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

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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

12/30/08

Recommended: Plasma Televisions

Hey, have you heard the joke about the…

Oh, nevermind… Let’s get down to business.

The topic du jour is that flat-panel wonder, the plasma television. You know the technology – tens of thousands of tiny cells filled with a mixture of gases, wedged between two plates of glass and charged by tiny electrodes to emit light.

Whew…

In a recent blog we talked about the differences between the two major players in the flat-panel TV battle. You may have decided on Plasma over LCD, but aren’t sure where to go from there. Luckily, the choice is pretty simple from here on out…

In the category of “no-holds-barred, best image possible regardless of price”, there is only one choice: Pioneer Elite Kuro. These televisions have the absolute best picture quality of any plasma on the market. Colors, black-level, video processing…you name it and they do it right. The Elite line has the benefit of a more tweakable image control set as compared to the non-Elite models. Make an appointment for an ISF trained technician to stop by and wait till you see the results..!

And for the category of “really good for the money, but I want to put the rest of my cash toward a weekend getaway at the coast”, let me introduce the Panasonic Viera line of plasma TVs. Check out their lower priced models in the 42”, 46” and 50” sizes. They should fit the bill for under 2K and look pretty nice doing it. The image and technology isn’t quite up to Kuro standards, but they come reasonably close and we are sure you will be pleased.

There you have it, one for the discerning videophile and one for the casual viewer. Both are Connoisseur Recommended..! Remember it’s a buyer’s market right now, so get out there, do some bartering and pick up that plasma..!

12/22/08

What’s An Oculus, Anyway?


A night vision scope..? Nope…

Is it a bone in your hand..? Nada…

How ‘bout a character from Star Wars..? Nah…

Would you believe a prehistoric sea-going creature..? Now we’re getting warm…

Newly founded American-based yacht builder Schöpfer Yachts has released their inaugural design and it’s a dandy..!

Can you say Captain Nemo?

The Oculus continues an apparent trend started by the newly commissioned mega-yacht “A” to look like something other than your run of the mill sea-going transportation. Schöpfer states that the vessel design was inspired by creatures from the sea and we would venture to say that it would be hard to miss in a crowded harbor.

At 250 feet of length, the Oculus is primed to meet all your ocean travel needs. With room for 12 guests, a top speed above 25 knots and 12’ interior ceilings, you are sure to travel in the lap of maritime luxury.

This is what we call cruising in style..!

12/17/08

Miami Nightlife- The Party Hotspots


One look at the weather across the country and I think it is time to head south for the winter – or spring, fall or possibly summer for that matter. Now…where to go?

Let’s talk specifically about that south-east party otherwise known as Miami.

Land of beautiful weather and beautiful people, Miami certainly has its share of exclusive clubs and nightlife. They’re all places to see and be seen, hang with the hipsters, rub elbows with the glitterati and generally party like there’s no tomorrow.

Without further adieu, here is our compilation of some of the best of the current Miami hotspots…

· At the newly opened Gansevoort South hotel, Plunge is a poolside nightclub/bar located on the 18th floor. Thursdays are the happening night here and it doesn’t hurt that the hotel houses the Wilhelmina modeling agency.

· Mokai, (pictured above) a nightclub located on 23rd street just off Collins Avenue, has a bit of a cozy house party vibe. Fridays and Saturdays are generally packed with the out-of-town crowd and the locals tend to hang here on Tuesdays.

· Opened in 2007, SET has been rocking ever since. A slate of out-of-town DJs supply the mix for the party crowd.

· If you prefer tunes a bit more on the cutting-edge tip, Heathrow Lounge (yes, it’s a Brit-reference) is the place to be.

· At the remodeled Delano Hotel, the hip hangout is the Florida Room. Designed by Lenny Kravitz, the club has an intimate old-school lounge feel.

· The incredible art-deco pool (and bar, of course) at The Raleigh serves as a great place to work off a hangover during the day, and is also home to nightly events such as fashion shows, fundraisers or outdoor movies.

· The most recently opened on our list is Cabana One, a rooftop club at the Mayfair Hotel in Coconut Grove. To date it has been a successful celebrity draw, but we’ll see if can maintain that level of heat.

All this and more awaits you in sunny Miami. Pack your serious party gear and head south…

12/15/08

The 2009 BMW Z4 Breaks Cover


BMW’s update to its diminutive 2-seat roadster, the Z4, has now appeared in official company photos. It’s still small, and it still has a disappearing top, but…

Ragtop no more…

The fabric convertible top is slowly retreating into history, only to be replaced by the ever more common folding hardtop, which is the case here. 20 seconds is all it takes to bring the sky into full view, or block out the rain, whatever the case may be.

Two engines will be offered initially, including the carryover 255 hp inline six cylinder, as well as the 300 horse twin-turbocharged version now proliferating throughout the BMW model range. Other options include a six-speed manual or seven speed dual clutch (DCT) transmission, hard drive based navigation system with 15 gigabytes available for mp3 storage, and a 16 speaker (2 subwoofers included) stereo system to wake the occupants in the car next to you.

Overall we like the top-down lines of the update. The impression is of a substantially longer, leaner car – it is almost 6 inches longer than the previous generation. However, viewing in person may yield a different story. The new Z4 is due to appear in public for the first time at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show.

For now, we give the remodel our stamp of approval. Order the turbo motor with the DCT transmission and sport package and “drive it like you stole it..!”

12/12/08

The Great Debate: Plasma or LCD?

There’s a chill in the air, its Holiday time…
Need to get ‘da gifts; a TV would be fine..!

‘Tis the season to buy electronics, and those new flat panel televisions are sure the hot item these days. But what to buy? The quantity of available information is overwhelming, and there are too many sets to choose from.

Ugh!

Today I am going to throw a quick primer at you – a few quick tips to help you narrow down that search. Let’s see if I can help you answer that pivotal question: Plasma or LCD?

I’m not going to get into a technology discussion today, but just a few pros and cons of each type of TV. Let’s start with LCD televisions…

Advantages for LCDs would be a brighter image and screens that are less prone to glare. This makes LCD a good choice for daytime viewing in rooms with copious windows. You also don’t have to worry about image burn-in with LCD technology. For the green-conscious out there, LCD sets tend to consume a bit less electricity than plasma, although the gap between the two is closing as technology progresses.

The three main disadvantages for the LCD TVs would be motion blur (for fast moving scenes such as sports), brighter blacks than plasma, and a dimming picture when viewing from off-angle.

What does plasma bring to the table? Items in the plus column would be far superior side angle viewing, better contrast and blacks, and no blurring of motion.

The drawbacks to plasma would be more glare on the screen, slightly higher power consumption, and concerns of image burn.

So what’s the right answer? Let me start by saying that technology has improved greatly in the last year or so, and either choice is a good one with some of the quality sets out there. However, if you are a sports junkie, go plasma. But if you have a bright room and glare is a concern, then LCD is the road to follow.

Keep your eyes open for our recommended picks in each category in the coming days. Until then, happy viewing..!

12/9/08

End of an Era at BMW’s M


The engines, they are a’changin’…

BMW’s M (motorsport) division, the folks responsible for high performance variants of their popular 3-series (M3) and 5-series (M5) among others, are preparing for a paradigm shift in their engine philosophy.

BMW’s highly sought-after M-cars have long been known for their high-revving, naturally aspirated engines. These powerplants lend a certain characteristic to all the M-cars, helping to create an invigorating and involving driving experience.

No more…

We’ll blame this on ever more difficult emissions standards, soaring production costs and a desire to be more fuel efficient.

