Audio/Video

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

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Purchasing, Storage, Detailing, Aftermarket.

Wine and Spirits

Wine Tastings and Tours, Cellaring, Collecting, Purchases.

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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

8/26/09

Sony’s Wireless 3G E-Readers


Following the lead of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader – you know those little computer screen book thingies? – Sony has jumped into the fray with 3 models of their own.

The baby of the group is the Reader Pocket Edition. Sporting a 5-inch screen and available in multiple colors, the Pocket Edition retails for $199 and is available now.

Next up in the family is their mid-level Reader Touch Edition. This aptly named model comes with a 6-inch touch screen, allowing you to turn pages or highlight text with the swipe of a finger. It does include a stylus pen should your finger be broken. Available in silver, black or red, the Touch sells for $299 green ones. Currently available.

The grand-daddy of the bunch is the Reader Daily Edition with its 7-inch screen and 3G wireless capability courtesy of AT&T’s broadband network. This gives you access to books, newspapers and magazines no matter your location – almost… (Just like a cell phone, people) All with no monthly fees for the connectivity. It also has USB connection as well as memory card expansion slots. Retail price is set at $399, but the Daily won’t be in stores until December of this year.

Overall we feel the Sony models will give the Kindle a run for the money with their competitive feature sets and price points. Don’t you just love a good competition..?

8/25/09

Maserati GranCabrio


The folks at Maserati just couldn’t wait. They couldn’t keep the wraps on it any longer…

Primed for an unveiling on September 15th at the upcoming Frankfurt Motorshow, Maserati jumped the gun and revealed their stunning new topless four-seater a bit in advance with a press release and official photographs.

The GranCabrio is the first convertible with room for four in the company’s history, and is said to complete their vehicle line-up. The convertible will be offered alongside the GranTurismo coupe and the Quattroporte sedan.

Power for the GranCabrio will come from a 4.7 liter V8 engine mated to a six-speed ZF automatic transmission and will provide the enthusiast with plenty of get-up-and-go, not to mention produce a lovely Italian soundtrack.

Pricing has not been set, but we expect it to start in the $140,000 range. The GranCabrio looks to be available in the spring of 2010 and the waiting list is sure to be long. Get your deposit in now for this Italian open-air beauty..!

Store Bought Chicken Broth


As summer winds down and autumn approaches, the mind begins turning to soup.

uh...Let me rephrase that...the mind begins thinking of soup. And soup recipes generally require a nice broth or stock for the base. Here are my recommendations for a reasonable quality store-bought broth, taking into account flavor quality, low sodium and no MSG.

Wait just one darned minute..! Did the Connoisseur say “store-bought”? Isn’t it best to make the broth yourself?

Yes…

However, let’s face it folks, time is occasionally in short supply. When that is the case, these store-bought products are the solution. Here are my recommendations…

· In the category of easy to find and high quality, we like Kitchen Basics Natural Chicken Stock. Good flavor, no MSG and low sodium levels along with ready availability in most grocery stores make it a winner!

· Two other brands that we really like, but are harder to find are Pacific Organic Chicken Broth and the Wolfgang Puck Free Range Roasted Chicken Stock.

· Today’s final category – the best, but most difficult to come by (online only) belongs to Fond de Poulet Gold from More Than Gourmet. This is an all-natural highly concentrated reduction with no chemicals, preservatives, sugar or MSG. Intensely flavored, no salty aftertaste and highly recommended..!

8/24/09

Il Pelicano – Europe’s Best Hotel


At least according to more than 32,000 readers of Condé Nast Traveler…

For the 15th annual Gold List, hotels were judged in five categories on a 100 point scale. Il Pelicano located on the Tuscan coast in Italy scored an overall rating of 97.1, the best in Europe. With service rated at 95.2 and rooms at 90.5, food, location and design all garnered perfect 100s.

Originally opened in 1965, the hotel currently has 35 rooms, 5 junior suites and 10 deluxe suites nestled among the cypress and olive trees above the ocean. Along with the brand new Pelliclub spa, other amenities include two restaurants (one of which is Michelin starred) and bars, the La Cantina wine cellar, a pool and private beach.

This is one stunning property…breathtaking views, a tranquil setting, top shelf service and gourmet food are all waiting for you. And should you happen to feel the need to get away from this most idyllic of hotels, you can always take a day trip to Rome or Florence.

