Tara Weingarten

Stories by Tara Weingarten

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    Spas With Attitude

    The old way to relax: wheatgrass shakes and massages. The new way: hauling yourself up a cliff on a backbreaking hike.
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    BMW Brings Rolls Royce's Ghost Back From the Dead

    Ian Robertson, a member of BMW’s board of trustees and chairman of Rolls-Royce, is pleased with how the Ghost turned out. “What we didn’t want to do was have anyone say that this Rolls-Royce was just a rebadged BMW in a different form,” he says. “This is one of the greatest brands the world has ever seen, and it deserves to have its own personality and style.”
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    Bentley and Alpina Hit the Road With Big Speed

    Carmakers are in an endless struggle of one-upmanship to offer consistently improved performance and comfort in their flagship sedans. The car that ferries today’s elite must be big, commanding, authoritative—a modern-day golden chariot—but without being too ostentatiously gas-guzzling.
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    Visiting Egypt's Newest Antiquities

    King Tut is certainly more famous now than in his own time. The boy king died suddenly at the age of 19, before he could make a monument, or even a name, for himself. But just look at him now. He, or at least his stuff—the gilded masks, the lapis lazuli necklaces, the ornate thrones—is on a second blockbuster tour, traveling the world displayed safely behind glass in grand museums. Meanwhile, the pharaoh himself lies mummified in a decidedly unroyal-looking tomb in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.
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    Exotic Cars Ramp Up the Speed

    Homo sapiens have always coveted the sensation of speed. The Greeks invented competitive running games. U.S. Air Force pilot Chuck Yeager became a national hero the second he went supersonic. And Superman is admired for flying faster than a speeding bullet. But the best hope we mere mortals have of experiencing the same thrill is to drive a sports car.
  • An Audi for the Road That Drives Like a Race Car

    The new year always brings with it automotive nirvana: a rash of new vehicles that are quicker, prettier, and more fuel-efficient than the previous year's. For 2010, one standout is the Audi R8 5.2, a raucous V10 that's as fetching to look at as it is agile to drive. At first glance it appears to be a race car: angular, low riding, and with a track-eating 5.2-liter, 525-horsepower engine under a transparent cover in the rear.The R8's superior handling comes courtesy of a midmounted engine that gives excellent front-rear balance to the car, a delightful attribute that I experienced on a recent ride around a racetrack. All-wheel drive with rear-end bias also contributes to greater traction. But it is the Audi's engine, purposely built with a racing spirit—it's the same powertrain that propels the R8 LMS GT3 race car—that makes this two-seater so quick. And yet the R8 5.2 rides smoothly enough to be an everyday driver. A button takes the suspension from a softer "normal" setting to a...
  • The Road to a Racing License

    There is no crying in sports-car driving, but I did it anyway. Tears of joy. After a decade and a half of reviewing cars for a living, I had decided to get my racing license. Though I had been fortunate enough to spend countless hours on racetracks testing out cars, putting them through speed, handling, and braking maneuvers, I had not put myself out there to see if I actually had any mettle. In the heat of competition, with life and limb at risk, would I really be able to take these cars to the speeds I knew they were capable of? Could I muster up the nerve to pass somebody?To qualify for a racing license, I signed up for the three-day Masters Plus program at the Porsche Sport Driving School just outside Birmingham, Alabama (porschedriving.com). Yes, I was frightened. I had been to more than a half-dozen performance-driving schools in the past, always having fun, always driving freakishly fast, learning more about precision maneuvering each time. But understanding how to race...
  • France or Italy: Who Makes Better Sparkling Wine?

