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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

7/29/09

Vinaigrette – Good Ingredients Rule!

(vihn-uh-GREHT)

Merriam-Webster says: “a sauce made typically of oil, vinegar, and seasonings and used especially on salads, cold meats, or fish —called also vinaigrette dressing”

Vinaigrettes are truly amazing! They are generally simple to make, flexible in their use and there is a seemingly endless variety of recipes to tinker with. The right vinaigrette pairs flawlessly with salads, vegetables, fish, chicken, pork, steak… you name it!

Now I want to let you in on a little secret that applies to all cooking, but certainly vinaigrettes…

Good ingredients rule..!

Due to their inherent simplicity and flavor impact, a vinaigrette really amplifies the quality (or lack thereof) of the ingredients used in its creation. I cannot stress enough the difference that quality ingredients make. Your taste buds will love you for it..! Let me explain, using a basic vinaigrette recipe that is oft-used around the Connoisseur home…

· 3 parts extra virgin olive oil
· 1 part white wine vinegar
· 1 large (or 2 small) garlic clove
· 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
· Salt and pepper to taste

Your typical and simple recipe with few ingredients. For the olive oil, spend a little extra and get something good. I recommend going to one of the many gourmet kitchen shops or groceries that have olive oil tastings. That way you can truly find what appeals to your palette. Same with the white wine vinegar – stay away from those generic brands. You definitely get what you pay for! Dijon mustard..? Do NOT use Fred-the-Grocer’s brand – stick with quality! And for the salt and pepper be sure to use fresh ground pepper and we recommend a nice sea salt or grey salt – stay away from that Morton’s table salt mess.

Now that I am done pontificating on good ingredients, a couple of notes on this recipe: The ratio of 3 to 1 regarding the olive oil to the vinegar is a standard rule of thumb for vinaigrettes. I usually like a splash more of vinegar to give it just a little extra bite. You can also adjust the garlic down to a single small clove, should you be the shy type. And if you happen to have some fresh herbs around the house, feel free to add them.

Enjoy..!

7/28/09

New Cadillac SRX – Target Lexus


The midsize Lexus RX crossover SUV is selling like hotcakes – nearly 40,000 copies through the first half of this year. It’s no wonder that Cadillac would like a piece of the pie…

Say hello to the all new 2010 Cadillac SRX..!

Let me get right to the point. The Connoisseur likes this buggy!

We can say goodbye to the previous generation SRX and its somewhat clumsy design reminiscent of a tall station wagon. Apparently that was the criteria for “crossover” at Cadillac’s design department several years ago. The redo brings us an appropriately proportioned, aggressive and sporty design with the recognizable hard-edged Cadillac styling cues. Can an SUV be sexy..?

The SRX will initially be available with a 265 horsepower 3.0 liter V-6 with direct injection. A turbocharged 2.8 liter V-6 producing 300 ponies will follow later this year. Front wheel or all-wheel drive will be available, as will standard and adaptive suspension systems. All the expected high-tech interior goodies are in the mix as well, with options for NAV, rear-view assist, upgraded audio and essentially power everything.

As for hitting that target Lexus RX..? In both exterior and interior design, the Lexus by comparison comes off almost partially melted. The lines just seem to lack purpose – almost as if the design team was trying to be a bit too clever. Performance goes hands down to the Cadillac, as the Lexus driving experience can be a bit sloppy and just plain emotionless. Even the build quality of the Caddy seems to be up to lofty Lexus levels.

If you are in the market for that mid-size SUV, we believe the SRX has what it takes to be a best-in-class vehicle. Take one for a spin and see what you think. Highly recommended..!

Can’t Miss Appetizer – BLT Dip

The bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich…the stuff of which legends are made!

Well, maybe not quite, but it is apparently the second most popular sandwich in America. I even have fond memories as a child dining voraciously on my own version, substituting ketchup for the tomato. Ugh!

This institution of a sandwich has become inspiration for our latest installation of appetizer recipes, this one apparently courtesy of Paula Deen from the Food Network. Give it a try, it is sure to please!

· 1 cup sour cream
· 1 cup mayonnaise
· 1 lb bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
· Iceberg lettuce, shredded
· 2 large tomatoes, chopped
· Bagel chips

Combine the mayonnaise and sour cream in a small bowl and mix well. Refrigerate until serving time. Transfer half the mixture to a serving bowl and top with half the bacon and tomatoes. Add the remaining mayo-sour cream mix and top with the last of the bacon and tomatoes and the lettuce. Serve with bagel chips.

VuNow – Easy Web for the TV


As we continue to barrel down the path of television and internet convergence, a plethora of products are coming to market to aid us along the way. One such product that we like is the VuNow.