The folks at BMW are about to introduce the first M vehicle powered by a twin-turbo V8, the X6 xDrive M. The new engine will supply 500 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque, and is predicted to move the X6 to 60 mph in less than 5-seconds – all this while using less fuel and having lower emissions. Future M models will be using this same or a variation of this engine.

While these technological advances are a good thing, we will miss the old-school days. For those purists among us, we recommend getting your hands on one of the current M5 or M6 cars which should be available for another year plus, or the new M3, which will be the last of the high rpm breed.

A Gourmet Gingerbread House?


You may have memories as a kid of making a gingerbread snaps, or gingerbread cookies. It’s something associated with the holiday season.

Gingerbread apparently originated in the town of Market Drayton in Shropshire in the late 1700s. Not only has it evolved into the crispy snaps or shaped cookies, but gingerbread is also famous for being fashioned into houses, courtesy of the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel.

And now for the “over-the-top” portion of our regularly scheduled programming…

Apparently some bored pastry chefs have made the gourmet gingerbread house a popular item. Companies such as Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma are now marketing kits or full blown completed houses to the hungry holiday public. Here are a few links to these holiday housing confections…

· Stonewall kitchen – a fully assembled or DIY house
· Williams-Sonoma – a gingerbread house or a full-on Manor
· Sur La Table – another house kit.
· A Bountiful Harvest – an enchanted mansion awaits..!

Get that appetite ready and place an order…!

12/8/08

Recommended: Blu-ray Player

It’s time for another installment in our series of holiday consumer electronics recommendations. Today we are going to the land of Blu-ray

Now you may be wondering what all the buzz about Blu-ray is, anyway. You already have a DVD player and quite frankly, it looks and sounds pretty nice. Well, do you remember back in the VHS days when DVD first came on the market? Do you recall the improvement in video and audio? I’m here to tell you that Blu-ray leaps over standard DVD in the same manner..!

Up to this point, there have been a few roadblocks in Blu-ray player development, namely the speed and performance of the players, as well as the price points. This holiday season we are finally seeing the technology mature and the prices drop, and we say that now is the time to take the leap.

Which all brings us to…

First, let’s talk money…With a suggested price of $299, the Panasonic can be had for less than $250 – that’s down in the sweet spot. As for performance, this player gets a thumbs up all the way around. It’s Profile 2.0 compliant (the latest standards) and decodes all the lossless audio formats, or if you prefer will pass the signal to your receiver or processor to let it handle the duties. The video looks superb from Blu-ray and standard DVD is handled remarkably well. Even the speed issues – power up, loading of discs, accessing menus – while not as good as the Sony PS3 game console, is still better than most stand alone players.

Keep in mind that there are a few players that can be had a bit cheaper, but you will compromise in performance. Also, if you are a gamer, then go straight to the PS3 and don’t look back. Overall, the Panasonic is definitely the smart buy.

Don’t be blue…get a Blu-ray..!

12/3/08

Godzilla Snags COTY Trophy


Motor Trend’s annual Car of the Year competition for 2009 is complete. The Golden Caliper trophy has been awarded…The winner is not a creature from the old black and white monster movies of days gone by, but rather a 4-wheel beast from Japanese automaker Nissan.

We wrote about the Nissan GT-R before its arrival to the States. Our initial positive impressions of this landmark sports car have now been confirmed, you might say. The Motor Trend judges look at three criteria: Superiority, Significance and Value...

The GT-R is a techno tour-de-force (superiority and significance). The engine, transmission, drivetrain, suspension and electronics all extend the boundaries of automotive engineering. The performance level created by this engineering is mind-bending. The GT-R will literally run with anything on the road, whether that road be straight or crooked, all the while carrying 4 people and 2 golf bags..!

And the clincher (see “value”) is the price. This screamer can be had for less than $80K..! Nothing available at or below that price can keep up. The $110K Corvette ZR1 will lose in the twisties, the $130K Porsche 911 Turbo will fall back on a straight. All this not to mention the $200-$500K cars out there from Lamborghini, Ferrari, McLaren et al. We think the engineers from the competition will be burning the candle at both ends over this one…

The Connoisseur agrees with Motor Trend’s selection here – kudos to them for selecting the GT-R from a highly qualified field of competitors. Now, go take this monster for a drive and prepare to be blown away..!

12/2/08

Recommended: Home Theater Receivers

With the holiday shopping season upon us, we see the purchasing of home entertainment electronics spike at this time of year. Sales abound, and good deals can be had if you do some research.

Throughout the coming weeks, we are going to post a series of our recommendations in consumer electronics. Let us do the work and save you the headache and confusion…

Uh, whatever…

Today we are going to start with that workhorse of the low to mid-priced home theater system, the A/V Receiver. Think of the audio-video receiver as the hub or “brain” of your home theater system. Your source items (cable, satellite, cd and dvd players, game consoles…) plug in to the receiver and then the receiver processes those signals and sends them to your speakers and video display.

Brain, huh..?

Let’s start with the entry-level range for the more budget conscious. Our pick here is the Onkyo TX-SR606, which at an MSRP of $599.00 has all the features we look for in a home theater “brain”. 7.1 channel processing, HDMI 1.3a connections, audio processing of the new lossless Blu-ray formats, zone 2 controls…all that and more are present in a nice sounding and user friendly package.

What about the really good brain..?

Rotel, a highly regarded manufacturer of audio/video electronics, has released a new receiver that hits the target for the discerning listener among us…the audiophile. The RSX-1560 boasts 7 channels of amplification, all the latest audio processing formats and multi-zone control capabilities. Excellent engineering has gone into this receiver, not to mention high quality parts and first-rate fit and finish. We guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the listening experience, whether it is the latest movie or a music CD. Well worth the $2599.00 asking price – just be sure to pair it with some quality speakers.

One important thing to remember here, and it applies to both units – pricing is negotiable..! A little work should get you the Onkyo for around $500, and the Rotel can be had for less as well. It is a definite buyers market out there! Also note that these recommendations are not the perfect solution for all home theaters. If you have any questions, leave us a comment…

Happy listening..!

11/25/08

Mötley Crüe Does Vinyl


80s hard rock stalwart Mötley Crüe has decided their fans may be feeling a bit nostalgic. And why not, with their recently released CD Saints of Los Angeles doing well on the charts.

Does anyone remember vinyl..?

Records? Albums? LPs?

In the interest of old school, the band has decided to issue a boxed set of its complete library on vinyl in a leather-bound box with gold leaf lettering. The collection, named Journals of the Damned, will be a limited release with only 500 copies being produced. Each set will be numbered and also includes a lithograph of the band personally signed by each member. Place your order now…before it’s too late..!

In case the 80’s are a bit hazy in the memory banks, here is the complete Crüe discography included in the set…

· Too Fast For Love (1981)
· Shout at the Devil (1983)
· Theatre of Pain (1985)
· Girls, Girls, Girls (1987)
· Dr. Feelgood (1989)
· Saints of Los Angeles (2008)

Porsche Panamera Pics and Updates


While we previously reported on the upcoming Porsche 4-door due out next year, the German manufacturer has released the first photos of the sedan.

Eh…

As expected, from seeing the various spy photos scattered about the Internet, the Panamera is not something we will categorize in the drop-dead beauty department. While it does have a strong family resemblance through its design language, will this be enough to give it the street presence required of such a lofty price tag?

The pictures we see certainly don’t flatter, but take a look at this video and see if it changes your perspective. We feel this may indicate a better looking car in person.

In the category of updates, Porsche is trickling down new technology developed for the 997 refresh to its Boxster and Cayman models. The most notable improvements are more powerful and more fuel efficient engines, along with the new PDK dual-clutch transmissions. Some minor exterior updates have been implemented as well. The sum of these changes makes Porsche's entry-level offerings that much more desirable.

