Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday at the Hut - 6/26/10

Saturday at The Tobacco Hut saw me smoking some of the tobacco I purchased at Bennington's in Sarasota on our recent trip to Key Largo. Last week I smoked their No. 15 and this week I tried their No. 05. Their website describes the tobacco as "Golden brown burley from Kentucky and Tennessee is expertly blended with flue-cured Virginia Ribbon and Cyprus Latakia. The secret to this blend is its pleasant aroma, yet unlike many aromatics, the smoke is fuller-bodied, cooler and satisfying." I found it a very nice smoke indeed, similar to Lou's Alaskan Gold, with the addition of the Virginia.

We missed Joe today as he is still recovering from a kidney stone procedure he endured earlier in the week. I'd lend you my kidney, my friend, but it's the only one I've got! I was hoping to see Peter and his fedora so I could let him know that Paula and I ate at Hellas at the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks the night before. We got in trouble with him for eating at Red Lobster a couple weeks ago and was hoping we could redeem ourselves.

Adrian, whom I mentioned a couple weeks ago, came in and sat down to enjoy a cigar. I'm glad he was there so we could tap into his sports knowledge about the FIFA World Cup soccer game that was on TV: USA vs. Ghana. Yes, you read that correctly, Lou actually turned the from the Golf Channel to ABC so we could watch the soccer match. It was an exciting game but, as you probably know by now, the U.S. lost and wasn't able to advance to the next round.

I was very pleased to learn that Adrian is a chess player. Perhaps some Saturday I'll have to bring a small chess set I have to the Hut...It's sometimes hard to find chess players and as much as I'd like to trounce him in a game to avenge Ohio State's (my alma mater) loss to Adrian's favorite team, the University of Florida, in the 2007 BCS Championship, it would be fun just to play a casual over-the-board game.

Not much else going on. Hope to see everyone this Saturday. Get healthy, Joe!

 - Bob

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Saturday at the Hut - 6/19/10

Saturday at the Hut started a little early for me with a phone call from Mike G in Tennessee. My wife handed me the phone and with no introduction, I heard Mike's voice say, "When you go to The Tobacco Hut today I'd like you to pick up two La Gloria Cubanas and drive them 600 miles to the north. I'll be waiting on my front porch for them." It was great talking to Mike especially since I seem to keep missing him when he comes into town occasionally. He asked how Joe was enjoying his retirement and offered a tip on how to kill small projects around the house by describing them as very large projects: "Okay, honey, you want those flowers planted. I'm going to start by renting a backhoe..." Classic Mike.

In attendance today were Joe K, Peter G, Steve B, Ed B, myself, and Lou (of course). Steve brought a friend, Bobby, who - like Peter - has a near-encyclopedic knowledge of all things sports. I'm always amazed how people can hang on to little seemingly arcane bits of information about practically every team in every sport. I was glad to hear that Bobby was a Cleveland Indians fan and he's not even from Cleveland. I grew up there so it's kind of an automatic thing that I would be an Indians fan, but he's from Gainesville and made the choice voluntarily - wow!

On my recent trip to Key Largo, I was able to bring back Joe's favorite cigar, the La Gloria Cubana Artesanos de Tabaqueros. Joe first tried them at Lou's and fell in love, but they've been on back order ever since. I first tried the tobacco store in Key Largo, Island Smoke Shop, which is a large, well-stocked cigar store. They didn't have any de Tabaqueros, but I did pick up a sampler of their El Original line of house cigars. I brought back one for Lou and Peter and though I haven't tried one yet, Peter enjoyed his maduro torpedo.

On the trip back from the Keys, we drove through Sarasota, so I was able to stop at Bennington's at St. Armand's Circle. Boy, do I love this store! Hundreds of pipes, lots of tobacco choices, and very knowledgeable staff. I could spend all day in there, and I'm sure the hour we did spend seemed like all day to my wife. No new pipes since I had just purchased a new one a couple weeks ago in Boston, but I did pick up a couple Bennington blends of tobacco. And Joe's much-coveted de Tabaqueros cigar.

