The Great Smoke 2009
Written by Gary J. Arzt

Friday, 27 March 2009

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The VIPs – and all sixty (60) tickets were sold – arrived, if they chose to, an hour before ‘the doors opened,’ and were greeted by parking Valets who took their autos and whisked them to the Three Olives Lounge. That was the VIP lounge.


VIP or regular guest – that’s not fair, all Abe’s clients and the attendees are VIPs. He’ll have to  develop another name – were provided with a beautifully embroidered duffle bag, filled with goodies, that you could put your cigars in as you collected the. The bag, itself, would always be an attractive reminder of a good time.


If one had any doubt that “The Great Smoke” had become, in three (3) short years, a cigar event of great significance, you would understand that it has by noting that Three Olive Vodka, of Great Britain, sponsored the lounge; FedEx sponsored the Valet Parking as well as the “Relaxation Station,” where weary cigar aficionados could get a quick shoulder massage, in those bizarre little ‘chairs’, from professional masseurs.


A few minutes of that, and event the weariest of the attendees was ready to leap back into the fray.


From the simplest in-store event  - meet the cigar maker; smoke a couple of his cigars; get a deal on a box purchase, etc – cigar events are, most of all, about camaraderie and the natural affinity for each other, of people who have an enormous affinity for fine cigars! That camaraderie and enjoyment was well in evidence all day, a rather beautiful day, at “The Great Smoke.”


Let’s not neglect the fact that this year, it was held under an enormous tent that covered a large part of the South Parking Lot of the shopping center.


The periphery of the tent was ringed with the booths of the various cigar brands – and it is essential for you to understand that it would be easier to name the brands that weren’t there, then to reiterate those that were.



Actually, these cigar makers and their finest products were there that at Abe’s personal invitation; and he invited only the very best!


In one corner of the huge tent – to me it looked big enough to hold Ringling Brothers three (3) ring circus – was the Three Olives Vodka Lounge, where VIP ticket holders relaxed in high back leather chairs, while VIP waiters attended to their gustatory needs!


Directly adjacent to the lounge were the Food Stations, and let it be known that “food stations” does not do justice to the exquisite selection of choices Chef Richard had created for the 2009 “Great Smoke.”


Just as mentioning all the cigars represented, and the famous cigar makers present, would take much more space than we have here, listing the food would be, likewise, a tedious task. Nonetheless, a peek at what was available at the four (4) stations should not go unmentioned. Ergo, if you were ready for lunch, you had a vast range of choices, such as


From Station One: Shaved Beef Tenderloin or Carved Herb Crusted Pork Loin with all the garnishes, condiments one would get at a five (5) star restaurant

From Station Two: Oriental stir fries. Choose from, shrimp or vegetables, or take them both with steamed white rice

Station Three provided Chicken and Beef Fajitas and yellow rice with black beans – I had them both.

Station Four had your Italian selections, which included Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce, Italian  Sausage, Grilled Chicken, Vegetables


These food stations, graciously attended by Chef Richard’s staff (and he could be seen constantly moving about this area, to assure that his and Abe’s reputations for quality and service were upheld), were directly in front of the stage, and flanked by twin seating areas.


While I can’t imagine that this array of victuals would not sate every appetite, there were still specialties provided by Smoke Inn’s neighbours, John Bull English Pub and Duffy’s Sports Grill.


The selection of wines, spirits and beers was equal to the foods available. And, these were available to you at a separate location not all that many steps from the Food Stations and where you seated yourself to enjoy your food.


I saw photos, the other day, of an event at a tobacconist in New York City, also with a huge turn-out. Looking at those photos reminded me of the way commuter trains in Tokyo look after the attendants had herded and pushed people onboard! Not so, “The Great Smoke,” where Abe saw to it that no matter what the attendance, everyone would be comfortable and enjoy the spaciousness of the very welcoming facility he had created.


There can be no doubt that this is a great event for Smoke Inn and garners a tremendous amount of attention and good will, but the major beneficiary is the Children’s Place at Home Safe, Inc., a charity that serves neglected and abused children from infancy to eighteen.


Without going into the mechanics of how Abe has seen to it that they have benefited from each of the three (3) events; I will note, as an example that the $1.00 per minute we paid for the massage at the FedEx Relaxation Station went to the charity.


Comparing “The Great Smoke” of 2007 to “The Great Smoke” of 2009 is like comparing a Fuddruckers’ hamburger to a filet mignon – both well made and satisfying, but the later, far superior.



So, this year’s event was replete with several firsts!


Cigar Dave, “the General,” broadcast his regular Saturday radio show (12:00 to 2:00 PM) from “The Great Smoke.” Dave interviewed many of the cigar makers there, and after the show, spoke with a lot of the gathered cigar fans, many, many of whom are fans of Cigar Dave.


For the auto enthusiast, Maroone had assembled a nice array of new automobiles on display, including the Corvette ZR1.


Pete Johnson’s Ambos Mundos cigars were seen, and smoked, at Abe’s event for the first time anywhere!


Gene Arganese introduced his Cuggine (‘cugino’ is cousin in Italian) cigars – another instance of associating the fine, gentlemanly art of cigar smoking, with unsavory characters – the name refers to a figure from “The Sopranos!” Not to my taste, but…to each his own, I suppose. Nonetheless, it was another first for “The Great Smoke.”


And, not to be omitted or neglected, Altadis showed off their new Siglo!


If you think for a moment that “The Great Smoke” 2009 was about a four (4) hour event, you are not aware of the other innovations introduced this year.


On Friday evening, at Rachel’s in West Palm Beach, the Torano’s hosted a limited attendance dinner. The $125 ticket provided you with a superb meal and a specially prepared sampler of excellent Torano cigars. And that is to say nothing of the very pleasant company and conversation of Carlos and Charlie Torano.


Oh, and there was a live performance by The Dillengers after the Great Smoke. Now that you’ve heard them…check out their web site. It’s a unique, interesting bunch of guys.


I have often wondered how Abe manages to find the time to find these people, dealing as he does with running three (3) tobacco shops; spending time with his little girl, and keeping his charming wife Brandy happy


No event, of any type, would be complete, today, without the ubiquitous ‘After Party!’ This one was held at Dr. Feelgood’s Rock Bar in West Palm Beach.


Hosted by La Aurora and Presidente beer, and limited to one hundred (100) guests, the $40 ticket bought you access to the club’s VIP room and all the Presidente beer you could consume. The piece de resistance, however; was the specially assembled La Aurora Preferido Treasure Pack – a $100 value.


All that, and a hell of a good time, for $40!


Whenever you left to return home; go to the After Party or just fall asleep in your car…you did so, totally sated. All your senses had been catered to by Abe, and a fabulous afternoon had passed too quickly.


Not to worry, there’s always next year.



0 # TheKing 2009-03-29 02:13
Nice article, but it fails to mention the location of Abe's shops. If i missed it in the article I apologize.

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