Stories by Tara Weingarten

  • 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 (...
  • Fine Dining In Sin City

    In the first Michelin Guide covering Las Vegas restaurants, the only three-star establishment is Joel Robuchon's eponymous eatery at the MGM Grand, which reviewers called "perfection on a plate." It's currently one of 58 restaurants worldwide with a three-star Michelin rating (and this week, when the Tokyo guide comes out, Robuchon's restaurant there may become No. 59). But how did the celebrated French chef end up in Las Vegas, the capital of cheap buffets? NEWSWEEK'S Tara Weingarten spoke with Robuchon about his new digs. ...
  • Q&A: Is the Tiny Smart Car a Dumb Idea?

    It's hip, it's fuel-efficient, and it's cheap. Smart USA's president explains why he's betting on this tiny Euro two-seater gaining  traction in the United States.
  • ‘Aah,’ At Home

    Down on overpriced spa treatments? Do it yourself and save. Or invite some friends over and make a day of it. These TIP-tested products give professional results.For nails, Perfect Sense disposable hot paraffin wax treatments exfoliate and hydrate hands and feet with vitamins and minerals ($40 per three-pack at sparevolutions.com). OPI's Manicure/Pedicure Green Tea Scrub ($14.95; opi.com) uses sugar crystals and antioxidants to soften overwrought hands and feet. Top off with OPI's newest fall colors in Russian Navy, Give Me the Moon and An Affair in Red Square ($7.95 each).For hair, summer damage gets a quick fix and a shiny finish with Kama Ayurveda's Intensive Hair Treatment ($26 for four ounces at alcanz.com). For color-treated hair, Pureology's line of shampoos and conditioners ($25; pureology.com) softens the chemical frizz.Daily cleansing is important for your face, but go for a deeper weekly regimen with Nature's Gate Microdermabrasion Skin Refining System ($50 at Whole Foods...
  • Biodynamic Wine: Red, White and Green

    Mike Benziger is a grape healer. At his Sonoma, Calif., winery (benziger.com), he uses tinctures of stinging nettle, chamomile and dandelion to boost his vines' immune systems so that they can fight bug infestations. Cows and sheep roam the vineyards, depositing natural fertilizer and kicking up the soil, helping to aerate it. Predatory birds and bats nest in boxes overlooking the vineyards because they help control pests, and Benziger keeps his land hospitable to wildlife.Benziger is a leading proponent of biodynamic farming, a growing movement among American vintners. Like organic farmers, biodynamic vintners shun the use of toxic chemicals, but they take it a step beyond by adopting unconventional practices like pruning and harvesting according to the gravitational pulls of lunar cycles and integrating livestock into vineyard management. The point is simple: create a healthy self-sustaining ecosystem. "Farming is a violent practice," says Benziger. "You rip up the earth, you cut...
  • Road Test: Maserati Quattroporte

    Gawk at the babe-alicious lines of the redone Quattroporte: smart, sassy, sexy and oh so Italian. Nice job, Maserati. But the exotic marque's latest spruce-up of its popular sedan (made even more seductive thanks to the carmaker's presence on "Desperate Housewives" and "The Sopranos") isn't just showroom pretty.Wearing a new six-speed automatic transmission, the Quattroporte rides smoother than ever and offers nearly seamless shifting. Though you can still buy the DuoSelect transmission, which gives a more serious manual-like shifting feel, this new automatic version appeals to those of us who crave sportiness without the unsettling jerkiness of a manual. The new engine gives the Quattroporte near-perfect weight balance, offering noticeably better road handling, improved braking and zero to 62mph in a snappy 5.6 seconds (with a 168mph top speed). And like any self-respecting high-maintenance beauty, this one demands a choice of wardrobe. How about a selection of five kinds of...
  • So Sexy It Hurts

    Gawk at the babe-alicious lines of the redone Quattroporte: smart, sassy, sexy and oh so Italian. Nice job, Maserati. But the exotic marque's latest spruce-up of its popular sedan (made even more seductive thanks to the carmaker's presence on "Desperate Housewives" and "The Sopranos") isn't just showroom pretty.Wearing a new six-speed automatic transmission, the Quattroporte rides smoother than ever and offers nearly seamless shifting. Though you can still buy the DuoSelect transmission, which gives a more serious manual-like shifting feel, this new automatic version appeals to those of us who crave sportiness without the unsettling jerkiness of a manual. The new engine gives the Quattroporte near-perfect weight balance, offering noticeably better road handling, improved braking and zero to 62mph in a snappy 5.6 seconds (with a 168mph top speed). And like any self-respecting high-maintenance beauty, this one demands a choice of wardrobe. How about a selection of five kinds of...
  • Travel: Desert Paradises

