Stories by Tara Weingarten

  • Road Test: Suzuki Aerio

    It was the ultimate test for a subcompact--a torrential southern California rainstorm was pounding Los Angeles, flooding nearly all the streets. And I was ready to bet a week's salary that Suzuki's elfin new Aerio SX would stall out in the first 30 minutes. Thank God no one took me up on it. With elegant finesse (if you can use such language for a $15,000 automobile), this comfy five-seater navigated our soaked streets like the sturdiest of SUVs. Not once did it cough after plunging into a deep puddle, and it never lost its footing at highway speeds. And another thing: how did the Suzuki folks put so much room inside--including a surprisingly sizable hatchback trunk--while keeping the outside minuscule? You can park this baby anywhere. It's also easy on the pocketbook, getting 26mpg in the city and 32 on the highway! Your insurance bill will look prettier, too. It never rains in southern California? Please. Bring it on.Tip: Possibly the best bargain on the (slippery) road.
  • Technology: What's The Service Fee, Kenneth?

    You're creeping along in L.A. traffic, zapping from one dopey radio ad to another. Would a little music be too much to ask for? Not anymore. For a hookup fee of $14.99 and $9.99 a month, you can get 101 commercial-free digital channels from XM Satellite radio (xmradio.com). The system works pretty well, though reception is about like free radio, dropping out when you're in a tunnel. But at least there's always something to listen to. You get well-programmed progressive rock, classical, Latin, jazz and kids' pop stations, plus golden-age dramas like "The Shadow" and comedians from Jerry Seinfeld to Jonathan Winters. Rival Sirius satellite radio (siriusradio.com) costs $12.95 a month and also offers tons of programming choices. But XM has more buzz, mostly because it's half owned by GMC. Nearly all GMC cars and trucks will offer XM as an option this year. Tip Sheet does have one beef: many of the rock-oriented channels have disc jockeys who are every bit as annoying as their FM...
  • Drinks: Keeping It Cool

    If you're a wine lover, you've probably got a few bottles stashed in a closet or under the bed. And you probably know that fluctuations in temperature can quickly turn a lovely 1999 California Cab into vinegar. So do you really need one of those pricey wine-storage units? Need, no. But if you store wine for longer than six months, you might want one. The cellars regulate humidity, as well as temperature, keeping corks moist so they don't shrink. Tip Sheet tested a few units in all price ranges. These two are our favorites. The KitchenAid ($1,499) looks great and has three temperature zones for reds, whites and champagnes (kitchenaid.com). But if you plan to lay in bottles for more than a year, think about the Dometic CE 48 by Electrolux ($1,295 plus shipping at wineappreciation.com). It's a little less fashionable, but silent and vibration-free. It kept our bottles at 55 degrees, perfect for all types of wine.
  • It's No Joke

    Few vehicles are as bland as the SUV, with its jelly-bean styling. Maybe that's why Nissan's new Murano seems like such a rambunctious little truck. Its front grille looks like a robot's toothy grin (think Gigantor), and its tailgate is playfully angular. It's the first SUV I've driven that doesn't take itself too seriously. Just look at the creamy yellow gauges or the sporty, leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Murano confirms Nissan's commitment to be Asia's style-and-performance leader. Plus, its engine is all business. With a V-6, 240-horsepower engine (same as in the Maxima), this five-seater can really move. I liked its carlike ride and handling, along with its good rear visibility. But I adored the open storage tray atop the dashboard, great for tossing tollbooth change and lollipops. I'm not crazy about the fact that it gets only 20 miles per gallon on city streets (25 on the highway)--that's the absolute end of what's acceptable these days. But other than that, the Murano...
  • The Mogul Mobile

    You can tell a lot about a person by the car he drives. Or at least about the person he'd like to be. Mercedes's newly redesigned E500 says power and money. In a discreet whisper, of course. Ultrasleek, with conservative styling, this full-size sedan (but it's not too big, not too small) seems like the perfect salve for the corporate titan who must now cope with hyper directors and pesky shareholders. Mercedes has always attracted the elite, but the new E (the E Class makes up a quarter of its sales) finally looks like an executive car. The old model looked a bit stodgy, but a sharper, angled nose with those unmistakable Mercedes elliptical headlights gives the new E a more powerful, sporty look. Inside, the dash has a new face. Gone are the chunky black buttons that made the old E look cheap. In their place is a smaller, more elegant display of chrome and polished wood. The panorama sunroof is twice the size of a conventional one. The performance is also richer. Airmatic DC air...
  • A Cheap Thrill

