Tara Weingarten

Stories by Tara Weingarten

  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • 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...