    It's mid-September, fall harvest at the Veuve Clicquot vineyard in the ancient hamlet of Verzy in France's Champagne region. I am scooting along the impeccably manicured rows of chardonnay grapes, snipping the dense clusters of fruit and tossing them into a basket. That's not dirt on my blue jeans, it's coveted terroir. The vines, shaved into short, orderly slivers of foliage so that only a few perfectly shaped full clusters remain, epitomize the French obsession with controlling every step of its viticulture: neat, trim, precise. The fruit that grows on these vines will one day be sold as Clicquot's highest-quality -product—its Òtête du cuvéeÓ—called La Grande Dame.Fast-forward one week, and I am wandering the vineyards of northeast Italy, in the Veneto region a couple of hours' drive north of Venice. Here, between the charming ancient towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, the prosecco harvest is in full swing. Unlike in France, these vines are riotous, giant, and unruly. They...
  • St-Tropez: Much More Than Just a Tan

    I admit to a lifelong obsession with St-Tropez. As a child in the 1960s, I sat riveted to our new color TV, mesmerized by those steamy Bain de Soleil commercials. Bronzed, toned bodies splashed in the faraway Mediterranean to the sounds of that hypnotic jingle: "Bain de Soleil, for the St-Tropez tan." To me, it was summer in a tube.It took decades, but last month I finally made it to the beach of my dreams. I'd heard, albeit from friends who hadn't been there, that St-Tropez had lost its sheen, that its halcyon days as the shiny epicenter of the French social scene were over. But I found the former fishing village that Brigitte Bardot helped turn into a jet-setter's paradise anything but dead. Newly opened boutiques like Dior, Pucci, and the SuperdryStore—where Formula One racing champ Lewis Hamilton and David Beckham shop for their studied-casual look—are buzzing, as if to snub the global economic meltdown.To be sure, St-Tropez is a shopper's mecca. The Place de la Garonne, where...
  • Porsche Keeps the Speed and Adds Some Room

    What a very bad time to come out with a very good car. The top end of the luxury-car market is down 40 percent this year—even worse than the overall automotive business, which is off about 30 percent. And yet Porsche is coming ahead with the 2010 Panamera, a much-anticipated superposh sports sedan.The racy four-door four-seater, set to go on sale this fall, has been on the design slab for some time, conceived well before the economy began careening off track. Porsche is hoping that in this rare instance timing isn't everything. Indeed, the car's unique, goose-bump-inducing features just might lure reluctant buyers. The Panamera is an unusual blend of true sport performance, deluxe styling, and comfort for four full-size adults. Roomy like the Cayenne SUV but sporty like the Carrera, it fits in an automotive category by itself.As luck would have it, I was vacationing in Europe while Porsche was previewing the car to the automotive press. I couldn't imagine a better way to improve on...
  • Exotic Cars for Middle Class Millionaires

    The rough economy has spawned a new moniker for single-digit millionaires who still may not feel wealthy enough: middle-class millionaires. Most don't belong to jet clubs or wear bespoke suits. They live in average-size homes and don't always call attention to what's lurking in their bank accounts. They may covet a sexy exotic car but feel conflicted about springing for the extravagance. If you're one of them, don't fret. Each wildly priced high-performance car from Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and Maserati has a slightly less expensive sibling that doesn't compromise much in the way of looks or performance. To prove the point, I did the dirty work and drove them all.Lamborghini takes first place for its exotic sports-car looks. Nothing subtle here. Reeking of testosterone, the top-line Murciélago and the entry-level (so to speak) Gallardo models both have sharply angled contours and sliver-thin side windows.The Murciélago LP 670-4 SuperVeloce is a beast, the fastest Lambo ever...
  • Learning to Drive Dream Cars

    Showy you're not. You don't have the means or the moxie to cruise the Champs-Élysées in a super-flashy SLR McLaren. But secretly, you'd die to do it. Luckily there are ways to drive dream cars that don't require selling your firstborn.World Class Driving (worldclassdriving.com) tours the globe with a dozen exceptional sports cars, giving participants the keys and letting them rip on twisty back roads. In one day I was able to drive some of the world's sexiest cars—including the Alfa Romeo 8C, Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Audi R8, Ferrari F430 Scuderia, Ford GT and Lamborghini Superleggera—along Southern California's Pacific Coast Highway and through the Malibu hills.The program's dozen or so cars tour cities in the U.S and Europe, in one- to five-day events. Drives start at $1,695 for a full day. Each single-day event gets participants into six cars (chosen by the company) for drives of up to an hour each. A fleet service ships the vehicles city to city and country to country.World...
  • New Cookbooks Offer Simple but Flavorful Recipes

