There's nothing like a cigar. Cigars threaten the most hardcore cigarette smoker. A single cigar smoker wields the power to send wimpy Marlboro men scampering for fresh air.
There's nothing like a cigar to fill a room with stench, to conjure images of boardrooms and old boy networks that nary a woman could infiltrate.
We've come a long way, baby.
At a recent cigar dinner at Gordon Biersch, there were about five women to 40 men, but we're in there, ladies.
Not that you're missing anything. Whenever I turned around, I saw the women lighting up ... cigarettes. And for this nonsmoker, any rapt description of a cigar's sweetness or mellowness was moot. Cigar preferences are a matter of taste and all I tasted was smoke. I felt a dry, burning sensation in my throat as I tried to suppress any cough in the face of men like James Figueira, ultra-cool lead singer for the Love Gods, and business exec Mr. X (who declined to give his name because he wants to hide his habit).
Mr. X brings up Sir Winston Churchill a lot in conversation. When talk turns to the hazards of smoking, Mr.X - a mere infante at 60 - points out that Sir Winston lived until age 90. When asked how to dispose of the leftover butt, he mentions that Sir Winston stored all his butts in a cigar box, saving them for eventual use in a pipe. Sir Winston did it, so he does it, only, he has four boxes full of butts because he has an aversion to pipe smoking as well as cigarettes, saying, "I don't allow cigarettes in the office."
CIGARS have arrived. Those who keep up with celebrities and models couldn't help noticing within the past year the likes of Linda Evangelista and Sharon Stone sucking on suddenly hip stogies, the ultimate accessory.
Gordon Biersch is one of a handful of restaurants offering cigars like aperitifs or cordials. The cigar smoker dinners, held the last Tuesday of every month, take place outside in the open-air bar, away from those who want to enjoy a meal without the smoke.
Although pricier cigar events make food a highlight, at Gordon Biersch, simple pupu is offered. Last month there was salmon, pita with tapenade and hummus, spareribs and bruschetta topped with basil and shrimp.
But most of the men were more interested in lighting up than filling up. Image surely plays some part in the desire to pick up a cigar. Some of the smokers - in alligator boots and Jean-Paul Gaultier shades - looked as debonair and powerful as they probably imagine a cigar smoker should look. But they were few. Most looked like the usual suspects, with cigars.
In the smoky haze that wafted over all, though, one couldn't miss the conviviality and light-hearted camaraderie. Cigars, like a great meal, have the power to bring people together.
Then there's the other sign of the times: More restaurants posting "No cigars allowed."
Hawaii's Le Flor de Cuba: At Roy's Restaurant, 6 p.m. Sunday, May 19, with appetizers and sake served on the lanai, followed by dinner and cigar rolling in the banquet room and post-dinner cigar smoking and drinks on the lanai, featuring Remy Martin "Club" VSOP Cognac or Macallan 18-year-old Single Malt Scotch.
Featured will be Hawaii's hand-rolled Le Flor de Cuba cigars with a demonstration by cigar master Angela Gonzales. There is limited seating and the cost is $95 per person, prepaid with reservations and including tax and gratuity. Call 396-ROYS (7697).
"Smoke on the Water": Benefit for Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International, at Gordon Biersch, with hosted bar (beer, wine and port) from 7 to 10 p.m. May 28, with pupu and two cigars. Donation $60, $25 tax deductible.
Cigars and Cognac: David Gochros leads a University of Hawaii College of Continuing Education class (S7223) 7 to 9 p.m. July 30 at the JMD Educational Center. $38 includes samples. Call 956-8400 to register.
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