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

4/30/08

Gran Centenario – Un Gran Tequilla


As I recently discussed, Cinco de Mayo is almost upon us. The annual ritual of celebrating all things Mexican… the culture, the food, the TEQUILA..!

Yes it’s true! This time of year my mind is running in fields of blue agave.

Tequila popularity certainly seems to be on a roll these days. Unfortunately the variety on the market can be a bit overwhelming, as there are now over 700 distilleries in Mexico producing the spirit. Fear not, ye tequila swilling neophytes, the Connoisseur is here to guide you along the path to excellence!

With that thought in mind, let me introduce you to Gran Centenario.

With roots dating back to 1857, a tavern owner by the name of Lazaro Gallardo came up with a process of distilling and then blending rested tequila called Selección Suave, which is still used at the distillery today. In the late 1800s, Lazaro named his tequila Gran Centenario in commemoration of the upcoming new century and began sales at his tavern, and the nombre stuck. Several years later, Lazaro’s son began to bottle and distribute the tequila.

The result of all this history and methodology is what we consider one of the finest tequilas in existence. An extra touch of smoothness and complexity permeate the entire lineup, from the Plata (silver), to the Reposado and then the Anéjo.

Then if you really want to savor something special, sample their newest product, Leyenda (pictured above). One of the first Extra Anéjo classified tequilas on the market, Leyenda is aged over 4 years in French oak barrels and married with portions of tequila up to 15 years in age. This results in one special taste experience, perfect for an after dinner snifter – Connoisseur Recommended!

4/29/08

BMW M1 Homage Concept Debuts



Marking the 30th anniversary of the legendary BMW M1 mid-engine sports car, BMW unveiled a concept honoring this classic at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este 2008 in Italy.

The BMW M1 Homage, strictly a design study according to BMW, reflects both the work of the original M1 designer, Giorgio Giugiaro, as well as the current direction of the BMW aesthetic. We think that when looking at this car, as well as the recent Concept CS, you get a glimpse of where Bimmer cars are headed.

Chris Bangle, the controversial Director of BMW Design Group states that “For a company as for a product, it is important to be aware of one’s roots. In the spirit of Giugiaro and Bracq, the BMW M1 Homage unites the BMW values of design and technology in a highly emotional and exciting interpretation.”

The Connoisseur does like the overall design – the car certainly has some stunning elements. (Let us know if you agree.) We just hope that BMW sees fit to follow through with a mid-engine sports car in the near future!

4/28/08

Cinco de Mayo

Early May…

The sun is shining, birds are singing, plants are blooming, and tequila is flowing..!

Yes, it’s time for that yearly celebration of Mexico’s Independence Day.

Uh, except that Mexico’s Independence Day is actually dieciséis de septiembre (September 16th).

Sorry to rain on your tequila bar, but this is a common misconception regarding Cinco de Mayo. In reality, the date represents a great victory by Mexican general Seguin against a French army in the Battle of Peubla on May 5th, 1862. His army of 4,000 was able to defeat a French contingent twice its size, approximately 100 miles east of Mexico City.

The holiday has in essence become a celebration of the culture and heritage of Mexico, similar to how we also celebrate the Irish with St. Patrick’s Day or the Germans with Oktoberfest. In Mexico itself, the date is generally only celebrated regionally, namely in the state of Puebla.

OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk tequila…!

Salud!

4/24/08

Audi R8 V12 TDI – Mean and Green


Let’s say you are a tortured soul…

Tortured in that you are a sports car fanatic and love to drive, but you also want to save the world. A supposed incompatibility...

OK, the “save the world” quip was a little over-dramatic. We can rephrase that in a more realistic “want to do your part in a lighter shade of green” manner. (I am trying desperately to leave politics out of this blog.)

Well, Audi may have the solution for your troubled psyche…

Audi’s recently introduced R8, powered by a standard gasoline V8 engine, is one of our favorite cars extant. An exotic mid-engined sports car with the street presence of a Ferrari combined with an everyday reliability, build quality and ergonomics, the R8 is one fine piece of automotive engineering. (Even at 6’6” I fit comfortably!)

