Friday, December 30, 2011

Buffalo New Year's Resolutions

With 2012 almost upon us, here are some Buffalo related New Year's Resolutions I have :)

1.) Try at least 20 new restaurants in the Buffalo area
2.) Read at least 5 books about Buffalo (fiction or non-fiction)
3.) Post at least 100 blog entries
4.) 12 Missions in '12 (see previous blog entry)

What are your Buffalo related resolutions? (Comment on this blog with your ideas!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"12 Missions in '12"

I started this blog as a way to spread the word about local Buffalo businesses, people and organizations. I've been really excited and impressed by the number of visitors to the site, and the comments I've received from people who have read the blog. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read the entries, share them with your friends and spread the word. I look forward to continuing to promote the area in 2012.

With 2011 almost behind us, I've been planning away on what I can do in 2012 to make a difference in Buffalo. I've come up with the tagline of "12 Missions in '12".

The plan:
Every month plan or participate in some sort of fundraiser for 12 different not-for-profit organizations in the Buffalo area.

The organizations:
Many of them have already been chosen, but if you would like to be considered for a fundraiser, please contact me at My day job is part fundraiser, part public relations so I would be happy to figure out an event for your organization!

The goal:
I'm not really sure how to set a goal. Some months I'll be collecting items from organizations "wish lists" and other months collecting monetary donations. I'll also be volunteering my time at organizations. I can't really put a number on it, but let's say that by the end of the year it is something equivalent to around $12,000 (to keep with the "12" theme). It's a lofty goal, but I'm looking to make a difference this year.

January 2012:
The organization I have chosen for January is: Gerard Place. I will be collecting items from their wish list.

To kick this off, I am going to be offering a "Lose it in '12" weight loss contest for the students of Bodyshaping By Sandy (the fitness company I work for). To enter they just need to bring in items on the wish list, and they will be entered in a chance to win some great prizes. For students of Bodyshaping By Sandy, the contest will run for 10 weeks, and the students who lose the most weight (percentage wise) will win great prizes. It's a win-win. You help a local organization out, and you find the motivation and inspiration to lose some weight to start 2012 off right.

If you are interested in donating an item or two on their wishlist, please contact me at 716-868-7010 or via e-mail at I'm willing to come pick the items up at your house. I am hoping to collect at least 100 items in total for Gerard Place and will need the support of my readers to get me there. Anyone who donates an item (or makes a monetary donation that we can use to purchase items) will be entered in a drawing for a $20 gift card to Spot Coffee.

Here is the wish list for Gerard Place:

Furniture (great need for couches, chairs, dining sets)
Baby Cribs
Garbage cans (small for kitchen)
House hold cleaners
Household decorations
Diapers (larger sizes)
Gift cards
School supplies
First aid kits
Personal hygiene products
Toilet paper
Paper towels
Laundry detergent

Here's to making 2012 a year to remember for many of the organizations in Buffalo who do such good for our community!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sweetness 7 on Parkside in Buffalo

Have you ever driven past a place a thousand times and keep saying, "I have to check that place out sometime", but still haven't? For me, that place has been Sweetness 7 on Parkside in Buffalo. I literally drive past it everyday to and from work and finally on my lunch hour when I was running an errand I parked the car and walked in!

It is located on the corner of Parkside and Russell (across the street from The Buffalo Zoo). There is no parking lot, so you need to park on the street. The building is super cute and when you get inside you instantly feel comfortable. When I walked in there were a handful of patrons at tables working away on their laptops or reading books. The girl behind the counter greeted me right away and was extremely helpful when I asked her what half the drinks were and what pastries she recommended. I settled on The London Fog - Earl Grey tea with vanilla cream and a whipped top! (It was absolutely delicious, but too much caffeine for my body! I knew it would be, but I wanted to try something the general public would enjoy) The counter also has various pastries, cookies and quiche, and I settled on a blueberry muffin (but everything really looked great).

