event recap: Prayers From Maria’s Sunflower Soirée 2015

Disclosure: Prayers From Maria offered me an opportunity to attend to their Sunflower Soirée and Sunflower Wine & Craft Beer Festival events. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

If you drive down I-90 heading West towards Lorain County in the next few months, you’ll see an impressive line of bright yellow sunflowers. They are hard to miss, and are helping to spread awareness for a locally founded non-profit, Prayers From Maria Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation. Get a glimpse at their work in this YouTube video:

Maria McNamara passed away on July 14, 2007 at the age of seven after a battle with cancer. Her parents Ed and Megan started Prayers From Maria to be able to fund global research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for childhood brain tumors, known as gliomas.

To be able to support those efforts, Prayers From Maria hosts fundraisers such as their very well known Sunflower inspired events that took place earlier this month. Invited to join in on the fun and fundraising, Hans and I headed out to the North Shore for their 2015 Sunflower Soirée:

Soiree collage 1

In another behind the scenes moment, I had the pleasure of helping to set up for the event as I’ve recently joined the L’Nique Linens team — you’ll find our linens featured on all the tables. Even upon arrival that morning, I knew the 600+ guests were in for a treat.

The cocktail hour included adult beverages from Brown-Forman (including my new favorite summer drink of a Finlandia grapefruit flavored vodka & soda with a twist of lime), and pre-dinner eats from Deagan’s, B-Spot, The Greenhouse Tavern, Fahrenheit and Market Garden Brewery. GHT’s cabbage slaw with pomegranates and jalapeños was a personal favorite!

Soiree collage 2

As the guests enjoyed the picturesque setting on a private estate in Rocky River, we casually enjoyed a feast while watching the sunset over Lake Erie. The evening’s menu, crafted by Chef Rocco Whalen from Fahrenheit, included:

  • Arugula, Pistachios, Ricotta Impastata, Honey and Black Pepper Vinaigrette with Summer Berries
  • Roasted White Gulf Shrimp
  • Fregola Sarda Pasta, Roasted Tomato Broth, Caramelized Mushrooms, Saved Fennel
  • Roasted Bell & Evans Chicken with Crisp Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes, Ohio Sweet Corn Puree, Pecorino Romano
  • Grilled CAB Flat Iron Steak with Lemon-Roasted Asparagus, Salsa Genovese
  • Caramelized Zucchini with Tomato Ragu, Parmesan
  • Ricotta Cavatelli with Fennel Sausage, Broccoli Rabe, Bread Crumbs, Aglio E Olio
  • Vanilla & Honey Pot de Creme with Strawberry Prserves, Candied Granola, Basil

Soiree collage 3

There’s something about an Arugula salad with soft cheese and berries that makes my heart happy. Plus the family style dinner was a smart approach, and allowed for great conversation at my table about what components we loved the most. Big hits for me included the Bell & Evans chicken, the Lemon-Roasted Asparagus with Salsa Genovese (reminded me of Fahrenheit’s awesome tapenade) and the dessert. I consider it a crime to turn down a pot de crème!

Finishing out the evening with a powerful video and live and silent auctions, it was a memorable event and one I’d love to attend again in the future! This was the last year that the Sunflower Soirée would be held at this location, so it will be fun to see where it takes place next year. We made sure to soak up the environment as much as we could.

Soiree collage 4

But we were only one night in to a two night event extravaganza — check back on Thursday to read more about our experience at the Sunflower Wine & Craft Beer Festival that Saturday… #staytuned

Learn more about Prayers From Maria Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation and their programs at their website, prayersfrommaria.org. Follow them at  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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event recap: Five Star Sensation (benefiting University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center)

Disclosure: University Hospitals offered me an opportunity to attend to their June 27th Five Star Sensation event, as well as a portion of the culinary prep sessions the day before. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

After a career in event planning and writing this blog for five and a half years, I’ve been lucky to attend many wonderful social gatherings, most in honor of some amazing causes. But one very special, well-known fundraiser has always been on my bucket list: Five Star Sensation benefiting University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, part of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center.

This is one of event planning lore: nearly a hundred chefs including several Food Network stars and culinary icons, dozens more volunteers, 2500 attendees, the immense amount of rental supply needs — oh, and the multi million dollar budgeted goal.  I knew one day I must see it for myself. So imagine my surprise when the wonderful team from University Hospitals invited me to attend the 2015 event. The invitation was an honor to accept. This past Saturday evening, Hans and I put on our summer best and headed out to Cuyahoga Community College’s Eastern Campus.

We arrived early, avoiding the rain and the line at the valet, in hopes to hobnob with the culinary masterminds that supported the cause, including this year’s Host Chef Michael Symon. (Check out my Instagram feed for a few of those moments, including a selfie with Cleveland’s own Iron Chef. #noshame)  Preparing ourselves accordingly with a glass of wine, we began strolling, meeting the following chefs and enjoying their amazing offerings:

five star food 1 collage

Jonathan Waxman‘s New York Steak and Romesco Salsa with Kale Salad

Hubert Keller‘s White Gazpacho with Almond and Vanilla Oil & Lollipop of Lamb “Merguez Style” Spicy Ketchup & Tatziki

Anthony Meidenbauer‘s Porter Braised Short Rib with Carrot Puree & “Buffalo Chicken” Pierogies

Doug Katz‘s Hot Smoked Wild King Salmon with Spring Pea Panna Cotta, Pea Tendrils & Radish Salad (not pictured, sorry Chef!)

Michael Symon‘s Beef Cheek Pierogi with Carmelized Onions & Horseradish

five star food 2 collage

Summer Genetti‘s (Lola pastry chef) Fruit Verrine (featuring a baby macaroon!) 

