Sunday, November 30, 2014

"But whenever Monday comes, you can find me crying all of the time" (until the semester is over, and then...wheeee!)

It's a darned good thing I like the Monday night class I teach (Hi all of you!), and the students keep me entertained and happy.* And sometimes bring me Diet Coke.**

I know you're going to email me and say I shouldn't drink this
because I'll grow another head on my shoulders or whatever,
but without the sweet brown poison,
I'd totally fall asleep in front of the class. In front of every class.
No one wants that.

If I didn't like them so much, I'd be all BOO! and DAMMIT! and CRAP! because most of the fun cigar things seem to be happening on Mondays this semester. So Valentino goes to the fun things and sends me texts and pictures, and generally recounts that fantastic fun-ness he's having.

I try to share the fun I'm having too. For realz. He's not, however, buying that my two-and-a-half hours talking about writing and reading is more fun than hanging out with cool cigar folks, eating and drinking, and smoking.  In my defense, and to keep the playing field level, I had malted milk balls with the Diet Coke.

Oh, malted milk balls, why must you be so delicious?
And so small? And come in packages of five?
Do you have any idea how many little packages must be opened
and consumed in order to remain happy during the whole class?***

So during my repetitive sojourns**** over the course of the semester, he's had these adventures, of which I am mucho jealous. In no particular order, other than this is how they popped into my head:*****

Hanging with Island Jim, he of Leaf by Oscar, at Churchill's (Hi Bryan--even though I've technically never met you in person. And do you know why? Yep. Work. Boo. Soon we'll remedy that. I hear you have MBombays? We have been dying to get our hands--and taste buds--on those!)
Honestly, how can you not want to own some of these darlings?
As soon as the man returns from Man Camp, we are so there!

An Eiroa/CLE dinner with the Mr. J's Havana gang (at that seekrit location). Hi Paul! Hi Tom! Hi Mark! Hi Lauren! Hi people who were there and who I should give a shout out to, but since I wasn't there, I don't know who that might be!)

"Are you ready for some football?"
Definitely. Especially if there's delicious food!
Some fun nights at Broadway Cigar for Monday Night Football. (Although he does get credit for bringing me dinner home from those festivities! Thank you!) Each week, the awesomely cool Bobby and the gang (which would actually make them Cool and the Gang) feature a different cigar to accompany that night's noshing.  So it's win-win. I just wish I could have also been a winner. I have to go sulk now.

This is representative of Man Camp.
By the way, have you liked Will the Travelling Owl yet?
You totally should. And you'll be glad you did.
There's another dinner from the fabulous folks at Mr. J's this coming Monday, which, in Valentino's defense, he will also miss because he'll be at Man Camp. (Hi Jerry! Hi Will! Hi Marlin! Hi Billy! Hi Jerry! Hi Tom! Hi Billy! Missing you, Valentino the Elder!) I can't decide whether to be happy (Man Camp!) or sad (not Penny Camp!) at this time of year. Missing festivities doesn't help. I can't even live vicariously. Unlessssss... Unless you go and tell me all about it.  Take pictures! Send me random texts throughout the course of the night! Just call Mr. J's to chat with him about tickets!!

You should get yourself some of this! And you can--and much more! at the Roma dinner!
Call Broadway Cigars for more info!
The following week, on Monday the 8th, a big shindig is happening at Roma on Federal Hill in Providence. The dinner will feature the cigars of J Grotto, good old Mr. J, Paul Joyal, himself! So two of our favorite people are getting together and having a party. Again, you should go; I'm going to need to get to the store before then so I can drown my sorrows in whatever malted milk is.

Then, we found out that on Monday, December 15, Jim Robinson is going to be in town again. Let me stress the Monday in the previous sentence.

Why does everything have to happen on a Monday? And then I remembered...

This is the point in the story where the angels sing with joy.

 ...I remembered school will be over by then! I can join the festivities!! So come to Broadway Cigars in Providence, RI and we can party like rock stars!******

Lots more things are on our calendar for December. Stay tuned for updates!!

*What? that's not supposed to be what's happening?

