Tara Weingarten

Stories by Tara Weingarten

  • At A Crossroads

    I stared at the redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee and saw a hint of minivan. "No," my friend said, "it has Hummer lines, it's more buff." I could see that, too. So how could it look like both a minivan and an assault truck? Say hello to the age of the "crossover" vehicle. Part family transport, part utilitarian hauler, part off-road wonder, today's vehicles want to be all things to all people. And the 2005 Grand Cherokee does it better than most.We hopped in the car for a day of testing on southern California's steep mountain roads. Wearing a 5.7-liter HEMI, 330-horsepower V-8 engine, the Grand Cherokee bolted up hills leaving room for more power. To test its 375 lb.-ft. torque towing capacity we hitched my buddy's boat to the back. No problem. Off-road, we devoured rocks as if they were pebbles. But I was concerned the brakes were underpowered for its size since it took longer to stop than I would have liked. I was also put off by the car's onboard computer, which alerted me to my 9...
  • Bring Me An Island

    Peter Palmisano is a jet-setter. No, the Napa Valley resort owner doesn't wear open shirts and gold chains, but he is a member of Abercrombie & Kent, one of about 15 destination clubs, a travel service modeled on country clubs that first appeared about five years ago. They offer members access to luxury properties for a price: A&K membership costs $275,000 to $450,000, with yearly dues of $8,000 to $30,000. Founded in 1999, A&K offers what CEO Rob McGrath calls "white glove" access to an expanding list of more than 70 houses and apartments in 29 locations worldwide. Expect the fire to be lit, the cook to be ready with your dinner, the babysitter to be waiting and a gassed-up BMW in the garage when you arrive. Palmisano and his bride honeymooned last year in Belize, where A& K dropped them off on a different deserted island every evening with a gourmet dinner. He's also used A&K in Arizona and New York. "Why limit yourself to one destination when you can travel...
  • ROAD TEST | TOYOTA SCION TC

    Why should kids have all the fun? Though Toyota asked its youngest designers to build a line of cars they themselves would want to drive, this newest Scion, the tC, appeals to my short-on-cash but want-it-all-anyway inner teen. For $17,265 the hatchback tC is long on extras like an in-dash 160-watt Pioneer CD audio system with six speakers; power windows, doors and mirrors; a tilt steering wheel; halogen headlights and two moonroofs, one each for front-and rear-seat passengers. The sporty instrument panel is whimsical: chromed accents everywhere and edgy amber illuminated gauges.I think the tC's 160-horsepower, 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine is spry, and handling is very good. But what I particularly like, seeing as this is likely to be an inexperienced driver's car, are the standard safety features: airbags for both front seats, plus a driver's-knee airbag, antilock brakes and three rear head restraints to help prevent whiplash in a crash. Though it isn't much to look at from the...
  • ROAD TEST: FORD GT

    Test driving Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Bentleys, one expects lookie-loos. But with a Ford? Clearly, this is no ordinary Ford. With a warplike 205mph top speed, the GT is one of the most anticipated sports cars to come out of Detroit in years. Packing a 5.4-liter, supercharged V-8, 550-horsepower engine, so robust and full of vibration it jiggles the flesh, this 1960s-inspired supercar hits 60mph in a mind-numbing 3.3 seconds. Inside, aluminum toggle switches and gauge surrounds feel space age. So showy, and yet something intangible is missing. Though it handles nicely, accelerates like a slingshot and has the looks of a virile leading man, the GT lacks the subtle steering finesse that I love in comparably priced European sports cars. That aside, it's one of the few American cars buff enough to make grown men cry.Tip: With just 1,500 made, expect premiums up to $100,000 over sticker.
  • It's Camp Chardonnay

    It's fall harvest in Napa Valley. Workers slice ripe, heavy grape clusters off the vines. They taste a grape or two, pronounce them sweet, wield the knife and toss the cluster over their heads into a bucket strapped onto a backpack. But these are no ordinary laborers. Each one has paid hundreds for the privilege of learning about how wine is made. It's called "crush camp," and it's a fantasy for the budding wine enthusiast. We checked out several California wineries that have opened their vineyards to beginners.St. Supery's "Harvest Adventure" in the Rutherford area of Napa Valley is one of the best. It teaches the basics in a $250 half-day program (stsupery.com). Instead of a babbling tour guide, you get a winemaker to lead you though the vineyards. "We learn about Brix--the sugar analysis--on our 35-acre estate, and it feels pretty good to be surrounded by Chardonnay and Petit Verdot in this beautiful valley so early in the morning," says St. Supery's CEO Michaela Rodeno. It...
  • Road Test | Subaru Outback

