Puff Lifestyle
Like the perfect cigar, the smoker’s lifestyle is one focused on enjoyment and relaxation. At Puff Lifestyle, we discuss all avenues of lifestyle - great hotels that are cigar friendly, fantastic wines, cigar friendly dining, cool gadgets, lighters that actually work, hand carved cedar get the idea. But we also cover the down to earth lifestyle interests as well: the most enjoyable reasonably priced cigars, best vacations on a budget, and the best way to stretch a buck...which has never been more important. Nothing is off topic!

CRA Update & Puros Fine Cigars Event Coverage
Monday, 16 June 2008

{mosimage} The Cigar Rights of America web site is up and running ... and I read every word on the site and signed up immediately. I paid $30 for one year. You can join for multiple years at varying membership rates; but, I adopted a 'wait and see' approach. I was hoping the program - what they intend to do; how they intend to do it would have been spelled out. It wasn't, but, I am sure, in short order it will be set down for all to see. After all, if five percent (5%) of the approximately seven million (7,000,000) cigar smokers in America sign-up at $30 a head, the CRA will garner $10,500,000 in dues. I don't know what the fees paid by the retail tobacconists are or, for that matter, what cigar makers have paid, and will pay. But, there'll be a substantial amount of money available. I'm sure more will be done with it, to further the cause of smokers' rights, then just going to D.C. to have a smoke with Charlie Rangel (dem., NY) and his ilk.


Sausage and Vegetable Frittata Recipe
Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Frittata Recipe Sausage and Vegetable Frittata ¼ cup onions diced ¼ cup green peppers, diced ¼ cup red peppers, diced ¼ cup of diced Roma tomatoes ¼ cup mushrooms. Sliced and drained 10 sausage links, cooked and drained ¼ cup Broccoli flowers 5 slices provolone cheese ¼ cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, finely grated Olive Oil 1 tbs butter Spices: Garlic powder Celery salt Cracked pepper Preparing the masterpiece: - Preheat Oven to Broil - Dice your veggies in about ¼ in pieces. It depends on your preference, but they will cook faster and more evenly if cut small. Set aside. - Start off with a good roasting pan. I like to use a 12 in aluminum sauté pan. The sides are about 3 in high, so you have plenty of room to work. - Cook sausage as you would normally. If it is genuine sausage, this could take 12-15 minutes. Reserve some of the fat for addition to the olive oil later. If they are Brown and Serve, cook them in the sauté pan , adding a small amount of water to the pan to speed up the cooking process. As the water cooks off, you will get the "browning" effect . When the sausage is done, remove from pan and to a plate with a paper towel . This will absorb any excess water from the sausage. Wouldn't want soggy eggs, now would you? - Next, heat sauté pan at about 7-8 on your burner dial. This will get it nice and hot for cooking down the veggies. Starting at a lower temp will increase cooking time and will tend to "cook" the veggies instead of roasting them. Also, the veggies will absorb some of the oil while cooking at the lower temp. Think of this part as a stir fry. - Pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. You will be cooking the veggies for about 10 mins, so it's no problem if you have to add a little more oil. Add the butter. Not really necessary, but I like the flavor. Once the oil is hot, add your onions and peppers. They should start to sizzle immediately. Let them cook for about 5 mins, stirring occasionally to promote even cooking, After 5 mins or so, add broccoli, mushrooms and spices. The spice amount is up to you, but I would suggest ¼ tsp of each to start. Now is the time to add the sausage grease if desired. Adding it now allows it to be incorporated into the mix without cooking too long and risking burning it. - In the mean time, crack 7-8 extra-large eggs into a deep mixing bowl, ensuring no shells are in the mixture. Add about 1/8 cup of water and using a hand mixer or blender, mix eggs at the highest possible speed. This will not only mix your eggs, but will aerate them. By introducing a large volume of air into your eggs, it will cause them to be thicker and fluffy when cooked. Ever wonder how some restaurants have better omelets than others?? This will take 4-5 minutes. Set aside. - Let the mixture cook down until you see the edges of the onions start to turn light brown. This will be an indication that the veggies are cooked through. At this point, you may have to add a little more oil. If you do, wait a minute or so to ensure it comes up to temperature before the next step. - Once veggies are done, reduce heat to medium. Take a spatula and arrange the veggies across the pan. You're looking for a even distribution of veggies so everyone will get the same amount. This will also lend itself to presentation. Next, arrange sausage in the pan in the form of spokes of a wagon wheel. This, again will ensure everyone gets a sausage in their share as well as add to the presentation of the dish. - Once the sausage and veggies are in place, add egg mixture. Pour the mixture all around the pan, ensuring to fill places in-between the sausage and veggies. The idea is to have a 'egg pancake' t this point. I do not add any seasoning to the eggs because of the amount added in previous step as well as the additional ingredients in the following steps. Let this cook on the stove top for about 7-8 mins. - At this point, DO NOT stir or otherwise move the sausage and veggies. As you see the eggs cook, you can gently tilt the pan to determine how much of the egg mixture remains to be cooked. After 4-5 mins, you should see the eggs near the bottom of the pan firm up like traditional scramble eggs. If needed, using the top end of a spatula, press through the egg mixture to the bottom of the pan as another way to determine the amount of cooking time left. - When there is about 25% of the egg mixture left uncooked, determined by tilting the pan, you are ready for the next step. Remove the pan from heat. Add the diced tomatoes . Sprinkle the grated cheese evenly on the egg mixture. Then cover the entire Frittata with the Provolone slices. Don't worry if you take a few extra minutes getting to this stage. The pan will keep the Frittata hot while you finish adding the ingredients. This next step is a crucial one. - Place sauté pan inside the oven on the top shelf. This will finish cooking the top 25% of your Fritata and melt the cheese. Check the Frittata the same way you did on the stove top by opening the oven and tilting the pan. If you gently shake the pan, and the whole Frittata moves as one piece, firm, not runny, it is done. Another tell-tale sign is when the cheese is melted and bubbly. - Remove from oven and place on your table. It is meant to be served straight from the pan to your plate. Cut it as you would a pizza, ensuring each 'slice' has a sausage link in it. Garnish with Sour cream, salsa, or nothing at all.


