Tuesday, 24 April 2012


I'm way behind on my blog so I've decided that the only thing to do was to cover the last few weeks in one go.  So this will be an extra special action packed edition, even more so than normal.  Hold on to your boots.

Straight after the Spanish beer and meat festival, we had the normally tranquil affair that is St. Patricks day.  This time around, it was pretty much that and we made do with celebrating with food rather than beer.

I was going through a bit of a baking phase back then, so what better pie to bake on Paddys day than Guinness pie.  It goes without saying that my pie was a glorious success, even if it did appear a bit shallow due to the massive crust towering over it.

The wife and Donnacha baked some Leprechaun (fairy) cakes and I chilled some Guinness in the fridge, and we were soon celebrating Paddys day in style.

All I can see is the crust
The cigar for the day was a Vega Robaina Maestro from Madrid.

A Cuban cigar which I think is a Spanish regional selection, and a quality cigar that I couldn't fault.

It's a 50 ring gauge and longer than a normal robusto, lasting just over an hour.  The burn, smoke and flavours were all good and it held everything together throughout.

Here it is pictured with my superior pie, some Leprechaun cakes and a pint of plain.  Top marks all round.

Next up was a La Aurora Rothschild, which is a small non-Cuban cigar that comes in a cellophane wrapper, and another of the Madrid cigars.  This being my first ever La Aurora and after following a lot of their reps on Twitter for the past year, I was eager to enjoy this one.

La Stinka (That sounds familiar)
Once again though, my expectations were much higher than what I got, and I was disappointed by a smoke that left me feeling a little bit sick.  The tobacco was pretty overpowering and not smooth or enjoyable in any way. 

This is a four inch cigar, which I let go just over half way through, as it was pretty much unsmokeable, so thankfully the whole experience didn't last very long.

I picked up two of these smokes in Madrid, and for €2.80, I can't fault the price.  I'll leave the other one alone for a year and hopefully it'll improve with age.  It certainly can't get any worse.  Marks out of ten?  Two.  One for appearance and one for price.

I wouldn't write La Aurora off based on that cigar alone, but I came back in from the garden telling my wife I was sticking to Cuban cigars only from now on. 

I've been at this cigar smoking lark for the last year and a half, and I've always thought of people who only smoke Cubans as cigar snobs.  When I started out, the plan was to try as many different cigars as possible, but that opinion is changing as I now notice big differences between Cuban and non-Cuban cigars.  Maybe that comes with experience, or maybe it's just taking me and my palate a while to realise that.  

Anyway, moving on.

I've always thought of myself as a bit of an artist.  It's not something I like to talk about and I wouldn't normally show any of my work in public, but I'll make an exception on this one time.

But before that, back to cigars.

So far, I was only two cigars into the Spanish selection and with one hit and one miss, I was struggling to pick out another non-Cuban to smoke, until I remembered how much I enjoyed the tubed Vegafina Summun Rolo brought to Luxembourg one time.

Instead of a Summun, I went for a different Vegafina, but this one didn't disappoint like the La Aurora did.  A nice long cigar, with good construction and an easy draw. 

I have to say that so far, all the Vegafina cigars I've smoked, of which there have been about five, have all been excellent.

This turned out to be a finger burner, which is something I hope for in every cigar, but not something you always get.

Another winner this time though.

The second Vegafina from Madrid was a short Belicoso.

Again, after the La Aurora, I wasn't expecting much from this one, especially as it was a similarly small sized, but I was wrong, which in itself is unusual.

Another top quality cigar from Vegafina, and my faith in non-Cuban cigars was restored.

The picture opposite shows the lovely dark colours of the wrapper, and the cigar pretty much smokes as good as it looks.  Once again, no complaints.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot.  The bit of art you've been waiting for, is a still life I did of one of the guys in work.  I don't want to embarrass the poor man by naming him here, so lets just call him Stephen.

