Living / Insights

Test Drive: 2012 Aston Martin DBS Carbon Edition

Safety, technology, and luxury combine in the new Aston Martin DBS Carbon Edition.

March 30, 2012

It was a chilly winter afternoon at Aston Martin's Headquarters in Silver Spring, MD when the Carbon Black DBS (also available in Flame Orange and Ceramic Grey) was unloaded off a transporter for my four-day entitlement with the British 2+2 Coupe. The splendor of its progressive profile, elegant lines, and vividly acoustic growl attracted a neighborly crowd on our narrow suburban street. Initially, I drove the DBS timidly while reminiscing on my first few drives of Aston Martin’s team captain back in 2007.

British Beauty Abounds

Everyone that laid eyes on the Carbon Edition must have been under its intense, elegant spell because they stared at it like a resurrection. The car's charismatic intent, posh hand-stitched cabin (70 hours to complete), available power, and quantity of carbon fiber energized my conscience with a minor bit of impetuous arrogance knowing “beauty and the beast” could electrify a crowd and embarrass the majority of myopic sports car owners on the road.

Carbon fiber comprises the side-view mirrors, front chin spoiler, rear diffuser, door trim and pulls, sill plate, and the center stack. I was, however, a bit alarmed that the DBS was outfitted with 20” Pirelli P Zero performance tires in the middle of winter, but nevertheless reminded myself that discretion is the better part of valor. Either way, the vehicle’s 10-spoke black diamond-embossed rims, replete with massive carbon ceramic rotors and black six-piston front calipers (yellow, red, orange, or grey optional) are as mesmerizing as it gets for an in-house designed wheel package.

Sleek Safety & Flawless Function

Now, the DBS isn’t the fastest sports car I’ve ever driven (that goes to the Bugatti Veyron), but it does do a lot of things well—like braking and cornering. It’s not necessarily always about the pure number of horses under the hood—the weight-to-horsepower ratio, which affects acceleration and braking, is actually more important. To my point, the aluminum and magnesium DBS felt so light and fluid that 510 horsepower can easily equate to 600 horsepower in a heavier vehicle. A six-speed Touchtronic 2 automatic transmission may be operated as a normal automatic or the driver can take control through the steering column mounted magnesium alloy and carbon fiber-trimmed paddle shifters

Safety and performance technologies are omnipresent and the key reason why this vehicle performs on such a high-intensity level. Key features include Adaptive Damping System (ADS) with Track mode, Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Track mode, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD); Emergency Brake Assist (EBA), and, of course, Traction Control (TC). The vehicle impressed a passenger and I when it came to a complete halt from high speeds in a shorter distance than we expected and without skidding.

Everyday Extras

When you prefer to drive the vehicle in a more relaxing manner, simply put the gearbox in automatic mode, connect your iPod, and turn up the volume to the 1000-watt Bang & Olufsen BeoSound audio system. Passengers consistently asked what the two raised, mini towers were from both ends of the dash. These tweeters add style and presence to the DBS.

DBS Carbon Edition prices start at $287,576 for the coupe and $302,576 for the Volante (convertible) and the car achieves 12 mpg city and 18 mpg hwy. My test vehicle totaled $292,278, which included a $2,600 gas guzzler charge, There’s a reason James Bond chose an Aston Martin DBS for his latest installment. I now know why!

—Kimatni D. Rawlins,


Décor Pick: A Chic Light Fixture

This bubbly fixture adds glamour and light to your bedside or dressing table.

March 22, 2012

This ball light ($725) can be attached to a wall or ceiling and would fit perfectly in a home with a sparse, modern vibe. Designed by Michael Anastassiades, it's available in gold, nickel, and black at Matter. 405 Broome St.

—Jessica Ferri


Stylish Storage: A Trusco Toolbox

An electric blue toolbox that you don’t have to hide away.

March 14, 2012

Get a jumpstart on your spring cleaning and home improvement with this steel toolbox from Japanese brand Trusco ($90). The Cooper-Hewitt Shop, 2 East 91st St.


Fitness Find: A Vigorelli Bicycle Frame

Take your bicycle up a notch with a sporty Italian frame.

