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

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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

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. KahlĂșa
  • 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