Tara Weingarten

Stories by Tara Weingarten

  • ROAD TEST: PONTIAC GTO

    When the GTO first hit the road 40 years ago, it was General Motors' answer to the Ferrari. The all-new GTO reminds me of a guy with a stellar six-pack stomach and buff pecs, but who hides them under cheapo sweats. During the week I tested the new coupe, several friends asked if I was driving a rental. But a quick jab at the accelerator answered the question. The GTO has a spectacular V-8, 350-horsepower engine and a sport-tuned exhaust that belts out a sonorous grumble. It's fast (0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds), handles tight (though not rough) and comes with an optional manual six-speed (taken from the Corvette Z06). Sadly, the dual air intakes that made the 1964 model so virile are gone, as are some of the other masculine design details. Under the hood, though, it's all beefcake.Tip: An alternative to the Corvette for $11K less.
  • ROAD TEST: KIA AMANTI

    Get this. I'm standing at a restaurant valet parking with my boss as my car is brought round. "Oh, you driving the new Mercedes?" he asks. "Yeah," I say. "Come take a look." He ogles the elegant front end. He peeks inside. "It looks really plush," he says. Then I lay it on him: "It's a Kia, and it costs $25,535." His eyes bugged out--and who could blame him? Kia's new full-size sedan, the Amanti, has few telltale Korean-budget-design cues. Instead, it takes direction from the finest luxury cars: its headlamps mirror the Mercedes's elliptical lights, its grille is pure Jaguar S-Type and its taillights seem yanked from an Audi A8.The posh feeling continues inside with its primo Infinity sound system and burled-maple accents. OK, the maple is fake, but it really looks good. And the Amanti's 3.5-liter V-6 engine gives a nice kick. Of course, no one makes a cheap luxury car without compromising on something, and I find the Amanti's ride is dishearteningly soft. While its cushy suspension...
  • DINING: CONFIDENTIAL KITCHEN

    The worst table at a restaurant used to be the one right next to the kitchen. But now, many diners are booking months ahead for special tables that offer a ringside view of top chefs in action. Here are a few of our favorite "Chef's Tables."Patina (L.A.)At the new Walt Disney Concert Hall, celeb chef Joachim Splichal offers a private nine-seater with a picture-window view of all the slicing and dicing. A two-hour, four-course dinner is $85.Commander's Palace (New Orleans)A four-seat table, wedged right inside the kitchen, is affectionately called the Chef's Playground. A seven-courser is $75 and requires reservations nearly six months in advance.Charlie Trotter's (Chicago)Snag one of two nightly seatings at this six-seat table adjacent to Trotter's station. Bring a big appetite and a fat wallet--this 14-course dinner will set you back $175.Hotel Bel Air (Bel Air, Calif.)A Hollywood hideout: big-name celebrities mark birthdays and writers celebrate first screenplays at Table One. A...
  • ROAD TEST: LAMBORGHINI GALLARDO

    It's hard to spin heads in Beverly Hills, land of flash and beauty. So imagine my surprise when scores of people did double-takes at my screaming yellow Gallardo as I cruised along Rodeo Drive. Even after they realized I wasn't celebrity material, they kept staring. That's how stunning this Italian exotic is.The Gallardo is a performance monster, too. The V-10 500-horse engine rockets from 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds (paddle shifters, operated with the tap of a finger, move you quickly through its six gears). But like all true sports cars with great handling, the Gallardo has a brutal ride, and you feel every pothole.I was impressed with the car's manly interior: a leather-sheathed dashboard and instrument panel, and surprisingly comfy racing-inspired seats. The steering wheel also has thumb indentations that positioned my hands for race-ready driving in the 9-to-3 configuration. Since Lamborghini is now owned by Volkswagen/Audi, some interior features look decidedly Audiesque--I like...
  • Dessert: Oldies But Sweeties