March 09, 2012

If you want to take your love of cycling to the next level, start with the glamorous work of Italian designer Vigorelli. The brand’s 2012 track frame ($899.95) is made of aluminum, with rear-facing, steel insert horizontal track dropouts and includes a Cinelli sealed headset and seat clamp. Chari & Co., 175 Stanton St.

—Jessica Ferri


Gym Review: Peak Performance

Joe Dowdell and his team will whip you into summer shape, one hour-long session at a time.

March 07, 2012

Spring is officially peeking its head and the pressure to get in shape is on. To pull us out of our winter rut, we recently put in a workout at Midtown’s 10,000 square-foot Peak Performance studio.      

During our hour-long session, several of the gym’s certified trainers took us through a series of stations. We spent ten minutes at each stop, working on specific parts of the body. Each of the six rotations used different equipment, including classics like weighted medicine balls and tension bands, as well as the more advanced free-speed treadmill and Jacob’s Ladder, both of which move at the pace of the user. The variety of the workout made the hour fly by and left our heart racing and our muscles burning. We could almost feel the calories dissipating. 

To give his clients solid results, Peak Performance founder and CEO Joe Dowdell spent the last 16 years studying and perfecting the ideal workout routine. His bespoke brand of fitness begins with a physical assessment, wherein Peak’s conditioning specialists determine a personal program to fit each individual’s needs. From there, the one-on-one training begins. Single sessions are available ($150), but the Peak 90 Program ($8,020–$8,350), which spans 90 days, comprises 45 sessions, and includes meal plans, nutritional counseling, and six soft tissue recovery and regeneration sessions, is a no-excuses, full-throttle route to reaching “peak” condition. 54 W. 21st St., 212-229-3670

—Mollie Campbell


Top Photography Galleries

A guide to the best fine art photography hubs in Manhattan.

March 05, 2012

Aperture Foundation Gallery
The not-for-profit Aperture Foundation, founded by photographers Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Barbara Morgan, and Minor White, and its gallery—which toasts its 60th anniversary this October—has been home to past exhibits such as “Bruce Davidson: Subway,” and a limited-edition program featuring prints from Annie Leibovitz and Edward Steichen. “Our space not only serves as a gallery and exhibition venue but as a place of engagement and connection for the photographic community,” says director of limited-edition photographs Kellie McLaughlin. 547 W. 27th St., Fourth Fl., 212-505-5555

Howard Greenberg Gallery
Susan Sarandon, Ralph Fiennes, and Katherine Waterston are among the fans of this gallery, which emerged out of founder and chief curator Howard Greenberg’s small nonprofit school and Photofind gallery in Woodstock, New York. Although he is now opening its doors to more contemporary works, Greenberg is most interested in representing artists with traditional or classical viewpoints such as Berenice Abbott, William Klein, and André Kertész. “I’ve always liked photography rooted in work that combines craft and vision,” Greenberg says. “I’m very interested in the history of it.” 41 E. 57th St., Ste. 1406, 212-334-0010;

Marian Goodman Gallery
Marian Goodman Gallery is best known for introducing international artists to a New York audience,” says Karina Daskalov, a director at the gallery. Over the past two years, the gallery’s photographers—including Steve McQueen, Jeff Wall, and Francesca Woodman, whose works light up the Guggenheim beginning March 16—have also shown at MOMA, the Whitney, and the Met. 24 W. 57th St., 212-977-7160

Staley-Wise Gallery
Photographs from Cecil Beaton, David LaChapelle, and Herb Ritts adorn the walls of this Soho gallery, opened by Taki Wise and Etheleen Staley in 1981. “We had both come from the fashion photography field as stylists and editors, and the commercial and editorial work [we encountered] was equal to the work that was being shown as artwork,” says Wise. Showcasing fashion photography, nudes, and celebrity portraits as works of fine art, past exhibitions have included the many faces of Marilyn Monroe and the connections between music and fashion from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. 560 Broadway, 212-966-6223;


For Your Reading List: The Darlings

Cristina Alger discusses her first novel, a fall of the family tale that rivals the real-life story of the Madoffs.

February 20, 2012

In her debut novel, The Darlings, former lawyer Cristina Alger tackles subjects that she has experienced firsthand. From family ties and loyalties to the world of Wall Street and the economic crash, Alger's characters traverse sensitive yet timely issues under the microscope of New York's high society. Here, the author opens up about her switch from law to writing, the process of publishing her first novel, and her opinions on the current economy.

