This week saw our annual company Thanksgiving. Tradition dictates that Adam cook the turkey, but this year he upped the ante, delivering not one but two birds... and a ham. The rest of us pitched in with assorted side-dishes and desserts, while productivity ground to a screeching halt (and remained below par for the rest of the work day).
I'm particularly proud of my contribution: a cranberry-horseradish cream. This type of thing is very much out of my culinary wheelhouse, but I decided to take a gamble because it sounded interesting, and becase I love horseradish-flavored anything. The recipe:
Dump a twelve ouce bag of fresh cranberries into a saucepan, and remove about half a cup to use later. Also add a cup of sugar, a little orange or lemon zest, and two tablespoons of water. Cook over low heat until the sugar melts and the cranberries begin to soften, around ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Crank the heat up to medium, adding the remaining cranberries about half-way through, and cook until the cranberries explode, about ten minutes. Remove the pot from heat, and fold in one-third cup of sourcream and one to two (or maybe three) tablespoons of horseradish. Lick the spoon clean, and serve the cream chilled as a dipping sauce for your turkey, ham, fingers, etc.
As usual, I was running around poking my camera in folks faces:
John Sutherland: Marketing Mngr and Sr. Photographer
Yes, that says what you think it says. It's the dessert menu from dinner three days ago. It literally reads "Chocolate fondant cigar 'cru Acarigua' with sweet Scandinavian style pipe tobacco ice cream". I didn't even read the rest of the menu. I had to have it. Alyson and I split it; it was fantastic, but the ice cream wasn't quite as pipe-tobacco-y as I would haved hoped. Still, for an evening after a day visiting the Castello factory, it was the perfect conclusion to the perfect pipe day!
In the past three days, we've visited Castello, Radice, and Sébastien Beaud, owner of the Genod pipe factory and maker of the Sébastien Beo line of pipes available on Smokingpipes.com. We promise to blog about those visits over the next few days.
Peter Heeschen is a lovely man. Charming, humorous, and flush with anecdotes; here at Smokingpipes.com he is often ceremonially referred to simply as ‘Uncle Peter’.
Not too long ago I had the pleasure of keeping Peter Heeschen company while he was visiting in the US. We ate out at a handful of the area's countless restaurants, toured the extensive Vereen Gardens, and made a trip to the historical city of Charleston. We even made the opportunity to hang out at Starbucks.
On our ride to Charleston we made a pit stop for gas. As I exited the convenience store, having pre-paid for fuel, I found Adam and Peter at a boiled peanut stand. The idea of a boiled peanut is a strange enough concept for a guy native to California (I’d never heard of such a thing until I moved to the South). But I think Peter was positively dumbfounded - even something we Americans as a whole consider utterly mundane, peanut butter (at least as we know it), is difficult to find in Denmark. He must have been, because Adam captured the moment with a photograph.
Peter Heeschen enjoys his very first Southern-style boiled peanut.
So, what did Uncle Peter have to say about boiled peanuts?
“They are quite different, but also, they are quite good.”
To all you Danish pipe makers, come on down to the South and we’ll treat you to lobster bisque, grilled garlic and chili shrimp, and some boiled peanuts. That’s how we do things here.
I've been back from Japan for a couple of days now, starting to recover from jetlag and starting to look through the vast number of photos and perhaps two hours of video I took while I was there. These are all photos from my first day in Japan. Kei Gotoh and Takeo Arita picked me up at my hotel in the morning and we visited (I had no idea this was planned) a small museum of work by the celebrated painter Gyokudo Kawai, known for his naturalistic melding of traditional Japanese artistic themes with western modernist influences. After the museum visit, we had lunch with Sab Tsuge, who was wearing (I think) a hakama and smoking (and this I know) a kiseru, the traditional metal pipe that was used to smoke tobacco in Japan starting in the late sixteenth century.
Extremely fine tobacco--much finer than cigarette tobacco-- is used with the kiseru. According to Tsuge, the kiseru is making something of a comeback, in part because of recent tax increases on tobacco. That's actually rather ironic because that exactly was the genesis for the kiseru: heavy taxes were levied on tobacco during the Tokugawa shogunate, so the pipes shrank accordingly.
