Audio/Video

Audiophile Sound Systems, Home Theater, Computer Audio - Purchasing and Upgrades.

Automotive

Purchasing, Storage, Detailing, Aftermarket.

Wine and Spirits

Wine Tastings and Tours, Cellaring, Collecting, Purchases.

Travel and Leisure

Resorts, Hotels, Restaurants, Destinations.

Kitchen, Cooking and Food

Design, Appliances, Knives, Entertaining.

Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at: 916.952.9529 Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

11/30/07

Manhattan - The Drinker’s Drink

The Manhattan was supposedly invented in the late 1800s at the Manhattan Club in New York City. There was a political event held at the bar for which a special cocktail was requested from the bartender, which became a hit. Of course, this story varies depending on your source.

The recipe also has variations, depending on your taste preferences, but here is a good guideline to start…

· 2 oz Whiskey - rye, bourbon or Canadian
· ½ oz Sweet Vermouth
· Dash of Bitters
· Maraschino Cherry

Combine whiskey and sweet vermouth in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a martini glass and garnish with the maraschino cherry. You may also serve on the rocks.

A couple of popular variations are the Brandy Manhattan and the Scotch Manhattan, in which they replace the Whiskey.

Give it a try and find out if you appreciate the true “Drinker’s Drink”.

11/29/07

Oscars: Our early picks for Best Pic

It’s about that time of year when the Hollywood Glitterati start digesting what they have seen, or are about to see, on the big screen and selecting their favorites for Best Picture.

Being that the Connoisseur is a fan of film, we find it fun and entertaining to join in. Here are our early picks for nominees for Best Picture…

· American Gangster – has the early momentum.
· No Country for Old Men – Excellent work from the Coen Brothers.
· Charlie Wilson’s War – a movie that seems to be built for the Oscars.
· Sweeney Todd – a lot of buzz for this one with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

The fifth and final nominee pick is a bit more difficult, as there are several possibilities. Eastern Promises and Michael Clayton are both well done films and could get the nod. Other films that may have potential are Juno and Atonement, but only time will tell.

Do you agree with our list? Let the Connoisseur know, and we’ll find out the winner on Oscar night…

11/28/07

DO NOT use Cooking Wine..!

Let me make this perfectly clear. Never, ever are you to use anything labeled Cooking Wine, Cooking Sherry, etc. in your kitchen. If you do, I will permanently ban you from the ranks of the Connoisseur!

OK, what we are looking at here is a sub-par, salt-laden product. Anytime you are cooking, whether it is from a recipe or just a personal creation, one of the keys to being a good cook is to use good ingredients. These items do not qualify as “good ingredients”. If a dish calls for wine, sherry, Madeira and the like, be sure to use a product that you would drink on its own.

Now repeat after me: “It is never time for Cooking Wine..!”

11/27/07

Cars – European Delivery

Thinking about purchasing a new Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche, Volvo or Saab? Why not get a low cost trip to Europe thrown in with the purchase?

The above manufacturers all offer European Delivery programs arranged through your dealer that work as follows: Purchase the car for an approximate 7% price break - the amounts can vary. (Porsche does not discount for this program.) Fly to the European location of the factory and take delivery of the car. Spend a few weeks driving through Europe on your own itinerary and then drop off your new vehicle at one of several possible locations designated by the manufacturer and return home. The car is then delivered to you several weeks later. Sounds like a recipe for fun and adventure..!

The manufacturers supply varying amounts of insurance for your stay, and factory tours, food and lodging can be involved. All of the websites have information on the actual details of their programs.

If you are in the market for that special new car, hop on a plane, pick it up in Europe and let your discount help to foot the bill. A real two-for-one..!

11/26/07

Home Theater – What’s an LFE..?

Think low… Way deep down low…

You know the rumbling you hear during an explosion, the deep earthshaking sound as the dinosaur takes a step? That is the Low Frequency Effects channel in a movie audio soundtrack.

In dealing with home theater or maybe a DVD, you probably have seen the designation 5.1 or 6.1. It’s the “.1” that refers to the LFE channel, which is played through a speaker called a subwoofer. This adds that extra sense of realism, depth and intensity to most any movie you watch.

So grab that popcorn, start the DVD, and enjoy all the shaking from the LFE…!

11/25/07

Caddy of the Year


Motor Trend has named the redesigned Cadillac CTS the 2008 Car of the Year. Does this mean there is a pulse over at GM..?

