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

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Resorts, Hotels, Restaurants, Destinations.

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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

6/30/08

Laser in the Television..!


After showing a prototype at the CES show in January, Mitsubishi is announcing the availability of their 65-inch LaserVue television due in stores this fall. This will be followed by a 73-inch set later in the year.

Freakin’ laser beams…

Yes, laser beams. Mitsubishi has been pretty mum on the exact technology behind the scenes, other than telling us a laser is the light source for these DLP style sets, as opposed to a bulb. Mitsubishi claims the laser to be the purest light source available, yielding far superior color depth. Viewing angle is also significantly improved over DLPs from years past, not to mention a depth of only 10”.

Other specifications of note: a 120-Hz display, 3D capability (glasses required) and a power consumption rating half that of comparable LCD and plasma sets.

Pricing has not been released yet, but we expect it to be competitive with the LCD and plasma competition. This set should be well worth consideration if you are in the market for an HD set in this size.

6/27/08

Pimm’s Cup – The Wimbledon Drink


Why is it that certain holidays and sporting events have an associated cocktail?

This is not a complaint, mind you. I just find it fascinating in a good way, and it’s nice to know that the Connoisseur is not alone..!

Now let’s travel across the pond to the British Isles, home of that early summer tennis ritual known as Wimbledon.

Watching a good tennis match can be entertaining, but watching one with a drink in your hand is all that much more so. At Wimbledon that drink of choice is known as the Pimm’s Cup. What is oddly confusing is that the spirit that makes up this drink is called Pimm’s no. 1. This is a gin-based, tea colored spirit with just a hint of spice in the flavor. Pimm’s is also relatively low in alcohol, which keeps the drink lighter in character and less dangerous than some other cocktails out there.

According to the director of catering at Wimbledon, the recipe used at the tournament is roughly as follows:

Pour 1 oz. of Pimm’s into a Collins glass with ice. Fill glass with lemonade. Add half a strawberry, cucumber skin, sprig of mint and stir.

Most of the published recipes will omit the strawberry, add a slice of lemon, orange and apple, and then garnish with the mint and a cucumber slice. Feel free to experiment and find the combination that suites your palate. There are also variations with Ginger Ale or 7-up.

I almost forgot to mention – that catering director stated that they go through over 10,000 Pimm’s Cups per day, sometimes topping 15,000..! Pardon me while I run to the airport. I have a plane to catch for a big party over in England…

6/26/08

Sony PS3 Movie Download Service

Sony has announced that the rollout of their movie download service to the PS3 will commence “this summer”.

Being that summer is already here (its plenty hot outside), we expect this to be only a few weeks off.

The rollout will continue in Europe and Japan later in the year. The service will then expand to the Sony PSP as well as video Walkmen.

Sony is essentially playing catch-up to Microsoft on this one, as Gates’ company began their Xbox 360 video download service late in 2006. However, Sony may be able to exploit a marketing advantage now that the HD format wars are over. Their PS3 will give a user the option of using the HD digital download service or playing a Blu-ray movie disc (XBox does not have the Blu-ray capability).

Sony likely delayed this rollout while waiting for a resolution to the Blu-ray vs. HD DVD battle. Even though they are a bit behind, they should be fine in the long run, as they try to position the PS3 as a central family entertainment device in the household.

6/25/08

Charlie Trotter Goes To Vegas


No, it’s not an old black and white 50s movie…

20 years after opening his world renowned and self named restaurant in Chicago, Charlie Trotter is returning to Las Vegas.

Restaurant Charlie is located in the newly opened Palazzo resort, sister property to the Venetian. Unlike chef Trotter’s namesake restaurant, the Vegas property offers an a la carte menu, allowing guests to pick and choose, customizing their menu. Dishes on the menu focus primarily on seafood, but there are a few plates involving fare from the land.

A kitchen table is available at Restaurant Charlie, in the form of a glittering glass and stainless steel loft from which to dine and view the chefs at work. A special tasting menu will be offered here for your enjoyment.

