Friday, February 16, 2018

FEBRUARY 18, 2018

This week we celebrate the shopping holiday: PRESIDENTS DAY.  By lumping both Lincoln and Washington's birthday together, we get bombarded with sales advertising for nearly a month.  So happy shopping, but as you do, stop to think about two GREAT American Presidents!!!!
DARWIN's newest restaurant featuring what he calls "evolutionary cuisine" is alive and kicking.  So much so they have outgrown their 4141 Tamiami Trail location and are expanding next door!!   If you haven't been you're in for a treat, as all meals are unique and served with sauce and sides not regularly seen in Sarasota. 

 The night we were there, the menu special was Whole Snapper including the head.  Our friends loved it.  I could not watch them eat it!  However, my salmon was served with special Peruvian sauce and along with a plantain side, I went away happy.

Located within walking distance of Trader Joe's, Darwin is open 7 days with early and late happy-hour.  Another very positive note: You can talk without shouting; something we're finding more difficult in today's modern restaurant.  Learn more about Darwin by clicking here.

If you read the TICKET in this week's paper and didn't come away overwhelmed by the number of theatre, live performance, street fair, baseball promotions, etc. then you didn't read the entire insert.  What with the ORIOLES, PIRATES, RAYS and YANKEES all within a few miles from here your baseball appetite should be satisfied.   Spring games begin in a week or so; BUT a word of caution, most games have limited availability.

I know many of you are into JAZZ; especially with all the rap and hip hop music now invading our space.  The 38th Annual SARASOTA Jazz Festival takes place March 7-10 at The Riverview Arts Center at Riverview High School.  This is a change from original venue Art Ovation Hotel due to construction delays.

   For more information on schedule click here.

The 9th Annual JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL is less than a month away.a few weeks away.  Featuring 12 outstanding Israel themed films, including the un-cut director's version of one of our all time favorites EXODUS.  How do you think that one would fare against today's BLACK PANTHER???

 There are 11 other movies including the Southwest Florida Premier of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue, a rare and intimate reflective interview with Israel's founding prime minister.  Though filmed 50! years ago; his vision for the future of Israel stands the test of time.  Tickets will be on sale soon. and when I have that information, I will pass along.  Click here to learn more about the movies and events for the Festival.

This week's fifth Masterworks is called Midori Honors Bernstein Feb 22-25.  Join Sarasota Orchestra with guest conductor Michael Balke in a romantic post Valentine program featuring a tribute to Leonard Bernstein who if alive, would have been 100 this year.

Balke  is an internationally known conductor, regularly appearing with symphonies in South Korea, Russia and Japan.  Call 941-953-3434 for tickets. 

World renowned violinist Midori joins the orchestra for this special program.  You can click here to purchase tickets and see upcoming events.

JIM'S RANT....The year was 2004, and in  September, the ribbon was cut opening Lakewood Ranch Medical Center.  Mickey Fine and myself were just two of the many volunteers working there.  Visitors to our front desk position were few and far between, and time spent uneventful.  Fast forward to this week's announcement of a $28.5 Million Dollar expansion. One more clue to the rapid growth of this community........Thanks for reading.  Have a great week......JIM

CORRECTION...The February 25 screening time for ITZAH  at Jewish Federation is 4:00 PM.  For Perlman fans, this is the one to see.  Call 941-706-0033 for more information.

Friday, February 9, 2018

FEBRUARY 11, 2017


 Two days ago, Circus Sarasota returned to the big top at Benderson Park with OVATION.  And yes, this year's version drew a standing O at their second act conclusion.  Though Nik is missing this year, the International cast more than makes up for his absence with their daredevil aerial performance without a net.  This show runs through March 9.  Box office is open daily or you can call 941-355-9805. Or  you can click here to order those tickets.

Sarasota opera had its season debut Friday with their first production of Puccini's Manson  Lescaut.  Running through March 23 it tells the story of a couple who experience love at first sight and face serious obstacle to a lasting relationship.  Other featured Operas are Norma and Defland.  The season concludes with the more popular and more familiar opera, Bizet's Carmen.
Performances are at Sarasota Opera House. For more information call 941-328-1300 or  click here for more information.

After hearing so much about NAPULE, from friends, readers and Sarasota Magazine, 5 of us went for dinner Wednesday.   Attractive and modern best describes the interior of the restaurant.  Imagine Boca or Bravo and you have a pretty good idea.  Along with its brick-oven pizza, large screen movie loop and an open second floor for dining, Napule is much more attractive.  If you can get by the NOISE,  Napule is a positive addition to our growing list of restaurants.