What sparked your decision to move from law and finance to writing?
I enjoyed my job and always saw writing as a side hobby. I found myself spending more and more time doing it, and I ended up showing the [book] to a friend who is a writer. She thought it was great and thought I should go off and find an agent. It was the first time I thought that I could, maybe, do this full-time and see if I could consider this a job and not a hobby. When I first left [law], I was a little bit nervous that I would miss the structure and miss having colleagues. Then I found that I loved it and it felt like I was doing what I thought was my hobby as a job, and I'm still marveled that that's the case.

How did you come up with the concept for the book?
When I started working on it, it struck me that I was watching history unfold. They were traumatic times for Wall Street, and New York generally. I started working on a story based on a family company, because I grew up in that environment. I thought it created an interesting stage for personal familly issues to play out. Eventually, I [plotted] my story with the Darling family and got very involved with the characters, building a larger story around them.

Where do you see the economy going in future years?
One of the things that I wanted to do in my book was show a changing of the guard a little bit, and have the characters that have stronger ethical values come out on top. I guess that was my sort of a hopeful way of saying that I hope that the turmoil of the market would allow for a little bit of reordering. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess.


—anna ben yehuda


Rediscovering Pierre-Auguste Renoir at The Frick

A never-before-seen grouping of the artist’s full-length portraits opens at The Frick.

January 26, 2012

Dance in the City by Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
on loan from the Museé d’Orsay in Paris

This month, an exhibit five years in the making will debut in The Frick Collection’s vast East Gallery. “Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting” explores the French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s commitment to the large-scale format. “This scale was for him very meaningful; it’s not just occasional. It’s really a format that he rejoices in,” says Colin B. Bailey, the Frick’s deputy director. “I would argue that it brings forth some of his most impressive, ambitious, beautiful pictures.”

The exhibition, which includes nine paintings from the Impressionist decade (1874 to 1885), culled from museums in London, Paris, Boston, and other cities, includes the painting The Umbrellas, last seen in the US in 1886. Says Bailey of the work, “It’s one of the most mesmerizing of Renoirs.”

However, it was The Promenade, purchased by Henry Clay Frick in 1914 and part of the museum’s permanent collection, which was the inspiration for the exhibition. In preparation, the painting was sent to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for study, during which an infrared analysis revealed two women in the background, painted over by Renoir. “Our pictures have never left the Frick, so it’s never been part of an exhibition and it hasn’t been, in some ways, studied or explored,” says Bailey. “I feel very strongly that for every work that we’ve asked to come here, we should encourage as much new study as possible. So for us, that was a fantastic, unexpected insight into Renoir’s process.” “Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting” is on display February 7 through May 13; 1 E. 70th St., 212-288-0700

-jill sieracki


Neal Sroka: Confessions of a Power Broker

Prudential Douglas Elliman’s real estate expert reveals today’s property investment for in-the-know New Yorkers—the Caribbean.

January 20, 2012

Thirty years ago, Neal Sroka, founder and president of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s DE Worldwide, an international real estate consulting group, first encountered the Caribbean market; 20 years later he began selling there. But it was only in the last 18 months that Sroka noticed the market really beginning to heat up. “As these [new] developments become more mature, you’re going to see some uptick in values,” says Sroka, who believes that buyers coming in at the ground floor will find there is room for the market to grow, spurring increased home values.

A shift has also occurred in the ease with which people can get to island locales, making the region prime for vacation homes. “The mere fact that, in three hours or less, you can be on the beach in one of these resort areas makes a very compelling argument for a New Yorker to pursue one,” says Sroka. “We used to joke that, on certain days, it was easier to get on a plane and fly to your house in the Dominican Republic than to drive to your place in East Hampton.”

Sroka has noticed a trend of New Yorkers with an apartment in the city and a place out in the Hamptons now buying in the Caribbean to “spread out the whole year.” Says Sroka, “They’ll spend three months in the Hamptons, six months in the city, and three months down in the Caribbean.” 575 Madison Ave., 212-319-5845


The Perfect Long Weekend in Mexico

Escape to Esperanza Resort for three glorious days of whale watching, yoga and unbelievably fresh seafood.