This new diesel powered version of the R8, first shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January and then again in Geneva (with new red paint), uses an engine based on the powerplant in Audi’s Le Mans-winning R10 race car. The V12 engine cranks out 500 hp along with an amazing 737 lb-ft of torque, yet still meets the upcoming Euro 6 emissions standards. And don’t forget that diesel engines get better mileage than their gasoline counterparts!

Will this car make it to production? At the moment, Audi is not saying, but our guess is that it will.

Then all the Al Gore fearing lead foots can have and eat their cake. The future does look bright indeed..!

4/22/08

Armani Does Electronics


Is the average electronics consumer becoming more design and style conscious?

Samsung Electronics and Giorgio Armani are betting on it. In September of 2007, the two companies announced an alliance to bring a line of prestige home electronics to market.

As a follow-up to the Armani mobile phone, which was released earlier this year, the duo has previewed the Armani/Samsung premium LCD television at the Milan International Furniture Fair.

Available in 46” and 52” sizes, the LCD set will include many of Samsung’s cutting edge technologies including 100Hz Full HD as well as all the necessary HDMI connections. Two stylish remotes are included for easy control of the various display functions.

Aesthetically the design was inspired by Armani’s 08/09 Armani/Casa home furnishings collection and even includes a table specifically designed as a base for the flat screen set. The overall look “shows simple but solid natural lines that convey pure emotional expression”.

The televisions are due on the market late-summer – price as of this writing has not been announced.

After you take a spin on your Armani roller skates, come home and settle down in front of the Armani set and relax to your favorite movie in high-style.

Hey Giorgio! Pass the popcorn…

4/21/08

Michael Mina – San Francisco’s Best Restaurant..?

Without question, San Francisco is one of the greatest culinary cities in the world…

Without question, San Francisco is home to a plethora of world class restaurants…

Without question, some of the best chefs in the world work in San Francisco…

The question we ponder today, which restaurant is San Francisco’s best..?

What makes a restaurant good, anyway? There are several factors at play here: the quality of the food would probably be the first thing that pops into your head. What about service and staff, and is the design and ambience of the dining room important? Does the chef have the right amount of creativity, consistency and style? And don’t forget the wine list!

Certainly several San Franciscan establishments meet these criteria – Fleur de Lys, Gary Danko and Aqua to name a few. In fact, trying to narrow this down might be thought of as a bit…insane!

Well, the Connoisseur is here to attempt this bit of epicurean insanity!

…And yes, we do think Michael Mina has the right combination of factors – sort of that three bears “just right” vibe – despite the fact that some locals might tell you that the buzz has worn off. In fact, we feel that the performance of a restaurant after the supposed mellowing of that “hip” aspect to be a true test, and the food and service at MM pass with flying colors. A dinner here is a true event – a culinary treat for the senses.

Connoisseur Recommended..!

4/17/08

What or Who is Mark Levinson..?


Both.

Uh, let me clear that up a bit…

OK, most of you at one point or another have heard the name Mark Levinson, and it was probably in relation to Lexus - a car commercial, a print ad, or something of that nature, relating to the stereo in the car.

The What: Yes, Mark Levinson is an audio company, but not strictly car audio. Actually, the automotive products are a small offshoot of what the company does.

Founded in 1972 as Mark Levinson Audio Systems, the company produces high-end home stereo components for the audiophile crowd. Everything from amplifiers and pre-amplifiers to CD players and now home theater processors come from the factory. All items are of very high quality, perform superbly and are well thought of by the audiophile crowd.

And now for the who: Is there an actual Mark Levinson? Yes. And as logic would dictate, Mark (also a musician) was the founder of this company. Unfortunately for Mr. Levinson, one of his business partners who happened to be a majority owner in the company forced Mark out in the 1980s. The company is now owned by Harman International. Mark himself has gone on to start up other audio companies including Cello and Red Rose Music.