    Love sports cars but hate their sticker prices? Check out Mazda's new RX-8, due out this spring. The zippy four-seater (four real seats) goes for about the same price as a bland Japanese midsize. I was skeptical until I rode the six-speed manual through tight turns at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Beautiful! Its perfect front-rear weight distribution gives the RX-8 exact balance through corners, making it a delight to drive. Then again, this is the same carmaker that built a cult following with the RX-7, its previous-generation rotary coupe. The RX-8 is the first real sports car with four doors. (Well, half doors, anyway. They open out from the center.) Mazda played it safe with a predictable design. But the RX-8 has better brakes, more power, improved steering control, a tighter suspension and 20 percent better gas mileage. It looks as if Mazda actually managed to fix something that wasn't broken.Tip: If you loved the RX-7--and even if you didn't--you'll dig the...
  • Not Much On Looks

    It isn't pretty, but the new Honda Element has its charms. For starters, there's the $16,560 base price. And the "suicide doors" (they swing open from the center with no pillar between them) make it easy to load gear like bikes, kayaks and surfboards. The seats and rubber-coated floor are completely waterproof, so just hose it out and you're good to go. The back seats fold flush to the sides, creating a flat floor big enough to sleep a couple of six-foot nomads comfortably.If you haven't yet figured it out, Honda's aiming at a 22-year-old guy who lives for extreme sports. So I was tongue-tied when hoards of soccer moms came rushing over to check out the Element last week as I picked up my son from school. "It's sooo stylish," said one overage hipster. More than one member of Honda's target audience disagreed. "It's ugly," screamed a twentysomething guy as he pulled out of a gas station. I hope he wasn't talking about me. Thing is, the Element is cheap, roomy and doesn't guzzle gas....
  • Road Test | Bmw Z4

    BMW's Z4 is the coolest car on the road. There, I said it. On a test run through the winding, rural back roads of South Carolina, I was simply blown away by its outstanding handling. Unlike some foreign jobs, this roadster isn't too much to master; the new Z4 remained firmly planted on the highway--even when I pushed the car well beyond sane speed limits.In fact, the only thing this two-seater shares with its predecessor--the discontinued Z3, considered too girly for the sports-car set--is its dual-passenger configuration. The undulating convex and concave design cues give this ragtop a more athletic, masculine vibe. And the 3.0i model with manual six-speed (optional automatic transmission) has a tighter torque converter than other six-cylinder BMWs. I threw it into gear, slammed down hard on the throttle and felt my head snap back. It even stops smoother than BMW's previous roadster; ventilated front and rear brakes make stopping on a dime absolutely effortless. Inside the cockpit,...
  • Olive Oils

    In the next few months hundreds of premium California olive oils will hit store shelves. Here are our favorites--unfiltered, rich and fruity:Long Meadow Ranch Its Napa Valley Select has a light straw color and mellow, nutty taste. Great with less fussy foods and salads. longmeadowranch.com $18 for 375mlMcEvoy Ranch Certified organic from the Petaluma hills above San Fran. It's darker and tastes of toasted walnuts and fresh grass. A great all-purpose oil. mcevoyranch.com $24 for 375mlWillow Creek Olive Ranch Its Market Blend is buttery soft yet flavorful. An oil that goes with everything. pasolivo.com $10 for 750mlDaVero Sonoma County oil that's bitter and peppery, with hints of artichoke, apple and fennel. Perfect on pasta and risotto. davero.com $20 for 375mlStorm Olive Ranch From the eastern mountains above Napa, where rugged terrain makes the oil pungent and robust. katzandco.com $20 for 375ml
  • Homey For The Holidays

    Can't be home for Christmas? These homey hotels are the next best thing. And try getting pampered like this in your house. After some room-service champagne, visions of sugarplums are virtually guaranteed.THE POINT in Saranac Lake, N.Y. Just a few hours from N.Y.C., this former Rockefeller estate has only 11 guest rooms. There's ice-skating on the lake, cross-country skiing and outdoor bonfires (with s'mores!). Adults only. $1,200 per couple, per night. Call 518-891-5674.THE BREAKERS in Palm Beach, Fla. There's no snow, but this huge, kid-friendly resort is fabulously decorated. Try the snorkeling scavenger hunt and beach camp-outs. Starts at $495. Call 561-655-6611.MORRISON HOUSE in Alexandria, Va. This Colonial-style manor house is decked out with dozens of poinsettias and pine swags. Check out the lobby's elaborate gingerbread house, designed by the resident pastry chef. Rooms start at $200. Call 703-838-8000.MAISON DE VILLE in New Orleans, La. Evening sherry, port and eggnog get...
  • Beware The Hair Soup