If you are looking for quality hotels in Italy, Il Pelicano receives my highest recommendation..!

8/21/09

Rock and Roll and Absolut Vodka


If you have been living under a rock these past few weeks, you may not have noticed that the 40th anniversary of Woodstock is spawning all manner of memorabilia. I have no problem with this remembrance at all, being that this was certainly a seminal moment in American music and culture.

Well, for those of you that have at one time or another enjoyed a little rock and roll and its accompanying lifestyle, you realize that alcohol is a piece of the puzzle.

Say hello to the Absolute Vodka Rock Edition…

In doing their part to celebrate Woodstock, the Swedish vodka maker enlisted the services of designer Natallia Brilli who just so happens to have a penchant for wrapping things in leather. After all, leather is another piece of the rock and roll puzzle.

Quite frankly, this leather and stud clad bottle is more Scorpions and Judas Priest than it is reminiscent of artists from the Woodstock era, but I guess it is the thought that counts…right? Regardless, this is sure to become a collector’s item. Look for it to arrive stateside in October…

8/12/09

2010 Porsche 911 Turbo – Better Than Ever


Those engineers at Porsche just can’t sit still. They love to tinker, and that is a big reason why I love Porsches.

Like the normally aspirated 911s as mentioned in an earlier article, the turbo is benefitting from what is known as a mid-cycle update. While it is not “all new”, as many web pundits are stating, the good news is that the updates are substantial. I’ll touch on a few that might get your attention…

Let’s start with the heart of the matter, that Porsche flat-six turbocharged engine. Displacement has been increased from 3.6 to 3.8 liters and direct fuel injection has been added along with other little tricks that boost both performance and fuel economy. The turbo is now a member of the 500 horsepower club and sips less fuel..!

Porsche’s dual-clutch PDK 7-speed transmission is an available option as well, along with new paddle shifters on the steering wheel. We recommend this transmission with the launch control feature, giving you a 0 – 60 mph time of 3.2 seconds according to the factory. This will out-quick pretty much everything out there.

Aesthetically the boosted 997 (factory designation number) inherits the same taillight LED treatment bestowed upon its lesser siblings as well as new wheel designs. Take note of the optional RS style in the picture above with a center-lock racing style wheel…HOT!

Does the Connoisseur like this car? In a word…YES! Due in showrooms early next year, the coupe will start at $132,800 and $143,800 for the convertible. Get your order in now…

8/10/09

Craft Spirits at Distiller’s Festival

You’ve no doubt heard the term “micro brewery”. This is a reference to a rather diminutive beer making company – many times family run or having strictly local sales and distributions.

Now let’s bump up the alcohol content a bit and talk about spirits…gin, vodka, rum etc. Just as there are micro breweries scattered across the landscape, so are there micro distilleries. Each year these artisans gather at the Great American Distiller’s Festival in Portland, Oregon.

Kind of makes one thirsty..!

This is the fifth year for the event, and over 70 producers from across the country will be on hand. The list of events includes seminars, food pairings, tastings and a mixology contest. The keynote address will be delivered by Bill Owens, President of the American Distilling Institute.

The festival runs October 24th and 25th at the Bossanova Ballroom in Portland, with several events beginning the week before. Tickets are $16.00 for two day passes.

Cheers!

8/7/09

Movie Buzz… District 9


Do you like prawns in your pasta? Well, this movie might change your mind…or at least make you think differently when you hear the term “prawns”. Sorry…

What we have here is an under-the-radar movie release that is suddenly generating some buzz, helped along by the excellent reviews generated at Comic-Con a couple weeks ago.

Yes, District 9 is a science fiction film. Yes, it was done with a small budget by today’s standards (about 30 million). And yes, there are no big name actors on board. The only A-list member you will note in the credits is the producer, one Peter Jackson from Lord of the Rings fame. Peter has found a winner in director Neil Blomkamp, a young up-and-comer that will surely see more open doors after this fine effort.

The story takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, which also happens to be director Blomkamp’s home town. I love this choice…why do aliens have to always come to America or Paris first? The location adds a certain atmosphere to the film, and there is a distinct metaphor for apartheid present. What we have is an alien ship that has essentially run out of gas. They have been marooned on earth for some 20 years and are being kept in District 9.

As for where the story goes from there? Well, let’s just say that I will not be a spoiler today.

