Month: February 2015

How you can protect your pets in the air

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 2/17/15

Diego, a 9-year-old Boston terrier, died of “undisclosed causes” in July after being accepted on a United Airlines flight to Houston, even though Boston terriers of his age and weight are restricted.

Daunte, a 14-year-old cat, died after escaping from his kennel and being hit by an airport ramp vehicleon his way onto a July Alaskan Airlines flight in Boston.

Hart, a cat, died in his crate after “extensive hemorrhaging” from being bitten multiple times from a Malinois dog who escaped from his crate on a November Delta flight in Atlanta.

These incidents are three of the pet deaths, injuries and losses of the 44 that occurred out of the 2 million animals transported by air in 2014 in the United States.

Although the stats are low at less than one percent of animals dying, becoming injured or lost per year, flying isn’t advantageous for any specie, no matter how pet-friendly an airline appears. (MyCentralJersey.com File Photo)

Although the stats are low at less than one percent of animals dying, becoming injured or lost per year, flying isn’t advantageous for any specie, no matter how pet-friendly an airline appears. (MyCentralJersey.com File Photo)

Although the stats are low at less than 1 percent of animals dying, becoming injured or lost per year, flying isn’t advantageous for any species, no matter how pet-friendly an airline appears to be, said the Humane Society. The organization “recommends that you do not transport your pet by airplane unless absolutely necessary” and that pet owners should “consider all alternatives to flying.”

To aid animal owners who must to fly their pets, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) requires that as of the first of this year, all American-based airlines must file a yearly report that includes the total number of animals that were lost, injured or died during air transport.

Since airlines all have their own company policy for the handling of animals that they transport, the USDOT said that travelers should investigate these policies before booking a trip with their animal. The ground rules within the federal Animal Welfare Act amount to necessary feeding every 24 hours and water every 12 hours as well as that temperatures cannot be lower than 45 degrees.

Al Peterson, public information officer at the New Jersey State Humane Police, said, “Owners can contact the Federal Aviation Administration, call the airline or conveyance carrier reservations line and get information from the agent who takes their call. They can also look at the airline’s website to get information about any restrictions or policies for traveling with pets.”

Since airlines all have their own company policy for the handling of animals that they transport, the USDOT said that travelers should investigate these policies before booking a trip with their animal.  (MyCentralJersey.com File Photo)

Since airlines all have their own company policy for the handling of animals that they transport, the USDOT said that travelers should investigate these policies before booking a trip with their animal. (MyCentralJersey.com File Photo)

If flying a pet is necessary, owners can find out if it can travel in the cabin, which most airlines allow for small dogs and cats for an additional fee as long as the airline is notified well in advance since there is a limit on how many animals can be in the cabin.

Dianne O’ Donnell, owner of Longhill Pet Boarding in Hillsborough, said, “Personally, I wouldn’t ship a pet in cargo. I would rather be with my animal in the cabin if I absolutely needed them to fly with me.”

According to the Humane Society, it’s the excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation and rough handling in the cargo area that can lead to animal injuries and deaths in-flight.

Peterson said that to protect pets that need to be shipped in cargo, owners should pack a bag containing all of the sustenance needs of their pet, including food, water, toys, license details, their pet’s health and immunization record and especially a pet first-aid kit, complete with all medications and essential items, should the pet have any medical emergency, including the name and contact details of the animal’s veterinarian.

Owners should make sure that an animal’s crate is properly labeled and secured and the pet is wearing two identification tags that include the owner’s name, address and phone number.  (MyCentralJersey.com File Photo)

Owners should make sure that an animal’s crate is properly labeled and secured and the pet is wearing two identification tags that include the owner’s name, address and phone number. (MyCentralJersey.com File Photo)

The Humane Society also advised that owners should take direct flights, carry a current photograph of the pet in case it is lost, travel on the same flight as their pet and ask the airline if they can watch the pet being loaded and unloaded onto the cargo hold.

When it comes to choosing the time of flight, the Humane Society said that pet owners should choose flights that accommodate the temperature extremes, such as taking early morning or late evening flights in the summer and afternoon flights in the winter.

“Owners should also include an ice pack for extra comfort on a hot day or a hot water bottle on a cold day,” said Sue Madden, public affairs specialist at AAA Mid-Atlantic. Also, owners should avoid hectic travel periods, such as the holidays, when an animal would be more likely to undergo rough handling, according to the Humane Society.