    Never mind the Zagat guide. In the town that invented "doing lunch," gourmands can spot a hot restaurant simply by looking at the front door. No, Angelenos don't have more discriminating palates than other foodies--more of them line up for Pink's Famous Chili Dogs on La Brea than wait for a table at Patina. It's just that diners in L.A. have learned their ABCs. Literally. Hanging in the front window of every restaurant in the city is a giant letter in "Sesame Street" colors: a blue A, a green B or a red C. While it may not tell you whether the place has sushi to die for, it will let you know whether the fish is fresh.These days, it isn't enough for Wolfgang Puck to have J. Lo and Ben as customers. He'd also better have an A from the county food inspector in the window. (Don't worry, Spago fans. It's there.) Four years after the L.A. County Department of Health Services initiated a much-publicized grading system for restaurant inspections, consumers are following the program to the...
  • Hotels | Dig In

    All hotels have spas now, but farms? Along the California coast, hoteliers are taking advantage of the year-round good weather, planting their own fruit, vegetable and herb gardens--all organic, of course. Some of the best:MARK HOPKINS HOTEL: Overlooking the entire San Francisco Bay, the rooftop garden includes wild blackberries, Meyer lemons, chamomile (for the hotel's tea creme brulee) and purple sage, to be used in Thanksgiving stuffing. markhopkins.net; rooms cost $355 to $4,000 a night.MEADOWOOD: The Napa Valley resort's one-acre garden has a flower bed (blooms adorn the guest rooms), old-growth walnut, apple and fig trees, and a newly planted olive grove. meadowood.com; $425 to $3,585 a night.BACARA: The Santa Barbara hotel boasts a 1,000-acre ranch. You'll find 300 acres of Hass avocados and 100 acres of Lisbon and Meyer lemons--used in its signature spa treatment: an avocado-citrus body wrap. bacararesort.com; $395 to $5,000 a night.
  • Food: The Trouble With Truffles

    Shave a few paper-thin slices of white truffle onto a plate of scrambled eggs. Now stand back and admire your handiwork. It may not look like much, but you've just created a dish some chefs list among the most sensual in the world. Few ingredients are as coveted as the Italian white truffle, which just began its brief annual appearance on menus. Disciples of the musky tubers talk about them in mystical terms. "The white truffle is almost indescribable, sublime," says Christophe Eme, chef at Los Angeles's L'Orangerie. "People taste it and then think about it for the rest of the year until they can taste it again."Well, maybe some people do. At $900 per pound, white truffles are extravagant by any standard, though all you really need is a single ounce. Available from late October through early February, they traditionally grow in the woods of northern Italy's Piedmont region, where trained dogs ferret out the knobby bulbs. A wet summer has yielded a bumper crop, driving prices down...
  • Road Test | Porsche Boxster

    There I was, alone in the redesigned 2003 Porsche Boxster, leaning into a few tight turns at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., completely unable to wipe the huge smile from my mug. The steering was tight and responsive. The location of the shifter, on top of the center console, made changing gears effortless. Introduced in 1997, the Boxster is Porsche's entry-level car. Priced in the low $40,000s, it's a real sports car for about the same price as a fancy SUV. If you put the new Boxster next to last year's model, the outward changes are subtle: a glass rear window (with defroster) replaces plastic; new engine technology boosts horsepower slightly to 225, and small design changes on side air-intake holes and front and back bumpers give the car a cool, modern look. What's not different is the Boxster's supreme road performance. -Tara WeingartenTip: A lot of Porsche, a little price.To suggest a Road Test, go to Newsweek.MSNBC.com and click on Tip Sheet.
  • Pumpkin Projects

    Your kids may get to wear the cool costumes and scarf the candy corn, but you can still get in on the fun. Here are some treats for the whole family--and most of these activities are sugar-free.1. Kid's Fright Lights: $3.99 at Target. Easy-to-pound colorful plastic pegs, a mallet and a flashing light. B.Y.O. squash. Age: 4?????2. Paint a Pumpkin: $24 from pottery barnkids.com. Three wooden pumpkins, six paints. Age: 5?????3. Big Bad Wolf Mask: $50 for a pair from dwr.com. Perfect for when you're trick-or-treating with the kids. Age: 3?????4. Ghost Comfort-Grip Cutter: $2.99 at Wal-Mart and Target. This chunky, rubber-edged cookie cutter is good for even the youngest baker's helper.5. Pancake Molds: $16 from Williams-Sonoma. Make flapjacks in the shape of cats, pumpkins and ghosts for a breakfast of phantoms.
  • Newsmakers

