Monday, December 15, 2014

DECEMBER 21, 2014



No end of year blog would be complete without a salute to BENDERSON DEVELOPMENT for their magnificent, creative and spectacular CHRISTMAS decorations along University.  After dark the street comes to life with colors beyond anything you've seen before in SARASOTA.  In fact, Lakewood Ranch is so envious of the light attraction they are considering adding to their budget to at least come close to the Benderson extravaganza.  To get the true effect of the decorations be sure to take Cattleman past Benderson Park.  Other than a major city,  I am hard pressed to come up with anything so spectacular; and it's all right here in SARASOTA.

 At long last we had our first meal at Capital Grille.  After dining at the variety of restaurants at UTC we saved the best for last.  I am sure many of you have been to a Grille, since this is a successful chain with location's in Tampa, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and several other major markets.  But, in my estimation our location is their BEST.  From the moment you enter until you leave the service and attention to detail is like no other.

But you dine out for more important amenities;  like FOOD!  And the food is wonderful.  From the bread basket to the wine to the Caesar salad to the fillet with ample sides to the decedent dessert....WOW!!!  Though pricey, as most quality steak restaurants are, it is defiantly a

destination for special occasions or on those nights when you want quality meat and seafood for dinner.  Though I have not had lunch here, their menu is full of choices from hamburger to salad to soup and not nearly as pricey as dinner.   And if you make a reservation be sure to ask for Jeremy, a truly wonderful server who will treat you royally.

The new Florida Studio Theatre production at their Mertz Theatre has opened to rave reviews.  I have not seen the show, but friends tell me not to miss it.  Titled Dancing Lessons it is the story of a college professor with autism in search of dance lessons from an injured Broadway producer.  Only 90 minutes in length with no intermission, I am told you will be won over not only by the performances but the story of a man fighting for dignity with an incurable disorder.

  You can never go wrong at FST, and their prices are most reasonable.  Unfortunately, I will not see this production until the end of January, but you can see it first and tell me about it. For a complete schedule of performances and purchase of tickets click here.

SAVE THE DATE....CIRCUS SARASOTA returns next year in a new location, but with the now Internationally famous NIK WALLENDA performing his amazing high wire act with family in tow.  If you've never been to this event, next year you definitely should.

The tent will be at
Benderson Park immediately in front of Dillard's.  You  can shop, eat at the many UTC restaurants and enjoy a wonderful show.  Dates are February 6-22 and tickets are on sale now!!!  For a performance schedule and purchase tickets on line click here. Note, there is a 20% off promotion on opening weekend tickets.

For those of you who are into vegan, soy-free ,gluten free food as wellas all organic,  you now have a restaurant devoted to those wishes.  Beauty of Sprouts at 1474 Fruitville Rd., so small you can easily overlook it, serves all dishes made from scratch by owner Rano.  Simple setting with very few tables and open for lunch and dinner serving soups, salads and organic pizza.  The portions are small and not inexpensive, but are delicious.  The day we were there every table was occupied and it was after 2pm. For menus and changing hours click here. Thanks to Jan Wallace who steered us to this unique restaurant.

Returning to Straz Center in Tampa is one of the most acclaimed musicals of all time PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.  This completely NEW produciton began its American tour at the Broward Center for Performing Arts  where our son saw it, actually met Cameron Mackintosh, and told me it was better than the original.  I know most of you have seen this one several times.  But with new costumes, scenic designs, new choreography and lighting design it seems NEW again.  Playing from December 17-January 4 you can purchase tickets on line here.

Hope your family and friends visiting for the holiday season are enjoying our spectaular weather.  I know there is some rain forecast for the future, but this time of year it does not last long.  And hard to believe WINTER acutally begins on Friday.  Tough to take isn't it?

..I save my last rant for a rant of hope and peace for the new year.  With all our faults, there is nowhere any of us would want to live but the good old USA.....especially SARASOTA where our sunny days far outnumber our cloudy ones.  And a big thank you for reading and responding to Jim Knows Sarasota...starting with a handful of readers there are now over 700 of you reading each week.....Have a Happy and Healthy New Year...see you Jan 5, 2015

Thanks to Tracy for her faithful editing; to Roberta for her constant needling; and to all who have contributed.....JIM


Saturday, December 13, 2014

DECEMBER 14, 2014



Jim Knows Sarasota has devoted considerable space to UTC, but now it is time to move on to other vibrant parts of town.  There are new shops on Main Street, old and new restaurant favorites, hotels and condos under construction and a new attitude as the city attempts to reinvent itself for future residents and tourists.