After I left and got back to my office I hopped online and checked out their website: Owner Prish Moran was out for a walk on a spring day in 2007 and stumbled upon the building on the corner of Grant/Lafayette (where the original Sweetness 7 Cafe is located). She fell in love with it, and bought it that same day! What an awesome story! Through time she restored it, fell in love with the neighborhood and decided she didn't want to leave so she opened the coffee bar! The Parkside location is newer, it has only been open for about a year.

I haven't stopped over to the original location yet, but I can already tell that the one on Parkside will soon grow to be my "go to" spot when I need to get out of the house to work on this blog, read, or just take a break from the madness of my days. It is the perfect, quiet, quaint spot to unwind, meet some friends, or get to know someone on a first date.

What makes the Parkside location different from Grant is that they make absolutely AMAZING crepes (for dine in only). They are a little pricy (most are in the $9 range), but are worth the cost! Other prices are pretty comparable with Starbucks (meh!) and other chains. Pastries range from $1.00 - $3.50 and the most expensive drink is $4.00. A basic coffee will run you $2.00 at the most (for a "ginormous" cup). They also offer lunch fare including panini's, wraps, salads and soups.

If you are looking for a good "getaway" spot when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of day to day life, please, please, stop by Sweetness 7 and treat yourself to something delicious. They have free Wi-Fi for customer use as well!

I guess the moral of this blog is, finally STOP and try that place you've been meaning to out. Odds are, especially in Buffalo, it will be worth it!

For more reviews on Sweetness 7, check out:

Sweet_ness 7 Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 5, 2011

Landies Sweets & Treats in Buffalo

About six years ago I had this heart "scare". I was 22 at the time, and while it turned out to be nothing major, I was told to basically cut caffeine out of my diet completely. "Chocolate has caffeine in it, what?" were my exact words to the cardiologist. He just smiled and said, "eat it sparingly." Knowing my family's history with heart disease, I obliged and months went by without having a piece of any chocolate.

Over the years my desire for chocolate faded, but once and a while I still get a craving. So, if I was only allowed to have it "sparingly", the real question was, WHAT was I going to have?

Living in Buffalo, I was raised eating sponge candy, and I've tried pretty much every brand or candy company out there. In Buffalo, we know how to do sponge candy, and there's a lot of great kinds out there, but my favorite is from Landies Sweets & Treats. (The bad news, for my heart anyway, the storefront is within walking distance to my work).

Landies Sweets & Treats has been in Buffalo for 25 years and with a tagline of "finest quality around and best price in town", owner Larry Szrama makes sure he delivers. Larry's parents owned a supermarket and the family began making chocolates to sell when he was younger. He continually tries new products out, and even ran a contest for fans of Landies to come up with a new candy bar flavor in November. His team is always hard at work in the chocolate factory on Main Street. They are located in the Tri-Main Building (2495 Main Street, Buffalo), Suite 350, and as you make your way off the elevator on the third floor, all you can smell is chocolate. The brightly colored doors make way for candy heaven!

They offer pretty much anything chocolate covered you would want, have truffles, buttercreams, sponge candy, different flavored chocolate bars and seasonal products for the holidays. They also offer gummies, hard candies, suckers, and more! With the holiday season upon us, they have so many cute holiday baskets and packages for the chocolate lovers in your life. My top pick, which would make great stocking stuffers, are the sponge candy Christmas trees ($4.99) which are super cute, and well, delicious! They are great for any former Buffalonians who will be coming home for the holidays. The prices are comparable to other candy makers in Buffalo, and they frequently run specials and great discount offers! (The last one I saw in store was double up for $2.00 - buy a pound, the second pound is only $2.00. While that special is up, there are more on the way!)

If you are a big fan of chocolate, they are hosting a "sweet" holiday promotion event. On Thursday December 15th from 12pm - 1pm they are offering an all you can eat truffle lunch for just $3.00 per person! How can you possibly go wrong with that deal? Grab your co-workers, and get down there for a great lunch time treat!

Landies Sweets & Treats is open Monday - Friday from 9am - 3pm. They offer tours for schools and community members alike, and also offer a chocolate academy. Stay in the loop on everything going on at Landies by "liking" them on Facebook: They have been known to sometimes run contests via their Facebook page for prizes too, so definitely check them out today!

