Several years ago, I honestly don’t remember exactly when, I read an article in Cigar Aficionado about a guy in Great Falls, Virginia that grew his own tobacco, and had it rolled into cigars. Inspired, I bought some books, did a ton of internet research, and then decided to go for it. That first season I learned that growing tobacco is relatively easy. I learned about grow lights, propagating seeds, growing seedlings indoors, and then planting after the last freeze. While this took a lot of research, it wasn’t all together difficult. Once outdoors, my tobacco plants thrived. I had a few seasons where I had a small insect problem, but really it was just a matter of keeping the plants watered regularly. After the harvest is when things get difficult. One must build a kiln, live where its constantly warm with 75% humidity, or get creative and lucky. I opted for the latter. I bought a space heater and some air tight containers. I used cigar humidifiers, and tried to keep my tobacco warm and humid, while I tried to ferment and age it. The first year I let the tobacco dry out too much. I lost the oils that give tobacco its flavor. The second year, and every year but last year, I let the tobacco mold. The tobacco, fermented and aged my way, requires almost daily attention. It just has to breathe and be rotated, but weekends, vacations, and life tend to get in the way. Last year I managed to get my tobacco fermented without mold, and then let it age a bit drier than normal. I also used some alcohol (bourbon) to slow mold growth, which has not be scientifically proved to be effective, but is a fairly common practice. It seemed to work for me. I lost about 80% or more of my harvest to mold, being dried out, and other problems. That may sound bad, but this year was the first year I ended up with smokable fermented and aged tobacco. It smelled good, looked right, so I put some in a pipe. It was good, but a bit strong. I decided to buy a Virginia tobacco pipe blend, and mix my own tobacco into it, to make for a more enjoyable result. I pulled my can out when a friend came over. We each smoked a bowl, and found it to be very pleasant and enjoyable. So after what must have been at least five years, I’d finally enjoyed some success with my tobacco project.
This summer has been a great growing season. Its not going to be my biggest harvest. I had about 20 plants my first year. But it looks to be my highest quality harvest every. My leaves are big and full with no insect damage. I’ve used no pesticides or chemicals of any kind. If my plan was to grow leaves for wrapper, I’d probably be doing pretty well right now. However, I’m going to continue to work on fermenting and aging my tobacco. I also want to improve my blending. Once I get a good pipe tobacco made entirely of my own harvest, maybe I’ll think about cigars again. For now, I have my hands full, and plenty more to learn.by rsiv with
Way back in about ’04 or so, our buddy HW was having a birthday. Somehow, we decided to have a pig roast. Thing is, none of us had ever smoked a whole hog before. We found a website from three guys in Miami about Cuban style whole hog. We got some cinderblocks at home depot, and got to work. We had a crazy amount of people show up, we had shirts made, and everyone left tipsy and full. It was a great success. This year marked our 11th Anniversary, and 10th O’GF. Things have changed since college, but when we’re all together its just like old times. Here’s to 70 more!
The other weekend Pam-ela, Ryry, and WinnDixie had us over for a day at the pool. We enjoyed good weather, great company, and lots of delicious food. WinnDixie hooked me up with a 45 minute smoke…
by rsiv with
The US was facing Cuba in the Gold Cup, so I thought we’d have a Cuba themed night. I decided to make Cuban pork marinated in mojo, moros y cristianos with sofrito base, and chorizo. Cuban food isn’t bland, but it isn’t spicy. Since I like bold food, I decided to go heavy on smoke flavor. I broke out the smoking gun, and used Jamaican pimento wood (because I like it, but also because Jamaica is fairly close to Cuba). I smoked the pork and chorizo, but then decided to smoke some sugar and limes as well for the mojitos.I marinated the pork and chorizo in smoke by adding smoke to a ziplock, and letting it sit for about five minutes. The result was fairly subtle, so if you really like smoke, maybe let them sit in smoke a bit longer.
We also came across the first US TV show to be filed entirely in Cuba. Its pretty good, and if you’re interested in Cuba and/or classic cars, I highly recommend it.
Always use more butter than the recipe calls for…
So I’d never caramelized sugar before… The Goya box said not to stir the sugar. I think this is a trick for the uninitiated gringo. I burned the crap out of the sugar the first go around. Then I got on google and decided to try again with vigorous stirring. It worked out much better with lots of stirring on slightly lower heat.