    During prime winter months, prices at Southwestern desert resorts get as steep as the jagged mountains surrounding them. But if you venture just outside the main tourist areas, you'll find some hot bargains. Top picks:( miramonteresort.com ) This resort about 20 minutes from downtown Palm Springs is set against the Santa Rosa Mountains (rates from $220). Take an easy two-hour guided hike ($15) through a pristine desert landscape ( livingdesert.org ), then relax with a Lushly pedicure ($75) at the spa. ...
  • Road Test: Honda Cr-V

    If you love the look of BMW's SUVs but can't afford them, eye Honda's redesigned CR-V, which borrows design cues from BMW's X3. The new CR-V is one of those citified SUVs: small(er), unrugged and built to ferry around your brood rather than ford a raging river. I found the ride quite comfortable though I was disappointed in the vehicle's cargo capacity. Even folding the back seats flat, I had to take the front wheel off my son's bicycle to make it fit.I did like the CR-V's excellent visibility, something I don't always experience on big SUVs, which can be riddled with blind spots. And the soft velour seats come with comfortable armrests for driver and front-seat passenger. I also liked the easy-to-use climate controls and audio system. What a pleasure to just turn an intuitive dial to start the heater. Two power outlets upfront let my husband and me charge our cell phones at the same time. Nice. And a lively gauge cluster is crisp with contemporary graphics and jazzed up with a...
  • Not That Edgy

    I'm hit upside the head with all the blingage: blindingly reflective chrome wheels, trim and a gianormous front grille. But except for the shine, the Edge looks perfectly at home parked on a turf-wrapped suburban driveway. And nothing suburban is ever edgy.Still, the comforts are plenty, with a wealth of electronic spoils--including a reverse sensing system, full-color navigation and satellite radio. As for performance, this five-seat, six-speed automatic moves well for its size, with enough power from a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. I found the all-wheel drive great for foul-weather driving, though somewhat of a guzzler at the tank. Inside, there's a pleasing mix of colors and a truly massive sunroof, but I was disappointed by the cheapo audio and climate controls. In all, the Edge is a fine family ride--just, please, call it something else. Tip: Pocket $4,725 and get a smidge better fuel economy with the front-wheel drive version.
  • Road Test: VW Eos

    Rube Goldberg would have been confounded by the brilliant simplicity of VW's new hardtop convertible, Eos. While several automakers have introduced cars in the past few years with advanced roofs, none has come out with one that also gives drivers the option of a panoramic moon roof. And so the Eos is three cars in one: hardtop, convertible and moon roof--something for each of your moods. And the Eos looks magnificent during the transformation. It's like watching a dance performance with impeccable choreography as the car's trunk lid opens and the roof slides along rails before it tucks itself neatly and inconspicuously inside.The Eos isn't just charming, it's also spirited, with a 2.0-liter, 200hp turbo engine that has virtually no turbo lag. Road handling is decent, though not as taut as I would have expected from this German badge. Chrome is Eos's buzzword, as it appears prominently on the front grille and twin tailpipes. Inside, surfaces are tactile and pleasing, with soft rubber...
  • Road Test: Honda FCX Concept

    When I talk of hydrogen as transportation fuel, you think of the Hindenburg, right? But hydrogen got a bum rap in that disaster, since the Hindenburg's flaming demise was likely due to the airship's flammable powdered-aluminum coating. Hydrogen, in fact, can be a safer fuel than gasoline, and Honda is betting billions we'll flock to its hydrogen fuel-cell hybrid FCX (sure to be renamed) sedan when it comes out in 2008. You might have to kick me out of line first. I tested the FCX on California's Laguna Seca Raceway and was given no caveats by the Honda folks on how to drive the thing.I turned the key and heard a whir as air mixed with hydrogen. I stepped on the gas-- make that hydrogen -gas pedal--and launched forward with a powerful pull. All was silent. That's because the FCX's hydrogen is used to create power for an electric motor. The car sounds like a golf cart, albeit one with a few kitchen-blender-sounding whirs from the mixing of gases, and maybe a slight whine, like that of...
  • The Good Life

