Ohio Blogging Association Meetup at Jim Alesci’s Place

Sundays are 100% my day. They are my chance to recharge, reconnect and rejuvenate myself. So two Sundays ago, I filled it with my favorite activities: connecting with those that share my passions of Cleveland, food and yoga. This post is specifically about those first two things. (The third sneaks in, as always.)

The kind folks from Jim Alesci’s Place reached out to me about bringing together a group of bloggers for a Sunday brunch at their new location in Solon. A quick Ohio Blogging Association Facebook event page later, we were all gathered in their cafe area, welcomed by quite the spread.

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About Alesci’s (from their website)“We are your food professionals. We offer affordable premium dishes available for catering, or if in the neighborhood, daily lunch specials… Our commodity is homemade, fresh, high quality food made with care an pride. Our product is service, culture, and the ability to join our family.”

Boy, they weren’t kidding about that last point. Bloggers were welcomed with open arms and huge hugs from Frank Alesci, son of Jim, and the entire Alesci family. (One junior OBA member event got a special treat from Papa Jim at the start his visit.)

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Frank lead us on a tour of the Italian import store, highlighting all the history of his family’s business over the many years and all the specialty products the proudly provide. As he spoke about their pizza dough and pasta offers, the Italian in me rejoiced. My brain immediately started planning my next Sunday night family dinner.alesci 1

Speaking of a true Italian meal experience, the brunch that was to come was nothing short of what you’d expect: so much delicious food and so much joy coming through each and every bite. After our lattes, anipasto and bruschetta teasers, we sat to enjoy an array of dishes, paired lovingly with wines available at the store:

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Pictured from top left going clockwise: Roasted Beets salad with brussel sprouts, fresh herbs & honey vinaigrette; Sicilian Pizza (white and old fashion), my gluten-free salmon salad with all of my favorite accents, and Italian Beef Sliders with roasted top round and hot giardiniera.

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From left to right: Alesci’s version of the classic Chicken Pot Pie, my gluten-free entree filet with sweet potato bake and Eggplant Parmesan piled high with their famous sauce.

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Members of the Alesci family with the infamous dessert tower — and detail of all the goodies it held.

I think the most important thing I can share from my dining experience is that being gluten-free doesn’t have to mean you can’t enjoy Italian inspired cuisine. Sure, I wasn’t diving into Alesci’s well-know pizza dough, breads or pastries, but I had PLENTY to eat. Several of the courses were naturally gluten-free. The items their team kindly provided to me (the salmon salad and the filet/sweet potato combo) are available via their catering department. I could eat each of those dishes for lunch and dinner every day and be completely content with life. From start to finish, I never felt like I was missing out as my fellow diners enjoyed all the gluten they could!

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A very sweet love note — and I’ll never miss a chance to snag a photo op with two fellow local yogis/CLE food lovers.

LONG STORY SHORT: Over the years, I’ve had the immense joy and luck to experience so many special dining experiences here in Northeastern Ohio. And as I shared at the end of our time together that day, the experience at Alesci’s ranked up there at the very top. Sure, I’ve sat at white tablecloths, dressed to the nines, enjoying a fine meal. But there’s something about the tradition of a family coming together on a daily basis to share what they love most that can’t be matched. The Alesci family can’t help but bring you into their brood — and that made my time that day so much more special: to know, somehow, I was paying even a small part by enjoying myself to my fullest. That is that special treat that is available at Alesci’s — not necessarily that cookie that my godson Baby J got to enjoy — although the gluten-free flourless chocolate cake I took home did help to seal the deal…

Stay in-the-know with all that Alesci’s is sharing with Clevelanders by following them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Better yet — get in your car, drive to Solon and enjoy everything first hand yourself.  Many thanks to entire Alesci’s family for their hospitality.

CLE bloggers and social media users, please join us in April for two more meet up opportunities:

  • Wednesday, April 15: Told CLE — OBA edition at Deagan’s in Lakewood. Learn more at the Facebook event page here.
  • Sunday, April 26: XHIBITION & a bonus — a Jack Flaps brunch! Learn more at the Facebook event page here.

Keep in touch with the OBA happens by liking the Facebook page.

Disclosure: Jim Alesci’s Place’s PR contact reached out with an invitation to coordinate an Ohio Blogging Association meeting at their Solon location. Jim Alesci’s Place provided appetizers, entrees, desserts and  beverages tastings that morning/afternoon.  My thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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An Interview with Michele Lynch from Dirty Dancing on Tour (a guest post at PlayhouseSquare’s Behind the Curtain blog)

As I serve as PlayhouseSquare‘s Community Engagement and Education’s blogger department this year, I take you behind the scenes of each KeyBank Broadway Series show and interview a member of the show’s cast, crew or creative team. The fifth show in the 2014-2015 series is Dirty Dancing on Tour

Visit the PlayhouseSquare’s Behind the Curtain blog to read my interview with Michele Lynch, the tour’s choreographer.