Here is the difference between the two methods:
When making cocktails, one must use superfine sugar. If you’re making simple syrup, or warm cocktails, any sugar will dissolve, but if you’re trying to incorporate sugar into a cold or room-temp solution, only superfine will do.
Being an American, Cuban rum is hard to come by. White Cuban rum is even more rare. I didn’t have any, but I do have a white rum that I really highly recommend. Cruzan aged white is what all white rum should aspire to be. Its soft on the palate, delicious, and very mixable. I believe its aged 14 months which takes the edge off it, and makes it perfect for cocktails. The price point is also very agreeable.
For a mojito you also need mint. Store bought mint is OK, but go on the ol’ interwebs and get you some Kentucky Colonel mint. Its easy to grow, and you won’t regret it.
I used some coconut soda and shaved coconut to make HB a coconut mojito. I went traditional, and just had rum, smoked lime, smoked sugar, kentucky colonel mint, and some club soda/sparkling water.
The pork was on about ten minutes and was about an inch thick. This gave the chorizo plenty of time, and you could see the juices boiling in the casings.
The food was spectacular, and it was time for some soccer.
My second attempt at the flan worked out great. I added some bourbon to the mix for flavor (maybe two ounces), and would definitely recommend that you do the same.
After the match, I was still in a Cuban mood, so I lit an Upmann Magnum 46, and poured a little liquid flan. The H Upmann brought back memories of Havana. The draw was a little tight (the Mag 46 is build like a tank and won’t go out on you), but the flavor was intense. I got cedar, buttered toast, and a hint of salt and sweet hay. There was definitely that je ne sais quoi one gets from a puro habano. Perhaps best, there was none of the hot white pepper taste one gets from non-cuban cigars of milder-medium body. Its probably obvious that this cigar was on, and I really enjoyed it. I kicked back with a playlist that can be found here, as well as my inspiration for the evening in general.
by rsiv with
On a misty Friday, we loaded up the truck and rode down to Pemdenwall to set up EF’s stuff early so I could make my tee time.
No one in our foursome played well, but there were beers, brown, cigars, and loaded fries. A good time was had by all.
You can take the man out of the landscaping game….
After an interesting evening, I went out for some early morning fishing. It was beautiful and peaceful on the lake, and I managed to land a fish. It was a great, and American way, to kick-off the 4th.
Winn-Dixie’s breakfast, as always, was delicious and filling.
As the rest of the guests arrived, it was pool time.
Did LB or Harvey win the staring contest?
Chad and Brammer held court down on the pong side of the pool, but Bolt and I never got a chance to challenge them…
I think this was the most food, and the most guests we’ve ever had. I’d bet 40-50 people rolled through. It was really cool to see the old group all together (with all the new little ones) and having a great time. It was really awesome of Pam-ela and Winn-Dixie to host everyone (and do all the shopping, planning, set-up, cooking, cleaning, and etc.).
The force is strong with this one…
Instead of Bourbon, I decided to mix it up brown sauce wise. The Bernheim was good, but a little hotter than I expected. Still, it was nice to try something new.
The first leader I’ve ever used. It landed me several fish. It was sad to see it go.
The Captain and I took a paddleboat out for a romantic fishing expedition. Unfortunately, we forgot to check our vessel to make sure it was ship-shape, and ran into rudder problems on the water. Several wide arcs later, we made it back to land.
That evening I lit up a fine cigar, and The Captain invented a new beer pong game when Bolt demanded a triangle despite having four cups left, and Pam-ela named it Niagara. Kinky Koleen and I also cemented our names in Niagara history by participating in the first game and determining the rules.
The next morning WinnDixie made my favorite breakfast, and I got to enjoy the rare luxury of the first spoonful of a fresh jelly.
After some more time on the water, I fixed some Palomas and lit a cigar.
WinnDixie boiled some gizzards for a couple hours, and then panko breaded them and fried them. OMG delicious and tender. After that he also made wings. It was decadent.
Another great 4th is in the books, and I’m already looking forward to Labor Day.by rsiv with
Lil Biscuit was looking to get out of dodge, so we headed out to Hinton, WV. Its a fairly long drive, EF’s longest to date, so we stopped at a cracker barrel to break up the trip.
After a huge meal, a few more hours on the road, and a quick stop to change a dipe, we arrived at my Aunt and Uncle’s place. I pulled some scallops and steak out of the cooler and got started on dinner.
