Part Two: Las Vegas Big Smoke Saturday Seminars

Lunch With The Experts

It is amazing how a group of enthusiastic cigar smokers can give a fairly sterile hotel ballroom the warm, convivial atmosphere of a cigar bar or local pub. This is exactly what happened at the Big Smoke's "Ask Your Own Expert" luncheon, a relaxed opportunity for attendees to talk one-on-one with members of the cigar world.

By noon on Saturday, the Big Smoke attendees had already heard from some of the biggest names in the cigar business, listened to tales from the industry's sage patriarchs, and gained new insight to the world of cigars. But three hours of even the most engaging cigar talk is bound to spark an appetite, so over 500 cigar smokers extinguished their stogies and headed down the Venetian's escalators to the third floor where they joined more industry experts for casual conversation over lunch.

For the first time in the Big Smoke's history, however, the lunch was a nonsmoking event. Nevada's new ban prohibits smoking in a room where food is being served, but this didn't appear to discourage the crowd, who had been smoking all morning anyway and was ready for a meal. A starter course of baby field greens salad and mild herb vinaigrette dressing paved the way for a Wagyu beef filet topped with wild mushroom fricassee and porcini jus, followed by an artfully presented dome-shaped cheesecake for desert. Lunch was complemented by ample pours of Rodney Strong Meritage red wine from California.

Carlos Fuente Jr. with Frank Lanzillo, left, and Howard Meyerson.

Representatives from the cigar industry sat at every table, each giving out samples of their cigars for later.

"To say I am enjoying the Big Smoke could qualify as the understatement of the year," said Kevin Godbee. He came all the way from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to attend. "It was like I died and went to cigar lifestyle heaven. Even though we are meeting many people for the first time, we all seem like old friends joined by the love of the cigar lifestyle."

"The crew at my table said that this was the best Big Smoke they'd ever been to as far as the seminars go," said Pete Johnson, the owner of the Tatuaje brand and one of the table hosts. "They didn't really seem to care that we couldn't smoke in the ballroom, and I got a lot of questions about blending cigars and how I work with Pepin, and there was a lot of talk about the antismoking laws."

Alan Rubin

Alan Rubin, owner of Alec Bradley Cigars, was impressed at how receptive his table was. "Most of the conversation was about the seminars and how much they enjoyed them," said Rubin. "But cigar smokers always want more information about the process of making cigars and a lot of conversation took place on how I come up with my blends. Although we're cigar manufacturers, we're all cigar smokers just like them who really enjoy the camaraderie."

The lunch concluded Saturday's Seminars, giving the Big Smoke guests and crew time to rest up for the next day's cigar adventures.

Cigar Rolling
Cigar Blending
Fathers and Sons

Charlie Palmer Breakfast
Roll Your Own
Mas Tequila

Friday and Saturday Night

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