**It's not really a bribe; more a way to keep me awake and off-kilter.

***In case you were wondering, it takes seventy umpity thousand tiny packages of malted milk balls for one long class.

****And I say this ironically

*****The ideas don't just pop into my head. In fact, it's more like this:
Very painful indeed!
******Aging, tired, end-of-the-semester melt-down rock stars. But rock stars nonetheless.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Today, I give thanks for a great man and mourn his loss

"Is that a Rum Soaked Crook?" asked Valentino's dad each and every time he saw his son with a cigar.
Yes, it is really a thing. I had my doubts.
We laughed each and every time. It was kind of our thing.

I can't remember the last time he said it. Maybe when he came to visit as a surprise for Valentino the Younger's birthday party?

He had no idea his dad had travelled all the way
from Pittsburgh for the surprise party!
I win the Best Girlfriend prize 2014.
I'm sure he also said it one or a hundred times when we cruised to Bermuda. Many cigars were smoked. Much time was spent with Valentino the Elder, so...yeah. After all, it was our thing.

On this cruise, he and I ditched his son and my family
and snuck off and had drinks and ice cream shakes.
I will miss my partner-in-crime.

And certainly when we visited in June for the annual jaunt when the Valentinos play golf and I hopped over to West Virginia to hang with my boy.*

I was going to make a sparkle (*) about how Valentino the Elder, since his back troubles and subsequent surgery, now mans the golf cart, taking pictures and hauling water to the troops while the younger men play whack the ball and smoke cigars. Er, play golf. But this idea seems too important for a mere sparkle; it deserves a paragraph all to itself.  Since no girls are allowed at Man Camp, from whence the event stems, naturally I've never seen this golf cart activity. But for years, whenever someone talks about his position as Executive in Charge of Hydration and Photography, this is what I picture:

You can never take this image away, no matter how many stories of reality you tell me. It will always be this.

In addition to these festivities, there's also some good old Italian family time, complete with lots of noise and yelling and jocularity,** continuously cranked up to 11. That's very different from Casa Piva--we maintain about a level 4 with occasional bursts to 8.

They're good people. No, they're great people.

Is that a Rum Soaked Crook he's smoking?

The patriarch, Valentino the Elder, he was a kind, caring, funny, thoughtful man, all wonderful traits he passed on to his children and granddaughters.

My mom wrote, "He was 'bigger than life' and filled the room with his presence. My world is a better place for having known him, I will never think of him without smiling." Yes. Exactly that.

Now, one of the greatest men I have ever known is driving the golf cart in the sky, where the folks are cheering for him like it's the 16th Hole at the Waste Management Tournament. Yeah, he's smoking a cigar. And yes, it's a Rum Soaked Crook. You know, because it's our thing.

Godspeed, Tino. XOXO

*Keep in mind, my boy is 6' 4" is and wears a size 14 shoe. But he'll always be my boy. Of course, I can't remember his age. 26? 27? In that range. Mother of the Year right here.

**I'm trying to use this word once a day. It's a very fun word to say and reminds me of Father Mulcahey.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Caballeros Ride Again: Cigar Dinner Edition!

Oh, you know we love a nice fundraiser, especially when cigars are involved!

About a hundred years ago--a month maybe?-- Caballero #2 told us about a cigar dinner to support the Young America Club in Plymouth, MA.*

But the really enticing part? The Caballeros would be together again, after a too-long hiatus, on which I blame 1. travel; 2. being an adult; 3. stupid crap. So we said "Meh!"** to the comedy show tickets we'd already purchased*** and readied up for some serious cigarocity**** at the Young America Club.

As the event was supported by General Cigars, upon arrival, we received this bounty:

And thanks, Brennan's Smoke Shop! Hi Geoff!
Caballero #2 dove into this beauty and our hero followed suit:

See those raffle tickets in the background?
They're going to play a part in the story soon...

According to the La Gloria Cubana website "Available only at fine tobacconist stores, Serie R® EstelĂ­ was the second blend to surface during the blending process. Beefed by a top priming Jalapa Sol wrapper and rounded out by a combination of visos and ligeros, Serie R® EstelĂ­ sings her Nicaraguan song at the top of her lungs."