11/24/08

Mickey Mouse Goes Racing


Disney has opened their latest attraction in Florida, and this one is for grown-up speed freaks only..!

But don’t call this a “ride” like some new-fangled roller coaster. We would call it more of a…

…drive.

The Indy Racing Experience puts you behind the wheel of an actual Indy car (used in past Indianapolis 500 events). Don your helmet and fire suit and let the pit crew strap you in. Off you go for eight laps of the speed and g-forces that define Indy car racing.

The fun takes place at the Walt Disney World Speedway, located just outside the gates of the Magic Kingdom. One mile in length, the tri-oval features three uniquely banked corners and elevation changes on the back straight.

For the wimpy fans out there, you may opt to be a passenger in a modified two-seater driven by an Indy Racing League driver for a 3-lap tour.

Pricing for the ride along is $109 with the full-tilt drive experience at $399. Certainly an experience you won’t soon forget..!

“…start your engines!”

11/20/08

Let Jack Customize Your Backyard


Have I got the ultimate Christmas gift for the golfers out there..!

And after this, you’ll definitely know Jack (the golf legend, not the actor).

Offered exclusively through that shining beacon of capitalism otherwise known as the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, you can have Jack Nicklaus transform your backyard into a one, two or three-hole golf course with practice area.

Here’s how it works…

The Nicklaus team visits the site and does a survey as well as aerial photography. Jack then studies the various photos, maps and topography and creates a formal design plan for the location. You then hire a construction crew to complete the work, which the Nicklaus team will supervise.

Instant golf course..!

Jack then stops by to play the inaugural round with you and afterward sign a club and golf ball for your collection. Throw in a customized set of Jack Nicklaus golf clubs and a personalized bag, and your golfing nirvana is complete.

Pricing begins at a cool 1 million – some green for the greens.

11/19/08

Blackberry’s Bold Storm




For you fans of the Blackberry brand of smartphone, or as it is referred to by my associates – the “Crack-berry”, you are now faced with some sweet upgrade options.

AT & T has the Blackberry Bold (pictured left), a global 3G smartphone with a sleek aesthetic and a new user interface, but still maintaining a family resemblance to current Blackberry models. This smartphone pretty much covers all the bases with GPS, 3G, Wi-Fi, Camera, QWERTY keyboard, and probably the best screen of its type.

Everything about this phone is enhanced compared with previous BBs, from that sweet screen and new UI to the much improved browsing, the speed, the keyboard – the list goes on. Definitely recommended for the Blackberry aficionado.

And then there’s the Storm. With this phone, you could say that Blackberry and Verizon (the sole carrier) are jumping into the eye of the iPhone storm…

The Blackberry Storm (pictured right) is aimed squarely at the competition, but manages to have its own uniqueness. Some items that set it apart from the iPhone – expandable memory, removable battery, stereo Bluetooth capability, tactile screen feedback (this is really slick once you get used to it) and more…

We are impressed with the Storm’s feature set and usability and feel it is the best alternative to the iPhone currently available.

Overall, both units are well executed and won’t disappoint. The final choice is up to you – give them both a try and see which Blackberry fits the bill…

11/18/08

One-77…Ultimate Aston Martin


Renowned British car builder Aston Martin has a new number for you.

And it’s not 007…

Long associated in movies with a fellow by the name of James Bond, Aston Martin wants the world to know that it builds the ultimate sports cars. The next step in spreading this gospel is to build what Aston chief Ulrich Bez refers to as the “ultimate expression of what an Aston Martin should be.”

Just what is this ultimate automotive expression? Let’s start with a hand-molded aluminum body over a carbon-fiber tub with race inspired suspension bits. Don’t forget to add in a 7.3-liter V12 with approximately 700 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque and a top speed well over 200 mph. The interior will be a tour de force of the latest electronics, instrumentation and switchgear, to go along with the completely customizable palette of wood, leather and metal accents. Each owner will essentially create their own bespoke car.

Rare, you ask? Yes. The “77” in the name implies exactly that – just 77 of these beauties will be produced. Only 5 or 6 cars will be allocated to the United States.

Expensive? Of course. Early estimates look to be in the 1.75 million range. “If you have to ask…”

Production of the One-77 will commence in August of ’09 and will complete a year later. Place your order now..!

11/15/08

The Empire (Hotel) Strikes Back



The historic Empire Hotel on New York’s upper west side originally opened its doors over a century ago in the mid 1890’s. In 1923, the hotel was completely rebuilt including the raising of the iconic red neon “Hotel Empire” sign and was a New York hotspot from the 20’s through the 60’s. Through it all the 12-story hotel has remained virtually unchanged…

Until now…

This summer the doors were opened on a complete redesign of the property. 413 rooms and suites, an elegant lobby bar and a rooftop pool are the highlights of this rebirth.

The well appointed and stylish guest rooms are described in the press release as “mod-chic” and boast views of Lincoln Center, Central Park and Broadway. The rooftop pool, exclusive to the hotel’s guests, includes cabanas with daybeds, ceiling fans, LCD TVs, mini refrigerators and more. A great way to evade a baking sun or relax for an evening cocktail.

To handle your fine food cravings, Jeffrey Chodorow’s Center Cut restaurant will fit the bill, supplying “modern classics” and other tasty fare.

Next time you’re in New York, why not stay at the Empire. And fear not, the neon sign is still there..!

11/14/08

Wilson Audio’s Alexandria…World’s Best Speaker?


In the early 80s after a lifelong passion for all things audiophile, Dave Wilson constructed a state-of-the-art modular loudspeaker out of his home. Shortly afterward he sold several pairs of these speakers (named WAMM) and Wilson Audio has been non-stop ever since.

After years of new speaker models and improvements to existing designs, Dave put his entire breadth of knowledge into a flagship design, the Alexandria X-2, which hit the market in 2003 and garnered the highest of praise from the audiophile community.

Here we are five years later, and Mr. Wilson has figured out how to kick it up a notch – to make his ultimate speaker even more so. Say hello to the Alexandria X-2 series 2..! Improvements to the midrange speakers, tweeter and crossover yield even more realism to the sonic picture.

Standing nearly 6’ tall and with a twelve step paint and finish process comparable to only the finest automobile manufacturers, the Alexandrias are truly something to behold. Fortunately, as are all Wilson Audio products, these speakers are delivered, installed and adjusted by your retailer.

As for the sound..? Provided the listening environment and associated electronics are up to snuff, we guarantee your jaw will hit the floor. These speakers are THAT good..! If you are truly in the market for a no-holds barred audio system, put the Wilson Audio Alexandria X-2 series 2 on your short list.

Current retail price - $158,000 per pair

11/13/08

Time’s 50 Worst Cars

Today I have one for all you automotive aficionados out there…

I ran across this list of the 50 worst cars of all time from Time Magazine, compiled in entertaining fashion by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Dan Neil, who writes for the LA Times.

The expected offenders are present and accounted for. The Ford Pinto, Cadillac Cimarron and Yugo GV all fit the bill in this “worst of” list. And don’t forget that rolling pile of automotive refuse otherwise known as the AMC Pacer. I think the word “disaster” applies here…

Some of the lesser-known cars are true gems as well. How can you not stare incredulously at the Fuller Dymaxion or the diminutive Crosley Hotshot? Who in their right minds came up with these vehicles?

At the other end of the spectrum, there are a few vehicles present that strike me as a bit underserving to reside on this list. The Ford Explorer was included because it apparently sold Americans on the bigger-is-better idea in personal transportation – I don’t buy it. And the BMW 7-series is here due to its infamous I-Drive navigation system controller. While the initial software was certainly a bit clumsy, one might note that nearly all the high-end manufacturers now have their own interpretation of this controller.

