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Savoring Cigars

"Whatever you do with wine, you can do with cigars," said Rich Massabny, food critic and cigar aficionado.

The 75 guests at the Paul Garmirian cigar dinner July 21 at Morton's steakhouse in Reston shared the sentiment, as they drew in aromatic smoke, swirled it around their mouths, and relaxed. Waiters passed around canapes that complemented the "welcome" cigar, and as the evening wore on, cigars were offered to guests that enhanced the menu of salad, shrimp appetizer, filet mignon and seared tuna, wine, and imported cheese accompanied by aged Tawny Port.

"This is a civilized evening with good company, good food, and good cigars," said Paul Garmirian of McLean, P.G. Cigars founder. Garmirian chose the cigars that embellished each course. The hand-rolled Garmirian cigar line is produced in the Dominican Republic.

TWELVE YEARS AGO, Earl Curtis of Reston sampled his first fine cigar, a Romeo y Julieta, and never looked back. "I loved it. I love a good cigar. Spend some money on the first one you try, make it a light one. It makes a big difference."

Morton's cigar dinner event drew a group of people from throughout the metro region, all bound by an appreciation of fine cigars, and good food and wine.

Connie Golleher, a cigar smoker for 20 years, grew up in Europe, where it was more culturally-acceptable for women to smoke cigars.

"Cigar-smoking is a lifestyle," said Golleher. "Cigars are engaging, they require your attention. A cigar enhances and heightens the after-dinner experience, and in a social setting, cigar smoking is a bond.

"You draw a puff in, swirl it around your mouth, not dissimilar to wine, and blow it out. It wakes up your palate."

Golleher's friend, Katherine White, agrees with the perspective, adding, "I love the ritual. It forces you to slow down."

Garmirian describes a fine cigar as one that is smooth, balanced, and leaves a good taste. Tobacco well-aged imparts smoothness. When cigars ferment, they emit ammonia. Long-term fermentation reduces ammonia because the ammonia evaporates over time. Fillers for P.G. Cigars are aged from three to five years, and the artisan line is priced between $5 and $12. The company's special 15th anniversary cigar sells for up to $25.

A PROFESSOR of international politics and owner of a McLean real estate company, Garmirian turned his passion for cigars into a career 20 years ago. His best-selling "Gourmet Guide To Cigars," first published in 1990, has been re-printed nine times.

Working with artisans in the Dominican Republic, Garmarian introduced his first cigar to the public in 1990. It was his son, Kevork, who prodded his father into opening his cigar shop in McLean. Since then, presidents and celebrities have enjoyed P.G. cigars.

"Cigars are enjoyed on your palate, unlike cigarettes, which are just vehicles for nicotine," said legacy preserver, Kevork Garmirian. "I say, eat, drink, smoke, and relax.'"

There are different cigars for different occasions, says Paul Garmirian. "Start the day with a mild cigar, and end the day with a cigar of richer body." Garmirian usually smokes two to three small cigars a day.

"Until about 20 years ago, Cuba did produce the finest cigars in the world, but no longer," said Paul Garmirian. Other countries, like Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, made advancements Cuba has not caught up with. Now, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic make cigars superior to Cubans, he said.

"Cigar smoking is not elitist," said Golleher. "Inhale the aroma of a good wine, eat a fine dinner, smoke a good cigar, and build relationships.

"People who smoke cigars enjoy the good life."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Source: Reston Connection

Savoring Cigars