Thursday, July 31, 2014

In Search of...The Perfect Humidor

With apologies in advance to Leonard Nimoy, host of the show I watched regularly from 1977-1982.*

Is this on Netflix? I suddenly have an urgent need to watch all 144 episodes. [source]

When I first met Valentino, this was his humidor:

That's cute.

For our first Christmas together, I bought him something fancier. I didn't know anything about humidors or cigars, but I liked the way it looked and, um, yeah...this was the result:

Don't worry; we know the analog reading is wrong. There's a digital inside.

This one (above) served a good life, remaining his main squeeze for about three years.

This past Christmas, he opened his gift, which was...

You mean your cruise ship cabin doesn't have two floors? I'm sorry.
Or enough room to run amuck?
Not shown: balcony and two-story windows. And lots more room.

No, not a humidor. A cruise to the Caribbean, which included a port call to Falmouth, Jamaica, where there just happened to be a La Casa del Habano, where there just happened to be authentic Cuban cigars that just happened to be waiting for us (and our American Express card).

The only for-sure place you will be able to buy real Cubans
without the horror of being told they're fake upon your arrival home.

Unfortunately (ha ha) we just happened to get a cigar or ten (ha ha) which just happened to require the purchase of this:

Cubans and fancy-pants favorites only.

So that was cool, right? Until this old gal began to get overloaded

"Remember when I was pretty enough
and young enough to hold your fancy cigars?"
::weeps silently::

So we headed to one of our favorite places, Mr. J's Havana Shop, not really looking for another humidor, but you know how when you're not looking, that's when love finds you... Or you find a humidor. Whatever. Same concept. Yeah. That happened.  Paul Joyle, proprietor and all-around awesome guy produced these two gems, which we snapped up, although we only intended to use this one, the CAO.

"Put me in, coach!"

The other was for decorative purposes only--because it is so cool.

Yes, that is the inaugural cover of Cigar Aficionado made into a humidor by Colibri.
We own #7 of 1,992. Thanks, Paul!

One day not too long ago, I happened upon a sale somewhere--and honestly I don't remember the actual cigars I purchased, but this humidor came with it.  Since you obviously don't want your flavored (you smarty-pants people probably call them infused) cigars mucking up the others, this one made the big league. 
I call this the Sweet Box.**

And then. And THEN! On our way to Pittsburgh, we accidently went 80 miles out of our way and stopped at the Cigars International Hamburg store.


Many bunches of cigars begged us to get them out of there, so we complied. (We're nice like that.) Since Valentino was on his way to play in a superfun golf tournament, we decided he needed this:

Herfador is a very fun word to say.

And then somehow, we managed to go out of our way as we travelled back to Massachusetts and wound up in the Cigars International Bethlehem store. Darn you, GPS and your evil plans!

Mecca's little sister.

This has since been called up to the big leagues:

"I thought I was just for show!"****
"Be quiet and concentrate on staying at 70% humidity."

Here's the deal. We now have seven SEVEN!***** humidors in the living room. (Luckily, we have a giant living room.)

Er, humidor. [source]

So, yeah, we're in the market for a tower, but the perfect one is as elusive as Bigfoot, everything the Bermuda Triangle absorbed, and the Loch Ness Monster--cumulatively. I'm suggesting we just turn one of the many empty bedrooms into a walk-in humidor. But that's just me being crayyyyyyyzeeee.

I could live in there. Although my hair would be crazy. But still... [source]

I want to talk lots and lots more about humidors and humidification, but I know you're only here for the pictures.

*Why did I watch this? I am afraid of my own shadow on a good day! I keep my phone ringer off because it makes me jump in surprise when it goes off! Who thought me watching this was a good idea??

**Do with this what you will.***  I'll wait.


****I say the same thing when Valentino asks me to clean something.


Yes, they are all real. We even checked the serial numbers.

Words of Wisdom #11

Just because I like Robert DeNiro. Who doesn't?
"The end of a good smoke is a little saddening.
In some regard, it's a bit like losing
a best friend who had time to sit and listen."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It's a Madhouse! Welcome to the Asylum

First of all, has anyone noticed how often Planet of the Apes is on? I'm not complaining about seeing it every few days--just making an observation. (Because the first rule of Planet of the Apes is you have to watch Planet of the Apes whenever you see it on the television. Remote down. No passing it by.)
I know what you're thinking--whaaaa?
Here's the dealio. (Or: Stand behind the splash zone because this is how Penny's brain works.)
We were at Habanos last weekend, whooping it up with our pals, both old (Hi Brian! Hi Chris! Hi Marc! Hi Amanda!) and brand-new (Hi new folks whose names I've forgotten because I'm a jerk!), and I watched Marc hand Valentino an Asylum 13 in some strange male ritual of cigar swapping and back clapping. I observed from afar, lest the testosterone get in my eye, causing temporary blindness and keeping me from watching Planet of the Apes again.