The highlight of Restaurant Charlie may in fact be Bar Charlie. Best described as a restaurant within a restaurant, Bar Charlie is an intimate 18 seat sushi/sashimi bar serving what they describe as the ultimate expression in luxury seafood. If this is your target, be sure to book far in advance.

If you’re like me and go to Sin City more for the food than the gambling, give Restaurant Charlie and try and let us know what you think.

6/24/08

Look at that Wine..!

Tasting wine is great fun..! Unfortunately, the first step of wine tasting tends to be the most…overlooked. (That’s a clue and a pun!)

In sampling or “tasting” wines, you really want to fill up all your senses with the wine, not just your taste buds. In fact, let me just say that “wine tasting” is really an inappropriate term. It just doesn’t cover all the aspects this practice.

“Hey honey, let’s go wine sniffing..!” In the literal sense that would be equally as correct (one-third of the process) as wine tasting.

Enough of the mini-rant, let me get back on point…

Open your eyes..!

The first sense or “third” used is sight, but using your eyes tends to be the least deliberated aspect of wine tasting. I want to bring this back to the forefront, to make sure that you fellow “Connies” out there are getting the full experience.

Color and clarity. To break it down, these are the two characteristics you want to have in mind as you view the wine in glass.

Color can really tell you quite a bit about a wine, including clues to the age and type of grapes used. The bigger, more robust wines such as Cabernet tend to start life darker and inkier in color. Something less heavy such as a Pinot Noir will normally be a bit paler in shade. Over time these red wines will fade a bit – this is a slow, decades long process – and begin to show an almost brick color with brown tints. White wines tend to age in the opposite manner, as they will darken over time.

Also note that the vineyard climate shows up in the color depth, as well. A cooler climate tends to produce a paler wine. As an example, a Chardonnay from Australia will tend to start life a bit darker or richer in color than one from the milder Burgundy region of France.

As for clarity, age again has an effect here as older reds tend to be more translucent or clear. Youth will add an opaque, dense quality.

OK..! Now that the eyes have it, when enjoying that glass of wine remember to look before you leap…! (or should I say sniff?)

6/23/08

Fast Luggage for Your Fast Car

The luggage isn’t technically “fast”, but…

So you just picked up your dream car – that $100,000+ piece of rolling sculpture you have been lusting after for years. Now it’s drive time! The little weekend getaway for you and yours.

Of course a weekend getaway requires luggage. Unfortunately, if you put Samsonite into that fine European automobile, it may burst into flames! (Just kidding, folks)

Here’s what needs to happen: When you pull up to the valet in your Ferrari, why not have him unload some Ferrari luggage?

Yes, Ferrari has luggage (pictured above) and they are not alone. Porsche, Maserati, Lamborghini and others can outfit you with the necessary bags to make your trunk happy.

So when you are ordering your car, be sure to check off one extra item in the accessory category and load that trunk with some special luggage.

6/21/08

Six Essential Spirits

“I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion.” Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

As evidenced by the quote above, many of us like to partake of a cocktail now and then. The overview today will regard spirits – the products of distillation – and the last of the basic types of alcoholic drink to be invented.

Credit for invention of spirits and the distillation process generally goes to the Chinese, although there is much debate on this subject. Some archaeological evidence seems to show the practice of distillation dating all the way back to 5000 BC.

In the present time, the quantity and variety of distilled spirits is definitely awe-inspiring. Fortunately this assortment can be broken down somewhat, making it more manageable for the home bartender.

I am going to start at the absolute top level of organizing and look at what is considered the six essential spirits. They are as follows:

· Gin
· Vodka
· Rum
· Whiskey
· Tequila
· Brandy

This is the bare-bones list of where to begin when stocking a bar. Keep in mind that there are varieties in some of the categories, for example whiskey, that need to be accounted for when purchasing. I will cover that in future blogs.

Until then, even if you happen to have “no occasion”, mix yourself a nice cocktail and enjoy...!

6/19/08

U2 – Remastered and Re-released




U2, the preeminent rock and roll band of the past several years, has remastered their first three albums and will be releasing them July 22nd. This follows up last year’s release of the band’s remastered Joshua Tree (1987).

