The Good Life

With 2007 peeking around the corner, it's time to start making plans to ring in the new. For the ultimate New Year's experience, host your own party on a private island in the Maldives, boasting white sands and turquoise waters. The "Rania Experience" includes a yacht, a three-bedroom suite, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, gym, beach villas and open-air dining areas. A team of spa therapists, chefs, butlers and diving instructors will cater to your every whim ($14,500 per couple per night; ( raniaexperience.com ).

Want something wilder? Jet over to Rio de Janeiro, the party capital of the world. The New Year's Eve bash at the Copacabana Palace promises to be an explosive affair with live music, fireworks, a six-course dinner and plenty of bubbly ($557 per person; copacabanapalace.com.br ).

Or book a stay at Bono's five-star Dublin boutique hotel, The Clarence. Revel in luxury in the plush penthouse suite, wining and dining your way through a five-course menu and plenty of pink champagne ("New Year" package, $9,300 for three nights; theclarence.ie ).

For the height of decadence, waltz your way into 2007 at the annual Kaiserball at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna ($66-$700 per person; kaiserball.at ). The former winter residence of the Austrian monarchy is adorned with thousands of flowers, and guests are free to roam the seven ballrooms, where orchestras play until dawn. Happy New Year!

Canada's cultural capital is known as the New York of the north, with great theaters, restaurants and nightlife.

STROLL the cobblestone streets of the historic distillery district, where beautifully restored Victorian buildings house galleries and theaters ( thedistillery district.com .

BROWSE the Art Gallery of Ontario, renowned for its extensive collection of Henry Moore sculptures. Indulge in tequila-cured smoked salmon at the Café AGO ( ago.net ).

SHOP the avenues of Bloor-Yorkville, where style meets culture in boutiques specializing in antiques, fashion, jewelry and interior design ( bloor-yorkville.com ).

SIP martinis at the rooftop Panorama Bar, on the 51st floor of the Manulife Centre. On a clear day you can see across Lake Ontario to the south ( eatertainment.com .

--Rebecca Hall

Only the name is down to earth at Heston Blumenthal's petite restaurant an hour outside London. Blessed with a third Michelin star in 2004 and proclaimed "best restaurant in the world" last year by Restaurant magazine, the Fat Duck has become one of Europe's premier destination eateries.

Ambience: Low-slung ceilings, whitewashed walls and pastel paintings create a church-quiet environment in which to meditate on the always interesting, sometimes pretentious food.

Rocket science: Blumenthal believes in the importance of chemistry in cuisine. He dates his conversion to the 1980s, when he read Harold McGee's "On Food and Cooking." "My knowledge of chemistry was schoolboy-level at best, so this book was somewhat of a challenge, to say the least," he says.

Food: Blumenthal plays with what he calls "the psychology of flavor." To wit: carpaccio of cauliflower and chocolate jelly; venison and frankincense tea; salmon poached with "liquorice"; nitro-scrambled egg-and-bacon ice cream with pain perdu and tea jelly.

Price: The a la carte menu is £80; the tasting menu, £97.75.

Reservations: Don't leave home without one (fatduck.co.uk; 44 [0] 1628-580-333).

--Stryker McGuire

Late-night TV host David Letterman famously said that without coffee, "I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever." Imagine, then, the personality in the new varieties of coffee now selling for more than $50 a pound. Coffee connoisseurs treat these gourmet beans with the same reverence oenophiles reserve for a fine 1989 Bordeaux:

The Guatemala Special Reserve El Injerto is the latest coffee to set roasters astir. This year's crop set wholesale auction records, going for $25.20 per pound (the wholesale price for commoditized coffee is just over a dollar a pound). This high-altitude bean yields a "very lively" coffee with strong citric notes, according to George Howell of TerroirCoffee.com (about $50).

The finest pedigreed bean is probably that of The St. Helena Coffee Co., grown on the small South Atlantic island. Napoleon was a fan during his exile there; for just $62.50 a pound, you can be, too ( st-helena-coffee.sh ).

For the cup that Coffee Review called "perfumed perfection," look for Panama Esmeralda Especial. Declared "Best of Panama" for three years running, the Especial mixes African seeds and Central American soil to produce a cup with strong berry flavors (about $100; haciendaesmeralda.com ).

The world's priciest coffee hails from Indonesia. All Kopi Luwak beans have been eaten by the palm civet, a raccoonlike mammal. Workers collect the animal's droppings--really!--to find beans that are then cleaned and dried. The coffee's hefty price tag ($200 for a one-pound gift set) reflects the fact that the civets "don't just scarf any [coffee] cherry they find," says Todd Davis of animalcoffee.com . "They find which ones are best and ripest." A cup of Kopi Luwak virtually guarantees personality of the most unique sort.

--Barrett Sheridan

Ornaments: Tree Bling Forget painted pine cones or hand-crocheted snowflakes. The season's most stunning Christmas tree ornaments are like mini works of art, dazzlingly crafted from crystal, sterling silver or colorful painted glass. Hang them high so the dog's tail won't hit them.

Games: Putting a Spy in Your Pocket

Hideo Kojima is an everything-including-the-kitchen-sink kind of game designer. If your system offers a feature, he'll take advantage of it. He's taken this philosophy to ludicrously entertaining extremes with Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops ($39.99; gamestop.com ), his newest espionage game for the PSP. In addition to the presence of the series' much-beloved star, Snake, players can also "recruit" allies that are randomly generated by nearby Wi-Fi hotspots. (The game even supports the PSP's GPS add-on, currently selling only in Japan.) We found that the controls took some getting used to, but after 15 minutes of play, we were creeping up on guards and disposing of them with abandon. With its terrific graphics and engrossing multiplayer options, Portable Ops offers up solid proof of the PSP's potential.