    I'm a West Coast woman but I can't help but feel like a New Englander in Subaru's redesigned Outback L.L. Bean edition. It has so many practical features that Northeastern folks covet, yet it's also loaded with town-and-country luxuries like thick Berber floor mats, matte (OK, simulated) wood and chrome interior accents, a leather-wrapped and lacquered mahogany steering wheel and an enormous panoramic sunroof that extends deep into the back seat.On the practical side, there is ample rubber-lined cargo space, well-designed backseat cup holders and fantastically quick acceleration from the 3.0-liter, 250-horsepower, 6-cylinder Boxer engine. And, like all Subarus, this one comes standard with full-time all-wheel drive, which not only helps get you through tough winter storms but also makes for excellent traction, even on dry pavement. Of course, it does guzzle more gas than a standard two-wheel- drive vehicle. Yet I loved how the new Outback handles, tight and predictable. All the...
  • Perfect Weekend: The Hamlet By The Sea

    Sausalito, the postage-stamp-size waterfront village just over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, has a colorful past. Decades ago its mayor was a convicted madam. More recently, touristy shops flooded the artsy town. Today this hamlet has reached a deserved high-water mark--and it's the perfect northern California getaway.Stay at Casa Madrona. A refurbished 1885 mansion with 16 hillside cottages, many with private bay-view decks and fireplaces, and a new luxury spa. Rates from $149; casamadrona. com.Eat at Poggio. An upscale northern Italian sidewalk trattoria with homemade gnocchi that's light and delicate, and salads and vegetables plucked from the restaurant's organic garden; poggiotrattoria. com.See the Sausalito Art Festival over Labor Day weekend. In its 52nd year, with 20,000 works of original paintings, sculpture, glass and photography by local artists; $20 entry; sausalitoartfestival. org.Visit the Discovery Museum with kids. Renovations add a replica of the San...
  • TIPSHEET

    Eugenio Perazza just wanted a desk for his 2-year-old granddaughter, Anna, a budding artist. But Perazza, the owner of the Italian furniture-design firm Magis, couldn't find any well-made, modern kids' pieces that he liked. The search inspired him to launch Me Too (www. magisdesign.com), a new children's line that marries high-end, contemporary design with childlike whimsy. With vivid colors and clean forms, the collection includes such styles as Seggiolina Pop (soft, simple chairs in lilac or citrus colors) and Julian (a tomato-red stool with a comic-strip feel).In recent years, companies with furnishings aimed at tykes, such as Pottery Barn Kids, Bombay Kids and Land of Nod, have become increasingly common. Me Too is one of a small but growing band of designers making fanciful kids' products meant for a contemporary home. "I think there's a focus on functionality that's important, but there's also an emphasis on fun," says Phil Robinson, who oversees the annual International...
  • ROAD TEST | VOLKSWAGEN R32

    Some cars, like the R32, look like they were designed for teenagers. But this compact hatchback, whose exterior resembles an ordinary GTI model with some extra sport cladding, is really a beast in bunny-rabbit clothing--and far too much car for a child. The beefy 3.2-liter, 240-horsepower VR6 engine cradled inside a lightweight package makes for one exhilarating, rocket-propelled ride.At first glance, the R32 hardly looks like a $30,000 car. I mean, check it out, where's the snob factor? It's under the hood, in the dual exhaust pipes and six-speed shifter, around the Electronic Stabilization Program and on the standard 18-inch alloy wheels. I like the brushed-aluminum interior accents, the power moon roof and, especially, the Koenig sport seats and three-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel. Yeah, baby. And just in case the R32's wolf-like offerings make the driver (not me, of course) do something stupid, there are excellent safety features, like side air bags for front-seat riders,...
  • ROAD TEST | FORD FOCUS