First Friday gave us an opportunity to see several new stores in the 1400 block of Main.  From soap to olive oil to chocolate they were unique, quaint and different from anything we've ever seen there before.          

One of newest shops THE HERBARIUM had an open house complete with Italian wine, cheese and prosciutto along with small samples of their many products. From soaps to cream to cosmetics; and at reasonable prices, the charming Italian couple that owns the shop have plans of expanding not only here but around the country. Their website lists all and affords an opportunity to shop on-line once you've sampled and want more. Click here and enter a world of Italian beauty.

Other new stores of note are Blue Moon Antiques, Wine Rose Interiors, White Studios, Inc. and PJ's Boutique.  There are more including old favorites Brooks Brothers, Evelyn and Arthur, Eileen Fisher, JMcLaughlin, and Fit2Run.
Both Fit2Run and Brooks Brothers have stores east of Main street.  What I personally like best about Brooks Bothers is the difference in both stores.  While their UTC store continues to evolve, Main St. remains consistant.  I personally like the changing identity of UTC. 
 Include the Saturday Farmer's Market which continuets to attract huge crowds, the many arts and crafts shows, plus in a few weeks you can come downtown to be entertained all evening and watch the pineapple drop at midnight New Years Eve. My point is, SARASOTA is far reaching these days.  Go out and discover for yourself.

SAVE THE DATE.......The Len Mazur Memorial Lecture on Global Anti-Semitism series established by Ros in Len's memory is kicking off in grand style.  On the evening of Wednesday, February 25,  one of this country's most distinguished public Jewish defenders of civil liberties and a wonderful spokesperson on the anti-Semitism Alan Dershowitz will be guest speaker at a dinner event co-sponsored by The Jewish Federation.

Ticket information will be released early next month, and I will have it for you.  Be watching as this will surely be a sell-out. Of course the speech and dinner are open to people of all faiths.

THE PLAYERS THEATRE on the Trail near Blvd. of the Arts is our local theatre of note, featuring homegrown talent in all types of productions.  Playing now through December 21st is the delightful and seasonal A Christmas Story. 
Gayle and Harry Yaverbaum recently saw the production and write, " Never let it be said there is a lack of talent in the Sarasota area. Case in point, " A Christmas Story" at the Players Theatre, a musical from off Broadway showcasing much local talent, especially Sarasota's young talent.  The acting, singing and dancing will lift spirits and leave one feeling great.

Remember the name JUDAH WOOMART, playing the part of Ralphie.  He is bound to be a theatre favorite in the years ahead.  Remember you only have a week left to see this delightful presentation." For schedule and ticket information click here.
I have been searching for the word or words  that best describes SOPHIE'S at Saks.  Sophisticated, unique, quiet, tasteful decor, great food.  Guess what!!!  All of the above.  This is a special restaurant located on the second floor of a remarkable department store.  Only the second Sophies  to open; there is one in Chicago;  it is a bright spot at UTC with its own brand of diversification to satisfy most of you.

One of the early complaints heard about Sophie's were its high prices.  Ridiculous.  You don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy a good meal.  Yes, higher priced than most of the other fine restaurants at UTC, it nonetheless serves its purpose.  A quiet spot away from all the hustle and bustle to sit, eat, drink and relax from a day of shopping.  BUT, you don't have to be a shopper to enjoy a good meal.  I highly recommend Sophie's. A great addition to our community.

SARASOTA is a city with a huge dog population.  Just go to the Downtown Farmer's Market on Saturday. All shapes, breeds and dress attire; the dogs easily outclass the people.  Some are even better dressed.  Anyway, the daughter of neighbors, Erica Siegel, has recently  moved to Sarasota, leaving a successful dog  sitting company in Bethesda to join her parents in a warmer environment.

Erica has started a pet sitter and or walker company here!!  She will even stay overnight with your pets and walk them during the day.  References available on request.  Your best way to contact Erica is email Erica is also available for parties as server.

JIM'S RANT.....Tis the season to be jolly.  Tis the season to be happy.  Tis the season to be kind to others etc. etc. etc.  Then why is it there are so many cranky and rude.  I see it at bridge, at the mall, in restaurants and almost everywhere I go.  Lighten up!!  We are so lucky to be in this place in time and instead of moaning ENJOY!!!