We can’t speak for the man himself, but the audio products that bear the name definitely get a Connoisseur Corner Recommended rating. If you have opportunity to listen to these, whether it be in a Lexus or in a home, don’t miss out..!

4/15/08

Rioja – One Fine Spanish Wine

When you think of Spain, wine is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe the Conquistadors, Andalusian horses, soccer or bull-fighting…but wine?

In reality, the country does have a long history regarding the grape, with written evidence dating back to the late 800’s.

Rioja (reo-ha) wine comes from the Rioja winemaking region – government controlled in a similar manner as the French (example: the Burgundy region and Burgundy wines). Named after the Rio Oja, the region is located in northern Spain, just south of the Cantabrian Mountains.

Of course to make things more complicated, the Rioja wine region is subdivided into three more regions, each lending different characteristics to their wines due to differences in climate, soils, etc:

· Rioja Alta – fruit forward and velvety wines.
· Rioja Alavesa – higher acidity and fuller-bodied.
· Rioja Baja – higher alcohol levels and deep colors.

Most of the Rioja wines are red or tinto – about 80 to 85% - but white (blanco) and rosé (rosado) are also represented. Tempranillo is the most common red varietal, and is commonly blended with Grenache, Graciano and Mazuelo. The Rioja Blancos are based on the Viura grape and often blended as well.

Now that you are in the know, the next time you have a few plates of tapas in front of you, order a nice Rioja and enjoy. Salud!

4/14/08

Santorini...Beautiful and Dynamic in the Mediterranean



Boom! Crash! Whoosh!

You’ve just witnessed one of the largest volcanic eruptions in the history of our planet, occurring some 3,500 years ago during the peak of the Minoan civilization. Not only did the eruption give rise to the legend of Atlantis (subject for another time), but it also left behind a small group of islands in the south Aegean Sea about 120 miles south-east of Greece’s mainland.

Named by the Venetians for Saint Irene in the 1200s, it has now become Greece’s most popular tourist island, and for good reason…

Breathtaking views, fantastic beaches, vibrant nightlife and what many believe to be the most beautiful sunsets in the world – all here at Santorini.

The island, sometimes referred to as Thera, is easily accessible by air or ocean ferry and the busiest tourist season is during the summer months. Hundreds of hotels and villas are available for your stay. Some of our favorites are the Volcano View VIP Villas – each with its own private pool and veranda – and the Hotel Katikies.

So go and enjoy. Take in the views and vibrancy, and be sure to try the tomato keftedes…Yum!

4/8/08

Mad About Saffron

In 1966 the mellow yellow Donovan proclaimed that he was mad about it. Khesa, azafran, zafferano… The spice we know as Saffron.

Let’s take a look at this spice that has become more prevalent in the kitchen the last several years. I’ll cram as much crazy info in here as I can – there will be a quiz later…

Saffron originates from the dried stigmas of the saffron crocus, or Crocus sativus, as the plant geeks like to call it. It can take over 200,000 of these hand-picked stigmas to make a single pound of saffron..!

$$$$$$$ (insert sound of cash registers here)

Yes, saffron is big bucks, and that “hand-picked” phrase pretty much explains why. It is quite simply the world’s most expensive spice.
The saffron stigmas are known for their bright orange-red hue and are very delicate, reminiscent of thread. Each stigma is around an inch in length with a flavor often described as an earthy, bitter honey.

Widely used in Mediterranean, Moorish and Asian cuisine, saffron lends a characteristic bright yellow-orange color to food. Rice, risotto and seafood dishes are common pairings.

Saffron is cultivated worldwide with an annual production of around 300 tons and growing. The varieties from Spain tend to be the mildest in flavor and aroma. Italian saffron will usually be more intense, and the Indian, Iranian and Greek varieties will be the most pungent.