A rather diminutive and inconspicuous box, the VuNow Internet TV platform is rather robust in its abilities…

· Wired or wireless connectivity to your computer/network.
· Easy navigation via the TV-friendly user interface, along with a built-in video search engine.
· Videos available from YouTube by category, as well as dozens of other sites.
· Live television channels from around the world.
· A large selection of Movies from Crackle, CinemaNow and more…
· Live Internet radio.
· Access to any personal media (music, photos, videos) you may have stored on your computer, USB drive or NAS.
· Our favorite: no subscription fees..!

Models for both standard definition and high definition televisions are available at $129 and $149 respectively and the installation is a simple task.

We love the price, the feature-set and the ease of use. However, it’s not quite time to toss out the satellite dish or cable box. At the moment we recommend this as a supplement to your current television setup. Give it some time though, and before you know it, this may well be the television media delivery system that all homes will have. The cable and satellite companies had better keep their eyes open!

7/25/09

Wine and Planes at Le Clos


What do wine and airplanes have to do with each other..?

Absolutely nothing… But that is not going to stop the wine connoisseurs of the world.

Case in point: Let’s take a trip to Dubai. At the world’s largest airport terminal, the new Terminal 3 in Dubai, there is a duty-free shop for the wine lovers among us…

We are talking high end wines here folks…An impressive collection of some of the most sought-after wineries and vintages dating back to the mid 40s, according to the store website. Looking for a 1961 Chateau Cheval Blanc or maybe a Chateau Petrus from 1947? Let the Le Clos staff of personal advisors assist you in your quest. California wines – no problem. Italy, Spain, Germany, Australia…it’s all covered.

With excellent service and a very nice shopping environment, the owners, Maritime and Mercantile International (MMI) have really done their homework here.

Bottom line, if you are at the Dubai airport and have time to kill, this is a stop worth making. You may gain some fine wine and lighten that wallet..!

Jaguar XJ – The Big Cat Arrives!


Over the past few years we have seen the venerable British marque Jaguar working diligently to move its vehicle design language away from tired retro and into a more forward looking style, while still retaining that Jaguar elegance. We talked about the arrival of the XF, Jaguar’s midsize sedan, which has been a smashing success!

What better follow-up to that success than with a complete redo of the Jaguar flagship…the big four door sedan…


The XJ


Jaguar’s ultimate executive express will be available in three models, each with different powertrains, trim levels and option availability. Each model can be had in regular wheelbase or long wheelbase versions.


Got that..?


Here we go… The base model XJ and XJL (long wheelbase) comes with a 5.0L direct injection V8 with 385 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic transmission. All the expected luxury accoutrements are there, including Nav, premium sound system with hard drive, mood lighting, 19” alloy wheels and an adaptive dynamic suspension system.


A step up the ladder takes you to a more sporting variation with the XJ and XJL Supercharged. The name says it all, as a supercharger is added to the V8, boosting horsepower to 470 for a more exhilarating driving experience. Wheel size increases to 20”, climate control is 4 zone instead of 2, and interior color packages now come in eight choices as opposed to four.


The third and “king of the hill” option is the XJ and XJL Supersport. This sexy beast has even more power, coming in at 510 horses, sure to get the adrenalin flowing. The Supersport designation also garners you exclusive wheel designs, exterior colors and interior design packages that cannot be had on the lower tier models. Truly an exclusive automotive experience.


Pricing starts at $72,500 for the XJ, $87,500 for the XJ Supercharged and $112,000 for the XJ Supersport, with the long wheelbase versions a few thousand above each.


Now that Jaguar has their design on track and are showing much improved reliability, we feel the new XJ will give a run for the money to its main rivals, the Audi A8, Mercedes S-class, BMW 7 Series and Lexus LS. A lighter and more lithe vehicle than the others, the big cat should have a feel all its own, not to mention looks that many may consider best in class and a highly competitive pricing structure.


Good work, Jaguar..!

7/12/09

Baked Pasta Love

By popular demand…

Yes, pasta is popular. Everybody loves a pasta dish in some form, whether covered with a simple tomato sauce, a meaty Bolognese…how about some seafood on your noodles? The variations are endless.

Today we are going to dish up a little baked pasta. This recipe comes from Nick Stellino, whom I have discussed in the past. His cookbooks are highly recommended. I have tweaked the recipe a bit, so give it a try and see what you think…
  • 1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb small zucchini, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • celery (1 large or 2 small) chopped
  • carrot (1 large or 2 small) peeled and chopped
  • 4 ounces pancetta, cut into chunks or bacon, cut into pieces
  • 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 6 cloves garlic, thickly sliced (optional)
  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 1 lb rigatoni or ziti pasta
  • 4 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated romano cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Generously butter or spray a 9x12-inch casserole pan and coat with half the bread crumbs.

Place the zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Cover with a plate (lightly press down on the zucchini), weighted down with a heavy object. The salt will draw the liquid from the zucchini; the plate will help squeeze it out. Allow the zucchini to sit for about 30 minutes.

Place the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta or bacon in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is chopped into tiny pieces.