January 18, 2012

We’ve had a mild winter here in New York, but a gray and dreary one nonetheless—and it’s all downhill from here. But, did you know that it’s high time for whale watching, 83-degree weather and infinity pool wading in Cabo San Lucas? Prepare your frosty, downtrodden senses to be uplifted with this three-day itinerary at Esperanza Resort, located four miles outside of Cabo San Lucas on the bluffs of the Baja Peninsula. Through whale watching season (January to March 31) the resort is offering a special Whale’s Journey package ($2959) that includes three nights in an oceanview garden casita, a magical whale watching excursion, complimentary private roundtrip airport transfers, daily breakfasts at the resort’s fine dining restaurant, gratis yoga classes and a lunch for two at the resort's grill. Here’s how we recommend making the most of three days in paradise.  

Thursday: Unwind

Arrive: Begin your journey at Los Cabos International Airport, where the Esperanza Cadillac Escalade will be waiting to whisk you away to the resort.  

Decompress: Settle into your oceanview casita, replete with 925 square-feet of indoor/outdoor living space and one cozy hammock. Next, go for a dip in the resort’s infinity edge pool overlooking the glittering Sea of Cortez. Swim-up or sit down at La Palapa grill for a lunch of lobster fajitas and seafood ceviche. For dessert, hail a gourmet popsicle (watermelon ginger or coconut rum, anyone?) or snow cone from a friendly pool butler. After you’ve soaked up the necessary amount of sun, sea and seafood, catch a candlelight yoga class at the Esperanza yoga studio.

Fiesta: Get acquainted with the diverse and eclectic cuisines and libations of Mexico at Mexicanismo, a recurring Thursday night fiesta on the resort’s oceanfront patio that roars with live music, fireworks and fun.

Friday: Explore

Recharge: Savor a breakfast of old fashioned chilaquiles or huevos rancheros and organic estate-grown Mexcican coffee in the privacy of your casita or seaside at the resort’s cliff-perched Cocina del Mar restaurant.

Set Sail: ‘Tis the season for whale watching in Cabo San Lucas. During this time thousands of gray and humpback whales make the longest migration of any mammal to the warm waters near Cabo San Lucas. See the graceful and massive flock during a two-and-a-half hour Zodiac Whale Watching Excursion. Afterward, go off the resort grounds for a lunch at The Office, a lively beachfront restaurant where you can sink your toes in the sand and tuck into Baja-style lobster cooked in hot oil with garlic and onion and chorizo queso fundido served with piping hot corn tortillas and tomatillo sauce.

Turn and Burn: Enroll in Cocina del Mar chef Gonzalo Cerda's Refined Grilling Class and learn how to cook Baja’s indigenous “chocolata” clams. Chef Cerda will also instruct students on the traditional Mexican way to grill fish over a wood and coal bonfire.

Saturday: Indulge

Sunrise: Wake up before dawn and take in a sunrise yoga class on the resort’s private beach. Afterward, keep the sea in sight and enjoy a leisurely breakfast alfresco at Cocina del Mar.

Spa: Treat your newly tanned skin to an organic facial at the beach bungalow Spa at Esperanza. Request the new Baja Lime Brightening and Lightening Facial for a vitamin C and antioxidant boost using Marie Veronique products. Check in early and experience the Pasaje de Agua, where you’ll progress through a warm spring soaking pool, steam caves and a cool waterfall. And don’t forget to order a refreshing agua fresca made with local fruits, vegetables and desert plants.  

Taste: Become an expert in the nuances of white, semi-aged and aged tequilas while enjoying homemade Mexican chocolate pairings, traditional mezcal and sangritas at an artisanal chocolate and tequila tasting led by the resort’s master tequilero.

Devour: Save the best for last and experience chef Cerda's sea-to-table menu at Cocina del Mar. The three-course tasting menu samples the bounty of the local waters accented by traditional Mexican spices. The seafood tortilla soup, bobbing with poached lobster, scallops, shrimp, littleneck clams, crispy corn tortillas, guajillo chili and cool avocado, is a first course favorite. Follow it up with the delicate shrimp and crab agnolotti with pernod and saffron seafood bisque and finish with the chef’s special catch of the day. Then, all that’s left to do is imbibe and sleep sound until breakfast is delivered to your casita and the Esperanza Escalade picks you up once again. 

For reservations, call 866-311-2226 or visit

—April Walloga

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