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Smoke Fulfillment in Fullerton

IN CALIFORNIA, EXTRAORDINARY efforts sometimes must be made to accomplish what in most places requires only an idea. Here, significant hoops are involved, but in the case of the Red Cloud Fine Cigars and Tobacco and Martini Lounge, the owners have done most of the jumping through them. They've created, in a small city in Orange County near Anaheim, an oasis out of old horse stables.

All you have to do to enjoy smoking a cigar at Red Cloud is pay the $250 membership fee, be a guest of a member and buy your cigar there. (Red Cloud has a particularly strong variety of selections for Southern California). If you're visiting from out of town, general manager Dean Morris will invite you to enjoy one of the two rooms that comprise the lounge.

The front bar, just behind the humidor room, is the main bar. It's dark here and the walls are covered with posters, mostly related to sports. The marble-topped bar itself is 100 years old, from Ireland. There are a few TVs, but none that overwhelms the surroundings. And there are just a few tables, so there's plenty of standing room and it's needed on busy nights. Nights can get busy, especially if each member brings in the allotted five guests per visit. Or when there are Scotch tastings where each person gets to sample four Scotches and three cigars. All for $40. Yummy!

And especially when cigarmakers drop by to show off their artistry, as Rocky Patel did one night in June.

"He stayed until early in the morning," general manager Morris explained. "Everyone had just a great time."

Those events usually take place in the second bar, which has a stage and a covered blackjack table. Folks just crowd around and enjoy the evening. The back room has guitars hanging on the walls that have names like Stevie Ray Vaughan scribbled on them. It's just a little bit of Hard Rock Cafe meets hard-core cigar club.

One curious feature of the humidor is a sort of waterfall trickling down the tile wall in one corner. Morris explains that usually the water flows onto the floor and creates a shallow liquid pool.

"It helps with the humidification," Morris said.

Southern California is dry, so let's just call this a "unique" method to moisten.

Red Cloud has a second retail outlet just a few miles away in the town of Orange, just across the street from Felix's, a Cuban restaurant. Can you feel the synergy? The store in Orange is being outfitted as a club and should be open soon. Look for membership fees to rise.

One note about food. The owners of Red Cloud also own Brick House Pizza Foundry just a few doors west in Fullerton. If you're having a cigar at the bar, you're welcome to call and have a pizza delivered. When it arrives, the delivery person might not be able to hand it to you in the bar unless he's 21 years of age. Did I mention hoops?

Alejandro Benes recently moved to California and is working hard at figuring out where to smoke cigars there.