We must admit that we like the new looks – a marked improvement over the previous version’s overly slab-sided body. As for handling, the engineering teams spent a lot of time all over the world developing and testing, including at the ‘ring in Germany, and it certainly shows up in the new vehicle’s dynamics. The larger engine choice, a 3.6-liter V-6 with 304 hp and direct fuel injection has good power and responsiveness, but we feel it lacks that last degree of refinement of its rivals from Germany.

Overall, the Connoisseur is reasonably impressed. There is a pulse over at GM and we look forward to more good products in the future.

As for whether we agree with Motor Trend on their selection of Car of the Year? Hmmm…

11/21/07

Cook a Turkey..? Help..!

Well, the Connoisseur will be much too busy to answer all of your questions, but since 1981 there has been a great resource for help with purchasing, storing, thawing and cooking your bird… uh… turkey.

1-800-BUTTERBALL

With a professionally trained staff of 50 Nutritionists and Home Economists on staff, the Butterball folks field over 100,000 calls a year in English and Spanish, as well as answering emails sent to BBTurkeyCo@aol.com.

There is also a great FAQ online as well as some nice cooking instructions.

Have a great holiday and good luck with that bird..! Send us any interesting stories that you may have.

11/20/07

Oh no..! I have Audiophile disease..!

Let me answer your question regarding what an audiophile is. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a person who is enthusiastic about high-fidelity sound reproduction”. We will let that apply to stereo music, surround music and even home theater audio.

And now for the part about how I contracted this disease. There are two basic causes often considered the usual suspects in lowering one’s immune system. One is a passionate love of music – the other, a passionate love of movies. In my case I have a third problem, in that as a musician, my ears think they have to hear music sound as it does when played live. It’s a curse, I tell you!

Some of the lesser symptoms to appear are the hoarding of CDs while always trying to find new music with that special something, or maybe rearranging speakers to obtain the perfect stereo image. Then there’s the need to “tweak” the system, including the swapping of power cables or speaker cables, the various CD treatments and even anti-vibration tactics. The worst and certainly most expensive symptom is the upgrading of gear: CD players, speakers, amplifiers and the like, to find that magical synergistic combination.

Of course, with a lot of time, energy, $$$ and that just right vodka martini, you can find that elusive audio nirvana. Unfortunately that feeling of satisfaction is guaranteed to dissipate over time and then the cycle starts all over again. “Honey, where are all my CDs..?”

11/19/07

"Can’t Miss" Appetizer Recipe - Stuffed Jalapenos

Over the years at various special events, dinner parties or drunken brawls, the Connoisseur has sampled literally hundreds of appetizer recipes. One that would reside in the top 10 list is this Stuffed Jalapeno recipe, which is a sure fire (pepper pun intended) hit..! After procuring the recipe, every time I have taken this dish to a gathering it has garnered rave reviews as they are devoured in short order. Let me know your results..!
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· 15 – 20 Jalapeno peppers
· 1 lb Italian sausage – mild
· 1 - 8 oz. package cream cheese – room temp
· 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
· Ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 425. Remove the stems from the peppers, halve lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brown the sausage, drain excess oil and let cool. In a large bowl, mix together the sausage, cream cheese and parmesan cheese to be used as the stuffing. Fill each jalapeno half with a spoonful of the stuffing mix and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes until the cheese begins to brown. Plate accordingly along with some ranch dressing for dipping.

11/18/07

Hottest New Caribbean Resort



The Jade Mountain Resort in St. Lucia is generating the most buzz of the new resorts in the Caribbean, and it’s easy to see why!

An expansion of the Anse Chastenet Resort, each room or “sanctuary” has a breathtaking view of the Caribbean Sea and the Pitons, not to mention its own infinity pool, ranging from 450 to 900 square feet, depending on room category. The rooms are finished with tropical hardwood flooring, crushed coral plaster walls and 15 ft high ceilings. This looks like a place where one can truly “get away” and relax.

Your appetite can be served by 24 hr room service or dining at the Jade Mountain Club, as well as restaurants at the Anse Chastenet Resort. In-room spa treatments are available, and you may visit the Kai Belte beach spa and Kai Mer cottage spa at Anse Chastenet. Of course, all of the usual activities can be enjoyed such as diving, kayaking, hiking, yacht sails, mountain biking or just chillin’ on the beach.

The Connoisseur will report back with an onsite review in the future. Until then, take a look and see if you don’t agree, but book your reservations now as they are filling up fast..!