Plus, there was food, and we love foods.***** Valentino and all the other boys we love (Hi Caballero #2! Hi Three Amigos!******)

I willingly gave up my lobster. Too much work for too little return.
Now mashed potatoes...yeah baby.
Then there was the winning portion of the show. Er, I mean, the raffle portion of the show. Oh, who am I kidding.  Of course we won. We win a lot.*******

Thanks again, General Cigar!
We had our doubts upon receipt of these winnings.

Michael Giannini and his team created the Foundry Worm Hole line, which pays tribute to the concept of the  "Worm Hole" -  and time travel; the Foundry Worm Hole line pays tribute to the past, present, and future. "The inspiration for Worm Hole starts at the year 1964, moves to present day 2014, and finally 50 years in the future to 2064.  The Worm Hole series has a blend for 50 years past (1964 Blend),  Current State (2014 Blend), and 50 years into the future (2064 Blend)" according to an article on Cigar Coop.

"Consistent with most of the Foundry portfolio, the details of the tobaccos have not been disclosed, but these are said to include rare tobaccos that have not been used before." The 2026, which we now own (Thanks, General Cigar for the product donations!) features "a unique keepsake (non-paper) cigar band." when we opened the box and saw 24 6 x 52 cigars clad in plastic, our inner skeptics kicked the winning gene in the head and took over.

Then Valentino lit one up. Much happiness ensued. It was sweet and creamy, with a little pepperiness. Then I lost sight of the smoke (if that's possible) because then he won this:

And thanks again again!
And you can tell by the blurriness of this picture, that I took it.
Because I am that awesome.

So I leave you with this, the folks who helped us carry out all our loot:

Josh Rashid and his daddio Caballero #2,
General Cigar's Marc Lagace, and our hero, Valentino. 
Hahaha. Just kidding (kind of)! But thanks to you guys and the Three Amigos for being so great!********

*Yes, where the Pilgrims lived. No, there weren't any there.

**And by this, I mean we sold them on Craigslist.

***We were in the middle of saying, "Darn, I think we're going to eat those tickets" about three hours before the comedy show when his phone rang and someone asked if the tickets were still available. It was a ticket miracle! We're hoping that's not the only miracle we get for the rest of the year.

****That is too a word.

*****Although gentlemen planners, no dessert? What the what? Granted, there were only two women at the dinner (Yay!), but...but...

******Who are actually three brothers--triplets!

*******This has nothing to do with me.  I lose a lot. Valentino, like my dad, has the winning gene. Only occasionally does this gene shed its recessive trait and rear its winningness head.

Not really my Three Amigos,
but representative of their awesomeness.

Swiped unabashedly from the mighty internets

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Owl'll be seeing you...

Sometimes liquor is an awesome thing.

Oh, who are we kidding. It's always an awesome thing!*

Oh, Hemingway, you genius! [source]
How about come up with amazing wittiness when drunk(ish) and then refine and put that geniusness into practice while sober?  Cause, dudes?  That happened.

Please meet Will the Travelling Owl:

Will is the new, official mascot of Habanos, which we may need to list as a secondary residence now that the weather has turned on us**.  He's also the new spokesmodel for this blog, because, well, that's what he wanted.  Will is like that charming, always a little drunk friend you'd do anything for, mainly because he conned you into it and you didn't realize the con until it was too late.

One of my all-time favorite movies. I thought Valentino had seen it.
I ruined the ending for him when I referenced a key scene.
I am a wicked jerk. But in my defense, I didn't know! *** [source]
Will has his own Facebook page here, and has quite the following. He's hoping for a cult-like following, but for now, he knows he has to be moderately humble, to win you all over, so he asks that you please follow him and his adventures, which will include cigars, booze, and, as he likes to say, "the ladies."****
Come on, Will! It's only 9:00!!

He tells us he's planning to have a giveaway for all his followers soon, although Valentino is a little worried because Will manages to break into the humidor and make off with his cigars, which has caused Valentino to put the expensive stuff up high, where "the little guy can't reach them," he says.*****

We'd like to thank our friend Brian (Hi Brian) for enticing Will to relocate from Washington DC to Rhode Island.