    Forget lavender mousse and pomegranate sorbet--what serious diners want for dessert these days is nostalgia on a plate. And top restaurants across the country are regressing fast. From the chocolate peanut-butter pudding cake at chef Michael Mina's new Seablue at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, to the flaming baked Alaska at Morels in Los Angeles (left), to the British nursery treat Nutella that Alain Ducasse serves right out of the jar at Mix, his new place in New York, retro desserts are everywhere. "People love what they ate as a kid," says Mina. "I just make everything a little upscale so my customers aren't embarrassed."Perhaps no one has taken things as far as Kerry Simon, chef at the eponymous Simon in Las Vegas. Winking at his world-class pedigree, Simon whips up his own perfect replicas of Hostess Twinkies. Vegas may be embracing the trend, but New York got it rolling. Cotton candy has been on the menu at the city's famous Four Seasons for years.
  • Travel: For Body And Mind

    Bored with that age-defying facial and hot-rock massage? No worries--spas across the nation are constantly cooking up new treatments to keep you beautiful and your wallet lighter. Last year Americans visited spas nearly 156 million times, and there's no sign that it's slowing down. Look forward to these "innovations." At the St. Regis Spa in Los Angeles, sip a Godiva white-chocolate Mudtini while you luxuriate in a White Raspberry Mud Treatment. Provencal mud, raspberry extract, white-chocolate truffle oil and shea butter are supposed to hydrate the skin ($160 for 90 min.). Ever lounge in Australian pink and yellow mud? Didn't think so. The Lodge at Torrey Pines in San Diego claims it will rejuvenate your body and spirit ($265 for 140 min.). Chronic lower-back-pain sufferers may choose Canyon Ranch's Deep Oriental Barefoot Massage (Tucson, Ariz., and Lenox, Mass.). A therapist uses her feet to reach deep pressure points along the spine and legs while you hang on to overhead bars (...
  • Road Test: Mazda3

    When I hopped into the Mazda3, I was expecting a squishy ride from a standard Asian import. Instead this hatchback felt more German than Japanese. Even the styling's a departure, with sporty lines, flared fenders and a muscular build. This "five-door" rides on an all-new platform that it shares with the pricier Volvo S40, so it's more substantial than the outgoing model it replaces, the Protege. It's got a long wheelbase that looks small on the outside but spacious on the inside. The front seats are nicely molded to give excellent lateral support through corners, and amber-and-blue instrument lighting is youthful and sporty. I love that the leather-wrapped steering wheel is equipped with buttons to operate the audio system, a perk usually found only on luxury models. Performance is decent. My hatchback's S model had a 2.3-liter, 160-horsepower, four-cylinder engine. It scooted around town just fine but was a bit sluggish off the line. Still, at this price, the power is perfectly...
  • Road Test: Audi Rs6

    A quick glance and Audi's new RS6 looks just like another vanilla sedan. But take it for a romp and it's an entirely different story. Armed with a stunning 450-horsepower 4.2-liter V-8 biturbo engine, it doesn't just turn eyes, it yanks them out of their sockets. It's by far the fastest street model this German carmaker has ever built (0 to 60 in 4.6 seconds). With full-time all-wheel drive and hydraulically dampened shock absorbers, this sedan is as sticky on corners as any two-seater. On the downside, a slight hesitation on acceleration is a bit of a drag. And while there's no question that the RS6 gives a cushy ride or that there's ample room for five full-size adults, the interior styling got me down: drab gray poplar trim and been-there instrumentation. Finally, though I adore the car's handling and performance, I'm not sure its funky acceleration and aging looks support the stratospheric price tag.Tip: With just 1,300 cars made for the United States, head to your dealer now.
  • Road Test: Toyota Solara

    There's no hiding this car's bulbous tush. It's a problem with which I have personal experience, and it doesn't look good on me or the car. There's no doubt this coupe's new look is derivative of the Lexus SC430, Toyota's prestige-brand sport coupe, and I don't like that rear end either. But beyond the behind, the Solara is a smart buy. It's got a peppy 3.3-liter V-6 engine, responsive steering, standard 17-inch wheels and a roomy interior. All this for less than $24,000. I'm also blown away by this coupe's high-quality features: a raucous six-speaker CD stereo that wails, antilock brakes, air conditioning, standard front fog lamps, ample trunk space and comfortable back seat. I'm not so crazy about the cheap-looking remote keyless entry fob or the oversize dashboard instruments. (The giant numbers on the speedometer and tach made me wonder if Toyota was pitching to an older generation.) The back seat is roomy and very comfortable for two adults. And as for the car's derriere,...
  • Road Test: Bmw 530I

