Saturday, August 31, 2013



Tomorrow is LABOR DAY, the traditional end of summer season;  though summer has a few more weeks to go (Fall arrives 9/22 at 4:44PM) it lingers in Florida at least through October. Labor Day originated in 1882, the day set aside to honor the many fine workers of this country.  It use to be the last day of summer break for most of us, but now school begins in August.  This weekend also kicked off College football with the NFL arriving Thursday night.  Have a great day, not only tomorrow, but every day.

Broadway at Van Wezel
Thursday September 5, 5:30-730 in the Grand Foyer of VAN WEZEL performing arts hall, the new season will be formerly announced.   Some of the acts already committed...Jay Leno, fresh from his late nite television show, former American Idol and TV star, Katherine McPhee, Marilyn McCoo/Billy Davis Jr., Yanni and even Jerry Lewis???? Cannot believe he is still performing.  Tickets will be on sale then prior to public sale. For a complete list of performances see Sunday's Herald-Tribune Arts section.

The 10th Annual Perlman Music Program is offering a warm up concert at above mentioned Van Wezel, Wednesday November 6 at 7:30.  Sponsored by PMP/Suncoast and Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, the concert is in celebration of Israel at 65 and the 10th anniversary of  Perlman's winter residency in SARASOTA.

Tickets are on sale now on line or at the box office for the performance and also a meet and greet later that evening.  This will be a chamber music performance featuring Perlman and several of his former students.

Tickets for the MUSIC PROGRAM will be available later this year.  Keep reading for more information.

Movies....Movies...Two quality ADULT movies are playing this weekend and I recommend both with each getting as many stars possible.....Woody Allen's superb BLUE JASMINE with an ensemble cast including sure to be Academy Award nominee Kate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale and Peter Sarsgaard among others.  The story is ripped from today's headlines; Bernie Madoff comes in mind.

And, Lee Daniels' wonderful THE BUTLER, featuring sure to be Academy Award nominee again, Forrest Whitaker who along with Oprah Winfrey and a cast of cameos from Jane Fonda to Robin Williams to Alan Rickman,  THE BUTLER tells the story of a White House butler who served eight American Presidents over three decades.  No better way to escape the sun and heat with these two.

Hidden in a strip mall on Siesta Drive across from Dillard's is a charming French restaurant RICKS.  Don't go now, as they are closed until October, but when they return and you have the urge for an authentic French dinner by all means go.  Intimate, with few tables, but charming and QUIET, you can have a relaxing meal, close your eyes and pretend you are in Paris.  The beef bouruignon is to die for.  And save room for dessert.

Blog reader, friend and caterer extraordinaire, Marlene Meyer writes glowingly about her recent discovery of SMACKS on Bee Ridge and Shade Ave. a mere few miles from TRADER JOE'S. 
Marlene writes "...I ate at SMACKS...very cute place.  Very crowded at lunch.  All hamburgers are cooked medium unless you ask for well done.  Hot dog is actually sausage from Griers and very good.  Not a Chicago dog, if that is what you are looking for.  Frozen custard was very good and very rich...."

Reviewed Monday in the SARASOTA Herald Tribune, RANDABI'S is a relatively new deli in the Gulf Gate shopping center.  I went with a group of friends last week and had a sampling of a good portion of  their menuThe corned beef is thin and warmThe brisket the sameChopped Liver is very tasty, fries are special; the bread is not.   We did not like potato knish,  but devoured Baba GanoushThe desserts are home made and  especially liked the New York style apple/cheese pie.  The restaurant itself is nothing to look at, in fact it is downright ugly.  But if you are in the area and have a craving for Jewish style deli  RANDABI'S is located at 6550  Gateway Ave.


Justine Griffin wrote in Tuesday's SARASOTA Herald about APPLE STORE speculation at new mall.  For sometime now, this rumor has been floating around the market.  Either Benderson or Westfield.  I heard over a year ago from their store in Brandon that SARASOTA was a definite.  One thing is sure, if you need Apple products or service COMPUTER ADVANTAGE on US41 past the airport is the place to go.  I've bought from them and had repairs.  They are authorized and knowledgeable about your Apple products.

Construction of UTC continues at a rapid pace.   Both SAKS and DILLARD'S are under construction, and I understand MACY'S is not far behind.  Across the street, Fidelity Bank is nearly complete, while Ethan Allen and Panera seem to be on schedule for a late winter opening.

Credit East County Observer this week with unravelling the mystery of the archway close to Cattleman Road.  It is a mock-up of the skylight system that will form the ceiling of the mall's concourse.  The system allows people to see the sky.  And because of its complexity, the mock-up is a practice run for the real thing.  It will be coming down soon.

Last week I asked for comments and received several.  Dean Congbalay took a group to YUMMY and was pleasantly surprised with the improved quality of service.  Marcia Clark was pleased to learn Main Street Oyster Bar was moving into the vacated Red Elephant location and advises APALONIA is now one of her favorite SARASOTA restaurants.  You can write your comments to email address listed with this blog. 