Will has a ton of events already scheduled for his dance card, which annoys us because he's way more beloved than us--and he's only been in town for a couple of weeks! But if you're in the area, stop by and say "Hello!" to him.  We'll also let you know what events he's planning to attend--and which he's RSVPed "Yes" to but really has no intention of attending. He's a coy one, that Will.

But we love him anyway. Guaranteed that you will love him too!

What's not to love?
World traveler, cigar aficionado, ladies'' owl...?

*Unless it isn't an awesome thing for you, in which case we love and respect you and your decisions.

**We're taking it personally.

***The Sting, in case you didn't know.  And if you didn't know, you should go watch it right now.  Seriously. Right. Now.

****Sometimes he calls them "dolls," but I think we can all agree that he shouldn't be faulted for that, considering his upbringing.

*****Will would like to point out that if Valentino calls him "The Little Guy" one more time, he's going to need to sleep with one eye open.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Island Jim and the New Englanders

I am a terrible fangirl. Or maybe a perfect one. You decide. 

Island Jim, he of Leaf by Oscar and Island Jim cigars, as well as the Leaf and Bean shop in Pittsburgh, came to town not too long ago.*

Let me back up even more. When we tried the Leaf by Oscar cigar, we were giddy with delight and I wrote alllll about it. If you go back and read it, which you totally should, you'll notice my absolute, unadulterated swooning. 

And then (Island) Jim Robinson and I became Facebook BFFs. So I should have been excited when the rumors of him coming to town proved to be true!! Except all his local events happened on days I wasn't available. (Rude!) I wept openly and sent Valentino to the festivities solo.**

Island Jim and our hero, Valentino.
On the Monday of his weeklong visit, while I taught adult students at the community college how to write, he went to Churchill's in Providence and had a fantastical time hob-nobbing with the guest of honor, as well as Churchills' owner Bryan LeBeau.

But! The next evening, we had the opportunity to hang with the man himself at Broadway Cigars, a place you know we love very very much!

Our pals Bobby (left picture) and John (not the left picture)!

As we pulled up to the shop, I was an extrovert, a chatty, happy-go-lucky social butterfly. Still true as we walked to, and then into, the shop. And then the thing that happens all the time happened. I became a shy, delicate flower.
I become this shy. For realz.
"He can call me flower if he wants to."
So I became Socially Awkward Girl. Luckily, Valentino is super fun extrovert guy all the time, so he and Island Jim became BFFs while they smoked these:

This would be the point in our show where I tell you what the cigar is made up of, from whence the wrapper, binder, and filler come. But that Island Jim, he is a wily one. He's not releasing this info, and he said that sometime soon, he'll be holding a contest wherein the person who guesses the blend gets a trip to an exotic locale. Details haven't yet been released, but we expect to hear more soon. We'll totally let you know as soon as we know!

So while we can't tell you what it is made of, we can tell you the result of this mystery concoction! When he first lit the cigar, Valentino sent a wave of sweet billowing smoke in my direction and I nuzzled up to him a bit more. Shyness? Delicious smoke? You decide.

As the cigar burned while Valentino socialized, hints of earthiness and spiciness lingered in the background, not unlike myself.

Another big fancy event was held that Friday, which Valentino and I missed because we were in Miami, about to attend other fancy events and meet other super cool people.***

Can you find us in the picture?
Nope, because we were in Miami! But we were also here in spirit!
(Photo shamelessly stolen from Broadway Cigars!)
During this event, the folks at Broadway sold over 500 Leaf and Island Jim cigars! And we just heard that they're expecting another shipment shortly. If you're interested, you should contact them as soon as possible.  But not too quickly, because I need to run over there and put my order in!

Speaking of shopping, here's a picture of Island Jim himself purchasing a Leaf cigar. The first one he's ever bought! I was supposed to be taking this picture, but my shaky hands took away the privilege. And no, they weren't shaky because I was nervous...much. I think the consensus has been reached: I'm a terrible fan girl!