    OK, I know how this sounds: BMW's all-new 530i is the first car to truly blend luxury and performance. Right. But before you write a letter to the editor, let me say that of all the cars I've tested (and that would be hundreds) I've never before driven a car that doesn't compromise on one of these attributes. On a racetrack last week, I was floored to discover that BMW's redesigned chassis and new optional technologies like Active Steering and Active Roll Stabilization produce laser-precise steering and seriously reduce body lean during cornering. At the same time, BMW's road feel has softened, giving way to a more luxurious ride.If you're a staunch BMW fan, don't freak out. This Bimmer doesn't divorce the driver from the road like most luxury rides do. I felt connected to the pavement, without the suspension rearranging my kidneys. It's got a three-liter V-6, 225hp engine that goes from zero to 60 in a respectable 6.6 seconds. Inside, this midsizer is roomier and has a more...
  • Getaways: Beyond Minibars

    Any hotel can offer amenities like Lilliputian soap; tip sheet found places that go beyond the evening pillow mint.Hotel Triton, San Francisco--The "So Hip It Hurts" package includes your choice of tattoo or piercing, plus a deluxe room. There're also daily Tarot-card readings. From $289; hoteltriton.comSerrano Hotel, San Francisco--Play a hand of blackjack with the check-in receptionist. If you win, you'll get a free room upgrade or restaurant discount. If you lose, the hotel asks that you make a small (voluntary) donation to the local ASPCA. From $179; serranohotel.comHotel Parisi, La Jolla, Calif.--Feeling blue? A speed-dial button on room phones patches you instantly to a local shrink. From $295; hotelparisi.comRouge Hotel, Washington, D.C.--Sometimes politics are so frustrating, you've just got to tie one on. The hotel offers a little hair of the dog: free cold pizza and Bloody Marys on weekends. From $149; rougehotel.com
  • Travel: Snowflakes Not Required

    Need a jolt of holiday merriment to jump-start the season? Theme parks around the country are stringing billions of lights to get you in the spirit.Disneyland (Anaheim, Calif.)--The Haunted Mansion Holiday puts ghouls in Christmas garb, while a nightly fireworks display ends in "snowfall."Disneyland.comColonial Williamsburg (Va.)--An old-fashioned fireworks display and a fife-and-drum version of holiday tunes.Colonialwilliamsburg.orgSix Flags Great Adventure (Jackson, N.J.)--Drive through a three-mile-long holiday-themed light display with music.Sixflags.comIslands of Adventure (Orlando, Fla.)--As part of Grinchmas, kids can sled down an icy slide and meet the Grinch himself. Universalorlando.com
  • Road Test: Toyota Prius

    There's something so reverse-snobby about tooling around L.A. in a gas-electric hybrid car, it made me feel... superior! I chugged up winding canyon roads, idled in traffic, waited in line at the drive-through bank--and still got 50mpg! Prius gets such great gas mileage because it uses battery power when idling and during low-speed driving. And because the battery is regenerated during deceleration, there's no electrical cord to plug in. The internal combustion engine kicks in at higher speeds, or when you stomp on the gas for power. The Prius doesn't offer the cushiest ride, but it has snappy acceleration, excellent braking and astute cornering. It's even comfortable with five adults jammed inside. (I had to stash our purses in the hatchback.) And when I zipped in to a fancy restaurant's valet, people gawked at my car--not the Mercedes behind me.Tip: Watch the gas mileage hit 99.9mpg on downhills.
  • Funky Towns

    Art in a Power PlantLondon: Design Grows Out of the Gritty East EndIf you're looking for cutting-edge design in London, look east. Such formerly sketchy neighborhoods as Shoreditch and Bethnal Green have, over the past few years, attracted adventuresome artists and designers. Check out the experimental furniture by German Franz West at Whitechapel Art Gallery. You can lounge on brightly colored couches and geometric lawn chairs--but don't forget to peruse the "East London Focus map," which highlights other galleries you won't want to miss: Modern Art Inc., Interim Art and White Cube.Since London is such a seriously old and seriously dense city, much of what's new and hip has been insinuated into what was once aged and worn. Take the bar/hangout Shoreditch Electricity Showrooms. It's been created in old industrial space, in this case--surprise!--a former electricity showroom. In Bethnal Green, hot young architect David Adjaye built a house for two artists and treated it with dark...
  • Road Test: Hyundai Sonata