It comes from one of my more reflective Tuesday morning post-coffee moods.

Stephen (not his real name)

I can't concentrate while looking at that face, so I'll leave it there for now.  Until next time.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Madrid - Aún no ha terminado

I'm still not finished with Madrid by the way.  It's only Sunday morning and we still had a couple of days to go.

After two days on the sauce, and not eating much more than black pudding and chips, I felt in need of something a bit more nutritious than meat, beer and tapas.  I'm not ashamed to say it, but I was seriously craving fruit and veg.

We had a few hours with the Doyles on Sunday before they made their way to the airport and we were left to fend for ourselves.  The weather was great all weekend, and as we wandered the streets enjoying the sun, I was dreaming about sprouts, peas and broccoli.

I was also thinking the Madridonians don't do vegetables, or fruit, as I hadn't seen any since I got here.  Dinner that night was going to be a healthy low fat option, with steamed vegetables and very little meat.

So much for that plan.  What I ended up with was meat.  Lots of meat and sod all vegetables.

I, for some reason, thought suckling pig would be a few slices of pork with some crispy crackling.  That's what I would have got in London, but this was Madrid, where suckling pig means suckling pig.  OK, so it wasn't exactly the whole pig, it was only a quarter.  The back left quarter, including the trotter.

As they wheeled it out, I realised having a starter was a bad idea.

I broke into a sweat.

I have to say that this was the tastiest suckling or otherwise pig I've ever had, but it was also the biggest amount of meat I've every been presented with, and my weak hungover shaky body couldn't take it, as I begged the wife to help me out. 

There was no cigar after this meal.  I was a wreck, and needed to get back to the hotel as quickly as possible and pass out. 

The next morning and I was feeling almost normal.  The best eggs on toast in Madrid was once again served up by Benja, and with that inside me, we were off in search of a proper cigar shop. 

I had googled this beforehand so I knew what I was looking for.  The shop is called Cava Cardenal Cisneros, and the link will bring you to the cigar inspector site that contains the address on google maps.

We rang the bell and the guy in the shop opened the door with a smile and a hello, not an olá, but a hello.  Ten years in England and I suppose I must look a little English by now.  At least to the Spanish.

The walk-in humidor is pretty big with a good selection of Cuban and non-Cuban cigars.  There were a number of seriously damaged sticks on display, which at the time I thought might be due to the humidity, but could also be from somebody dropping them, so benefit of the doubt was given.

I really enjoyed picking out the cigars, some Spanish market selection, some old favourites and some new ones, which I'll cover off next time.

I also managed to pick up the last box of Partagas Culebra in the shop, and for all I know, the last in all of Spain.

It's certainly the last box that shop are going to sell, as Partagas have ended production, so once the allocated boxes have sold, that's it, no more.

The guy in the shop was very friendly and had great English, and as he threw in a large humidor travelbag, Cava Cardenal gets the thumbs up from me.

The bag was a nice touch, but it also proved very handy, as the box of culebra won't fit in my humidor, so they've been living in the humi-bag ever since.

So goodbye to Madrid.  We had a great time, with the highlight being meeting Raymond Blanc, and the lowlight being the queueing system at Spanish gigs.

Buenos noches.

They paid him to leave
Holy Sh..Stuff


Sir Blinksalot in The Patriot

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Lethal Blinking Weapon

Now, I'm no expert on guns, not by a long shot, but I have sent a few down the range in my time, and because of this, I feel that firing a gun while your eyes are closed is not the way to do it.

So there I was watching Lethal Weapon, I don't know which one, when I noticed Mel Gibson blinking every time he loosed off a round.  Now, when I say blinking, these were more like eye clenches than blinks.

Anyway, I'm no expert on acting, but I'd say Mel didn't bother much with the research before shooting began, and I realise I'm talking Mel Gibson here, not DeNiro or Cage, but for what it's worth, an episode of Cagney and Lacey would have done.

