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Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

I am Marty Feldmann - The Connoisseur - Consultant, Concierge, Blogger. Your resource and guide to the art of fine living.

I provide personalized service regarding Audio/Video, Automotive, Wine and Spirits, Travel and Leisure, Kitchen/Cooking and Food, Trends and Technology. My purpose at Connoisseur Corner is to provide you the knowledge and roadmap in enriching your life. Let me spend the time and do the work to get you there.


Pryma 0|1 Headphones – Are These Sexy…?


Headphones can indeed be sexy, and these are it…!
Portable music is all the rage these days, regardless of your audiophile status.  Everywhere you go, somebody is cruisin’ with “cans” on their ears.

Beats…  Bose… blah-blah…  The brands are almost endless, but today we are going to talk about the Pryma 0|1 headphones. 
Firmly entrenched in the audiophile world, the Prymas sound excellent!  Made by Italian speaker manufacturer Sonus Faber, known for products that are beautiful as well as sounding exceptional, the headphones follow suit.  The sound may not be completely neutral, or “exact” to the source music, but they tend to add a hint of warmth to a recording.  Not enough to be off-putting, but just a slice to add… beauty.  The effect will likely make you enjoy listening all that more, without even realizing why. 

As for the looks, a solid and uniquely shaped earcup surrounded by a nickel band gets things started.  The headband locks in place with stainless steel buckles.  There is all manner of leather, microfiber, and carbon steel (a strong, yet elastic material), all sewn together in an Italian suit kind-of-way.  Truly a vision to behold.  To top it off, the parts are all detachable, allowing the buyer to customize parts, creating any of a number of individual looks.
Starting at $499.00, these headphones will make your ears and eyes happy.  If you buy a pair, just keep in mind that you are copying Beyonc√©.

What the...?
Yep….  In the video of the song Sandcastles from Lemonade, you will catch her at the piano wearing a pair of Prymas.  I guess they really do sound good…?   (wink)

Sexy indeed…!


Audio Reference Technology – Italian Audio Artistry

Luigi Basagni is not an Italian chef, but rather an audio engineer.  Growing up with a love of music and the requisite engineer’s desire to make everything better, Luigi set out to make good sounding stereo systems great.

Audio Reference Technology was born…

Luigi’s vision?  Investigate and improve how the signal was transported between existing equipment; the cabling between the CD players, amplifiers, speakers…  Power delivery and isolation were also part of the development focus, as was vibration control.  After over 30 years in business, today you’ll find a full array of signal and power cabling and connectors, not to mention several tuning accessories, all created with the goal of making the sonic result “real”.
With strictly in-house parts and manufacturing (no pre-made parts are outsourced), Basagni and his team leave no stone unturned in the engineering process, whether it be conductivity, insulation or termination.  Everything has been addressed and fine tuned to the A.R.T. methodology.

But just what is that A.R.T. sound?   ……..
James Liu, A.R.T.’s Director of Business Development sent over several review samples including the Power Distributor and associated cable clamps, Super SE Mains 1.5M power cable, and a couple boxes of the Base Stands.  I spent several months with these products and ran everything through the usual battery of tests and comparisons.  Configurations and setups were changed, some components were swapped out, the audio room was painted (kidding)… 

Through it all, there were certain sonic characteristics at play.  The first thing that struck me, and stayed with me for the duration, regardless of the music genre, was the presentation of the bass.  The weight and decisive manner of the lower octaves was striking, with no detectable smear or loss of detail.  It didn’t come off as spotlighting, just an addition of correct foundation and pace.  I also noted improvements in what I will refer to as tone, texture and presence throughout the frequency range.  A.R.T. refers to it as a “natural and relaxed” sound, and I am inclined to concur. As can happen when attempting to evaluate quality audio gear, many of my testing sessions evolved into hours enjoying music.  I am guessing this is what Luigi and Co. intended…
A bit of food for thought:  If you own a tube-based system that already leans toward a honeyed sound, this might not be the cable direction for you.  I’ll let your ears decide.  However, anyone with solid state equipment should give the Audio Reference Technology gear a try.  I think it can be an excellent addition and you will likely be pleased with the results.  Keep in mind, this is rarified, high-quality (read: not inexpensive) equipment, so your budget will need to be considered.  The 1.5 meter Super SE Mains power cable MSRPs at $2950.00.