Saturday at the Hut I enjoyed one of those Bennington blends, No. 15. Like Lou, Bennington's blends their own tobacco and has since 1965. I had the privilege of speaking with Gary Bennington, who blends the tobaccos himself. They also stock a lot of commercial tins of tobacco, and Gary was able to point me in the direction of some of their mixes that mirror the commercial blends. I had actually come in with the intention of buying some more Frog Morton, but ended up with a couple packages of theirs.

I tried the No. 15 in a Crown Viking from The Tobacco Hut (are you reading, Tim?) and it was excellent. According to Gary, it was patterned after the famed Balkan Sobranie White Label, out of production for over a decade now. This tobacco is a light, medium-bodied English Mixture containing a high percentage of Turkish Yenidge leaf, flue-cured Golden Virginia Ribbon and Cyprus Latakia. At first, it burned a little hot, probably because of the Virginia, but it soon settled down and became a most enjoyable smoke, especially in the beautiful Crown Viking from The Tobacco Hut (still reading, Tim?).

Next week I'll try their No. 5, a mix of Latakia, Virginia, and Burley. Not sure which pipe I'll try it in. Maybe one of the other Crown Vikings from The Tobacco Hut, or one of the several Petersons I've picked up from The Tobacco Hut over the years. Maybe even the Comoy I bought from The Tobacco Hut. (Are you still with me, Tim?).

That's all for this week - cheers!

 - Bob

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saturday at the Hut - 6/12/10

The core regulars were in attendance today: Joe K, Peter G, and myself. Nice to see Steve B whom we haven't seen in awhile. We also welcomed Adrian into our midst. He is a regular customer but rarely sits down to enjoy a purchase. But this time, he spent the afternoon and we got to know him a little bit. Like Peter and the apparently-AWOL Barry, he is a walking sports encyclopedia.

Adrian, Lou, and I spent a good deal of time talking about labor unions and working for big companies. Lou is obviously a member of what journalist Tom Brokaw calls the "Greatest Generation." Not in the specific context of what Brokaw was talking about, i.e. fighting in WWII, but the general work ethic and loyalty that he has exhibited throughout his working life. Lou is a self-described "100% union man" and although we don't always agree on the subject of labor unions, I admire him for standing up for his principles what he's accomplished in his lifetime.

I did take some heat from Lou and Joe over last week's blog. Apparently Joe likes the Fox News Kool-Aid and isn't drinking it against his will. Joe, that stuff will rot your brain! Why not try the cool, pure waters of NPR?

Lou, sorry we misunderstood last week about the source of the USS Clinton question. It wasn't you asserting whether it existed or not, it was from an e-mail you received. And I guess when you said the USS Clinton in the context of the USS Reagan and fictional USS Obama, I inferred that you meant that the USS Clinton was named after President Bill Clinton. My bad.

Peter is obviously reading the blog because he brought the fedora back! Thank you, Peter! Sorry the picture isn't the best, but my camera phone is obviously more phone than camera, but you get the idea.

I liked my Cassano from L.J. Peretti's in Boston so much last week, that I brought it back and smoked it again this week. Again, it smoked like a champ all the way down. It has a light tan finish and it's already picking up some of the oils from my hand and darkening in places. I don't have many sandblasted pipes, so this is a nice addition to the collection.

Speaking of my collection of pipes and how they're mentioned from week to week on the blog, please read the post below this one entitled "An Open Letter to 'Tim'" post below this one, especially if you're Tim.

That's all for this week - cheers!
 - Bob

P.S. A shout out to James K for his recent engagement to Chantel. I know Joe and Val are excited to have Chantel as part of their family. Can't say that Chantel's family feels the same, but congratulations just the same! ;-)

An Open Letter to "Tim"

Tim, it has come to my attention that, in your opinion, I don't promote the pipes at The Tobacco Hut enough. That when I describe what I'm smoking in the blog, the pipes at Lou's must not be "good enough" because they don't get mentioned. I can only guess that you are referring to my most recent post where I describe the Cassano pipe I purchased while at L.J. Peretti's in Boston.

