Sunday, 31 July 2011

Prawn to be Wild

Billingsgate fish market, 5:30 Saturday morning and myself and Jim pulled into what has to be the busiest car park in England for the time of day.  The place was packed with people rushing back to their cars, all laden with black sacks, mostly restaurant bound we thought.  Chinese, Japanese, African, Indian and Mediterranean, maybe even a few fish 'n' chip shops.

After struggling to find a spot to park, we were soon knee deep in fish guts and market types.  I lie, there were no fish guts.  The place was clean and busy, full of people and all sort of delights of the sea.  Some huge shark like things, enormous crabs, lobsters, shrimp, big fish, little fish, and of course, the famous white coated fish traders.  The men and women who take no prisoners and take the legs and ankles of any dawdlers.

I dawdled and a trolley smashed into the back of my left leg.  It hurt but I didn't let it show. 

Two boxes of Ecuadorian shrimp made their way into my possession before we headed back outside and home for breakfast.

I was actually given the wrong bag and nearly made off with a sack full of tuna but I only got a few feet before the guy called me back.

Next time I think we'll pick up a couple of lobsters and I might also learn how to gut a fish and get a sack full.

Those of you that can make it to Billingsgate should make the effort.  It's a great experience and not as scary as I thought it was going to be.  It is very busy but the sellers are all friendly and the quality of fish, for what you pay, is the best you're going to get.  The boxes I bought had roughly 50+ delicious good sized shrimp at £24 per box.  The last time I bought shrimp at Waitrose, they cost over £1 each.  We cooked up some for dinner yesterday and they are great.

After dropping the haul at my place, we took some Dublin white pudding and drove up to Jim's for pudding on toast.

The Graveyard

With our bellies full, we walked to the first cemetery of seven that we intend to visit over the coming months or years.  Abney Park which was opened in 1840 as a non-denominational cemetery and garden park.

The cigar I went for was a Ramon Allones Gigantes Double Carona.  One of the best cigars I've ever had.

I'm going to break the day into three or four parts as there's a lot to cover, and leave Abney park and the cigars for now.  Below are some pictures from a great day out.  We had great food, lovely Guinness, fantastic cigars, sunshine and adventure.

I only took one photo of Billingsgate but Jim has one that I'll get off him and post in a later blog.   That said, the best way to see it is to actually go to it.  I'll definitely be going back and highly recommend it.

I've got lots of photos of Abney Park which should make up for it. 

Big stick

Friday, 29 July 2011

Something Smells Fishy

Tomorrow, at the top of the morning, as we say in Ireland, allegedly, myself and the Wren Church Master who calls himself Jim, will be dragging our weary bones out of bed (not the same bed) and heading down to the famous Billingsgate fish market. 

I'm hoping I won't make a total fool out of myself in front of these tough fishmonger types, you know the kind, no nonsense working men, hard men, busy men, smelly men.  I wonder what will happen when I ponce up to the counter all confident like and say "Two fish please". 

I've bought fish before you know, but that fish came in a packet, or cooked.  These fish will still have eyes and other fishy parts still attached.  So not being one for guts, I'm going for shrimp.  Something I can cook with all the bits still attached and not have to worry.  "Two shrimp please".

We're off to the graveyard after that for some fun times then it's a cigar and a pint. 

To celebrate all this, I'm about to have a cigar that the wife bought me this week.  Another new one called a Winston Churchill Lancaster.  I'll tell you about it tomorrow.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Sun shines again

Things have been pretty bleak recently.  The sun has been as useful as a the proverbial chocolate teapot.  Lovely weather for ducks and plants.  If you spent 50 quid on an umbrella, you might have felt you were getting value for money.  The weather has been awful.

I, along with everybody else no doubt, was hoping and praying that the weekend would bring a break in the clouds, a ray of sunshine perhaps or at least something less than gale force 10.

