Beware of Russian Models!

As part of our cigar review for this week’s Happy Hour posts, we’re going to highlight some friendly advice from our cigar reviewer Bob Hritsko. He and his friends had an interesting experience recently when partying down in Miami, and the story is worth sharing again.

Like every spring for the last seven years, I make a pilgrimage to South Florida to visit my brother for a long weekend. We hit the beach, smoke too many cigars, drink way too many beers (vodkas, rums, etc.), but it serves to decompress me and rejuvenate the soul. Well, this year, I decided to invite some old friends, some that I grew up with and others who I have become good friends with in my adult years. The prep and logistics for pulling this off proved to be a little work, but it was something I truly enjoyed planning and — in the end — pulling off! There were eight of us who traveled to the Miami area, and we had a number of folks, who were already in the area, join us. Needless to say, we all reverted back to our college days and the attitude of those days, and just had a blast! As I have said before in this column, Miami is certainly a venue fitting for this type of event and it is my favorite “party” city, partially due to its relative cigar-friendly nature.

However, I must warn those of you who might consider doing this sort of thing next year, especially if you who don’t get around that much. In Miami, everything is not what it appears; I hope this is not a shocking revelation to most of you. If it is, you may want to take a spring break elsewhere. A phenomenon occurred this year that was new to me. One night, the whole group of us went out to one of the swankier bars in South Beach, a long-time favorite of mine. Not long after getting settled in, I sensed something a little unusual. A young, attractive 20-something woman smiled at me and would occasionally flash a glance my way, showing some clear interest. Twenty minutes later, the same thing happened – but a completely different girl this time. I had a few drinks in me already, (well, more than a few), but I knew that I wasn’t hallucinating. Now don’t get the wrong idea, for a 40-something guy I am no ogre (in my biased opinion). Back in the day, women who were in the same league as these two were fair game (naturally, before I got married), but all the booze in Miami was not going to get me to believe that these young ladies found my more “mature” looks that intriguing, especially with some of the younger gentlemen running around, who looked like they did nothing but hit the gym and tan on the beach all day.

Naturally, I had to share these events with the group. To my surprise, this same phenomenon was being experienced by a number of others in the group. My brother, a long-time resident of South Florida, shared his Miami wisdom: these “ladies” were likely Russian hookers looking for some “fat cats” with fat wallets to help drive some income for themselves in these tough economic times. It was now oh so clear to us, mostly guys with simple Midwestern roots. It was also a little humbling to learn the truth. But on the other hand it was also quite funny that we could be mistaken for “fat cats” loaded with money. In hindsight, there we were, in our new Tommy Bahama knock-off silk shirts, mine with a couple of seemingly expensive cigars tucked in the breast pocket, getting the VIP treatment due to the bottle service we opted for, because buying by the drink was determined to be more expensive. We did look and act like “fat cats” for one night, and we had some fun doing so.

With the vast majority us being classic family men, we would never consider buying what these girls were selling. In the end, the foolers were the ones who were fooled, although by accident. On the other hand, it made for some good conversation and laughs among the boys (which is all the fun we intended to buy on this trip anyway). So, enjoy an old-fashioned, college-like spring break next year. Dress the part, load your silk shirts with cigars, but be careful – don’t allow yourself to get fooled.

The advice is simple – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Also, you can always manipulate a situation in your favor, though it’s a little harder to pull off when you’re loaded on beer and vodka.

Check out the rest of Bob’s article for his review of Oliva Serie O – Maduro.

  

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Cigar Review: Omar Ortez Belicoso

The weekend is almost here, and the first Happy Hour post this week will cover an inexpensive cigar you can light up to kick off the weekend.

Of course, you’ll have to find a place to smoke it, and enjoying a good cigar is getting tougher these days, as Bob Hritsko learned when he traveled to Hawaii.

A couple of informational items regarding the allowance of cigar smoking recently came to my attention and again, I cannot help but point out the irony and just how topsy-turvy this world can sometimes be. The first, a reader responding in a recent issue of “Cigar Aficionado” commented on the fact that he could not help but notice the freedom that smokers had in a certain country that has little freedom, both personally and politically. The reader, in his commentary, could not help but wonder at the irony that the United States of America, the self-proclaimed land of the free and certainly one of the most personal and politically free countries in the world, does not grant a man more freedom when it comes time to light up his favorite cigar!

