Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 27, 2013

HAPPY HALLOWEEN.....the last time we saw trick or treaters was several years ago in Baltimore.  But if you live in a development with children, now is the time to stock up on all that delicious candy you can eat for several days later.  Looking for a fun HALLOWEEN activity....

TreeUmph's Zombee Zip has been open during the weekends since October 18.  November 1 and 2 is the final weekend for this event and you must be at least 9 years old to participate.  For three hours 7:30-10:30, the Zombie Zip Tour will amaze and thrill.  The course has not changed just the ghosts and goblins around to greet and frighten.  This is the only HALLOWEEN-themed zip line in the region.  Cost is $20, but only $17 if you bring a non-perishable food item to benefit all faiths food bank. Click here for more information or to sign up.

OROLES announce 2014 Spring Training schedule......  The first game at Ed Smith Stadium is March 1st, and before that month is out the Birds will play 15 home games.  Featured are three with Boston and Tampa, two with the Phillies and one with the Yankees.  Single tickets go on sale Jamuary  25. For more information click here.

Last week, FST kicked off it's new season at the John C. Court Cabaret with one of their best shows EVER, THE PRIMA DONNETTES. The show features music from female singing groups of the 50's and 60's including The Shirelles, Martha and the Vandellas and others  as well as solo artists Dusty Springfield, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin.   The show is 90 minutes of familiar music sung by four terrific performers.  Donnettes runs through February 7.  Those of you who are already in SARASOTA should grab your seats NOW....If you are coming down between now and the closing date click here to purchase tickets on line.  Word of mouth will make this a sellout!!!

Along with theatre, symphony, performances at Van Wezel, and ballet we also have a SARASOTA opera company performing downtown in their home on Pineapple.  Their season kicks off this week with Die Fledermaus, a Johann Strauss, Jr. favorite.  This one has several well known melodies.  It is performed in English and features the Sarasota orchestra as well.  There are only six performances including two matinees on November 3rd and 15th at 1:30 pm. For more information or to purchase tickets for this and other operas all season click here.

Several of you have discovered a new shopping experience on Fruitville and Honore adjacent to Target......YES HSN....Home Shopping Network has opened its first outlet store in Sarasota.  Many of the items featured on their cable channel are here to purchase at drastically reduced prices from the ones listed on television.  What a great place to shop for early Hanukkah or Christmas gifts.  Everything from jewelry, clothing, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, crafts, kitchen items....obviously reduced due to high inventory.

Many have questioned the construction on Honore just beyond University Parkway heading south.  I am now able to report construction will soon start on a town home development.  No idea of builder or price range, but something to keep in mind if you are contemplating a move or know of friends who are moving into the market.

Last week we celebrated a friends very special birthday at Hyde Park Steakhouse and Grill.  Great attention was paid to our party and everyone enjoyed their excellent meals....steak, salads, salmon and chicken.  The chef prepared a special appetizer and the evening ended with a sampling of decedent desserts.  Since season has not yet started the restaurant though full was not overwhelming.  For special occasions or one of Sarasota's best Happy Hours, I recommend Hyde Park.

Next week I will have exciting restaurant news from University to  First St. to Longboat.  Old and new and more coming. 

JIM'S RANT this week is directed at my IN BOX.  When did all the email start happening?  It seems to have exploded and there's no way to stop it.  Friends send multiple jokes???? many questionable.....businesses from all over send special deals....everyone wants to add you to face book or linkedin or was so easy before we stopped using the phone....

Lots going on in the next few weeks.  November starts a busy fall/winter season.   As always thanks to Tracy for putting the final touches and edits on the blog....see you soon....JIM

Mark your calendar Sunday 11/3 Phillippi Estate Park  More next week

Saturday, October 19, 2013


The schedule has been announced for this year's  CINE-WORLD FILM FESTIVAL.  Opening day is November 1 and  runs through Sunday November 10 with most films playing at Burns Court.  A few will be available at Lakewood Ranch Cinema.    Member passes are available now at Burns Court Cinema or by clicking here and purchasing your pass on line.
Non-members will have to wait until Wednesday when you can also purchase passes.  Single tickets  go on sale Friday, with a wide selection of Domestic and Foreign films to choose from.

  I have researched each film and what follows are my picks for best in show.  There are several others worthy of consideration; however how many movies can you or do you want to see in ten days?   No matter what you pick this is always a fun SARASOTA experience.

August Osage County.. Pulitzer Prize winning  Novel and Tony award winning  best play starring  Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper and Ewan McGregor; these are just some of the stars of this already creating Oscar buzz movie

The Armstrong Lie...Much anticipated documentary on the life of cyclist Lance Armstrong.  This one is considered so good it has been designated "opening night" feature.