Madden also said that owners should make sure that an animal’s crate is properly labeled and secured and the pet is wearing two identification tags that include the owner’s name, address and phone number. Plus, she said that it’s also a good idea to trim a pet’s nails before departure so they won’t accidentally get caught on any part of the carrier.

Owners also shouldn’t feed a pet 4-6 hours before a trip, however, it is wise to put ice cubes in a water tray attached to a carrier, since a water bowl will spill and cause discomfort, said the Humane Society.

According to O’Donnell, it is important to remember that not all pets were made to travel, as some are “homebodies” and others can get motion sickness, just like people can. “Being the owner of a kennel,” she said, “if it’s not comfortable for them to travel, then owners should research good local kennels and make sure that they have a backup generator, fire alarms, and someone present on the property 24/7.”

If you need to report animal mistreatment by airline personnel, contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture at 301-851-3751.

The Rebirth of Floridian Real Estate

Written for Luxe Beat Magazine on 2/15/14

My childhood memories of Florida don’t include crystal-clear blue waters, high-rise apartments with private infinity pools or 30-foot yachts cruising the spellbinding Gulf of Mexico. Instead, when I think of Florida, images of dragging summers in empty, gray neighborhoods form, conjured only after endless road trips stuffed in the back of a Ford Explorer.

It is these dreary memories that have kept me from venturing to Florida for more than 15 years, because I simply couldn’t imagine that, amidst all the hype, the “sunshine state” was very interesting. I thought that it wholly maintained an air of lifelessness, nestled beside its waters that I had remembered so vividly.

I was wrong, very wrong.

On a recent trip throughout the state, visiting Florida’s major cities, Miami, Tampa, Clearwater, Palm Beach and Naples, I found that media hadn’t been lying to me. Florida had, in fact, had quite an evolution and it wasn’t all bad. Plus, with major reinvention comes an awakening of real estate.

Of course, Florida’s lavish development in real estate is most evident in its major cities. During my trip to the state, I found the most luxurious condominium developments settled in each of Florida’s biggest and brightest cities, a popular choice to those who enjoy finer things, due to their abundance of views, amenities and modern comforts.

Miami, which has been ranked as the richest city in America, as well as the fifth-richest city in the world, is an elite Florida destination, as it is a leader in finance, culture, commerce and entertainment.

Fittingly, it is also host to Sunny Isles Beach’s beachfront Porsche Design Tower, a $560 million tower, where elevators take residents directly to their private apartments… while they’re still in their cars. Planning for a 2016 opening, the soon-to-be tallest Sunny Isles Beach tower will have 132 units within 60 stories, ranging from 3,800 to 9,500 square feet and priced between $4 million to $32.5 million. Amenities include private pools, summer kitchens, floor-to-ceiling windows and in-house auto mechanic shop, among many other deluxe features. However, the obvious standout feature is the high-speed car elevator, in which residents can display two to four cars as ‘museum pieces,’ right outside their front door within the robotic parking garage.

The Porsche Design Tower is a $560 million structure in Miami, Florida. (Photography investinmiami.com)

The Porsche Design Tower is a $560 million structure in Miami, Florida. (Photography investinmiami.com)

Units at the Porsche Design Tower range from $4 million to $32.5 million. (Photography porsche-design.com)

Units at the Porsche Design Tower range from $4 million to $32.5 million. (Photography porsche-design.com)

Out of the 400 wealthiest people in the United States ranked by Forbes, twenty-two of them live in Florida and eight of them live in Palm Beach alone. The city is also ranked as number four as Forbes’ America’s Millionaire Capitals.

Inspired by Mediterranean architecture, yet modernized for today’s clientele, the exclusive Bellaria Palm Beach hosts only eighteen residences within each of the property’s two story buildings, situated on four acres of land and 400 feet of Florida beachfront sand. Built in 2006, each unit ranges from 2,200 to 5,000 square feet and is priced from $1.9 million to $6.5 million. I found the Bellaria’s most distinguishing feature to be its “see through, flow-through” floor plans, which showcase panoramic views of the ocean, as well as the Intracoastal Waterway.

The Bellaria Palm Beach hosts only 18 units. (Photography Palm Beach Daily News)

The Bellaria Palm Beach hosts only 18 units. (Photography Palm Beach Daily News)

The Bellaria features a “see through, flow-through floor plan. (Photography Andy Frame)

The Bellaria features a “see through, flow-through floor plan. (Photography Andy Frame)

Naples maintains some of the most expensive real estate in the country, with select homes sold for more than $40 million. To no surprise, it is also one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.