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Dirty Dancing on Tour is in Cleveland March 3 – 22 at the Connor Palace at PlayhouseSquare. For more information, please visit the show’s page on the PlayhouseSquare website.

All the thanks in the world again to the PlayhouseSquare staff for this wonderful opportunity to serve as a PlayhouseSquare blog contributor for the Broadway Buzz program KeyBank Broadway Series. Next up: Kinky Boots! 

Want to read my previous interviews? Check out:

Learn more about PlayhouseSquare: follow PlayhouseSquare on Facebook, on Twitter at @playhousesquare, or on Instagram at @playhousesquare.

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that time we time traveled (a PlayhouseSquare Jump Back Ball 24 event recap)

I had high hopes for myself in planning our attendance for this year’s PlayhouseSquare‘s Jump Back Ball. With our previous years’ visits in 2011, 2013 and 2014, I knew my over-scheduled life usually leads to last-minute planning tendencies. As much as I reminded myself that “Jump Back Ball is coming”, unfortunately my time management skills were tested again… so much so, it even felt like we were the ones time traveling — quite fitting for this year’s theme, Back To The Future. How the day flew by…

2:30PM Starting my day at the yoga studio, I finish leading my sankalpa workshop — by going a half an hour over… this should have been my first indicator of how the day would go. Clean up, wrap up and am on my way home…

4:00PM At the gym, I’ve got one last attempt to get those Michelle Obama arms to round out my  new Ralph Lauren dress, picked out by Hans and purchased in the past 72 hours.

5:30PM After one last errand to TJMaxx to buy a handbag, it’s time to curler it up. (These are my mom’s — she received them as a wedding shower present in 1980.)

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6:30PM Hair done and fully dressed, we jump in our car and head on north towards downtown… with one quick stop.

6:40PM Drive-by my mom’s to borrow a pair of dangly earrings — and let her take a photo of us similar to one that she used to take before our high school dances. She’s the cutest! 

7:10PM We arrive at PlayhouseSquare, find our way to the State Theatre and meet our friends up on the stage.

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We then head right over to the buffet tables featuring the delicious offerings from Driftwood Restaurant Group. From their signature cornbread, I loved all the options like trout, chicken ala king, cornbread, whipped potatoes and broccoli. I could have gone for seconds, but I knew they’d had treats later on in the evening to enjoy.

7:40PM Time to take a moment for a formal picture before things got going. This threw one of us for a loop.

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8:00PM As the snacks are one of Hans’ favorite parts of Jump Back Ball, we stop for Pretzel Check Number One. Won’t be ready for awhile — come back later we were kindly told. We wander around a bit and head back to the stage.

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9:00PM Pretzel Check Number Two — still not ready. Come back at 10PM. To the bar we go… We run into a little bit of everyone — one of Hans’ coworkers, CLE blogger and social media users, many of the hard-working staff members of PlayhouseSquare that I’ve gotten to know over the years… plus complete strangers that become fast friends. I adore this part of events like this — getting to catch up, to chat and to connect again.

9:57PM It’s a well documented fact that we’re suckers for a photo booth:

10:05PM PRETZEL TIME for Hans! Driftwood dessert table time for me! #MiniCheescakesFTW

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I might have grabbed a tater tot or two as well…

10:15PM I borrowed someone’s hover board and met up with Doc Brown and the rest of our friends in the State Theatre lobby for the last night dance party — and selfie session. #sorrynotsorry

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We danced. We sang. We laughed. The late night dance party is always our favorite part of JBB.

11:40PM Hans and I meander back into the State Theatre for a bit more photo fun.

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On the left: At the clock tower. On the right: you can take the yogi out of the yoga studio…

12:00PM With big smiles and sore feet, it was time to jump in our DeLorean and head home for the night, but not without one last moment soaking it all in.

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LONG STORY SHORT: Great Scott, did we have a great time enjoying ourselves at this year’s fundraiser! Congrats to all the PlayhouseSquare Partners, the volunteers who worked so hard to create a fun night for Clevelanders to enjoy. Thanks again to the entire team at the non-profit — I love working with them on so many projects and being able to support an organization that has provided so many memories over the years.

Want to know more about PlayhouseSquare? Stay up-to-date with all of their social media happenings: follow PlayhouseSquare on Facebook, on Twitter at @playhousesquare, or on Instagram at @playhousesquare.

Disclosure: I was asked by PlayhouseSquare to serve as an official blogger for the 2015 Jump Back Ball event and to help promote the event and related happenings. In exchange for sharing  information and purchasing one event ticket, I received one complimentary ticket to the event. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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