We enjoyed a wonderful, traditional lunch together in a beautiful tatami private dining room overlooking the river. I shan't try to detail the food; I don't know what much of it was, though it was all good. Following that, we had coffee outside and Gotoh, Arita and I headed back to Gotoh's workshop to chat, take pictures and videos, and actually conduct three minutes of honest-to-goodness business. Perhaps the best thing about my job is that the actual transacting of business is done in about three minutes and the rest of the time is spent on the concordant rituals, which largely consist of eating and talking about pipes.
Kei Gotoh took the third and the twelfth photos in this series. Since those are definitely the best, kudos go to him.
Here we are, on the eve of the Richmond CORPS show, hosting a small get together of friends, family, and special guests. We've had a wholesome supper of 'Southern' food and for dessert Jeff made peach cobbler. Excitement is in the air. We're passing the time telling stories and talking about pipes. Tokutomi has even dusted off his guitar for the occasion.
Tokutomi warms up his guitar in the bulk tobacco room.
Brian plays with his strange, pipe smoking brown bear.
The weeks before and after the Richmond Show are a big deal here in Little River, SC. Right now, we have pipe makers Hiroyuki Tokutomi and Jeff Gracik, plus pipe collector and writer Tom Looker and PipesMagazine.com owner Kevin Godbee visiting. We'll have a bunch more stuff up on the blog as the weekend progresses, plus, I'm sure, videos and whatnot as we have time to edit them. In the meantime, here are some photos...
Tokutomi explains the finer points of a pipe shape to Ted Swearingen.
At times, Adam demonstrates a brilliance that far surpasses my wildest expectations. Recently, he's been making homemade (or, I guess, office made) donuts in our office kitchen. Who, my dear reader, other than Adam, would think that a) bringing a massive cast iron wok to work, and b) frying donuts in it, would be a normal thing to do at ones job. Granted, this is not a work environment devoid of eccentricities, not least of which are my own, but Adam is the current champion of office eccentricity. It's a good eccentricity, however.
Today, I happened to be in the kitchen when he was frying up another batch. Somehow we got talking about making pipe-shaped donuts. I took first crack at this and my pipe-shaped donut looked like, er, not a pipe. Let's just say that it has been safely eaten and will not be photographed. Let's also suggest that, were it presented on broadcast television, the FCC would likely fine me. Adam's, as one might expect from a pipe maker of his caliber, was rather impressive. It even had a chamber, though no draft hole. One of the most talked about aspects of sandblasting among pipe makers is the trade off of shape integrity and sandblast depth. Well, those pipe makers should try shaping in dough and deep frying; that'll seriously screw up your shape's lines...
Having crafted this magnificent shape, Brian walked in and immediately recognized the pipe-donut for what it was: an interpretation of Alex Florov's Callalily. Now, while it is generally common for pipe makers to borrow ideas from each other, it is less common to render each others work in deep-fried biscuit dough.
Of course, this also gives a whole new meaning to "Fresh pipes served daily". Suffice it to say that, our tagline notwithstanding, there will not be a baked (er, fried) goods section on the website, pipe shaped or otherwise...
It's been a whirlwind here in New Orleans over the past few days. Providing any sort of logical, or even chronological, order is beyond me at this point. So, in addition to eating our share of beignets and drinking coffee at Café du Monde, though really, Brian ate his share and nine other shares, and listening to Jazz in the Quarter, we've actually done some work. Or, whatever it is we actually do that we pretend is work to the folks back home so that they don't know what a raucously good time we're having while we're away. Seriously, the show has been lot of fun, but we've also covered tremendous ground, literally and figuratively. Here are some highlights from Monday through Wednesday, picking up where we left off after the last IPCPR post, where we'd just finished up picking out tons of particularly pretty Dunhills...
Oh, and also, we'll have a bunch of videos when we get home. Our cunning plan to edit and push videos from the road has hit a technical snag or six, so I think we're surrendering on that particular front until we can use real hardware and software back at the office. We do have some seriously fun stuff, including videos with Soren Lundh Aagaard, Managing Director of Stanwell, Rocky Patel, and many others...
Monday afternoon we picked out a few dozen Castellos at the Castello pre-show event. Usually, we'll pick out months worth of updates of pipes, but we were a little more restrained this year because we'd just bought a ton of awesome Castellos when we were in Italy in late June. Still, we added some great pieces, especially Sea Rocks and Old Antiquaris, which were a little thin on the ground when we were at the factory eight weeks ago. You'll have to wait to see what we have, but there were some sandblasts that had Brian and me swooning...and Susan and Alyson rolling their eyes a little bit at our enthusiasm (though, secretly, they're super-excited too; they just pretend they're not sometimes; simply witness Susan's intent pipe selecting to the right).
