Cigar Aficionado

Random Summer Thoughts

It’s always hard as summer winds down, and you’re left wondering how the last three months disappeared. The 2009 version, in the Northeast, will be remembered as one of the coolest, wettest summers on record, although the last couple of weeks have been making some headway on the temperature front. But I can’t complain. There were some fun excursions on my itinerary.

What a great city! My wife and I started our week’s vacation there with a couple of long-time friends. Our first target was dinner at Toqué, Normand Laprise’s restaurant in downtown. We had a multi-course tasting menu that was a riotous combination of local ingredients, and a deft touch with everything from wild strawberries to foie gras. Of course, it was too much food, but who cared; every bite was delicious. We talked with Chef Laprise, and there was a brief lament about the days when a good cigar could follow a great meal. But Canada is like everywhere else in the world today—no smoking.

The next night served up the real reason to be in Montreal: The International Fireworks Competition. The contest runs on eight consecutive Saturday nights starting in June, and culminating in late August. It is like an Olympics of fireworks, with one nation each night being represented by a fireworks display company. We saw the United States (the defending champion), which was represented this year by Melrose Pyrotechnics from the United States, which had won the Gold Jupiter Award (1st Place) in 2006. The theme was Reel Movies, and the soundtrack for the 30-minute show was taken from well-known Hollywood movies. It’s hard to describe a show built around more than a dozen theme songs, but suffice it to say it was like watching 30 minutes of grand finales from the greatest fireworks show you’ve ever attended. It’s worth the trip to Montreal just for this annual event. The United States, by the way, finished third this year; Canada was the winner.

New Orleans
I guess this was my summer for French-inspired cities. The annual International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association convention was held in New Orleans in August.  It was the 17th time I’ve attended this show, because it was where we launched Cigar Aficionado in 1992. I have a lot of old friends there, and more people who I know than I can even manage to talk to during three days.

All in all, I walked away from the convention with a good vibe. Yes, things are tough out there on the street, but if someone is telling you otherwise, they probably aren’t telling you the whole truth. A lot of retailers, however, say business is just fine. The same report comes from most manufacturers. The outliers are the ones not doing well, not the other way around.

I had a couple of great dinners. One with Cano and Tim Ozenger of C.A.O. and their Danish partners one night. Another night with Robbie Levin of Ashton, and two highlights; Cynthia Fuente-Suarez for awhile, and then her father, Carlos Fuente Sr. Both nights were delightful, and a reminder of just why I don’t ever mind this kind of business travel because I end up with friends.

New York

The summer is winding down. It’s not that New York becomes like Paris in August, but there is a noticeable slowing down of the city during the last two weeks of the month. I even drove to work today: 45 minutes door to door without one slowdown due to traffic. That never happens in a normal week.

And, we’re getting geared up for a big fall. A great November/December issue. Two Big Smokes, Las Vegas and New York. And, with any luck, some sunshine and warm weather. A chance to smoke a few cigars on the golf course.