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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

2/26/09

Food Parings – Sauvignon Blanc

Let me get right to the point. Sauvignon Blanc is without a doubt one of the most food friendly wines made.

Certain characteristics of this somewhat underappreciated varietal just plain work well. Lower alcohol levels, prominent acidity, mild oak influence and the drier style of Sauvignon Blanc all add to its high level of food fondness.

As for the flavors and aromas of the wine itself you will find citrus and tropical fruits, melon, pear, quince, herbal notes (thyme, dill, basil, tarragon) and vanilla.

And now…

Some food matching tips:
  • Fresh herbs work phenomenally with Sauvignon Blanc, as they compliment the herbal quality of the varietal.
  • Spicier and aromatic foods also match up well.
  • Many salads, soups and green vegetable dishes pair well.
  • Appetizers are a natural for Sauvignon Blanc, as it not only pairs well with the food but sets the stage for more full-bodied wines to follow.
  • Some of the base ingredients that work are seafood such as scallops, shrimp, oysters, sea bass, and swordfish. Chicken, turkey and game hens are also well-suited.
  • Other ingredients that work – citrus, toasted nuts such as almonds or pine nuts, Dijon mustard, eggplant, capers, green olives and of course, cheeses such as goat, brie, feta, fontina and parmigiano-reggiano.

There you have it! A quick course in Sauvignon Blanc food pairing 101. Now get out there and eat, drink and enjoy!

Salumi, Salumi, Salumi


Do you see this word and think somebody meant to spell salami..?

Uh…they didn’t…

Salumi is actually an Italian term for a group of meat products, most of which you are probably familiar with. Prosciutto, pancetta, pepperoni, salami…all are types of salumi. In general the term salumi refers to Italian meat products, primarily pork but some beef, which are normally cured – a few are actually cooked, such as mortadella.

In general, this is all a bunch of tasty stuff..!

As for the acquisition of some top shelf salumi product, here are a couple of our recommended vendors…

La Quercia – (“La Kwair-cha”) A family-owned salumi maker in Iowa of all places. Surprising but completely logical, as Iowa is the nation’s largest producer of pork. La Quercia’s products are nitrate free and made from free-range pigs.

Salumi Cured Meats – Based in Seattle, this is another artisanal salumi producer turning out excellent meats.

You can enjoy a nice salumi platter as an appetizer or snack, and of course these products serve as ingredients in countless recipes.

Whatever the occasion, enjoy! Just remember one thing…salami is salumi.

2/25/09

Devilsound DAC and the Audiophile Future




Computers are on a collision course with the audiophile world.

(Along with everything else on the planet)

Lossless music files on your computer are fast becoming the rage (more on this in upcoming blogs). These are not your standard compressed and inaccurate mp3 or AAC (iTunes) files. “Lossless” meaning that it is an exact and complete copy of the original. The above mentioned audiophile world is now taking these lossless files and replacing actual CDs and CD players with computers, or some form thereof.

What’s a DAC..?

To take these lossless audio files and get them to your stereo and then your anxiously awaiting ears, you need to convert the digital signal to analog. This is the job of the DAC – digital to analog converter.

As this is a burgeoning technology for the audiophile world, many manufacturers are just now beginning work on new products to meet demand. It’s a new world for these companies and it will take a while for them to hone these products and get them up to the standards of the golden-eared folks among us. In the mean time, I have a product to bridge the gap.

This is an all-in-one product that is way up on the ease-of-use scale. A USB connector on one end for the computer, good quality RCA cables on the other end to attach to the stereo gear, and the DAC in the middle. One piece to plug-n-play…very slick! The folks at Devilsound even have a quick guide to ripping (recording) lossless audio files.

For the very reasonable price of $279 you can get 90% of the quality you are looking for right now from your computer. Then simply wait until the audio market shakes itself out and then purchase the DAC of your dreams.

Who knows? Maybe the Devilsound DAC will end up being your dream come true…

81st Oscars in Review

That little movie that could, Slumdog Millionaire ruled the night in Hollywood. The film walked away with a total of 8 statues. Along with Best Picture and Director, other awards garnered were for screenplay, cinematography, sound mixing, film editing, original score and original song.

Amazingly this almost never happened! The film was apparently scheduled for release straight to DVD until the folks at Fox-Searchlight picked it up and put it in theaters while initializing an effective advertising campaign. You could say that was a nice move..!

