All posts by Roger Grody

Sun-Kissed Renaissance

Florida is repeatedly challenged, but by embracing its diverse cultures and lifestyles the state has arrived on the threshold of a promising new era.

By Roger Grody

Virtually the entire Florida peninsula was ravaged by Hurricane Irma last September, but the resilient Sunshine State — even Key West, which suffered the devastating storm’s direct assault — has rebounded. Builders may employ new technologies to brace oceanfront properties from future storms, but coastal Florida is far too magical to dampen enthusiasm for new development. Undeterred by Irma is a Floridian renaissance that still has the wind at its back.

Delicious Diversity

Unlike many states that are defined by a uniform lifestyle, Florida is so multidimensional that vastly different lifestyles coexist. The fourth-generation fisherman dropping nets off the Florida Panhandle seems far removed from the hipster fashion designer in South Beach, yet both are proud Floridians united by their passion for the sun and surf.

Some of Florida’s 67 counties are more spiritually akin to rural Alabama, while others feel more like Havana, Managua or Brooklyn. In one town, shrimp-and-grits is the signature dish, in another it may be ropa vieja or pastrami-on-rye. That diversity is one of the elements that makes the Sunshine State so exciting, and so welcoming to newcomers.

The U.S. Census reported that 128 different languages are spoken in South Florida alone. While some old-timers may bemoan that reality, it is the influx of immigrants — not only from the Americas but also Europe and Asia — that has fueled the transformation of Miami from sleepy snowbird retreat to world-class metropolis. Other regions of the state have also drawn newcomers from across the country and around the world.

Golf as Religion

With the Gators, Seminoles and Canes all intently followed, football is huge in Florida, but the sport that seems most worshipped in the Sunshine State is golf. Florida has more courses (approximately 1,250) than any other state, the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) is headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, and dozens of touring professionals reside in the state, attracted by its climate, championship courses and lack of state income tax.

Photo courtesy of Vizcaya Museum & Gardens Archives, Robin Hill and Edison Food + Drink Lab

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Bidding on Kindness — How Supreme Auctions Gives Back

Real estate professional Jennie Heal puts her skills as an auctioneer to work for good causes.

By Roger Grody

Supreme Auctions provides an alternative marketing strategy for sellers of luxury real estate. The Scottsdale, Arizona-based firm’s President, Jennie Heal, explains, “We saw an opportunity to provide owners the ability to sell their property in a more expedited manner and many times for far more money than traditional real estate can bring.” She reports the process has been embraced by sellers, listing agents and buyers.

Since its founding 15 years ago, Supreme Auctions has achieved a 94-percent success rate while selling in 70 different countries. “We’re very selective about the properties we auction, accepting only about 10 percent that come to us,” says Heal, a veteran broker with extensive experience in international marketing. She joined the company more than 12 years ago as director of marketing before ascending to the position of president. The auction process is familiar to Heal, as this is a prevailing means of selling luxury manors and estates in her native England.

Growing up in rural Somerset, Heal frequently attended auctions with her father, a farmer who enjoyed bidding on cattle and antiques. “I was bitten by the bug at an early age, but remember him saying, ‘Keep your hands in your pocket,’” says Heal of those childhood experiences. Even after joining a real estate auction company, the seasoned professional’s development as an actual auctioneer occurred very much by accident.

Supreme Auctions President Jennie Heal

“I was attending an event to raise money for my son’s school, and the auctioneer never showed up,” recounts Heal. “One of the parents said, ‘You work for an auction company … why don’t you do it?’ and I found myself on stage.” After her reluctant debut, another parent commented, “You’re really good at this!” When she decided to get serious about auctioneering, Heal attended the Texas Auction Academy and additionally the Professional Ringmen’s Institute.

Heal now serves as a charity benefit auctioneer at approximately 50 events per year, but spends a considerable amount of time before each auction with representatives of the nonprofit organization. “I want to thoroughly understand their missions so I can be as effective as possible in raising money for them,” says Heal, who views herself equal parts salesperson and auctioneer. “I see myself as a conduit from the nonprofit to the audience and frequently conduct additional pledge donations at the conclusion of the live auction,” she explains.

“I was attending an event to raise money for my son’s school, and the auctioneer never showed up,” recounts Heal. “One of the parents said, ‘You work for an auction company … why don’t you do it?’ and I found myself on stage.”

