As the Big Smoke Saturday morning seminars came to a close, much unlike the clouds of cigar smoke left floating above the Mirage Hotel & Casino's Convention Events Center, the cigar-loving attendees did not linger. Lunch with La Flor Dominicana was next on the bill, provoking guests to filter out of the smoky auditorium in rapid succession and into the dining hall. For after a morning of intriguing seminars, vibrant discussions between Cigar Aficionado editors and top industry professionals and the smoking of great cigars, it was clear that everyone had worked up quite an appetite.
"The guys who come to these seminars are the real hardcore cigar smokers. We love you guys," said Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana, as he addressed the crowd. Behind the podium, posters of his most recent offerings—Coronado and La Nox—served as the backdrop.
Gomez backed up his statement by passing out two ligero-rich cigars strong enough to satisfy the boldest of cigar smokers. Big Smoke diners were treated to a 1994 Churchill cigar, measuring 7 inches by 54 ring guage, and an Air Bender Chisel, a uniquely-shaped 6 1/2 by 52 ring cigar with a flat, tapered head resembling a long-bladed hand tool. The cigar selection also served as a testament to executive editor David Savona's opening remarks that Litto is always "pushing the bounds of tradition," with his strong tobacco and innovative shapes.
The strong cigars paired well with the hearty lunch menu, which began with The Mirage Classic Caesar salad made with romaine lettuce, house-made croutons, shaved parmesan and a chipotle Caesar dressing, followed by an entrée of barbecued beef short ribs, served with parmesan and mushroom risotto and a medley of farm-fresh vegetables. The meal was paired with a 2012 Conundrum California red wine, which guests savored until a dessert of Vanilla Crème Brûlée with fresh berries and a Sablé cookie arrived, along with coffee.
As guests dined, Litto Gomez spoke on the educational benefits of the seminars, remarking on how they helped him as a former jewelry storeowner-turned-cigarmaker in the mid-1990s.
"A lot of the information that helped me become a cigarmaker came from these seminars," he said proudly, before inviting to the stage his wife and La Flor co-founder, Ines Lorenzo-Gomez, along with son Antonio Gomez, who has been working at the company for the past six years.
Gomez remarked on how proud he was for how far they've come, from running a tiny factory in Tamboril, Dominican Republic to an operation with 75 rollers and his son at the helm for the future.
"I feel great about the future of the company, with our new brands, and the future of the company with Tony."
The seminar attendees listened on with admiration for Litto and the success of his company. Then, as lunch concluded, they retreated for a few hours rest before another fun-filled Big Smoke evening.