Check out the list and see for yourself. If you have a vehicle that may have been omitted, let us know…

11/6/08

Dreaming of a White Mercedes Christmas


Yes, now you can do all your Christmas shopping at Mercedes-Benz…and I’m not talking cars for Christmas.

The German car manufacturer has unveiled a new line of holiday gifts for the whole family, all in brilliant white.

(Would that be a snow correlation..?)

Whatever the reason, the monochrome collection has something for everyone. Adults can choose from a high-tech mountain bike or various clothing items such as polo shirts, dress shirts, jackets, gloves and more.

What about the young-uns? Mercedes has got you covered in the big toy category with an SLK styled cart and a sleek snow sled for the slopes. Of course all the basics are present as well – the pajamas, hats, jackets, mittens and the obligatory miniature SUVs.

Now you can give that special someone a Mercedes-Benz for Christmas and not have to park it in the garage..!

Happy Holidays..!

11/3/08

Simple Italian Sausage Pasta

Simple isn’t always best, but sometimes it sure feels that way. Even when it comes to pasta…

Here is a recipe that I like to make when time is short, but I want to enjoy some excellent, satisfying flavors. A bit of simple elegance, you might say.

· 3 plus 1 tbsp butter
· 2 medium yellow onions – finely chopped
· 1 lb Italian sausage
· 3 – 4 cloves garlic – chopped
· ½ cup dry white wine
· 4 tbsp double-concentrated tomato paste
· 3 cups chicken stock
· ½ cup milk
· 1 lb pasta – penne, fusilli or farfalle (bowtie)
· ½ cup Parmesan-reggiano – plus extra to sprinkle on top
· Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the 3 tbsp butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn heat to med-high. Add the sausage and cook until browned – crumble with the edge of wooden spoon. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add white wine and reduce until almost evaporated. Mix the tomato paste with a portion of the stock in a cup and stir. Add this mixture along with the remaining stock and milk to the sauce. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until sauce has reduced and thickened somewhat. Taste and season as needed.

Cook pasta per instructions and drain – reserve one cup of the pasta water. Add pasta to the sauce in the sauté pan along with the ½ cup of cheese and remaining tbsp butter. Stir to coat. If the pasta appears dry, add reserved pasta water as needed. Plate the pasta, top with the remaining cheese and serve.

OK folks, a quick note here. Something I can never stress enough - ingredients rule..! For this recipe with very few components, be sure the sausage, pasta, stock, tomato paste and cheese are up to par.

Feel free to improvise with this dish, but remember that the spirit here is in the simplicity. If you do feel a pressing need to kick it up a bit, the two items that come to mind: add ¼ tsp of red pepper flakes when sautéing the onion and /or add some chopped Italian parsley after the sauce has reduced.

Cook and enjoy…

10/31/08

Halloween Cocktails


Boo..!

OK, I realize you don’t scare easily. Well maybe I can frighten you with some creepy holiday beverages..! A little something to terrify the taste buds...

Here at the C-Corner we’ve put together a list of a few favorites. Give them a try and let us know what you think…

Bloody Brain

  • 1 part Peach schnapps
  • ½ part Baileys Irish Cream
  • 3 drops Grenadine

In a shot glass, fill approx ¾ with peach schnapps – top with Irish cream (pour- do not layer) and add 3 drops of grenadine.

Dra-Kahlua

  • 1 1/2 oz. Kahlúa
  • 1/2 oz. Martell V.S. Cognac
  • 1/2 oz. Triple Sec
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup

Shake ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a chilled, half sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with a blood orange wedge.

Zombie

  • 1 oz. apricot brandy
  • 1 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. dark or Jamaican rum
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • 2 dashes grenadine
  • orange juice
  • 1 oz. Bacardi 151 rum

Mix light and dark rum and brandy in a cocktail shaker with ice, add lime juice and grenadine. Shake well and strain into a glass with ice. Top with orange juice and a float of the 151 on top. Garnish with a cherry and orange slice.


10/29/08

Steve Wynn’s Vegas Encore


After opening his Wynn Las Vegas resort, famed hotelier Steve Wynn has decided to do an encore.

Literally…

Rising next to the Wynn tower is its sister resort, Encore. Of course all the usual trimmings will be there: five signature restaurants, seven bars and lounges, eleven retail outlets, a nightclub, spa and salon. The hotel tower is of course, sizable, with 2,034 suites, each measuring over 700 square feet. Some of the more opulent suites go all the way to 5,800 square feet – for the high rollers among us..!

The tower looks to be opening in early January, as the web site is now taking reservations beginning January 12th. We look forward to the grand opening and seeing what Mr. Wynn has cooked up.

In case you were concerned that the Encore was the last resort ever to be built in Las Vegas…Fear Not..! Here is a list of a few other upcoming projects…

The Cosmopolitan – Next door to the Bellagio, the Cosmopolitan is slated to have over 3,000 rooms and a 75,000 square foot casino. Rumors are swirling, however, that the project may be rebranded as a W Hotel due to financial difficulties.

Fontainebleau – Modeled after the famed Miami resort of the same name, The Las Vegas edition will have over 3,800 “guest flats”, 28 bars, restaurants and lounges and the expected 100,000 square feet of gaming facilities. The scheduled opening is late 2009.

City Center – This massive project will contain the 4,000 room Aria hotel, Vdara condominium hotel, Veer condos, the Mandarin Oriental hotel and the Harmon hotel and residences. With total costs in the $10 to $11 billion range, this is the most expensive privately funded construction project in history.

10/27/08

BMW’s Open-Source Electronics

First the internet in a car, and now…

At an automotive electronics forum held last week in Detroit, German automaker BMW announced that they were in the process of developing an open-source platform for the electronics systems in their cars.

Open-platforsystronic-what?

OK, here is what it means… You are familiar with all the newfangled Navigation / Entertainment systems in cars these days. The maker of that vehicle, in this case BMW, is responsible for the software on that system. The idea of an open-source platform will allow third party vendors to develop applications for these infotainment systems, essentially opening up a whole new world of possibilities.

The only thing approaching this idea on the market at the moment is Ford’s collaboration with Microsoft for the software company’s Sync in-car programming.

Open collaboration with other automobile manufacturers was also put on the table by BMW. The thought being to create an industry standard technology for the automakers, thus streamlining the creative process for 3rd party developers. A good idea for all in the long run.

BMW aims to have over 200,000 cars with this system on the road within the next seven years. We look forward to seeing what this technology may bring, but with one concern – will the enthusiast driving experience become too watered down? Just make sure we can leave it off the options list..!

10/24/08

Want Privacy? Go Villa

Do hotels feel too crowded, too busy for your vacation?

Well, if you crave a little extra privacy, or maybe just enjoy that homey feeling, even when you are away from your home, you should go villa…

There are literally hundreds of villas around the globe available for rent, usually on a weekly basis. They’re in almost any location you can think of, in a range of sizes and amenities – you can tailor your selection to meet your needs.

Here are a couple of our favorites to whet your appetite…

If the Mediterranean calls, why not visit the Amalfi coast and Villa Di Castiglione. With a capacity of up to 16 of your favorite friends and family, the villa has 8 bedrooms, each with its own bath, satellite TV, air conditioning, internet connection, minibar and safe deposit box. Along with the usual living amenities, you also get a rooftop terrace with panoramic views and an outdoor kitchen, a garden terrace at the foot of the villa, a small swimming pool, and several sunning terraces along the path to the private ocean access at the base of the cliff.

Wanting something more tropical? Take a visit to Virgin Gorda in the Carribean and stay at Aquamare. A small enclave of three separate villas, each is 8,000 square-feet with 5 bedrooms (3 master suites), gourmet kitchens and elegant indoor and outdoor living spaces to go with an infinity pool. Carribean luxury and killer views abound. You can even reserve all three villas to house up to 36 guests. There is a separate Concierge House located on the grounds to provide guest services as requested.