    Who would have guessed that the Focus, long popular for its low price and not much else, would emerge in a 2005 redesign as a true driver's car? The ZX4 ST sedan, which comes only in 5-speed manual, satisfied all my pragmatic demands, plus my need for speed. On the sensible side, it has a huge trunk and a spacious interior, and features like air conditioning, power windows, doors and mirrors. As for performance, the 2.3-liter Duratec inline 4-cylinder engine puts out a sufficient 151 horses for the car's light weight, and the handling is superb. Ford improved everything on the new Focus: its suspension is tighter, it has better struts, shocks, brakes and increased low-end torque, plus improved fuel economy. Its engine sound is even mean and sportier. And there are interior delights like a leather-sheathed steering wheel and shift knob, an aluminum gauge panel and an excellent MP3/CD audio system. So much for so little is so rare these days.Tip: To save $5,000 opt for the less sporty...
  • TRAVEL: IT'S DOUBLE OR NOTHING

    Trey Taylor thought he had frequent-flier miles all figured out. The Atlanta-based Internet executive flies Delta exclusively, shops with a SkyMiles credit card and pays his mortgage online through a program with a Delta tie-in. You'd think he'd be darting around the planet free. Instead, when Taylor attempted to trade some of his 250,000 miles for a trip to Roanoke, Va., last month, the airline gave him two options: choose a different date or fork over double the miles. Feeling cheated, he paid cash for two full-fare tickets. "Some of the airlines are very good at giving out the miles," he says, "but they don't want to take them back."Sound familiar? To the 70 million Americans who participate in frequent-flier programs, it's not news that free tickets are hard to come by. But there are signs that it's becoming even more difficult. As carriers struggle to stay profitable, many have reduced the number of daily flights and, consequently, the number of seats available to nonpaying...
  • NO ROSE GARDEN

    We all know you go to Sonoma to taste good wine, but now gardeners seeking inspiration can look beyond the local grape. The Cornerstone Festival of Gardens (cornerstonegardens.com), the nation's first permanent folly garden, opened last month and showcases the best in cutting-edge international landscape design. Forget about pansies and tulips. Here superstars of the garden use man-made materials to tart up the landscape.Claude Cormier's "Blue Tree" is a Monterey pine (diseased and destined to be chopped down) that's encased in 80,000 sky-blue Christmas balls. At certain times of day the tree seems to disappear into the saturated blue northern California sky. In an ode to rural America kitsch, Tom Leader's "Break Out" is a maze in which visitors pass through dozens of screen doors and come upon a radio crackling a Johnny Cash tune and a fridge filled with staples like Spam, yellow mustard and beer. Other designers include Topher Delaney, whose works are now on display in Germany;...
  • ROAD TEST: MAZDA MPV

    Face it, no one buys a minivan to be fashionable. But the Mazda MPV, while not a standout in the looks department, has charms to make any parent smile, not the least of which is its low price. Like all minivans, it has ample room for seven. But it also has a third row of "tumble under" seats that fold flush into the floor, and the second row of stadium-style seats is on rails, so they slide to one side or can easily be taken out completely to enlarge cargo space.Most surprising to me was how swiftly this van moved. With a 3.0-liter, 200-horsepower engine, this box zipped into freeway traffic at my command. Its four-wheel antilock disc brakes are excellent, as is the van's smooth, seamless shifting. My gripes: the steering-wheel-mounted shifter extends up over the dashboard, blocking my view of the radio controls. Not to mention the dash's bland plastic styling. How about a little pizazz? It seems Mazda put all that under the hood.Tip: My top pick for sports-car-minded drivers with...
  • GUYS PICKUP ON THIS

    Single women, take note. Chevy's new SSR pickup is a guy magnet. Driving my shockingly yellow tester, I was hooted at no fewer than five times. A guy in a passing Lexus even pressed his nose against his car window to take a look. You fellas crack me up. But I admit that this fiery hot-rod pickup, with its Jughead-and-Veronica styling, is an eye-catcher. Love it or hate it, with a 300-horsepower V-8 engine, this truck means business, running on the same rugged platform as a GMC Envoy and Chevy Trailblazer.General Motors went for broke here, with a hard-covered flatbed and retractable hardtop roof, both of which operate at the flick of a switch. Interior buttons and gauges, sheathed in matte aluminum, keep with the doo-wop theme; they're oversize and almost cartoonish-looking. But like many pickups, the SSR is a two-seater, which seems a bit outdated. When I hauled a new computer home from the store, my husband had to drive his own car so our son wasn't left behind. Not very practical...
  • FOOD: WHAT'S IN A NAME?