That night, we met Kevin Godbee from PipesMagazine.com for dinner at Susan Spicer's restaurant, Bayona. As I might have suggested previously, and while I don't want to turn this blog into a restaurant review page, I have a bit of weakness for the culinary arts. And Susan Spicer is an artist. The food was excellent and the company was even better. We spent a great five hours talking about the growth in pipe smoking among younger men that we've all been noticing and what we could do to help foster that and ease their entry into the hobby.
The first morning of the show is always a mad dash for us. No one needs to particularly hustle to cigar booths: it'll be the same cigars later that afternoon, but for pipes, it's imperative that we get to pick early. I hit Tsuge immediately, while Brian and Alyson went to Savinelli, and Susan went in search of Stanwells. After selecting a dozen Tsuges, I dashed over to pick out two dozen (or thereabouts, counting and speed picking tend not to go together) awesome Paolo Beckers. He's been experimenting with a new wood that has properties very similar to briar, but is lighter and blasts beautifully. We'll have more on that later, though. We all ended up back with the Stanwells, and picked out lots while we were there, including, we think, some pretty interesting stuff.
From there, the entire crew visited the Ashton booths to select Petersons. There are a few really nice new lines that will be available over the coming months, including the new version of the Kapet with a nickel band and a fantastic new Mark Twain shape. Plus, of course, the Peterson Pipe of the Year, of which we've already received the first few, pictured to the right. They also had a particularly good selection of Spigots that we could select from this year, plus we finalized an amazing deal for some very special Petersons that we'll be able to share with you in about two weeks, but for now, I'll have to keep mum-- I promise it'll be huge, though!
Tune back in tomorrow evening for more notes from the show...including our discussions with CAO about Dunhill tobaccos coming back to the US...
Claudio was a farmer for most of his adult life. He had also been the world slow-smoking
champion for years, and held the world record for many years (as documented by the Guinness Book of Records). Claudio made his first pipe in 1974 because
he'd already waited more than a year for a Caminetto pipe that he'd ordered. For some years, he made pipes for himself and friends. Some years later, as
he became prominent in European and world slow smoking competitions, he began giving serious consideration to the internal dynamics of pipes, rejecting
the traditional Italian model and creating something that, at the time, was quite new, especially in Italy. He continued this way for some years, slowly
making more pipes and farming less, until he ceased to be a farmer at all (except for some very well tended vegetables) and became a full time pipe
Before we sat down for lunch, we looked over perhaps 100 Cavicchi pipes, selecting about half that have since arrived in Little River. We could quite
easily have selected them all--each was excellent--but we had just received a shipment of 50 pipes at the office, and adding another 100 to that seemed
excessive. So, painful decision followed painful decision as we wittled down the selection to something more manageable. Plus, upon our arrival, he had
already fallen far below what Claudio considered his prudent reserve of pipes, and as Gianfranco joked about what would happen if Cladio ever, gasp, ran
out of pipes, we thought it better to not put such strain on Claudio...
Exploring Claudio's home and garden, it becomes quite apparent that this is quiet man is
exacting in all he does. His vegetable garden is perfectly tended. His yard is verdant, model ships he built as a young man are displayed in his dining
room. Everything about his life is exact and methodical, diligently nurtured. Daniela, Claudio's wife, exhibits many of the same attributes. She works as
a quality control specialist for a food packaging company and the lunch she prepared for all of us was divine, beginning with homemade tagliatelle alla
ragu (bolognese; we are just a few kilometers from Bologna, after all), continuing onto a regional pork dish, the most extraordinary fried
potatoes that I have ever tasted, and finishing with some of the finest cantelope that I have ever experienced. Clearly, Claudio's talents in the
workshop are only exceeded by those of his wife in the kitchen.
Lunch conversation ran from pipes to the regional differences among various
prosciutti and the general reverence with which everyone at the table holds the pig, to Claudio's magnificent vegetable garden (about which
Claudio, in his matter of fact manner, says, "well, I'm a farmer"). Open and hospitable, the opportunity for me to finally get to know Claudio and
Daniela was priceless. The impressions about the man that I gleaned from seeing a few hundred of his pipes were partially confirmed. He is as exacting
and methodical as I had supposed, yet also possessing a gentle kindness, a self-comfort, a quiet modesty, that earned my respect as much for the man as
for his pipes.
