Cleveland strong

A long time ago, back when I was modeling, I had an audition in group interview format. A company was looking for promotional models in the Cleveland Metro area, and asked us what qualities that the city embodies. Almost in unison, we answered “resilience.” From the weather, to the economy, to our sports teams, we’ve been through a lot. It’s a collective Midwest experience, where the factories close, jobs evaporate, and there’s an exodus of people (feels like most of the people in Atlanta are actually from Cleveland).

However, Cleveland has been the butt of jokes for years– the Cuyahoga River fire, the “Mistake on the Lake” nickname, close playoff and championship losses, the LeBron James saga, the “Hot in Cleveland” television show, two viral “tourism” video parodies (“We’re not Detroit!”), and more have been fodder for comedians and haters nationwide. When I tell people I’m from Cleveland, some will respond with, “I’m sorry to hear that.” Most will ask how I feel about LeBron. It’s annoying every time. But, after years of collective disappointments and snide remarks, we’ve developed a thick skin. We also get up again and again, every time we get knocked down.

The last time I visited my hometown, I was proud to see a revitalized waterfront, vibrant downtown, and joyous people. With new businesses, attractions, and luxury housing, Cleveland is on the upswing. But, there is still a lot more work to be done. Job growth in Ohio still lags behind nationwide rates, and the number of unemployed increased by 5,000 persons from June to July, according to Cleveland.com.  Hopefully, positive changes will be implemented and sustained by the politicians elected (or re-elected) in November. There are Clevelanders around the world rooting for the city to win!

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Chalk Point Kitchen’s delicious spring menu

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I love you too, Chalk Point Kitchen!

Spring has sprung in NYC, and that means a new, delectable menu from Matt Levine’s Chalk Point Kitchen (527 Broome St. New York, NY). The West Village restaurant specializes in seasonal ingredients delivered farm-to-table, but it is the creativity of its chefs that truly sets Chalk Point apart. A glance at their brunch, lunch, dinner, or dessert menus and it’s clear that this is not ordinary dining. Baked Sourdough French Toast is exalted to include toasted hazelnuts and crispy rosemary, and the Devils Food Cake is crafted with raw cacao and topped with cream cheese icing. The rustic charm of Chalk Point Kitchen’s decor complements the restaurant’s honest ingredients and well-constructed dishes, and heightens an already intimate dining experience. Last week, I was invited to an exclusive tasting of their spring menu, and it is exceptional even by Chalk Point’s standards.

 

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The whipped, herbed feta was amazing!

Up first was whipped, herbed feta with toasted baguettes. The flavor combination was remarkable! The sweetness of the feta cheese, tangy spice of red pepper flakes, and savory and satisfying crunch of the baguette were heavenly together.

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Blood Orange Vitamin C Salad

While it was difficult to move on from this appetizer, it was time for the second course: a crisp and refreshing Blood Orange Vitamin C Salad. This item is also on the dinner menu, and features arugula and goji berries for a meal that was surprisingly hearty.

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Chicken Liver Mousse Toast

A surprising treat was Chalk Point’s Chicken Liver Mousse Toast. Even liver-averse diners such as myself can appreciate the goji berries and balsamic vinegar reduction that add a tart yet sweet contrast to the dish.

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Scallops

Though I was pretty stuffed at this point, I had to make room for the scallops. Served with purple yams and green goddess dressing, this entrée was succulent. The scallops were cooked perfectly– tender, juicy, and delicious.

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Matcha and pistachio panna cotta

Dessert was a matcha panna cotta with pistachios, cookie crumbles, raspberries, blueberries, and powdered sugar. The recipe was just sweet enough, and a refreshing cleanser after four delightful courses.

View all of Chalk Point Kitchen’s menus on their website, and follow the restaurant on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @ChalkPointNYC!

#WethePeaple #HappyatCPK

Loving this Italian alt rock band

There is something about alternative rock that has always spoken to me. The angst, passion, and indie roots of the genre are just as compelling to me now as they were when I was a teen. I felt that same magnetism while listening to Stolen Apple’s album, Trenches. The 12-track project was released in September, and is a wonderful demonstration of the art that has stemmed from 70s punk rock. Listening to Trenches all the way through is emotional, riveting, and necessary. “The only thing that matters is the free movement of ideas,” the album’s EPK reads. “Each song is an expression of the independent spirit of the band.”