    Adam Tihany had one caveat before agreeing to design Cravings, the Mirage hotel's new $12 million buffet that opened late last month in Las Vegas: don't call it a buffet. His preference? An "all-you-can-eat self-service dining experience." Fine: ditching the moniker was a small concession for Mirage executives to make to lure Tihany, the renowned designer behind New York City's Jean Georges and the Mandarin Bar near London's Hyde Park. "I see Las Vegas as the single most important design laboratory," says Tihany. "Forget Asia and Europe."Gone are the steam-warmed vats of lasagne--and the suspiciously low price: dinner is $20.50 per person. Food is cooked fresh at individual stations, served up on small, stylish plates, and, in some cases, made to order. Dishes like freshly sliced sushi, wood-fired pizza and hearts-of-palm salad are displayed in front of the kitchens--and wood ovens--where they're prepared. And the decor is elevated, with stylish tabletop flatware and oversize square...
  • Tip Sheet

    Travel: Fly Business--For LessFlying "business" used to entitle employees not just to unlimited wine and legroom but also to pampered, restriction-free travel. That meant a personal trip planner and the flexibility to take an earlier flight if the conference got boring. Then came the 2001 terrorist attacks, the global recession, the war in Iraq and SARS. Businesses, which used to account for 70 percent of airlines' revenue, slashed their travel budgets, replacing face-to-face meetings with videoconferences and luxury air travel with trains. Meanwhile, low-cost carriers drove down standard ticket prices so much that economy-class fares are now on average six times cheaper than business class.With the recession lifting and cross-border business booming, business travelers are starting to see the end of box-lunch coach travel. The first quarter of this year saw the greatest upturn in business travel budgets since before 9/11--15 percent more than the first quarter of 2003, according to...
  • Road Test: Mustang: A Real Stallion

    The valet parking attendant outside an L.A. restaurant opened my car door and gushed, "Mucho macho." I beg your pardon? I may not be a Barbie doll, but no one's ever called me macho before. Then I saw him checking out my tester, the beefy 40th-anniversary edition Mustang, as if it were Carmen Electra. Whew. My femininity still intact, I had to agree. Like the Mustangs many of us grew up with (Ford has sold 8 million) this stallion is 100 percent American muscle. It has a 4.6-liter, V-8 grumbly engine that cranks 260 horses; it gallops at the slightest tap. And it looks the part with "mucho macho" racing stripes on the long, low profile hood and sports-car-like body cladding.Best of all, it's a fun ride, with good steering and suspension. My coupe's red paint glittered in the California rays. And I admired the oversize leather shift knob that's like a Vegas slot pull. But the biggest drag is the rest of the interior, with budget-looking plastic and an unimaginative dashboard array....
  • A Toy Story

    Everything about Mazda's fancy new Miata reminds me of the old roadsters from the atomic age. Remember those charming Triumphs, MGs and Datsuns from the early 1960s? They rode low to the ground, held the road tight and had responsive steering. But mostly, they just looked like fun. Zipping through town in the MX-5 was a blast. I'm reluctant to call this two-seat ragtop a toy--but I can't help it. You play with toys to have fun, right?This Mazdaspeed Miata is tricked out with chromed pedals, a sporty gauge cluster, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and body-hugging bucket seats. I dig the car's manual soft top; it quickly slides up and down without the worries of electrical failure. But I was surprised at the sluggish turbocharged 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. I expected a little more oomph. I also loathed the tinny-sounding Bose stereo system. But that's not Mazda's fault; I've always thought that Bose makes inferior car stereos. Then again, I can't think of another car on the...
  • Road Test: Gmc Envoy Xuv