    EGGERS GOES IT ALONEDave Eggers's debut memoir, "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius," sat on the best-seller list for 14 weeks and made him a celebrity. But something about the experience riled him, because he fired his agent and left his publisher. This time he's doing it his way. "You Shall Know Our Velocity," Eggers's second book and first novel, concerns a Chicago guy trying to fly around the world in a week with a buddy so he can give away $32,000 he lucked into but doesn't feel he deserves. "Y.S.K.O.V." is being published by Eggers's own company, McSweeney's. It will be sold only on the McSweeney's Web site and at independent bookstores. No Amazon. No chain stores. And Eggers won't do interviews or book tours.Agent Chris Calhoun--and others--estimate that Eggers could have gotten an advance "well north of $3 million." "But then, you've got him to deal with," says another agent, referring to the author's often contrary behavior. Others are more sanguine. "As annoying as...
  • Restaurants: Frugal Gourmet

    There's still no such thing as a free lunch. But thanks to the soft economy and the hard line many companies are taking on expense accounts, fancy restaurants nationwide are offering (very) early-bird specials. Chefs say they're not making money on the deals--they just hope you'll come back for dinner.SAN FRANCISO: At Redwood Park, the new blue-plate special goes for $24, including a soup en croute, a salad, a meat or fish entree and a chip-and-dip combo (potato gaufrette with onion mascarpone). A recent offering: corn and jalapeno soup en croute, a salad of warm squab and spinach with bacon, and skirt steak with paprika butter.LOS ANGELES: Known for chef Makoto Tanaka's modern Japanese cuisine, the Mako in Beverly Hills serves a $35 daily bento box, filled with treats like tuna carpaccio with grilled onions in saffron-soy vinaigrette and sauteed sea bass in a spicy sun-dried tomato sauce.MINNEAPOLIS: The three-course lunch at Aquavit is only $10; choose the shrimp beef-brisket...
  • Living The High-Roller Life

    The rich are different from you and me. For one thing, they can afford to blow scads of money in Vegas on such a regular basis that the casinos often put them up free in one of their over-the-top luxury suites. Unless you brandished a $500,000 casino credit line, these palatial digs have been off-limits.But with the economy flagging, the number of high-stakes gamblers--or "whales,'' as they're very affectionately known in the industry--heading to Vegas has slumped. And rather than let their sweetest suites gather dust, some casinos are opening them up to everyone else. Everyone, that is, who has the means to splurge on a $6,000-a-night room.What does that get you? Let's check out the MGM Grand's The Mansion, modeled after a Tuscan villa. You're greeted with a flute of French champagne, then escorted to your 4,800-square-foot suite decorated in fine European fabrics and antiques. Your private butler offers to unpack for you and draw an aromatherapy bath with Bulgari salts. The staff...
  • Hotels: Living The High-Roller Life

    The rich are different from you and me. For one thing, they can afford to blow scads of money in Vegas on such a regular basis that the casinos often put them up free in one of their over-the-top luxury suites. Unless you brandished a $500,000 casino credit line, these palatial digs have been off limits.But with the economy flagging, the number of high-stakes gamblers--or "whales," as they're very affectionately known in the industry--heading to Vegas has slumped. And rather than let their sweetest suites gather dust, some casinos are opening them up to everyone else. Everyone, that is, who has the means to splurge on a $6,000-a-night room.What does that get you? Let's check out the MGM Grand's The Mansion, modeled after a Tuscan villa. You're greeted with a flute of French champagne, then escorted to your 4,800-square-foot suite decorated in fine European fabrics and antiques. Your private butler offers to unpack for you and draw an aromatherapy bath with Bulgari salts. The staff...
  • Road Test | Game Mp

