Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gadgets we Love

Sony VPL-VW50 $4,750 Stewart Filmscreen SST screen
$1,760 and up

Once you've watched movies in high definition on a 100-inch screen in your living room, retreating to a 50-inch flat panel feels like a schlep back to the Berle era. Sony's latest hi-def video projector and the screen surface Stewart Filmscreen expressly designed to work with it can fill your life with images once confined to movie palaces and Hollywood screening rooms: big, immersive and viewed by reflected light. You may never go out to a theater again.
--Stephen Manes

Nokia N95

Early next year Nokia will begin selling the new N95, a luxe phone with a silvery front, beige back and two-way sliding top. Everything's in there: MP3 player with stereo speakers, a 5-megapixel camera, DVD-quality video, GPS maps, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, high-speed cellular, spreadsheets, e-mail. It's basically a laptop in your hand. The N95 will sell only in Europe. It may never even arrive in the U.S.
—Bruce Upbin

Guitar Hero

Guitar Hero is simulated six-string karaoke. Step one: Strap on fake plastic guitar, assume power stance (sneer optional). Step two: Select one of 47 songs. (Oh yes, there will be "Smoke on the Water.") Step three: Shred.
--Amanda Schupak

Nintendo Wii

This dirt-simple interface opens gaming to people who don't want to master endless button combinations in order to have some fun--and should enable new forms of games nobody's thought of yet. Whee!
--Stephen Manes

Slim Devices Squeezebox


This $300 metal and- plastic receiver declutters a living room by streaming digital tracks from your computer to your stereo over your home's wireless network. Setup was simple. I'd already ripped hundreds of CDs into iTunes on a Mac Mini.
--Daniel Lyons

Sonos Digital Music System

This overgrown iPod of a remote is the wireless heart of the Sonos Digital Music System, a delightful--if expensive--way to shuttle music from computer or Internet around the house. With it, I can send the Ohio Players to my bedroom, Handel to the living room and Keane to the kitchen. If I'm feeling impish, I can switch them all around by swirling the track wheel and mashing a few backlit buttons while I'm walking from the living room to the bedroom. Lift the remote after it's been down for a while and its motion sensor wakes it up. Love the brick and the brick loves you back.
--Bruce Upbin

Plantronics Discovery 640

When the guy who sold me my pink Motorola Razr cell phone told me I needed to buy a Bluetooth headset, I was crestfallen. Until, that is, I found the Plantronics Discovery 640.

The first time I held it I giggled with glee. The thing is tiny, only 2.25 inches long and 0.3 of an ounce, and nestles inside its chrome carrying case very much like a lipstick. I stuck a handful of rhinestones on the outside case, and now it looks even cuter clipped onto my purse. All the little parts that come with it are kept inside a tidy chrome compact with a handy mirror on the outside.
--Erika Brown

Garmin StreetPilot c330

The Garmin global-positioning satellite receiver knew exactly where we were and all the places we could go: restaurants, hotels, stores and gas stations. We found our spot and discovered that the Cowgirl Creamery was on the way home (I brake for cheese).
--Victoria Murphy Barret

Skype Video Free

Skype's video quality made thousands of miles disappear for me this summer, during the Israel-Lebanon war. Hundreds of people were dying from Israeli and Hezbollah missiles. Family members were being drafted overnight under emergency military orders.

I decided to go back and called my parents just as they were about to practice going down to the bomb shelter. Their faces on Skype looked ghostly. "Cancel your plane ticket," my mother commanded. "You stay there, and stay safe. Promise me you won't come back."

We looked at each other for a few seconds without saying a word. On my screen a small tear rolled down her cheek-- sharp, clear and unmistakable.
--Dan Fishel

iGo Charger

Life as a three-gadget man is not elegant. I need baggy pants, bulky jackets or a backpack to haul the things around. In an attempt to regain some dignity, I converged what I could: the power cords. The iGo charger juices up all three of my machines equally well; the only adjustment I have to make is swapping out a different nib for each gadget.
--Peter Kafka

Last Minute Gift Ideas for Valentine's Day

Forgot to send a dozen roses?

Orchid of the Month Club

$1050 a year

There's only one thing better than roses for a day: orchids for a year. Thanks to the folks at Beautiful Orchids, the latter is feasible. For $1050, your sweetie will enjoy 12 months of blooming potted orchids delivered to his or her door. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving.

For more information, visit www.beautifulorchids.com.

Forgot to make a reservation at Per Se?

Wine Lover's Picnic Basket for Two


A romantic--and simple--alternative to a five-star meal? A picnic under the stars. For this, Williams-Sonoma has the goods. It offers a handcrafted, varnished willow picnic basket equipped with necessary tablewear, including plates, glasses, a tablecloth and wine tote.

