Posted: Feb 19, 2010 4:21pm ET
They stood at the back of the makeshift room set up inside the cigar factory with a podium at the front and rows of tables arranged for a cigar seminar conducted by the owner of Matasa
, and the creator of the Casa Magna
and the new Quesada
brands. Dressed in white t-shirts that commemorated today’s launch of the Quesada Tributo
cigar, which will hit retail stores by May, the employees of the Matasa
factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic, listened attentively to the presentation in English by their employer, their patriarch, Manuel Quesada
. Certainly, only a few understood the words. When Manuel’s daughter Raquel introduced them as part of the Matasa
family, the “artists who create our ideas,” the entire room of about 50 ProCigar
festival attendees stood and applauded them. The workers’ smiles expressed their understanding, and in essence, told the whole story—this day was about more than just a new cigar, or another tobacco blend or some perfunctory promotional event. It was about family, too.
Posted: Feb 18, 2010 2:54pm ET
I won’t give you the details about last night’s ProCigar
Festival dinner. Suffice it to say I did not escape the merengue
dance contest, which was officiated by Jos
of La Aurora. He called on me to come up to the stage and show the world how little I knew about the local dance step; all I can say is, “Wait 'til next year’s Big Smoke, Jos
é.” I don’t think anyone from Dancing With The Stars will be calling me. But it was a lot of fun, even if you are like me and your idea of fun is not exactly the same thing as dancing an unfamiliar Caribbean dance style in front of 200 people. At least my Dominican partner was forgiving.
Posted: Feb 17, 2010 4:32pm ET
I’m back in the Dominican Republic, land of cigars. I’m always amazed when I realize how much time has passed since my last visit here because it always feel like I should come here all the time. At the same time, I always remember my first visit here back in 1992. You’ll find a story in the Premier Issue of Cigar Aficionado. The title? CigarLand.
Posted: Feb 10, 2010 11:36am ET
Snow is coming down hard, and has been since about 7 o’clock when I decided it was wise to not rely on my commuter train system to get me home this afternoon. So, I stayed home, and have been in the process of knocking off those list items that have been there a long time, in between communicating with the Cigar Aficionado
team—Dave, Jack, Greg, Andrew, John and Leah—as we wrap up production on our March/April issue. It’s a good one, but I won’t spoil the surprise.
Posted: Feb 4, 2010 2:55pm ET
Hope you all have checked out my new video with Charlie Palmer at Aureole restaurant. Tough duty that, let me tell you. Being down there in the kitchen with the stoves blazing was enough to remind me just how hard kitchen work can be. On the other hand, I kept getting bowled over by the great aromas and the fantastic views as the cooks spent the afternoon hours prepping for the evening, pre-theater rush. We had a pretty narrow window to finish up the shoot, and by the end, Charlie was gently but firmly urging everyone to get a move on. I just wanted to soak it at all up.
Posted: Jan 4, 2010 10:19am ET
The night was balmy. There was a moon high in the sky, and a light breeze off the nearby ocean, where you could hear the unusually high surf crashing into the beach. I wanted to end 2009 on a high note, a celebration of a year survived and a silent nod to how many great, and some not so great, cigars that I smoked during the year.
Posted: Dec 15, 2009 12:00am ET
I attended a gathering at the Cigar Inn, the home of Cigar Aficionado’s lounge. Billy, Gus and Bass Fakih hosted a group of cigarmakers including Eddie Ortega of 601, Nestor Miranda and Rene Casteneda of Miami Cigar & Co. and Pepin, Janny and Jaime Garcia of My Father Cigars. By the time I got there at 1 p.m., the cigar shop was crowded with guys smoking up a storm, enjoying an open bar including Presidente beers and working their way through a buffet table of great food.
Posted: Dec 10, 2009 10:54am ET
The sun was dropping below the mountaintops, and darkness was coming quickly to the small farming valley in north central Nicaragua. But Dr. Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, the owner of the Joya de Nicaragua brand, showed no signs of nervousness as we climbed into his SUV and his driver steered us out on the Pan-American Highway headed toward Managua. The last rays of light disappeared from the sky. I silently thought that 30 years before, or even the last time I was in Nicaragua in the 1990s, I would no sooner travel the highway between Estelí and Managua after dark than jump into a rattlesnake pit. Not today. The road was filled with traffic, small cars, buses and semi-trucks vying for space at every turn.
Posted: Dec 8, 2009 4:40pm ET
The day dawned early with a 7:30 departure to Estelí, Nicaraguan time. We left at 8:20 and spent nearly an hour slowly weaving through early morning traffic in Managua, trying to get to the Pan-American highway. Once on the highway, things sped up, but I didn’t have enough time to take up the Padróns on their offer to get a quick tour of their factory. You haven’t lived, however, if you haven’t spent two hours in a car with Jose Orlando Padrón, puffing away on his morning stogie and providing directions to his driver at every turn.
Posted: Dec 7, 2009 11:53am ET
I was in Nicaragua last week for the first time in years. For me, it was a nostalgic trip, as it is every time I visit, because of my time there as a young foreign correspondent for The Associated Press during the country’s 1979 revolution and then the Contra wars in the 1980s. The sights, sounds and smells bring back lots of memories. I’m always searching for old landmarks—General Anastasio Somoza’s bunker complex on the side of a hill, a battered Texaco station where a wild firefight between National Guard and Sandinista forces took place, a fork in the road where friends of mine came under direct machine-gun fire in Estelí.