    Hyundai's Sonata is hardly a heart-stopping design statement. Its predictable four-door styling is a staple on nearly every Asian sedan. But external beauty can be overrated. The Sonata's charms lie in its perks. There's not a midsize car in this price category with more standard features--air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, doors and mirrors, and a complete CD audio system. And though this South Korean automaker has struggled in the past with quality problems, I found my test car's fit and finish to be perfect. I like the smooth ride and decent handling. Even better, the Sonata's interior is roomy and surprisingly luxe. And outside, it's not all bland. The gun-turret-looking headlamps and eye-catching metal trim add some spice, but not enough for me. Unlike many new cars that feature increasingly complex gadgetry to operate climate controls and audio systems, the Sonata is still intuitive and easy to operate. Its V-6, 170hp engine is powerful enough to merge into...
  • Travel: Got A Ticket To Drive

    You could hop in the family minivan, tour the countryside and call it a driving vacation. Or you could jump into a sports car and whip around hairpin turns like Jeff Gordon. Now that's a driving vacation. High-performance driving schools that put you in luxury cars and Formula racers are the hottest trend in motor sports. It's the perfect weekend getaway for anyone on a first-name basis with the highway patrol. And though instructors will insist the point is to make you a safer, more skilled driver, I say it's all about beating the pants off your fellow students.For beginners, your best bet is the Porsche Driving Experience in Birmingham, Ala., a two-day school that divides participants into groups based on driving expertise ($2,495 plus accommodations; porschedriving.com). Attilio Brillembourg, from Geneva, Switzerland, recently enrolled with his son. "We both like to drive fast," he says. "But we've got no place to do it without getting a ticket." Students learn the nuances of...
  • Food: We Want S'more!

    When was the last time you had a s'more? Back in the Girl Scouts or on a family camping trip? Now gourmet versions of the gooey chocolate-marshmallow-and-graham-cracker concoction have become a trendy do-it-yourself dessert at high-end restaurants.Shutters On The Beach, Santa Monica, Calif. Rectangular house-made marshmallows are skewered, roasted and then rolled in toasted coconut or pralines. You pick one of three fondue-like dipping sauces. The grahams seem pointless. $12.Le Soir, Newton Highlands, Mass. Served in a pool of spiced chocolate fondue, a disc of cappuccino marshmallow is topped with a graham-cracker disc. $8.First, New York Toast them yourself tableside on a charcoal grill with store-bought marshmallows, Hershey's chocolate and trusty graham crackers. Don't forget to hum camp tunes at the table. $4 per person.
  • Road Test: Toyota Scion

    Toyota says it created its new Scion model for Gen Y, but I'd drive one in a heartbeat. The Scion xA, a sporty hatchback with room for five and priced under $13,000, is so stylish and practical that it's likely to appeal to the over-30 crowd as well. (OK, also to this member of the just-over-40 set.) That's bad news for Toyota--we all know that nothing kills a hip new product quicker than an old codger praising it as practical.But it's possible the Scion will cut across the generation gap. A six-speaker CD sound system (that's MP3-compatible and satellite- radio-ready) and antilock brakes come standard. The minuscule 1.5-liter, 108-horsepower engine is easy on the wallet at the gas station. And the Scion xA's subcompact size is a park-anywhere dream. It's got airbags everywhere, which is rare for cars in this class. I liked the ride (sort of) zippy yet comfortable. For now, the xA is available only in California, but it will be available nationally beginning in February. I feel...
  • Road Test: Mercedes E55 Amg

    When I tapped the gas on the Mercedes E55 AMG, I felt like a superhero. The big V-8 has torque coming out the yin-yang (516 pound-feet), making it the fastest street-legal Mercedes ever. With 469 horses under the hood, it goes from zero to 60 in a neck-snapping 4.5 seconds. Is this a sedan?! Of course, there's no place you can really let this baby scream except on a racetrack. It's also got SpeedShift programming, which allows this five-speed automatic to shift 35 percent faster than normal. Unlike most racers that deliver a rough ride, this baby's all about smoothness and comfort. What potholes?It's hard to find fault with such high-performance wizardry. OK, I still managed to find one: loud, squealing tires around tight turns. I'm not sure if this was the result of under inflated tires, or if it was due to the type of tire that comes standard on the car. Inside, the Panorama sunroof is huge. And it's got Distronic adaptive cruise control (optional) that uses radar to maintain a...
  • A Pocket Rocket