If the extra privacy and seclusion sounds appealing, then make your travel arrangements now, and go villa..!

10/23/08

Virgin Charter: Branson Flies Small

Sir Richard Branson, famed English entrepreneur and business magnate, is turning his attention to small planes.

At present, privately chartered flights are generally booked through brokers or by a lengthy phone process. This can be inconvenient, unreliable and expensive, not to mention downright confusing at times.

The new venture, Virgin Charter, is targeting the $30 billion market for private air travel and taking it to the internet, hoping to add a dose of user-friendliness to the experience.

There are some 2,500 operators of private aviation to go along with the thousands of U.S. customers looking to fly in this manner. Branson’s online service allows multiple operators to bid on a flight itinerary submitted by a traveler. The traveler can then select between bids and finalize arrangements, all through Virgin Charter.

How convenient..!

Certainly seems like a sound plan. This should even cut private travel costs some 20% according to the company, due to reduced operating expenses as well as the missing brokers and their fees.

At launch a few months ago, Virgin Charter was offering access to over 100 operators with approximately 1,000 planes available. All operators are independantly screened for quality and safety.

Outside of fractional ownership through a company such as NetJets, this seems like a real winner. Let’s see if the market bears that out…

10/22/08

The Google Phone Isn’t


Yes, it is a phone…

…and Google is involved.

But technically speaking, it is not a “Google Phone”. Let me explain…

With the iPhone, Apple manufactures the phone itself as well as the software on the phone that makes it go. With the phone released today, Google has only created the software (called Android) and then third party companies build phones around it. This first release is built by a company called HTC and sold by T-Mobile using their cellular network. The folks at T-Mobile have named it the G1. More models will follow in the coming months from different manufacturers.

Now that I have cleared that up, how ‘bout some thoughts on the T-Mobile G1..?

Google has clearly targeted the iPhone with the Android phone software, and for a first release, it does an excellent job. While arguably not quite as elegant as the iPhone software, Android does work and feel similar. The main improvement over the iPhone that we like, along with the full keyboard, is the Menu button. When pressed, this brings up a panel of buttons related to the task at hand. For example: if you are on a call and press Menu, you will get buttons for Speaker, Hold and Mute. It’s comparable to right-clicking with your mouse on the computer.

Android comes with the expected slate of built-ins, such as Contacts, Calendar, Google Maps, Calculator, Music, and even a YouTube module. There will also be an online Android Market for downloading other programs, many of which will be freeware from third party vendors.

Overall we like where Google’s foray into cell phones is headed. There are a few glitches of course, but we expect them to be eradicated with updates in the near future. The G1 is definitely a viable alternative to the iPhone – take a look and let us know what you think…

10/21/08

Las Vegas Pool Parties

Forget the gambling, the nightlife, the shopping and restaurants. People are now going to Las Vegas to swim..!

Well, not really "swim", per se…

Take that famed glitz-laden nightlife, move it out by the pool about 12 hours earlier, sprinkle in liberal doses of booze, music and skin – it’s the phenomenon otherwise known as the Las Vegas pool party.

In the town where they literally think of every possible thing to entertain you 24/7, there was a rather empty block of time midday that wasn’t occupying everyone. Visitors were merely wandering lunch buffets or staying in their rooms sleeping off a late night of partying. Why not rid oneself of that hangover poolside on a canopy covered lounger?

Makes sense to me..!

In 2004 the first major player in this wet and wild category was Rehab at the Hard Rock Hotel. People begin lining up at 8:00 in the morning for the opportunity to partake in a little daytime debauchery.

Of course other casinos have jumped onboard this profitable express. The Venetian has their take on the pool party at the Tao Beach Club. An extension of the popular Tao Nightclub, the pool is open daily but is highlighted with “Sunset Sundays”. At the Palms, the Palms Pool has “Ditch Fridays” - A proper way to start your weekend festivities.

Venus Pool Club at Ceasars Palace aims for a more upscale and less chaotic experience, with frozen towels and an excellent appetizer menu. Another pool along these lines, with a more intimate experience is Bare at the Mirage, offering private daybeds and boatbeds along with the requisite poolside chaise lounges.

Regardless of which pool you select, you really can’t go wrong. Reserve your spot now and work off that hangover with a pitcher of your favorite beverages and a little sunshine!

10/18/08

Michael Mina Opens XIV in L.A.

One of our favorite chefs, Michael Mina, has now opened his latest restaurant, his first in the City of Angels.

Located on Sunset Boulevard at Crescent Heights, XIV is a chateau styled restaurant designed by Philippe Starck. Mina’s take on modern American cuisine is served in what is being called a “social dining” concept, based on individual tasting portions. Four seating areas, a full-length bar as well as an outdoor dining area and bar make up the facility.

The menu looks to be somewhat adventurous without being overwhelming. If you have been to one of Mina’s restaurants in the past, you should feel right at home. Eight, eleven and fourteen course tasting menus are available as well.

As for refreshments, a small but clever cocktail listing accompanies the nicely assembled wine inventory.

Reviews should start rolling in soon, but we are betting on XIV being a resounding success. If you are in the area, we recommend making a reservation and sampling Michael Mina’s latest.

10/17/08

Wine Lover’s Cookbooks

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food..!” -Anonymous

Yes, I love to cook. I also happen to love wine. While my name is not “Anonymous”, I certainly would agree with the previous quote. Wine and food are without a doubt simpatico…

During my ventures over the years into kitchens, wineries and other miscellaneous locales, I ran across a pair of wonderful cookbooks authored by Sid Goldstein that really fill the wine/food niche. Both books have mouthwatering recipes aplenty, along with a generous helping of wine and food related tidbits – somewhat educational without being ponderous.

The first cookbook is titled The Wine Lover’s Cookbook: Great Recipes for the Perfect Glass of Wine. Released in 1999, this book takes readers through food and wine pairings in a structured manner, but manages to utilize great variety in the dishes and ingredients involved.

Book number 2 is The Wine Lover Cooks with Wine: Great Recipes for the Essential Ingredient. As the title suggests, this 2004 cookbook focuses on recipes that include wine as an ingredient, as well as pairing suggestions for those dishes.

The recipes from both books are of a consistently high quality and will supply you with enjoyment in both creating and devouring the contents within. I would suggest obtaining both books, as they seem to complement each other nicely. Connoisseur Recommended..!

10/16/08

The Incredible Shrinking…German SUV


It’s hip to be small. Well, at least it is when fuel prices increase.

The BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz ML, Porsche Cayenne and Audi’s Q7 make up the current roster of mid-size premium German SUVs. All in competition with one-another, they each have their own list of strengths and are excellent vehicles.

With the success of their X5 which debuted in 1999, BMW decided to downsize and began producing the smaller X3 in 2003. Until now they have been the sole German manufacturer in this category – key phrase “until now”…

Say hello to the Audi Q5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLK, a couple of small SUVs or “crossovers” targeted squarely at the X3 and rising fuel costs. They will be in showrooms next year and should both do well. (The Audi Q5 being our current preference.)

Not ones to rest on their laurels, the folks at BMW are countering with a two pronged attack. The first vehicle is a completely new X3, due out in 2010.

The second is an even smaller CUV (crossover utility vehicle) due out next year. The X1, as it will be called, has been shown in thinly disguised concept form (shown above), with the final version to appear soon. Technical details are slowly trickling out, but we know that there will be full time all-wheel drive and that the engine choices will likely be similar to those in the current 1-series cars.