Former Nest members Riccardo Dugini (vocals, guitar) and Luca Petrarchi (vocals, guitar, organ, synth) founded Stolen Apple in 2008, adding musicians Massimiliano Zatini (vocals, bass, harmonica) and Alessandro Patagani (drums, piano, percussion). Based in Florence, Italy, the Rock Bottom Records artists frequently perform throughout the region and connect with fans across the world through their music and social media. Trenches is available for streaming or for CD purchase on Bandcamp. Connect with Stolen Apple on Facebook, and watch the music video for their single, “Falling Grace,” on YouTube.

Shouts out to Alessandro for introducing me to his band via Facebook. Grazie!

Do you have an app idea?

Expert web and mobile app developer, instructor, and entrepreneur Mike Westbrooks wants to help you turn your dream into a reality. There are over 1,000 apps and games submitted to Apple each day, and Google Play has almost 300,000 more apps than the iOS App Store. The possibilities are only limited by one’s imagination and work ethic, as there are professionals like Westbrooks to consult with on the technical aspects of app design. For a finite time, this relationship can be elevated to a partnership with like-minded individuals with vision.

Westbrook’s love for coding and dedication to helping others inspired him to create “The Cohort”–  a group of up to 10 people or teams that will utilize his expertise to bring their app idea to life. Simply provide contact information and a brief description of the concept (and what reference materials are already in place) in the Google form linked below to begin. Hundreds of applications have been submitted, but there is still time to seize this opportunity! Click the link to apply, and follow Mike Westbrooks on Instagram: @mikewestbrooksjr.


https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScPp6N2QbKV7ROWDNJ3exP6lBmz2Y4n-PloRy94QeYM-Fgoow/viewform?c=0&w=1

POF Adventures

Online dating was a second to last resort for me (last resort would be trying to find “love” on a reality show, lol). Dating prospects were few and far between, and the chances of actually finding someone worth my time seemed slimmer and slimmer. A couple of my friends had success online, and I figured I had nothing to lose.

I tried Plenty of Fish in September 2015 and almost immediately my inbox was full of men in New York, New Jersey, and beyond expressing interest in me. While hopeful, sifting through their profiles was exhausting. There is no way (that I know of) to check and respond to emails without appearing “online” to the rest of the users, so you never really dig yourself out of the backlog of messages. Also, the mobile app resulted in me appearing “online” all the time, so I quickly uninstalled it. Most men on the site, like men in real life, weren’t looking for a relationship. They wanted to date, hook up, or have a friend, but many were not seeking a commitment.

I was on for about a month before meeting a guy that I really liked. I didn’t deactivate my profile, but I stopped logging in while he and I were dating. When the relationship ended in February 2016, I hopped back on the site. This time around I met more guys interested in a relationship… but I really wasn’t attracted to them. Some were physically unattractive but had great personalities, and others were sexy but acted like jerks (again, just like real life).

I decided to try another site, but still refused to pay a membership fee. OKCupid was a site my coworkers had success on, so I created a profile and gave it a shot. It was more of the same regarding the number of messages I received, except if was 99 percent white men in my inbox. While I don’t mind dating outside my race, that certainly is not my preference. I gave my number to one guy on OKC, and we texted for a bit with no follow-through after planning a first date. I didn’t have interest in anyone else on the website, so I stopped logging in and went back to POF.

After a while, I started dating another guy exclusively enough to stop logging into POF again, and it took a while for me to get back in the game after he and I stopped talking. Online dating takes so much effort, and it doesn’t seem worth it sometimes. Whenever I was ready to throw in the towel, I asked myself, “Well, what are you doing to do now?” Meeting men organically wasn’t working, and time waits for no man. Besides, I had been on POF for less than a year, and with all the breaks I took, it was probably only five months of actual online dating. I needed to hang on a little bit longer. So I tried again. This time around, there were more quality men messaging me, and my hopes were lifted. I gave my number out to a couple of guys, and one seemed particularly interested. We began dating, and quickly decided to be exclusive. Yay!

