One of our favorite New Orleans transplants Franco Valobra knows as much about lavish entertaining as he does about the jewelry business. That party expertise is put into play each December when he combines his birthday celebration with what he likes to call "a gentlemen's party."
"My December birthday is an unfortunate one for a jeweler," he said before the curtain went up on his annual men's smoker at his Highland Village store. "It's like an accountant with a birthday on April 14."
But let us say that Valobra makes the most of the inconvenience.
More than 100 well-heeled gents poured in for the annual bash that features Cuban cigars (a savvy precursor to the warming diplomatic relations), fine cognacs and rare whiskeys along with catering from Le Mistral. While the shop was festooned with poinsettias and other holiday decor, Valobra arranged for a score of young personal shoppers to add feminine sparkle to this men-only event.
For this special evening Valobra set up a chic party tent in front with a humidor and lounge setting where the most happy fellows could choose from 30 different varieties of cigars while sipping the really good stuff. Among the exceptional bar offerings — 18-year-old MacCallam, Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve and Yamazaki Single Malt, just named the best in the world.
Among those joining the sophisticated hunt for holiday gifts were Cappy Bisso, Alex Klein, Bob Weiner, Mike Plank, Alan Stein, Don Murphy, Greg Letsos, Mike Bowman, Chuck Bracht, Jordan Finn and Steve Schwartz.