Apart from spending most of the movie trying to shoot everybody, he also has a go at helicopters.  Mr Blinky Bullets actually tries to shoot down a helicopter with his handgun, while it's about a mile off and flying away from him.  Difficult enough at the best of times I should think, but from a windy cliff top with your eyes closed is asking a bit much.  Better luck next time Mel.

Not long after that memorable scene, I realised why Mel had been practicing his shooting on the range with his eyes closed, as he stuck his arm, hand and gun around a corner to shoot the bad guy, while the rest of his body hid safely behind the corner.  Unsurprisingly enough, he missed.  Try looking next time Mel.

I couldn't take any more of Mel and his angry hair, so I grabbed a Ramon Allones Specially Selected and headed to the garden. 

The Ramon Allones Specially Selected is a fine cigar, and a much better way to spend your time than watching tired old movies.

I'll leave you with the photo evidence of Mel and his overacting eyes, not forgetting his colossal barnet.

Blink and you will miss it

Blink harder!

These goggles and my eyelids will protect me

See the whites of my... teeth

Oh no you don't helicopter!

No chance Mel.  I worked out the trajectory

Grr...I'll get you next time Copter

RASS saves the day

Madrid Part Dose

Appologies, my adoring fans, for taking so long to with part two of this Spanish adventure, but I've been a bit busy lately.  I won't go into the whys or wherefores, but lets just say it involved a car, a recovery truck and bags full of money.  Three weeks later and the car is nowhere near finished.  But enough about that, as I think it's about time I finished off Madrid.

We woke early enough on Saturday despite the hangovers, and headed out with the Doyles for breakfast at "la Taberna de Benjas", which was, and probably still is, directly across the road from our hotel on Santa Domingo.

I thought Benjas was a great little place, and the guy serving us, who I presume is the man himself, served up a lifesaver of a breakfast.

John ordered two lovely fried eggs on big fancy toast with a sprinkling of chunky sea salt.  I said Dose and the girls had toast.

To drink, we had six excellent coffees, and four freshly squeezed orange juices on ice.  All for €14.

So, if you every find yourself in Madrid and happen to be staying at the TRYP, don't bother with the hotel breakfast, which is €20 extra.  Head across the road to Benjas and tell them I sent you.

After that, we met up with Rolo, Kaz and Rolos parents at a nice terrace, where we settled the heads from the night before.  On the way, the drunkest man in Spain decided he wanted to hug and kiss me, but I dodged that bullet.  Doce carvesa later and we were heading to watch Ireland take on Scotland in the rugby.

Only after we got to the Irish bar, did we realise we were two hours early for the match, so Rolo brought myself and John out to buy some cigars at El Corte Ingles on Calle de Preciados, where there's a decent sized walk in humidor, with a selection of Cuban and non-Cuban cigars.  I picked up a few and we headed back to the pub.

Myself and John decided at half time that a cigar was in order, but were told we couldn't take our drinks outside, so we took ourselves up to Plaza Mayor and had a cigar in the sun. 

I had a Monte Open Master and John had a Bolivar Royal Corona, both tubed.  I'm pretty sure this was Johns first Royal Corona, and I must admit to trying to pawn off a smaller cigar on him earlier, but his eyes lit up when he saw the Boli, so that's what he had, and I'm sure he loved it.

The RC is a quality cigar and one of my favourites, and the Monte Open range are excellent cigars too, so either one is a winner.

The next few hours were a bit of a blur as we got ready to see M83 in concert.  I'll be brief about this.  The Doyles had to queue for almost an hour to get in, and M83 were poor at best.

They started off well enough but I lost interest after a while, and they looked like the might be miming.  Listening to their CDs is better.

We left there, had lots more alcohol and the rest of the night is even more blurrier.

So I'll leave this instalment with some pictures of my cigar monkeys, with the one on the left proving more entertaining than M83.  The one on the right wasn't bad either.

Cigar Monkey
Cigar Monkey