    Want to buy a pair of $1,600 Balenciaga black python stilettos for $175? Then head to a sample sale, where designers sell overstocks or items worn by models for up to 80 percent off wholesale. Just one catch: you have to find one first. "For years, you had to be a fashion editor at a magazine to get invited," says Stylebible.com founder Amanda Zuydervelt.No longer; the secret is out. Stylebible.com , which among other things provides lists of sample sales in London (and soon Paris and Florence), charges an annual membership fee of $238 --a bargain for the access you get. "Burberry doesn't open its doors to the general public," says Zuydervelt. "But it gives us invites."New York City-based DailyCandy.com e-mails its subscribers--2.4 million worldwide--details of local sample sales. The London editor, Kinvara Balfour, says the site e-mails subscribers seven to 10 locations in London twice a month. November highlights included Dolce & Gabbana, Diane von Furstenberg and Jenny...
  • A (good) case of the blues

    Just in time for winter, here comes the perfect open-air runabout. If, like me, you live in a warm winter climate, then the notion of tooling around in a convertible in the middle of December isn't nuts. Mazda's sassy MX-5 Miata Grand Touring now comes in a hard-topped convertible. Unlike its ragtop counterpart, the hard cover slices through foul weather with the effectiveness of a coupe. But at the touch of a button, the two-piece roof quickly tucks itself under a cover near the trunk, neat as a pin. And if the weather suddenly changes, the top goes up in 12 seconds.Like all Mazdas, this one's seriously fun and sporty. Though I wouldn't argue that this midget twin-seater is practical, it does have one of the largest trunks I've seen in its class. (It handily carries four bags of groceries.) And this Mazda is loaded with standard goodies, like power one-touch windows and fog lamps. As for handling, the rear-wheel-drive MX-5's chassis is taut with front and rear stabilizer bars, the...
  • The Best of Both Worlds

    Sedans are practical; coupes are smokin' hot. BMW's newest coupe is both. If you loathe the domestic look of a "family" car but still require its utility, then the 335i's racy lines will hook you. Even more impressive is this five-seater's sporty dossier. The 300-horsepower twin-turbo engine has not a hint of turbo lag. Inside, the 335i is a beautiful blend of luxury and sportiness. Glossy dark burled walnut is splashed across the dashboard, but the six-speed manual aluminum shift knob of my test car is a sporty nod. There's subtle sculpted racy body cladding along the sides and big, twin oval exhaust pipes. The Start-Off Assist automatically puts on the parking brake when the car is stopped on a hill and turns it off when the accelerator is engaged only with manuals. Spring for the $1,000 sport package to hit top speeds of 240kph.
  • Road Test BMW335I: Coupe de Gras

    Sedans are practical; coupes are smokin' hot. BMW's newest coupe is both. If you loathe the domestic look of a "family" car but still require its utility, then the 335i's racy lines will hook you. Even more impressive is this five-seater's sporty dossier. The 300-horsepower twin-turbo engine has not a hint of turbo lag. Inside, the 335i is a beautiful blend of luxury and sportiness. A generous amount of glossy dark burled walnut is splashed across the dashboard, but the six-speed manual aluminum shift knob of my test car is a sporty nod. There's subtle sculpted racy body cladding along the sides and big, twin oval exhaust pipes. I also like the Start-Off Assist, which automatically puts on the parking brake when the car is stopped on a hill and turns it off when the accelerator is engaged only with manuals. Though the 335i is significantly pricier than the entry-level 3 Series, it's a solid midpoint option for those who crave the power and performance of BMW's road-ripped M cars but...
  • Road Test: Nissan Versa SL

    I love things that are short and sweet. That's why Nissan's new ultracompact Versa grabs me. I liked it all: its stature, the time it takes to fill up at the pump and mostly its price. Inside, though, it's spacious enough for five adults, and it has a jumbo hatchback trunk, made even more ample with back seats folded flat. Headroom is exceptional, and the forward-placed windshield gives the driver and front-seat passenger loads of space up front.My test car came equipped with a leather-wrapped steering wheel with buttons for the audio and Bluetooth hands-free phone systems, easy-to-clean cloth seats in a fun geometric pattern, keyless entry and power doors and locks. But what I liked the most was how grippy and zippy the Versa is. My six-speed manual ran through short-ratio gears that kept the torque coming. I like to see some power from these little runabouts. And the Versa's chassis is firm enough to stay planted on winding canyon highways but not so unforgiving that it made my...
  • The Good Life