    The superslouching economy is spurring everyone to return to basics—including some of the world's best-known chefs, who are flooding the market with new cookbooks preaching the simple-is-better mantra. Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavors From Simple Ingredients" (crownpublishing.com) gives nearly 100 entertainment-ready recipes that never require a trip to the specialty food market. Dishes include classic coq au vin; mustard-roasted fish, made flavorful with capers, shallots and whole-grain mustard; and a pot roast smothered in gravy enriched by a purée of root vegetables from the pot. Garten's recipes are idiotproof, though they never look quite as good as the book's photos suggest.Giada de Laurentiis's "Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites" (clarksonpotter.com) is packed with single-page recipes, eye-candy photos and ultrasimple preparations. The curried chicken sandwich is served with radicchio and pancetta—a crazy combo that turns out to be...
  • When Celebrity Chefs Take Over Home Kitchens

    When I moved into a swank mid-century Hollywood Hills pad last year, I wanted to throw a party befitting my excitement for my new dream home. That ruled out a wienies-and-beans shindig. Instead, I chose to blow my savings on a party catered by one of my favorite L.A. chefs: Giacomino Drago, co-owner of 11 Los Angeles restaurants—including Beverly Hills' iconic Il Pastaio and the new Via Alloro. So on a warm December evening, the quintessentially Italian chef took over my kitchen and wowed me and my 85 guests. Servers presented eight courses of small plates to my eager friends. Among them: fresh zucchini soufflé with warm white truffle sauce, delicate tuna tartar, flavorful porcini risotto and creamy vanilla panna cotta. Yes, it was expensive—about $12,000 including party rentals and a full bar—but tasting the impeccably prepared food, hearing the laughter of my guests and seeing my gorgeous house glow with warmth from the fireplace and candlelight profoundly connected me to my new...
  • Kitchen Equipment Worthy of a Professional Chef

    When it comes to cooking, good equipment can make even the feeblest of talents great. I learned this six years ago when I bought a fancy gas range with burners spewing heat like some kind of wild Hawaiian volcano. Wanting to replicate an incredible scallop dish I ate at a restaurant, I poured a spot of oil into a sauté pan and lit the flame. Shazam. There was the perfect scallop: caramelized on the outside, toothsome yet tender on the inside. But it wasn't me; it was the appliance. I knew this because my scallops, sautéed so many times before on my old range, usually attained the consistency of a rubber eraser.That culinary turning point led me to pursue the answers to other cooking mysteries. Are all knives created equal? Does the pot really matter? Which gadgets are truly indispensable? With so many shiny new products out there, I wanted to find out which were worth the price tag.Among my most alarming findings: my 6-year-old gas range might soon be reduced to a quaint relic,...
  • Steve Wynn Practices Restraint in his New Hotel

    Sin City's most prolific visionary is at it again. The man behind the Bellagio and, more recently, Wynn Las Vegas is back with Encore, a posh 2,034-room resort on the Strip. But don't expect a megalithic neon road sign, $2.99 all-you-can-eat barbecued ribs and sex-bomb cocktail waitresses. With Encore, Wynn demonstrates his belief that even in the thick of overindulgence, there's a place for restraint. His latest creation features couture-clad servers distributing martinis, and designer touches like intricately laid mosaic-tile floors worthy of a Pompeii palace. Rooms come furnished with 42-inch flat-screen TVs and silken European bed linens. Like Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas, Encore has a sweeping, indoor garden underneath a glass-enclosed atrium, reminiscent of a Victorian-era garden pavilion.The Asian-inspired spa has 51 treatment rooms, so getting an appointment should be easy. There's even an 80-minute good-luck ritual massage, based on the five elements of feng shui, that just...
  • For Those Who Win Big, the Perfect Set of Wheels