*Okay, a month ago. So many things have been happening lately, both good and awful, that I've fallen behind in blog posts even more than before. School's almost over! I'll catch up soon! Right after I grade that pile of essays.****

**I may or may not have sulked.

***And by "met," I mean I stayed in the background, quietly meeting folks and then introducing them to Valentino so he could become BFFs with them.

****The pile is about as tall as me. No, I'm not exaggerating.*****



Sunday, November 9, 2014

Helpy McHelperson, Part the Second

When last we left our hero, he'd been helping Brad choose some new (to him) cigars. If you haven't figured out by now, Valentino is 1. Incredibly outgoing; 2. Incredibly helpful; 3. Incredibly understanding.  I am, maybe, one and a half of these things, and neither the one, nor the half, is #1. That's why we're such a great team. I'm happy to stay in the background while he makes things happen.

Recently, we were at an undisclosed location* and a very nice man asked for recommendations, saying he liked medium-to-full strength and flavor. He didn't care for infused; instead, he liked a hint of creaminess. Valentino was about to offer help but then backed off, not wanting to step on the proprietor/Bossman's toes/ego/whatever, since he happened to be standing right near us. There's helpful and there's annoyingly take-chargy; Valentino knows the difference, understanding that Bossman likes to be in charge, and so he happily stood back and let the Bossman make suggestions.

Not the Bossman, although, now that I think of it, kinda...

The two men went into the humidor and, when they came out, Bossman headed to points unknown.  Of course, because we are nosy interested, we asked what our new friend would soon be smoking.

He held up a MUWAT** Kentucky Fire Cured. We wondered why Bossman would have suggested that.  He and I looked at each other and communicated with a series of eye rolls, questioning looks, and shrugs, the way people who spend a lot of time together do. Finally, after unfurrowing our brows, Valentino asked if he'd ever had that cigar before. Now don't get us wrong. We like the KFC just fine, but we were worried because based on what he'd said previously, this didn't seem like the best choice for him.

According to the Drew Estate website, "Kentucky Fire Cured is not something new to the world of tobacco, as it has been grown for over 200 years. Easily compared to the smokey taste attributed to a peaty scotch, the KFC picks up nuances of the roasted hickory, oak or maple wood."

Valentino told him about the deliciously rich, smoky, slightly-sweet flavor. The man furrowed his own brow and shook his head. He said he didn't care for any kind of smoky flavors, in his ham or anywhere else. Then he and Valentino returned to the humidor and found him something much more in line with what he was used to smoking: Herrera Esteli, "a medium plus blend that is exceptionally creamy with great balance of spice and sweet." This is the first in the Willy Herrera line; we chatted about the second here--and we're giving some away, so make sure you sign up!!

We came across this quotation the other day and it stuck with us, like gum on shoe--or a clue on a gumshoe. Whatever.

There is no perfect cigar--just the perfect cigar for you and your tastes.

A good proprietor will try to match you with your perfect cigar rather than one that is popular. If the person making the recommendation doesn't seem confident in their cigar discussion, by all means, ask for a second opinion. After all, a good cigar can cost as much as a co-pay; it should bring you an hour or more of pleasure. Smoking a cigar you don't care for can turn you off cigars for a while or, at the very least,  ruin what should have been a relaxing and enjoyable time.

Occasionally Valentino will start smoking something that he winds up not caring for. He'll make his way through the whole dang thing, not enjoying it, but feeling as though he made the commitment and should see it to the end, er, nub.

I, however, am an advocate of "If you don't like it, stop it!" and frequently (practically) jump up and down, saying "You don't have to finish it! I'll get you another! Stop the madness!" Sometimes he's right to press on for a bit, as he winds up liking the cigar after an inch or so, and you should totally give some time to the stick before writing it off. But come on, nubbing a cigar that you bitched about the entire time?*** That is 100% counterproductive to the cigar culture.

So enjoy that cigar and your time smoking it. Please. We're begging you!!

*And I'm not going to tell you where because we are very nice and have no intention of calling anyone out on anything. And it's a place we've never mentioned here, so don't go speculating.