In a large, deep sauté pan or dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté for 1 minute. Add the vegetable-pancetta mixture and sauté for 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sausage and brown, stirring to break it up further and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the sausage is cooked through. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and stock. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. You should have a thin rather than thick pasta sauce; you want it liquid, as the mixture will eventually bake. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Set the sauce aside, and cook the pasta in the boiling water according to the package directions until almost done - Do not overcook. Pat the zucchini dry with paper towels. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil in a separate pan. Add the zucchini, and over high heat, brown on all sides for 3 to 4 minutes. Cook in two batches if necessary, adding more oil. They should be softened but not mushy. Remove and set aside.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Put the drained pasta back in the pot and add the reserved cooking water and half the sauce and toss well. Add the zucchini and mozzarella and stir well. Spoon the pasta mixture into the prepared casserole pan. Pour the reserved sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining bread crumbs and the Romano. Cover the casserole tightly with aluminum foil, and bake in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until heated through. Remove the foil and broil for 1 to 2 minutes to crisp the top before serving.

7/9/09

Summertime Margaritas

The dog days of summer are upon us, and it’s time for some good refreshment.

Certainly the Connoisseur loves tequila, which takes us to the classic warm weather libation, the margarita. Let’s face it, summertime and margaritas go together like…well…summertime and margaritas..! It’s a natural pairing.

So now it’s time for something different. Let’s put a twist on the old standard with a couple of new summertime margarita cocktails. Here are a couple of our favorites…

Pomerita

· 1½ oz tequila
· 2 oz pomegranate juice
· ½ oz sour mix
· ½ oz triple sec
· Splash of fresh lime juice

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Pour over ice filled margarita glass and garnish with a wedge of lime. If you prefer a touch more sweetness, try adding a splash of grenadine.

Pinarita

· 1½ oz tequila
· 2½ oz pineapple juice
· 2 oz sweet & sour mix
· ½ oz triple sec

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake. Pour over ice filled margarita glass and garnish with a wedge of pineapple.

Note: We prefer these recipes with a good quality Reposado, but a nice blanco works as well. Give them a try and see what your palette prefers. Let us know the results…

Here’s to summertime..!

7/7/09

Asprey – Poker Night Done Right


Founded in 1781, British luxury goods firm Asprey based in London makes top shelf product. Everything from jewelry and silver pieces to watches and leather goods are crafted to the highest standards. We are especially fond of their leather briefcases and wallets.

Now let’s cross these handcrafted luxury items with the single hottest gaming craze currently going…

Poker

The result is a stunning handmade poker set finished with polished black crocodile skin. We guarantee this will make a splash at any poker table! A set of ceramic poker chips and the classic royal purple Asprey playing cards round out the kit.

Not enough, you say? Check out Asprey’s Bespoke Services. They will essentially customize your poker set or any of their products to your specification. That’s what we call excellent customer service!

If poker is your game, we recommend the Asprey kit… it’s no gamble.

7/6/09

Drinktini 2.0 – the Mobile Bartender

The Connoisseur likes himself a good adult beverage from time to time. However it can be frustrating if you’re trying to recall an exact recipe or specific drink name and don’t have a copy of The Bartender’s Guide handy.

Well, let’s make a toast to modern technology…

If you have a smartphone from Verizon, Alltel, Cingular, Blackberry and many others, you can simply refer to Drinktini 2.0 for the information and inspiration needed.

Need to find the ingredients for a specific recipe? …done.

Are you looking for a recipe using a particular liquor? …no problem.

How about finding a regional specialty when traveling? …got it.

Drinktini 2.0 covers all the booze bases. Find bars locally or while travelling, play drinking games and tell drinking jokes, even search contact information for available cab companies for the ride home just to name a few of the features.

Get that party started and download a copy of Drinktini today – never go thirsty again..!

BMW X1 – Good News and Bad


BMW’s smallest and most presumably most efficient SUV, the X1, has been confirmed for arrival in the United States!

We first touched on the X1 in this blog, and it looks to be a winner. Conceived as a foil to the Volkswagen Tiguan and Infinity EX35, the 1-er will debut in Europe this fall. Four engine choices - one inline 6-cylinder gasoline and 3 diesels – will be available to the Euros along with either rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Early prototype press drives, a new move for BMW marketing, have revealed an impressive all-arounder, handling light off-roading as well as twisting tarmac with aplomb. Communicative steering feel and well controlled body dynamics are present and accounted for.

From what we have seen so far, we like both the exterior and interior design work, but as usual, the proof will be in the pudding – we will reserve judgment until seeing the car in person.

Which brings us to the bad news…

The X1 will not be arriving here anytime soon. In fact, we appear to be looking at the 2011 calendar year, which would mean a model year of 2012. On top of this delay, we will very possibly not have access to any of the highly efficient diesel engines, instead limited only to the gasoline powered 230-horse inline 6 cylinder.

If you can stand the wait, pricing looks to be starting in the $32,000 range in today’s dollars. This of course, is subject to change…