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.

Connect with me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

Ohio Blogging Association June Meetup at Whole Foods Market Cedar Center with Goose Island

Don’t forget – you have until Sunday night to enter the Running for Hope 5K giveaway. Race is on Saturday, June 29 in Avon Lake and benefits Love Without Borders.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Another Ohio Blogging Association meet up is history!

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The blogroll for the evening included:

I’ve been slow to get more Ohio Blogging Association meetings on the rest of the 2013 calendar. So when our friends from Whole Foods Market Cedar Center had a unique opportunity available during Goose Island Migration Week, I knew our bloggers would have a blast learning about this Chicago-based beer company. The allure of drinking beer and eating chocolate didn’t hurt either.

As in the past, we gathered at Whole Foods Market Cedar Center‘s cafe area where the store’s team took such care to provide a wonderful classroom set up all ready for the OBA members to taste and learn. The Goose Island beer list for the evening included options from their Vintage Ales line (descriptions from Goose Island’s website):

  • Sofie: “Fermented with wild yeasts and aged in wine barrels with orange peel, Sofie is a tart, dry, sparkling ale.”
  • Matilda: “Wild in character, with a slightly fruity aroma and a spicy yeast flavor… Dry and quenching”
  • Pepe Nero: “Pepe Nero is a farmhouse ale brewed with black peppercorns. His roasty sweetness melds into a lingering, earthy, black pepper finish”
  • Pere Jacques: “Brewed with loads of malt and Belgian yeast, Pere Jacques is a wonderfully fruity, malty ale.” 

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…and the part I definitely indulged in – the chocolates sampling from WILD OPHELIA, the spirited younger sister of Vosges Haut-Chocolat (descriptions from their website):

Dave drank my beer and I ate his chocolate. We made an excellent tasting pair.  If I remember correctly, he enjoyed the Matilda. I remember really loving the peanut butter and banana chocolate. I heard feedback that the bloggers enjoyed learning the basics on how to “taste” something: learning to look for notes of different flavors, different variations of certain types of food, how they work with the pairing. The 45 minute presentation was a fun activity that allowed us to take something home - other than chocolate bars!

Post-tasting, I encouraged everyone to go spend their money on the bulk flash sale (20% off bulk nuts, popcorn, oats – huzzah!) and then perhaps giving their wooden nickel (for bringing their own reusable shopper) to a good cause (*cough*cough*choose the one on the right!!*):

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Many of us took advantage of the Whole Foods hot bar post-tasting. Hello, I’m a healthy living blogger – you should have seen that one coming! I was freezing, so I grabbed some chipotle veggie turkey soup (light yet hearty, with a hint of smokiness) and a bunch of mixed greens (surprise, surprise). Other bloggers snagged options from the BBQ smoked meats hot bar, sushi and one really good looking burger. Good stuff and happy bellies all around.

LONG STORY SHORT: We ate. We drank. We ate again. We talked each others’ ears off.  It made my heart smile when Stuart shared the following feedback: “You can always tell a good meeting by the fact that people hang around long after the official ending time.”  While sometimes things get crazy, pulling together some of Cleveland’s bloggers makes it worthwhile every single time. Thank you all for attending, and thanks again to Whole Foods Market Cedar Center and Goose Island for the opportunity!

I’m always taking suggestions for Ohio Blogging Association events: leave them in the comments below. Information on the next meeting will be posted very soon – per suggestions from last night, I foresee another blogging roundtable in the horizon…

Make sure to “like” OBA on Facebook and follow us on Twitter at @OHBlogging.

Ohio Blogging Association March Volunteer Night at MedWish International

The 3rd annual Ohio Blogging Association volunteer night is in the books!

OBA at MedWish

The blogroll for the evening:

When scheduling the OBA blogger meetups, I try to do my best to make sure we schedule at least one opportunity to roll up our sleeves and give back some time and energy to our community. So for 2013, we gathered this past Tuesday night at a local non-profit doing great things here and around the world.

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MedWish International “is a not-for-profit organization committed to repurposing medical supplies and equipment discarded by the healthcare industry with the objectives of providing humanitarian aid in developing countries to save lives and reducing waste to save our environment.” (Source: MedWish’s mission statement)

Basically: they are helping people in all of these countries:

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…by doing the following: “MedWish works with a range of partners to recover medical surplus hospitals can no longer use. U.S. hospitals generate more than 5.9 million tons of medical waste each year. Much of that waste is unused medical supplies and equipment. Our Humanitarian Aid Program distributes the medical surplus we recover.” (Source: their website.)

Their headquarters located right here in Cleveland is an old warehouse – something being repurposed itself – and was filled with any piece of medical equipment that you could think of. Surgical gloves, bed pans, crutches, beds, and things you may have never even seen before.

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A non-profit social media FTW.

We took a tour of the facility that included storage space, administrative offices, volunteer sort areas and a learning center. And then we got to work.

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Those are the 100 surgical packs that we put together in what felt like a blink of an eye. Those packs will be distributed to hospitals and med centers in South Africa and Panama. Normally, that pile of materials would have ended up in a landfill. Now, they will help save lives.

Two hours of our time. That’s all it took to learn a bit about something happening here locally but having widespread implications. And that project we did is only a small bit of what MedWish does. It was an honor to be able to give back just a bit of time in this way – thank you to the kind folks at MedWish for hosting the OBA bloggers, and to those that attended.

What to get to know MedWish better? Check them out on Facebook and on Twitter. Also, their big Band Aid Bash is coming up on Saturday, April 27 at the non-profit’s warehouse. They have plenty keeping them busy!

Want to join the Ohio Blogging Association in April? RSVP by April 8 at the Facebook event page for our meetup at the Cleveland Museum of Art on Wednesday, April 17. Bloggers, blog readers, tweeters… everyone is invited!

 

Disclosure: I organize the Ohio Blogging Association Cleveland meetups. I reached out to the employees of MedWish to see if we could coordinate a blogger meetup opportunity. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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