Marc Forgione‘s Tongue Tacos with Fermented Chilis and Wild Garlic (thanks for the photo, Chef!)

Aarón Sánchez‘s Grilled Octopus Tostada with Chorizo, Aioli and Green Onions

five star food 3 collage
Eric Williams
Pastrami Beef Tongue Taco with Jalepeno-Whole Grain Mustard Crema and Micro Radish

Jonathon Sawyer‘s Koji Cultured Coppa Cota Tramezzini with Black Brioche & Nettle Vinegar

Alan Wong‘s Shrimp Kochu Jang Shooter & Braised Short Ribs with Mushroom Peanut Salsa and Chili Lemongrass

What a wonderful two hours of decadent eats, lovely conversation with some of the world’s most famous chefs — all blended and balanced by the never ending supply of wine:

five star wine collage

 Just a few of our wine station stops — the staff at Buehler Vineyards practically had us booking a trip to Napa on our smartphones while at their table. What wonderful people!

…and THEN the dessert tent opened. I was utterly stuffed by then, so I wasn’t being over aggressive with finding gluten free dessert options. Okay, who am I kidding: there’s always room for Mitchell’s Homemade Ice Cream‘s vegan chocolate ice cream!  Hans worked his way around one side of the tent before he had to call it quits. He made stops at several tables, including those of   Coquette Patisserie (who had an adorable Black Truffle Gateau with a Thyme Mousseline, and an even sweeter staff). His favorite: the raspberry-passionfruit sorbet eclair from the Tri-C Culinary Arts station.

five star dessert collage

As our bellies (and my high heeled clad feet) begged us for “no more”, I remembered Farmer Lee Jones’ and his team from The Chef’s Garden offer to send us home with some produce from the incredible bounty they brought for the event.

five star chefs garden collageNot pictured: the huge bag of kale they also gave us. It was great seeing their team after this past April’s Culinary Vegetable Institute dinner!

LONG STORY SHORT: We came. We ate. We gained five pounds in a four hour period. But wow was it worth each and every ounce. You don’t have the opportunity to savor bites from these amazing chefs every day, so Hans and I threw our “healthy balance” caution to the wind for the evening and celebrated how lucky we are. Lucky to have these opportunities, to meet these chefs, to eat their food, to have these relationships with those Cleveland based culinary minds. And most importantly, lucky to have medical institutions like University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center here in Northeastern Ohio saving lives every single day. This year’s Five Star Sensation raised more than $2.3 million dollars to help those doctors doing research and those patients who need it most. Thank you Cleveland for supporting the cause, and thank you University Hospitals for letting us be part of this very special experience.

Follow University Hospitals on Facebook and on Twitter at @uhhospitals. UH Seidman Cancer Center can be found on Instagram at @uhseidman.  Something to look forward to: check back later this week as I share the story about all the planning and prep that it took to make this amazing event happen!

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GIVEAWAY: 21st annual Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon Awards Party

Spring has sprung, and like clockwork, it’s time to celebrate the best of Cleveland food at an event that is near and dear to my heart: the Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon Awards Party.


Benefiting the Arthritis Foundation, Great Lakes Region, Northeastern Ohio, this 21st annual event is not one to be missed. It’s been bumped up a few weeks into the month of April, so take note that you get to enjoy all the food and beverage you can enjoy a bit earlier in 2015!

Here’s what you need to know about this year’s event:

  • Date/Time: Wednesday April 29, 2015 from 6-9 p.m. (VIP runs until 10pm!)
  • NEW Location: Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum at the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle (10825 East Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio)
  • The food: Guests will sample delicious signature dishes from 35 plus of Northeast Ohio’s best restaurants and several international wineries including Lola’s Bistro, Edwins, Chinato, Pier W, Ginko, Hofbrauhaus Cleveland, B Spot, Red, The Steakhouse, Melt Bar and Grilled and more!
  • For very important people: The event also includes an exclusive VIP Lounge featuring Adega, Trentina and food pairings from Willoughby Brewing Co. and signature cocktails from Brown Forman and Billy’s Martini Bar!
  • Additional features: includes silent auction and raffles, and the opportunity to ride the historical, newly refurbished Euclid Beach carousel.
  • Why? Event proceeds support local Arthritis Foundation programs, services and research improving the lives of the nearly 1.3 million people of all ages with arthritis in Northeast Ohio.


Photo by Orville McEachron Photography

Purchase your tickets now at the event website — use the following promo codes to save:

  • Save $15 off General Admission tickets by using the code “PIPBLOG2015GA” – get your ticket for just $85!
  • Save $25 off VIP tickets by using the code “PIPBLOG2015GA” – get your ticket for just $125!

Feeling lucky, you say? Enter to win two general admission tickets here on the blog — enter at the Rafflecopter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The fine print: You have until THIS SUNDAY, April 5th at 11:59PM to enter this giveaway via the Rafflecopter widget. A winner will be announced the next morning, probably on the Poise in Parma Facebook page. As this is a local event taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, I highly encourage entries by those that can attend the event on Friday 4/29/15. 


Photo by Orville McEachron Photography. Get a glimpse into last year’s festivities by visiting his Facebook photo album.

Who will be there on April 29th? Enter today — it could be you! Stay in-the-know and follow:

Disclosure: In return for offering this giveaway for two general admission tickets to the event, I will receive two VIP passes to attend this year’s Silver Spoon Awards Party. As a former employee of the Arthritis Foundation and now volunteer, it’s a joy to continue to support the organization. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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