I also ranted about lack of service at several major retailers.   One who gives great service from entrance to checkout is HOME DEPOT.  I had to return two defective hoses without receipt.  No problem...they even would have swapped with driver's license.  No wonder they are #1.

Jim's rant this week is directed at all of the citizens who are still complaining about Sarasota's  growth either on University or Longboat Key.  If you want a 2001 version of SARASOTA, those days are way behind us.  We are moving along at a fast clip both downtown and out University Parkway.  To demean the Benderson Park Rowing facility  as someone did last week in the Herald, is stupid. 

The rowing, arts, restaurants, shopping and weather are drawing record tourists to our city.   In addition, many more are moving here.  It's only going to get more crowded. Without the crowds, merchants and restaurants would close ; limiting our choices.  The Mall will open, the National Rowing event will take place, swim goes on and on.  If you're unhappy with the progress put your house up for sale and move South....Venice, Englewood, North Port....

For my BALTIMORE RAVENS fans.  Welcome the defending Super Bowl Champions back Thursday 7:30 NBC, first with a live concert featuring Keith Urban from Baltimore's famous Inner Harbor and then the game everyone is waiting to see....a rematch of last season's memorable playoff overtime battle with the Denver Broncos.  GO RAVENS!!!!!

Thanks again to Tracy and all who contributed.   Congratulations to Jason who completed his first week of college at Tulane and Cori who helped deliver a great pledge class to SDT at University of Georgia.  I'll be back next week and every week until February when Roberta and I are off to Vietnam....Jim

Monday, August 12, 2013



Over 1000 participants and thousands of visitors have jammed Benderson Park for the first three days of competition.  Any day now, SARASOTA should get official word as host of 2017 World Rowing Championships.  Wasn't it nice of Governor Scott to visit?  From a non-supporter to a supporter when he finally realized the good this facility is doing for SARAOTA's and Florida's image around the WORLD!!!!  Better late than never.

This next item will cause some controversy and I hope if you disagree with me you email and let me know your take on these two restaurants.  During the time between blogs, we went to both restaurants...each on a Sunday.  P.F. Chang's is an exciting, hectic and noisy addition to Sarasota's growing list of restaurants.  The service is adequate and the food is tasty; without a reservation,  the wait is horrendous.
Yummy House opened last year and has improved in every category....service, food quality and portions.  For authentic Chinese cuisine, Yummy is head and shoulders above Chang's.  Visit either one NOW, because in a few months the wait for both will be intolerable.

Other restaurant news this week...HOB NOB is undergoing a complete renovation to the tune of a half million dollars and will be closed for several months.  DRY DOCK is closing this week and will reopen with an expanded dinning area the middle of October.  The entire entry area will be for waiting and drinking.  Food will be served outside and upstairs. A second elevator is also under construction.
Serving Sarasota for several years in its Main Street location, Divino's is offering its famous menu at slashed prices through early October.  If you have not eaten there recently or in several years, I suggest you give it a try; especially at prices better than most Savor Sarasota restaurants offered.  The Sole, Caesar Salad and pasta is as good as remembered.

The newest Daniel Silva novel, The English Girl, takes Gabriel Allon to London, Russia ,Corsica and France  as he searches for the lover of Britain's Prime Minister who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom.  Silva's books take place in  authentic locations, and this one is no exception.  As I read the book in less than a week, I was filled with remembrances of places once visited.  For late summer beach, pool or lazy afternoon reading, Silva's latest is for you.

Looking for a television show that is exciting, dramatic and guaranteed to keep you attention for the entire hour?  BBC America's BROADCHURCH Wednesday's at 10 is that and more.   In fact, it is so good, FOX has bought the rights for its 2014-15 season; while BBC has committed to another season.  The story is simple. An 11 year old boy is found dead and at first his death is considered a suicide.  But further investigation reveals foul play and the race is on to find the murderer and the reason for the murder before it happens to others.  You can catch up ON-DEMAND.  Like a good book, this one is hard to put down.

Continuing with television, I am now using Xfinity X1 which is quite an improvement over anything Comcast has offered to this point.  The remote system offers you a variety of options from multiple recordings to improved guide and Apps which include Pandora. 

Currently playing at Florida Studio Theatre is a Michael McKeever play about the art world, specifically Art Basel held each year in Miami Beach Florida.  The play has some terrific moments from an excellent cast, and though much better than the recently completed Underpants, it sometimes struggles to keep the comedy flowing and is difficult to follow without first reading a review.  Nevertheless it is an easy and inexpensive way to spend two hours away from the heat and sun.  Better hurry.  South Beach closes this week.

A new restaurant opening soon!!  If you like oysters and mussels and calamari and other seafood, you will now have another option on University Parkway.  Half Shell Oyster House on Main St. in downtown Sarasota is expanding to the former Red Elephant location in the Kohl's shopping center.  Opening date has not been announced.