The next morning EF and LeBeef enjoyed the view while I whipped up some breakfast.
The forecast for the days we were there all looked iffy, but it was warm and dry, so we went down the mountain to rent a pontoon.
EF wanted to go fast, so I let her drive.
After the boat ride, which was a great success, we grabbed a couple pizzas and headed home to enjoy the view.
The next morning we had some breakfast, but HB wouldn’t let EF have any bacon.
When the local police response time is over an hour (estimated), you have to be prepared with triple aught magnum buck. Fortunately, we didn’t have any visitors.
We enjoyed the short drive over to Pipestem State Park for a quick 9 on their par 3. I was thinking we should go to Pipestem with the Lambs as its a really cool place, and only a short drive from Rainelle.
It was a really fun and challenging course; the perfect way to spend a couple hours.
Even though it was a little late in the afternoon when we got back from golf, we headed over to Sandstone Falls. It was beautiful, and we got there at prime fishing time.
I managed to hook up pretty quick, and got a small largemouth on a popper. Then I switched to a some streamers and wet flies, but struck out. It was an amazingly beautiful place to fish.
FJ made some delicious burgers, and we watched the sunset.
We were having so much fun we decided to stay an extra day (LeBeef was outvoted).
After breakfast, we headed into Lewisburg for lunch.
My Aunt and Uncle like Stella’s, and I can see why. The coalminer’s daughter tried a miner’s daughter.
While trout eluded me at Sandstone, it did not disappoint at Stella’s.
After a really good lunch, we drove over to Smooth Ambler distillery.
We were greeted by Admiral Pickles, and given a tour by Val. EF ponied up to the bar to learn about Smooth Ambler.
Smooth Ambler is a pretty young distillery. The source a lot of the bourbon (as it takes four years to age minimum, but in the meantime, they’ve put out a lot of interesting products. I really like their aged gin. Their wheated whiskey also tastes promising. Val gave a great tour, and we’ll definitely try out their future products.
On the way home, we stopped at the Big Wheel in Alderson for an ice cream cone. Errbody but HB got butter pecan. HB got birthday cake.
When we got home, we decided to really enjoy our last evening on the porch. I spread creme fraiche on some blinis, and realized I had no mother of pearl spoon. I grabbed EF’s spoon in a pinch, and added the caviar. Then it was time to pop some champagne.
For dinner, we had heavy canapes. It was quite a spread.
After dinner I opened a bottle from Smooth Ambler, and lit one of my favorite cigars.
The next morning it was time to head home.
We cleaned and packed up, and headed down the mountain to have lunch at Kirk’s. HB ordered a hot dog with sauce, onions, and mustard, and I ordered the same. Shes an honorary West Virginian now.
It was a great trip. We all had a great time, and I really think EF got a lot out of it. We look forward to bringing her back. Next time we’ll have to visit when my relatives are in town. Thanks again to Uncle L and Aunt C for letting us stay at their amazing home!by rsiv with
Friday I loaded a literal truckload of baby stuff and we headed to Fredrock. My pictures from the weekend got a little out of order, and I used a lot of HB’s pictures, so my bad. We played a round at Gauntlet.
C-Note had a couple of amazing drives.
I ended up breaking 100 again! And Gauntlet is no easy course. Special thanks to my caddie, WinnDixie.
EF loved the water. She kicked like crazy under her float and loved splashing around.
This diamond crown (figurado no. 6 maduro) was insanely good.
Every meal we had was delicious, as always.
Savanna had a photoshoot. Cameras on cameras.
There were bebes everywhere this year. The times have changed.
Thom and Marteen enjoyed a romantic twilight paddleboat ride.
The sky was beautiful. Marteen pulled out his long lens (pun intended) so we could see the planets.
This was the first time I had my new fly rod out. I managed to catch four fish. I got a couple large mouth bass, a blue gill, and either another blue gill or a crappie (I couldn’t tell which).
EF had her first lil taste of homemade biscuit.
Thom boated out to where I was fishing to bring me a refreshment.
Daddys don’t let your babies grow up to be cowgirls.
EF LOVED Bentley. She was giggling and so excited when he came around.
Everybody was able to catch a fish. After Thom snagged one, I commented that I was in the wrong line of work, and should have been an adventure guide. I’ve helped/taught my buddies to fly fish, squirrel hunt, upland hunt, etc. The guys on the shore said they’d just been talking about how I’ll make a good scoutmaster. Thats probably the best compliment I’ve ever received.
