SignalJoe

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About SignalJoe

  • Rank
    Campanas
  • Birthday 03/30/1974

Profile Information

  • Location
    Angleton, TX
  • Interests
    Cuban cigars, Texas BBQ, photography, history and anything Rat Pack.

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  1. He was clearly a man of good taste, I would think he enjoyed many fine cigars, spirits and meals.
  2. As amazing as this collection is (trust me I was drooling) its kind of sobering. I find it a little sad that the man who amassed these treasures never had the opportunity to enjoy them. Perhaps its serves as notice to enjoy what you have while you can.
  3. At this point your guess is as good as mine. There was German collector who had a number of these on the auction site. The last of his collection sold a few months ago for about $250 more than I paid for my cab.
  4. Cuba Plans Expanded 2018 Crop

    Two problems with that statement. It assumes common sense will be applied and that they have the money to pay them.
  5. Any other reefkeepers?

    Sorry to hear that bud. Unfortunately it is part of fish keeping. I have found dried out fish in spots I couldn't believe.
  6. I landed my Holy Grail earlier this year. Bolivar Coronas Extra 50 Cab via auction. It took a good bit of searching and patience, well that and a fair bit of coin.
  7. Any other reefkeepers?

    Tell me about it. Part of the reason I never sold was dealing with all of the tire kickers and low ballers who waste your time when you try to resell. I think ultimately I will sell the 210 and keep the 180. I have a 3D background in it that spent over $700 on. I thought about a fowler and even reefing (though I sold the metal halide fixure that came with it) but my large acrylic sump (30x20x20) sprung a leak. To fix it I have to completely break down the tank and pull the tank and stand away from the wall (same way I got it in there). Though If I'm being completely honest I enjoy not doing the weekly 50% water changes and cleaning filters anymore.
  8. My nominations are the H. Upmann Connie A and RyJ Churchill. The box of Connie A's I have is from 14 but the one I was gifted which caused me to buy was a 15 box. It is a complex cigar in the spirit of the HUSW. The Churchill's I have been smoking are from an MUL 6/15 box. It is a classic Habano with notes of cherry and chocolate. Perhaps my all time favorite.
  9. Any other reefkeepers?