    These are not your grandmother's pearls. With fresh designs and combined with dazzling jewels, modern strings have come a long way from the classic single strand. "For a lifetime, if not for centuries, the look of pearls was a straight strand around the neck with nothing else," says SalvadorAssael, chairman ofAssael International, whose collections are sold around the world. "We realized that the new generation wanted something different--something youthful, versatile and suitable for every day." With eclectic designs by Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, the House of Assael utilizes pearls of every type and color, mixing them with precious and semiprecious stones and mundane objects like wood. The Rope Necklace features 54 semi-baroque iridescent gray Tahitian pearls strung with oval-shaped moonstones and ruby beads, set in 18-karat yellow gold ($60,000; assael.com ).The trend is being driven in part by the bounty of Chinese freshwater pearls, which come from mussels rather than oysters...
  • Gourmet: From the Ground Up

    About this time every year, foodies go mad and spend a small fortune on a large, ugly fungus: the Italian white truffle. Available only from mid-October to early December and found mainly in the woods of northern Italy, the winter truffle carries an intoxicating, earthy flavor. Restaurants like Beverly Hills' Il Pastaio (310-205-5444) serve paper-thin shavings over simply prepared pastas, risottos and salads ($38 to $78).Serving the aromatic tuber at home has also become simpler, thanks to online distributors. Purveyors such as sabatinostore.com receive daily shipments from Italy and overnight them to you ($145 per ounce, or about two to three servings) along with instructions on how to store and prepare them. Always shave the raw tuber, using a carrot peeler or mandoline, directly onto dishes. (Never cook truffles, as they are volatile and their aromatics break down quickly under heat.) Rich soups like cream of broccoli and pastas dressed with sautéed butter and sage allow the...
  • Travel: Grape Escapes

    Now and for the next few weeks, Napa Valley is in full harvest--the best time to visit. Check into Meadowood, the area's premier resort (rates from $525 per night; mead owood.com ), where many of the area's vintners hang out. Or just dine at the restaurant (from $60 for three courses) where you can mingle with locals and try to get invited on a private tour. Whether or not that works, pay a visit to Miner Family Vineyards (free tours; minerwines.com ) on the Silverado Trail for its delicious pinot noirs, Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons, and ask for a crush-pad tour. Here, you'll see how grapes go from the vineyard, to the de-stemmer (you can work the line if you ask nicely), to the crusher and then to the fermentation tanks. There's a comfortable tasting room too. And at the end of the day, make a stop at Go Fish ( 707-963-0700 ), Cindy Paulson's newest café, featuring locally grown produce, prime sushi and an extensive seafood menu. Here you can forsake the sake for some of the...
  • Road Test: Acura Rdx Tech

    With its new crossover vehicle, the RDX, Acura is hoping to be a contender. But is it just me, or is there a problem with the crossover concept? Designed like an SUV in its proportions, yet with a low-riding center of gravity, crossovers are meant to feel more like a car. The problem is, most retain the bulk of an SUV, so they handle less ably than a car or even a wagon. In the case of the RDX, I was put off by several bad blind spots, a problem I've seen in some other crossovers, too. The RDX does have zip, despite having a smaller, less-gas-guzzling 2.3-liter, 240-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, as well as good all-weather traction from all-wheel drive. But because its punch comes from a turbo boost, the vehicle exhibits prodigious turbo lag (more than other turbos I've driven), meaning there's a pregnant pause before it accelerates. I found it annoying.Inside, the RDX is outfitted with comfy seats. But I think the audio system is more complicated than it needs to be, and the...
  • Road Test: Hyundai Azera Limited

    If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Honda and even Lexus should be pink with pride. That's because Hyundai's new Azera has many of those marques' best features for a touch less. The Azera's exterior, with handsome lines, looks like an Accord, Honda's best-selling sedan. So it's no wonder I got repeated compliments about the car's hot body. Inside, it's the same story. Plush, heated leather seats keep everyone happy on a long drive. There's an electric rear-window sunshade and two automatic seat presets for the driver. And a little Lexus crept in with a leather and wood-trim steering wheel, shift knob and door pulls as glossily lacquered as a Rodeo Drive pedicure.The Azera is quick, from a 263-horsepower, 3.8-liter, V-6 engine. For a moment I thought that Hyundai had made the perfect midsize family sedan. After all, it comes standard with eight airbags and Electronic Stability Control for better traction. But then I tried to stop fast, and it took almost forever....
  • Road Test: BMW M6

