Lalousis had been managing Maille’s retail boutique in London when he was tapped for his expertise. “My boss told me, ‘I think you’ve got a calling. You’ve got a love for mustard.’ ” He was sent to the factory in Dijon for six months of training and learned “everything there was to know about mustard.” As far as Lalousis is aware, he’s the only mustard sommelier in the world. That’s not to say, however, that he is the first mustard sommelier in history. “We had a mustard sommelier in 1747 when we opened a store in Paris,” he says. At that time in Paris, Dijon mustard was not well known. “Our founder wanted people to know how to use Dijon mustard. He wanted to show people that it was an ingredient and not just a condiment.” And if Lalousis has his way, he will not be the last. He’s developing an educational program that will certify future mustard sommeliers about types of mustard seed, harvest techniques, chemical compounds in mustard, regional differences, levels and qualities of pungency, various pairings and uses, and what Lalousis calls “the culture of mustard.”
Why go: The experience starts with a stroll down Park Avenue, Orlando’s European-looking, cobblestoned street. The walk sets the scene for a slow-paced Parisian evening. Through the restaurant’s doors is a classic, intimate dining room with white linen tables set for no more than four people. Dishes are prepared in classic French style, paired with fine wine that changes often and perfectly complements the European flavors presented by the chef.
When I visit Armenteros at the shop in Princeton, he guides me into the humidor, amid shelves of boxes and hundreds of cigars. “The most fulfilling, exciting thing we do,” he says, “is when you take a customer to another level. When you open up their enjoyment. That’s the greatest thing a tobacconist, or any sommelier, can do.” He talks excitedly about the differences among Nicaraguan, Dominican and Cuban tobacco, wrappers grown in Connecticut or Ecuador, the size or “ring gauge,” from skinny lancero to coronas to robustos to thick Churchills. A Padrón cigar, from Nicaragua, “is a steak, a wagyu.” Meanwhile, another cigar from the Dominican Republic “is like fish. It’s an elegant, delicate cigar.” We compare what spirits to pair with cigars, and both of us agree that describing flavors is not easy. “Not just in cigars,” he says, “but in any world of organoleptic delicacies.” He points to some cigars he’s been aging for close to a decade. I ask if cigars can age like wine. “F— yeah,” he says.