Will Audi, Mercedes and Porsche counter with X1 competitors? We will continue monitoring the market and let you know as things develop. In the mean-time, keep an eye out for future reviews on these and other incredible shrinking vehicles…

10/15/08

Canadian Club 30 Year Old


We introduced you to Canadian Club whisky a while back. A Canadian whisky that the Connoisseur considers a must have for the well stocked bar.

Well, it turns out that it is time to celebrate in the great white north. Canadian Club is having a 150th birthday. And like any milestone birthday, one must celebrate..!

To commemorate this milestone, Canadian Club is releasing a limited edition 30 Year Reserve whisky. Priced at $200/bottle, the first 150 bottles will be numbered for the ultimate in collectability. Only 3,000 bottles will be made available.

Now for the important stuff…how does this fine product taste?

Like velvet..!

30 years of aging provides a smooth, luxurious oak character along with hints of spice and dried fruit followed by a long, warm finish.

Sounds like a reason to track down a bottle and join the celebration..!

10/8/08

Do You Know Monterey Jack?

And now for a cheesy story…

In the late 1800s, a rather colorful Scottish immigrant by the name of David Jacks, owner of copious quantities of ranchland in the Monterey, California area, began shipping a cheese from his dairies. The cheese was labeled with both the location of its origin, Monterey, as well as his last name. Over time the “s” from his last name was dropped from the cheese, and it became known as “Monterey Jack”. In the mid 1950’s, the FDA made this name official.

Upon further investigation however, it turns out that David Jacks was not the creator or inventor of this style of cheese. He was merely a shrewd businessman using his resources – some 14 dairy ranches – to market this product. The actual origin of the cheese dates back to the 1700’s courtesy of the Franciscan Monks, and it was called Queso del Pais (country cheese).

The Monterey Jack we know today is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese made in America. It is generally aged for 1 month and has a pale yellow color and mild flavor. This cheese is considered highly versatile in cooking and also has several varieties available, including Pepper Jack and Garlic Jack. There is even an aged version which is somewhat firmer and a bit sharper in flavor.

As for wine pairings, we recommend hearty reds, such as a Zinfandel or Barbera.

Now I think it is safe to say that…you really know Jack..!

10/7/08

2008 Paris Motor Show

The biennial two week run of the Paris Motor Show (Mondial de l’Automobile) began this week with a bit of GLOOM (global economy), but still plenty of VROOM (new cars).

As expected, a sizeable emphasis is on the greener side of the automotive industry, with plenty of diminutive hybrids, electrics and other miscellaneous vehicles on display. Fortunately for the enthusiasts among us, there were still enough sporting cars to keep our attention. Here is a quick rundown of some of our favorites…

Probably the most anticipated debut at this show was the Lamborghini Estoque. Their high-performance 4-door has serious presence and will quite possibly be thought of as the best in show.

The Saab 9-X Air convertible was both attractive and innovative in design, with clever rear side panels rising up above the trunk to meet the traditional fabric top. Saab claims 0-60 in about 8 seconds and 47 mpg for this hybrid powered ragtop.

Posing the question “when is a Mini not mini”, the Mini Crossover Concept will result in a production vehicle due next year. A mix of useful and whacky, all the Mini design cues are present and accounted for in this crossover. We are curious to see how this one will sell…

In the category of Hybrids we would own is the Peugeot RC HYmotion4. With a handsome design in the 4-door coupe mold, this GT car uses a gasoline electric hybrid drive to generate over 300 horsepower. 4-wheel drive, 4 seats and 4 doors complete the package.

Other notable viewings were the production versions of the Ferrari California and BMW’s new 7-series, along with concept cars such as the fully electric Nissan NUVU and the Mercedes-Benz ConceptFASCINATION

9/29/08

Chimichurri Sauce

“Chimichurri”

No, that wasn’t a sneeze. It’s the name of an amazing sauce…

Originating in Argentina, chimichurri sauce is thought to have its genesis during the 19th century. Most stories involve an English speaking colonist with a name along the lines of Jimmy McCurry that was hanging out in Argentina. Supposedly he made the sauce for some troops during the Argentine Independence and it was named in his honor.

Whether this is fact, remains to be seen…

What is known for certain is that this is one good sauce. Commonly served over grilled meats, chimichurri can also be used as a marinade before grilling.

One problem I found regarding chimichurri – there seems to be an endless variety of recipes. Of course I took it upon myself to find what I believe to be the definitive recipe…the target…simply the best! Enjoy…

Argentinian Chimichurri Sauce

· 1 cup chopped flat leaf (Italian) parsley
· 3 – 5 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 teaspoon salt
· ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
· ½ teaspoon chili pepper flakes
· 2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
· 2 tablespoons shallot, minced
· ¾ cup olive oil
· 3 tablespoons sherry wine vinegar
· 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a food processor and pulse. Serve with grilled steaks…

Keep in mind that this is really a guideline recipe. Adjust it as your palette requires. I use an entire small shallot and a bit more red pepper flakes and oregano, but the final ratios are up to you. Spoon this over some steaks fresh off the grill, serve with grilled potatoes and a glass of Malbec and you will have a smile on your face…

Newest Lamborghini Has 2 Doors...Twice


The teaser photo you see above was recently released by Lamborghini in regards to a model that will debut at the Paris Auto Show. Is this their next supercar, or just a new version of an existing model?

As it turns out, the answer appears to be “neither”…

The Lamborghini Estoque, as it is to be called, looks to be yet another in the parade of high end, sporting sedans to arrive on the scene along with Porsche’s Panamera among others.

Early details speak of a front-engine car, breaking with Lamborghini’s current model line of mid-engine vehicles. Other apparent departures include the engine itself, said to be a V8 with two turbochargers as opposed to a gas guzzling 10 or 12 cylinder unit. 4 wheel-drive also appears to be available, if not standard.

At least the folks at Lamborghini did maintain their naming convention standards of bullfighting related nomenclature. An Estoque is a sword used by bullfighters for the kill.

Automobili Lamborghini is expecting to sell 3,000 of these 4-doors per year, which would effectively double their overall output. Pricing has not been released.

9/24/08

Vancouver 2010 Olympics – Get Your Tickets!


The upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver are many moons away…

Or are they..?

If you happen to be caught in the debate of attending these Olympics, you’d better come to a decision soon, as the first phase of event ticket purchase occurs October 3rd.

The official ticket agent for the United States, as licensed by the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC), is a company called CoSport. (They also handled the Beijing games.) For the above mentioned “first phase”, CoSport will begin taking online ticket requests for individual events. The requests are then compiled and, if they exceed availability for a certain event, a lottery is held to award the tickets. A second phase will occur in the spring of 2009 with the remaining event tickets being released on a first come-first served basis.

CoSport can also act as a sort of travel agent and handle any accommodations or hospitality packages as needed. Think of them as your one-stop Olympic shop.

A few points to keep in mind…

CoSport is a broker. The ticket prices will be higher than what the Canadians pay for them, as residents of the host country can purchase directly from the Olympic Committee. If you have any friends up in the Great White North, have them hook you up and save some money.

Also, if you change your mind about attending an event, CoSport will not offer a refund. You are permitted to resell them at face value only - CoSport will cancel the tickets if they find out that they are being sold for profit.

And last but not least, remember to dress warm..!

9/23/08

Avoiding Airport Delays

I think it is a safe assumption that most of us love to travel. It’s also probably safe to assume that we dislike the actual act of “getting there”. In today’s world this can be a major stress generator for many of us.

Sure, these issues are generally beyond our control, but there are a few steps we can take to minimize the travel damage. Coming from Peter Greenberg, NBC’s Today Show Travel Editor, here are a few suggestions for avoiding those pesky airport delays…

· Book the early morning flights. This generally means the aircraft was at the airport over night and it and the crew will be ready to go without delay.