Bringing the spirit of Sotheby’s or Christie’s to those nonprofit galas, Heal’s work has benefitted a diverse array of charities, including Ronald McDonald House Charities, YWCA, Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Foundation for Women, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Legendary for covering all costs of a child’s care, as well as the family’s travel, housing and food expenses, St. Jude is a particularly personal passion of Heal’s, whose brother is a brain tumor survivor. The non-profit has selected her to conduct auctions across the country and Heal never declines an opportunity to raise money for its world-class treatment and research.
Back at her day job with Supreme Auctions, Heal is creating a culture in which giving back to the community is strongly encouraged.

Last year, she and her staff participated as a team, cleaning facilities for Family Promise, an organization that rescues homeless families from the streets. This year, they are planning to work together on a Habitat for Humanity house.

Heal, who lives in Scottsdale with her husband and two children, loves the outdoors. “Any day I am not sat behind a desk is a great day,” she quips.

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High-End Products to Transform Your Cup Of Joe

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of The High End magazine. For more information about The High End, click here.

Suddenly obsessed with coffee, Americans are becoming as selective about the quality of their beans, equipment and tableware as their counterparts in Italy. 

By Roger Grody

Tom Dixon Brew Cafetiere

Kees van der Westen Speedster

Lux/Eros espresso cup and saucer

Photo courtesy Consort-Design.com

As luxury homeowners increasingly desire to master their own barista skills, demand for high-end products for home kitchens is skyrocketing. Coffee aficionados now enjoy many ways of transforming an ordinary cup of Joe into a work of art. 

Handcrafted in Florence, Italy, La Marzocco espresso machines are coveted by professional baristas worldwide, and the company’s Linea Mini ($4,500) is specifically designed for the home. “With the introduction of Linea Mini, we now have a professional-quality machine for anyone interested in creating a café experience in their kitchen,” says Kent Bakke, CEO of La Marzocco International. With a design based on the iconic La Marzocco machines used by the pros, this version is compact (i.e. counter-friendly) and turns out a perfect latte. 

Slayer Espresso has earned a cult-like following that appreciates both the performance and aesthetics of its espresso machines. The Slayer Single Group, the company’s model for the home, features dual boilers and a touchscreen that assists in temperature control and flavor profiling, resulting in espresso with great body and a rich crema. Peruvian walnut accents and custom colors or finishes give this machine the sexy looks of an Italian sports car, yet is built by artisans in Seattle. The hefty price tag of $8,500 is no deterrent to those who have a passion for espresso. “Let’s face it, espresso equipment options have been around for a long time and everyone has some form of so-called espresso maker in their gadget collection,” says Slayer Espresso founder and CEO Jason Prefontaine. “Trust me, our espresso machine with flavor profiling, needle valve technology will forever change your coffee ritual…. Don’t be surprised if you end up loving coffee like we do,” he adds.

An exclusive Dutch brand renowned for its edgy industrial designs, Kees van der Westen offers the Speedster for home use, loaded with bespoke options. Inspired by automotive and motorcycle construction, this pricy toy (approximately $13,000) delivers professional-quality espresso drinks and will definitely be noticed by your guests. 

Coffee is not simply about roasted beans and steamed milk, so luxurious accoutrements are essential. The MOOD collection by Christofle, the venerable French manufacturer of elegant tableware and accessories, presents a set of six espresso spoons — clad in silver ($360) or gilded in 18-carat rose gold ($650) — in a gleaming egg-shaped chest. These spoons are just the kind of accessories to elevate any perfectly crafted cup of espresso. 

Among other fashionable coffee-related accessories, British designer Tom Dixon has created this cafetière, more commonly referred to as a French press. With a modern unfussy aesthetic, the gleaming copper-finished stainless steel body is classic Dixon, and its heat-resistant handle is artfully functional. Many connoisseurs believe the best way to enjoy coffee at home — short of purchasing one of the espresso machines featured on these pages — is by small-batch brewing in one of these low-tech devices. Besides, setting a French press on a dinner party table quietly announces a host’s sense of sophistication and elegance. This product ($210) is available at British online retailer Amara, where founder/creative director Sam Hood has assembled an international collection of designer accessories for the home.

Unique espresso cups and saucers ($50) by Lux/Eros, the ceramics brand from designer Desanka Fasiska, feature an elegant rusticity. They are hand-carved and hand-glazed to order in California, with no two pieces being identical. Distinguished by their high-gloss 90-degree angle handles, these products are available at Consort stores in New York and L.A., or online. 

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