I was up early Saturday morning for a golf appointment with Rob.  The last time I played golf was with my Dad so I was looking forward to getting out again and expecting big things.  What these big things were, I'm not sure.

6:30am.  The sky is black and the rain hammering down as I leave the house.

7:00am.  The sky softens and I've left the rain clouds behind.  Things are on the up.

7:30am.  We tee off and the sun is making sporadic appearances from behind the thick fluffy clouds.

That was pretty much it for the next 3 hours but the sun was out more often then not.  At least the weather was improving.  My golf on the the hand was not and Rob won the day.  To be fair, my mind wasn't really on it as I kept thinking back to the last time out with my Dad.

Anyway, I promised myself some nice cigars during the weekend, if I got the chance, and I had one particular cigar in mind.  I got it out, I gave it a sniff, then put it back.  I changed my mind.

The week after next is the fish market \ graveyard day out, so I decided on keeping it until then.  In it's place, I selected a Oliva Serie G Churchill.  I've had one before, this being the second one and it was good but not great.  A nice way to start the afternoon but it wasn't long before cigar number 2 was on the go.  This time, I went for one of the Partagas Serie P No. 2's picked up at Luxembourg airport. 

The cigar came out with a touch of mould over the pyramid end.  I took this to be a good sign of things to come and I was right.  I had two of these a few weeks back, and in that short time, the difference was noticeable.  This cigar was miles better than the last two, much fuller and much more enjoyable, so I'm glad I've two more in the humidor.

The last cigar of the day was monster, a Puros Indios Corona Gorda.  A huge 66 ring gauge that didn't need to be cut.  Either it was pre-cut or was rolled that way, I dunno, but this was a big fat stick like I've never had before.  Very light pre draw and it lit easily and continued with a good burn to the finish.  Not much to speak of in flavour.  Mostly show this one but not a bad cigar.

All smoked out, I called it a day.

Sunday started off sunny and stayed that way.  We were treated to the best day of July and to celebrate, I went for a special cigar, one that I last shared with the two amigos in Luxembourg.

As I was hanging out with my other two amigos, I thought I'd break one free of the menage a trois and share a bottle of vino with the wife.  This cigar is perfect.  I won't go on about it but I'll just say that this cigar should be enjoyed by everybody at least once in their life, and as many times as possible by cigar smokers.

I promised an update on Donnacha, who is now starting to speak.  He's developed an obsession with cars and spends most of his time talking about them, pointing at them, and generally getting all excited when he sees a new car, or one he saw moments ago but forgot about.

We put away the his play pen this weekend.  I suppose that's another milestone but it wasn't getting much use so it was time to put it away.  We replaced it with a pop up tent.  Somewhere for him to hide and to store his growing collection of cars I suppose.  The fact that I'm unable to get it back to it's pre-pop-up state has nothing to do with it.  He likes it so it's staying.

That about wraps up the weekend.  I probably over indulged a little bit but that's what it's all about.  Enjoy it while you can.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Mish Mash

After almost 3 weeks of the flu, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll ever get rid.  It's putting a serious crimp on my cigar smoking time.

Poor me I know but it's the cigars I worry about.  They're not going to smoke themselves you know.

One good thing to come from it though, is that the volume of cigars in the humidor hasn't diminished much, mostly due to some unexpected and much appreciated donations.

My Dad brought over two cigars that originated in Vegas.  One was damaged and fit for the bin but the other looked good enough so it's taken its place in the humidor.  A stripey stick, like a barbers pole but with brown stripes instead of red and white.  No band on the cigar but he did give me a card from the shop, but I lost it.  I also got some matches from Binion's, which was nice.

Then last week, Ina (Sister-in-law) brought a Santa Damiana Panatella and a Vasco Da Gama Whisky Cigar Corona.  I've had a few Damiana's in the past and thought they were alright, so no complains there.  The Vasco is a totally new one on me with some sort of whiskey infusion so that should be interesting.  I'm not going to let that one sit for too long, no longer than a couple of weeks, before I see what it's all about.