    I'm not the greatest tennis player. OK, I'm kind of lousy. And racquet companies love people like me, because we're convinced the newest technology will improve our game. So I headed to the Mulholland Tennis Club, in the hills above Los Angeles, to test out eight of this year's new racquets. Of them all, Prince's More Performance Game MP model demanded my attention--and not just because of its hot color scheme, matte copper with black-and-white accents. It's hard to imagine, but almost the entire head is a sweet spot. A melodic "ping" seemed to greet each ball, encouraging me to play on. And all the More Performance racquets are made without grommets (which rub against the strings), so they vibrate less than traditional frames and should help prevent painful tennis elbow. And the handle offers a cushy squeeze grip. It's the perfect racquet for experienced players looking for finesse, not all-out power.TIP: Looking for a larger sweet spot? Advantage: Prince.
  • Road Test: Z Car

    I knew the car was hot when the Porsche Boxster S pulled up alongside me at an L.A. light. "Whoa," said the driver, raising his Gucci sunglasses. "Is that the new Z?" Absolutely. Nissan's redesigned signature sports car is back with a vengeance. The Z's reintroduction--the model was pulled from production in 1996 due to sagging sales--marks Nissan's attempt to revive the carmaker's image as a leader in sporty wheels. This two-seater just might do the trick. Priced from $26,269 to $34,079, it's a lot of car.Nissan drew on what was captivating about the old Z: the car's long nose, flared wheel wells, hatchback and rear-wheel drive are nods to its halcyon days in the late 1970s. The tight steering and short-throw on the gearshift made me feel like Speed Racer. But the car is sluggish from a standstill. Inside, the Z has racing-inspired seats. But since Nissan put so much into the engine and suspension, it had to cheap out on something: flimsy plastic sheeting covers the door panels and...
  • Risky Business

    Talk about a tough opening weekend. Hollywood & Highland, Tinseltown's much-anticipated $615 million shopping and entertainment complex, debuts Friday. On the surface, the gigantic megamall appears to have everything going for it. Its elegant Kodak Theatre will house the Academy Awards for the foreseeable future. Wolfgang Puck has committed to run the kitchen of the auditorium's ballroom. And nearly 90 upscale retailers have signed long-term leases.But the pricey project, a dozen years in the planning, may be doomed from the start because of the soured economy. "Their timing is, to put it charitably, not exactly what the doctor ordered," says Kurt Barnard, a longtime business analyst and editor of Barnard's Retail Trend Report. "Right now, very upscale luxury products are at best limping. For this mall to even limp, it'll need crutches."It's not just the rotten economy dogging retailers lately. Shop owners know that Americans are also concerned about safety from terrorist...
  • Alice's Wonderland

    Over the past 30 years, Alice Waters, creator and proprietor of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., has revolutionized the way Americans think about food. In an attempt to recreate the memorable dining experiences she had as a college student in France, the New Jersey-born Waters hit upon a simple formula: eat organically grown produce that's in season, and meats and fish that haven't been shot full of hormones and preservatives. Her message turned out to be the chef's equivalent of architect Mies van der Rohe's "less is more." Indeed, Waters, 57, is credited with bringing to the culinary mainstream her reverence for fresh, local ingredients in dishes with a Mediterranean sensibility. Many of the country's best chefs have trained in her kitchen, and a number of them will be among the 600 lining long outdoor tables at the University of California, Berkeley, next Sunday for a 30th-birthday bash. Proceeds from the $500-a-plate lunch will go to Waters's five-year-old Chez Panisse...
  • Put The Pedal To The Metal

    If you're a speed freak (the lead-footed, not the pill-popping kind) looking for a fix, head on over to the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School in Sonoma, California. It's one of at least a dozen driving schools around the United States that can turn you into a veritable Mario Andretti. After shimmying into flame-retardant jumpsuits and full-face helmets, drivers climb into their vehicles: low-slung, open-wheeled 150-horsepower formula race cars with wings. Instructors teach the heel-toe downshift, where the right foot straddles the brake and gas pedal simultaneously, allowing the driver to brake and rev the engine at the same time in order to change gears. Circling the curvy 2.5-mile track, drivers test how late they can brake into a corner and still not go into it too "hot," as they say. They also practice hitting the "apex," or sweet spot, of a corner in order to zoom out of the curve fast. Speed on the straightaways reaches 110mph--and no police officer in sight.Driving fast isn't...
  • Attack Of The Wine Bugs