I'm headed to the airport to fly to Brussels tomorrow. From there, I'll wind my way south, visiting St. Claude in the Joura mountains as the first stop on my trip. I'll visit the Genod workshop, have lunch with folks there, and head east to Switzerland, where I'll spend the night, before going on to visit Ardor, Castello, and Radice over the following two days. And from there, south into Italy, visiting folks, then across the peninsula, visiting more folks, up into Germany and eventually back to Brussels.
I'll blog as I go, with photos and descriptions, but much of the reason that I like visiting our suppliers and partners in Italy is that we, as one might expect, do everything Italian style. This means that we actually talk business for about, it seems, four minutes. Then we eat lunch for two hours. Then business resumes for about six minutes. It's not that Italians don't work hard; these guys really work hard. It's just that business is done over great food. That, I think, is yet another Italian import that we Americans need. Breakfast meetings at 7:30am with everyone scribbling on legal pads while sucking down tepid coffee do not count, my fellow Americans.
About a year ago at the IPCPR show in New Orleans, we had four person team: three veterans (Tony, Susan, me) and one person new to the whole experience (Lisa). Lisa couldn't quite figure out the division of labor. It seemed to her that I spent more time trying to figure out what restaurants we wanted to eat at (this is New Orleans, after all) than I did on the business. Susan and Tony expected this. The three of us had eaten our way through Las Vegas for the previous IPCPR. But Lisa was baffled. I knew I'd done all the prep I could do back at the office, that I'd be at the show or in outside meetings with folks ten hours a day, and that I really wanted to make sure I could experience the culinary delights that New Orleans had to offer. Such as Susan Spicer's restaurant Bayona, which if you ever happen to find yourself in New Orleans (or, well, within 200 miles of New Orleans) is a must visit. Food is really important. Returning to my original point, the Italians have it right.
So, starting in a couple of days, I'll blog diligently about my first love, pipes and pipe tobacco, and I'll probably squeeze some meal descriptions in there while I'm at it. I couldn't be more excited to make this trip. I'm in Denmark and Japan each annually, but this'll be my first trip to Italy in a couple of years.
We all need something to get us going throughout the day, and most times this is coffee (we use copious amounts of coffee here in the office). Besides coffee, we all need to eat. There were some days when I would actually wake up early and make a hearty breakfast at home before my 25 mile commute to the office. For whatever reason, I had a lot more energy on these days and repeatedly said I would always eat breakfast. Like so many resolutions, they were only a wish that blew away after a few days like a dandelion in the wind.
Breakfast, as we have always been told, is the most important meal of the day. Our bodies need the fuel to help us make good decisions, and think critically. Tom Marsh has his morning yogurt, and often shares part of an avocado with me in the early afternoon. Brian likes to eat bananas and, being older than most of us, plays BINGO before the sun rises. I'm not really sure what anyone else does around here for food, but probably not very much. Maybe once or twice a week, I will be a stellar employee and make a late lunch for everyone. While I haven't the means to make an 8 foot sub, many foods are plentiful for others to try. Often, I insist they give it a go. Lisa is the pickiest eater of all. She almost never tries anything I make, but did enjoy a few dried apricots one time. Sykes and I are frugal adventurers and often bring in something cool for the other to try. Stinky cheese, imported salamis, ham and beans, garden veggies, etc. Food excites us, like pipes do, so we like to share what we have with those interested.
Today I made green curry. This is wicked fast to prepare, and delicious. After finishing all of my estate descriptions, into the kitchen I went to butterfly a chicken breast to brown in an old cast iron skillet. When done, it rested for 15 minutes before a quick chop, and in went the delicious curry mixture. The green (as opposed to red or masaman) has a healthy addition of kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, tender bamboo shoots, and rich coconut milk sweetness to mingle with heat and flavor. Warm fluffy rice topped with the mixture, drizzled with soy sauce and garnished with sweet basil (that is growing just outside) makes for one whopping visual composition and olfactory explosion. Sykes likes this a lot, and all of us seem really productive in the afternoon after such a meal. Heck - I just had the idea for this post when I was cooking. Today's lunch went over much better than yesterday, when I made scrapple. Poor Lisa.
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