Oh… just one more thing…  Did I mention Italian?
As with seemingly all things emanating from Italy, you get the visuals to go with…  The car not only has to perform among the best, it needs to look amazing while doing so.  Some might say this is what luxury and artistry is all about.  A.R.T. products certainly adhere to that mindset…

Artistry and performance, the Italian way...! 
Well done Luigi..!


World’s Most Expensive Suite – The Mark Hotel in NY

Thank goodness…!  Now you don’t have to fly all the way to Switzerland to stay in the world’s most expensive hotel suite. 

Until recently, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Geneva overlooking Lake Leman and the Mont-Blanc Alps had bragging rights with a $60,000/night price tag.  Now the city of New York takes the crown, courtesy of The Mark Hotel in Manhattan.

12,000 square feet on two stories will get you started.  A private elevator whisks you up in peace and quiet, unless you are having guests.  You can easily handle the overflow crowd with five bedrooms, a library lounge, two full bars, a conservatory and the obligatory 2,500 sq-ft rooftop terrace.  The dining room can seat up to 24, and you can book Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten to prepare the grub. 
Impressed yet?

Let’s pile on with electronic control panels in each room, HDTVs everywhere, Italian bedding in all bedrooms.  The master boudoir kicks it up further with a sitting room, his-and-her master bathrooms and dressing areas with custom walk-in closets, heated floors for those chilly NY nights, and an infinity soaking tub for infinite relaxation...!
If you are not awestruck yet, I can’t help you, but keep in mind that the attentive staff at The Mark promises any expectations will be taken care of.

And just one more thing…  Price…?
$75,000 / night

Sweet dreams…


Blueberry Margarita – Cure for the Summertime Blues

A good heatwave can crank up the thirst level like nobody’s business!  After a week of summertime heat with triple digits in full effect, it was time for a little quenching. 

Coinciding with said heat-generated thirst crisis, there happened to be a large container of blueberries in the fridge.

Hmmm…     Blueberries…     Thirsty…
And just like that, visions of blueberry margaritas danced in my parched frontal lobe.  I decided to conjure up a simple recipe for this blue-tinted elixir.  As with all things cocktail, there are 387,000 different variations of each recipe in the ether.  Mine is purposefully streamlined with minimal ingredients and easy to adjust if need be.  Construction is as follows:

For 2 cocktails…
·         ½ cup blueberries
·         Juice of 2 limes
·         4 oz. blanco tequila (good quality is a must)
·         1.5 oz. Cointreau
·         Splash of agave nectar to taste

Muddle blueberries with lime juice.  Strain into cocktail shaker.  Add remaining ingredients with ice and shake to combine.  Pour over ice in two rocks glasses.  Garnish with skewered blueberries or a lime wedge.
Done…      Thirst vanquished…!

A quick and simple recipe for a hot summer’s eve.  Feel free to edit things to your liking.  My half-cup of blueberries was overflowing.  You can also dial up or down the nectar and try taking the Cointreau down to 1 oz. and see how it works for you. 

Yvette - Wilson Audio’s Newest Speaker Gem

The folks at one of my favorite speaker companies, Wilson Audio in Provo, Utah, are at it again!  They have been on a roll lately, debuting several new models in their sonic lineup.  (see the Sabrina and Alexandria blogs)  The latest is a replacement for the Sophia model, but there has been a name change…

Introducing Yvette!