I take umbrage at this and have referenced the below blog posts to refute your accusation. In reviewing 60+ posts since late 2008, I have mentioned pipes obtained at The Tobacco Hut numerous times, admittedly not always saying where I got the pipe. Below, however, are the posts where I do talk about the pipe and that I had gotten it at Lou's.

1/10/09 - Ben Wade
2/3/09 - Sterncrest Estate Pipe
2/8/09 - Peterson
3/7/09 - Peterson Donegal
8/22/09 - Ben Wade
9/19/09 - Viking Crown
12/26/09 - Stanwell Freehand
5/8/10 - Viking Crown

The latest post that mentioned a pipe and where I got it was as recently as May 8. I suggest a more thorough reading of my blog before making such statements.

Indeed, the pipes at The Tobacco Hut are more than "good enough". In fact, fourteen of the pipes in my collection have come from Lou's. And in the March 7th post, I describe the Peterson Donegal as being one of the best smoking pipes I own.

Just setting the record straight.

 - Bob

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Saturday at the Hut - 6/5/10

Today was my first trip to The Tobacco Hut in a couple weeks. Last Saturday I was in Boston on business and later visiting with my brothers-in-law. The business part of the trip was awesome - I learned a lot and met some fantastic people. Yes, Joe, you'll get your cigar next week!

Paula flew up at the end of the week and we hung out with her brothers and family, did some touristy stuff exploring Boston and just enjoyed a long, relaxing weekend. I visited L.J. Peretti's, a tobacconist located near Boston Common. It's been around for 130 years and is a full service smoke shop. The store is crammed full of pipes, cigars, tobacco, and accessories. The help was a little crusty, but that just added to the charm of the place.

I picked up a tan sandblasted Cassano pipe while there (see above). I had never heard of the brand, but apparently it is fairly well-regarded, although it's not too well known in the U.S. They use 100-year-old oil-cured briar, designed to be easy to break in. I definitely found that to be true as I simply loaded up the bowl with some Frog Morton and lit up. It smoked like a champ from top to bottom, producing a nice, gray ash with very little unburned bits of tobacco. Here's a picture I snapped of it shortly before its inaugural smoke.

We had the usual folks at the Hut today: Joe K, Peter G, Lou (of course), and myself. We also had a new customer come in, Ed, who seemed like quite a nice fellow. By the way, I like the word "fellow" and I'm not happy that it's fallen out of common usage. "Guy" is so pedestrian. I'd like to bring back "fellow" similar to how Peter is doing his part to bring back the fedora. Speaking of which, we saw Peter with his fedora a couple weeks ago, but not today. Bring back the fedora!

Topics of discussion included how displeased Joe is with our President, but I refused to debate with him, no matter how much he's been drinking the Fox News Kool-Aid. We also discussed the almost-perfect game thrown by Detroit's Armando Gallaraga a couple nights ago and whether umpire Jim Joyce's bad call should be overturned. We were all, like most people, in favor of keeping the call, however bad, intact.

Lou was under the impression that it's been twenty years between this year's two perfect games and previous ones, but Peter and I corrected him. Just for the record, here are the years that the sport's twenty perfect games have been pitched: 1880(2), 1904, 1908, 1922, 1956, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1981, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009, 2010(2). Lou must have been remembering the 34-year gap between 1922 & 1956, the longest gap between perfect games.

Another dispute came up about whether former President Bill Clinton has a navy vessel named after him. Our cigar-smoking host thought there was, but Peter and I didn't think so. After I got home, I checked the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. There are two USS Clintons, neither was named after our cigar - um, smoking, President. The first was a tugboat commissioned in 1864 and served until 1870 in New York and Norfolk. The second USS Clinton was commissioned in February 1945 and served as a troop transport ship, earning a single battle star for service in WWII. It was decommissioned and scrapped in 1958.

And with that, today's history lesson is over. Hope to see everyone at the Hut next Saturday.

 - Bob