Great Gentlemen’s Smoker and Lobster Clambake at The Balboa Bay Club

2012 Great Gentlemen's SmokerI attended a very nice cigar function at the Center Club in Costa Mesa on Thursday, and while there a couple of the attendees asked if they would be seeing me at The Balboa Bay Club the following day, the assumption being that I would know what they were talking about. Having now attended the event, I know why they would make that assumption, because this is a function every serious cigar smoker in Southern California should know about. The Great Gentlemen’s Smoker and Lobster Clambake has been going on for 18 years and is quite the institution. It is a fundraiser for the Balboa Bay Club’s 1221 Scholarship Fund. As cigar functions go, this one really sets the bar. I guess I just wasn’t on enough “A” lists to get an invite, but this year I must have arrived. The function was held on July 20, 2012, with the reception at 6:00 p.m. and the dinner at 7:00.

So back to the Center Club. After my ignorance of the pending event at The Balboa Bay Club event was revealed, I was invited toBalboa Bay Club Clambake attend. They mentioned in passing that the attire was “nautical”, which seemed reasonable given the venue, so I did my best to put together an outfit that looked like I had just stepped off my yacht. It later occurred to me that I could be getting punked, and that I would show up looking like Thurston Howell III and find that it was black tie or something, but as you can see from the photos, that was the appropriate look.

But now to the important aspects. This function at The Balboa Bay Club was a real first class cigar event, set outside right on the bay. The weather was perfect. I was greeted with champagne and a table with an assortment of cigars, and where an attractive woman hand-rolled a cigar to my specifications. Servers wandered among the throngs of cigar-smoking Thurston Howells, bringing a great assortment of hors d’oeuvres such as Oyster Shooters (my personal favorite), Beef Tenderloin in Pastry Crust, Shrimp Kabobs and “Flamme Kuchen” Alsatian Bacon Tarts. There was also a Boru Vodka Martini Bar.

After an hour of cigars, champagne, martinis and hors d’oeuvres, some introductions were made, and dinner was served. It was served in four courses, and the first three were each paired with their own wine. Everything from the Crab, Avocado and Mango Cocktail to the Filet Mignon, Steamed Maine Lobster and Saffron Clam Chowder was excellent. Dessert was an amazing Valrhona Chocolate Mocha Torte.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will add that I had just finished the second week of a diet (losing ten pounds thank you very much), and decided to take a day off from the diet for this event. So, admittedly, a saltine cracker would have probably tasted amazing to me, but I’m pretty sure the food was truly impressive, and not just the hunger talking.

Then came what they call the “digestives” – a truly epic selection of after-dinner Scotch, Cognac Bourbon, Port Wine, Sherry and Liqueurs, even some Rum and Tequila if you were so inclined. Along with my final cigar of the evening, I enjoyed a couple of different Cognacs and a 30 year old Sandeman Port.

During dinner, women with baskets of cigars circled the tables, and the attendees could simply accept whatever cigar was randomly taken from the basket, or instead select their own. All told, I went home with about a dozen very good cigars. And since this was, after all, a fundraiser, I also went home with some items won in the silent auction – two different golf trips at some nice resorts.

At one point during dinner, I turned to the gentleman seated at my left, who had previously introduced himself as Ron Gold, and commented on how much I was enjoying the Casa de Oro cigar I had selected from the assortment of cigars on the table when I had first arrived. I had no idea, but by a happy coincidence, Ron Gold makes that cigar. (Ron Gold – “Casa de Oro” translates to House of Gold – get it?) I don’t like to review cigars from memory, so until Ron sends a few more sticks to the address in the upper right-hand corner of this blog, I won’t be able to give a detailed review of the Casa de Oro (too subtle?). I can say, though, that it was one great cigar from the mild end of the spectrum. He did give me the Maduro version to take home and try, and I will be reviewing that in detail soon. Ron also gave me some very interesting insights into the cigar industry that I will share in future postings.

For a great visual overview of the Gentlemen’s Smoker, the first YouTube video below is from a television show that covered the event in 2010. Beneath that is a video of the cigar rolling Goddess brought by the Cigar Guys — Alex Lukoff and Tony Wilson. You know you’re at a classy cigar event if Alex and Tony are there. In fact, they were at the Center Club event the prior night, and Tony was one of the people who told me about the Smoker at The Balboa Bay Club. Thanks Tony.

Great Gentlemen's Smoker 2012 Balboa Bay Club Cigars

Great Gentlemen's Smoker 2012 Balboa Bay Club Digestives

Great Gentlemen's Smoker 2012 Balboa Bay Club Digestives Menu

Balboa Bay Club Cigar Event Nautical Attire

Great Gentlemen's Smoker 2012 Balboa Bay Club More Cigars

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