Oh Boy...Winner of this year's German equivalent to the Academy Awards,  this slacker drama comedy is a love letter to Berlin and generation Y experience.

Mandela: A Long Walk to Freedom...adapted from Mandela's autobiography, including his 27 years in prison before he was released to become President of South Africa.  Also mentioned as Oscar contender.

Face of Love....starring Annette Bening and Ed Harris along with a cameo from Robin Williams in a story of lost and found love.  How can it be bad with this cast?

Other highly regarded films are James Franco's adaptation of William Faulkner's novel.  Franco wrote, directs and stars in As I Lay Dying.  It opened this past weekend in New York with a very good NY Times review.


One Chance reunites the creative team of The Devil Wears Prada along with screen writing team of The Bucket list to tell the story of a Britain's Got Talent contest winner.  Lot's of music.  Sounds entertaining.

Like Father, Like Son...From Japan, a father learns his son of six years is not his own due to clerical error.  He is forced to choose his biological son or the one he has raised since birth.  This one closes the Festival.
Again, I encourage you to click here to view the entire list and purchase tickets on line.
Saturday night is a special one if you like BLUES, as Florida Blue presents Blues and Musical Festival at the SARASOTA Fairgrounds featuring Kenny Wayne Sheperd Band, Rick Estrin and Little Charlie.  Doors open at 11 with music beginning at 12.  Tickets are $27 when purchased in advance and $32 at the door.  VIP seating is available at $75.  While folding chairs and blankets are welcome, food is not.   Food beer-wine will be on sale at the Fairgrounds.  Partial proceeds go to all faiths food bank. Tickets can be purchased here. 

This past summer George Miles and family travelled throughout Italy.  He writes..."we ate at some of the finest restaurants in each city we visited, but the one dining experience that was truly outstanding was the Antica Pesa in Rome.  Opened in 1922 by the Panella family, now four generations later it is operated by four Panella brothers growing to three restaurants in Italy and one in Brooklyn, USA!!  In early August we ate at the one in Brooklyn, and thought it fabulous, considering I did not have to pay for airline tickets to NY.  I thought we were unique visiting both restaurants until I heard Lebron James was doing the same on his honeymoon and first Miami Heat game in Brooklyn...." That's George with Janet, Tammy and Taylor with one of the Panella brothers.

Continuing a review of some of my favorite SARASOTA restaurants as we get closer to the return of many readers, I strongly recommend Yummy House.  Since opening last year to immediate success, Yummy has quietly improved its food and service to the point of being the go to restaurant for Chinese Cuisine.  I have never met a dish there I didn't like, but there are so many items on the menu it will take a few visits to find your favorites.  During season which starts any minute you will either have to have patience since the turnover is quick or attempt to reserve by calling 351-1688.

By now you are surely aware of my fondness for JPAN.  With 2 locations, Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, they have grown to one of the area's biggest and BEST when it comes to sushi and Japanese.   In fact, it is the Japanese side of the menu that keeps growing.  All sorts of creative dishes await from fried rice to fish to chicken.  Reservations are a must, and if you like outside dinning as most of us who live here do, you won't find a better place than Main St. in Lakewood Ranch.

Going from Asian to Mexican is quite a transition, but I am doing it anyway.  El Toro Bravo buried in a shopping center that houses one of our best bakeries, Piasanos, is as authentic as it comes in Sarasota to Mexican.  The place is small, full of locals, serves great food from a huge menu and offers its Mexican beer in frozen mugs all for a reasonable price.  You can find it on Stickney Point Road west of Swift.  They take reservations, and are very crowded Friday and Saturdays.  It's best to go during the week.

All three restaurants are open for lunch and offer specials for the budget conscious.  The service is swift and you can eat in less than an hour or take more time as your schedule allows.  They come with my hearty recommendation.   As you know from previous blogs, I eat at all three quite often.

Still another restaurant gaining in popularity is rev-el-ry Pub & Grill.  Located in the Publix shopping center off University and Lockwood Ridge. Only open a short time, it has gone from dinner only to addition of lunch, Sunday football and starting next Sunday (10/27)brunch from  10:30am-2:00pm.   Their initial Sunday menu will be small, but grow as demand increases.   Even more exciting news next week.  Word of mouth will fill this place in a few months so I suggest you visit NOW.  John and Angela bring a family atmosphere to your dining experience. 

WBTT begins its winter season next month with an old favorite PURLIE, and continues with The Whipping Man, Harry and Lena and Bubbling Brown Sugar.  Subscriptions and single tickets are on sale now. For more information and to purchase tickets click here. I am especially looking forward to Harry and Lena, as they were two of my favorites.  I remember seeing Harry Belafonte performing in Chicago when I was a nineteen year old in college.  Saw his show twice that evening, and every song, ad-lib and nuance was identical in each performance.  All rehearsed with no spontaneity.....still loved the man.