The complete and utter reengineering of the Sophia called for the name change.  Daryl Wilson states on the company Facebook page that the speaker “ longer was of Sophia DNA”.
Fine then…

It’s all good news for the audiophile and music loving crowd.  Using trickle-down technology from their Alexia and Alexx projects, Yvette is sure to perform in spectacular fashion.  Wilson Audio claims Yvette to be “the most advanced and musically refined single-enclosure loudspeaker in Wilson’s history.”  Of course your ears will be the judge...!
As for specification, Yvette is a 3-way speaker with a 1” tweeter, 7” midrange and 10” woofer filling out the low end.  Frequency Response is said to be +/- 3 dB from a low 20 Hz (hello pipe organ) all the way up to 25 kHz.  The cabinet itself is comprised of Wilson’s proprietary X-Material and S-Material composites and each tower weighs in at 175 lbs and stands 41” tall.

Warning!  Don’t try to move these by yourself…!
With all of the improvements in enclosure technology, speaker construction and time coherency, the Yvette is sure to sound a cut above.  If you are in the market for a pair of transducers in the mid-20K range, these need to be on your audition list.  I don’t think your ears will be disappointed!


Carpano Antica Formula – Sweet Vermouth from Heaven!

Cocktails of the carefully crafted variety are all the rage these days.  Hip watering holes with creative and talented ‘tenders are drawing in customers like flies on…

Nevermind that…
For those of you wanting to duplicate this cocktail experience at home, what is the starting point, the single most important thing you must do before you even pour a drop of elixir...?

Use good ingredients!
Just as in cooking, it all starts with what you put in.  You have to use top shelf ingredients to get a top shelf final result.  Which brings us to…

This is not some crazy baby food, but rather what may possibly be the best sweet vermouth gracing planet earth. 

Are you a Manhattan drinker?  Or perhaps a Negroni or Americano?  Sweet Vermouth is a highlight of these cocktails, and use of the Carpano Antica Formula is revelatory.  Your taste buds will be seriously happy campers!
Who do you thank for this adult beverage happiness? 

The time was 1786, the location was Turin, Italy.  Antonio Beneditto Carpano, studying to be an herbalist (a title bearing a different connotation these days?), invented the formula that brought forth all things Vermouth.  One such recipe was the Antica Formula, which has been faithfully recreated to this day.  White wine is the base, with botanicals including vanilla, saffron, wormwood, burnt sugar, and numerous other aromatics in the mix.  The refining process can last several months, which includes multiple quality control stages.  They take this stuff very seriously at the Fratelli Branca Distillerie, where the vermouth is made.  Word has it only three living humans know the entire recipe!
You can enjoy Carpano Anitca Formula on the rocks with an orange slice, or in the above mentioned cocktails.  Either way, I guarantee this is one fine palate pleaser!



Barbuda Belle = Caribbean Beach Paradise

Today I am thinking of relaxation, privacy, isolation…  and one of the best soft sand beaches extant.

Sound intriguing?

Come along with me to the eastern Caribbean, specifically the 60 square miles of Barbuda. 

No, I didn’t say “Bermuda”…
Close to Antigua, Barbuda takes a bit of time to reach.  A puddle jumper from Antiqua will do the trick.  From the airport you will hop a speedboat to whisk you to the somewhat uninhabited northern tip of the island, known as Cedar Point. 

Welcome to Barbuda Belle
The true definition of a boutique hotel, Barbuda Belle has a whopping six beachside bungalows.  Take my word for it, you will be away from the madding crowds.  Furnished in a plush yet rustic style, the bungalows are not only comfortable but even have Wi-Fi, if you absolutely positively must stay connected.  I think you might toss the tablet into the ocean and simply laze on your private balcony enjoying the endless views of surf, sand and sea.  You are also provided a cell phone, with which to… well… order things! 

Relaxed yet?
You do get to eat there as well.  The Mangrove restaurant serves breakfast and dinner, with a skilled French chef at the helm.  Lunch is catered to you on the beach, or wherever you might specify.  Daytime activities include hiking, bird-watching, kayaking and perhaps a stint aboard a catamaran on the ocean.
If a quiet beach getaway is your thing, look no further.  Barbuda Belle is highly recommended.



Van Cleef & Arpels Gives You the Stars…!

