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Out of the Humidor

The Editors
From the Print Edition:
Orlando Hernandez, Mar/Apr 99

(continued from page 10)

After receiving the Chinese official nod to use this particular section of the Great Wall (a not-so-minor achievement in itself), there were the logistics involved in putting together cocktails and a six-course, black-tie dinner with premium Champagne, fine wines and three varieties of cigars for 90 people in a location some two hours away from civilization.

Our food and beverage manager, Robert Logan, and executive chef, Daniel Lichtensteiger, plus a hotel staff of 50, had to put together an on-site kitchen piecemeal early during the day. Power generators, a grand piano and portable loos were just a few of the items that were likewise hauled over the arduous steps. Over the course of the dinner, the chef's creativity and culinary skills were matched by the service staff's muscle power in climbing the steps of the Great Wall, bearing the artfully arranged dishes.

Peter L.J. Finamore,
General Manager
The Palace Hotel, Beijing

* * *

Dear Marvin,

In the summer of 1996 I had the opportunity of visiting Lebanon for the first time. I was traveling with family (in-laws) and upon arriving at Beirut International Airport, we were waived past customs and all the long lines, including baggage claim. It seems as if my wife's (fiancee at the time) uncle, a retired general in the Lebanese army, had something to do with this. The vacation was truly an experience of dispelling stereotypes about the Middle East, specifically Lebanon. The people I met, relatives and friends made, were all very warm and hospitable.

The meals were lavish, at times overwhelmingly abundant in variety and quantity, and the personal attention by the restaurants' staffs, impeccable. Many of the tourist attractions were breathtaking and pristine, due to the lack of foreign tourism.

For me, however, the most memorable experience was walking into a local grocery store and finding a glass-enclosed walk-in humidor the size of two telephone booths, stocked with boxes of Cuban cigars. As I slid the glass door behind me upon entering, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Beautifully stacked boxes of Bolivar, Cohiba, El Rey Del Mundo, Upmann, Montecristo, Partagas and Romeo y Julieta surrounded me. As I gazed upon the prices on each box and did the monetary conversions necessary to buy some cigars, a feeling of dismay overcame me. I realized that any one of those boxed cigars could cost me much more than a few dollars. I chose one box of Montecristo No.3s, which I generously shared with my future uncle-in-law, the general, during the remainder of my vacation. And though I no longer have any of the Montecristos, the memory of that summer day in the Cuban-stocked glass humidor lingers like a plume of smoke.

Harry N. Bobotis
Anderson, South Carolina

* * *

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