I think the flowers are a nice touch. Shush.
Let me have a teeny tiny bit of girliness will you?
Brainchild of Tom Lazuka and Christian Eiroa, the Asylum 13 Seventy, she is a big girl: 7" long with a 70 ring gauge. This cigar is a commitment.  Unfortunately, we only had about 45 minutes to last call, and that would mean the Asylum powerhouse would enter stasis (no smoking in the car, no desire to stand in the mean streets of Pawtucket, RI puffing away), and we all know the cigars never come back from hibernation exactly the same as we left them.
(By the way, Marc, he feels guilty for not smoking it there with you, but he wanted to be able to enjoy the whole thing. Mission accomplished. Sorry you weren't here to enjoy it.)
But today was the day, breaking into the Asylum 13 (not to be confused with breaking out of  Stalag 13, where Hogan's Heroes plotted against Colonel Klink).

According to the company website, "Asylum 13 cigars are true Nicaraguan Puros. A dark Nicaraguan Habana wrapper coats a combination of aged Cuban seed long filler grown throughout the black volcanic soils of Nicaragua. One can expect a slow, cool burn with a medium to full bodied array of flavor. these cigars are eventful throughout and something you don't want to miss out on."

You guys! You definitely don't want to miss out on this cigar if you haven't tried it. First of all, it looks very milk-chocolaty so there's that. And then when Valentino started to smoke it, I swear I got chocolate, cocoa notes. Trick of the mind because I had sweet deliciousness on the brain? Then it had a hint of pepperiness, which reminded me of that scene in Chocolat when Juliette Binoche's character Vianne mixes spices into the chocolate and... Oh, I'll be right back. I need to go get some.  While I'm gone, please enjoy these pictures:

You're welcome, ladies and gentlemen. [source]
I know, I need for me to rush back. [source]
 Are we all a little more settled?* Okay, so the Asylum 13 smoked evenly and Valentino said it had an amazeballs draw. (I'm paraphrasing.)

It took a good part of the day, sitting together in the shade, tormenting each other as only best friends can, but he finished the cigar a couple hours later. The Asylum 13 Seventy gave up the ghost with a final puff of smoke as Valentino burned his fingertips for the last time, flung the nubbin (that's what I like to call it) and muttered "Dammit."

Thank you, Marc!!!

Leaving the asylum. Get it?
Dudes, I wrote this whole post just so I could use this picture
and the Planet of the Apes video. Shut up. [source]

*I may have consumed Hostess cupcakes, my all-time favorite dessert** (although they're not exactly the same since their comeback--kind of like the cigar after stasis: the same yet different).

**And you should be quiet about me having trained in the fine art of baking and pastry at one of the top culinary schools.*** Hostess cupcakes are nearly the perfect food. If you're good, one of these days I'll tell you how to eat them correctly.

***Valentino, you can shut your cupcake hole before you even open it. We will not have the battle of the culinary schools on my blog.****

****Because I will win. You don't know the blog password. Bwah hahahaha!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Words of Wisdom #10

Don't you think she'd be cool to hang around with? [source]
"Any man who doesn't partake in cigar smoking is nothing more than
a weak-willed, meandering oaf,
and I would never put my lips to those of any creature, man or beast,
whose lips were not fresh awash in the currents of cigar smoke."
BONUS! Some interesting facts about Catherine the Great (Get all the details here!):

"I will poke you with this pointy stick and there's nothing you can do about it because I am great. 
It says so right there in my name."

1. Catherine the Great’s name wasn’t Catherine, and she wasn’t even Russian.

2. Catherine’s eldest son—and heir—may have been illegitimate.

3. Catherine came to power in a bloodless coup that later turned deadly.

4. Catherine faced down more than a dozen uprisings during her reign.

5. Being Catherine the Great’s lover came with huge rewards.

6. Catherine saw herself as an enlightened ruler.
7. Contrary to popular myth, Catherine died a fairly mundane, uneventful death.

8. Catherine’s eldest son met the same grisly fate as his father.

What? No cellophane? Plus, sandwiches the size of your head!

You know that feeling where you go to school with a kid, and you kind of like him okay, and then you lose touch and then he's famous?

It's kind of like when twice a year you visit Valentino's family in Pittsburgh, PA and make the trip to the Strip District to eat Primanti's magnificently monstrous sandwiches...