    I picked up a set of birch trees for my yard last week and hauled them home all by myself. I'm not bragging--or going into the landscape biz. It's just that I was driving around town, testing out GMC's new Envoy XUV, when I passed a nursery and thought, "Why not?" The Envoy XUV has a power-sliding roof that retracts, turning this SUV into a pickup truck at the touch of button. This versatile transport begs for spontaneous tree-shopping, since the rear cargo area is sheathed in plastic and easy to hose down. A power MidGate window separates the cargo and passenger areas, meaning the truck can handle long items with the window down or be closed off during inclement weather. It also has a power-window tailgate that drops or swings, to accommodate loading items of various sizes.Though the XUV is classified as a midsize SUV, I thought it was plenty big--with more than 95 cubic feet of cargo space. My trees certainly had room to spread out. So did my family. The most serious complaint I...
  • Drive Like A Rebel

    In the 1950s, James Dean looked hot in his white tee and blue jeans. But he looked even hotter leaning against his sleek silver Porsche 550 Spyder. If you can overlook the horrible end Dean met in his car, you can't help but be fond of the roadster's charming looks. And underneath its hood was Porsche's first Boxer engine. Now, the German carmaker commemorates that compact powerful motor with the limited-edition Boxster S.Along with other car writers, I spent a day driving those same curvy two-laners that Dean drove nearly 50 years ago. But had he driven today's Boxster, with its myriad safety features (airbags, automatic skid control and a wider, lower stance), he would probably have come out alive. Besides improved safety gizmos, the limited anniversary edition comes with a 264-horsepower engine (164 more ponies than Dean's model), a sport-tuned suspension and a numbered plate for each of the 1,953 anniversary editions made. It comes in one fabulous color: Dean's metallic silver,...
  • Topless Fun

    You might as well call that little black Sport button on the 645Ci's center console the car's very own jet pack. And when I pushed it, it felt like afterburners on the Batmobile kicked in; I was thrust back. And no wonder--it's the same big, 4.4-liter, 325-horsepower V-8 engine found on the heavier 7 Series. Cheap thrills? Not really; it is, after all, a BMW.Bimmer fans have waited 15 years for the relaunch of the 6 Series, known to be the luxury sport model. With a shorter wheelbase than the 5 Series, and wearing more lightweight components, the 645Ci is deft and powerful, with balletlike handling. The back seat is roomy enough for two passengers, though maybe not for long trips. And trunk space is surprisingly generous. But all is not perfect. The convertible's design is an odd combination of bland and chunky, with large pieces of sheet metal contorted into inelegant configurations. And that nasty iDrive computer system makes it hard to program the radio stations--much less the...
  • ROAD TEST: FORD ESCAPE

    Call it the trickle-down effect. Ford's newly redesigned small SUV, the Escape, has the same luxe goodies as the carmaker's more expensive models. The best part? It costs a whole lot less. For about $25,000 this comfy ride includes standard features like leather seats, air conditioning, six-disc in-dash CD, power driver's seat and dual illuminated vanity mirrors. Now, I'm not saying that you'd mistake the Escape for a Mercedes, but amenities like these aren't normally found in such a well-priced vehicle.The benefits don't stop with creature comforts. Because it's lightweight and wearing a Duratec 3.0-liter V-6 engine that cranks out 201 horses, it's spry. And with its four-wheel independent suspension, I felt that the Escape handled less like an SUV and more like a car. On a day trip up the California coast, the interior was roomy enough for my friends and our gear, and the exterior compact enough that I didn't feel like a road hog. While with the larger SUVs lane changes often need...
  • PUT ON THE RITZ

    The civilized way to cinch a business deal in London is over a glass of Grandes Marques champagne. But where can you find tete de cuvee champagnes by the glass? Try the Ritz London (www.theritzlondon.com). As its centennial celebration in 2006 approaches, the hotel's restaurants and bars will feature bubbly by the glass, bottle and magnum from a different top champagne house. This month they're pouring four bottlings of Lanson, known for its yeasty, full-bodied cuvees. "You can try four different cuvees from one house and not have to buy an entire bottle," says the Ritz's Jeremy Dowmer. Later this year, the hotel will feature Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon. "We're just releasing the [Dom Perignon] 1996 vintage, which is forceful and muscular," says Richard Geoffroy, the company's wine maker. "It's the perfect complement to a successful business dinner."
  • ROAD TEST: MERCURY MONTEREY

