The Art of the Good Cigar

A Matter of Taste

A Matter of Taste

Posted by herfergrrl on June 15, 2006

Welcome to Herfergrrl’s tasty blog on good things to smoke, eat and drink.  Pull up a comfy chair and light up a fine smoke.  You’re invited to come and relax with me for awhile and sensually enjoy, if only virtually, a few of the finer things in life.

I can be reached at my WordPress handle @ Gmail.com if you’d like to see something reviewed, or if you’d like to comment privately on one of my articles, or obtain permission to repost something you read here.  This is a collection of my writing that spans a number of years, and I would appreciate the courtesy of a request if you want to republish any of it.  Thank you, and I wish you a good meal, a tasty drink and a fine smoke as you enjoy my blog.

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Cigar products in review: Smokeless ashtray from Cheaphumidors.com

Posted by herfergrrl on July 11, 2009

The smokeless “cigar” ashtray from Cheaphumidors.com doesn’t actually accommodate cigars.  On the picture it looks like this ashtray is a comfortable size to hold your stogie while sucking down the loose smoke, but it lies.  You can’t see how short the space actually is inside the lid until you hand them your credit card and have the item shipped to you.  In the past I’ve been pretty happy with what I’ve bought there – their humidors are good product for a fair price – but this is just plain deceptive advertising. This product sucks all right, and I don’t mean just smoke.

An attempt to place a cigar (a tasty Indian Tabac Candela toro, courtesy of CasaDooley) in the ashtray results in disaster. The holes where you are supposed to be putting your cigar don’t actually go anywhere. They are nowhere near deep enough to accommodate more than an inch of cigar inside them, making the balance annoyingly difficult.  Only one of the four rests can hold anything wider than a cigarette, and none of them can handle anything longer than a cigarette.

WTF, guys.  If I buy a cigar ashtray from a cigar site that is advertised to be for cigars, I expect it to actually, you know, be able to hold a cigar.  Is that an unreasonable expectation?  Apparently.

It does suck in the smoke while the cigar is precariously jammed inside, but there is also nowhere for the cigar ash to go, so it piles up precariously in a tiny space and starts edging out pretty quickly.  Taking the lid off the ashtray doesn’t actually help much either; the cigar is still jammed up against a central plastic unit that knocks off the ash and makes it tough to balance on the too-small rest.

The ash that is knocked off flakes all over the place as soon as you pull the cigar back out, making a huge mess.  Basically you will have a “shedding cigar” leaving ash trails everywhere, because putting it in the ashtray damages it.  And even if you don’t mind a huge mess on your carpet, that kind of damage doesn’t do good things for the quality or temperature of your smoke.  A good solid ash makes for a cooler, more pleasant smoking experience.  You won’t get one if you’re using this ashtray.

Not happy. Not happy at all.  I do not know what they were thinking when they decided that this product was made for cigars. It’s definitely not.  It may work for cigarettes, but for cigars it’s a sadly disappointing waste of time and money.  I really don’t see this thing being of any use in a cigar smoking household, but fortunately I’ve been told that they will accept a return on the product.   The folks at Cheaphumidors.com normally have good products and good judgment, but they made a bad call carrying this one.    Two thumbs down on this ashtray.

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Cigars in review: Gurkha Titan Titan Maduro

Posted by herfergrrl on July 9, 2009

This was a big fat appetizing looking stick wrapped in cedar at the foot, with a satisfying heft. Pre-light aroma was mild and pleasant, a bit earthy.  It took a couple of serious toastings to get this bad boy lit, but once it really got going it stayed going. The first puffs were strongly earthy and peaty, with moss, lichen, wood and wild mushrooms. It tasted like I was smoking the forest floor. Interesting, but not particularly good. Not horribly bad either, just interesting.