For more information, visit www.williams-sonoma.com

Forgot to plan a night on the town?

Once in a Lifetime Experience Gift Certificate

$100 to $125,000

New Jersey-based Xperience Days offers adventures from the heart-racing (race car driving) to the relaxing (dinner cruise) to the utterly indulgent (couples massage). Consider an Xperience gift certificate, which will enable your sweetie to select his or her activity of choice. Helicopter ride, anyone?

For more information, visit www.xperiencedays.com.

Forgot to bake something special?

Bake Me a Wish! Cake

$25 to $40 (plus $15 for shipping)

Feel free to remove that apron; this New York bakery will be doing the heavy lifting this Valentine's Day. Bake Me a Wish! will also deliver an array of cake options from red velvet to chocolate mousse next door or across the country. What's more, 5% of all online cake purchases will go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

For more information, visit www.bakemeawish.com.

Forgot to book a trip to Hawaii?

Everest Globe


Another creative option: a globe. Just think, you and your Valentine can map out that romantic trip together. National Geographic has just the one, thanks to its skilled team of cartographers, woodworkers, brass engravers and mother-of-pearl artisans. The only glitch: there are only 250 hand-blown crystal globes for sale, so you better snag this collector's item fast.

For more information, visit www.everestglobe.com.

Forgot to book a room at the Ritz?

Leron Linens

$1385 (king top sheet, case and sham)

Who needs to seek luxury elsewhere when you can enjoy it in the comfort of your own home? That's where the linen connoisseurs at Leron come in. Among their high-end offerings: a set of hand-embroidered, 400-count Egyptian cotton linens. Added bonus: this gift is guaranteed to keep you and your sweetie in bed.

For more information, visit www.leron.com.

Forgot to pick up a bottle of Bordeaux?

Wine of the Month Club

$599.90 a year

Consider instead Igourmet's Wine of the Month Club. This way your Valentine can enjoy not one, but two bottles of wine delivered to his or her house each month. While the color choice is yours, igourmet's wine connoisseurs will select the vineyards, bottles and themes each month. They'll also lend their expertise with food and cheese pairing suggestions.

For more information, visit igourmet.com.

Forgot to create a hand-made card?

Scrap Chic Customized Scrapbook

$75 and up

Creativity can be outsourced, thanks to Scrap Chic Boutique. Just e-mail in your pictures, and the staff at the Georgia-based boutique will do the rest (think stickers, stamps and ribbons galore). The result: a very happy Valentine (and very little work).

For more information, visit www.scrapchicboutique.com.

Forgot to buy his dream car?

Luxury Car Membership Company

$3,500 to $11,500 per year

With Club Sportiva, your Valentine will have options: a Bentley one day, a Ferrari the next. And with more than 20 different luxury cars available, he or she will revel in the ultimate driving experience without the hassles (or cost) of ownership. In addition, the car club organizes member road rallies and events, among other VIP services.

For more information, visit www.clubsportiva.com.

Forgot to buy a box of Godiva?

Eleni's Conversation Heart Cookies


Eh, chocolates are cliché anyway. Another option is Eleni's conversation heart cookies. For just under $60, you'll get 15 hand-iced sugar cookies with sweetheart phrases like "Yours truly," "Be Mine" and "Hug Me." One word: yum!

For more information, visit www.elenis.com.

Most In-Demand Toys

Sony PlayStation 3

Not only can PS3 users access PlayStation’s extensive catalogue of games, they can also share files with other PS3 users from all over the world. The system also features an upgradeable hard drive, a Blu-ray drive and a Bluetooth controller. The company released only 200,000 in United States, making the PlayStation 3 one of the most difficult items to get this season.

Nintendo Wii Nintendo Wii

The Nintendo Wii is like most “plug-and-play” consoles, but also comes with extra attachments that allow you to simulate taking a physical swing of a golf club, hitting a return in tennis or throwing a punch at an opponent, all while playing a videogame.

T.M.X. Tickle Me Elmo

Fisher Price is celebrating Elmo’s 10-year anniversary with the release of T.M.X. Tickle Me Elmo. It has a larger range of motion than its predecessor, and five “tickle” spots that have the stuffed animal rolling around in hysterics. While it retails for $40, Tickle Me Elmo is selling for almost double its price on sites such as eBay and Amazon.com.

Monopoly Here and Now Edition

An updated version of Monopoly was released this year and includes 22 new properties--including cities and streets--chosen by American voters who weighed in online. It’s proving just as popular as the original 1936 version.