    To say the new M6 is a sweet ride is to utter the obvious. Its 5.0-liter, V10 engine cranks 500 horses, looks fast even when it's parked and costs more than most of us earn in a year. And though this 2 + 2 (four-seater) has a backseat that can somewhat comfortably fit a human shorter than 5 feet 3, this sports coupe is first and foremost a driver's car. Tight handling, responsive steering, at-the-ready acceleration. In real terms, it made my family and friends nervous to accompany me. At one point, I heard the words come out of my mouth: "It's almost too fast." Can't believe I said that. But the beauty of BMW is that it builds cars to handle speed, with a rigid chassis to hold the road, and big cross-drilled brakes that could stop a runaway locomotive.The carbon-fiber roof looks sleek but is actually there to reduce weight. Lacquered carbon fiber also adorns the dashboard for a sporty look. I felt secure in the snug, bolstered seats, which hugged my thighs, hips and shoulders while...
  • Road Test: Mazda Speed3

    It you think car writers live to test exotic sports cars on a racetrack, you're right. So when Mazda invited me recently to the notoriously fast Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif., to sample its new under-$25,000 sport compact Mazdaspeed3, you'd guess I'd yawn. Instead I spent the day begging for more lap time. With a 2.3-liter, 263-horsepower turbo engine, this hatchback is a pit bull in poodle duds, achieving 60mph in six seconds.( The motor's direct injection increases torque and boosts turbo response.) To me, it was like downing a shot of adrenaline: raw, quick, exhilarating. And you can't beat this price.A stiff--but not achingly stiff--suspension keeps this hatchback pointed where you want to go, with predictable handling that boosted my confidence. Sharp brakes and accurate steering complete the experience. It even musters a satisfying (and hot, hot, hot) vroom sound. But don't think it's just a toy. With plenty of room for five adults and a spacious cargo area, this...
  • Road Test: FJ Cruiser

    The next time I cruise through Kenya, I know exactly which truck I'll take: Toyota's new retro-style FJ Cruiser. I mean, just look at this thing--if it could speak, its mother tongue would be not Japanese but Swahili. From the outside, it takes the best boxy design cues from the old Land Cruiser. You know, the one from the '70s that carried macho safari guys. But most of us live in the city, and maybe it's not an ideal choice for our urban jungles.At 71.6 inches high, it's so tall that when I entered a city-owned parking lot in Los Angeles, the roof rack scraped the ceiling and broke. Not good. Well, at least the FJ Cruiser handles well. My six-speed manual tester has good ground clearance for uneven terrain, four-wheel-drive to get out of muddy situations off-road and a 5,000-pound towing capacity. If, um, you want to bring home a baby elephant.Tip: Forgo the 4X4 for a two-wheel-drive version and save $1,590.
  • Hot Wheels

    In 1991, shallow pockets forced Bill Wiemann to sell his 12 muscle cars. He got $200,000 for a collection that included a '69 Plymouth 6-Pack Road Runner, a '70 Dodge Charger and a '70 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda (think the General Lee from "The Dukes of Hazzard"). But the loss hurt. So much so that after making a killing in commercial real estate, he bought back the cars, one by one, at auctions. This time, however, Wiemann grabbed limited editions and convertibles, spending more than he cares to total. Earlier this year, he paid $2.16 million just for the 'Cuda (it cost $5,200 new in 1970). It's now boarded with his other prizes in a garage with a transparent door he can gaze through from his bedroom; the cars are treated to classic rock because, he says, it makes them happy. "Some people love art and think nothing of popping $20 million on a painting," says Wiemann, 45, of Phoenix. "For me, it's muscle cars."While the Detroit of 2006 struggles to survive, the fast bruisers cranked out by...
  • Rad But Practical

    Toting the family around in a minivan is easy and practical, but it sure isn't cool. For that, try the new Jeep Compass, a small but fierce SUV that's engineered for city driving yet can also handle rigorous off-roading with four-wheel-drive traction on command. While I chauffeured, my family lazily lounged in back with nearly 40 inches of legroom. All that space and there was still room for our gear, thanks to a generous 53 inches of cargo capacity.I like the Compass's trailblazing style: gauge surrounds that look like compass dials, clean modern graphics and a squared-off boxy design on the dashboard. As for performance, the Compass is equipped two ways: a standard front-wheel-drive version or a four-wheel-drive for superior grip on wet, snowy or even sandy roads. My kid thought the gigantic speakers on each door were way rad, though I could have done without that über -urban touch. Yet we all agreed that the Compass looks hipper in the playground parking lot than any minivan, and...