    Acura's RSX Type-S sits low on the ground and feels like a little cruise missile. On a recent test run, I was surprised that this diminutive rocket's engine was able to muster an admirable 200 horsepower from a tiny two-liter engine. I love the short-throw, manual six-speed shifter, and it's got torque at both low and high RPMs. It also has responsive steering, a feature that's a blast on twisty highways. But like most driver's cars, it's got stiff suspension--great for road feel, a kidney rattler for passengers. Inside, the RSX's racy personality is evident on the dashboard, with backlit silver metallic-face gauges and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Side-bolstered seats up front kept me snug while cornering. And unlike most sport coupes these days, which have trunk lids, this Acura still has a utilitarian hatchback (and a sizable 17.8 cubic feet of trunk space), giving easy access for loading and unloading. So much fun for such a little price makes this little rocket a very hot...
  • Road Test: Bmw 760Li

    Money can't buy happiness. But at least it can buy a hot set of wheels, and that's enough for me. BMW's new 760Li is so quietly luxurious, I expected a butler to pop out of the console. Instead, it's got 20-way power front seats, and a 13-speaker, 420-watt Logic 7 audio system that'll torque your hair into split ends. And, the cabin's so roomy, I needed walkie-talkies to hear my kid in the back seat. (Who says there's never a moment's peace with a 9-year-old around?) On the highway, the 760Li's shifting is nearly undetectable, while the rip-roaring V-12, six-liter, 438-horsepower engine is almighty but not beastly. I always felt in control of this sedan, not the other way around. And the Active Roll Stabilization kept the car from pitching and leaning in corners, so my precious coffee never sloshed outside the mug. On the downside, I still can't work the iDrive, BMW's controversial mouse-based computer system controlling interior features like navigation, climate and audio. After...
  • Environment: Congratulations! It's A Baby Condor!

    It's been nearly 100 years since a condor chick was hatched in the Grand Canyon. After a precariously close call with extinction caused by lead poisoning--only 22 wild birds remained in the early 1980s--the condor is poised to make a comeback. And though biologists have yet to visually confirm the chick's existence, they're nearly certain that it's thriving, based on an adult nesting pair's behavior. "Both the male and female are going back and forth between what we believe is a nest in a remote cave in the canyon and their feeding sites," says Chris Parish, a wildlife biologist with the Peregrine Fund. "This is classic nesting behavior since non-nesting condors don't roost in the same spot from night to night." Scientists believe the chick was hatched in early May.In their diaries, Lewis and Clark documented that they saw dozens of condors during their trek through the Grand Canyon nearly 200 years ago. The gangly-looking black birds, members of the vulture family, are the largest...
  • ROAD TEST: LEXUS ES 300

    Some journalists are hard-hitting. I'm just hard hit. While testing the ES 300 on a traffic-clogged L.A. freeway, I was rear-ended by a heavy sedan going 30mph. Luckily, those "crumple zones" we hear so much about really do work. The Lexus's trunk buckled accordion-like all the way to the rear tires, but the interior was never breeched, and I walked away from the crash without a single scrape.Before impact, my feelings about the ES 300 were decidedly mixed. The sedan's interior finish is perfect, but the outside looks bland and budget-minded. (With this price tag?) Still, it has a great audio system, adaptive suspension and traction control. If only Lexus could devise a force field to ward off distracted drivers, it'd corner the market.Tip: The ES 300 comes with serious perks. If your Lexus ever breaks down more than 100 miles from home, the company will pick up your hotel tab.
  • Spirits: Cocktail, Anyone?