And now for a few other random Oscar thoughts…

We felt the show itself was a step up from the previous year. Hugh Jackman was a pleasant surprise as the host and the overall entertainment was for the most part well-done and tasteful.

The majority of the major category winners were as expected, but it was still nice to see Heath Ledger’s posthumous award for Best Supporting Actor. Hollywood likes those feel-good moments.

We also appreciated the Academy awarding the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Jerry Lewis for his many years of work fundraising for muscular dystrophy. Truly worth the recognition..!

For the complete list of winners, click here.

Until next year, happy viewing..!

2/19/09

Network Your Television

“Do I have to connect my TV to a network?”

Well…not yet…but maybe soon.

Yes, one of the latest trends in television manufacturing is the inclusion of network capability. Essentially this gives you the ability to connect your TV to your home network, and from there the internet. (In reality you don’t even need a home computer network, just an internet connection to plug the TV into.)

“What does it all mean?”

Connectivity is the answer. All those media files you have hoarded on your computer – the mp3s, the videos, the pictures –you can access them all. Now let’s go to the internet. You can check the local weather and traffic, customize a stock ticker, read email or even browse podcasts, RSS feeds or YouTube. How about going to a TV network web site to catch that show you missed yesterday? (Say goodbye to the DVR) The possibilities are truly limitless.

While all the major manufacturers are jumping into the networked television game, our favorite of the bunch is currently the solution provided by Samsung. Their WiseLink Pro handles the media files (music, photos and video) from your home network and InfoLink contains news, weather and stock widgets that pull information from the internet. There is even a content library stored in memory on the televisions for items such as games, slide shows, recipes, etc. All of these widgets and content features are expanding as I type, so the future looks very bright.

It is certainly another feature set to consider when purchasing your next television. Check that picture, but remember to check those network connections..!

Mercedes E-Class Coupe


Say goodbye to the Mercedes-Benz CLK coupe.

Say hello to the 2010 E-Coupe…

Prior to its debut at the Geneva Motor Show next month, Mercedes has taken the wraps off the replacement for the CLK coupe. The new 2-door will be dubbed the E-Class Coupe, which makes perfect sense as it is based on the E-Class sedan’s underpinnings.

Powerplants will also be shared with the E-Class sedan, starting with the V-6 and going all the way to the 6.2-liter AMG V8 monster. The mainstay should be the midrange V8 in the E500 Coupe providing plenty of juice with 388 horsepower.

The car looks to also be sharing styling cues with the upcoming E-class, however some minor differences will reflect the two door’s more sporting demeanor. It doesn’t come across as a stunner in pictures, but the Mercedes family resemblance is certainly present.

The E-coupe is due in showrooms this summer, with the convertible version arriving shortly thereafter. For now the jury is out. We will wait and see if Mercedes has hit the mark with this one…

2/18/09

Sofrito – Classic Cuban Cooking

Shhh… It’s a secret!

A good sofrito (so-FREE-toe) is one of the classic seasoning or base ingredients for Cuban cooking. Every Cuban cook has their own recipe, and of course it is a closely guarded secret!

You can think of a sofrito as a version of a French mirepoix, but with a different take. Onions, green bell pepper, garlic, oregano, cumin and bay leaves are common ingredients. Other components commonly seen in sofrito recipes are tomatoes and cilantro. In reality, cilantro has more of a Puerto Rican sofrito background and tomatoes are not considered part of a sofrito, merely an ingredient added later.

One other sofrito debate among Cuban cooks is whether the ingredients should be finely chopped or more on the chunky side. To each his own, but we prefer the finer, almost paste texture. You can certainly use a food processor to get your ingredients done in this manner.

Here is a very basic recipe that I will post as merely a starting point. Notes to follow…

Cuban Sofrito

· 3 Tbs olive oil
· 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
· 1 green bell pepper, seeded
· 3-5 cloves garlic
· ¼ tsp ground cumin
· 1 tsp dried oregano – preferably Mexican
· 1 tsp salt
· ¼ tsp pepper
· 2 bay leaves
· ¼ cup Sherry

Add olive oil to pan over medium heat. Chop all remaining ingredients (not including bay leaves and Sherry) in a food processor. Add chopped ingredients to pan along with bay leaves and sauté for 10 minutes. Add Sherry and reduce. The Sofrito should soften to a paste-like texture. Remove bay leaves.