As the holiday shopping crunch draws to a close, get down to Landies Sweets & Treats to check off those last few hard to buy for shoppers on your list. Bring some extra money with you though, because you won't be leaving empty handed!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Black Rock Kitchen & Bar in Buffalo

I posted a status update yesterday morning on Facebook asking my friends what local restaurant I should patronize that night. Within an hour, I had six potential restaurants I'd never been to, and that's how I ended up at Black Rock Kitchen & Bar on Grant Street in Buffalo last night. (The power of Facebook).

My boyfriend Geoffrey and I arrived around 7:00pm and the place was packed. All the tables were taken, so we started the wait list and grabbed seats at the bar. We grabbed a beer, they typically have six on draft (Nom, Flying Bison Rusty Chain), and discussed the overall style of the restaurant. We agreed on retro chic. I absolutely love the artwork, old school clock hanging behind the bar, and the stamped tin ceiling.

We had an awesome chat about beer with our bartender Marcus, and were blown away by the 53 (yes I counted) different bottles of beer they had on display above the bar, all but one, they currently had to try. We looked at the wine list too and they have a great selection of both red and white wines. I truly appreciated that many of the beer and wines on the menu are local (or somewhat local).

We were told our table wait would be about a half an hour, but it couldn't have been more than 15 minutes before the hostess directed us to our seats. (By the way, the hostess stand is this awesome old school movie theatre ticket taker Geoffrey and I couldn't get enough off, cool piece of "furniture") The restaurant is small, there's about 12 tables, some booths and some tall tables. We were seated at a tall table closest to the kitchen, which made it even harder to pick what we wanted because everything the wait staff was bringing out looked amazing. I was lovin' on the little under the table hooks so my purse didn't end up on the floor too.

After our waitress Christi gave us her suggestions, and we went back and forth on the choices, we settled on lump crab and cucumber over butter lettuce with a dill buttermilk dressing for our "starter". We shared it and it was awesome. The salad was extremely tasty and had a lot of flavor. It was a great start to the meal. In fact, I could go for some of it right now.

For our entrees, I had a regular menu item, grilled shrimp over soft polenta with roasted cioppolini onions and Gorgonzola. Geoffrey opted for one of the nightly specials, a ribeye steak with leeks and a potato hash.

Our meals came out looking amazing and smelling absolutely delicious. For me, my polenta standards are really high after the amazing meal I had at Blue Monk earlier this year (nothing since has topped it), but the polenta with this dish was pretty damn good too!

I don't consider myself anything close to a food expert, so if you want me to tell you specifics on how it was prepared, what might have been missing or the cornmeal they used, I can't do that, but I can tell you, it was well worth the $13 price tag. The shrimp was grilled and seasoned well (you could taste the salt, but it wasn't anything bad or overpowering) and the onion and cheese with the polenta went together so well.

Geoffrey said his ribeye was cooked perfectly (medium rare) and I tried a little bit of his dish and truly enjoyed the leeks and the potato hash (with small bacon pieces). He rated it overall, his second favorite dish out of the year (behind Siena on Main Street).

Looking around at the different restaurant patrons there didn't seem to be any real demographic, there was a little bit of everyone. During our time there we saw families, a group of co-workers, a few couples and some Buffalo fireman. The age demographics were very mixed too. Everyone seemed to really love it!

I am totally psyched we found out about this place, and the truth is, just about every single menu item they offer I'd try. The cost is on par with most Buffalo restaurants (entrees ranging from $10 - some specials in the $20 range).

If you are looking for a date night hot spot, a place to hang out with some co-workers after a long day, or just want to experience the rejuvenation of the Black Rock neighborhood, please, please, please check out Black Rock Kitchen and Bar. It was an outstanding experience I was so excited to blog about, I did so within 16 hours of eating there.

Check them out on the web They also have a Facebook page. The official address is 491 Grant Street (past the Wegmans on Grant, same side as Wegmans, if you are coming from Elmwood) and the phone number for reservations is 716-551-0261.

Kudos to the chefs and the Goldman family on another great restaurant in Buffalo!