    Reefing was always the dark side to me. I have two tanks, a 7x2x2 210G RR and a 6x2x2 180G sitting empty at the moment. They used to house Tanginyikan cichlids. I should probably sell them but with all the money I put in to the tanks, stands, filtration, media and powerheads (4x Ecotech MP-40s) I keep sitting on them thinking the urge to get back in to the hobby will strike me again.
  10. Cuba’s Most Authentic Experience Is Far From Havana By Tom Downey April 19, 2017 10:38 a.m. ET Link to Wall Street Journal site w/pictures ASK AN AMERICAN tourist planning a trip to Havana what he or she hopes to eat while there and most will mention an American creation: the so-called Cuban sandwich. Authentic Cuban cuisine is almost impossible to find in Havana’s higher-end restaurants. The most acclaimed, such as La Guarida and El Cocinero, are starkly beautiful, offering stunning views, attentive service—and generic gourmet fare, with only passing references to Cuba’s culinary heritage. The other element missing at these places is a Cuban clientele. Prices are, by local standards, steep, with menus geared to foreign tourists. One can’t fault the restaurateurs or chefs, whose fellow citizens have almost nothing to spend on meals out. The result is that Cubans who eat at these restaurants tend to be visiting from America or accompanying foreigners as tour guides. The streets of Havana are where locals dine out when they have the means. Stalls carved in the back of family homes sell snacks for the equivalent of 5, 10 or 20 cents: toasted sandwiches made on electric presses filled with ham, cheese or, at the lowest price, only mayonnaise; or personal pizzas topped with a thin veneer of red sauce and a few lonely strips of half-melted cheese. Though such spots are often packed with customers, the appeal is price, not quality. So dining in Havana presents a conundrum: The best restaurants aren’t Cuban, and the real Cuban restaurants are not terribly good. I’d first learned about Cuban cuisine as a teenager from one of my best friends, Jose Marquez, who had been exiled from his Caribbean home a few years before I met him. Meals served at his family’s New York City apartment held a deep nostalgia for them. Food was a cultural lifeline to the places and people they’d left behind, evoking not just memories and feelings, but an entire country and way of life that they assumed they would never experience again. On the way to the airport after my first two-week visit to Havana, shortly after Fidel Castro’s death last November—a trip spent scouring the city for classic Cuban cooking but not finding anything worthy of the designation—I asked my driver (who turned out to be both a lawyer and the son of one of post-revolutionary Cuba’s most celebrated chefs, Gilberto Smith) where I could find authentic local food. At first he steered me toward the usual government-run ventures. After I explained the problems I’d encountered, he listened intently, then drove me to a roadside stand a few miles from the airport. Cubans crowded the counter, slathering a spicy chili vinegar laced with onion slices and pepper chunks onto thin slices of lechón, roast pork, slightly blackened on the edges and piled atop a soft roll. Two large roasting pigs on the right side of the stand emitted an enticing aroma of meat and wood smoke. I’d eaten depressing specimens of this dish, pan con lechón, in tourist joints in Old Havana, but this was something else. The meat was tender, nicely charred and enhanced by the acidity of hot sauce. This, my last meal before leaving Cuba, taken alongside taxi and truck drivers, was the only one that truly satisfied. The pan con lechón at this stand, La Lechonera, was served in three sizes. The cheapest cost the equivalent of $1, the most expensive $1.60—five times the cost at most street-food stands. The quality of this meal—and its price tag—highlights the tricky economics of Cuban food. At a very low price it’s impossible to produce decent cuisine, as is clear from the overabundant pan con mayonesa. A different problem persists at the high end: Wealthy foreigners care less than locals whether their meals are good value (or whether they accurately reflect Cuban culinary traditions). As A.J. Liebling posited in his Paris masterwork, Between Meals, a bourgeoisie with a big appetite is the backbone of any great (or even passable) national cuisine. Post-revolutionary Cuba was never lacking in appetite, but the bourgeoisie had been eliminated, or transplanted abroad, for half a century. As bourgeois Cuban culture is starting to be reborn—the result of a radical increase in the number of Cubans who can get their hands on dollars or their local equivalent, convertible pesos—it’s given rise to places like this pan con lechón stand. Cuba has a two-tiered monetary system. The government sector, which still employs the majority of Cubans, pays paltry sums in Cuban pesos. Citizens who work for international or private companies, or who sell their goods or services directly to tourists (thus receiving tips from foreigners), can earn convertible pesos, worth 25 times the local currency. This means that a doctor or lawyer can earn less in a month than a successful waiter or taxi driver earns in a day. The