JIM'S RANT is directed to anyone who drives through THE DISTRICT AT UTC, you know, the area immediately in front of Target, ULTA, Bed Bath and Beyond.....etc.  Are you not aware of the stop signs posted in front of each store???  They are there for a purpose...STOP.  It is a wonder no one to my knowledge has been hit walking to their car. 

Thanks to George for his contribution this week and to Tracy for her editing.  See you next week with more from SARASOTA....JIM

Read my review next week of this fantastic show kicking off the Cabaret season at FST.....

Saturday, October 12, 2013



 And a year from Wednesday,  UNIVERSITY TOWN CENTER is opening its doors to the public.  The largest mall in SARASOTA, and one of biggest in Central Florida, it is sure to attract locals, visitors and tourists to an area that continues to grow with retail, commercial and residential usage.

By now you know the three anchors...Saks Fifth Avenue, Dillard's and Macy's. There is a pad for one more, but no one is sure when or if that will ever happen.  Any day now, Taubman will be making an announcement of several tenants.  Already announced restaurants are Seasons 52 and The Cheesecake Factory.  I am unable to confirm a second SARASOTA Too Jays or  Mortons Steak House.  The promise has always been 50% new retail business to the area.

A visit to old friends.....over the past several weeks, we've been to several of our favorite SARASOTA restaurants.  This time of year is a wonderful time to visit the most popular, as our population is at its lowest.  Those of you returning in the next few months should visit these along with our growing list of quality eateries.

Louies  Modern opened its doors earlier this spring on Palm Avenue in ground floor space of the Palm Ave. garage.  Since that time they have grown in popularity with the food improving as they've tweaked the menu.  A recent visit found new menu items, along with the same quality and service as well as ambiance that helped establish their early presence.  The main dinning room, closed for lunch this summer, reopens on October 21 with a new menu.  If you have not been to Louies , I suggest a visit and soon before season.

Lucky Pelican in Lakewood Ranch continues to serve outstanding seafood, salads, burgers and sides that rank among the best in all of SARASOTA.  These past few months have been busy, but a manageable busy so the wait is not nearly as long as its going to get.   Pelican continues to be one of my favorites.  I especially enjoy their Cobb salad with crusted chicken as well as daily seafood specials.  Sweet potato fries are a must, and for those who partake (I do not) oysters are one of their specialties.

Apollonia in Cooper Creek Shopping center is fast becoming a neighborhood and SARASOTA favorite.  Owned by Main Street's El Grecco family, Apollonia serves all the familiar Mediterranean dishes familiar to their city location.  Modern and accessible with plenty of parking, the menu choices range from pizza to Moussaka to lemon chicken to salad to more.  Service is quick and you will find prices very reasonable.
This past Saturday, we ran into neighbors at Lee Roy Selmon's, sat outside and had great bar food while watching baseball and football on several big screen TVs.   There was a wait for inside seating.  The food ranges from ribs, to pulled beef and pork, salads, sliders, burgers and even salmon.  Sides of cheese fries or onion rings or green fried tomatoes along with draft, bottle and craft beers add to the fun of being in a sports bar big enough to accommodate many without feeling crowded.  Selmon's is a few doors from Apollonia.

Next week, I will have several more to re-visit including Yummy House and JPAN, as by now you know two of my favorites!!! Also El Toro Boro and some exciting news from Reverly which continues to evolve into a University Parkway favorite.

For those of us who were privileged to watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson you can read an insightful biography written by his attorney Henry Bushkin.  It drops on Tuesday, and if the excerpt I read in last week's Entertainment Weekly is any indication this is one you won't want to put down.  The story of catching his second wife cheating with Frank Gifford is hilarious.  The New York Post has been highlighting juicy details as well.   I highly recommend.

If football isn't your thing today and you haven't been to the movies lately, I highly recommend Captain Phillips, with always dependable Tom Hanks playing Phillips in this true story adapted from Phillips' best seller.  The past is frantic, the acting outstanding, and by the end you will have been rewarded with one of this year's best.  Since Phillips wrote the book, you can enjoy his detention without worrying about the outcome.  Hanks, and possibly the movie are sure Academy Award contenders.

I have not seen Gravity, but those who have tell me the ride is awesome.  And most suggest seeing it in 3-D.

Jim's Rant is the return of our street panhandlers....Yes they are back.  Maybe not in the usual places, though I have seen them on University and 301 and 41.   They are at the entrance to Cooper Creek Shopping Center and other inconspicuous places.  AND, I recognize most of them as the group here this summer before being given the boot by police.  They didn't kick hard enough!!

As you've noticed I am using a different program to send the blog.  Hopefully the kinks are worked out and you received this normally.  If not, please let me know.