    It wasn't a conventional test for a minivan, but I knew it would be telling. I took Mercury's new family ferry for a run on twisty Mulholland Drive. While most minivans can carry a Little League team or grown-ups on a triple date, I've long griped that they're lousy road handlers. Now I'm eating my words. Though I wouldn't pit the Monterey against a Maserati, this hauler gave an impressively stiff ride--more like a solid sedan--with adept steering. Mercury touts its torque, but the vehicle was a tad sluggish, too heavy for its 201-horsepower V-6 engine. Then again, with screaming kids, speed is probably your last worry.Another nicety is how high you sit, towering above the road at SUV level, with the safety of a lower center of gravity. The dashboard gets luxury appointments like chrome-ringed gauges and door handles. The seats aren't as comfortable as they look, but I like the dual remote-controlled back doors and spacious cargo area. Best of all, the interior is quite rich looking...
  • ROAD TEST | CHEVY MALIBU

    My thoughts on the Chevy Malibu were always clear. With its unimaginative, plasticky looks, it was the perfect rental car--just not something you'd ever want to own. But its complete 2004 redesign--a new platform it shares with the sporty Saab 9-3, a respectable 200 horsepower, V-6 engine and somewhat edgier styling--has me singing a different tune about this reasonably priced family sedan. It always seemed stunning to me that GM would sit out the race while Toyota Camry, Honda Accord or Ford Taurus were chosen as America's favorite low- to midpriced sedan.Those days may be over. This car's a deal, priced at thousands less than a comparable Accord or Camry. And my LS model even had some nice extras like a one-touch driver's power window, an in-dash CD and six speakers, and power-adjustable brake and gas pedals. Though I liked the car's acceleration, I was disappointed in its chintzy 15-inch wheels. And I found it difficult to get comfy in the poorly sculpted front seats. Still, in a...
  • ROAD TEST: ISUZU AXIOM

    Tooling around L.A. in Isuzu's new midsize SUV, the Axiom, I was thinking just one thing: this automotive category is overcrowded. It's hard to tell Isuzu's entry from the others. Yes, it's roomy. Yes, it's comfortable. Yes, there's generous cargo space. But it tips the scales above $31,000, and I'm just not sure it's worth it. My tester gave a squishy ride, great for climbing over rocky hilltops but not so hot for cornering on city streets. Too much sway. And I'm concerned about safety, since my car came equipped only with front, not side, airbags.There are positives, though. I like the power: good torque from a 250-horsepower engine. And the amply sized seats pampered my body on long drives. The Axiom's exterior looks funky--a plus in my book--with front air vents that resemble window shutters. But it's the boxy styling that let me down. I do like that the Axiom rides high yet has a moderate step-up, so I didn't pull any muscles getting in and out of the vehicle. And on a day trip...
  • DUDE RANCH: INTEL OUTSIDE

    Tom Moore and his wife, Krista, live in the wilderness outside Seattle. So when it comes to vacations, you'd think they might opt for something other than the rustic outdoors. But they can't escape the lure of Triple Creek Ranch, a western Montana hideaway. It's the ultimate in luxury dude ranches, but its owner is no mere dude. Craig Barrett's other job is CEO of Intel.In the heart of the Bitterroot wilderness, Triple Creek is a fabulously expensive Relais & Chateaux property catering to the jet-and-helicopter set, and is also popular for small corporate retreats (up to 48 people). Nineteen cabins dot the 450-acre property, all with wood-burning fireplaces, some with hot tubs. There's cattle rustling, rafting, horseback riding, fishing, hiking, golf and tennis. The Moores return each year for the Vintner's Series--five weekends hosted by famous winemakers.Luxury, of course, has a price tag. Nightly rates range from $510 to $995 per couple (children under 16 are not invited)....
  • BEAUTY: HAND CREAMS

    Ole Henriksen's Hands Forward With SPF 15 and scented with soothing rosemary, this rich cream not only softens, it includes a mushroom derivative that helps fade brown spots, and lemon and orange extracts to stimulate cell turnover.$18; olehenriksen.com.Elizabeth W Hand and Body Cream Gently scented with such florals as hyacinth and violet, it's as beautifully packaged as the rest of the company's product line. A few dips into this glass jar of whipped cream will soothe even the roughest hands. $22; elizabethw.com.Mario Badescu's Special Hand Cream with Vitamin E Rich, dense and creamy, this lotion is packed with wheat-germ oil and honey extract to repair dry, even cracked hands. The vitamin E helps it sink into your skin fast and avoids those greasy moments. $12; mariobadescu.com.L'Occitane Softening Hand Scrub A creamy, textured scrub infused with oatmeal and white clay leaves hands remarkably soft. Finish with L'Occitane's Hand Cream, comprised of almond extract and shea butter. ...
  • ROAD TEST: VOLVO S40