    Vineyard manager Dave Pirio scans the perimeter of the 53-acre PlumpJack Winery in Napa Valley, Calif., looking for the enemy. Kneeling low to the ground, he flips over big, shiny grape leaves one by one, hunting for the dreaded glassy-winged sharpshooter. The half-inch-long, muddy-brown insect has single-handedly decimated 30 percent of the wine crop in southern California's Temecula Valley over the last four years, and now threatens to wreak similar havoc here in the nation's premier wine region. "It would be absolutely devastating to our industry if that bug got in here," says Pirio's boss, PlumpJack general manager John Conover. "Our economy would tank."To grape vines, the glassy-winged sharpshooter is as deadly as a malarial mosquito. The bug spreads a fatal bacterium called Pierce's disease that chokes off a vine's circulation, making it impossible for water to circulate and nourish the plant. The bacterium itself is present in small amounts in almost every vineyard, but...
  • Invasion Of The Vintners

    When French winemaker Alexandra Marnier-Lapostolle began buying up vineyards in Chile's Rapel Valley in the mid-1990s, the vines were bursting with grapes. So she took a pair of pruners and walked up and down the rows, methodically lopping off and discarding the crimson bunches. "The Chilean workers were aghast," says Marnier-Lapostolle, a fourth-generation descendant of the Grand Marnier family. "They couldn't understand why we'd be wasteful and throw away grapes." But it was the first of many lessons they got in making a better bottle of wine: too much fruit on the vine dilutes the flavors. Marnier-Lapostolle drastically reduced each vine's yield, from nearly 60 bunches of grapes to about eight. ...
  • Champagne, Anyone?

    You can drive just outside Paris and lay down some serious francs to visit Sleeping Beauty's ersatz Euro Disney castle. Or you can drive for a little over an hour northeast of Paris and pay about the same money to spend the night in an honest-to-goodness, 300-year-old chateau formerly visited by Louis XIV and Napoleon. The French know about the bargains available in this region, but they haven't told many Americans. Champagne, the area famous for making bubbly, is also home to dozens of spectacular manors, castles and chateaus that are open for business and surprisingly affordable. ...
  • G'bye Truffles, Hello Ribs

    Poor Alain Ducasse. After a stumbling start at his eponymous New York showcase, the world's most honored French chef last week won the three stars (out of four) from The New York Times that are the minimum you'd expect for a $145 prix fixe. Unfortunately, this happened just as fashion is shifting away from superdeluxe French-American restaurants serving chicken "swathed in an insolently retrograde Albufera sauce... with foie gras butter and a blend of Madeira, Cognac and port." The new restaurant paradigm is a place like Don Juan on Halsted, opening next week as an outlet for the cooking of the highly regarded Chicago chef Patrick Concannon. It's a Mexican cafe with a menu built around a dozen choices of tacos (including lamb, shrimp and vegetarian) ranging in price up to $4. "I just wanted to open a place where I'd like to go myself," says Concannon, 34. But he also thinks he's on to a trend. The next generation of chefs, he predicts, will aspire to running restaurants where kids...
  • But Can You Sniff The Twist Cap?

    So you think you know wine? Let's see if you can tell apart these two wines, which both went on sale in October. One is a $135 bottle of 1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, an ultralimited bottling of just 120 cases from PlumpJack Winery, part of a luxury lifestyle conglomerate (wines, restaurants and posh resorts) whose owners include the fabulously wealthy art collector Gordon Getty. The other, a 1998 Cabernet sold under the Alcott Ridge label, is made by the truckload at the E&J Gallo wineworks and sold exclusively, at about $7 a bottle, by that well-known purveyor of motor oil, appliances and fine wines, Wal-Mart.Now, to make things even easier, here's a hint: one of these bottles has a standard cork, just like that 1945 Petrus you've been eying for about $4,300. The other is sealed with essentially the same device found on a $1.69 bottle of Coke: a twist-off screw top. It is, of course, a trick question, because it is the $135 PlumpJack (which earned a "90+" from the eminent...
  • Take The Money And Run

    Leonardo Dicaprio used to hang out at Dana Giacchetto's loft. Courteney Cox took him on vacation. Everyone--Ben Affleck, Cameron Diaz, Alanis Morissette--gave the hip investment adviser money. Giacchetto promised to invest it conservatively. "A lot of numbers make me nervous," Cox said once, "but Dana really cares about helping me understand how it works." According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Giacchetto borrowed $825,000 from Cox's portfolio, apparently to pay office bills and cover losses on other accounts. He probably never explained that part to Cox--that would have made her really nervous.Last week Giacchetto, 37, surrendered to authorities at the FBI office in Manhattan. The Feds say that the money manager, who ran an investment company called the Cassandra Group, illegally took control of about $20 million in client funds. At least some people got their money back, but Giacchetto still faces a $1.25 million fine and 15 years in prison. Giacchetto's lawyer...