**My Uzi Weighs a Ton--But if you're in the know, and of course we are (hahahaha)--you just call it Moo-wat.

***Hypothetically. Valentino doesn't do this. Not through the whole thing anyway!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

In which Valentino is Mr. Helpy McHelperson, Part the First

So we're sitting at Habanos, and I am "grading papers"* while Valentino smokes and chats and orders a pizza for me.**

Brad comes in and we greet him because we're awesome like that. He goes into the humidor and gets his regular purchase.*** As he comes to the end of it, he starts thinking aloud about what to have next. He says he likes medium and asks what Valentino would recommend. Of course Valentino has a recommendation. They disappear into the humidor and return with these selections:

Alec Bradley, Kristoff, and LaSirena. Haha Two men and a lady!

The Alec Bradley Black Market is one of Valentino's favorites; quite a few currently reside in The Monster, waiting their turn to be called up to the big league. (Oh. And set on fire--the metaphor died a horrible death, didn't it?). It's medium strength and the "4-country blend is jam-packed with Jamastran, Honduras and Panamanian long-fillers, capped off by a lively Sumatra binder and powerful Nicaraguan wrapper leaf. Upon first lighting, plumes of smoke fill the air as the blend burns with purpose. Unique and satisfying arrays of flavors greet your palate, as spice, pepper, and peaty undertones finish the ensemble. With a long dry finish, and slow burn, the Black Market cigar is a finger burner." [source]

We just told you yesterday about our fondness for all things Kristoff, so no surprise that it made the recommendation trio. This one, the Corojo Limitada "is for the fan of Nicaraguan tobacco" which is why it made the cut here--as you must know by now, Valentino looooves Nicaraguan tobacco. According to the Kristoff website, "Nearly a puros Nicaraguan blend, this medium-full bodied cigar is loaded with spice, nutmeg, toasted nut and a sweet-spicy finish. Made with 100% Habano seed tobacco that is double and triple fermented, the Corojo Limitada maintains the Kristoff tradition of flavor and smoothness." This cigar is considered the "signature of Kristoff Cigars." We very much like their penmanship.****

He also recommended a La Sirena. Apparently he adores this as well, although I have no memory of him actually smoking one. Of course, we're not together allllll the time, although you probably think we are. Just most of the time! I do know that our friend Eric (Hi Eric!) is a fan of Arielle's line, including this, the Merlion, which is a "rich blend comprised of six...tobaccos. It all starts with a feisty, yet silky smooth Ecuadorian Corojo wrapper. This lovely leaf hugs a Brazilian Sumatra binder, housing an impressive long-filler bouquet of Dominican Corojo, Dominican Criollo 98', Nicaraguan ligero, and finally Brazilian Mata Fina. An adventurous blend no doubt, each brand's influence is evident, as the Merlion asserts a bold, well-balanced array of rich medium to full-bodied smoke...Expect hints of pepper, oak, natural sweetness, and subtle floral notes to mingle, before a long toasty finish." While the Merlion is considered fuller, the tobacco level isn't that high, so its strength isn't pop-your-head-off full, just nice and subtle full.<--Yes, that's a thing. I just made it up, which makes it a thing now.

Valentino's willingness to help out a new friend isn't unique. It happens time and again, whether it's lending a lighter, buying a drink, or handing over a favorite cigar***** in order to share the love with someone who hadn't yet tried it. (And if Valentino hands you a Padron or a Joel Sherman by Nat Sherman, you might as well consider yourself BFFs for life.)

So if you're not sure what to smoke next while you're at the cigar lounge, ask for suggestions. You may just find your new all-time favorite. Or at the very least, make a new friend.

*hahahha. Reading homework words, hoping they're in a good enough order to call fabulous.

**And him, but more for me. Two words: Hungry. Headache.

***If I weren't such a hack reporter, I'd be able to tell you what that cigar was. However, I am a hack reporter with a limited ability to retain information when distracted by air, so...yeah. Let's just skip over this stick. Pretend it never happened.

****Come on. Work with me here. Signature? Penmanship. Sometimes I think I have the funny in abundance!

*****Unsmoked, of course!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Glen Case and Kristoff get all the sparkles!