You actually have to unhinge your jaw in order to eat these sandwiches.

...and buy cheese at Pennsylvania Macaroni Company...

This is just the line to buy cheese.
I'm generally curled up in a corner weeping from sensory overload.
Valentino's people...they are a noisy bunch...

...and walk the mean streets of the Strip District.

If the internet ever runs out of Steelers merchandise,
you can get some here... [source]

I've been to the Strip District a boatload of times and somehow never walked by this place:

It's enticing enough; I'm sure I would have begged to go in. [source]

I mean, come ON! We were just there last month! And this month, we discover that place (above) is responsible for creating this:

I know! Cool! [source]

We picked up a couple of these gems at Broadway Cigars when we were on our Mysterioso search and rescue mission. Honestly, I liked the look of them and enticed Valentino.*

The Leaf by Oscar comes in four varieties: Connecticut, Corojo, Maduro, and Sumatra.  We picked up the first two for no reason other than those were the two we literally picked up first.

So here's what you have to do:

Step 1: Take the leaf off the Leaf.
Step 2: Light and gaze longingly at it when it's not in your mouth.

Step 3: Maintain a consistent level of awe as it burns smoothly and evenly (for the most part).
 “and the leaves were telling secrets to the wind.”
Peter Mulvey

These leaves, the ones used to wrap the Leaf, are used to keep the cigar's secrets in. Thankfully, Jim Robinson, the Leaf's creator, shares the story on the Leaf and Bean website:

"Last year Jim goes on one of his usual jaunts to Central America cigar country and spends some time with Oscar [Valladares], who now makes some killer cigars in his own factory now in Danli.

"Legend has it that after a long day of doing whatever Jim does at a cigar factory, Jim decided to take a cigar for the road.

"He looked for something to put his cigar in to keep it fresh and protect it, like a plastic bag perhaps, but no such luck.

"So Jim looks around and then decides to do something that would later become known as a stroke of simple genius.

"Jim grabs a spare tobacco leaf and wraps his naked cigar with it." <--This is where the magic happens.

"Nobody really thought anything of it at the time, but when Jim took out his cigar to smoke it the next day he noticed something when he removed the cigar from its protective leaf - it had a particularly interesting oily patina on the cigar :)

"This is a good thing for a cigar... The cigar was not only protected but mother nature had provided some additional oils to the cigar."


You have got to see this coolness.

I should probably tell you about the smoke itself. Keep in mind enjoying this smoke was punctuated with this other version of heaven, but I will say that the Connecticut blended pepper and creaminess that would ordinarily make me throat-punch you for putting pepper in the cream, because that's ridiculous.** And yet when combined with a little bit of citrusiness (yes, that is a word in Penny World), the cigar was a great and consistent beginning and ending to our jaunt on Federal Hill the other night.

He smoked the corojo with Caballero #2 at Habanos the other night, but I wasn't sitting close enough to pick up any second-hand smoke. Honestly, I was more focused on my vanilla vodka and Diet Coke and chatting with Nathalie, the supercool bartender and all-around coolest gal so I missed the Leaf corojo burning.

"I shall distract you from your second-hand smoke. Bwah hahahaha!"
Thankfully, we don't have to go all the way to Pittsburgh to get more Leaf by Oscar cigars. They're good, but that drive is loooong. Although Primanti's sandwiches...hmmm...


*Actually, that's how I got Valentino too. Liked his look and enticed him.

**I've just been informed that pepper and cream are what makes an Alfredo sauce delicious. Whatever, dude.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Opa!: Opa!

Outstanding customer service: We all want it. We rarely get it.

True story.


Except yesterday* we were punched in the face with awesomeness.

(I'll throw a cigar reference in here somewhere to make the post relevant, but sometimes an amazeballs deed needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Or the back patio with the scent of fresh linen citronella candles wafting in the air. From wherever, it needs to be shouted...)

We were on Federal Hill, natch, and stopped at Opa, which we may have mentioned we love once (or a hundred times). We sat at one of the sidewalk tables so Valentino could smoke his cigar** while we drank sangria and waited for our food.

Not last night, but representative of a night. 
See that table on the left? That's where we were!

Valentino ordered the thing he loves, raw kibbeh, which is usually accompanied by fresh pita bread, raw onions, and mint.***  Except the dish, she was mintless.  He asked the young man,**** who brought the food, for mint (which is probably growing out of control in all your back yards).  He reported back that they were out.

[This is worthy of a separate paragraph rather than a sparkle--they were out because their delivery that morning included a box of old, yucky, brown mint rather than new, delicious, green mint. It was not the kitchen's fault.]