    They don't build those bacchanalian palaces out of thin air, of course. They're assembled with the billions of dollars gamblers let slip from their clutches. But the fortunate few who walk away from the baccarat table with a big stack of chips will need some wheels for a quick getaway. Luckily, the Penske-Wynn Maserati and Ferrari dealership (penskewynn.com) has just the thing: the next-generation 2009 Quattroporte S.Naturally, it's gorgeous. Like other Maseratis, this sedan is designed by Italy's premier coach builder Pininfarina, with richer, more saturated interior colors and suedelike Alcantara on the roof liner. It feels substantial when you step on the gas, hunkering down for excellent traction and surprisingly sure-footed handling for its size. It's roomy enough to hold you and three co-conspirators, er, friends. And it's quicker than the standard Quattroporte, now with a 425hp, 4.7-liter, V-8 engine.Also new this year is a sophisticated Bose audio and navigation system that...
  • Dining: Discovering the Tasteful Side of Las Vegas

    I am unapologetic about my affection for Las Vegas. Sure, Sin City represents everything that's tacky about America: garish design, fanny-pack-toting tourists, an overabundance of pinkie rings. But it's fun if you're in on the kitsch joke. Besides, anyone who has visited recently knows this gambling mecca has developed another side entirely: Sophisticated. Elegant. Serious. And this evolution is most pronounced on the dining scene, where a sweep of chic, understated restaurants flourish alongside the carb-loading buffets. Michelin this year bestowed 21 hard-earned stars on Las Vegas's culinary treasures. It's easy to see why.At Alex in the Wynn Las Vegas, patrons step down a deep, wide stairway into the grand dining room, like Streisand in "Hello, Dolly!" Huge Murano glass chandeliers gently light a space swathed in voluminous caramel-colored satin drapes, while dozens of tuxedoed waiters move in balletic rhythm from kitchen to table. Chef Alex Stratta, who has ridden the ranges at...
  • It's All for One at Michael Mina's New L.A. Eatery

    Superstar chef Michael Mina's most vibe-filled restaurant yet opened this month on a buzzy stretch of the Sunset Strip. His 14th high-concept fine-dining spot in the United States, this gathering place for Hollywood A-listers is almost too groovy for its own good. ...
  • Driving Schools Teach How to Handle Sportscars

    I'm a speed junkie. but driving fast on city streets is a no-no, so I took my need for speed to a few international driving schools, where I drove to-die-for exotic cars. At Maserati's Master GT course in Parma, Italy, I tore it up on the Varano track. In brand-new GranTurismos and Quattroportes, real race-car drivers taught me the right way to brake, steer and accelerate along the track's racing line. My car was equipped with telemetry—just like a true race car—that recorded my speed and efficiency on the course ($5,880, including meals and lodging; maserati.com).Skip Barber's Mazdaspeed MX-5 three-day racing school at the legendary Laguna Seca racetrack in Carmel, California, teaches solid racing skills and helps drivers raise their acumen to the next level ($3,995 for the course and trackside lunches; skipbarber.com).The twisty, hilly Mont Tremblant circuit outside Montreal is a pretty setting for the two-day Ferrari Experience. Here I piloted the dreamy F430 as well as the 430...
  • Automobiles: Move Over, Speed Racer

    Low, flat and stable on curves even at very high speeds, the Mercedes SL63 coupe features a new 7-speed sports transmission. It shifts quickly and responds like a manual transmission, but with the smoothness of an automatic. It packs a 518-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine, and hits 60mph in a snappy 4.7 seconds. It's comfortable, too; the AMG sport steering wheel features shifter paddles that make it ergonomic between the hands. A Racetimer will keep track of lap times. And there's no need to suffer a chill with the top down; just push a button to allow warm air to circulate through the head restraints like a cashmere scarf ($136,425; www3.Mercedes-benz.com).
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot

    It's easy to find the perfect shot of espresso at a neighborhood café. But for those who prefer to drink their first cup of the day in PJs, home brewing is iffier. Thankfully, a range of new luxury machines are up to the task. They offer plenty of the pressure required to make espresso and they're also good at making the crema on top.Near the top end, Saeco's Primea Cappuccino Touch Plus prepares two cappuccinos or latte macchiatos at once using a built-in grinder to grind beans, a colorfully illuminated touchscreen and nanotechnology to clean itself ($2,900; saeco.com).The Illy Francis Francis X6 is the iconic Italian espresso machine that has added pizzazz to kitchens for 20 years. It now uses premeasured Illy paper pods (about 70 cents apiece) instead of loose grounds to make each cup ($500; illy.com).The De'Longhi Lattissima is a one-touch phenom that uses a choice of 12 espresso pods (made by Nestlé's Nespresso, about 45 cents each; nespresso.com) to effortlessly make all...
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot

    It's easy to find the perfect shot of espresso at a neighborhood café. But for those who prefer to drink their first cup of the day while wearing pajamas, home brewing is a bit iffier. Thankfully, a handful of luxury machines on the market can bring a slice of Starbucks into any kitchen.Espresso is made under pressure, and machines are rated by how many "bars" (think barometric pressure) they have. Melissa Niosi, coffee education manager for Saeco USA, a maker of quality coffee machines, says it takes only nine bars to make a great cup of espresso. Yet all top-shelf machines offer between 15 and 19 bars. The perfect espresso has a good dose of "crema" on top, that frothy, foamy brown skin—really an emulsification of the oils in coffee beans—that gives texture to your drink.The price of a machine depends on its ease of use and construction materials. Near the top end, Saeco's Primea Cappuccino Touch Plus prepares two cappuccinos or latte macchiatos at once, using a built-in ceramic...
  • Keeping Up With the Beemers

    Audi's inner beauty nearly eclipses its fetching skin on this S5 coupe. For so long, Audi played catch up to BMW's performance machines; lately, it has pulled alongside—if not beaten—its Germany competitor. At about $58,000 loaded (including Audi's Quattro all-wheel drive), the S5 delivers plenty of sporty performance and sleek style. It features carbon fiber trim, just like a Ferrari's. And the central mouse dial controls all audio, climate and navigation, which appear on a large, colorful screen. The heated 10-way power seats are comfortable and well bolstered. The two pairs of chromed pipes look athletic. But the best part is how well they're tuned to deliver a deep and nasty exhaust note that pairs so beautifully with the car's excellent acceleration and overall performance.
  • Gaining Speed

    There's a new game in town for thrill-seekers: a lightning-quick tear down an icy half-pipe. Eight Olympic bobsled tracks around the world are open to the public, allowing adrenaline junkies to pull up to five G's in as many as 20 turns taken at 113 to 129kph. In about a minute it's all over, but it feels as if it took forever.In Park City, Utah, the 129kph "Comet" lets riders experience a 40-story drop in about 54 seconds ($200, ages 16 and up; olyparks.com). They can recover at the Canyons, which features world-class skiing as well as family-friendly accommodations (from $446; thecanyons.com).Opened in 1890, the world's only natural-ice bobsled track, in St-Moritz, Switzerland, takes riders up to 134kph in 75 seconds ($195, 18 and older; olympia-bobrun.ch). Those with energy to burn should stay at the Grand Hotel Kronenhof, which offers curling, skiing and skating (from €344; www.kronenhof.com).In Igls, Austria, sledders can ride on the track built for the 1976 Winter Olympics (...

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