Radica Digi Makeover Radica Digi Makeover

This year, the company has created a coveted set of plastic blocks with a SpongeBob theme. It includes SpongeBob, Squidward and Gary figurines, as well as plenty of jellyfish.

LEGO SpongeBob Square Pants Adventures At Bikini Bottom

This year, the company has created a coveted set of plastic blocks with a SpongeBob theme. It includes SpongeBob, Squidward and Gary figurines, as well as plenty of jellyfish.

Flywheels XPV Xtreme Performance Vehicle


This high-performance toy is on the top of many holiday wish lists thanks to extensive graphics and its ability to perform ground and aerial stunts. Seatbelts not necessary. What is? A thorough search.

Kid Tough CameraKid Tough Camera

Children like to emulate their parents, and the Kid Tough Camera by Fisher Price lets them do just that. It’s got a durable exterior and a computer plug-in for downloading pictures. Even better? You won’t have to worry about the kids hijacking your expensive camera.

Butterscotch My Furreal Friends Pony


If a live pony is not an option, Hasbro’s lifelike stuffed animal is a good substitute. It is big enough for a small child to sit on and, through sensors, can feel when it is being groomed and turns its head in response.

Top 10 Most Romantic Hotels

The One & Only Ocean Club

Where: Paradise Island, the Bahamas

For who: The self-indulgent; beach bunnies

Why it’s romantic: You’ll find warm breezes, sand and sea, plus luxury spa treatments for two here. A couples package currently offered includes accommodation, breakfast, a 110-minute massage treatment, plus a nighttime “bathing ritual” in your room during which masseurs scrub your feet and draw a bath for two.

Clayoquot Wilderness Resorts and Spa

Where: Vancouver Island, British Columbia

For who: Nature lovers

Why it’s romantic: This spot is all about luxury in the wild woods. Helicopter into the pristine Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve; enjoy hiking, kayaking and horseback riding or spot whales and bears with a naturalist guide; then relax in front of a towering stone fireplace or in one of the white canvas guest tents appointed with antique dressers, queen-sized beds and down duvets.

The Plaza Athenée

Where: Paris

For who: Foodies, shoppers

Why it’s romantic: This is classic Paris at its most glitzy. Venture here and see and be seen on Avenue Montaigne, the last word in luxury shopping with Chanel, Christian Dior and Gucci among the many boutiques. When you get tired of high fashion and spotting the celebrities who frequent the area (Katie Holmes was recently spied at Armani and Sex in the City filmed at the hotel) stroll hand-in-hand across the Seine. Starred chef Alain Ducasse oversees the hotel’s five restaurants.

Scottsdale Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch

Where: The Sonoran Desert (near Scottsdale, Ariz.)

For who: Golfers, tennis players, stargazers

Why it’s romantic: Private lakeside casitas overlooking the Sonora mountains have rooftop decks for prime stargazing. The spa is offering a couples’ Valentine’s special that includes two-and-a-half hours of foot and body massages and facials. The more active can enjoy top-notch golf and tennis facilities.

Little Palm Island Resort and Spa

Where: The Florida Keys

For who: Sun and sea worshippers; privacy-seekers

Why it’s romantic: It’s a private island. Suites have outdoor showers and king-size beds. The turndown service that comes with the Romance Package includes candles throughout the suite, Taittinger champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and a hot bath with rose petals and body oils.


Where: Central Java, Indonesia

For who: Adventurous culture and history buffs

Why it’s romantic: The resort overlooks Borobudur, the ninth-century Buddhist sanctuary. Rice paddies and distant volcanoes complete the landscape. Couples looking for something special should book the Dalem Jiwo suite, which has a private 15-meter infinity pool and a personal butler on call around the clock.

Hotel Savoy

Where: Florence, Italy

For who: Art lovers, café loungers

Why it’s romantic: Stay here and you’ll step out your door into the heart of Renaissance Italy. The concierges recommend a horse and carriage ride around the old city; many an alleyway turns up fantastic Tuscan cuisine. A Valentine’s day special includes a four-course dinner in the hotel’s L’Incontro restaurant overlooking the Piazza della Repubblica, and a champagne breakfast in your room.

The London NYC

Where: New York City

For who: theater-goers; urbanites

Why it’s romantic: You’ll find bright lights, big city and cutting-edge interior design here. Walk to Broadway, the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park. A Valentine’s Day package includes a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rosé; dinner is by Scottish-born Michelin chef Gordon Ramsay. Concierge service from Quintessentially satisfies whimsical requests for last-minute theater tickets, elusive restaurant reservations and charter jets.

