South Beach

I spent last week at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival in Miami. It’s a four-day extravaganza of wine, food and, whenever possible, cigars. This year, Jorge Padrón hosted a cigar lounge following a banquet for the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I. Accompanied by sherry, some Spanish Brandy, and the great outdoors at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, more than 150 people enjoyed his Padrón Serie 1926s. Next year, I hope we can do more events like that.

Why? It was a revelation to be in Florida in February, sitting on restaurant terraces watching people light up. Yeah, you Floridians have it really good. While your state has one of the most restrictive indoor smoking laws in the country, it’s still possible to light up outside, and restaurants that have outdoor spaces are more than happy to accommodate you. One restaurant owner in the Design District told me that he doesn’t mind having cigar smokers on his patio out back; he did say if people complain he will ask the smoker to let it go out until the diners are finished, but after late seatings in Miami, there’s usually no problem.

We’ve been stymied in recent years at SOBE’s wine and food gig because of a lack of terraces, or a worry that a rainstorm could wipe out any attempt to have a big outdoor smoking event. However, my realization this year is that same worry applies to every event that is held on the beach under the tents, or on hotel rooftops. So, we’re looking for an opportunity to take that chance, and with any luck, we’ll plan it so anyone can attend it as a stand-alone event, just another part of the overall festival.

Keep your fingers crossed, but I believe it’s time to show the world of wine and food that cigars are part of the good life, and part of the fine-dining experience.
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