Inexpensive and casual best describes the menu.  Some have raved about their pizza, I am not one of them.   I prefer a solid crust.  Needless to say Napule features a soft crust which made hand holding difficult.  Their pasta is rich and flavorful.  Desserts look no different than  of other Italian restaurants here. Maybe they all get from same bakery.

A reservation is suggested; especially on crowded weekends.  Call 941-556-9639.  For menu and additional information click here.  And request 2nd floor.  The noise is as bad as one can imagine.

The recently concluded 2017 PERLMAN MUSIC PROGRAM continues into 2018 with ITZHAK the movie.  Showing Sunday, February 25, 4:30p.m. at Beatrice Friedman Theater 580 McIntosh Rd.  The film, which is  part of PBS American Masters series, follows Perlman as he interacts with students, family and among others, Billy Joel.  Tickets are $15 and can be purchased by clicking here. In addition to movie, there is information on year-long PMP events.

There has been much publicity regarding the JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL.  I will have the complete line-up next week.  The Festival has grown from a handful of films to over
a dozen.  Opening night guests include Yariv Mozer and Alon Ben-Gurion.  Most screenings will be at Hollywood20.  If you can't wait until next week you are welcome to click here for an update on all scheduled movies as well as special evnets associated with film festival.

 The closing night film EXODUS will be presented at Sahib Shriners Auditorium in its full over 3 hour un-cut version.

The world is changing along the University Corridor.  What once was a sleepy bunch of parking lots with fast food, bank and Outback Restaurant, has welcomed a state of the art WHOLE FOODS, WAWA, soon to open METRO DINER, and the just announced Mote Marine.
In addition, UPCC is about to become a recreational district with current owners in charge; and if you are an owner with ballot and a registered Manatee County voter now is time to get that vote in to your Neighborhood Chairperson.

A few parting words on the AMAZON/WHOLE FOODS.  It's easily double in size from their 1St. Street location.  Included is a restaurant with beer and wine service.  Restaurant even offers a happy hour with $2 off 4-7 pm.  Just imagine a huge expansion of what you've come to expect from WHOLE FOODS.  Along with WA WA, this is one busy strip mall.  AND, if you are an Amazon Prime Member, there are additional specials throughout the store.

JIM'S RANT....Ten years ago, Nate Benderson had an idea to create a cultural area around the then being developed UTC and Benderson Park.  He offered land and $ to Sarasota Symphony to relocate to that site.  In addition he offered to help develop the property.  Didn't happen, and now with Mote Marine moving that way, one can only imagine what would have been.....
Thanks for reading.....Until next week.....

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

FEBRUARY 4, 2018


We can only hope for as exciting a game as last year's New England/Atlanta thriller.  My prediction is at bottom of blog.  ENJOY the game and party!!!

Playing now at ASOLO is SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE.  Winner of Academy Award for Best Picture several years ago, it is drawing big crowds in this theatre adaptation.

Critics raved.... " an absolute joy from beginning to end," it tells the story of playwright William Shakespeare as he begins his career in England.  While going through writers block (I know something about that) he meets the love of his life.  The rest you'll have to see on your own.  Now through March 28, Click here for performance schedule and to purchase tickets. You can also visit or call box office at 941-351-8000. 

With all the new restaurants open or about to open, it's easy to forget about the ones that got us here.  PATRICK'S has been a Main St. fixture long before many of their neighbors; in fact over 29 years!  Mark Freed went with family for their Monday $5 hamburger, and was not disappointed.

Mark writes, "...needless to say they were quite crowded, but seated without too much of a wait.  There were 5 of us and all ordered the burger.  Each one came out as ordered and stood the test of time.  The sides of cole slaw, potato salad and fries were equally as good.  Along with a full bar serving generous drinks reasonably priced;  definitely would go back."

Mark also commented on their extensive menu offering entrees, salads and specialty sandwiches.  Open daily with lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.  For those of you who have forgotten about Patrick's take another taste!!  Reservations for parties of 5.

URBANITE THEATRE continues to prosper with their unusual theatrical presentations.  The first of this season, Northside Hollow is set deep in a mine.  For several minutes there is no light as an explosion rocks the place and everything goes dark.  Jay Handelman calls it a"fully immersing experience."

For those of you who have never been to or heard of Urbanite, they are located close to Whole Foods at 1487 Second Street.  Seating is limited so my advice is to plan well ahead.  Northisde Hollow is playing through March 11. For tickets call 941-321-1397 or click here to purchase tickets.

The success of one of our favorite restaurants, THE ROSEMARY, has prompted
owner George Armstrong to expand not only to a new version  coming soon, but to a  deli a few doors down at 433 OrangeCHARLIE'S Deli named for George and Jessica's son, is a welcome addition to the Rosemary district.