Actually, its only planets, but I think it will do…

In what has to be the ultimate star-geek astronomer fashion accessory, French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels brings us the Midnight Plan√©tarium watch.  Literally the solar system on your wrist…!
That’s heavy!

What you get is a timepiece showing six of the planets rotating around the sun, in real time.  With the sun centered on the dial, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn rotate at their actual speed and relative positions on six separate discs.  The craftsmanship involved is quite frankly insane! 
Not to worry, with all this astronomical wizardry going on, you can still tell the earthly time.  The outermost ring of the dial has a gold shooting star that passes along a 24-hour scale.  Go figure…

Since the company’s 1896 birth, I doubt Van Cleef & Arpels has created anything quite so out-of-this-world.  Crafted in 18-karat rose gold, the watch can be yours for a cool $260,000 dollars.  Highly recommended to the fashion conscious space travelers among us…!


Wine Time – Hope and Grace in Yountville

“Hope and Grace in Yountville”…  

Wasn’t that a movie or a book or…?  Would you believe a small production winery centered in that laid-back culinary mecca otherwise known as Yountville, California?

The personal project of winemaker Charles Hendricks, Hope and Grace Wines (named after the winemaker’s daughters) had an inaugural release in 2001 with a Pinot Noir from the Santa Lucia Highlands.  Currently several varietals are produced along with the Pinots, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a rare-for-Napa Malbec, that has been surprisingly and consistently excellent!  Current production is a modest 3,000 cases per annum, so you won’t find these wines at the local grocery store…
Thoughtful and humble, Charles’ winemaking philosophy is to let nature do its thing, guiding the grapes along in subtle ways to bring out their best.  A quick taste through of the Hope and Grace portfolio reveals the success of these methods.  Other wineries over the years have reaped the benefits of Charles’ talents as well, including Viader, Barnett and Regusci, to name a few. 

 The tasting room in Napa is relaxed and unpretentious, and the staff fits that style while being well-versed in the wines and even adding in plenty of humor along the way.  I find it an excellent stop in the afternoon, when the early appointments are done.  A great place to linger and enjoy the finely crafted grape juice!  If that sounds appealing, I highly recommend a visit…!
And now for a little insider tip:  Keep an eye out for the Hendricks labeled wines.  In the extraordinary vintages, Charles will make small lots of Cabernet or Pinot that represent his ultimate ideal of the varietal and the vintage.  Seek them out, as they make a fabulous addition to any cellar…!

It all adds up to a winner in the Connoisseur’s book…!


Moscow Mule for Summer – Watermelon and Raspberry

It’s hot, and I am thirsty…!

Likely a thought going through a lot of minds this time of year.  One of the more popular cool down beverages these days is the Moscow Mule, which has its roots back in 1941.

You know the drill:
·         1.5 oz Vodka
·         Juice of ½ lime
·         4 oz ginger beer
·         1 copper mug
·         Ice

Mix all ingredients in the oft stolen copper mug (a complaint of bartenders everywhere) and stir.  The mug chills nicely, with the cooling condensation on the outside.  Refreshing indeed...!
Well, I simply cannot leave well-enough alone.  To kick up that heat-beating refreshment, try one of these two variations for a change of pace.  Both require an extra step of prep, but this is easy stuff...

Watermelon Moscow Mule
·         1.5 oz Vodka
·         1.5 oz Watermelon puree
·         Juice of ½ lime
·         3 oz ginger beer
·         1 copper mug
·         Ice

For the puree, simply blend seedless watermelon flesh and then strain.

Raspberry Moscow Mule
·         1.5 oz Vodka
·         10 raspberries
·         Juice of ½ lime
·         4 oz ginger beer
·         1 copper mug
·         Ice

Combine berries and vodka in a shaker and muddle the berries, strain into the copper mug.
Note:  I like to add a splash of agave nectar to both recipes for an extra nip of sweetness.
Both of these drinks are excellent, but I am betting you will have a favorite.  Try them both and let me know what you think.  You can even try other variations…  mango anyone?