menu at this stand reflected a newly emerging Cuban clientele: neither wealthy foreigners nor the poorest Cubans. La Lechonera is on the very edge of Havana, the most globalized city in the country, with an economy that depends on foreign visitors. To find anything that resembled the first bites of Cuban food I’d tasted nearly 30 years ago would mean traveling across Cuba in search of more restaurants like this one. ON MY RETURN, a few weeks later, I go to Ajiaco Café, a small restaurant in a fishing village outside Havana called Cojimar, made famous as one of the settings in Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. I visit with Michel Perez-Oliva Perez, a Cuban ex–assistant chef turned guide, fixer and photographer who also turns out to be a serious foodie. As we eat small croquetas of salted fish, a reinvented kind of bacalao using local fish, not cod, he tells me that this restaurant has two identities. “At lunchtime they draw tour groups of foreigners, and that’s why, in addition to all the hard-to-find Cuban regional specialties, they offer pizza, pasta and international food,” he says. “But at night this place is for Cubans. The prices aren’t so cheap that anyone can afford it, but for anyone making convertible pesos it’s not so expensive.” After a few more dishes—including tamale en cazuela, a stew of corn, pork and vegetables seasoned with fresh lime and homemade chili—we finish with 12-year-old Santiago rum and cigars from Perez-Oliva Perez’s humidor. One of the restaurant owners, Pedro Eugenio Tejada Torres, joins us. “Our mission is to present and preserve classic, authentic Cuban food,” he says. “But it’s hard when everyone with money wants Italian, French and international cuisine. Maybe someday we’ll be able to open in Havana. Right now it’s good to be here because the rent is lower, so we can cater to a Cuban clientele.” One of the challenges facing Cuban restaurants and food suppliers is that, for decades, the government saw rapid industrialization as the only way forward. Anything small, artisanal or entrepreneurial was extinguished to make way for the revolution. So I am intrigued when Perez-Oliva Perez mentions Hector Luis Prieto, who he says produces some of the finest cigars in the world on his own land about 115 miles west of Havana. A few days later, I visit the tobacco-growing region around San Juan y Martínez in the western province of Pinar del Río. January is the tail end of the season; the fields are a thick mass of lush green plants, and the roads are abuzz with workers harvesting tobacco. The fields are punctuated by white cloth tents (leaves used for the wrapper, the most delicate part of the cigar, are kept in the shade to ensure tenderness) and large wooden barns, called secaderos, where tobacco is dried. Hector Luis Prieto has organized a pig roast for a visiting contingent of diplomats and cigar mavens. One of his guests, a French photographer and explorer named Jean-François Druz, says that we are standing on “some of the best tobacco land in the world. And unlike more famous cigars, which are made from tobacco blended from different fincas, Hector’s are made from leaves grown, dried and rolled right here.” Prieto must sell 90 percent of his harvest to the state (at whatever price it dictates); the government apportions his tobacco to other brands, which then sell it under their own label with no reference to Prieto. The 10 percent he keeps he rolls into his own cigars. He can’t brand them, and he can’t sell them outside his finca, but he’s become so renowned in the cigar world that aficionados like Druz fly to Cuba to seek him out. The word purorefers to a cigar whose entire contents come from a single country. Prieto has taken this a step further, using only leaves grown on his finca—the equivalent of terroir in winemaking, applied to tobacco. “I smoke these more than any other cigars,” Druz says. “I know where they come from. I see them being made. I visit the land, and I know the man who farms it.” Food, of course, has a parallel concept of place. But one thing you learn while browsing menus outside of Havana is that Cuba’s dominant cuisine (comida criolla, a style of cooking created by Spaniards who arrived centuries ago) yields nearly identical dishes across the country. Even so, I am hopeful that provincial cooking styles will vary from place to place. While describing a rural chef who specializes in a mostly forgotten type of local cuisine, Perez-Oliva Perez keeps repeating a Spanish word that I’ve never heard: cimarrón. He explains that cimarróns were slaves who fled to hills and jungles after escaping. The next day we turn off the national highway, cross a river and enter a tiny village. Omaira Scott Alfaro, a middle-aged woman in a white dress, greets us, beaming, as we enter her enclave, a compound of small, clean wooden shacks surrounded by gardens. She brings us a homemade concoction of aguardiente, ginger, honey and hot pepper that we drink out of bamboo vessels. “This whole section of the country is filled with people descended from cimarróns,” she says. “Our ancestors lived in these hills. They cooked and ate what they could find and cultivate here: root vegetables, wild herbs and greens, ginger and hot