I did struggle through the pain on Saturday and in support of Darren Clarke, I decided a Cohiba was in order.  Had to be done and glad I did too, as it paid off and he won the Open.  You're welcome.

The Cohiba in question was a Coronas Especiales.  A smaller ring gauge to what I normally prefer, but as I only had two Cohibas to chose from, this one and a much bigger one, the smaller one seemed the sensible choice, seeing as it was chucking it down outside.

With little chance of a break in the weather, I decided to have everything ready just in case the rain stopped.  Cigar, beer and umbrella.  Hmm, not enough beer.

Anyway, God must have sat up and took notice because just as I was giving up, the sun broke through the misery and I got to work on the Coronas Especiales.  A great cigar this, one the wife got me about 4 or 5 weeks back.  Smooth and yummy, full of smoke with a perfect draw.  This is a powerful little stick and one that I would highly recommend.  A great burn and great value. When it comes to price, the Cohiba are always a little bit more expensive but you get what you pay for, and the quailty stands out.

About mid way through and the rain was back.  So with umbrella up, I sat alone in the garden, happy with just my little Cohiba to keep me company.  Thank God for Cohibas and golf umbrellas.

That's about it for now.  A short update I know but as I've said, health and the weather are not on my side.  I'm hoping I'll be fit enough by the weekend to enjoy a special stick that was picked up in Luxembourg.  Even if I don't smoke it, I might put a picture up because this is something worth sharing with the world either way.  Golf with Rob is booked for 7:30am Saturday so heres hoping the weather sorts itself out by then. 

I'll do an update on the boy in the next blog.  I know that's the only reason some of you read my blog.  He's becoming obsessed with cars.  No idea where he gets this obsessive behaviour from but we'll discuss it next time. Until then.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Where's Grandad?

My parents came to visit last weekend.  A few days hanging out with their Grandson (and me) should keep them happy for a while, but a weekend is only a short burst of happiness.  They won't be truly happy until we up sticks and move back to the Motherland.

I was suffering from the flu last week (still am) and we had a 6am start for golf on Saturday, so a quiet night was had on Friday, with a couple of beers and one cigar.  I went for a Hoyo Epicure No 1 which was picked up in the airport at Luxembourg.  They've got an OK selection at the airport and the cigars are good condition too.

The selection for international travelers is much better than what's available for those traveling inside the EU.  I say this because I spent a good 15 minutes trying to decide what I wanted, only to be told I was looking at the wrong side once I spoke to the man.  Left side for international flights, right side of EU flights.  Judging by the amount of cigars on the right side, either the EU smoke a lot more cigars than their international cousins, or maybe Luxembourg caters for more internal EU flights than external.

Whatever the reason, it didn't take as long to make a selection on the EU side, due to the fact that there was bugger all there to choose from. Some Partagas and Hoyo's made it back to London that day.  The Hoyo is a nice cigar, this one was good enough if a little tight.  It never really got going and felt tight all the way through.  It also needed relighting several times but a cigar in the garden, with my Dad was all that mattered, and the cigar was good enough.

We set off early on Saturday morning.  I was up and about by 5am, not being able to sleep due to a one sided nasal blockade.

I got my Dad up around 6ish and we were on our way by 6:45am.  The weather was good, with a nice breeze and lovely sunshine.  Perfect weather for golf.

I won't go into the nitty gritty of how the golf went.  All I say is that it was a storming victory for me and the biggest defeat of his life for my Dad.  Maybe it was the clubs, once described by the Father in law as "ladies clubs" but my Dad said the clubs were fine, although he did come close to snapping them a few times.  So with a 20 point gap on the last, it was game well and truly over.  The Dad's golf clubs were on loan from James Bloor of

When we got home, we had a fry up and a pot of tea waiting for us.  Lovely Irish sausages, pudding and bacon all brought over from Ireland and all eaten in a blink.  After food, we were off to do a bit of sightseeing and walk off the food.