Now to the good saffron – what should you look for when trying for high quality? For Spanish saffron, the highest grade is Coupé. The best Italian saffrons are from Aquila or San Gavino Monreale. What is probably the cream of the saffron crop is Kashmiri, but it is extremely hard to a find, and is often times mixed with cheaper, lesser quality varietals.

Now, you too can be just mad about saffron…

Just remember to store it in a cool, dry and dark location!

4/7/08

Eddie Vedder Goes Into the Wild



Edward Louis Severson III, a.k.a. Eddie Vedder, burst onto the music scene in 1991 as the lead singer for the group Pearl Jam, as they released their debut album Ten. Unfortunately the early success of this seminal work seemed to affect the band over the following years as their music appeared to lose direction at times and the quality suffered.

Eddie and his signature mumbly baritone has returned to catch our attention, this time with a solo effort. Courtesy of director Sean Penn, Eddie was coerced into writing music for the film Into the Wild. He ended up doing the entire score, including playing all instruments on the album. Impressive..!

There is a definite connection between Vedder’s work here and the movie’s story of Chris McCandless, the college graduate that set out on a hitchhiking tour to find his truth. The nine original and two cover songs are all done with conviction and the requisite contemplative emotions necessary to the nature of the film.

Now all you Pearl Jam fans out there, this is not an album of the grunge rock that you have come to expect. We categorize this music squarely in the folk genre, but Eddie’s vocals and music manage to appeal to a wide audience here, even winning a Golden Globe for the song Guaranteed.

When you are in the mood to listen to something mellow and introspective, we recommend giving this a play. Our compliments to Eddie for this fine work and to Sean Penn as well for making it happen.

Connoisseur Recommended…

4/4/08

Smooth and Gorgeous Audi S5


Having been out of the mid-size coupe game for several years, Audi is back with a vengeance!

With the arrival of the high-zoot S5 this past fall and the smaller engined A5 this spring, there is now another choice for those in the market for the sporty GT style of vehicle. The main competitors would be the Mercedes CLK, which is due for an update soon, as well as the new BMW 3 series coupe.

And now for the really nerdy tech part (you can skip over this if you prefer): The S5 is powered by a 4.2 L V-8 generating 354 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Power is delivered to all four wheels and the transmission is available in 6-speed manual or automatic.

(End of nerdy section)

Upon seeing this car for the first time I was impressed by its striking looks – pictures do not do it justice. The S5 is one of those cars when viewed from any angle has presence and flow of design. The interior is up to the task as well, meeting Audi’s recent standards for design and build quality. The leather sport seats are a delight to both the eye and the touch in high quality Napa leather.

All the lust factor options are available, such as Audi’s MMI controlled navigation screen and an audiophile grade Bang & Olufsen 14 speaker, 505 watt sound system.

And does this sexy coupe drive as good as it looks? Yes! With plenty of smoothly delivered power on tap throughout the rev range and a better steering feel than recent Audis, you will be pleased.

And now for the negatives: This car drinks gas! If you want to be a miser at the fuel pump, look elsewhere. Our other area of contention is the price, starting at $50,500. Audi has stiff competition in this niche, and because of that fact we feel they would have drawn even more interest with pricing a bit lower. Only time will tell if it will be a sales success for the four rings.

Negatives aside, the Connoisseur loves this car and gives it an enthusiastic recommended rating!

4/2/08

Armani Roller Skates..?

Yes, you read that correctly.

In the category of crazy creations, let me present to you the Skorpion.

Available from Emporio Armani, the Skorpion Quadline Roller-Skate is quite the piece of engineering, as far as roller-skates are concerned. Sleek looks accompany the necessary goodies for a smooth ride and high-performance breaking. High rebound urethane, performance bearings, it’s all there..! There is even an optional turbocharger (just kidding).

They come in either small or large sizes and are adjustable, to accommodate most feet.

Of course they are only available in black, so no speedy candy apple red is allowed.

All this can be yours for the low Armani price of $425.