As always, HB and I had a great time. Pam-ela and WinnDixie were amazing hosts as always. Our hosts, RyRy, and all our friends really made it possible for EF to have a great time too. HB did a really amazing job, and EF took like a fish to the water. I can’t wait to take EF to the beach, and then back to the pool.by rsiv with
Monday I helped Lil Steve move some stuff out as he anticipates a move to Myrtle. It was nice seeing Jimmy Dean who I rarely get to see. Then Lil treated his family and me to some delicious cheesesteaks.
On Tuesday, we celebrated a quiet Cinco de Mayo at home. Later in the week, HB got her first Mothers’ Day prezzy from EF.
Since the weather has been so nice, we did some grilling out.
Rob came by for steaks, stogies, and some real talk.
Friday, I enjoyed fast service (not even one person in front of me) at the mobile DMV. Then EF and I played chess against Castling Chris.
It was perfect out, so we headed to Gtown for a row and some food.
My girls saw me off.
HB and Chris enjoyed some oysters on the water.
Chang-mang and I got our sea legs back.
Then we celebrated with sam summer and great food.
I’d been craving softshell crab all winter. It did not disappoint.
That evening it was still too nice to go inside, so I fixed myself a julep and lit up a Perla del Mar.
Saturday I enjoyed a huge win for Sunderland, and now its time to cheers some rose champs to our Mothers.by rsiv with
I’m about as excited as EF that its finally Spring. On Saturday, we woke up and headed to DC.
This was EF’s first trip to a museum, so we were a little concerned about logistics, bothering others, etc. As it turns out, things couldn’t have gone more smoothly. EF slept on the 1.5 mile walk from our friends’ place to the museum. Then she was up and alert for the museum. The National Gallery of Art let us use our own stroller, so we didn’t have to worry about checking it and carrying EF’s bag. The staff at the National Gallery of Art were incredible nice and accommodating. When EF was crying and wouldn’t take her bottle for a moment, a security guard approached us. I assumed he was going to tell us to take her outside or to a bathroom, but instead, he pointed out a bench HB could rest on while she fed EF. EF was very well-behaved overall (and HB did a great job keeping her happy and quiet), but the staff at NGA were very cheerful, helpful, and seemed sincerely happy to help us even when EF was momentarily fussy. I doubt that EF disrupted any one individual’s enjoyment of the gallery for more than 20-30 seconds, and I didn’t notice any dirty looks or expressions of annoyance. It seemed ambitious at first, but the trip was a huge success. We’ll definitely be back soon.
The last time I saw paintings of Venice, Rome, and other similar beautiful locations, I hadn’t been. Its really amazing to see how well the overwhelming scale and detail of a place like St. Peter’s Basilica can be captured in paint. The basilica is staggering in person. I’ve never seen a photo that begins to do it justice, which makes Panini’s painting all the more impressive.
HB’s favorite artist is Mary Cassatt. I call the photo below Mother and Child on Mother and Child.
I didn’t think EF would get much out of the trip, but I was blown away by how much she seemed to enjoy and appreciate it.
I was in the room below, thinking that it must be one of the most beautiful places in the world. Then an older and very well-dressed couple came in. The man turned to his companion and gushed, “This room! ” His expression was one of joy and bewilderment. The woman, never taking her gaze from the walls, simply said, “I know…” I was having a moment of my own, and then really enjoyed seeing others have such a similar reaction.
After about an hour and a half of wandering the gallery, we had lunch by the waterfall. HB had an affogato.
The tunnel between the two buildings may have been EF’s favorite part.
EF loves a mobile.
After our great adventure, we walked back to RP and Jodi’s for a derby day party.
EF was jelly of my burger.
My horse didn’t come in, and my trifectas didn’t pan out. However, we’d had a great adventure at the art museum, and enjoyed great food and company at the party. EF was tuckered out, and we headed home.by rsiv with
The trip started out the way it always does (when RIR isn’t the same weekend), we headed to the waffle house. A few hours later, we were in Durham to play a round with Joe and break up the drive down to Myrtle. Umstead is a beautiful course, and the weather was great.
We cracked a few beers.
Chandler tried to Bubba his way out of the trees…
…and consoled himself with a drank.