Boy (1980), October (1981) and War (1983) will be available in standard single CD, deluxe two-disc sets with unreleased extras and even vinyl formats. Included will be new packaging as well as updated liner notes, photos and complete lyrics.

Guitarist Edge oversaw the process, as each album was remastered from the original audio tapes. As studio technology has improved over the years, we expect a nice improvement in the mix / sound quality of these discs.

If you’re a U2 devotee or just a rock and roll fan in general, the boxed set might be well worth investigating.

6/18/08

Seychelles - An Island Getaway


She sold sea shells by the…
Seychelles?

Sorry! I had to twist that twister around a bit.

The Seychelles (“say-shells”) are a group of 155 islands in the Indian Ocean, located over 900 miles to the east of mainland Africa and northeast of Madagascar. Mahé is the largest of the islands, with a population of 80,000 immigrants (there were no indigenous inhabitants) from France, Africa, China and elsewhere. Mahé is also home to Pointe-Larue International Airport. The Seychelles were actually a British Colony until 1976, at which time they gained their independence.

And this ends the geography / history lesson…

Let’s talk beaches!

Here’s the bottom line with the Seychelles: if you are looking for crazy nightlife and a plethora of tourist attractions, go elsewhere. If beaches, snorkeling, sailing and sunning with a drink in your hand is what you are after, then you have no worries.

Some of our recommended accommodations are…

Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa – 40 spacious villas, 2 restaurants, a bar and lounge, as well as the Duniye Spa make up the facilities on the main island of Mahé.

Fregate Island – With a bit of a 5-star Robinson Crusoe vibe, Fregate is a private island resort reachable by a 20 minute flight from Mahé. 16 villas, 8 beaches, a spa and excellent service on this tropical getaway.

North Island Lodge – Another private island resort. 11 luxurious, eco-friendly, 4800 sq. ft. villas are available for your stay.

Banyan Tree Seychelles – Located on Mahé, this resort's 60 pool villas provide luxury, style and excellent Indian ocean views.

Described as a year round destination, the best of those months for the Seychelles are generally April and September. These months tend to have the best combination of breeze, temperatures and lack of rain. In truth though, any time of the year is generally very good.

Now it’s time to pack your bags and head to the Indian Ocean for some quality relaxation and recharging…and don't forget to say hello to the giant sea turtles!

6/17/08

A Gorgonzola Steak for my Cabernet

We all love a nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon every now and then… In my case, I suppose that is somewhat of an understatement!

I find it one of life’s true pleasures to open a great bottle of Cab to accompany some good eats.

Recently the good eats consisted of a pair of New York steaks that I had picked up from the butcher on Saturday morning, with the intent of pairing them with a specific Cabernet from the cellar that was calling my name. (Don’t worry, the wine wasn’t really talking to me…)

However, as this was a “special” bottle, I wanted to kick the steaks up a bit. I decided to grill them over charcoal and top with a gorgonzola sauce. I did do a light marinade on the steaks about 6 hours beforehand: about 1/3 cup olive oil, a few shakes of soy sauce, 4 cloves pressed garlic, a sprig of chopped fresh rosemary, a few pinches of Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Here are the particulars for the cheese sauce – all measurements are approximate, so feel free to add-lib…

Sauce

1 shallot – diced
1 ½ cup dry white wine
½ cup heavy cream
1/8 cup Parmesan – grated
6 oz Gorgonzola – crumbled
1 pinch nutmeg
1 dash white pepper

Sauté shallot in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add white wine and reduce by half. Add cream and simmer. Add cheeses, nutmeg and pepper. Simmer and wisk to desired consistency. Grill the steaks to the preferred doneness, top with cheese sauce and dig in! I paired this with twice baked potatoes and a fresh arugula salad.

Give the sauce a try and let me know what you think. And don’t forget the Cabernet..!

6/11/08

Aston Martin’s Baby Grows Up


British Automaker Aston Martin’s entry level model, the V8 Vantage, is being updated 3 years after arriving on the scene.

This competitor to the Porsche 911 will receive several improvements, the most notable being a bump in engine displacement from 4.3 to 4.7 liters. The increase results in a 40 horsepower gain up to 420 and a corresponding torque boost of 44 lb-ft, now totaling 346. Aston even expects a slight increase in fuel economy…

Nice..!