Valentino sulked for a moment and began the process of eating, because freshly ground meat served raw really shouldn't sit around, mint or no.

Francois, son of owners Aline and Joe Karam, poked around to see how we were doing. Valentino mentioned his disappointment at the missing ingredient and he started to go back to the kitchen to check.  We stopped him, saying there wasn't any. He went to check anyway, and then came out of the restaurant and headed...away.

He came back and told us he'd just asked two neighboring restaurants***** if they had mint. They didn't.  Then, before we could stop him, he headed in the other direction, returning a moment later with a bagful.


Francois didn't have to seek out the mint, but he did. Little courtesies like that make all difference between a good restaurant and a great restaurant. Time and again, Opa is a super great awesome restaurant.

The couple who sat next to us just before we left ordered the raw kibbeh as well. Their dish had mint. To them, we say, "You're welcome."

I'm going to tell you more about this cigar, which he smoked at Opa, later.
But let's call this cigar reference #2. Feel better? I do. 


*It actually wasn't yesterday, but the actual day doesn't matter to the story. I would have gotten this out on time but I was stymied (both good and bad) every time I got close to posting. First, the power flickered a few times, which meant the modem reset and I'd have to fiddle with that silliness. Then Cabellero #2 said he was on his way to the area and did we want to meet up. This involved some serious costume change from curly-haired house-bound crazy-writer****** to semi-normal person who would not elicit gasps of disgust or horror (hopefully). Double then, we get home, I settle in, and...the power goes out on the whole street. I ate Reese's cereal and went to bed. What else could I do?

**Cigar reference!

***Perfect date food? You can tell we've been together for quite a while...

****We're old, so we can say things like this without irony.

*****In case you didn't know, Atwells Avenue on Federal Hill is literally lined with restaurants, with the occasional tattoo parlor and bakery.

******Poor Valentino. The bloom is off the rose.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Valentino's August Cigar of the Month--Padron 1964 Anniversary Series Torpedo!! Whaaa?

That's right, all you premium cigar lovers.

I have in my metaphorical hand a Padron 1964 Anniversary Series torpedo with one of your names on it.

Why this one? Because Valentino's birthday is August 23 and he very very very generously wants to celebrate by giving you his favorite cigar.

You'll get one.  Just one. I can't take away all his favorite toys!

This Padron really needs no introductions because it's pretty much a stick of perfection. 

But in case you need some convincing, Famous Smoke Shop says, "The PadrĂ³n 1964 Anniversary Series line was introduced in 1994 to commemorate the company's 30th anniversary. Sought for their flawless construction, mouthwatering wrappers and robust, dark tobacco flavor with traces of cocoa and coffee bean, these rare, box-pressed, puros made with 4 year-aged tobaccos, rank among the top of the world's best cigars. A specially designed double band features an individually numbered label to guard against counterfeiting. In a word: AWESOME!"

Comment on this post to be entered to win.  (Be sure to leave your email address so we can get in touch with you!) Want a second chance? Subscribe to our blog posts by email--over there on the right side of the blog.

The winner will be chosen on the 25th of each month--because my birthday is on the 25th (of December; be sure to mark your calendars), and what better way to count down to the blessed event than to give something away?

So! Comment below. Wheeeee!

Words of Wisdom #9

I love the (Rat) Pack mentality.  Get me the keys to the time machine, stat! [source]

"Give a man a handshake, and he'll claim that he's met you.
Give a man a cigar, and he'll call you friend for the rest of his life."


Saturday, July 26, 2014

I hate this saying, but...Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

I must have been drunk.


::looks at Valentino, who is also nodding::

So we took alllll the folks who subscribe to the feed and the few folks who commented, drew pictures of what we thought they looked at, went to the milliner and purchased a hand-made chapeau, put those pictures in aforementioned swanky topper, stirred the pot like that bitchy woman at work, reached into the depths, and drew out two names because someone has no actual feeling in her fingertips and therefore didn't realize her lobsterclaw digits were effing up a very simple process.

This is the hat I wanted to get...

But this one seemed like something I'd wear more often...

So we have two winners for Nica Rustica drawing.

Brian Schmidt and Philip Moses! You guys should email your mailing address to us at!! We're sending each of you a package of awesomeness!!

You are still not getting all of these. Don't be greedy!

Next up: Watch for the next drawing, which will be a fine Hechicera, because we love Grace Sotolongo!!! Stay tuned for details!!

You are not getting all these, either.  Do we look like we're made of money???
(Plus, keep in mind that I'm taking these from Valentino's personal stash, so....)

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