The sights seen and the food walked off, we dropped off the ladies and the baby at the house and myself and Dad legged it for a pint and a cigar.  The venue was the Water Poet, which is across the road from where we lived for the first 5 years in London.  A nice pub, with pool tables, TV's, nice ale, good Guinness and a large beer garden at the back, where they also do barbecued food.  We found a table and set about enjoying the Guinness and I got my cigar going.

This time it was a new cigar for me, a Rafael Gonzales Coronas Extra, which was lovely.  A full bodied Cuban cigar which tasted great and felt solid in hand.  It did require a few relights but was pretty much perfect throughout, with a good burn and decent draw.  Definitely a cigar I'll look to get more of in the future.

The rest of the weekend was lovely, we had trip to London zoo on Sunday, another sunny day so all in all, a great weekend.

I'm looking forward to September when we're back home again for more golf, more fry ups, more Guinness and a wedding so that should be fun.

Good news for those of you who were looking forward to the trip to Billingsgate and the magnificent seven cemetery.  We've set a date so hopefully I'll have good story to tell sometime in the next three weeks.

Fast forward to this weekend and everything so far is going well, considering the weather.  Two cigars so far, and if you've been watching the Open golf, you'll appreciate how much rain has fallen today.  Not that this has bothered my man Miguel Angel Jimenez, who not only enjoys his cigar's in the rain, but also does his warm ups with a lovely looking Cohiba stuck in his mouth.  What a man, and he's Spanish, the best kind.  Here's the link to him limbering up.

So in honour of Miguel, I've had a Cohiba today while the wife was out shopping\babysitting with the 3rd batch of relations who are here to stay this weekend.  Ciaran (Wife's brother) and Fiona (Ciaran' wife), and Ina (Wife's sister) are all here this weekend.  Ina arrived over from Austria with 2 sticks for me which I'll report on in next blog.  Ina is a champion blogger who can be found at

Another golfer who loves his cigars is Darren Clarke.  Darren is currently top of the leaderboard on day 3 of the Open and as a fellow Irishman, I'm obviously cheering him on.

A quote from Darren's website..."my all time favourite cigars are Hoyo de Monterrey Double Coronas and I usually buy them in Harrods in London. Rotella's books are brilliant! Cheers, Darren."

The Hoyo
There's Grandad
The Gonzalez
Donnacha and the penguins

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sick Week

Since returning to London, I have not been a well man.  Cough, cold, shivers, sweats, blocked nose, runny nose, sore throat, more coughs.

So no work for me this week and more importantly, no cigars.

I don't mind not working but I'd rather be in work and feeling good than feeling as bad as this.  It's a bit more than man-flu.  I'd say it's proper flu.  Feels like it.

So with no cigars, what is there to talk about?

Not a lot obviously, but I can always plan ahead.

The plan for this weekend was to head to Billingsgate fish market with Mr. Bloor, then visit one of London's Victorian graveyards, then a pint and a cigar at a local bar.  As plans go, this is arguably one of the best plans of all time, unfortunately though, it's been put on hold due to the arrival on English soil of both my parents, this Friday.

So Bloor is blown out and golf with my Dad is blown in.  I actually thought my Mother and Sister were coming to visit, not my Dad so that's why I originally made plans with Bloor. 

Now I know my Dad likes a cigar but I don't think he has one very often so I'm hoping he might join me for one on Saturday.  He'll have a few to choose from but I think it might be a Culebra for the old man and me, apres golf.

With a 7:31am tee time, everything will be apres golf on Saturday.  It'll be a 6am alarm call to begin with so I'm just hoping I'm fit enough to get out of bed, let alone fit enough to give him a test on the golf course and then fit enough to enjoy a cigar and a beer in the garden later.  (Hello Mammy, I know you're reading this and yes, that is the plan).