And if you missed Justine Griffen's front page Business News article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune,  popular fitness clothier Lululemon has a showroom right here in Sarasota at 330 Palm Avenue .Their present location is open only a few days a week. Thursday-Friday 10-6, Saturday until 5.   Hopefully they will have a full-time location in the future.

JIM'S RANT is directed at most, not all,  department, convenience, supermarket, and box stores.  Other than Nordstrom, which is not here and will  probably be represented only  by their Rack store, where are the floor walkers to assist with questions?  I was in WalMart this week and could find no one to help with product location.  Target is similar as is Kohl's, Stein Mart, Dillard's, Best Buy and many more.  Other outstanding service can be found at Publix and Bed Bath and Beyond.  If you know of any more with good service let me know, and I will include in the next blog.

I'll be back again the end of this month and will resume the weekly blog at that time.  As always, thanks to Tracy for her assistance in making me look good.  If you have any comments please forward to and I will post.  Enjoy the last days of August....JIM


Saturday, August 3, 2013


And though at least 95% of my readers are not going back to school, you still have one day to take advantage of this year's Florida tax free holiday.  This is available to all who are living or visiting the state and includes clothing and footwear up to $75 as well as personal computers or related accessories for personal use up to $750.00.  There are sales EVERYWHERE....what better way to spend a HOT Sunday???

Two weeks ago, I recommended a movie that I had not seen yet; FRUITVALE STATION....having seen it last week it is a brilliant piece of movie making that once seen will leave you disturbed and angry at the plight of our young African American neighbors who continue to be targeted on this nation's streets.   This is a true story of a young man barely out of his teens who on New Year's Eve a few years ago takes the BART train in Oakland and is forced off at Fruitvale Station.  That the movie was finished before the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman altercation makes it more chilling in the viewing.  DON'T MISS IT...The Academy won't when nominations come out next year.

SARASOTA has many restaurants and more opening every day.  Over the two weeks since my last blog we've visited several.  In our estimation, JPAN remains the best for sushi and more.  With two locations it has built a strong clientele and keeps  expanding its menu, now making it at least equal  or better than any Japanese restaurant in the area.  For the first time in a few years, we visited PACIFIC RIM on Hillview.  It is essentially as we left it; though not as crowded as past years, the menu is varied and along with the sushi, is an alternative to JPAN, though not as good.  My take.

STATE STREET, located at State St and Lemon, is even better than when it first opened.  The menu is creative, the atmosphere eclectic, and it is a fun place to go especially during the week.  Noisy when full, nevertheless I highly recommend.  And good news for those of you joining us in a few months, after a hearing in a week which should approve expansion next door, they will double their seating.  They fill up early so plan accordingly.


RINGLING INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL tickets are now on sale for the FIFTH annual (wasn't the first last year?  where has time flown).  This is the last year of their association with New York's Baryshnikov Arts Center.For more Festival information click here.

SARASOTA OPERA 2013-14 single tickets are now available online only.  Box office and phone sales begin September 3.  Four classic operas along with a Youth Opera are being performed this season. For performances and pricing click here.
While strolling Main St. on the way to MEDITERRANEO (review in two weeks) we discovered a new boutique ON TREND featuring inexpensive items your children and granddaughters would be very happy with.  Owner and buyer Crystal Clarke is very knowledgeable in product and current styles.

If you are a fan of HBO'S CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, then you don't want to miss next week's Sunday movie....CLEAR HISTORY.  Larry David wrote the script and stars along with, Jon Hamm, Kate Hudson, Eva Mendes, Amy Ryan, Michael Keaton and former Curb standout JB Smoove.  If the movie is half as good as previews now running, it should be a sure thing.  It will on 9-11, but repeated many times over the course of the month and will also be available ON-DEMAND.

Attention all COMCAST/XFINITY customers.  The new X1 box is now available.  Not only are you able to add any-room dvr, but this new device makes it possible to record FOUR (4) programs at the same time or record three while watching another.  This company is the subject of my rant below.  Do not call them.  They are never available.  Instead the easiest way to communicate with them is click here to contact comcast .  Log in with your email account or your Comcast account and go to support for chat.  An operator is available almost instantly and in no time you can schedule an appointment.

JIM'S RANT is directed squarely at our cable provider COMCAST/XFINITY or whatever they want to call themselves.  Ever since their call center was moved from SARASOTA to Ft. Meyers they have been impossible to reach by phone.  This is true for almost any hour of the day. When reached it could be Indianapolis, Detroit or even ASIA. Yes, I had the misfortune of reaching Asia and unwisely on my part of actually setting an appointment for the X1 box.  Unfortunately, the box was not in the market and the service call was not necessary.  For best results follow my chat advice.  Comcast is due here with box on Monday.  I'll let you know in two weeks if I was successful.

I was going to show pictures and information on our recent  trip to ATLANTA.  I'll save that for next time.  Have a great couple of weeks.  When the blog resumes we will be well into NFL
pre-season!!!  Hopefully, the ORIOLES will be closer to first place.  Thanks to Tracy for her editing expertise  and to all of you who continue to read JIM KNOWS SARASOTA....JIM......