Bay Colony, Naples’ gem, is The Remington, situated in between the Bay Colony Beach Club, Bay Colony Tennis Courts and the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Residents have a private entrance to the Hotel, as well as concierge and room service, making what I perceive as its most premiere characteristic. With unobstructed views of the Gulf of Mexico, its 2,870 to 3,400 square-feet condominiums are priced from $3.35 million to $6.5 million for its 75 units on 22 floors. Some of the amenities include private elevator foyers, a private walkway leading to the Gulf, a large social room and two large guest suites.

The Remington is located in Naples, the site of some of the most expensive real estate in the country. (Photography pgal.com)

The Remington is located in Naples, the site of some of the most expensive real estate in the country. (Photography pgal.com)

Residents of the Remington have access to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel amenities. (Photography ashtonwoods.com)

Residents of the Remington have access to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel amenities. (Photography ashtonwoods.com)

Tampa has been ranked as one of the best outdoor cities by Forbes, as well as one of the most livable American cities, which is probably why real estate has recently surged in Florida’s second largest metropolitan area.

The Bellamy on the Bayshore holds true to traditional Floridian living with an upscale twist, a quality that stood out to me, among many ultra-futuristic living spaces. Upscale amenities are still hosted in its 22-story building, such as a wine cellar, movie room, guest suite, private elevator entries and saunas. Square footage ranges from 2,400 to 3,200 square feet, and units are priced from $600k to $2 million.

The Bellamy on the Bayshore holds true to traditional Floridian living with an upscale twist. (Photography hometheatergallery.com)

The Bellamy on the Bayshore holds true to traditional Floridian living with an upscale twist. (Photography hometheatergallery.com)

Residents of the Bellamy have access to their own theater room. (Photography hometheatergallery.com)

Residents of the Bellamy have access to their own theater room. (Photography hometheatergallery.com)

Clearwater’s cost of living is 30 percent higher than the US average, which comes as no surprise, due to its wealth of commerce, tourism and industry.

Encompassed with every imaginable amenity, including a pool, fitness center, party room, tennis court, 24-hour security, billiards room and library, the Meridian at Sand Key is among the elite of Clearwater’s condominiums. This 19-floor high-rise building, built in 2000, overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and Clearwater Harbor, as well as its own well-manicured grounds. Units range from 1,620 square feet to 4,000 square foot penthouses, which are priced from $650k to $3 million. The Meridian’s most impressive quality to me, however, is its standard of modernism that exists within each unit, including bright, open floor plans, oversized windows, walk-in closets and gourmet kitchens.

The Meridian at Sandy Key is among the elite of Clearwater’s condominiums. (Photography panoramio.com)

The Meridian at Sandy Key is among the elite of Clearwater’s condominiums. (Photography panoramio.com)

The Meridian at Sand Key holds 19 floors. (Photography beachlifestylerealestate.com)

The Meridian at Sand Key holds 19 floors. (Photography beachlifestylerealestate.com)

Over past years, Florida has morphed from a tired vacation destination to an alive, ostentatious state, full of blossoming real estate and ambitious professionals. Much to my recent surprise, whether it is in Palm Beach, Clearwater, Tampa, Naples or Miami, those looking for a sunnier lifestyle will find it in Florida.

Take a bite out of Italy at the Grape Escape

Written for MyCentralJersey.com on 2/3/15

The Grape Escape in the Dayton section of South Brunswick is known as the place where locals find an excuse to socialize as they gather to make their own wines, but it has also become a spot for them to eat, too.

Besides offering four winemaking classes over a 10-month period to make wines from California, Amador, Napa Valley, Washington, Chile and South Africa, the Grape Escape also hosts a wide array of cuisine-based classes, including olive oil and balsamic vinegar bottling and make your own mozzarella, chocolate and Sunday gravy and pasta.

Ed Ventura, who co-manages the Grape Escape alongside his wife, Phyllis Heller, said the Grape Escape offers a wider array of food classes than most other local wineries.

Grape Escape culinary classes quickly fill to capacity.

Grape Escape culinary classes quickly fill to capacity. (Courtesy of the Grape Escape)

“These classes really take off,” said Ventura. “Our Jan. 10 olive oil class had 40 people, which is pretty much at capacity.”

Coming in February will be the olive oil and balsamic vinegar class on Feb. 17 and the mozzarella class on Feb. 12, both from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. All of the classes run throughout the year and the dates will be released on TheGrapeEscape.net as they become available.