To be honest, the golf with my Dad is more important than the cigar.  Obviously there's a bit of competition there.  My Dad is in his early 60's now and not the single handicapper he once was.  He's still very hard to beat and I've only managed it a few times over the years, even if I had to wait until he broke both wrists and almost severed a finger before I had my first victory.

He broke his wrists making toast. And tea.  The tea had nothing to do with it though.  It was the toasts fault.  Well actually it wasn't the toasts fault, it was the butters fault.  He slipped on the butter you see.  But the butter wouldn't have been there in the first place if it wasn't for the toast.  That's how accidents happen.  Easy isn't it.

He didn't do the finger slicing at the same time.  He waited a year before doing that to himself.

Anyway, I did have a couple of cigars before the lurgy kicked in, a Romeo y Julieta Limited Edition 2004 and one of my favourites, a Raman Allones Specially selected.

The Romeo was bought over in Luxembourg and one that doesn't appear to be available in the UK.  A great cigar, lovely to look at and hold, with a springy feel to it.  The foot was slightly damaged but otherwise, it was perfect.  I started this one around 12:30 last Saturday afternoon, and even though I thought it might be a bit early for something so big, it was fine.  The cigar started off well enough but needed a bit of touching up every now and then.  Half way through and I had to cut it, not ideal but it was such a lovely cigar, this was fine with me.

More touch ups and another cut later, the cigar was coming to an end.  To be fair, I probably should have left this one in the humidor for a while but I enjoyed it and it kept me busy so why not.

The RASS was a bit weird.  Maybe it's the weather but this one did seem a bit heavy and more spongy then normal.  It also went out a few times and didn't burn straight.  Still very enjoyable but got me wondering if something was not right with the humidor although it's probably just the weather.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The Culebra - The little snake

"Little Snake".

At least that's what Rolo told us "Culebra" means.  When asked if that's what he calls his eh..(Rolo Jr)..he replied "no, I call that the Anaconda".

Well done Kaz, you picked a winner there.

Anyway, I mentioned in my last blog that I picked up 3 boxes of Culebra in Luxembourg, right after enjoying one for the very first time with the two amigos.  I should have had 6 boxes home with me but a mix up in communication between myself and the guy selling them, resulted in me making off with the lesser of the two numbers.  In retrospect, 6 boxes is a bit piggy so I'm happy with what I have.

It was Rolo' idea to have one in Luxembourg so good man Rolo for an the best suggestion I've heard in a long time.  A much better suggestion then, "Lets get bikes!"

I've fallen in love with the look of this cigar and before last weekend, I'd only ever seen the Culebra in pictures and never really given them too much thought.  They don't appear to be available on the UK market or at least they used to be but not any more.

So if anybody wants one, Luxembourg have loads.

I'm not sure when I'll have one again.  When I do have one, it's sure to bring back memories of Luxembourg, of a time before Johnny broke his bones on the cobbles.  I'm not sure I want my next Culebra to be up against those happier times, but apart from that, it's really something to be enjoyed with friends, preferable two of them, which I don't have.  Not in this country anyway who are cigar smokers.

I might have to hang on to one or two of the Culebra boxes for when John and Gill visits London.  Who knows, maybe Rolo and Kaz might join them.  Cough *Couch*.

I've poached the following from the Cigar Smokers website... They also have a video of Berta Corzo making one!

The Culebra, traditionally three Panetelas twisted together whilst the tobacco is still moist, has many differing theories regarding its origins, however the one that we like best is said to have originated from an attempt to solve the problem of missing stock, it was decided that all the Torcedors should be given a quota of tobacco to smoke for themselves. To differentiate from the stock they were rolling, the twisted shape was introduced and given exclusively to factory workers. The 'Culebra' term originates from the Spanish for 'Snake'.

When the factories became a popular tourist destination, more and more requests were heard for the type of cigar that had been seen being smoked by the Torcedors on the Galera. This resulted in the Culebra being launched to the public by the Partagas brand.