Both the manual and Sportshift transmissions are being revised, as is the suspension and steering geometry. In total, these changes give us improved driving dynamics and add to the overall thrilling experience that the Vantage supplies.

Aesthetically they left the exterior of the car alone other than a new wheel design – a good thing being that the Vantage is already one of the sexiest cars on the planet. The interior is tweaked a bit with a revamped center console and navigation system.

With an estimated base price nearing $120,000, this refreshed beauty is due at dealerships in August.

We like the V8 Vantage quite a bit… In fact, let’s just say that we love this car. If you are in the market for something a bit more exclusive than the 911, put this car on your short list. Connoisseur Recommended..!

6/10/08

Apple Grows A New iPhone


Enough of the swirling rumor mill, already…

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the new iPhone in his Keynote address at the 2008 WWDC in San Francisco, ending speculation as to the feature set and capabilities that would be included.

Yes, it has 3G capability. (We already knew this one, didn’t we…?) - You can look forward to faster downloads and internet browsing.

Yes, it has built in GPS - Judging from Jobs’ remarks, Apple is banking quite a bit on the future of location services.

Yes, it has better battery life (at least according to Apple) - While we wait to judge this in person, it would be a welcome improvement.

Yes, there will be third party applications - A greater variety of “toys” for the iPhone will add to its appeal.

Yes, there is a new case and screen..? - Uh, actually yes and no here, as the screen is the same size but the case has a different backing.

Yes, there is a new price point..! - Most industry insiders were surprised by how low Apple is going here, with the new 8GB iPhone coming in at $199 and the 16GB model for $299.

There you have it, iPhone maniacs. I recommend getting in line July 10th for that July 11th release. It looks to us as though this will be worth the upgrade.

6/4/08

Me, a Dream and a B-17


The bucket list… Having a list of to-do’s to accomplish before you, uh…kick the bucket.

A term made relatively famous courtesy of Jack and Morgan in the recent film.

I will get into the content and philosophy of having this life list in a future blog – today I merely want to share the fulfillment of an item on the Connoisseur’s list….

For no apparent reason, as a young lad growing up in the Midwest I was taken with flying machines from the World War II era. Mind you, this was a terrible time in the history of our little blue planet, but the advances made in airplane technology were truly fascinating.

I remember dreaming about all my favorite planes: the P-51 Mustang, B-25 Mitchell, F4U Corsair…and of course, the B-17 Flying Fortress. I used to read about these planes, watch television shows about them and even build the plastic models, all the while marveling at the exploits of the pilots and crew that flew these warbirds.

Back to present day. An opportunity presented itself that was perfect for me. The timing, the location, even the forecasted weather were on the money, so I jumped at the chance. Courtesy of the fine folks at the Liberty Foundation and flying aboard the Liberty Belle, I was able to check off one of the boxes on my bucket list – truly one of the peak moments of my life..! The pictures below are from my flight.

If you don’t have a bucket list yet, I advise getting to work putting one together. Then get to work checking off the items as you go…



6/2/08

Meet the Cork Oak


Let me introduce you to Quercus suber, the Cork Oak tree.

Yes, this is where your wine corks (not the synthetic ones, folks!) come from.

Home of the Cork Oak (not to be confused with the Cork tree) is northwest Africa and southwest Europe. Portugal is the largest single producer of cork, responsible for 50% of the world’s harvest, followed by Spain, Algeria and Morocco.

Here’s how it works: The trees are planted and allowed to grow for several years, generally about 40, before the bark becomes viable for harvesting. The bark is then hand cut in strips and removed for manufacture. In 10 to 12 years, the tree will be ready for another bark harvesting, making cork a sustainable resource. The trees themselves generally live to the 200 – 250 year range, with some occasionally lasting twice that.

About 60% of cork production goes to the various stoppers. Other products include fishing floats, musical instrument parts and the ever-popular bulletin boards.

There you have it – the magical world of cork. Next time you raise a glass of wine, make a toast to the cork farmers and their amazing Cork Oak trees.