11/17/07

Wine for Thanksgiving

Don’t be scared folks; it’s really not that difficult. Sure, thinking about pairing wine with a varied group of guests and a cornucopia of food may seem daunting, but I will steer you in the proper direction. There are two varietals that have such diverse food pairing qualities that you can’t miss.

· For the white wine, get a Riesling. It’s balance of sweetness, fruit and acidity make it perfect for pairing with a wide variety of foods.

· For the red, do a Pinot Noir. This varietal has the right weight and complexity to make it a winner at the Thanksgiving table.

And now for the Connoisseur’s honorable mentions in both categories. Other white wine varietals that can work are Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc. In the red wine category, a nice Zinfandel or Shiraz/Syrah will also do the trick.

Stick with this simple guideline and you can’t go wrong. If for some reason you have a complaint from a guest at your Thanksgiving feast, then it’s probably time to rethink the invitation list..!

11/16/07

Join the Canadian Club


I’m not talking about a secret northern organization here, but rather a Canadian rye whiskey. Hiram Walker began distilling whiskey in the mid 1800s in Detroit, which was known as Walker’s Club Whiskey. With the onset of prohibition, the business was moved across the Detroit River to Windsor, Ontario. Canadian Club is to this day the largest distillery in North America with exports to over 150 countries. Current varieties offered are:

· Canadian Club 6 Year Old – the original blend.
· Canadian Club Reserve – aged 10 years, with a richer character.
· Canadian Club Classic – 12 years of aging in oak barrels.
· Canadian Club 100 Proof – 6 year aged with a stronger taste.
· Canadian Club Sherry Cask – 8 years in oak and then further aged in Sherry casks. (the Connoisseur’s favorite!)

The Connoisseur is a fan of the smooth and mellow taste, and gives Canadian Club a high recommendation!

Canadian Club is often drunk on the rocks with ginger ale, cola, or lemon-lime sodas, as well as in mixed drinks such as whiskey sours or rusty nails.

C.C. with a soda - in rocks glass:
· 1 ½ parts Canadian Club Whiskey
· 4 parts soda (ginger ale, cola, or lemon-lime)

C.C. Whiskey Sour - in rocks glass:
· 2 parts Canadian Club Whiskey
· Juice of half a lemon
· ½ teaspoon sugar
· Maraschino cherry

11/15/07

BMW 1-series Pricing Announced..!


At a presentation during the LA Auto Show today, BMW chairman Tom Purves announced pricing for the highly anticipated BMW 128 and 135 coupes, due in US showrooms this spring.

128 - $29,375

135 - $35,675

The 135 especially is thought of as a return to BMW's core philosophy of a smaller, agile and powerful coupe. We will spend time with it in the coming months to see if it earns a Connoisseur Corner recommendation.

It was also noted that the 1-series convertible will be shown at the Detroit Auto Show.

Food: How to Buy a Freakin’ Ham

For all you foodies, cooks and even kitchen challenged types out there, here are a few quick tips on purchasing a ham. Remember, it IS the holiday season and that IS when you are supposed to cook a ham, right..?

OK… I am going to make this clean and simple, so pay attention.

There are three types of ham at the store: whole ham, shank or butt. (I said butt…. Hehe!) The whole ham is a pain to deal with and the shank can be tough or fatty. That means that the winner is the butt.

Next, do not get a boneless ham. Be sure it is bone-in or maybe semi-boneless.

Now it’s time to check that label for the word portion. If you see that, it means that your ham has been robbed of the best slices which were probably packaged and sold as some nice ham steaks. Stay away from that word..!

The last catch phrases to look for on the label are the following terms…

· Natural Juices = good
· Water added = good
· Water product or ham product added = bad ( trust me on this one )

There you have it..! Butt, bone-in, water added (no portion). What are you waiting for? Get your ham, go home and start cooking..!

11/14/07

Who is Anthony Hamilton..?

The short answer: A singer/songwriter responsible for some of the best current R&B/Soul that you may never have heard.



Time to relax, open the ears and chill with a soulful southern groove…

Blessed with an earthy, emotive voice, Anthony Hamilton impressed The Connoisseur immediately with his funky, hot summer night, slightly retro groove. Hints of gospel, reggae and jazz are sprinkled throughout, along with influences from previous greats: Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, and Bobby Womack to name a few.

