Saturday, September 28, 2013


In an effort to attract arts and cultural tourists to the area, a new website promoting SARASOTA County's offerings is now available.  BUT, for those of us who live here the site offers an opportunity to search for entertainment, arts, festivals, architecture and attractions that make SARASOTA one of the best places to live and visit in Florida. To see all the wonderful things happening in and around Sarasota click here.

One of America's leading regional theaters, ASOLO REPERTORY announced its 2013-2014 schedule this week in an elaborate brochure sent to subscribers.  You already know about Showboat which opens the season November 15 and runs through December 29.  It only gets better with last season's Tony Award winning play,  Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike opens in January and runs with several of the other shows through April 13.  If it is as good as last year's Clybourne Park production, this is one you do not want to miss.

Among the other offerings are The Grapes of Wrath adapted by Frank Galati...enough said...Philadelphia Here I Come, 2012 Tony nominee for best play Other Desert Cities and a spring musical HERO: The Musical. Subscriptions and single tickets are now on sale. Click here to order now.

Coming via email last week was FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE winter season announcement of its Mainstage and Cabaret schedule for 2013-2014 only adding to the anticipation for the coming season.  I already told you about the opening production of Monty Python's Sapmalot, still another Tony winner to be presented in repertory.  Along with Spamalot is Thurgood, a one man show recreating Thurgood Marshall, Daddy Long Legs and Two Point Oh.  The Cabaret schedule begins with music from the 50's and 60's...The Prima Donnettes.For dates and subscriptions click here.  Single tickets go on sale at a later date.

The SARASOTA ORCHESTRA kicked off its season last week  in Holley Hall featuring Conductor Dirk Meyer and the Chamber Soirees Series.  Much more to come including the first Great Escapes Concerts October 16-19  titled MAD MEN.  If you watch the TV show of the same name it is set in the 60's and the concerts will include music from that era including The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Duke Ellington.

I am switching gears from culture to eating!!!  George and Janet Miles have been busy since their return to SARASOTA.  They recently dined with friends at Cafe Gabbiano on Siesta Key.  George writes..."The ambiance was terrific, just like Italy.  The meal was delicious with a wide selection of wines to pair with any dish.   I had linguine with seafood and red clam sauce.  I recommend highly if you want to dine in Italy without the travel expenses."

For several years Nellie's Deli has been serving In-Between Bridge players with lunch before games.  Also offering  catering and take out, Nellie's, located on Beneva and Fruitville is easy on the pocket book offering homemade soups, salads, corned beef, pastrami, fresh baked pastries and more.  If you're looking for a quick bite, Nellie's is the place.  They are open for breakfast as well and carry out stays open until 6 Mon-Sat.  Simple, quick, inexpensive and good!!

After extensive renovation, Hob Nob is once again open and serving their famous burgers, salads, grouper sandwiches and daily specials.  Somehow they have managed to keep the old atmosphere while making everything shiny and new.  When first reported, the renovation cost was $500,000.00.  If so, they did not get their monies worth. Nothing much has changed; except the place is CLEAN with new wall tiles and tables. However, it is still fun to eat outside next to bankers and bikers;  Fords and BMW's.  Noisy from 301 traffic, it's still worth the trip for good inexpensive fun food.

Opening this week on Main St. a few doors west of Mozzarella Fella is WHITE ROSE Interiors.  Filled with wonderful accessories for your home or office, White Rose is a unique addition for that area.  Furniture, accessories, linens and great gift ideas for the coming season are in ample supply.  Get a bite at Fella and walk a few steps to browse.  Convenient and unique.

 Fall brings cooler temperatures along with adult movies.  I saw two last weekend and recommend both.  PRISONERS with an ensamble cast sure to be nominated for at least a Golden Globe and possibly several  Oscars,  is taught, tense and exciting while moving at a pace that allows you to follow all the twists and turns of the plot.  Basically, while enjoying Thanksgiving dinner,  two young daughters of Hugh Jackman and Terrance Howard are kidnapped.  The investigation proceeds at too slow a pace for  who  Jackman loses faith with Jake Gyllenhaal and takes matters into his own hands.  Though over 2 hours, the action never lags and you will be rewarded with a fine piece of film making.