    Who says luxury doesn't come cheap? Certainly not Volvo. The new $25,000 S40 is urbane, with exterior design cues yanked from the company's top-tier S80, and sleek interior aluminum accents. Darting through freeway traffic, I was surprised at how substantial the S40 felt, more solid than similarly priced cars. What a far cry from Volvo's previous S40, which struck me as budget not only in design but also in performance. As for safety, Volvo owns the category, with loads of crumple zones to help absorb crash energy and ample use of high-strength steel, for high-speed collisions. There's also an army of airbags, front, back and side.Inside the cabin is roomier and taller, and I love the modern upholstery fabric on seating inspired by sportswear and high-performance luggage. Forget leather, Volvo's so-called T-Tec fabric did a great job keeping me warm on chilly mornings and cool as the day warmed up. My test car's optional heated seats worked quickly and were as cozy as an electric...
  • ROAD TEST: MITSUBISHI LANCER

    Some cars seem to have no purpose other than to impart sheer delight to the driver. The Lancer Evolution RS is just such a car. You wouldn't know it from the outside: the design has all the personality of an entry-level econo-box. Only the oversize air-intake holes give a nod to what's in store. Inside, there is no audio system, no sunroof, no intermittent wipers or remotely controlled door locks. There's no vanity mirror on the sun visor, no leather seating, no map light, and it comes equipped with crank windows! (When's the last time you saw those?) By now, you must think I've lost my mind. What the Evo, as it's affectionately called, does deliver is pure road-hugging joy.The car's acute steering is as pointed as a go-cart's. And the power curve, reached through a manual five-speed, seems to ascend forever with the help of a turbo booster on its two-liter, 271-horsepower engine. And thanks to its full-time all-wheel drive, it handled L.A.'s winding canyon roads like a racetrack....
  • A VINEYARD OF ONE'S OWN

    For the past six years Orrin Devinsky has been making "perfectly drinkable" wine in a Short Hills, N.J., garage. Now Devinsky, a physician and director of New York University's Epilepsy Center, thinks he's ready to join the ranks of Napa Valley's elite. Along with 70 other Mondavi wanna-bes, he's plunked down $100,000 to become a member of the Napa Valley Reserve, a wine-making venture based in St. Helena, Calif. (thenapavalleyreserve .com). The price may sound steep, but it's a bargain compared with the $10 million or so it takes to start up a winery.Beginning this fall, members will be able to use the club's state-of-the-art facilities to produce up to three barrels (75 cases) of wine per year from grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon and merlot) grown on the Reserve's 50-acre vineyard. Members get direction from the vineyard managers at Harlan Estate, one of Napa's most prestigious cult wineries. The Mondavis don't need to worry: state law forbids members to sell their wine; it's limited...
  • ROAD TEST: BEETLE ON STEROIDS

    In German, Volkswagen means "people's car." I don't know many folks who can afford VW's new $66,000 luxury sedan, the Phaeton. But if I did, I know that once they drive it, they'd want to own one. The Phaeton was built to compete with luxury full-sizers like BMW's 7 Series and Mercedes's S Class, and it hits a bull's-eye on all fronts. It has limo-like roominess, is loaded with elegant features like glossy eucalyptus accents and, with a 335-horsepower V-8 engine, it has a lot of pep. Then again, there's that VW logo. Will shoppers willing to shell out $66K forgive the plebeian nameplate when, for just $5,000 more, they could buy a luxe car with an established cachet? That's VW's enormous gamble.One drive and I was hooked. The amply sized 18-way power driver's seat is ventilated for heat and A/C, and gives a heck of a massage. An option gives back-seat passengers the same. And I like Phaeton's sophisticated dashboard--when not in use, the vents disappear behind a lacquered band of...