peppers.” Out back behind her home, past an altar to both Christian saints and their African syncretic equivalents, Scott Alfaro cooks over charcoal as she prepares a spread of cimarrón food: chicken with okra, a vegetable known here by its Congolese name, quimbombó; callaloo (cassava greens) with salted fish; goat ribs stewed in a spicy tomato sauce; and bread made from sweet potatoes. The dishes, served in dried coconut husks, are bright with flavors, ingredients and spices unknown in comida criolla. Scott Alfaro is radiant when she sees how much we enjoy her cooking. “I spent years walking around this area, visiting villages you can only reach by foot or on horseback,” she says. “Collecting recipes that are being lost. Finding vegetables people don’t grow much anymore. This food is our culture. I want to keep it alive. Regional places that once had a distinct identity and slowly became more like everywhere else represent a kind of cultural death. The city of Trinidad, a vibrant Unesco World Heritage site a few hours southeast of Havana, has become so overwhelmed by visitors and beholden to their dollars that very few local influences remain. After a night spent bouncing around tourist traps, I head to the nearby waterfront village of Casilda the morning after. While the old city of Trinidad is polished and seductive, Casilda is newer but run down, with apartment blocks that seem transplanted whole from Minsk. But in the middle of the main boulevard, a red cinder-block structure boasts a stand-up counter that wraps around two sides of a kitchen/bar open to the sea breeze. The place is packed at 8:30 a.m. It’s all locals. Though the menu lists several sandwiches, everyone is ordering pan con minuta, at five Cuban pesos (20 cents). I edge up to the counter and order one. Minutes later it appears: a butterflied, battered, deep-fried fish dwarfing the tiny roll it sits on. Following the example of the fisherman next to me, I add homemade hot sauce. It’s a perfect seaside breakfast: a dark fish called viajaiba, crispy on the outside and moist and packed with flavor on the inside. Farther east, I visit Bayamo, a dusty inland town with a frontier feel, where many people still commute by horse-drawn carriage. The city streets are alive with vendors. In front of the train and bus stations, El Colorado, a tiny street stall open from 2:30 a.m. to noon, dishes up bocaditos de cerdo. One of the proprietors, Oscar Vázquez Zamora, picks meat from a whole roasted pig, dices it with a well-worn knife, then layers morsels of the slow-roasted pork onto a baguette. “We cook only two pigs a day,” Vázquez Zamora says. “We roast them over wood with no seasoning. After I carve up the pig, I sprinkle some salt onto each sandwich. It doesn’t need anything more if it’s cooked right. We close when we’ve sold all the meat from those two pigs.” At 20 cents, his sandwich is far superior to the pan con lechón near the Havana airport—and offers a rebuke to the notion that Communism and industrialism have entirely ruined the island’s culinary heritage. Just as Italy saw the emergence of cucina povera (poor people’s cuisine), yielding iconic dishes like pasta e fagioli, more remote areas of Cuba are finding ways to uphold culinary traditions in straitened circumstances. The first private restaurants, called paladares, were allowed to operate in post-revolutionary Cuba in 1993, following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of the massive aid package it had provided. At the time, paladares were limited to 12 seats inside the owner’s home. That all changed in 2011, when, as part of larger economic reforms, Raúl Castro allowed private eateries to expand to up to 50 seats and operate outside the owner’s residence, a boon not just to restaurateurs but also to farmers and other food suppliers. The term paladar, originally adopted from the name of a chain of restaurants in a popular Brazilian soap opera that aired in Cuba in the early ’90s, has persisted, although today it simply means any privately owned restaurant. Authentic Cuban food, I reasoned, would likely be found in more traditional paladares, not in Havana’s glorified, touristy versions. While on the road to Santiago, the cultural and commercial center of the eastern part of the island, I hear about an old-style paladar operating outside the city limits. Around dinnertime, we drive to Castillo del Morro, a colonial-era castle, and then follow directions to a private house (with no sign and no name) perched on a steep hillside with a view of the waterfront. Sitting at the kitchen table, we watch Donia Fuentes López, a smiling 29-year-old, as she tends to a fish scored with diagonal cuts, setting it down in a pan of sizzling garlic and then spooning hot oil on its surface. She adds chunks of octopus to a second pan, in which oil mingles with sofrito, a base of onion, garlic, cumin, oregano and bay leaf. “I’m not the owner,” she says. “She moved to Miami. But before that, she taught me how to cook and left me to run her paladar.” She serves us the fish and octopus accompanied by a soup of black beans and fluffy white rice. Though beans and rice is a well-known Cuban dish, it’s increasingly difficult to find it in this simple form at restaurants, which