An inch or so in, the flavor of wood fire toasted marshmallows started mellowing out the peat and mushrooms with a touch of sweetness. At this point it became mildly enjoyable. I was thinking at that point that this cigar wouldn’t be a bad food pairing with a dish of venison and morel mushrooms in a dark, creamy black truffle sauce.

Another few inches in and the forest floor came back up to hit me in the face, along with the charred ashes of the fire that had toasted the marshmallows. There was still some enjoyment left in the smoke on a slow nose exhale, but the aftertaste had gone a bit sour and ashy. I ditched it at that point as it just didn’t interest me any more.

Verdict: Not a terrible cigar, there is some merit and interest here if you like a strongly earthy/mushroomy and complex flavor profile. A potentially interesting food match with “gamy” meat and dark, rich, earthy flavors (black truffles, morels, trumpet mushrooms, dried porcini, dried cherries, star anise, some intense red wines, etc). Not gonna be my go-to stick. Doubt I’d smoke another one unless I had a specific food and drink pairing in mind.

Sample menu recommendation: Venison medallions crusted in dried porcini and cracked red peppercorns, wrapped in brown sugar cured wild boar bacon on a bed of sauteed morels and wild rice. Demiglace and brandy reduction sauce with black truffles and sun-dried apricots. An intense old vine Zinfandel wine to drink, or possibly a very dark stout beer.

This stick doesn’t get any thumbs up from the Herfergrrl, but it’s not exactly a thumbs-down either.  If you like this taste profile, or if you are planning a food or drink pairing that involves a lot of dark, peaty, earthy, mushroomy flavors, the Gurkha Titan Titan maduro would not be a bad choice.

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Cigar Talk: Getting Rid of Cigar Smell

Posted by herfergrrl on July 8, 2009

For many of us, the potent aroma of a fine cigar can be a delicious undertone to convivial socializing and conversation. The taste and smell of a good, hand rolled cigar is an enjoyable and relaxing part of the day for many connoisseurs. But even the most dedicated cigar enthusiast will admit that no one loves the stale reek that follows some hours after, when the volatile oils released from the formerly aromatic tobacco have degraded and gone sour and nasty.

And of course, our non smoking companions may appreciate this smell even less than we do, since they have not partaken of the pleasures that preceded. So in deference to our spouses, friends, dates and business colleagues, the issue of personal hygiene after smoking can become a crucial one.

Here are ten useful steps that you might try to help eliminate lingering cigar odors from your household and your person.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Cigars in review: Bucanero Salsa

Posted by herfergrrl on July 7, 2009

The Bucanero Salsa is well named – it is a huge, bold, peppery and spicy cigar with a kick like Cajun hot sauce.   Smoother earthy and chocolaty notes that develop midbody save it from being too one-dimensional,  leaving a distinct molé sauce finish that lingers pleasantly.  Priced at a reasonable $5, this cigar delivers some decent value, and will become a favorite of people who really appreciate some “kick to their stick”.

Suggested food and drink pairings:  Anything strong or spicy; this cigar will definitely be a standup partner.  If budget isn’t an issue, here’s my recommendation for the perfect menu pairing.

Try matching this cigar with a meal of crisp blue corn tacos stuffed with slow cooked beef brisket, cilantro, oven roasted tomatillos and a devilishly spicy corn and black bean salsa.  Serve with a scoop of cold sour cream and ancho chile hot sauce drizzled on top, and chile-dusted sweet potato fries on the side.    Negra Modelo beer or Cuban mojitos would pair very nicely with these flavors, giving the “Salsa” cigar a chance to live up to its name as the “third sauce” for a delicious meal.   ¡Buen apetito!

Manufacturer’s website: http://www.bucanerocigars.com

Nutritional information:
Belicoso, 6 X 54
Habanos Criollo wrapper, Dominican/Nicaragua fillers

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Cigars in review: Bucanero Cañon

Posted by herfergrrl on July 7, 2009

The maduro version of this pleasingly plump and tasty little cigar is a cocoa-dusted treat, with notes of rich chocolate, pepper and tar.  As the flavor develops, the cocoa and spice notes predominate, along with hints of woodsiness and nuttiness.  The finish is pleasant and savory, with just a bit of sweetness.  Well balanced and subtle, with excellent flavors.