 A totally different kind of movie is currently at the Burns.  A documentary SALINGER, through interviews and stock footage,  it recreates the life of one of this century's greatest authors, J.D. Salinger whose 1951 masterpiece Catcher In The Rye is still a best seller today.  It was a must read then, and because of this movie, for me at least, a must read again.  A very strange man much affected by his WW2 experiences, he disappeared to New Hampshire to write, but not publish several novels.  Leaving his works to a trust, the movie reveals a 2015 publication date for the Catcher sequel.  Cannot imagine the sales for that one.

Next week I will review ENOUGH SAID also at Burns.  It is charming and wonderful.

OOPS!!!!! My Emmy predictions sucked!  At least I got BREAKING BAD correct.  Tonight is the finale of this remarkable series.  Walt and Jesse are both doomed, but how they go is worth watching.  AMC with their Mad Men, Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy and others continues to challenge the viewer's intelligence with stories that go way beyond those of the three major networks.  TONIGHT MARKS THE RETURN OF HOMELAND on Showtime along with The Good Wife on CBS.  Get that recorder  ready!!!

Since Jim Knows SARASOTA is delivered on Saturday, you have time to catch tonight's opening Saturday Night Live with guest host Tina Fey and musical guest Arcade Fire,  several new cast members and some surprise cameos.   If not tonight, surely ON DEMAND sometime this week. 

This Tuesday, PMP/Suncoast as part of Ruby Tuesday Community Give Back Program  receives 20% of your check at the 8306 Tourist Center Drive location only.Go to their website and click on RubyTuesday. Print flyer and bring to restaurant for discount. 100% of the giveback amount is donated directly to PMP/Suncoast.

JIM'S RANT this week coincides with the arrival of the no texting while driving law.  Hope it's enforced like the speed limits on University, Fruitville or other major streets.  Cameras now capture a red light violation at certain intersections; unfortunately only a few of those exist.   If I sound cynical, I am.  Drivers are becoming more and more reckless and the police seem ill equipped or preoccupied to do anything about it.  Do yourself a favor...don't speed...don't text while driving...and be cognizant of the violators around you.....

The weeks really fly from one blog to another; Tracy can attest to that.  Since George Miles renegotiated his contract, Tracy is making veiled threats for an improved contract.   She does a great job, is underpaid, and will continue to be so.........JIM

Saturday, September 21, 2013


When you woke up this morning,  though the leaves may not be turning colors, today marks the first day of AUTUMN.  We are now in the homestretch to winter.  The first hint of fall for me was the CHRISTMAS display at Super-Target.  Seems late this year!!!

UTC Update....Last week's SARASOTA Herald Tribune broke the news of what will be several new restaurants coming to the University Town Center Mall which opens in a little over a year.....SEASONS 52. With 32 locations in 16 states, including several in Florida, it promises to be quite an addition to our growing list of quality restaurants in SARASOTA.

 Owned by the Orlando based Darden Restaurants Inc. whose other better known brands are Capital Grille, Longhorn Steakhouse and Red Lobster among others it comes highly recommended from everyone I've spoken to who had the experience of dinning there.  I went on line and the menu which changes with the seasons has something for all of us....AND of importance to those who watch calorie count, every item has less than 475 of those fellas.  Seasons 52 now joins Cheesecake Factory as the first of many restaurants set  to open at UTC.

Across the street from UTC is the Cooper Creek Shopping Center featuring their own variety of restaurants.  I've written about several before, but one I overlooked, and after two delicious lunches, I cannot anymore.....LEE ROY SELMON'S. Both times I had salad bowls,  chicken and pulled pork.  I recommend them both.  Chicken bowl comes with rice, blue cheese, onion, tomatoes and more; while the pork comes flavored with their famous hickory chipolte sauce and avocado, tomato, onion, corn lettuce and more. 

 But you don't have to stop with the salads.  There are so many items, space does not permit more.  Click here to view the entire menu..lunch and dinner. AND of equal importance to food are the television sets located everywhere to watch your favorite baseball or football team every day of the week.  It gets especially crowded, so I recommend calling ahead well before you plan to arrive.

Tonight at 8 on CBS watch the 65th EMMY AWARDS hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.  I am now going to boldly predict the winners in a few categories.  You can rag on me next week......OUTSTANDING DRAMA SERIES....Breaking Bad...I know this upsets Homeland, Downtown Abbey and Mad Men fans, but BAD has been brilliant this year and it is its last season...ACTRESS SERIES....I am going with upset Kerry Washington beating out Claire Danes and one of my favorites, Vera Farmiga of Bates Motel.  ACTOR SERIES....I am again going with Bad....Bryan Cranston.

 OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES is very difficult.  It would be easy to go with Modern Family again, but I am going with a long-shot HBO's Girls.  And that also means I have to go with Lena Dunham, creator, director and star of the series.  So talented and still in her 20's.  Also look for Michael Douglas and Matt Damon for their performances in HBO Liberace movie.

This week also marks the return of several shows including How I Met Your Mother, Nashville, The Voice and new this season The Michael J. Fox Show, Marvels Agents of S.H.I.EL.DSaturday Night Live returns this Saturday with Tina Fey as first host followed by Miley Cyrus of Twerking fame.  And if you have not seen House of Cards and Orange is the New Black on NETFLIX, subscribe now!!!

I saw an outstanding movie at Burns Court....HANNAH is a true story revolving around Arendt's reporting of the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann.  She wrote several controversial articles for The New Yorker alienating many in the Jewish community.  Using footage from the actual Eichmann trial and weaving a narrative that spans three countries, the director creates a movie that you will discuss long after you leave the theatre. 

Movies tend to have a short shelve life at Burns, I suggest you go this week or wait for Parkway Cinema or an 11 am weekend showing at Lakewood Ranch. I also saw Prisoners and Salinger.  Reviews next week, but don't miss either one!!!
This year is the 110th anniversary of HARLEY DAVIDSON.  George and Janet  Miles along with granddaughter Taylor were in Rome and Milwaukee?? celebrating with Pope Francis.  George writes,,,"there were so many highlights, but the two most notable were celebrating Mass at St. Peter's Basilica with bikers from all over the world and outdoor Mass with Pope Francis the following day.  The Pope was presented with two motorcycles and leather jacket and blessed the bikes and company....on Labor Day weekend I rode an HD along with thousands of other bikers thru the streets of Milwaukee which hosted thousands of bikers from around the world in celebration of the holiday."

All NFL Sunday games are now available, including blacked out BUC'S games  at rev.el.ry 3005 University Parkway.  They also devote at least nine screens to college football  on Saturday.  And, their bar menu and beer selection is as good as it gets!!!

JIM'S RANT this week is directed at Congressman Vern Buchannan.   By now most of you know of his Town hall meeting  addressing Syria Saturday September 14.  That it fell on the holiest days for all of his Jewish constituents did not bother him in the least.  Scheduling conflicts prevented him from changing the date.   No matter, that Congress has put off a vote for at least two weeks while diplomatic channels are worked.  The NFL, faced with a similar situation in Baltimore  when the Orioles refused to mover their Thursday game, and Wednesday was out because of the start of Rosh Hashana, had the Super Bowl champs open on the road!!! What does Vern think he's bigger than the NFL.......

Each week, Tracy lends a helping hand with proofing and editing, and I really appreciate it.  Also, the return of George Miles adds unique material, and now with his new contract, you should be expecting to hear more from him.  Next week, he reveals a new restaurant discovery on Siesta Key ........Thanks for reading......JIM


Saturday, September 14, 2013


1 out of 4 children in SARASOTA will go to bed hungry tonight.  September is HUNGER ACTION MONTH.  I encourage you to take ACTION by donating food at any Goodwill location, making a contribution  or volunteering at all faiths food bank a few miles east of I75 on Fruitville Rd.  The backpack kids program has started.  To assure children are fed on weekends, they are given a backpack full of food so they can eat while not in school.   Help is needed packing and distributing those backpacks.   For more information on how YOU can help fight hunger now click here.

We have a wide variety of choices when it comes to Italian.  We all have our favorites from Puccini's, Mediterraneo, Carrabba's, Davino, Andreas, Caragiulos  and on and on. With the help of friends, I discovered still another Italian restaurant CHIANTI on Clark Rd. in the location once occupied by The Big Kitchen.  Totally remodeled with a bar at the entrance, and open for 5 months, Chianti has become a favorite for those who live in the Palmer Ranch area.  Granted, the noise level is probably as high as it gets here, the food is delicious and very authentic.  A good idea would be a back room reservation totally away from the bar and avoidance of Friday when happy hour fills most of the bar area.  My party would definitely go back; figuratively and actually.

If you are looking for an exceptional restaurant deal this month then STONEWOOD on University is offering   "FIFTY BY FIVE".  Be seated by 5:00PM to receive 50% off ANY entree.  I know for most of you this is a very early hour for dinner; however, with a new menu featuring several original as well as new dishes, you won't find a better deal  in all of SARASOTA.   If you do, let me know and I will add to next week's blog.

