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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Heinen’s Game Day Recipe (& GIVEAWAY): Pork Brats Chili

Disclosure: In exchange for writing this recipe and running a giveaway for a gift card for a reader, I received a gift card to purchase supplies for this blog post from Heinen’s. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

Craving a brat before the big game, but don’t want to involve the grill? Get more than one football-watching favorite with this slow-cooker combo creation featuring ingredients from your local Heinen’s grocery store. 

pork brat chili ingredients collage

Pork Brats Chili
Serves approximately 6 or so hearty bowls

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 raw pork brats (regular or hot, depending on your spice preference)
  • 1 (28 ounce) can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 heaping cup frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced (optional, depending on your spice preference)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • your choice of chili fixings (see note below)

METHOD

  • Turn your slow cooker on to high.
  • Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker, starting with the brats*. Do your best to equally distribute everything.
  • Put the lid on the slow cooker and leave it be for four to six hours. Don’t lift the lid!
  • When ready (when the brats are cooked through), give the mix a good stir, and scoop desired servings into bowls, grabbing a brat from the bottom for each serving.
  • Serve with your favorite chili fixings: rice, pasta, corn chips, sour cream, Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, Oyster crackers, hot sauce, black olives, chives, etc.  You can also even serve the brats on hoagie rolls and top with your accompanying chili mix as you cheer on your favorite team!

*ALTERNATIVE METHOD: Instead of cooking the brats whole, you can de-case the brats as you place them in the slow cooker, breaking it up into more of a “ground pork” consistency. 

pork brat chili

So in prep of the big game, why not head over to Heinen’s? I’ll make it even sweeter — how about going with a $50 gift card in your pocket? Enter to win at the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You have until Tuesday, January 27th at 12:00AM EST to enter. The winner will be announced later that morning.

Remember to stay in touch with Heinen’s via their social media feeds: on Facebook, on Twitter at @heinens and on Instagram at @heinens.

Disclosure: In exchange for writing this recipe and running a giveaway for a gift card for a reader, I received a gift card to purchase supplies for this blog post from Heinen’s. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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sights and sounds {new year’s edition}

I realized I forgot to share one last resolution on Thursday: I’d love to get in some regular “day in the life” blogging again. Little bit of structure, run-of-the-mill, top-of-my-head ramblings. Maybe even kick around a few vlogs from time to time — we’ll see where 2015 takes us…

Like 99% of us, the end of the holidays means the beginning of a return-to-normal dietary regimen, which I happily have already been embracing with green smoothies since Christmas. But knowing a dinner at one Cleveland’s most celebrated restaurants was on the calendar for the first weekend of the new year, I left room for one more splurge at Pier W this past Saturday night.

pier w full collage

A sampling of the food served ordered that night — I’m on a salmon kick at the moment, forgive me.

I do love dining with a group of close friends you know so well — the conversation is lively (℅ a few random Cards Against Humanity cards) and they are down for sharing the infamous Pier W seafood tower. Check one off the bucket list! Our server Erin was phenomenal, the food was spot-on across the board and the complimentary champagne (& flutes to take home) in celebration of the restaurant’s 50th anniversary was the perfect surprise! Now when can we go back for happy hour…

Speaking of those smoothies, an orange a day keeps the doctor away:

smoothie

I’ve been keeping my annual & dreaded beginning-of-the-year cold at bay with a combo of vanilla almond milk, protein powder, greens (either kale or spinach), frozen berries and one orange. The burst of vitamin C is working!

As for the current yoga playlist selections to adore: I just stumbled upon James Vincent McMorrow and I must say I’m in love with the soul coming out from his music — or just the fact that there’s a flamingo on one of his album covers.

You also have got to check out his Higher Love cover. It’s my new favorite tune to start out class as we get grounded and moving.

As for something more lively, I’m still grooving to this mashup:

Two of my favorite songs from last year, all in one fab track. The Evolution Yoga yogis had a blast flowing to this during my Christmas morning Holiday Sweet Heat Flow. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost two weeks since then! Our Christmas tree came down town — I must admit I miss the twinkle lights in our family room.

But don’t get me wrong: I’m very content it’s January. Based on the conversations I’ve had with my yoga students, friends and family, it seems like most of us are ready for some routine and normalcy again — all while figuring out what changes await us in the new year. I’m processing the process myself, but I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of finding that sweet spot in a new situation. Here’s hoping the balance comes to us all sooner rather than later!

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