· Carry-on your luggage to avoid losing it. The airlines are notorious for the disappearing luggage trick. If you can’t carry the luggage with you, consider a door-to-door courier as provided by UPS, FedEx, and DHL among others.

· If you have connecting flights, make sure you have a minimum of two hours between flights. The airlines oftentimes will set you up with minimal time, which almost guarantees maximum trouble!

· Try flying from alternate airports. You know – the smaller, less busy variety that are nearby.

· Be sure to get a PNR (passenger name record) from your booking agent. This is a specific six-character (letters and/or digits) confirmation code for your flight.

· Here’s a handy one…Did you know that you can text Google (466453) for flight information? Type in the two letter airline code and flight number and then Google will send you back the status of your flight.

Now that you are armed with delay avoidance tips, be prepared and have a great vacation..!

9/22/08

Absolut Los Angeles


Swedish vodka producer Absolut has released the second in a series of limited edition city-themed vodkas…

Inspired by the healthy lifestyle and eating habits of the LA fitness culture, Absolut Los Angeles is flavored with all-natural blueberry, acai berry, acerola cherry and pomegranate.

Our tasting notes indicate powerful aromas of fruit previewing rich flavors on the palate but finishing in a rather delicate manner. This vodka works well over ice, but would certainly have possibilities for mixed drinks as well.

Absolut Los Angeles follows up the release in 2007 of Absolut New Orleans, which mixed infusions of mango and black pepper. A great majority of the proceeds from the sales of these vodkas will go to charities from each municipality.

Votes are currently being accepted for nomination of the third city, so be sure to go online and submit your choice, all the while sipping from a glass of LA on the rocks..!

Pinel & Pinel Does iPod


Luxury European trunkmaker Pinel & Pinel has come up with what may be the most over-the-top iPod accessory on the market…

The I-Case

I know what you’re thinking. There are dozens of iPod carry cases on the market. Well, this isn’t your garden variety accessory.

Based in Paris, Pinel & Pinel has taken the idea of the classic steamer trunks from the 30s and added a modern twist. Everything from quality-built luggage based trunks up to more eccentric items such as trunks with built in home theaters, computers and folding bicycles. And of course, the iPod…

How does leather covered wood with nickeled brass hardware sound? How about 51 available colors? The built-in dock connects to a pair of Altec Lansing speakers for your listening pleasure, regardless of where your travels take you. There is even a pair of leather pouches for the storage of your headphones or various other goodies.

Your iPod will never have had it so good..!

9/19/08

Forbes 400 – The Winner Is..?

Since 1982, every September Forbes Magazine has published a list of the wealthiest 400 Americans based on net worth.

So what does this have to do with Jerry Seinfeld..?

Well…nothing, other than that his new best buddy (if you believe the latest commercials) has regained his place atop the list.

Yes, Bill Gates is back at the top after being briefly overtaken by Warren Buffett. Buffett actually dropped $12 billion to a total net worth of $50 billion courtesy of the drop in Berkshire Hathaway stock. Gates is at $57 billion.

Other big losers this year were casino moguls Sheldon Adelson and Kirk Kerkorian, out $13 billion and $6.8 billion respectively. Both are still firmly on the list, but 33 members fell off this year with declining fortunes.

On the upside, Patrón tequila founder John Paul DeJoria was among the big gainers this year, but that list was topped by New York City’s mayor Michael Bloomberg. He jumped from $12 billion to $20 billion, placing him at No. 8 overall on the list.

If you want to join this esteemed group, you’d better get to work now. The minimum net worth at the bottom is $1.3 billion..!

9/16/08

Panamera: The Porsche Sedan

With the success of such high-end sporting 4-doors such as the Maserati Quattroporte, Mercedes CLS and the upcoming Aston Martin Rapide, Porsche has been readying its own entry into this fast-growing field.

Panamera

Due for a full reveal in March 2009 at the Geneva Auto show, Porsche has launched a teaser microsite on the internet.

Specifications are also trickling out of Germany, albeit at a snail’s pace. The entry-level powertrain will be a 3.6 liter six-cylinder with 300 horsepower. A step up gets you a V8 motor with 450 horsepower and of course the V8 twin turbo will be available at 520 ponies. There are also rumors that the Carrera GT’s V10 is being considered, depending on demand.

Unfortunately the term “entry-level” being used for the smaller six-cylinder engine does not carry over to the pricing strategy. Edmunds is reporting a base price of $127,000 for this model, with the other trim levels going up the scale from there. Porsche is actually expecting to sell 20,000 Panameras annually. We think the pricing strategy may prevent this.

The other concern we have: Looks

Spy shots of the Panamera appear to show what may not be the most visually appealing sedan we have ever seen. The above mentioned competitors look to have it beat in the style department, but in all fairness, we will withhold judgment until the final car is revealed in full. We do, however, have no doubt that this will be one fine driving 4-door!

9/11/08

Drink Your BLT

Let’s just say that today’s topic is sort of the anti-Connoisseur…

A story was stumbled upon while browsing the internet regarding, of all things, bacon-flavored vodka.

Ugh..!

Hey, I love bacon as much as the next person. As famed chef Emeril Lagasse is so fond of saying, “pork fat rules”. But sometimes you have to draw the line, and this may be one of those moments.

Turns out that a gentleman by the name of Don Yovicsin, owner of Jake’s Dixie Roadhouse in Waltham, Massachusetts, had a lightbulb moment regarding bacon and vodka. Acting on that inspiration, he fried some Niman Ranch applewood-smoked bacon and added it to an infuser jar with some vodka. After four weeks the bacon was filtered out and the vodka chilled. The congealed bacon fat was then filtered as well, leaving a smoky, bacon flavored liquor.

Hmmm…

The Roadhouse now serves several beverages using the vodka, the most popular being the Bacon Bloody Mary, done with the vodka, Bloody Mary mix, barbecue rub on the rim and garnished with a Slim Jim and lime wedge.

Guess you could say you haven’t lived until you had one of these concoctions. It’s rather like drinking your BLT…

Porsche Design Is At It Again


German automaker Porsche’s Design Team keeps itself busy. Sure, they work on cars and SUVs, but the team has a long history of collaboration on projects outside the company. Here are a couple of the most recent examples: one for the kitchen and one for the bathtub…er, ocean.

A venture with electronics giant Siemens has yielded, of all things, a toaster. An efficient quartz heating element, automatic bread slice adjustments, cool-wall technology and a spaceship design aesthetic are all present and accounted for in what is certainly the…”Porsche of toasters”.

And now for the ocean: How does a 135 foot catamaran sound? In partnership with Royal Falcon Fleet, Porsche Design has crafted the RFF 135, one sharp looking yacht! RFF’s website states: “Her unique, space-aged, contemporary design makes her unmistakably a piece of modern architecture. The design's main focus is to indulge the customer with unmatched performance, comfort, space and luxury that suits a high-end lifestyle.” We couldn’t agree more.

The 135 is in final engineering phase at present, with construction to begin in the near future. We can’t wait to see one on the water…

9/10/08

Big Dollar Champagne at the Ritz

The Ritz-Carlton in Moscow has added a little something to their beverage list that may catch your eye…and put a dent in your wallet.

How does $275,000 for a bottle of champagne sound?

And now for a little back-story…

In 1916 during the First World War, a Swedish cargo vessel was en route to St. Petersburg with a cargo including 17 barrels of Burgundy wine, 10,000 gallons of Cognac and 3,000 bottles of champagne when a German submarine sent her to the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Move forward a few years to 1997 when a Swedish search team located the sunken vessel. A year later she was raised to the surface along with her cargo. Unlike the wine, 21 barrels of the Cognac survived along with much of the bubbly, courtesy of excellent packing in wood crates, favorable water temperatures and enough water pressure to keep the corks firmly in place. In all, over 2000 bottles of Heidsieck & Co Monopole “Gout Americain” 1907 were reclaimed from the depths.

