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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event recap: 2014 Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis

As I continue to let go of my event planning days, I’m  enjoying being a guest, attendee and participant at local functions again. No longer do I walk into a room and ask “I wonder where they rented their linens from” or “I hope there’s enough space for that restaurant vendor in that corner”. It’s hard to turn off the event-logistics monkey mind!

But in an attending the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis here in Cleveland this past weekend, I would find myself with my biggest post-event-planning-career challenge to date. But as I planned this race in 2012 and in 2013 as a former employee of the organization, I knew it would be easy to fall into the fun.

lets go grady dog picmonkey

 {Grady’s excitement just could not be reigned in.}

Our team — Team Grinch Paws — came together in full force: my husband, my brother, my friends and I joined together on Sunday, December 14th at Legacy Village. We of course started with a pre-race Starbucks pit stop.

baby j's first 5K

I was so happy that Jen from WhyCLE? and her family signed up to walk the one-mile Family Fun Run option. Baby J seemed to love every moment of his first 5K experience. He’ll be running the full 3.1 miles in no time!

As the rest of our team ventured out for the full 5K, Grady and I made up our own two mile version of the course. Grady’s excitement for the day had us power walking at a good clip! As we went along, it was a joy to come across friendly faces, even crossing paths with the event photographer, Orville from Orville McEachron Photography:

10869482_393189920833335_2788335850565453133_o

{Photo ℅ Orville McEachron Photography — check out all 400+ of the race photos over at his Facebook page.}

Confession: In planning this event twice, Sunday was the first time I actually walked the course. (We drove it several times each year, don’t worry.) I know understand what the runners meant by this being a more challenging 5K than others in the Northeast Ohio area — there are a few rolling hills through the old TRW campus that make for a good hike!

LONG STORY SHORT: Team Grinch Paws did wonderfully at this year’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis! My brother Drew finished second in his age group with a 20:15 — such a speed demon!  Lisa — @lisasands1 over on the Twitter — rocked her first 5K after taking time to train this Fall.  My non-runner husband Hans “enjoyed” his last minute decision to run the 3.1 miles. (We’re working on our post-run stretch routine for next year!)

Photo Dec 14, 10 33 03 AM

As for Grady and I, we walked our two mile course in a little over a half an hour, making time to stop and say hi to some old friends and work colleagues along the way. It felt great to be out in the brisk December air supporting an important cause working towards eliminating a disease that effects more than 1.3 million Northeastern Ohioans. Supporting a local non-profit, getting in some exercise and having a highly enjoyable time? What a great start to our Sunday!

Want to donate to the Arthritis Foundation? You can click over to our team page and still give through this month. Thank you in advance!

Want to stay in the know for 2015?  Keep up to date with all the CLE Jingle Bell Run/Walk happenings by following its Twitter handle at @JingleBellCLE.

Disclosure: I am a former employee of the Arthritis Foundation, Great Lakes Region, Northeastern Ohio. All thoughts and opinions are 100% my own.

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know before you go: PlayhouseSquare’s Jump Back Ball

There are many signs around Cleveland that spring is on its way.  Maybe you notice them while driving through the Metroparks, or how people slowly start to come out of hibernation. For me, that first signal of spring is the anticipation of another Jump Back Ball, hosted by PlayhouseSquare’s Partners.

I’ve attended this event in 2013 and in 2011, and been kept up-to-date on the plans for this year by the kind crew at PlayhouseSquare as well as a few of the Partners themselves. So without more hold up, here’s what you should know before you go to the 2014 Jump Back Ball:

Jump Back Ball

Pre-game for the party — by taking it easy.

This tip comes from Amanda at Clue Into Cleveland, a Jump Back Ball veteran.  Sure, the event is on a Saturday, so you might be tempted to do a bunch of errands, clean your house or take a three hour yoga workshop (no, just me?) earlier that day. Just remember that you’ll be partying the night away so you’ll want to save some energy. Why not catnap instead?

Eat up the food by some of Cleveland’s finest culinary minds.

If you treated yourself to VIP tickets, Dante Boccuzzi has a lovely spread in store for you in the Palace Theatre during the early hours of the event.  (Check out Dante on Fox 8 promoting the event here - and yes, I will be making that polenta recipe at home.) On the main stage, Driftwood Restaurant Group – lead by NEO favorites Scott Kuhn and Chris Hodgson – is ready to treat you to quite the meal. We’re going to eat so well on Saturday, so maybe sneak in some cardio on Friday!  

Tap into your inner actor and own center stage.

This is your opportunity to see what the view of the State Theatre looks like from the main stage – one of my favorite component of galas held at PlayhouseSquare. Upon arrival to the main event, head straight into the theater and right up those stairs to bask in the stage lights while sipping your martini (shaken, not stirred, OF COURSE) with your fellow party go-ers.

Take time to enjoy the custom made scenery. 

Volunteers deck out the theatre spaces with decorations that rival professional set designs. It’s one of my favorite parts of how their supporters pull together to create a unique event while getting in touch with their artistic sides. Again, head over to Clue Into Cleveland for a sneak peek on this year’s decor.

Admire some fun fashions and charactered costumes.

Even this yoga pants enthusiast buckled down and found a special outfit for a night of dressing up – thanks to the non-profit for the shout out in this post this week and for sharing my Instagram photo. It’s not too late for you to jump in on the costumed fun: here’s another PlayhouseSquare blog post with some ideas you can still pull off.

jump back ball sparkle

There’s a bar in the ladies’ restroom.

You’ll thank me for this when the lines at the main stage are a bit longer then the ones for the restroom stalls. I have no idea if there’s one in the men’s. Perhaps this year I should have Hans report back, ha!

Bring your dancing shoes.

…because you’ll be dancing all night to the sounds of Your Villain My Hero on the main stage and Pop Rocks in the lobby towards the end of the evening. Also because who doesn’t love a good dance party?!

Find yourself an invite to a JBB after party.

Just cause the ticket says the event goes until 12AM doesn’t mean that the party ends. Make some friends and before you know it, you might be somewhere else other than home by 12:30!

Still looking for more tips? Check out PlayhouseSquare’s first timers guide which includes all the important things you need to know. Stay up-to-date with all of their happenings and events – follow PlayhouseSquare on Facebook, on Twitter at @playhousesquare, on Instagram at @playhousesquare or by searching the hashtag #JBB23.

So the big question: who will I see this Saturday night at JBB23?  

Disclosure: I was asked by PlayhouseSquare to serve as an official blogger for the 2014 Jump Back Ball event and to help promote the event and related happenings. In exchange for sharing  information and purchasing one event ticket, I will receive one complimentary ticket to the February 22, 2014 event. My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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