A Habano, The Best Ingredient


Food cooked with premium Cuban cigars? I kept wondering about that question since I was told that during the 15th edition of the Habano Festival, a group of Croatian chefs is going to put on a cooking show in which the larger-then-life product will be the basic ingredient.

With this question still hovering in my mind, we asked Alen Kosanovic, the man behind this peculiar initiative and general manager of Camelot d.o.o., a Habano distributor in Croatia and Slovenia for over a decade.

“Cuban cigar, made of the best tobacco in the world, is not just another tobacco product. It is much more than this and definitely it is the finest gastronomy product,” says Mr. Kosanovic, who recalled that for a long time Habanos have been linked to the best foods and drinks of the haute cuisine, so for him and his colleagues time has come to try out a new kind of experience.

“The Croatian cooking show that will be presented at the 15th Habanos Festival is just a vision come true. The idea itself was born, as usually in life, unintentionally,” he says. 

“Our company Camelot d.o.o has been a Habanos distributor in Croatia and Slovenia for over a decade. Many years ago one torcedor unfortunately couldn´t come to Croatia, but the raw material for his precious work, on the other hand, did. The pile of finest Vuelta Abajo leaves was aging in the perfect conditions of our humidor, waiting to be used for rolling,” he adds.

In the meantime, Mr. Kosanovic decided to supply some of the best Croatian chefs with those leaves, asking them to try to incorporate tastes of the world’s finest tobacco into food. Since their concept of placing the Cuban cigar in high gastronomy was successful, they already had very good relations with winemakers and gourmet chefs.

“This “creative mingling” with key elements of gastronomy scene resulted in an event, or now even a series of events, called the Habanos Moments (www.habanos-moments.com) The idea was to take a best chef that smokes cigar, best winemaker that makes wine with a puro in his mouth and heart, put them in one room to create a perfectly matched meal from start to the end. Then, take them all with the cigars to the location with special atmosphere, invite guests and when the show starts you will almost touch perfection,” he goes to say.

The follow-up paved the way for more ideas. “After such an event over a glass of finest wine and with the perfect cigar, ideas start bursting.” The results of this merger were fascinating. “Tobacco really gave a completely new contribution to the tastes of food,” he avers.

This is not an unprecedented idea, yet Croatian chefs have managed to take it up a notch on the basis of a whole new concept. Consulted with Habanos, S.A., the world’s leading marketing company for this premium product, the idea started to roll. But, what can a Habano contribute to the texture, color and taste of good food?

“Luxury items always have strong psychological impact, so we can say that they can produce the “taste”. With Habanos products is a different story. Tobacco is part of nature, a rich and full plant with strong chemical structure. In tobacco, what we definitely do not need and do not want is the natural ammonium. That’s were Habanos comes in and due to a long and properly done fermentation process, ammonium is being reduced while other tastes come to surface, like in the taste of a good smoke,” Mr. Kosanovic explains.

He adds that “These tastes bring special spiciness and so far un-experienced aromas,” but he warns that “as with all other delicacies in life, it should be enjoyed indeed, but in small quantities.”

For those who can’t yet get a clear picture of how a Habano can actually become a food ingredient, the Croatian chefs involved in this project will present will present several dishes like fish baked in tobacco and banana leaves, coconut covered poultry in very special rum-tobacco infusion, chocolate tobacco cake, tobacco butter, tobacco bread and very special and unique natural Croatian salt smoked on Vuelta Abajo tobacco.

Confident that they can make a singular contribution to this edition and perhaps establish a new category and tradition in the festival, the organizers are celebrating the 15th edition of this event as they let us try just another of the many gifts Habanos have to offer.