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James Suckling

Finding the Genie in Hollywood

Posted: Mar 12, 2008 3:17pm ET
My buddy and I were dying for a smoke. And I was empty handed. We had just finished dinner at Father’s Office in Santa Monica and we were full of burgers, sweet potato fries, and various other delicacies, besides sharing a bottle of 2001 Cote Rotie Rene Rostang and 1979 Ridge Petite Sirah. A smoke would help digest it all!
 
The food at FO is the bomb -- fantastic stuff that focuses on high end ingredients and simple, well-executed cooking.  Owner Sang Yoon is a new friend, and I had no idea that he could pull off such excellent food in a sort of Boston, Manhattan pub ambiance. Normally you get some burger and frozen fries with your grease in a place like that. But Yoon was the head chef a few years back at Michael’s in Santa Monica, so he knows how to cook.  He wants to prove that fine cuisine can be matched with great beer just like
in wine and food pairings in the best restaurants around the world. The biggest problem with FO is getting a table. It’s packed and no reservations!
 
Anyway, we left FO overly satisfied and craving the pleasures of the leaf. David, my friend, said he knew a place in West Hollywood that sold red labeled Partagas robustos with gold lettering. I love those cigars. They are my go-to cigars in Europe. He was buying, so why not?
 
We walked into a funky, almost sleazy, wine and cigar shop in Hollywood and David spoke to the manager. The dude went into a back room and came out with two beautiful smokes. David gave him $50 in cash. The cigars’ wrappers were chocolate brown, or “colorado,” if a Cuban cigar roller was around. They smelled of cappuccino with a sweet tobacco and spice undertones.
 
I cut mine with my fingernails and grasped for a match. Wooosh went the match as it lit! I fired up my cigar and the smell of nuts, salt, spices and tobacco filled the room. It was so perfumed and sexy. It was like a genie flowing out of its lamp and offering to fulfill my one wish of the night.
 
But it had already been granted – the pleasure of a great smoke with a good friend.
 
It was sort of strange but I think the place we went to was the same place that one of the US customs officers in Dallas, who confiscated my small bag of cigars last week, recommended I should go in Hollywood, if I was interested in pre-Castro cigars.  I am not joking either. You can legally smoke old Cubans in the U.S. market, ones that were made or marketed before the embargo was imposed in 1963.
 
Unfortunately, they didn’t have any in stock.


Comments   3 comment(s)

Luis J Falto — Mayaguez, Puerto Rico —  March 13, 2008 1:04pm ET

Dear James:I wrote to you last year about building a walk in humidor in my house (I live in Puerto Rico). My house is finished and the space for the humidor is done. My question is regarding the type of cedar to use in it. Dominicans say that their cedar is the best, as well as Cubans and the rest say Spanish cedar is the real norm. Can you inform me about such.We all need places to smoke!!!Luis Falto


Fausto Abreu — New York, NY —  March 18, 2008 10:45am ET

Hello Luis,I am also interested in building a walk-in humidor at my house. Doing some research and talking to other owners of walk-in humidors, the proposed type of cedar to use is the Spanish cedar since humidors lined with Spanish cedar are considered to be top of the line. Spanish cedar lined humidors are so popular because Spanish cedar offers a high humidity absorption, which means means that there is no risk of a mold growth becoming a problem. Spanish cedar also protects against an infestation of worms, and supports the cigar¿s aging process while having a positive effect on the flavoring of the cigar. Humidors can also be lined with American red cedar or Honduran mahogany.American red cedar is normally used by manufacturers because it is much less expensive to use as an interior lining when compared with Spanish cedar. American red cedar is far more inferior to Spanish cedar in its ability to absorb humidity. This lining can also cause cigars to adopt a very woody flavor. Honduran mahogany is the other commonly used interior liner. Honduran mahogany is comparable to Spanish cedar in its ability to absorb humidity. At the same time, Honduran mahogany has a less intense odor than Spanish cedar. Unfortunately, Honduran mahogany does not protect the cigar from the possibility of worm infestation. The flavor that a cigar takes on when stored in Honduran mahogany is less rich than that of a cigar which is stored in Spanish cedar.Hope this helps. Let us all know what you find out, and how you proceed.Regards,-Fausto


Jamie Moore — Texas —  March 25, 2008 5:46pm ET

I wondered why you did not have any of your own sticks..Then I read your previous blog about customs...Ha, Ha..That sucks man.. Glad you were able to find a smoke.. Somehow, though, I imagine you rarely have difficulty finding a good stick even here in the US...



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