Wine Tasting Basics
Saturday, 21 June 2008

Wine Tasting Basics What's the right way to taste wine? Here's the first thing you should remember: If you're enjoying it, then whatever you're doing works. You're doing it right. Analytic tasting techniques (like swirling and sniffing) are helpful if your goal is to maximize the amount of objective information you obtain from the wine. Not everyone is interested in that sort of information, but if you like to talk meaningfully about your wine, or to compare it with wines you have tasted on other occasions, it can be very useful. Here are some of the basics: Room Temperature? Which Room are we talking about? Start by pouring the wine at an appropriate temperature. Very generally, whites should be chilled to somewhere around fifty degrees Fahrenheit. That is warmer than a normal refrigerator, but colder than a normal room; if you've had it in the refrigerator for a while, give it a few minutes to warm up before tasting (if it is too cold, you won't get much aroma or flavor.) If you need to cool it down in a hurry consider using an ice bucket, and remember to fill it with both ice and water. Water between the ice cubes will conduct temperature much more efficiently than air. People talk about "room temperature" for red wine, but that's not very specific, is it? I like my red wine somewhere in the low-to-mid sixties. Much colder and the acid and tannin can overpower the more appealing characteristics. On the other hand, when the temperature gets up into the seventies or higher, alcohol will evaporate massively and can dominate the aroma. Wine that feels warm in the mouth can take on an odd, soupy character. If you don't have a specialized refrigerator, and want to cool your wine down a little, just leave it in the regular refrigerator for a short time (maybe ten to twenty minutes, depending on the outside temperature) before opening it. Use glassware that will allow you to appreciate all of the wine's attributes. Clear, smooth glass is preferable; colored or opaque glass will mask the wine's color. Cut crystal can be beautiful, but distracting, and typically these glasses are not shaped to optimize our perception of aroma. Glasses should taper inward toward the top. More space in the glass will allow for more aeration, and a narrow opening at the lip will retain aromatic vapor. A long stem will permit you to hold the wine without obstructing your view of its appearance, and will keep some distance between the wine and the warming influence of your hand. A smaller bowl for white wine will keep it in a more compact shape and help maintain a cooler temperature; a larger bowl for red wine will allow more rapid aeration and retain more aroma in the glass. Is the glass half full or half empty? Don't fill the glasses too high; give yourself room to swirl! Most well-designed wine glasses are meant to be filled to the widest point in the bowl, which should be somewhere below the mid-point. This will maximize the interface between the wine and the air. A wide variety of glass shapes are available; some are traditionally associated with regions where particular styles of wine developed. What you use is up to your own personal preference, of course, but consider using good quality glasses in a style intended for the sort of wine you will be drinking; I bet you will like way they work together. It looks like wine ... Once the wine has been poured, the first step is visual analysis. Look at the color, density and brightness. This can give you a lot of information, but let's keep it simple for now. The color, for example, can tell you something about the wine's evolution. A young white wine should have a very pale yellow color; it may even look slightly silvery or have a greenish tinge. As it ages it will get darker and more golden, and eventually it will turn a sort of amber color. A young red wine will have a purplish color, and as it ages it will turn ruby red, then develop a brick-red color, and eventually turn a sort of brownish red, and finally amber-brown. Holding the glass at an angle, over a white surface under good light, will help you discern these variations in color. Tilting your glass will give you a better look at the meniscus, the edge where the wine is thinnest and the colors appear to separate, and where the color evolution is most evident. The older the wine, the better? The wine's age does not necessarily correspond to its quality. Not all wines benefit from long-term aging, and not everyone prefers the flavor of older wine. Very generally, a younger wine will tend to have bolder flavors, and an older wine will have more integrated flavors (and softer tannins in the case of reds.) The fresh, fruity characteristics will fade with time, so if they are the wine's principal charm, it might be more enjoyable sooner rather than later. The next thing we want to evaluate is the aroma. The wine has already spent some time in your glass as you looked at the color; now give it a sniff. Get your nose right up into the glass! Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Give some thought to what you  perceive. At this point it may be helpful to think about general categories such as fruity, herbaceous, animal, earthy, chemical, and so forth. Now, give the wine a vigorous swirl (if you're worried about sloshing and spilling, leave the glass on the table and move the base in a circular motion using two fingers) and repeat the sniffing. Think about more specific aromas within the categories you have identified. There is a lot to be said about aroma and its analysis (we can address this topic in a future column) but once again let's begin with a simple idea: swirling will aerate the wine, and alcohol will evaporate. This evaporation will release aromatic compounds into the air, and the aroma will be amplified; that will help you identify component aromas.   Ready to taste? Start with a very small sip, and don't be too judgmental at first. Initially, things like acid, alcohol, and tannin can overwhelm the more pleasant flavors. Give yourself a moment to get used to the wine. Notice the mouthfeel. Is the wine astringent, smooth, viscous, watery…? These characteristics are not the same as taste or flavor; you feel them in your mouth rather than taste them. We tend to use "taste" and "flavor" interchangeably, but technically, the meanings are different. Taste refers specifically to a limited set of things we perceive only in the mouth: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and, more controversially, umami (Umami is a Japanese term, sometimes translated as "savoriness." Chemically, umami is associated with glutamates. That is not something we need to be concerned with here.) We can't smell tastes; sometimes we think we can because we perceive aromas associated with things that have strong tastes, but we can't smell the sweetness, saltiness, sourness, etc. Flavor includes both the pure tastes and the aromas we perceive (using the retronasal channel) when the wine is in the mouth. That can be quite complex; your familiarity with the aroma can give you some guidance regarding what to look for in the flavor. Many people find that slurping a little air along with the wine helps them to discern flavor. If you are tasting by yourself, or in the company of serious wine enthusiasts, then by all means give it a try, but I wouldn't do it in a social setting where the wine is not the primary focus of attention. Good wine should enhance the time you share with friends and loved ones so don't be annoying! Remember, you don't need to follow anyone else's rules; taste, experiment, see what works for you, and enjoy! Napa Valley Vineyard


Grimpa's Steakhouse Miami
Monday, 15 September 2008

{mosimage} A very elegant version of the Brazilian "Churrasco" restaurants that have sprung up around South Florida and other parts of the United States, Grimpa is located in Mary Brickell Village, just west of Miami's Brickell Avenue 'financial district.' Open for lunch and dinner, the restaurant should be a spectacular haven for gourmet and glutton alike! For the gourmet, it offers the opportunity to explore an extraordinary collection of meats, chicken and fish…explore them for texture and taste. While the glutton can indulge his overweening appetites at a fixed price!


Prime Blue Grille
Wednesday, 15 October 2008

{mosimage} Red meat is big these days, especially with cigar smokers. And, any place that has outdoor dining has my patronage; at least, once! Well, Prime Blue Grille, a creation of 'expatriate' Smith & Wollensky executives has had it many, many times. Dining on the terrace overlooking the entrance to the Miami River, opposite Brickell Key, is dining at its best. And being greeted by Jamie Zambrana, or any of his staff, is knowing hospitality at its best.


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