Neighbor and good friend, George Miles, has literally been living out of a suitcase this summer and has not contributed an item in months.  But now he is back with a vengeance, and you will be hearing from him for several weeks and hopefully all winter.  George hates the snow and ice of Pittsburgh, but also detests the rain of SARASOTA, but he is much happier with the latter.  He writes..."Contrary to Jim telling everyone that I was on a Sabbatical I was holding out for more money and a longer term contract...After weeks of serious negotiations Jim promised to Double my salary and guaranteed money for 3 years...So I am back....Fired up and Ready to go"...More from George next week.

We are just a few months away from Anu Tali's debut with Sarasota Orchestra, and though you can still get subscriptions for ALL of many series offered, SINGLE TICKETS are on sale now for what promises to be a very successful season.  Box office hours at Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center (formerly Holley Hall) are 10am-4pm Mon-Fri.  Pick three concerts in one transaction and save 15%.

Pierian Spring Academy recently sent it's 2013-2014 schedule of courses to former participants in their lecture and classes.  If you did not receive a catalogue and want to see a full listclick here.  From Art to Circus to Movies to Current issues, there are courses for every one's interest.  With several convenient locations offering free parking Pierian would be an ideal place to spend several hours this fall and winter.

If you love BBQ then join your friends at Lakewood Ranch for the 5th Annual MAIN STREET restaurant BBQ Cook-Off this coming Saturday, September 21 for tastings from 6-8pm.  Live music all evening by The Northwest with samplings from Polo Grill, MacAllisters, Ed's Tavern, El Lago Ranchero, The Trattoria, Station 400 and last year's winner, Pincher's Crab Shack.  Proceeds from the event will benefit the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund.  See you there.

TELEVISION ALERT......Dancing With The Stars kicks off the new season tomorrow 8-10 on ABC.  Highly touted Brooklyn Nine-Nine with Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg  joins the FOX lineup on Tuesday.  I will have much more next week including the first three hosts of Saturday Night Live and my predictions for this year's Emmy Awards a week from today.

Some of you may be familiar with New York's 92Y, a multifaceted cultural institution center located in Manhattan on the Upper East Side.  Beginning this week and running for several months they will be presenting lectures, musical events, comedy, literary and just about anything cultural you can think of.  Today at 5 the featured artists are Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg.  Many of the events are ON DEMANDand by clicking here you can watch some of the performancesGo to right of site to 92Y LIVECAST.  Unfortunately, today's is not one of them.  The site also has a listing of all performances.

JIM'S RANT this week is a recant of last week's!!!  As neighbor and friend Warren Cohen writes..."I went to the rowing event and was charged the $5 entrance fee.  It was NOT a parking fee.  I parked at Sports Authority and walked to the rowing event.  Everyone in the car was charged $5 to enter the rowing event.  When I go to Ed Smith Stadium I pay a parking fee per car and a ticket admission fee per individual.  Maybe the intent of the organizers was for the fee to be a parking fee.  The implementation looked and felt like an entrance fee.  I am not against the rowing event fee but call it what it turned out to be, an entrance fee..."  I stand corrected and disappointed at the organizers for not advertising the fee in advance.  To my knowledge, this was the first event at Benderson Park to have an admission fee.

There are not enough words to describe Diana Ross's performance Wednesday at the Van Wezel.  Ninety minutes of non-stop music from an era where great music was happening every day.  Lot's of great memories of the 60's-70's went through my mind as I stood through most of the concert.

Thanks again to Tracy for editing and George for returning.  See you next week......JIM




Sunday, September 8, 2013


                                    "WE GOT IT"

This headline from Monday's SARASOTA Herald Tribune article by Justine Griffin says it all!!  Official word came down late last Sunday awarding the 2017 WORLD ROWING CHAMPIONSHIPS to Nathan Benderson Park. No official date yet, but it should be either in September or October of that year.  With the expectation of over 40,000 participants and tourisits, this will be biggest event ever to be staged in SARASOTA.  Congratulations to everyone at Benderson Development who worked so hard to make this happen. 

FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE kicks off its 2013-14 season with one of Broadway's most popular musical of recent years, SPAMALOT.  Winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical of 2005, it ran for over 1,500 performances before closing in 2009.  SPAMALOT has played large venues, Tampa and Van Wezel,  among them, but this will be a big first for FST.  Enlargement of Gompertz Theatre means more of the same in the future.  SEASON tickets are on sale now.  FST season tickets continues to be best entertainment value in SARASOTA.

