allow guests to light up indoors. Of course, there are a handful of exceptions. Carnegie Club and Hudson Bar and Books, for example, accommodate indoor smoking. But, they offer little more than liquor. A full meal is possible at Club Macanudo on the Upper East Side, but the upscale establishment becomes crowded quickly. The Grand Havana Room is the most famous … and exclusive. Membership is required, and there is a waiting list.
De La Concha General Manager Ron Melendi noted the cigar smoking situation in New York and realized the need for something new. The De La Concha cigar dinners began as a way for customers to enjoy a meal, a smoke and each other’s company. “People had run out of options,” Melendi explains, “so we created a new one.
Every quarter, Melendi hosts a dinner, features a brand and welcomes around 30 guests to his mid-town Manhattan cigar shop. For a modest price of $100 to $150, regular customers and first-time visitors receive an open bar, four-course dinner and a handful of cigars (the amount varies from one dinner to the next). Liquor vendors and cigar manufacturers join Melendi and his catering partner, restaurant Rue 57, to make the events successful. Every detail is watched carefully, down to the coffee served with the last cigar.
The most recent event, held on June 11, 2008, featured the Davidoff Reserva 12
line of cigars. The reserve 12, a Davidoff Limited Edition blend, consists of five different filler tobaccos, some aged for 12 years, and produces a strong, complex flavor. The depth of taste will not overwhelm a novice smoker but will still appeal to veteran connoisseurs.
A rare treat, Nikolaos Renieris, CEO of coffee equipment manufacturer Soltazza
, was on hand to help guests find the right espresso blends for the final cigars of the evening. “Most people don’t realize the importance of pairing coffee and cigars,” Renieris explains. “This is the last taste of the evening,” he continues, “if you don’t get it right, it can taint an otherwise amazing experience.” Despite being a guest himself, he happily fielded requests for espresso recommendations, some before he had even finished his entrée.
The De La Concha cigar dinners are not elite affairs. Much like the customers who pass through the shop on a daily basis, the events draw smokers from every corner of society. They come for one reason: to enjoy a cigar and a meal with fellow smokers. New York may have a smoking ban, but De La Concha has found a way to make dinner a bit more enjoyable for its guests.