Taking a break after next week's blog to spend time with family.  More next week.  Thanks again, Tracy for your fine efforts.  And thank you to Gayle and Harry Yaverbaum, as they join my staff of contributors.....JIM

JUST ANNOUNCED...THE ONE AND ONLY DIANA ROSS FEB 13 VAN WEZEL TICKETS ON SALE NOW!!!  If you missed her sold-out show last year take advantage of this one. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

DECEMBER 7, 2014


And while you are enjoying the wonderful weather, along with the sights and sounds of the seasons, you can still catch The 41st Annual SINGING CHRISTMAS TREE at First Sarasota on Main Street.  Performances run December 5th through December 14th.  If you have not seen this amazing performance and are in the mood for traditional as well as non-traditional Christmas music this one is for you. For a schedule of performances and to purchase tickets click here.

If you are searching some more POPULAR Christmas music you are in luck.  This Wednesday, the VAN WEZEL is showcasing its Colors of Christmas featuring four talented singers who have not been here in awhile.  Grammy Award Winner Peabo Bryson, Tony Award Winner Jennifer Holiday who you may remember from Dreamgirls, Season 2 American Idol winner Ruben Studdard, and singer songwriter Taylor Dane. There are good seats available. To purchase tickets online for this show as well as others click here.

Those of you who are back for the season and many of us who live here year round are in for a treat when visiting the new BJ'S.  Their prepared foods have been increased as has all their food product; and they've added a deli counter.   The store has  expanded by making use of warehouse space, and though they are by no means  a COSTCO , you do have the convenience of warehouse shopping without having to travel far.  BONUS: The gas is always several cents lower than most and they now offer a Master Card which gives you an additional 10 cents off per gallon.

This week marks the return of a SARASOTA Christmas tradition at THE TABERNACLE 4141 DeSoto Road....THE LIVING NATIVITY....Taking place daily at 7&8 pm from 12/11-12/14, it features nearly 100 cast members, live animals, and flying angels.  There will be cookies and hot chocolate or coffee during the performance.  Remember this is an outside presentation ; weather permitting.

Those of the Jewish Faith will be celebrating CHANUKAH in a few weeks and while shopping for family or friends here is an idea for an unusual but seasonal shopping experience at the newly renovated and expanded  TEMPLE-EMANU-EL gift shop.  Located at 151 McIntosh Road with special Holiday Shopping Hours...Dec 7 12-3; Dec 11 2-4; Dec 12 12-3; Dec 14 12-3; Dec 14 2-4; and Dec 16 12-3.

You will find toys, Dreidels, Menorahs, jewelry Kiddush cups, candlesticks, candles, Mezuzahs, greeting cards, gift certificates and more.  With many of the items made locally or in Israel. A dedicated team of volunteers are ready and willing to assist with all purchases.

What would a blog be without at least one restaurant.  No new additions this week, but a recent return to LUCKY PELICAN in Lakewood Ranch prompts these comments.  The opening of UTC has definitely made it easier to get a table, and the food is as good as its always been!! This continues to be one of our favorites in all of SARASOTA.

It is rare to read a John Grisham novel and find it trite and boring.  Such happened to me while reading his much anticipated new novel Gray Mountain.  Eagerly anticipated and an immediate best seller, it lacks the suspense and intelligence of previous books.    However, who am I to judge?  The book remains at the top or near of the best-seller list and has been widely reviewed most positively by well-known media and given 41/2 stars by Amazon.  I understand the new Michael Connolly book is one of his best. I will read it soon and will let you know.

  FREE tickets are again available for the PERLMAN MUSIC PROGRAM SARASOTA WINTER RESIDENCY rehearsals.  But you have to act this week.....
December 9 2:30-5:30pm at Pritchards Pianos 2108 Bee Ridge Rd. and next day 1:30-4:30 Pritchards Venice location 1855 S. Tamiami Trail.   There is a limit of 6 pp subject to availability.   There are also tickets for the Jan 2 final dress rehearsal before benefit concert the next night. The limit is 1 pp.  For a list of rehersal dates and locaitons click here.

This Saturday evening you are invited to Bayshore Drive to watch the 29th annual SARASOTA
Holiday Boat Parade of Lights.  The best viewing points are Marina Jack Restaurant, Bayfront Park, City Island and Centennial Park.

The parade route has been expanded considerably so there are many areas downtown to get a view of all types of boats adorned with unusual Christmas lights and decorations.  Come early; stay late; and enjoy the wonderful restaurants on Main, Palm and Lemon.  With most of the attention focused on UTC let's not forget what got us here!!! Next week I plan on devoting considerable space to a new and exciting Main St.

JIM'S RANT....Cattleman Road from Fruitville to University is generating the kind of traffic envisioned when built.  Now more than ever with UTC open, more and more of you are using it.  BEWARE it is a speed trap going from 40 to 25 and back again, AND a day doesn't go by when I don't spot a police vehicle parked to catch speeders.  One wonders why they are not so diligent on other major city and county arteries!!

