A Week With Omar: Fine Dining, Burnt, Vigia and Exception White
Earlier in the week I was lucky enough to be able to meet Heston Bluementhal at my dear friend Tom Davie’s 20th anniversary party.
Growing up, I remember watching television programmes of this guy making a steak that took 24 hours to cook, chips that you had to fry 3 times, wall paper that tasted of the fruits printed on it and a graveyard made of chocolate dirt. Mad shit.
When I think of those times as a young child, gazing upon the plasma television, watching this mad scientist do things that no other chef before him did, I felt amazement, but I was always left with this unshakable feeling that all of this effort he was putting in was extremely unnecessary.
As I grew up and started to come to grips with the idea of a pursuit for perfection in any field, whether it be business, academics or food, I understood that there are some exceptional individuals that we driven to do things that no one else deems to be imperative for the sake of creating a service or product that is remarkable.
After having a short conversation with Heston I found my interest in molecular gastormy and fine dining triggered. So I decided, the next evening to re-watch a tremendously underrated movie, Burnt.
First and foremost, would I be remiss to say that Bradley Cooper may very well one of the most talented actors in our generation? The guys can speak French, play piano, play guitar, sing, and also has this strange ability to look fucking handsome all the time.
What a bastard…
For those who haven't seen it, it is about a chef who was a big shot in the early 2000’s Paris resturant scene, after taking a hiatus to deal with some personal issues that involved, alcohol, drugs and women, he travels to London to open a new resturant that echos techniques from the so called ‘golden age’ of cooking.
To cut a long story short, the story line isn’t unique, the character arcs are predictable and maybe some of the acting isn’t great, but the movie is good, strange how that works, right? How many movies have you seen that you wouldn’t strictly say had all the components of a good movie, but yet you enjoy it? Im sure there are a bunch.
Burnt manages to do two things, it frames a mans obsession in such an extraordinary way that it almost becomes understandable or dare I say, even relatable and it was the first movie that helped me to understand the value of the world of fine dining. If I may make a confession, I have never really been a big fan of fine dining, I've always found it to be quite pretentious and superfluously expensive. However, after watching this movie for the first time, I think I understood what the world of Michelin means to these chefs and why they do what they do. It helped me peel away the layers of snobbery. grandiosity and status that seem to engulf the fine dining world and see it for what it is. A bunch of wildly passionate and creative individuals who’s sole purpose is to provide every single person that walks through the door - of which there maybe hundreds a day - with an experience they will never forget. This needs to be consistently done, working - on average - 18 hour days with not a great deal of money. All in all, it is the responsibility of the head chef to make sure that his kitchen operates harmoniously and synchronistically, without loosing that sense of magic that every plate should have that leaves the kitchen. I think that is what the movie did for me, it instilled a feeling of magic and wonder for what these people do, the lengths they are willing to go to to impress their diners, walking the line between a science and art, this is no mean feat.
We can all cook, but what these individuals do is create edible masterpieces. If you haven't seen the movie, do yourself a favour and check it out, you’ll understand what I'm talking about.
What did I end up smoking this week some of you may be asking? Well, let's start with the Cuban! What I love about my cigar journey is that special moment when I take my first few puffs from a cigar, my eyes flick open, still holding the smoke in my mouth I look down at the cigar in my hand lovingly and appreciatively, thankful for the journey we are about to go on together.
This happened earlier this week. The Trinidad Vigia is a fucking work of art, as far as I'm concerned, the vitola is exquisite, thicker then a Robusto at a 54 ring gauge but shorter at 4 3/8”, for me this lasts a wonderfully enjoyable 45 minutes to an hour.
I could go in to all the bullshit about how it tastes and what not, but what I really want to try and communicate is how this cigar makes me feel. Whenever I pick up one of these to smoke, it feels as though I am having a conversation with a dear friend, the small talk is over with, we are now at a stage in our friendship where our exchanges are non abrasive, fluid and personally fulfilling, this is how I feel every time I smoke a Vigia.
They are smooth, creamy, but yet nuanced in flavour profile. At no point does the cigar shout at you, rather, at the half way point it leans in closer and whispers to you. My preferred drink to have with this would be a beautiful Lalani and Co matcha tea, the creamy, grassy taste pairs peerlessly. This is a cigar that makes me happy at the end of a crazy day.
The second cigar is another home run hit from a new brand to the platform, El Septimo. I was fortunate enough to smoke a few El Septimo Exception White’s and boy oh boy was it an experience.
Firstly, El Septimo cigars are made in Costa Rica, interestingly I have had a few cigars from that neck of the woods and they are really doing something rather magical there, the ones I have had seem to all be fantastically full in flavour but medium in nicotine, which is really how I like it.
The El Septimo cigars do seem to be in a league of their own, regardless of the line, the tobacco is aged a minimum of 5 years, and in the Exception White’s case, 10 years. The construction is truly unlike anything else, each and every cigar looks as though it has been computer generated, perfectly cylindrical with a dark, oily, blemish free wrapper, a sight to behold and a tip of the hat to the roller.
This particular cigar is no joke to light, being a 60 ring gauge by 5 inches, there is a lot of tobacco here so I used my new favourite lighter that that is also made by El Septimo! Funny that. Its got a quirky retro look to it, has a flint ignition but is a dual jet lighter, I can’t say I have been that combination of old design and new technology, very cool indeed. Upon lighting the cigar I noticed the smoke had a unique floral aroma to it, I knew this was a sign for good things to come. What I can say is this cigar has made me indescribably excited to explore the El Septimo brand in greater depth, It was sweet, floral, and had a deep cedar note to it that undulated in intensity throughout the smoke.
I speak in no hyperbole when I say this, but this Exception White is easily the best new world cigar I have ever had. If you can get a hold of this cigar, stock up, I can only imagine how much better this cigar will get with the extra age.