    If you still haven't had that backyard bash you've been promising your friends, don't worry, it's not too late. But you'll want to do it up right--plain old gin and tonic just won't cut it. Tip Sheet's Tara Weingarten asked a few of our favorite mixologists for more festive summer cocktails.Titanic Martini4 oz. Ciroc grape vodka4 grapes1 tsp. brown sugar1/2 oz. white grape juice1 scoop lemon sorbetSplash of champagneCombine vodka, grapes, brown sugar, grape juice and ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a martini glass and top with the sorbet and champagne. Makes two drinks. For a bigger impact, adjust ingredients and serve in punch bowl with several floating sorbet "icebergs."From Citarella, New YorkTabu1/2 cup fresh raspberries2 oz. Tanqueray No. TenDip rim of martini glass in powdered sugar. Puree raspberries in blender and strain out seeds. Fill glass a quarter full with puree. Top with Tanqueray No. Ten.From Tabu at MGM Grand Hotel, Las VegasThe Continental1 oz. cognac11/2 oz....
  • ROAD TEST: CIVIC EX

    It's got zero snob appeal. But who cares? The new Civic EX has all the character you need to scoot around town. It's small--but not scary small--so parking in tight spaces and making quick lane changes in rush-hour traffic are equally fun. The 127-horsepower VTEC engine was sluggish, but I applaud its "very low" emissions status. It made me feel superior. My five-speed manual test model had a smooth gearbox, decent handling and good brakes. Interior features are few, and the overuse of black plastic knobs and buttons is downright down-market. I like the ample trunk space and roomy back seat. Head clearance is another matter. My 6-foot-1 husband repeatedly slammed the side of his noggin getting in and out of the car. (After the second time, I had to wonder about him.) And after all, it's a Honda, so it should run for a good long time.Tip: Save on maintenance; it only needs an annual oil and filter change.
  • Discovery

    Woody Allen had a vision of how cars of the future would look in his 1973 film "Sleeper": jelly-bean-shaped ovals with no sharp edges. Unfortunately, he wasn't far off the mark. Slanted front ends and rounded corners may help reduce drag and boost fuel economy, but they make for bland, wimpy-looking vehicles. Land Rover's Discovery has, from the beginning, been boxy and proud of it. It's one of the things I love about this SUV. For 2003, Discovery gets a face-lift--but it's still no jelly bean. Its stepped roofline and stadium seating in the back give plenty of headroom and a wonderful spacious feeling. It still rides higher than most SUVs, allowing a panoramic view of the road. The gun-turret-like headlamps are modern and edgy, and the two oversize sunroofs are nice. For a luxury car, the interior falls short, with a cheap-looking black plastic dashboard. But Discovery roars with a new 4.6-liter, 217-horsepower V-8 engine. It took corners better than I expected, though I still had...
  • Patriot's List

    Do your kids think the Fourth of July is only about hot dogs and fireworks? Then it's time for a little history lesson:Dear America Beautifully bound series of kids' fictional diaries. $10.95. Ages 10 and upA History of Us By Joy Hakim. A 10-volume set on U.S. history, from prehistoric man to 9-11. $139.50. Ages 9 to 12... If You Grew Up With George Washington By Ruth Belov Gross. Learn about life back in the days of Old Wooden Teeth. $5.99. Ages 7 to 10America: A Patriotic Primer By Lynne Cheney. Each letter in this ABC book stands for a historical figure or concept. $16.95. Ages 4 to 8Nine for California By Sonia Levitin. Follow a Gold Rush family's cross-country stagecoach ride. $16.95. Ages 4 to 8The Amazing Life of Benjamin Franklin By James Cross Giblin. A wonderfully illustrated bio. $17.95. Ages 9 to 12Fourth of July, Sparkly Sky By Joan Holub. Little readers will love this book with red, white and blue glitter. $4.99. Ages 2 to 5A Three-Minute Speech By Jennifer Armstrong....
  • Travel: Wow Vows

    Not up for a big church wedding? Think outside the pew. Tip Sheet found nuptial nirvana at these four homey hotels. Go ahead and steal our ideas. Consider it your "something borrowed."BELLAGIOLas Vegas, Nev.; bellagio.comCeremony: Say "I do" overlooking the hotel's dancing fountains--timed to go off at your first kiss.Check, please: $3,600 includes flowers, changing room and music.GRACELANDMemphis, Tenn.; elvis.comCeremony: Get hitched at Elvis's Chapel in the Woods. It's kitsch fit for a king. No, fit for the King. Check, please: $550, with pics in front of the mansion. Fried nanner sandwiches not included.SAN YSIDRO RANCHMontecito, Calif.; sanysidroranch.comCeremony: Re-create the marriage of Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh in the moonlit rose garden.Check, please: $185 per person; $1,875 buys a night in Jackie and John Kennedy's honeymoon cottage.PLANTERS INNCharleston, S.C.; plantersinn.comCeremony: Wed in the Unitarian church's 300-year-old graveyard, then party in the...
  • Maybach 57