Growing up, many Italians can recall Sunday as the day filled with fine foods and aromas alongside family. The Grape Escape brings that tradition back to life with their Sunday pasta and gravy class for $80. Guests make their own fresh pasta dough and convert it into fettuccine before simmering red San Marzano tomatoes to create a homemade gravy, or tomato sauce.

The Grape Escape offers more culinary classes than other nearby winemaking establishments. (Courtesy of the Grape Escape)

The Grape Escape offers more culinary classes than other nearby winemaking establishments. (Courtesy of the Grape Escape)

As the pasta dough rests, guests snack on antipasto or items such as cured meats, mushrooms, anchovies, artichoke hearts and cheeses in oil or vinegar, before cooking the pasta to take home and then eating salad tossed with the house olive oil and balsamic vinegar, a traditional ending to a large Italian meal.

At the Grape Escape’s $95 olive oil and balsamic vinegar bottling event, guests learn that price can’t compensate for quality. They start by taste-testing expensive store-bought olive oils, such as that of Filippo Berio and Colavita, and compare them to the Grape Escape’s supplier, which has been producing and distributing extra virgin olive oil from Kalamata, Greece for 300 years. They also try the Grape Escape’s 12-year-aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy.

Then, guests bottle their two 375-milliliter bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, infusing them with fresh herbs if they choose to do so, and customize with personalized labels. Finally, they enjoy a meal that features the products, such as balsamic cream chicken over penne pasta with salad and balsamic berries over ice cream, which was made for the Jan. 10 class.

The Grape Escape is currently gearing up for winemaking season. (Courtesy of the Grape Escape)

The Grape Escape is currently gearing up for winemaking season. (Courtesy of the Grape Escape)

Mozzarella is another Italian favorite that many find fit to infuse into Sunday dinners. In the $85 Grape Escape class, guests go home with four to eight large mozzarella balls that they create themselves from curd, salt and hot water with hands-on instructions from staffers.

The make-your-own chocolate class is a new addition to the Grape Escape, released with David Bradley of Manalapan, who has years of experience in creating gourmet chocolate. At the $85 event, guests taste dark, white and milk chocolate, bring home a box of chocolates that they created, learn about the history of chocolate making and get an overview of chocolate types.

Although the Grape Escape currently is focusing on their food classes, the winemaking season is nearing with open houses being conducted on Feb. 25 and 27 as well as March 5 and 10. At these free open houses, which are open to anyone over 21-year-old and run from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., potential winemakers receive tours of the Grape Escape while sampling wine and snacks alongside live music.

Culinary classes at the Grape Escape are offered at a discount to couples. (Courtesy of the Grape Escape)

Culinary classes at the Grape Escape are offered at a discount to couples. (Courtesy of the Grape Escape)

Winemakers can also take their love of wineries and Italian cuisine to another continent by attending “Italy with the Winemaker,” an eight-day all-inclusive trip for $2,600 hosted by the Grape Escape and departing on July 26. Starting in Venice, winemakers will travel throughout Tuscany with the Grape Escape and end their journey in Rome, stopping each day at wineries and for walking tours of various Italian cities.

Winemaking quickly has become a hobby for many, where people with no previous experience in winemaking can attend classes to make their own and share with friends and family. Clearly, that interest in an age-old process has extended to Italian cuisine as well, going as far as to entice winemakers to travel back to the practice’s roots in Italy.

The Little-Known Luxury of New Orleans

New Orleans can seem to be a decidedly un-luxurious place. The city that began its life in 1718 as the dump site for French convicts and prostitutes hasn’t changed so much today, as it remains a well-known capital for alcohol, sex and debauchery.

However, these aren’t the only things that the Louisiana city is defined by, which is why over nine million people visit New Orleans every year. It’s also a town where tourists and locals alike savor fine Creole and Cajun cuisine, explore historical architecture in many forms and dance to jazz music on every street corner.

Even though New Orleans in its entirety cannot be categorized in the same opulence as cities such as Paris or Dubai, I realized, through my recent trip to the legendary destination, that luxury does exist within the city limits, and in quite great amounts. If you’re looking to visit the rogue Southern city, see the splendor that I discovered within New Orleans, through accommodations, dining, drink and attractions.