Tracy returns from her short leave of absence......until next week have a good one...JIM

Saturday, November 29, 2014

NOVEMBER 30, 2014


But the fun has just started.  Tomorrow marks the opening of another major retailer new to the area as H&M  finally  arrives at UTC with its chic reasonably priced  male and female apperal.   If you are one of the first 100 shoppers in line  an "Access to Fashion Pass"with values ranging from $10 to $300 awaits you.

The next three Thursday evenings 5-8 gives you a rare opportunity to visit the C'Da'Zan at night and experience some of the most beautiful Christmas decorations in all of SARASOTA.  The dates are December 4,11, and 18.  Admission is free with your membership or $5-10 with children admitted at the $5 fee.  Among the many delights is the ten foot tree that stands TALL in The Grand Court.  Admission is included with Art After 5 or if not interested in the total RINGLING experience enjoy this seasonal tradition on its own.

If you are looking for a special dining treat over the holidays or just want a GREAT meal, PUCCINI'S 2881 Clark Rd. off of Swift Rd. is still serving some of the best Italian in SARASOTA.  A menu created by owner/chef Richard with daily fresh specials bought at market that morning and prepared for your table so that all dishes are served piping hot at the same time.  You can bring your own booze; and that includes wine, vodka, bourbon, gin or whatever. 

It is a special treat to dine in the kitchen where you can watch Richard perform his magic for his  restaurant full of diners.  There are two seating's at 6 and again at 8:30.  Reservations are a must by calling 941-923-7002.  For kitchen dining I suggest you book several weeks in advance; especially this time of year.

This coming weekend, the SARASOTA Orchestra, under the direction of Evans Haile, presents their second Masterworks concert of the season American Dream.  It is a concert of shorter works and performed without an intermission.  The grand finale is one of our all-time favorites Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.  Anu Tali returns next month, but under her guidance and influence our wonderful orchestra has never sounded better.

And if you haven't had your fill of CHRISTMAS music by now, Andrew Lane is conducting a seasonal Great Escapes Jingle All the Way December 10-13 in Holley Hall.  To purchase tickets for ALL concerts click here.

While on their web site check out the schedule for next year's PoPs Series.   Voices of the Movies, The Music of Billy Joel & more as well as always popular On Broadway are their musical salute to the American experience.  Andrew Lane is conductor here as well.

The Westcoast BLACK Theatre Troupe begins a new production Wednesday through the 21st of this month.........................................
Langston Hughes BLACK NATIVITY. This joyous holiday gift to the community is a celebration of the Nativity with spiritual along with Christmas music, paired with the poetry of Langston Hughes.  Since this is not a part of subscription series, tickets are available now, but won't be for long. Click here for schedule of performances and purchase of tickets.

Every week, or so it seems, I am able to bring a new restaurant experience to you.  I am happy to report this week's is one of Florida's first from a new chain CHICKEN KITCHEN.  Now open at 5215 University Parkway adjacent to Kohl's,  11-10 Mon-Sat and 9 on Sunday, Chicken Kitchen is as healthy a fast food you can get.

I've had their Chop-Chop salad either over rice or a bed of lettuce & tomatoes along with several toppings chosen  as salad is prepared.  The chicken is fresh and cooked right in front of you as you "construct" your salad.  In addition to salads  they offer a chicken platter, wraps or plain salad without the chicken,  and of course,  kid's meals.  If you're into healthy eating or love salads,  by all means treat yourself to the Kitchen. For a complete menu and additional information click here.

There has been a change in movies at the Burns Cinemas, instead of The Imitation Game, FORCE MAJEURE, a movie we saw at Cine-World is playing.  This is a phsycological drama of a family on a ski vacation in the French Alps, and what happens in the aftermath of an avalanche.  It not only has subtitles, but requires every bit of concentration and discussion afterwards.  If you like a "thinking man" movie, then by all means see this one with another couple, and be prepared to dissect what you've just seen.

JIM'S RANT.....Oh for the good old black Friday days....midnight store openings; door busters where hordes of people  get kicked, shoved and fight for special more....Thanksgiving morning and I'm on line getting 50% off on HP Ink Cartridge's before the first bite of turkey...what a country......

Here's hoping for a better week of shopping, eating and parties as we get closer to CHRISTMAS/HANUKKAH........Roberta was editor this week, as Tracy took a leave of absence...until next week...JIM

PS....The SARASOTA Craft Show returns to Robarts Arena next weekend. There is an admission charge and only cash accepted at entrance, but if you are looking for an unusual present this will be the place.