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1971, Hamilton sang in the church choir at the age of 10. In 1993 he headed to New York to further his career. His second studio album, Comin’ From Where I’m From (2003) was somewhat of a breakthrough for him with Platinum sales and reaching 33 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart. He has since released a third studio album, Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ (2005) and is currently completing work on his fourth, titled Me, to be released in 2008. His first album XTC (1996) is currently out of print, but there are two compilation albums, Soulife (2005) and Southern Comfort (2007) that contain previously unreleased material of high quality.

The Connoisseur recommends starting with Ain’t Nobody Worryin’. If you like what you hear, try some of Anthony Hamilton’s other discs and enjoy with a nice glass of southern iced tea or, better yet, some of that other Southern Comfort…



11/13/07

Is it a Bimmer or a Beemer..?


I absolutely, positively have to say: it depends... But the good news is that there is a correct use for each term.

Of course we are referencing the parent company BMW, otherwise known as Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, manufacturer of both cars and motorcycles.

The final three words of the previous sentence hold the key to the answer. It goes something like this: Back in the early days, around WWI, BMW got its start building motorcycles (not to mention the airplane engine thing – more on that in another blog). Of course, crazy as we speed freaks tend to be, people used to race these BMW motorbikes. One of their competitors back in the day was a company called BSA. Over time a racetrack slang or nickname developed for both brands: Beeser for BSA and Beemer for BMW.

Since that time, and the history is a bit vague on this, the cars have come to be known as Bimmer. It was probably just a way for BMW car enthusiasts to differentiate themselves from BMW motorcycle enthusiasts.

So Connoisseurs, remember your terminology:

Beemer = BMW motorcycle
Bimmer = BMW automobile

11/12/07

Types of Tequila...

OK Folks… Now it’s time to learn a little something about the varieties of your favorite hangover induction liquid… Tequila..!
There are two categories: Tequila Mixto ( mixed ), which contains a minimum of 51% juice from the blue agave plant, and Tequila 100% Agave – yes, it’s all Blue Agave!
  • The Connoisseur says to avoid Tequila Mixto, sometimes labeled as just “Tequila”, as it contains other sugars along with the Agave juices, including caramel color, sugar based syrups, and oak extract flavoring. Not only does this dilute the pure tequila flavor, but the extra sugars will add to that head-pounding hangover. Stick with the “Tequila 100% de Agave” and you won’t be disappointed.
The two categories listed above are divided into five types as shown by their labels:
Tequila Blanco or Silver
This is the original, traditional style. Bottling is done directly after the distillation process, maintaining the pure color, bouquet and flavor of the blue agave.

Tequila Joven Abocado or Gold
This tequila is flavored prior to bottling with the addition of flavorings and colorants, such as caramel. The Connoisseur would prefer you avoid Gold Tequilas.

Tequila Reposado or Rested
It is a Blanco Tequila that has been aged in wood barrels or casks between 2 and 11 months. The wood tends to mellow and balance the flavor and aroma.

Tequila Anejo or Aged
For an Anejo, the Blanco Tequila is aged in the wood casks for more than 1 year. The aging process darkens the Tequila further to an amber color, adding more richness and complexity.

Tequila Extra AnejoThis newest classification follows essentially the same process as Anejo, but ages in barrel for a minimum of 3 years. Darker, richer and even more complex, this is the big league of Tequilas.
So...  You are now educated on all things agave.  Time to celebrate... might as well do so with a shot..!

Cheers..!

What is a Connoisseur..?

Cognoscere, Kenner, 鉴定家, Conocedor, знаток… a truly global term. Wikipedia says: “a person who has a great deal of knowledge about the fine arts, or an expert judge in matters of taste.” The American Heritage Dictionary: “A person of informed and discriminating taste.” My personal favorite from Merriam-Webster: “one who enjoys with discrimination and appreciation of subtleties”

-synonyms critic, aesthete.

You often hear someone say “Life’s too short”, “Live like there’s no tomorrow”, or “Stop and smell the roses”. All of these are phrases that indirectly point to the Connoisseur philosophy. Phrases we all hear in everyday life, yet maybe in the hustle and bustle of the day, forget to adhere to. Merely having these thoughts would indicate that everyone in some way has a want for the above mentioned appreciation of the subtleties of life. After all, isn’t everyone really a connoisseur already? You surely have something that interests you, of which you have a working knowledge. Is it hip-hop, a soap opera, airplanes, technology, pepperoni pizza..?

Yes, you are a connoisseur.