By ROBIN WOODS
For Montclair Local
In “Robin’s Nest,” columnist Robin Woods goes about town to observe and comment on Montclair life. Got a suggestion for her? Write to us at email@example.com.
I’ve passed by this place for more than 10 years, admiring the beautiful dark wood storefront and scrolled bench outside while wondering, “What goes on in there, and how does it feel to smoke a cigar?” I went into Fumé Cigar Shop and Lounge to chat with owner Ralph Alberto, who told me everything I wanted to know about cigars, and taught me how to smoke one. I can’t believe I did it, and was surprised at the result.
As expected, mostly males in the 30- to 60-year-old demographic smoke cigars, but some women do so as well. If you’re 21 and up, you’re welcome to purchase cigars here and sit in the comfortable back lounge and relax while enjoying the experience. Cigars are made in the Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua where humidity helps the tobacco to grow. The outside layer or wrapper gives each cigar its distinctive flavor, with whole tobacco leaves bunched together inside, rather than chopped up as in cigarettes.
The first things I learned were to relax and never inhale. Ralph chose a very mild and sweet Acid Blondie for this newbie to try. Always ready for a new experience, I was shown how to cut a small piece off the cap of the cigar, being careful not to cut more than a smidgen. Light the cigar by toasting it with matches or a lighter. I can see how a lighter works best for cigar smoking, as you have to constantly relight it if you stop puffing on it. Ralph helped me out with that. One doesn’t rush with a cigar, and it can take an hour or more to smoke one. Hence, the comfortable lounge area. Mostly older men were in there when I visited, and I certainly stood out.
It was an unexpectedly pleasant experience. The cigar tasted pretty good and was aromatic. I kept forgetting to puff on it, but that made me slow down to enjoy the vanilla flavor. There are dozens of house handmade cigars available, along with the accessories one needs to be a confirmed cigar aficionado: Cutters, lighters, cigar cases to carry one or two with you, and beautiful polished wood humidors for storage. Most popular are medium-bodied cigars, but I could be tempted to try a mild, creamy Monte Cristo White in the future, along with a glass of wine or port. Just remember the really cheap stogies sold in convenience stores smell terrible, and probably bring to mind the green faces oft seen at Bar Mitzvahs after the kids sneak some cigars.
To clear my palate and learn another new trick, I joined owner Chris Mirsky behind the counter at Let’s Yo!, and worked in the food industry for an afternoon. Dairy is not my friend, but I’m a sucker for frozen yogurt and gelato. Actually, I like adding many toppings to my cup, with yogurt as the base. There are always sorbet choices to satisfy my cravings without getting a stomach ache.
After donning a green tie dye apron, hair put up in a pony tail, Chris showed me around the shop and gave me insight into the inner workings of the business. She took me to the command center, where I checked out all of the available choices of fro-yo, custard, gelato, sorbet and toppings. Toppings are constantly restocked and refreshed in deep stainless steel bins, with flavors marked on the sides of the tall serving spoons. Fellow coworker Gaby Feliciano prompted me to check for cross contamination, which occurs when customers use same spoons from one bin to another.
I am now a trained yogurt pie maker, which is a nice change from old fashioned ice cream cake. Gaby and I chose chocolate crumble cookie crust, and Chris took me to the machines to choose a base flavor to put on the bottom of the pie. I smoothed it over with a spatula, and then the topping experience starts. The first topping covers all of the fro-yo so there’s something delicious in every bite. Choose another frozen flavor, and pile it high. More topping choices from the bins, and then I piped the top and sides of the pie to make it look pretty. We finished off the pie with some more cookie crumbles, and put it into a pie container to set up for 24 hours. Delayed gratification, but well worth going back the next day to pick up your one-of-a-kind dessert, which serves eight people. You can always drop by for a cup or a cone of your favorite flavor and eat it right away. Keep it healthier if you wish with granola and an array of cereal choices, too.
I am adding to my skills set and resume. There’s always something new to experience in Montclair. You just have to explore and take some chances.
In this column:
• Fumé Cigar Shop and Lounge
415 Bloomfield Ave.
973 783 3863
• Let’s Yo!
31 Valley Road