    The Mercedes is a fine aspirational brand for most of us. But for crown princes and captains of industry, even the top-of-the-line Mercedes can seem downright downscale. Enter the Maybach 57, a revived luxury nameplate that, way back in the 1930s, was once the acme of automotive refinement. I cozied into the back seat, where most Maybach owners will spend their time. I was surrounded by soft nappa leather, the color of butter-cream cake. Sterling-silver champagne flutes come standard. I suddenly began to channel Donald Trump (sans comb-over, of course). And don't be fooled by the brand's old-school heritage; the Maybach's expansive interior is packed with pricey, high-tech gadgetry. I clicked the TV/DVD remote, which doubles as a cell phone. The limo-like sedan sports two separate air conditioners, a home-theater-quality 600-watt Dolby surround-sound system with speakers located by each seat, plus data ports for camcorders and videogame boxes. It's also got the most beautiful burled...
  • Road Test: Lexus Is 300

    Ready to swap that gas-guzzling SUV for a saner-size wagon? You and me both. Lexus's new IS 300 SportCross still has plenty of cargo room, but it's easier on the wallet during fill-ups than a hulking SUV. As for style, well, you'll either love it or hate it. Lexus swerved from the traditional boxy look of a wagon--remember those fridgelike Country Squires we grew up with?--and gave this one a quirky European flair. I had mixed reactions from onlookers during my test run, but most folks approved. The SportCross moves swiftly through traffic with its V-6 215-horsepower engine. It's got a folding seatback table and an electrical outlet for tailgating. And the false floor in the back is perfect for hiding little things, say, from your spouse when returning from a covert shopping expedition. The front passenger seat folds completely flat, helpful when hauling really big packages. I loved the chrome shifter ball, which resembles the limb on a one-armed bandit. Time for a road trip to...
  • Travel: Bbq

    Down-and-dirty ribs with linen napkins? These upscale barbecue restaurants offer good grub in a stylish setting.Zeke's Smokehouse (Montrose, Calif.; 818-957-7045): More bistro than barbecue joint with its galvanized metal chairs and leather booths. Watch the pit master work while you gnaw on Kansas City spare ribs ($19.95).Blue Smoke (New York; 212-447-7733): Owner Danny Meyer thinks barbecue is haute cuisine. Try the hickory-pit prime rib ($25) or the pulled pork on a brioche bun ($9.75). And check out the 13-story gas and apple-wood smokers out back.The Weber Grill (Chicago; 312-467-9696): Specials from North Carolina, Texas, Memphis and St. Louis are all cooked on Weber kettles. Ask for the sweet sauce made with dried fruits.Mr. Cecil's California Ribs (Sherman Oaks, Calif.; 818-905-8400): Cajun and Asian spices make a new kind of barbecue. Try the down-home hush puppies with soft butter and honey.
  • Road Test: Jaguar Xj8

    guar's likely to roll off with the crown. But no one ever said this looker was a rocket scientist--or a rocket. That changes with the all-new XJ8, Jag's redesigned flagship luxury sedan. It's agile in corners, thanks to a much stiffer frame. And it's quick like a jungle cat, taking me from zero to 60 in 6.3 seconds. The model now sports a super-lightweight all-aluminum body and aircraft-like rivets and adhesives (instead of heavy steel bolts), making it 40 percent lighter than the old XJ. I love the new computerized suspension technology, which gives a remarkably smooth ride. Inside, the cabin is roomier than before, and comfy with 12-way adjustable seats. The foot pedals are even adjustable for height-challenged drivers. Like all classic Jaguars, it's got plenty of burled walnut and chrome accents. And though it might sound nitpicky, I disliked the cheap-feeling ceiling fabric. But, hey, the XJ8 was so much fun to drive, I hardly had time to look up. ...