While not a perfect film, District 9 is one that you will surely enjoy. The movie is of high quality and sort of an unexpected treat in a summer of over-hyped blockbusters. It opens August 8th. Give it a look and let us know what you think…

8/6/09

The Newest Ferrari – 458 Italia


Spy shots and speculation aside, the latest Ferrari has broken cover..!

As a replacement for the current F430, the 458 Italia will debut in the flesh at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

As is the norm, the folks at Maranello look to have another winner on their hands. They have made leaps in technology and performance and yet managed to improve fuel consumption and emissions levels. A bit of a green hue for the company famous for fast red cars... (Of course the amount of green is relative here).

And now for the nuts and bolts of this latest prancing horse. Power is supplied by an all-new mid-mounted 4.5 liter V8 with 562 horsepower and 398 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox driving the rear axle, the engine’s redline is a mind-blowing 9000 rpm! Like the F430 before it, the Italia has an aluminum structure for weight savings and the car tips the scales at a lithe 3,042 pounds unloaded.

Hmmm… Lots of power and not much weight... This baby must be quick..!

How does 0 – 62 mph (100 km/h) in 3.4 seconds sound? And I would be remiss not to mention that this beast will have a top speed of over 200 mph, topping out at 202.

Pricing has not been released yet, but if you have some money burning a hole in your wallet, you may want to get an order in now. A long wait list is guaranteed..!

8/5/09

479° Popcorn for the Connoisseur


I know what you are thinking. Popcorn and the Connoisseur…Noooo!

Well…yesssss!

Is there anybody out there that has not sat and watched a movie and had some popcorn? I think not..! And what does the Connoisseur do in regards to popcorn? Just like everything else, locate something that has been raised to the top shelf…find that truly gourmet version of the crunchy puffed kernel.

What exactly does 479° have to do with all of this? Two things… the first being that it is supposedly the optimum temperature for popping corn (that’s Fahrenheit, not Celsius). It also happens to be the name of a company that makes high quality organic popcorn.

The brainchild of one Jean Arnold, 479° Popcorn produces a variety of popped kernels, one of which is sure to catch your eye. You can start with a little Black Truffle with White Cheddar and move to a Chipotle Caramel with Almonds. How about a bite of Ginger Sesame Caramel or maybe some Madras Curry Coconut..? Some exotic mixes of ingredients sure to delight the taste buds. Give them a try and let us know what you think.

Anyone up for a movie..?

8/4/09

White Linen – Handcrafted Cocktail for Summer


Hello everyone..! The Connoisseur is back again and I hear you are thirsty…which seems to happen quite a bit in the summer heat…or the winter chill…or..?

I have touched in the past on a few excellent summertime libations: The Caipirinha, Pimm’s Cup, Mint Julep, various Margaritas and more. Today I have yet another cocktail for you, this one in the “handcrafted” category. Handcrafted is rather a bar buzzword at the moment, generally referring to a cocktail that employs ingredients not from a bottle. Fruits, vegetables, herbs and the like can all be part of the mixology, infused, muddled or otherwise.

As far as I can tell, the White Linen cocktail originated at Ella Dining Room and Bar in Sacramento, California. A very kind bartender was gracious enough to supply the particulars. Give it a try and let me know what you think, and if you are ever in central California, be sure to stop by Ella and sample chef Randall Selland’s work – highly recommended!

White Linen

· 1 ½ oz gin – the bartender recommended Broker’s Dry Gin.
· ½ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liquor
· ½ oz Simple Syrup
· 1 oz Lemon Juice
· 5-6 thin slices English cucumber

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake well. Strain into a highball glass with ice, top with soda water and garnish with a cucumber.

8/1/09

JD Says Four Seasons Best Luxury Hotel


JD who..?

That would be JD Power and Associates, the global marketing and information services firm known for their customer satisfaction surveys.

The current economy has certainly hit the hotel industry hard. Declines in staffing, amenity reductions and postponed renovations are in evidence throughout. Despite these obstacles, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has managed to knock the Ritz-Carlton off the top rung.

This study began in 1997 and this was the first victory for the Four Seasons chain. Over 66,000 people that have used hotels over the past year took part in the study. For an informative graph of the report click here.

The Four Seasons chain was founded in 1960 and is based in Toronto, Canada. With 80 properties located on every continent except for Antarctica, you have no excuse but to sample one for yourself and see if you agree with JD.