In the natural wrapper, this cigar turns into a bright, clean smoke with very appetizing savory notes, with the delicious aromas of toasted hazelnuts and fragrant woodsiness.  The finish is long, complex and tasty, with plenty of depth and richness despite the relatively mild to medium bodied character of this smoke.  There is a whole lot of taste going on in the Bucanero Cañon for under $5, making it an excellent value in the current economy.

Manufacturer’s Website: http://bucanerocigars.com/

Nutritional information:  6 X 60, Connecticut shade or Maduro wrapper, Dominican filler

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Cigar Talk: Pre-Embargo Hype?

Posted by herfergrrl on July 6, 2009

Only somewhat tongue-in-cheek, here is a list entitled “Why Pre-Embargo Cuban Cigars Suck”.

1. If you like them, you’re totally screwed. You can’t get any more. Your tears will flavor all those lesser sticks for years.

2. If you don’t like them, you’re totally screwed. You probably paid a ridiculous amount for that stick. And guess what – there are better smokes out there for that amount of money. And you’re gonna feel like an idiot because you knew that already.

3. You just burned up a piece of cigar history like a selfish asshole. It’s kind of like beating up and mugging a dignified elder statesman for your personal smoking pleasure. And now don’t you feel bad? No? Well, okay, me neither.

Even if they’ve been very well kept, old cigars taste like old cigars. There is a papery mustiness to them, and a delicacy of taste and aroma that may not appeal to palates that enjoy a heartier, heavier smoke. A keen palate may rave about the subtlety of the aroma and the intricacy of structure that is like fragile but still beautiful lace, communing with the wise and whispering ghost of what must have been incredible raw power in its heyday. But if you’re used to smoking the best and the strongest of the modern cigars, you may just wrinkle your nose and go “huh? What’s all this fuss about? I’d rather have a Tatuaje.”

And that’s the very best of the older lot; not all will survive the test of time. Occasionally you’re just gonna wrinkle your nose and go, “Damn, I think I’m smoking my grandmother’s underwear” when all there is left is age and mustiness. Or you’ll be smoking nothing at all, because whatever there was in the cigar to begin with has faded completely and vanished into the years. That’s a pretty sad disappointment if you’ve paid enough for such a stick to fund a whole box of Tatuajes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wildcrafting: A gathering of snails

Posted by herfergrrl on July 6, 2009

I ordered a dish of snails in garlic butter recently at a nice French restaurant, which reminded me of how very delicious these slimy little mollusks can be.  So I went on a quest for Helix aspersa, otherwise known as the common garden snail, otherwise known as escargot.  Yep, this is the secret that fancy French restaurants do not want you to learn so they can keep charging you $8.95 for half a dozen of them.  There are a few Helix species that are considered primo eating, and one of them is indeed the one which you see all over your garden in much of North America.

Heliculture isn’t all that hard; basically you pick up as many snails as you have room for, put them in a well ventilated container with some tasty herbs for a few days (I recommend rosemary, garlic greens and fennel) then take away all plant material, wash the snails and put them in an empty container for a week or so to allow gastric emptying.  Spray them daily with water.  Wash the snails again when they’re done processing the nice herbs, then let them dry (no water) for another few days.  In a pinch you can skip feeding them anything and simply purge them with a few days of water spraying and a few more days of drying out, but I like putting them on fresh rosemary for awhile and gloating over the plump little beauties in anticipation of a snail feast.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Foodporn: Dinner at Deluxe

Posted by herfergrrl on July 6, 2009

Life is good.   I was the blessed recipient of a bumper crop of fine ripe yuzu fruit, a type of intensely fragrant Japanese citrus, and some lovely Fuyu persimmons, so I figured it would be worthwhile to see what Keith Rhodes over at Deluxe in Wilmington could do with them.  Dinner was very, very good.