I was hesitant to delete my POF account, but it was time. When I finally completed the exit survey and bid the site adieu, it was bittersweet. I was happy to be in a relationship, but also dreading starting from scratch if it doesn’t work out. Of course, starting from scratch would mean a lot more than just creating a new profile. But deleting the account was symbolic. My POF adventure has come to an end (for now, at least), and a new chapter has begun! Wish me luck 😉

Goodbye, Examiner.com

I can’t remember how I heard that they were hiring. Maybe it was on Craigslist? I started writing for them in December 2010 as a Cleveland nightlife journalist, and I really didn’t know what I was doing. I treated my articles more like blog posts than professional content, but Examiner.com gave me the freedom to figure out my writing style. I also had (nearly) complete latitude when it came to choosing what people, places, and events I wanted to cover. This autonomy is rare, and it was amazing.

When people ask me why I moved to NYC, I say, “Career.” The long answer is that Examiner.com gave me the inspiration, confidence, and contacts to become an entertainment journalist. Less than a year after I began writing for them, a publicist at Sony contacted me. They wanted me to come backstage at the Cleveland leg of the Scream Tour, and interview their artist, Jacob Latimore. I thought it was a joke at first. How would Sony know who I am? At the time, Examiner.com was getting tens of millions of hits per month, and was a top 100 site. That kind of traffic is extremely valuable, and opened up countless doors for me in New York.

After working with Sony, I thought I would try to make a career out of my passion for entertainment journalism. Examiner.com gave me the platform I needed to gain access to top celebrities and events, and I knew I had a knack for interviewing. Before Examiner.com, I co-founded an urban lifestyle blog called Media-n-DaHood, and created DoloHustle.com as an entertainment blog. One of my first interviews was with Dolla Boy (now known as Dillon Saks) of Playaz Circle. I met him and Tity Boi (now known as 2 Chainz) at a meet and greet in Cleveland, and Dolla asked if I wanted to interview him. Afterwards, he told me that they had just come from radio station Z107.9, and I conducted a better interview than the radio personality. And this was off the cuff! I remember my brother nodding approvingly as he listened to the recorded interview. I was on my way!

I informed Examiner.com that I was moving to New York, and picked up New York Nightlife and Music beats. It wasn’t long after I moved to Brooklyn that I was attending exclusive events, interviewing and partying with celebrities, and making memories that I will hold onto forever. As I started covering more celebrity charity events and product launches, I picked up a New York Celebrity beat as well.

Now, I get about 50 emails per day from publicists and business professionals who want me to cover their client or brand. I have interviewed dozens of celebrities, and some have become friends. I’m very happy and proud with what I’ve accomplished as a journalist, and I’ve had a wealth of amazing experiences in New York. I haven’t decided what my next move will be, but this is one chapter that is closing. Examiner.com emailed all of their contributors about two weeks ago, and told us that they were shutting down. Our content may or may not remain on online, and the full-time staff was laid off. I’m planning on reposting the articles that readers enjoyed the most on this blog, maybe in #tbt style. I am still writing for AXS, and am deciding what the next move will be. It has been an amazing journey, and Examiner.com was the catalyst for this adventure. I will always be grateful.

Bella Dahl photo shoot [PICS]

I am very excited to be back, and to share some awesome pics!

I am very excited to be back, and to share some awesome pics! Bella Dahl is a women’s clothing company that offers stylish, comfortable, quality clothing, and I was grateful to receive some samples from them. Of course, I had to have a photo shoot to show off the items, so I hit up my photographer friend, Decater James. The rustic location he chose was perfect, and the impromptu addition of his two pitbulls added to the All-American feel of the shoot. (Btw, I don’t normally let dogs lick my face. The things we do to get the shot!)

My article on Bella Dahl was published on Examiner.com, and you can see their full collection on BellaDahl.com. You can see more of Decater’s photography work on his Instagram page (he is also a stunt professional), and feel free to reach out to book a session! I used to model back in the day, and it felt good to be back in front of the camera again. Check out the slideshow for the Bella Dahl photo shoot pics, and there will be more photo shoots in the near future!