tend to cook them together as arroz congrí or moros y cristianos. It’s appropriate that I find this home-cooked fare near Santiago; the city retains a Cuban identity that Havana often lacks. Although Santiago’s main plaza has its share of foreign visitors (and jineteros, hustlers, trying to con them), the tourists here seem incidental, whereas in Havana, increasingly, they are becoming essential to the city’s way of life. My final stop is the island’s first Spanish settlement, Baracoa, on Cuba’s far northeast coast, a roughly three-hour drive from Santiago. The treacherous mountain road to Baracoa, called La Farola, was built in 1965. Before then the town was reachable only by boat, meaning its culture and cuisine developed in relative isolation. In town, I make the rounds in search of unusual Baracoan dishes. Every restaurant has similar offerings: fish and seafood with coconut milk. I take a seat at the most promising-looking place, which soon fills up with two large German tour groups. My meal is different from the usual comida criolla fare but uninspiring. The cuisine seems aimed not at Baracoans but at visitors like me. Back in the U.S., I’d seen a cookbook chronicling Baracoa’s culinary heritage, so I went in search of its author, Inalvis Guilbeaux Rodríguez. In her traditional street-level house, she serves me a cold bottle of a local herbal soda. I ask her about the origin of Baracoa’s unusual cuisine and where I can sample it. Most authorities on Baracoan food cite the formative influence of the Taíno, one of the historic indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, as well as the French colonists who moved here from Haiti after that country won its independence. When I ask Guilbeaux Rodríguez how her recipes have endured for centuries, she tells me that most of the dishes in her cookbook had actually been lost, even in Baracoa, by the 1980s. Back then, the locals had started to cook the same type of cuisine found everywhere in Cuba, relying on foods imported from the Soviet bloc rather than on local products. In the 1990s, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, those imports suddenly dried up, and Cuba entered what locals call the “special period,” a time of great poverty and near famine. In those desperate times, Cubans had to figure out how to survive on what they could grow, fish, catch or raise themselves. This, Guilbeaux Rodríguez tells me, prompted the resurgence of Baracoan cuisine. Though the lost recipes were almost never prepared anymore, an older generation of Baracoans (along with others from the surrounding rural areas) were able to bring back a cuisine they had left behind. These people, I realized, had carried out a uniquely Cuban riff on cucina povera. The next day I meet Alejandro Hartmann Matos, Baracoa’s official historian. After some polite preamble, I mention that I am desperate to find real Baracoan cuisine. He directs me to a chef friend of his originally from the area who worked for over a decade in the best Havana restaurants and has just returned to start his own place serving Baracoan specialties. That restaurant isn’t open yet, but the chef, Ineldis Trutie Ortiz, agrees to cook us dinner at a friend’s restaurant on the town’s main pedestrian street. Trutie Ortiz’s training at gourmet places in Havana melds with his deep knowledge of local Baracoan products and recipes to create something spectacular: a traditional dish called bacán perdido, made from ripe plantains formed into small dumplings and stewed in a rich green coconut-milk sauce. This is followed by a seared pork filet in a savory cacao sauce (using cacao from the area, the only region of Cuba where it has been successfully cultivated). Trutie Ortiz’s food is tasty and surprising, worth a journey across the island to sample. Since he was a child, Trutie Ortiz knew he wanted to cook. His mother taught him local recipes; his father farmed cacao, coffee, coconuts and vegetables. “I come from a village that’s only a few kilometers outside this city,” he says. “But it takes two and a half hours walking up the mountain to reach it.” After leaving home, Trutie Ortiz spent 14 years working at the sorts of restaurants that had inspired me to flee Havana and make this trip. “I cooked at all those Havana restaurants,” he says. “But I am a campesino [country person] also. This is where Cuban cuisine is kept alive.”
  11. I am in as well. I may not be a "senior vet" but I have a few rarities and some aged goodies in the humidor.
  12. Diplomatico Cuba RE

    Great sticks, more complex than the No. 2 while still sharing the same DNA. However they are not widely available at this point.
  13. FOH NFL Week Three Leaderboard.

    I managed to improve from piss poor to mediocre.
  14. Your first ever box buy?

    My first box was three boxes; RyJ 2, MC4 and BRC at a duty free store in Macedonia, 2006. I had always wanted to try smoking cigars and found myself in Nuremburg Germany. After months of purchasing singles I bought a large desktop and took the plunge.
  15. Siglo V and Sir Winston. I recall the HUs once this year, I only remember seeing the Vs as part of a locker sale. I still regret not buying them.

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