Open 10am-6pm with limited seating, you will be able to order sandwiches from a wide variety of Boar's Head product, feast on  lox and bagels and much more.

Also for take out will be whitefish spread, potato pancakes, matzo ball soup, lasagna and Rosemary meatloaf.  Chef Scott calls this"a work in progress", with more items added weekly. 

In my continuing effort to bring you unusual area events,
I call your attention to next week's Gospel Music Convention.  Beginning Monday for  6 days at the Bradenton Convention Center at One Haben Blvd, just off US Hwy 301-41.

Many of the artists featured last year are back i.e., Booth Brothers, David Phelps, Quicksilver, Greater Vision, and Karen Peck.  More information is available at 941-756-6942 or click here for the complete lineup and various ticket purchase locations.

Opening Wednesday and running until Feb 18, Jan Wallace brings her acclaimed Shirley Valentine to Backstage at the Players.  More on this next week, but you can order tickets at 941-365-2494 or click here for Shirley performance schedule. Additional Players information as well.

JIM'S RANT....This week's opening of the first Amazon/Whole Foods continues a run of specialty grocery chains putting a foot down in our community.  Trader Joe's was followed by Fresh Market, Sprouts, Lucky's and Earth Fare.  What once was a small tourist stop in the winter has become a big-time community.  Sarasota is no longer a best kept secret!!!!...........Thanks for reading.  Until next week....JIM


Friday, January 26, 2018

JANUARY 28, 2017


If  you are reading this early Sunday, you still have time to see the seasons best craft show.  The next scheduled St. Armands Circle show is not until June.  We were at the show yesterday, and OUTSTANDING describes it best.


Next Sunday is devoted to parties and football.  BUT if you're into running, walking or just plain partying, the annual SARASOTA MUSIC HALF MILE MARATHON is for you.  The fun begins at The Van Wezel and concludes there with hot breakfast courtesy of this year's corporate sponsor, METRO DINER.  With a second location under construction, and a third on the way, Metro is gaining traction in our market.

Friend Randy Silagi writes..."In addition to raising money for local charities, the race promotes everything we find great about our city; healthy living , fun in the sun, family togetherness, musical diversity, and our wonderful neighborhoods.  Runners and walkers along the route will encounter everything from a Girl Scout Cookie aid to FREE beer, and oh yes, there will be 22 bands.  For those not up to the full 13.1miles, there is a shorter 10k event of 6.2 miles."  There is still time to register by clicking here. I am told there are very few participant tickets available.

Unlike other running events, this one draws a big crowd of viewers.  So head downtown next Sunday morning and enjoy a Super event for the big one later in the day.

People are raving about the new PLAYERS stage version of one of our classic all-time movies, Singin' In The Rain.  Drove by on Wednesday night and their parking lot was full.  Deservedly so, as Jay Handelman wrote in his Herald review....."Dancing is the star as choreographer Brian Finnerty has created some energetic, fast-paced  tap routines.  

Couldn't resist the original!!1
 Musical support comes from a pre-recorded orchestral sound track, which does detract from the performance. "  However, Jay goes on..."still there's no denying the joyous affection that has been put into every movement and step of this lively production.  Playing through next weekend call 941-365-2494 or click here to purchase tickets and see remaining schedule.

A recently opened restaurant,  7219 South on the trail is getting lots of good vibes lately.  Good friend, Marlene Meyer went to NAPULE, and writes.."word is out.  Very crowded for an excellent addition to our growing list of restaurants.  Everyone loved their meal.  We shared a pizza with creative crust fresh from their wood burning oven.  Adding to atmosphere, an ancient black/white Italian movie plays on huge screen.  Service was exceptional.  Call 941-566-9639 for necessary reservation."

Many of you have been CLAMORING for a SOL update.  Unfortunately it is not a happy one.  After a few unsuccessful attempts at a deli, Sol took up residence in Gulf Gate and produced a delicious cheesecake.  Many restaurants, including The ROSEMARY,  added it to their dessert menu to rave reviews.  Mark Freed advises, the cheesecake is no longer.  If any of you know of Sol's whereabouts please advise.

On a happier note, FST  debuted its second show of the season, Heisenberg.  Critics have been enthusiastic calling this a 'must see", "well directed", and touching.  Written by Simon Stephens who brought us Tony winning "The Curious Incident..", it takes place in a London train station, bringing two strangers together in an unusual way.  Tickets this show, as well as Cabaret can be purchased by clicking here.