I recently suffered this same irony when I traveled to Hawaii for the first time. Knowing that I would be in an ideal climate and frame of mind for some good cigar smoking, I thought that I would do some research in advance to ensure that my cigar smoking would be in compliance with Hawaiian laws. To my surprise, the laid back, “hang loose” Hawaiian culture is pretty uptight when it comes to cigar smoking. In sum, there is virtually nowhere indoors to smoke. You are limited to designated outdoor smoking areas, often in far off corners in the many open-air venues in Hawaii. I now know how lepers must have felt a century ago. However, my research led me to marvel at one exception in particular where it was okay to smoke indoors in the state of Hawaii — you are allowed to light up in jails and penitentiaries! Yes, you are reading this correctly! Here in America we have at least one state that grants more smoking freedoms to an incarcerated criminal than the law-abiding good citizen, who is on vacation, spending his money and keeping the economy going. Go figure!

So, if you want to enjoy a good cigar when kicking off your weekend festivities, make sure you check around and find a spot that let’s you enjoy it.

As for the cigar, Bob reviews the Omar Ortez Belicoso:

RATING: 8.7 (on a scale of 1 to 10) – I like this cigar and it is a very good value. If you like Rocky Patel’s Edge, I would suspect that you will enjoy the Omar Ortez cigar, and you ought to give it a try. My only complaint, and it is the primary reason I cannot rate this cigar higher, is the burn on the first two cigars I smoked was inadequate. The cigar would often need to be relit, because it went out quite quickly, numerous times. I rested the last of the three sticks I bought for three months in my humidor, thinking that the cigars might have been brought to market a little too early. The last of my Omar Ortez cigars was smoked recently and it burned perfectly! I don’t recall ever having to do this with an Edge. Given the similar taste profiles and similar price point, I still prefer the Edge. Like the Edge, it is an excellent smoke to pair with smoky bourbon or an earthy scotch.

  

Escaping the “Anywhere, USA” phenomenon

In his latest cigar review for Partagas – Spanish Rosado, Bob Hritsko addressed an interesting topic in the introduction.

Whether you travel a little or a lot, you can’t help but notice the “Anywhere, USA” phenomenon. This is the term that I have for the incorporating and franchising of Americas cities, where no matter what city you are in, it is getting more difficult to find something original, especially restaurants, bars or even retail stores. Whether I am in Dallas, Charlotte, Las Vegas or anywhere, there they are — McDonalds, Starbucks, Applebee’s, Chili’s, etc. They can usually be found near the suburban malls with all the stores you know, right across the street from the Holiday Inn, Marriott Courtyard, etc.

Many of you know that I will often seek out cigar-friendly bars and establishments in the cities I visit. The draw of doing so is simply to escape the boring, repetitive convenience of traveling to Anywhere, USA, at least once in awhile. I have found the cigar-friendly establishments to be often unique venues in themselves; all the big chains have to be politically correct and ban any type of smoking, so they don’t upset their mainstream client base. The other advantage of a cigar-friendly joint is that it tends to be a little more social in nature, as a smoke is a commitment of a chunk of your time. If you are in a hurry and want to be left alone, a cigar lounge is not the place for you. Chatting with the folks in these establishments will usually provide you with the local information about other original places to experience in town.

I recently had the pleasure of doing so recently in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., visiting one of the original cigar bars in Florida, Macabi Cigar Bar on Las Olas Blvd. Once inside this dimly lit, quaint bar, I knew I stepped off the beaten path. The founder/owner, “Pat” Patel, was on hand to greet me. The plentiful selection of cigars was presented openly along the walls of the bar, a concern at first, as I wondered if the cigars could be properly cared for and maintained in this atmosphere. I was assured that the humidity and temperature were monitored. I selected a Partagas cigar and settled in for an excellent selection of beers on tap.

We’ve lost quite a bit over the years as our country has become dominated by suburbs and strip malls. Like Bob, many of us appreciate it when you can find a unique spot. That’s why cities like New York and New Orleans still have so much charm – you don’t have to look hard at all.

  

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