The other day, when a certain someone* should have been home grading papers, she wasn't because she'd been whisked off** to a new place.***

Another new favorite place!
Hanging out in all these awesome places doesn't leave any time for work! 
Hold on while I go play the lottery!! We have lots more places to visit!

Our friend Brenda, who started working at Havana Cigar Club in West Warwick, RI not too long ago, had been enticing us with promises of a place filled with unicorns and rainbows.**** Yeah, yeah, yeah we said, since the lounge is maybe 30-40 minutes away from Casa Awesome.

But her wily ways took a stronghold the other day when she announced a Kristoff event at the lounge. We'd heard nothing but amazing things about his eminency***** Glen Case and we needed to bow to him, shake his hand, and offer to wash his car. At least that was my intention. Valentino said we could just make him laugh and smoke his cigars. Whatevs, dude.

Turns out his plan really was the best one, although I'll never admit that publicly.****** (It was really cold that night so washing the car was out of the question anyway.) And we certainly made him laugh. In fact, he and Valentino may share a funny gene.*******  OMG! It was like they were separated at birth! For realz!

And while all the jocularity occurred, he showed us his wares (heh heh), asking what Valentino likes to smoke and then made recommendations from favorites. That makes me happy, when a cigar rep or
owner or shopkeeper wants to match you with the perfect cigar for you, rather than pointing you in the popular direction.

These are just two of our purchases. The others disappeared magically somehow, swallowed up by the Humidor Monster perhaps?

We know what happened to this one though:

Up in flames, baby! Up! In! Flames!
And it made me have the glad, because man, oh man, was that fabuloso!!
The Kristoff GC Signature Series hit the flame first and released "rich notes of espresso, dried apricot, chocolate and a sweet-spicy finish." [source]  The delicious Brazilian Maduro wrapper reminded us a teeny bit of our old friend, the CAO Amazon Basin. The binder is Cuban Seed Honduran and the filler, the filler is all the delicious things! Cuban Seed Dominican! Cuban Seed Honduran! AND Cuban Seed Nicaraguan!

Our friend Brenda, she who enticed us there in the first place, had this and raaaaaved about it. I can't possibly share a second-hand smoke story with you because she's a fast little devil, moving a zillion miles an hour:

"The maduro ligero washes your palate with notes of espresso bean,
dark chocolate, a hint of mix berry and a sweet cocoa finish."
(I'd tell you the source, but I closed the dang window and moved on with my day and then...d'oh!)

The Kristoff website says, "The Kristoff Ligero has twice the amount of Ligero leaf in the filler than the original Kristoff. It embodies incredible notes of toasted nut, caramel, undertones of cedar, spice and a sweet finish. Made with 100% Cuban Seed tobacco, this cigar leaves a clean, fresh finish on your palate."

Anyway, Glen? Glen is awesomely awesome and he would never lead you astray--unless you asked him to, but that's something else again. Want to know why he's in the cigar business? "It was one of those mid-life crisis’.  I’ve always enjoyed a good cigar and decided to pursue, what was an interest at the time; but it quickly turned into a passion."  Yeah, that happens to a lot of us. Oh, wait. Midlife crisis? Nope. Don't know anything about that!

"I spent nineteen years in the corporate world; all in the financial services industry.  The last nine years of my career, I spent as an executive at one of the top five banks in the country. I actually started in this industry as an independent sales rep.  However, it was only about six months later that I decided I wanted to come out with my own cigar line.  That was over 8 years ago." [source]

Havana Cigar Club Owner Todd LaScola, our hero Valentino, and Glen Case!
So! Now we 1. Have a couple of new friends; 2. Found another cool place to hang out; 3. Have another new favorite cigar. Not a bad evening of fun, although when we finally returned home, the elves hadn't even started grading papers. It's so hard to get good help these days.  Sheesh.

*Me, in case you haven't caught on to our patterns of mystery here.

**Actual conversation went something like this... Him: Ready to go? Me: Yep.

***New to me; Valentino had cased the joint previously.

****Metaphorical, I was sad to find out.

*****Not Eminem, you jokers. The head honcho.


*******Not this funny Gene:

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