JIM'S RANT......I may be in the minority on this one, but I feel the Sarasota Herald Tribune has become a much better read in the past few months.  Better local reporting, improved sports coverage, and more information on local attractions.  Maybe they knew about last week's WSJ extremely psoitive article on Sarasota,  and decided to upgrade.  Whatever, it still takes less than a cup of coffee to read the four sections........

Until next week, make this week a great one........JIM

Friday, January 19, 2018

JANUARY 21, 2018


In less than a month, baseball returns to Sarasota as the BALTIMORE ORIOLES report for spring training.  Games begin February 23 and run through march.

Tickets are on sale now at Ed Smith box office located at 2700 12th Street.    For a complete rundown go to For a complete schedule and other spring training items click here.

Some prime dates are Tampa 2/23, St Louis 2/8, Boston 3/4/22, Philadelphia 3/11 and NYY 3/14.
For additional information call 877-222-2802.

In anticipation of new WHOLE FOODS opening later this month at the corner of Honore and University, I've been spending time at their downtown location.  I don't know if you have the same opinion, but I was not impressed.   Sure the salad bar has been enhanced, prepared foods have been expanded and baked goods are all over the place, but in my estimation, the baked goods, especially my favorite rugelach were far better.  And the prices seem higher. I'm waiting to see if the new WHOLE FOODS lures me away from FRESH MARKET.

While driving around UTC this past week I witnessed the raising of a Circus Tent in the parking lot across from Dillard's.  It doesn't seem a year has passed, but CIRCUS SARASOTA is only a few weeks from opening performance Friday February 9.  Though lacking the box-office draw of Nik Wallenda, the impressive roster of international artists will thoroughly entertain you.

Titled OVATION, the show is dedicated to circus performers worldwide.   Some performers will be familiar while others are new;  Ukrainian quick change masters the Smirnovs,  French juggling master Kris Kremo and something called the Juju tight wire act are all new to this year's show.

Opening weekend tickets come with  20% off  courtesy of ABC 7.  Call 941-355-9805 or click here to order tickets on-line. I'll have information next week on box-office hours.

It's not often I get excited about a so-called fast food restaurant opening, but SHAKE SHACK is different.  Alerted by Mark Freed to their recent commitment to UTC, I refreshed my memory on this company. 

Founder and owner Danny Meyer is well known to those of us who visit New York on a regular basis.  His over 30 restaurants include Union Square Cafe, Blue Smokes and Cafes at MOMASteak Shack began with a cart at Madison Square Garden and has grown to over 34 locations in NY,  Pennsylvania, Florida, and several other states.  Their Central Park location has lines on a regular basis.

Central Park Location
It will be awhile before Shake Shack is even under construction.  Their location will in the same area as a California Pizza Kitchen. But once open their gourmet burger, crinkle fries, shakes, hot dogs and specialty items will draw lines here as well.  However if you're looking for chain burger prices; forget it.  A double burger is just under $10.  But food never tasted as good as this.  I've had their burger and fries and can attest to their fine taste and quality.  Let's call this the rich man's Steak N Shake.

For those of you living in the eastern area of Sarasota, and are looking for an alternative to the very popular down town Saturday Farmer's Market, you now have another option.  Open Wednesdays through April, The Market at Lakewood ranch offers seasonal vegetables, meats, baked goods, dairy, poultry and more.  The ever-growing Sarasota Polo Club is their location 3-7pm.  Along with live music there are cooking demonstrations, wellness activities, and fun for kids of all ages.  Click here for more information and directions. Or call 941-556-8300.

Looking for a terrific movie this weekend?  Don't miss THE POST.   Directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep,  this one had me riveted from start to finish.  Taking place in 1971,  it tells of a fight for freedom of the press as well as the difficulty a woman had in those times to lead without being second-guessed or undermined.

The Post is a definite nominee for best picture.  Other nominations could include best actress, actor, director, costume as well.  Lots of competition this year, so I will not anoint this yet, but urge you to see it.  Spielberg was at the top of his game here.

JIM'S RANT.....For as long as can remember, The Epicure has been one of my favorite Main St.  restaurants for casual dining. After my lunch experience of last week, I am having serious doubts.  True it was only the second day open after months of renovation and I should forgive some sins but not having service for several minutes in a nearly empty dining room?  Little concern on part of management for the slow service?  The lack of Bloody Mary mix for several in my party.  If Epicure were a new restaurant I could easily forgive them, but not one with their tradition and reputation....****

****....Good friend Merrill Wynne went to Epicure last week and had a totally different experience.  He writes, "Six of us went to dinner.  Service outstanding.  Good food.   Place packed and served us in 10 minutes.  Just wanted you to know."

Thanks for reading this week....Hope to see you again next week.....JIM