A quantity of this champagne, which apparently tastes quite remarkable, has relocated to the above-mentioned Ritz-Carlton where it now proudly resides on the beverage list as the most expensive bottle of Champagne in the world..!

8/28/08

Amangani - Luxury Ski Getaway


With summer winding down, you might be getting ready to plan that next ski vacation. A chance to glide down some fresh powder in a magnificent setting and enjoy a little evening après ski.

Jackson Hole, a valley located amid the Teton Range of mountains just north of Jackson, Wyoming, is home to some magnificent skiing. And where there’s skiing, there would be the requisite ski resorts. One such standout resort would happen to be today’s subject…

A member of the luxurious Aman Resorts chain (one of our favorites), the Amangani property was designed to embrace its impressive natural surroundings, yet provide all the amenities you might desire. Architectural beauty, stunning vistas, top-shelf service, and lavish accommodations – Amangani has it all.

The property consists of 29 luxurious suites as well as several larger deluxe suites. A number of separate villas are also available for rent. The Grill restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a lounge and bar is available for relaxing with lighter fare. Other amenities include a library, gym, heated quartzite-tiled pool and whirlpool, and several gathering rooms.

Access is easy, as Amangani is a quick 20 minute drive from Jackson Hole airport. The city of Jackson is just a few miles to the south and the National Parks of Yellowstone and Grand Teton are short drives to the north. The skiing is based out of Teton Village (what most refer to as Jackson Hole) where you have access to Amangani’s private ski lounge. Even the summer months provide a plethora of activities including fly-fishing, horseback riding, hot-air balloon rides, rafting and kayaking, golf, tennis, mountain biking – the list goes on…

The snow will be falling soon, so wax the skis and make your reservations – Amangani is calling..! Connoisseur recommended!

8/26/08

A Carat For Your iPhone


So you’ve got that new Apple 3G iPhone, carrying it around, showing it off…

We’ve all seen it...

Then all of a sudden, unfortunately you are no longer the king of the hill… That is, unless you have one of only 50 of these made-to-order phones. Swiss jeweler Knalihs Athem is adding a little something to your run-of-the-mill iPhone: 4.5ct worth of 400 brilliant cut diamonds, to be exact.

With such a small amount of these slated for worldwide production, odds are you will never see another one other than your own. I think that is what they call exclusivity!

How much? Let’s say it falls in the “if you have to ask…” category.

And if you don’t care for all things Apple, you are in luck..! 20 Nokia 8800 Arte models are slated for production as well.

Is that your cell phone ringing..?

8/25/08

KBB Does Automotive Design

How much is my used car worth? To find out, the majority of us run to the Kelly Blue Book, famed for car value research in the used vehicle market. But you might not have known that the folks at KBB also conduct research into aspects of the auto industry other than price.

One of those subjects is design, or more succinctly, the public’s perception of design by brand. Kelly Blue Book Marketing Research releases a quarterly Brand Watch report on the subject of design and compiles the year long results into its Brand Image Awards, which are released each year at the New York International Auto Show in April.

The design awards are divided into two categories: Best Exterior Design and Best Interior Design, and each category is separated into several segments, a few of which we will note here.

The current front-runners are as follows:

Best Exterior Design

· Luxury Sedan/Coupe/Hatchback: BMW
· Luxury SUV: Lexus
· Sports Car/Convertible: Porsche

Best Interior Design

· Luxury Sedan/Coupe/Hatchback: Lexus
· Luxury SUV: Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz (tie)
· Sports Car/Convertible: Audi

Do you agree or disagree? Stay tuned for the final results this coming April in New York.

8/23/08

Our Favorite Travel Web Sites

Some folks – possible the slightly off-kilter type – may think that surfing the web is akin to traveling the world.

Wrong..!

To travel, you have to get up out of that chair and physically change location, and I’m not talking about going to the other room to make a sandwich. Merriam-Webster defines it as follows: “to go on or as if on a trip or tour; to move or undergo transmission from one place to another”.

Many of us love to travel, feeding a bit of that wanderlust, or maybe just getting away from the stress of everyday life. Unfortunately in this day and age it can be a bit tricky. Luckily the web / internet that I mentioned above can be a useful tool in the travel planning stages.

Now we all know about Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotels.com. Here are a few other sites that we like. They may aid you in the research and planning process so you can undergo transmission to another place…

Kayak.com – this is an aggregator, essentially searching several of the travel sites at once for airline deals or hotels.

Tripprep.com – a resource for overseas travel with embassy listings, vaccine recommendations and crime reports.

Hotelchatter.com – an accumulation of hotel reviews (uncensored at that!) from around the world.

Lastminute.com – as you might guess, the specialty here is finding deals for those last minute weekend getaways.

Chowhound.com – A resource for foodies at locations around the globe.

Xe.com – A global currency exchange site. Browse to it on your smart-phone for help whenever you need it.

Dontforgetyourtoothbrush.com – A handy tool for that pre-travel checklist.

Now make those plans and go..!

8/22/08

Nice New Napa Reds



Yes, it’s thirsty time again..! And that means it’s time to talk about wine.

A little grape juice…

Today I’m going to introduce you to a pair of red wines / wineries from the Napa valley. I’ll put these in the “new, up-and-coming” category. Wines that I feel are well worth a little effort to seek out and procure. You need to know about these…

Palazzo – defined as “a large splendid residence”…or how about a winery in Napa that makes an excellent red wine. Scott Palazzo, a fan of “Right Bank” Bordeaux style wines (merlot based blends) has crafted an elegant, medium to full-bodied wine for the 2005 release with 70% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc and 8% Cabernet Sauvignon. There are lots of wonderful aromas and flavors going on here in a silky and well-structured style. Cherries and black currants, chocolate and espresso, all wrapped in a package that drinks well now or should easily age for another 10 or so years. This is an excellent value, priced in the $40s, but only 1100 cases were made, so move fast..!

For my second introduction, let me direct you to Shirley and Charles Roy. Originally from the east coast, the Roy’s purchased golfer Johnny Miller’s Napa estate in 1999 to follow their passion for wine. Their 17-acre vineyard on the eastern side of the Napa Valley is planted predominantly with Cabernet Sauvignon, rounded out with Merlot and a bit of Petit Verdot.

Under the Roy Estate label, winemaker Philippe Melka crafts a Bordeaux blend as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are excellent, rich wines showing gorgeous fruit balanced by an earthy character. We recommend leaving them in bottle for another couple of years to mature, after which they should drink terrifically until 2020 and beyond.

Palazzo and Roy Estate…both Connoisseur Corner Recommended new Napa reds..!

8/15/08

Simple Summer Desserts – Pt. 2

…And now for another desert recipe. Again we are talking something for summer. Cool and refreshing, using delicious berries. But this recipe has a twist…

Adults only..!

This is a great desert for a little dinner party or other adult gathering. Not only do folks love it, but it is the absolute easiest dish you can put together. This is especially helpful if your dinner took a great deal of time and preparation.

· 1 pkg raspberries
· 1 pkg blueberries
· Chambord liqueur
· Vanilla ice cream (use a good quality brand or make your own)

This can be served in the bowl or cup of your choosing – presentation is always a plus!

Scoop ice cream into the bowls. Add a portion of both berries to each ice cream serving. Cover with a healthy splash or six of the Chambord liqueur and voila! You are done.
Serve and enjoy..!