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Good Eats: Homemade duck prosciutto

Posted by herfergrrl on July 6, 2009

Holy fuckamoly, homemade duck proscuitto is good.  It’s like crack.  Every time I make some, I have to forcibly restraining myself from “sampling” it so much that there won’t be any left to share.

To make it, get your hands on a couple of duck breasts.  Or better yet a couple dozen, but quantity isn’t important.  Dry them and rub them down liberally with sea salt, cinnamon, white pepper and brown sugar.  Add a few shakes of ground cloves and nutmeg.  Put them in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight.  In the morning drain the resulting sludge, dry the breasts and re-apply all the dry seasonings.  This time arrange the breasts in a single layer over a strainer, put the strainer in a larger bowl to catch the drippings, and leave that in the fridge.  Over the next day or two, keep draining sludge and re-applying the dry seasonings, turning every 3-4 hours during the day.  At the end of 48 hours of curing, rinse off all the seasoning, dry thoroughly, re-apply just the brown sugar and perhaps a sprinkling of cinnamon and white pepper, and place the breasts in a food dehydrator for the next 24 hours.  You can also cook them in a very slow oven (not the best results) or continue dry-curing for a week to get the desired results.

Disclaimer: Eating raw or partially raw poultry is a Bad Idea, so if you have concerns about your immune system or are worried about salmonella, this product should be cooked before being eaten.

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Good Eats: It’s Berry Season

Posted by herfergrrl on July 6, 2009

It’s that time of year again, when fresh berries of all kinds are in season.  Local “U-Pick” farms are doing a brisk business, and enthusiastic foodies are busily engaged in an orgy of berry cooking, canning, freezing and just plain eating.  Even for low carbers who normally eschew fruit, berries can be on the menu, as they pack the absolute best – and tastiest – nutrient to carbohydrate ratios.  You can buy them at the store or the farm stand, of course, but for sheer sensuality of experience as well as economy of pocketbook, nothing beats spending the day picking them yourself.

The sun is an alchemist.  Fat ripe berries release their hold and tumble down from the thorny vines at the least provocation to cook slowly on the grass, fermenting softly or half-drying to a concentrated sugary sweetness.  The tenacious ones that cling to their stems past ripeness ferment more subtly, their sap turning to living wine.  I gather this windfall and eat like a happy animal, my hands and tongue and lips stained, not minding the occasional bit of grass or earth.   I saw a fat larva wiggle away from one crushed fruit, and I let it go, but doubtless a few of its siblings provided a not-unwelcome bit of fruit-fed protein.  Today I am a bear emerging from its den to taste the fruits of summer, and human sensibilities seem very far away.  My paws are sticky; I will lick them clean.

The sweetness of windfall fruit, sun-warmed and bursting on the tongue, is an evanescent thing that cannot be recaptured any other time in the season.  Into the bucket goes the fruit that will survive the packing, ripe but still firm.  This judicious harvest will have to hold me until next time.  And the fruit is good, but never as good as the moment it is picked, sun-warmed and yielding softly in my hands.

Blackberries are living jewels.  The sun turns them into translucent multi-faceted rubies, as dark and rich as the blood from a serpent’s heart.  I ate one half-ripe crimson cluster, not because it would be sweet, but because it was beautiful.

The sensual animal in me knows only the pleasure of ripe fruit bursting with sweetness against teeth and tongue, but when I am recalled to thought I am in awe.  The process of evolution that creates beauty in a seed sheathed in a fleshy endocarp rich in levulose and bioflavinoids, as well as the perception of beauty in the creatures who are thus lured to become the plant’s mobile agents of reproduction, is amazing in its complexity.  There is food here for the aesthete and the philosopher as well as the hungry animal, and I am grateful.

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