For more reviews on Black Rock Kitchen & Bar, check out:

Black Rock Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Quota International of Amherst

Working as a fundraiser and community relations director, I’ve come in contact with many organizations and people who are very charitable in the Buffalo area. There’s one organization, to me, that stands above the rest; Quota International of Amherst.

Quota International has its roots in the Buffalo area. The organization was founded in Buffalo in 1919 by five women. The organization became "international" when a Quota club was formed in Winnepeg, Canada. Today there are clubs in 14 countries worldwide.

From the very beginning, the mission of Quota International has been to serve the community. The Amherst club was chartered in 1942, and since then, men and women throughout the area have been raising funds to support many worthy causes in the Buffalo area. Special emphasis is placed on aid to the deaf, hearing and speech impaired, and aid to disadvantaged women and children. Some of the organizations they have raised funds for include St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, Gerard Place, Canine Helpers for the Handicapped, Haven House, The Family Justice Center and Mercy Flight, to name a few. Additionally, each year they give a scholarship out to a student enrolled in the Deaf Education Program at Canisius College.

While many organizations will write a check (and that’s always appreciated), Quota International of Amherst takes it one step further. Members attend fundraising events for the groups they help, “check in” with the organizations to see what they are up to, and give up their free time to volunteer at events and outings the organizations they serve have.

I’ve been fortunate through my job at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf to meet and get to know the extraordinary women and men who truly make a difference in the Buffalo area. They have big hearts, and make me feel like a part of the Quota family whenever I see them. It is a group worth joining and learning more about.

Over the past 10 years, Quota International of Amherst President Kathy Bucierka told me they have raised around $65,000 for Buffalo non-profits (IMPRESSIVE!). Their biggest fundraising event of the year is a fashion show and lunch held at The Hearthstone Manor. For the past three years I’ve been asked to be a model at the event, and it is one of my favorite things to do. During the event they have well over 150 basket raffles as well as other “bigger ticket” items too. They have a fun theme every year and it’s really become a well known fundraising event in the area (typically they have around 350-400 guests). All the money raised at this, and other events throughout the year goes directly back to the community.

During the holiday season they pick one local organization and ask them to provide the members with a “wish list” of items they need. During their December meeting, each member brings their personal donations and items are displayed on a table. A representative from the recipient organization gives a presentation about the mission, and it is always a very moving night.

In June, they have their service awards dinner where they present checks to the charities they support. Again, each organization receiving a donation makes a short presentation about what is going on. I’ve been at three of them now, and made the presentation about St. Mary’s School for the Deaf once, and it always brings me to tears. I feel fortunate to be a part of a community as giving as Buffalo is, and am lucky to share in that special night with Quota International of Amherst.

Though their work is primarily focused on helping organizations in the Buffalo area, their support reaches internationally as well. Quota International helps fund the We Share Foundation, which provides services around the world.

When I spoke with Quota President Kathy about what Quota means to her, she had this to say; "It’s a fun and talented group of people who are extremely committed to the club’s mission. Our members are busy people but we have joined to help others and to enjoy the camaraderie and friendships developed with each other that will last a lifetime. In addition, Quota offers opportunities to travel and make new friends from around our country as well as abroad. In Quota, we also enhance our personal growth and network with interesting people while learning management and leadership skills that carry over into our personal and professional lives."

The Quota members I have gotten to know (Kathy and her sister Robin Miller being two of them) are a talented, fun, kind and caring group of women and men who genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of Buffalonians. While they don't often receive the public recognition they deserve, they truly have made a difference, and I've seen it firsthand.

For those wanting to make some new friends and help out a lot of great organizations in Buffalo, this is one group you need to check out. Each month the group meets on the first Thursday of the month for business meetings and the third Thursday of the month for dinners. Additionally, groups and committees within the organization meet to plan and prepare for fundraising activities.

Membership is open to women and men of all ages. You can find out more information about becoming a member by logging onto their website or by calling 716-799-0981. I truly hope you do give them a few minutes of your time to learn more about what they do.

Quota members (and sisters) Robin Miller (left)
& Kathy Bucierka (right) volunteer their time
to support St. Mary's School for the Deaf at
a rally in Albany in March 2011.