After a nice dinner and evening with our hosts, we hit up Starbucks (for Ry), and Bojangles (for chicken biscuits).
At Legends in Myrtle, I got a Yuengling and FJ got me some see-gars for my bday.
I’d brought down two travel humidors, but ended up mostly smoking the diamond crowns my dad got me. They were quite delicious.
The course was a little more difficult than we’re used to…but we managed some pars anyway.
And Ry had an amazing birdy.
Why don’t I live in SC full time?
At the Kroger, we stocked up for the trip.
Winn-Dixie had to hang with the frat boys (which he managed quite well).
That evening, we headed across the parking lot to the pub (just a short stumble home).
Then we loaded up in a van for a hilarious ride to Masters. Bill B. was telling some funny stories about suppositories and mamawsans, which had us rolling. Especially since he sounds so much like FJ. CW and Ryry enjoyed a late night hot dog.
The next morning we hit the buffet to put down a fortifying base (as CW said).
Then it was time for another round.
The wind was up, and the course looked difficult.
CW and I played with Ronnie and Bill. It was great to play with different people this year. Our foursome had a blast.
CW was calling his shots.
There was a little weather, but nothing crazy. After the round, we headed to the beach for dinner at the Sea Captain.
We stopped at the pub for a complimentary drink, then lit some cigars. It was a calm pleasant time until the rest of the group got back from Masters. Things got a little crazy, and a lot of the older guys had really tied one on.
Then next morning we saw the beer truck and figured we’d drank Legends out of booze.
We played this round with the roommates. Winn-Dixie was coming off knee surgery, so we got a handicap cart which was very convenient since it was cart path only after an evening rain.
Kenny Powers was hitting the long ball.
Ryry found an ornamental pond.
I found just about all the sand on the dang course, and was often in over my head (both figuratively and literally).
But I managed my outs in style (notice the cigars puff at the end).
This was one of the more difficult courses I’ve played, and the greens were killer too.
After the round we did a little back slappin’.
And after a meal at the pub, we called it. We didn’t even see a lot of guys at dinner. I think they’d been out too late the night before. The next morning CW needed to put down even more base. Then I had a shower beer.
Ry and I played with FJ and Gill.
Gill had much fancier course brown than my Old Crow.
I was shooting pretty well, but we were still drinking for pars or better, and there was a lot of course left.
The group in front of us slowed down some, maybe because of Roland’s frosty crown.
Don had the cart girl, who was also a golf pro, take his shot.
CW and I both had the round of our lives. I shot a 93 (or 94), and broke 100 for the first time ever. Tom and I celebrated with some bird dog.
Don and I cheers’d with beer.
Since this was the last round of the trip, things got a little crazy.
I don’t really know how to caption most of these. Gary gave me a mask, Roland and I texted Tyler, Jeff was throwing them back, Gary and FJ were giving each other the business, Bob went for Ry’s nip, and everyone was having a great time. I really like these Wayne boys, and I’m glad they keep asking us back.
After the back slappery, Curtis made us some bbq chicken, ribs, grilled corn, and chicken bog. Everything was amazing.
Then Gary read out the winners and handed out the money. My best round ever won me low net for the day.
FJ won and then immediately blew $150 on bourbon shots for the group.
Bob and Tom, the two oldest guys on trip, wanted evidence that they were the last two standing at the bar.
I think this may have been the best trip yet. I really enjoyed being able to hang out with everyone on the trip. Usually, people go out in groups at night, but really stuck together as a big group more this time around. I met some guys that were first timers, which was pretty cool because it means we’re veterans of the trip now. It was also pretty great to finally break 100 on the trip and while playing with my dad. Thanks again to Gary for organizing the trip, and FJ for getting us invited. Thanks to Wendell for driving us down and back, and Joe for putting us up in Durham. Thanks to C-Dubb, Ry, and Winn-Dixie for fitting in so well. Gary, I really do look forward to it all year.
The next morning we hit chick-fil-a, then starbucks (Ry), and then headed home.
We stopped at JR’s, and I got a few more Diamond Crowns.
I know I’ve left some good stuff out. The crazy Canadians for instance. I’ll add more as people remind me. If you want to see pictures from last year, search this blog for, “Myrtle”, or google, “bonvivantva myrtle.”
I’m happy that golf season is now in full swing, but I can’t wait for the Aggie’s Amateurs trip to Myrtle next year.by rsiv with