Hotel Astoria

Where: St. Petersburg, Russia

For who: Art and literature fans

Why it’s romantic: Snow falling on history. Take a troika ride through the parks of the czar’s palaces, stroll to the Hermitage Museum or walk in the footsteps of Pushkin and Dostoevsky. A three-night Valentine’s package includes breakfast, entrance to the Hermitage, a city tour and a massage. Vodka additional.

The Blantyre

Where: Lenox, Massachusetts

For who: Traditionalists

Why it’s romantic: It’s a castle, replete with turrets and gargoyles, set on a sprawling estate in the Berkshires. Rooms are unique--try the Maplehurst, located in the estate’s old carriage house and featuring a bathtub and four-poster king-sized bed. Gentlemen, jackets and ties are required for dinner, which will be superb French cuisine.

By Elisabeth Eaves

Unusual Restaurants In The World

Fat Duck

Bray, England


The current tasting menu at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck includes nitro-green tea and lime mousse (shown here) as well as snail porridge, salmon poached with licorice and mango and Douglas fir puree. Blumenthal’s latest book, In Search of Perfection, inspired a television series of the same name currently airing on Britain’s BBC 2.


New York


While patrons work their way through the tasting menu at this Japanese restaurant, servers dressed as ninjas perform magic alongside their tables. Expect to spend quite a bit on the sushi--but realize you’re really paying for the entertainment.

Dans Le Noir (In the Dark)





Dans Le Noir founders Edouard de Broglie and Etienne Boisrond believe that the act of consuming food becomes more satisfying when you're relying on senses other than sight, and they hired a primarily blind and visually-impaired staff to prove their point. Does the food at Dans Le Noir really taste all the better for it? Book a table at one of their three locations--Paris, London or Moscow--to find out.


New York


Chef Wylie Dufresne cut his teeth at Jean Georges as sous chef and then at Prime in The Bellagio, Las Vegas, as chef de cuisine before opening WD-50 in New York City’s Lower East Side. His dishes, such as butternut squash sorbet with coffee soil and basil (shown here), are adventurous. And at $105, the nine-course tasting menu is one of the most reasonably priced in the city.

El Bulli

Costa Brava, Spain


El Bulli's head chef Ferran Adrià Acosta is a scientist with the passion of an artisan. That's why Adrià closes for six months every year to dream up all sorts of new and nearly unbelievable dishes (such as the artful beet-based sorbet shown here) in his "El Taller" laboratory. El Bulli’s dynamic menu earned it the title of 2006’s Number One Restaurant in the World, according to Restaurant magazine.

Ice Hotel Restaurant
Sverige, Sweden


The main restaurant of the famed Ice Hotel chain is, oddly enough, not made of ice. But they do serve meals on plates made from the ice of the Torne River, which borders Sweden and Finland. Elk and reindeer appear frequently on the restaurant’s winter menu.

Linger Lodge

Bradenton, Fla.


Chunk of Skunk? Road Toad Al A Mode? Yes, these are some of the offerings on the road grill menu at the Linger Lodge Restaurant. If you’d rather refrain from snacking on snake or sparrow, there’s a traditional menu with classic southern favorites such as Good Ol' Fashioned Catfish and Old-Florida-Style Fried Chicken.

Dinner In The Sky

Brussels, Belgium


Call it a floating restaurant if you will--patrons who dine at Dinner in the Sky are suspended by a crane in midair while feasting on the executive chef’s specialized gourmet menu. Based in Brussels, Dinner in the Sky now brings its table to cities throughout Europe.





Perth, Australia


The typical Indian fare at this restaurant isn’t shocking, but your bill may come as a bit of a surprise. The Annalakshmi mission is "eat as you like and pay as you feel," which means there are no set menu prices. One dollar or $100--it’s your choice. You might be inclined to leave a hefty tip for the staff, however--they’re employed on a volunteer basis only.




From edible menus (above right) to patent-pending edible advertisements (the details of which are being kept under wraps), chef Homaro Cantu is taking the science of cooking to another level at culinary laboratory Moto. The “nachos and cheese” dish (left) is actually more sweet than savory: the “tortilla chips” are a mix of Mexican sweet corn and flan, the “ground beef” is a grainy Mexican chocolate and the “Monterey jack” is grated Mexican mango spiked with liquid nitrogen that allows it to melt when sprinkled on your plate.

By Lauren Sherman

What $1 Milion can buy in Homes Area

$1.05 million

A million dollars will get you far in Atlanta. This two-story brick manse has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three fireplaces and a gourmet kitchen with stainless steel appliances. The interior boasts 10-foot ceilings, and the master bathroom includes both a garden tub and whirlpool. Outside, the property rests on a third of an acre and has a three-car garage and a backyard deck.