Notes: Keep in mind that there are endless variations on this recipe, so it is open to interpretation and taste preference. You are free to add or remove components at will. Some of the ingredients that may be used are the above mentioned tomatoes or cilantro, as well as hot peppers, capers, culantro, red bell pepper and even occasional bacon or ham.

Experiment and enjoy..!

2/9/09

’09 Grammy Awards…Hmmm…

Watching the 51st Grammy Awards marathon broadcast last night brought about a few, shall we say…impressions.

In the “out of the blue” category, the unlikely pairing of an aging rock front-man and the queen of bluegrass dominated the evening. The album Raising Sand from Robert Plant and Allison Krause took home five awards, including album of the year.

Robert Plant? Led Zeppelin?

Bottom line here – and similar to last year’s surprise – we like seeing albums that are a bit off the mainstream big-selling hype machine earn some recognition. This is a good thing for working musicians out there and for the music industry as a whole.

Other big winners were more anticipated, including Coldplay with three grammys including best rock album and Lil Wayne with his own trifecta including best rap album.

As for the performances, nothing was in the jaw-droppingly good category, but there were some fine performances. Radiohead performing with the USC marching band…nice! We also liked Al Green and Justin Timberlake doing “Let’s Stay Together”, backed by Boyz II Men and Keith Urban. (Impressive, as this was a last minute fill-in number for the absent Rihanna.)

Until next year…happy listening!

2/5/09

a.k.a. The Blood Orange

The favorite fruit of vampires..? Uh…..no.

It’s the time of year for the blood orange. All of a sudden they appear at your local grocery or on menus at your favorite restaurant. But what is this mysterious citrus?

Time for class…

Blood oranges are essentially a simple mutation of a sweet orange. They are smaller than the average orange and the flavor and aroma is generally a bit stronger, usually with a characteristic hint of raspberry. The dark ruby color (thus the name) is generated by the presence of a pigment called anthocyanin, which is not common in citrus.

· Tarocco
· Sanguinello
· Moro

These are the three most common types of blood oranges, though there are several others. The Tarocco and the Moro are native to Italy, while the Sanguinello is from Spain. The Moro is the newest varietal of the three and has the darkest flesh.

Class dismissed..! Time for fun…

More specifically, the Blood Orange Martini. As is the norm with the art of mixology, there are several recipes / interpretations of a cocktail. That certainly holds true for this martini as most recipes have 5 to 6 ingredients and might require a degree in mixology to obtain the desired result. For a starting point, I have found a simple recipe that produces a quick and tasty result.

Blood Orange Martini (2 servings)

· 3 oz citrus vodka (we prefer Grey Goose L’Orange)
· 1.5 oz blood orange juice
· 1 t. simple syrup (agave nectar works great here)

Combine in shaker with ice and give a good shake. Pour into chilled martini glasses and garnish with a thin slice of blood orange.

Enjoy..!

2/4/09

Upcoming Blu-ray Players

The good news… feature content is going up and prices are continuing to drop.

The not-so-good news… not at the same time.

Budget busting Blu-ray players are finally on the way, one of the first being Visio’s VBR100 due in April. This player will cover the basic feature set expected for a Blu-ray player minus a few of the newer “bells and whistles”, but will come with a suggested retail price of only $200. Several other lower tier manufacturers may steal some of Vizio’s thunder, however, as boxes in the $150 range are expected in the same timeframe.

The big name companies are making noise as well…

Panasonic is bringing a pair of full-featured players to the fray, along with a couple of niche products. The DMP-BD60 and DMP-BD80 are the low and high side of the mainstream units and should have excellent performance based on the products they will replace. As for the other items, the DMP-BD70V is a multi-player deck that will handle old VHS tapes, DVDs and Blu-ray and upscale them all to a 1080p Hi-def picture. The other niche product is a portable Blu-ray player, the DMP-B15.

Another major player in electronics, LG , has two new models on the way. The BD370 and BD390 will have a similar fully-loaded feature set, with the 390 including 1 GB of internal storage. The BD370 will be available in Q2 with the 390 following shortly thereafter. Pricing has not been specified.

The Connoisseur’s recommendation at this point is a simple one: if Santa did not bring you a Blu-ray player over the holidays, wait for the next batch of players to arrive in a few months. We will let you know which units are worth your dollar and then it will be time to jump into the Blu-ray pool and enjoy..!