The first step in enjoying a taste of luxury as a traveler is choosing refined accommodations. The Audubon Cottages is one such lodging that I came across which offers distinctive quarters – a collection of seven one and two-bedroom lavish suites, dating back to the early 1800s, which are at the heart of the French Quarter, only one block away from Bourbon Street. Each cottage boasts private access with a private feel, yet still retaining great proximity to everything that New Orleans has to offer. Plus, all guests have access to what is believed to be the oldest pool in the city, which is set in original brick and is surrounded by abundant foliage and wrought iron seating, a classic New Orleans staple. What I found most enticing was that the Audubon Cottages differ from a generic, plush hotel in that each cottage holds its own story, history and background, some of which include local haunts.

The Audubon Cottages are said to hold the oldest pool in New Orleans. (Photography Audubon Cottages)

The Audubon Cottages are said to hold the oldest pool in New Orleans. (Photography Audubon Cottages)

The Audubon Cottages feature seven luxury one- and two-bedroom suites. (Photography Audubon Cottages)

The Audubon Cottages feature seven luxury one- and two-bedroom suites. (Photography Audubon Cottages)

Although the city prides itself on many historical fine-dining establishments, I was most enthralled by the Court of Two Sisters, a restaurant quite literally bedded in a secluded and quiet courtyard between Bourbon and Royal Street. The location that was once home to five governors, two state Supreme Court justices, a future justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and a future President of the United States is now surrounded by charming fairy lights, various humming fountains and, of course, incredible classic New Orleans cuisine. Some of my Court of Two Sisters favorites include turtle soup au sherry, grilled alligator sausage and bananas foster, which also involves an impressive show at the table.

The Court of Two Sisters sits between Bourbon and Royal Streets in the French Quarter. (Photography Lindsey Irwin)

The Court of Two Sisters sits between Bourbon and Royal Streets in the French Quarter. (Photography Lindsey Irwin)

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The Court of Two Sisters is quite literally embedded within a courtyard of fairy lights and fountains. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

As anyone who has ever visited New Orleans knows, this city loves its bars. Whether it’s a famous jazz club, a tiny dive bar or a historical destination, New Orleans is simply spellbound with the possibility of exceptional drinks at every corner. One corner that can’t be missed is the famous Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone, a 64-year-old lobby lounge that once inspired the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. As the only revolving bar in New Orleans, I adored the slow rotation of the historical bar, which also features live nightly entertainment. Today, it is also a popular spot for celebrities such as Michael Jordan, Dennis Quaid, Greg Allman and Sally Struthers.

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Tennesse Williams, Truman Capote and Ernest Hemingway are all authors who have enjoyed a drink at the famous Carousel Bar. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

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The Carousel Bar sits within the Hotel Monteleone. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

When visiting the untamed French Quarter, it can be difficult to remember that people actually live in the loud city of New Orleans. However, the opulent Garden District reminds visitors of just that. As a neighborhood of the city that is, in part, a National Historic Landmark, it is considered one of the best-preserved arrangements of notable southern mansions in the United States. One of my favorite spots in the city, the Garden District is a lovely and romantic mix of pastel homes, remarkable history and tremendous, colorful gardens making for an enchanting destination that shouldn’t be missed. Anne Rice, Peyton Manning, Nicholas Cage and Sandra Bullock are just a few of the well-known celebrities who call the Garden District home. After sampling the quiet fountains, detailed wrought-iron fences and understated statues, it is easy to see why the District is a chosen spot.

Sandra Bullock, Nicholas Cage and Anne Rice are just a few celebrities who have called the Garden District home. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Sandra Bullock, Nicholas Cage and Anne Rice are just a few celebrities who have called the Garden District home. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

The Garden District is considered the most expansive collection of historical southern mansions in the United States. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

The Garden District is considered the most expansive collection of historical southern mansions in the United States. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Considered the heart of the French Quarter of New Orleans, Jackson Square, named in honor of the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson, is a historic locale overlooked by the St. Louis Cathedral. A favorite spot for visitors and locals. It’s no secret why – the green square is embedded with culture. It calls the Presbytere, Cabildo and Pontalba Apartments its neighbors and it is also the hub of local city artists. The wrought-iron fence wrapping around the square is where generations of artists have displayed their portraits, paintings, drawings and creations for cultural minds to savor.

Jackson Square is considered the heart of the French Quarter. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Jackson Square is considered the heart of the French Quarter. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Jackson Square is named for the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

Jackson Square is named for the Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson. (Photography Jenna Intersimone)

When first hearing of what New Orleans had to offer, I found it difficult to believe that luxury existed within the southern destination. However, after my visit, I found that the city, enamored with art, music, architecture and fine dining, is in addition, a hub of cultural opulence and incredible history that deserves a visit from those with finer tastes.