For more information, contact Jenny Pruitt and Associates.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
$1.1 million

This 7,500-square-foot home on just over one-half acre features four bedrooms, including a master suite with a dressing room and a bathroom with a whirlpool tub. The garden boasts a large veranda, in-ground pool and covered barbeque area.

For more information, please contact Reynolds Propiedades Argentina Real Estate.

$1.095 million

Located in the historic Lakewood/Balmoral neighborhood of Chicago, this recently renovated townhome includes four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The large downstairs family room opens to a cedar deck and backyard with a gas barbeque hookup and a two-car garage. The kitchen has professional appliances and the entire first floor has been outfitted with radiant heat to offset those cold Windy City winters.

For more information, contact Scott Rife at Rubloff.

San Jose de Pinilla, Costa Rica
$1 million

This Spanish Colonial-inspired home sits on a half-acre within the Reserva de Golf beach community in the Guanacaste region of the country. It has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a solarium and spacious kitchen as well as maid’s and guest rooms and an outdoor pool.

For more information, contact Nicholas P. Viale at Century 21 Coastal Estates.

Johannesburg, South Africa
$1 million

This contemporary masterpiece boasts four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms, as well as a massive chef’s kitchen and expansive, covered patio for outdoor entertaining. Health nuts will find much to keep them occupied in the gym room while the busy executive can hunker down in the home office.

For more information, please contact Jayke Meneses at Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.

$1 milion

The dollar may be weak compared with the pound, but with a million of them, you can buy a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, second-floor apartment in this stately Victorian building in Belsize Village, a neighborhood filled with restaurants and shops just northwest of downtown London.

For more information, contact Pip Quinton at Knight Frank.

Los Angeles
$1.07 million

Built in 1891, this Queen Anne Victorian is a California historical cultural landmark dubbed the Ernest Wood House. Three stories, with wood-carved stairway railings, the 2,880-square-foot home has five bedrooms, three-and-a-half baths, hardwood floors, a formal dining room and five fireplaces. Outside, a covered wrap-around porch looks out on the landscaped yards and gardens of this 13,000-square-foot lot, which includes a backyard gazebo.

For more information contact Sharon Dwyer at Sotheby’s International Realty, Sunset Strip Brokerage.

New York
$1.05 million

Though only 794 square feet, this midtown apartment has sweeping views of downtown Manhattan, the Hudson River and the Statue of Liberty through its floor-to-ceiling windows. The one-bedroom, one-bathroom space is in the Orion building, which has a health club, 60-foot lap pool, Jacuzzis, saunas, a screening room, onsite concierge service and free breakfast for residents.

For more information, contact Jason Kay at Corcoran.

$1 million

Located in the 20th arrondissement of Nation, this three-level townhouse on a quiet lane features three bedrooms, two bathrooms, living and dining rooms and a study, which faces a 260-square-foot private garden. There is also a wine cellar for oenophiles to store their Loire Valley bottles.

For more information, contact www.rentcom.info.

$1 million

Boasting beamed wooden ceilings, a living room, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, this restored apartment is on the third floor of the medieval building, pictured, in Via San Cosimato, which is close to the Piazza San Maria in Trastevere.

For more information, contact Studio Fori Real Estate.

$1.15 million

Designed to take advantage of its position on Sydney Harbor, this three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment has expansive views from its north-facing balcony. Set in the Jacksons Landing waterfront, the apartment has a gourmet kitchen with marble floors and stainless steel appliances, two parking spaces, walk-in closets in all bedrooms and access to tennis courts, a pool, a gym and nearby harborside parks.

For more information contact Wayne Walter at McGrath Estate Agents.

Tel Aviv, Israel
$1.2 million

Not only does this immaculately kept penthouse offer stunning sea views and a spacious outdoor deck, but living areas are suitable for entertaining and five bedrooms.

For more information, please contact Ilana Biton at Anglo-Saxon Real Estate.

$1.1 million

This 1,700-square-foot, four-bedroom home is located in the Megoro-Ku section of the city, which offers fine dining and shopping, as well as quiet residential areas. It has parking for two cars and a traditional Tatami, or meditation, room.

For more information, contact Plaza Homes, Ltd.

$1.2 million

A two-bedroom, three-bathroom condo is one of 45 custom-designed apartment in this elegant building that offers residents an indoor pool and fitness center, formal gardens, a billiards room and a library that can be used for entertaining.

For more information, contact Harvey Kalles Real Estate.

By Kerry A. Dolan
Expensive Stuff