As we get closer to the opening of UTC more tennant information is leaking out.  What should come as no surprise is word of two STARBUCKS, one for each floor.  One will be the standard store normally seen at malls and another more elaborate version with ample seating in a cafe setting featuring a bigger variety of food currently served at local STARBUCKS locations.

We have over thirteen months to go before the grand opening.  As soon as information is available I will have it for you here.

2014 marks the 60'th anniversary of the BALTIMORE ORIOLES, (we don't know how the 59'th team will make out, but the candle is still burning on their playoff hopes for this year) and with it comes an event surely to bring visitors to SARASOTA January 26-February 1, when they conduct their first Dream Week at Ed. Smith Stadium.  Join former stars like Boog Powell,  Rick Dempsey, Jim Gentile and Don Buford for instruction and actual games. 
With your participation comes locker and uniform.For more informaiton including video click here.

The SELVA GRILL on Main St. downtown SARASOTA, is one of our top restaurants.  Even after undergoing ownership change, the food and presentation continues to be first class.  Selva is currently offering a 25% discount for the rest of this month so long as you are seated by 7pm. My gripe with Selva is their pricing.  Their entree prices are some of the highest in the market.  I know they put a value on presentation, but without the discount I don't see the value here.  I know many of you frequent this restaurant and will disagree with me; however eating out as much as I do, unless there is a GROUPON or a discount I will pass on this one.  Please let me know how you feel and I will gladly publish your comments next week

Several weeks ago, I wrote about a new exciting restaurant in the Cooper Creek Shopping Center.  I've been back twice now, and their consistancy, quality, pricing and product is as good as if not better than their sister restaurant on Main St.  I again call your attention to APOLONIA.  Taking the space once occupied by Urban Flats, they have somehow found a way to bring quiet to what once was a loud and somewhat unfriendly enviroment.  The menu is consistant with El Grecco.  When you are in the mood for quality Mediteranian food, I heartily reccomend APOLONIA.

Television ALERT:  HBO is in the midst of a free weekend of programming.   Watch the shows people will be talking about this fall.  Newsroom, Boardwalk Empire and Veep are available now!!!

On Wednesday, my Jewish friends, neighbors and realtives began the celebration of ROSH HASHANAH, the Jewish New Year.   It is a time for personal introspection and prayer.  The year is 5774 when Jews remember the relatives and friends who lost their lives not only this year but in past years.

YOM KIPUR ( the day of atonement) falls on the evening of September 13 and lasts the next day.  It is traditonal to fast until sundown.  The purpose of YOM KIPPUR is to bring about reconcilliation between people and between individuals and God.  According to Jewish tradition it is the day when God decides the fate of each human being.  L'shana tovah tikatevu  May you be inscribed for a good year.....

JFCS is offering four sessions of MIND SET, a series designed to teach you to exercise your brain, create healthy habits and improve communication.  These classes offer an organized approach to everyday living and will provide activities to stimulate memory and thinking, and are open to all faiths.   Four sessions will be held on Mondays and Tuesdays beginning September 16-24, 2-4pm at Jewish Family & Children's Service of Sarasota-Manatee, 2688 Fruitville Rd.  Cost:Single Ticket-$15-Couples $20.  Seating is limited! Call today 941-364-7560.

JIM'S RANT this week comes from a Tom Lyons column in the SARASOTA Herald Tribune addressing fees charged at the recent Rowing event at Nathan Benderson Park.  A reader complained about being charged a $5 parking fee to attend an event he felt was supported by his tax dollars and should have been free of all costs.  He assumed the $5 was an admission fee, but having driven by the event on more than one occasion the $5 sign for parking was prominanlty displayed as were other signs offering even less expensive parking away from the center.  Those spaces came with bus serivice to the door!!  In addition, there was and is ample FREE parking adjacent to Sports Authority.  I saw the bus give service to those folks as well.

 If our tax dollars gave us free access to various SARASOTA venues, we could view Oriole games and park for free at Ed. Smith Park, go to concerts at The Opera House, gain free admission to Ringling Museum daily, not only on Mondays, see Symphony get the idea. The Van Wezel even charges $1 per ticket for parking.  There is no such thing as a free ride even when our tax dollars are covering some of the costs.

As I close this week with thanks to Tracy for her editorial judgement and Jason for providing the ORIOLE'S information, I want to share with you a sight of the season.....UGH

Have a great week.  Just as soon as the Love Bugs are coming so are the transports....JIM