Tracy, you've earned every penny of your recent raise.....See you next week...JIM



Saturday, October 5, 2013


Last week a new law prohibiting texting while driving went into effect in SARASOTA and all of Florida.  In order to be given a $30 fine, you must be stopped for some other traffic violation.  What gives?  Isn't texting while driving just as serious as speeding while driving??? having lights off during a rainstorm???? driving in the wrong lane??? AND where is the promotion announcing this new law???  Is the NRA involved here as well as guns???

On a more cheerful note, ENOUGH SAID, starring Julia Louis Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, is a wonderful story of real people going through a second relationship that takes an unexpected twist.  It is a sharp, insightful comedy that humorously explores the mess that often comes with getting involved again.  Go see it and be rewarded with a feel good movie.  Now at the Burns. 

Mark your calendar for this year's CINE-WORLD Film Festival November 1-10 at Burns and Lakewood Ranch Cinema.  Over the years this Festival has brought Academy Award winner King's Speech, nominee Black Swan, The Wrestler and Quartet among others.  As soon as the list is available, I will give you my choices along with the web link for ticket ordering.  Members get first crack at tickets.

Staying cheerful, if you are looking for a great read and want to laugh yourself silly, pick up Billy Crystal's "Still Foolin' Em."  If you like Crystal, and who doesn't, he will keep you laughing from beginning to end.  You'll learn how he began his Ali/Cosell imitations,  and how at 65 he is still selling out his one man show on Broadway.
On FX starting this Wednesday is the most bizarre, frightening and entertaining show on television....the third season of AMERICAN HORROR STORY...starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Taissa Farmiga, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidbe among others.  It is unlike any show on any network.
Among the new shows, I recommend BLACKLIST NBC Monday at 9 starring James Spader and THE CRAZY ONES starring Robin Williams
Wednesday 9pm on CBS, though to be honest, week 2 was not as funny as week 1.  I haven't watched many of the new shows, but what I can tell from the comedies all trying to copy MODERN FAMILY with lots of yelling and predictable jokes they will be gone by Thanksgiving.

Cable and Netflix are still the best for quality adult entertainment.   Last season's BBC original series BROADCHURCH ended last week, but you can still see it ON DEMAND.  It remains one of the best from  this summer.

UNIVERSITY TOWN CENTER: Unconfirmed rumor, but very credible.....both Morton's Steak House and Too Jays are committed.  Stay Tuned!!! On THE DISTRICT across the street, work continues on ETHAN ALLEN, but has come to a halt on PANERA.  I earlier stated both would be open this year.  I stand corrected.

NEVER TOO EARLY:  If stores are already into CHRISTMAS mode and advertisers have started running their shopping ads, then why can't I make a HOLIDAY PARTY suggestion. For weeks you have been reading about one of my local favorites MOZZARELLA FELLA on main street downtown SARASOTA. This past week I was again invited to a party catered by them.  THE BEST!!!  The variety will suit any event; the prices are competitive with any caterer; and they serve you with a smile.   I strongly suggest you check their menu or create your own.  You won't be sorry.

For several years now, WHOLE FOODS, has been a downtown staple bringing an untold amount of visitors to their store.  Last week, I had dinner before a movie and must say there isn't another salad bar in town to equal them for freshness, quality and variety. From cold salads to hot to soup to delicatessen counter to fresh pizza,  you won't have any difficulty finding your favorite item.  The store itself has undergone a make over with more take out foods and better bakery items.  Open most days 9am-9pm with plenty of undercover parking, it is worth a look.  One note of caution, it is PRICEY!!!

STONEWOOD on University is at it again!!!! For the month of October, they are offering an early bird special prix fixe menu 3pm-5:30pm every day featuring two specials including salad, several entree choices and dessert for either $16 or $24. If you were one of the lucky ones to visit STONEWOOD last month you were treated to an outstanding meal at 1/2 off menu prices.  The promotion grew so large that it was nearly impossible to be seated by the 5pm cutoff.  This promotion is also being offered at their other location on Stickney Point 4pm-5:30 pm.

More restaurant news next week, as I revisit some of your favorites.  Most are easy to visit now as season is still a few weeks away.

JIM'S RANT started at the top with text while driving ban.  During the week, I paid close attention to drivers and you can only imagine what I witnessed. well as combing hair...putting on lipstick....eating.....cell phones to stay focused while driving; especially with those around you not doing so!!!

As always, I could have not done this without the fine efforts of Tracy.  She has dedicated countless hours to this small endeavor, and when she finished proofing last week's edition and learned of George Miles renegotiated contract, she was a little peeved to say the least.  Well, Tracy no worries, you are being promoted to Editor In Chief with the pay raise you requested!!!

Until next week........JIM