Friday, August 15, 2014

AUGUST 31, 2014


As fall approaches, we are only 6 weeks away from one of the most anticipated SARASOTA events I have ever been witness to....the opening of UNIVERSITY TOWN CENTER.  Those of you who won't be returning for a few months will be blown away by the beauty of the building as well as the traditional Benderson landscaping.  From Apple to Brooks Brothers to Crate and Barrel to Pottery Barn to lulu lemon to anchor stores
Saks, Macy's and Dillard's there is nothing comparable for miles.  In addition to stores there are restaurants galore.  In the coming weeks, I will touch on those that are new not only to immediate area, but Florida as well.  This week it's......

SOPHIE'S, Saks Fifth Ave. own restaurant and bar.  SARASOTA'S version will be the second of more to open  in other markets down the road.  Why we were chosen for Sophie's speaks well of Saks expectations for UTC.

SOPHIE'S will be as upscale as the department store.  Open for breakfast as well as lunch with plans to add a dinner menu in the future.  The 2,600 square-foot space will feature an indoor, 60-seat dining room as well as a 60-seat outdoor terrace for dining, lounging and a second bar.  The menu will feature Sophie's signature salads, appetizers and drinks, but skew closer to flavors found in Florida.  Chicago's version has a best seller in its crab cake; look for a similar dish here.  As this is written, the menu is a work in progress.

If you've ever been to Saks New York restaurant then you can expect the same quality and elegance associated with that one. 

Across the street from UTC in the area soon to be occupied by Panera Bread among others, DSW has committed to an out parcel.  It will be adjacent to Sports Authority.  And, Panera will be joined by Blaze Pizza, among others. University Parkway and I75 is definitely the place for shoppers, eaters, boaters, walkers....just about everyone.  Now, all you have to do is find a parking space.

Season tickets for next season's Sarasota Ballet are on sale now.  Single tickets go on sale tuesday.  If you have not been to one of this outstanding companies performances, then I, of all people, am going to recommend one NOT TO BE MISSED.  We were fortunate to see a summer performance of the opening Fall program...The Secret Garden.  It was breathtaking, unusual and one for the entire family.  There were several children at our performance, and as we left after the standing ovation, there were smiles on most of their faces.

Our Ballet ensemble , after its Kennedy Center performance last year, will be at the New York City Center for two performances in October.   It continually amazes how we have some of the finest arts, from music to theatre to dance.  One reason is the generosity of sponsors and donors.  We are very fortunate to live in such a cultural environment. For more information and an opportunity to buy tickets click here/

Own a home in SARASOTA and in the market for outside lighting, I have a great company for you.  And no, this is not a paid advertisement, but a personal recommendation for Night Affects, Inc. You can see for yourself the kind of beauty they can create for your home by clicking here.

I have worked with them for several years, and recently had a problem with lanai lighting when landscape company cut lines along with power. Owner Michael Flanegin was in Chicago for a wedding while his chief engineer was also out of town.  With a heavy load of work for his remaining crew, he found time to have someone here to correct the problem for a dinner party we were hosting that evening.

It is because service such as this as well as the ongoing beauty of the outside lighting, I am happy to recommend them to you.  Several of my neighbors have seen our lights and called Flanegin.  They haven't regretted it, and neither will you.

Going to the beach today or tomorrow to soak in the last weekend of summer or just staying home waiting for the NFL season to kick off this Thursday......then pick up one of the best reads of the season, Daniel Silva's entertaining The Heist.  Set in today's middle-east world of terror and treason,  it reads as current as this morning's network news programs.  Silva does extensive research for all his books...this one seems like it could have been written yesterday.

Next week, I will bring you up to date information on the coming season for several of SARASOTA'S entertainment venues, not the least of which is The Van Wezel concert hall.  The quality of shows announced this weekend far exceeds anything we've seen in several years.  Tickets for all performances go on sale Tuesday.   For an advanced peek at the just announced schedule and to purchase tickets click here.

JIM'S RANT......Once again our infamous Herald Tribune has featured a front page TICKET article....Lakewood Ranch Main Street TOP 20...and once again have not done their homework.  It would be unfair to knock some of the choices, but how could they not list STARBUCKS who attracts more shoppers to the street other than the Cinema,  as well as VILLAGE BIKES, easily the best bike and repair shop this side of Sarasota????? Our only major paper needs to pay more attention to Sarasota/Manatee and less to Venice.....just one man's opinion...

Had a wonderful time with Tracy and family and will update you next week...until then..JIM

AUGUST 17, 2014


This non-profit consignment shop sits on Orange Ave. just before Pineapple.  Never been there?  You're in for a surprise.  Neat, well organized and run by a slew of dedicated volunteers, it is always busy.  And the quality of their merchandise is top drawer. For more information, store hours and how to donate or consign click here.

I recently had the opportunity to revisit Selby Botanical Gardens.  It has been several years since our last visit, but nothing has changed.  This is truly one of SARASOTA'S treasures with some of the biggest banyan trees imaginable and orchids to buy you can't find anywhere else.  Open daily and some evenings, Selby is a great picnic location or just the spot to get away from the world's problems and get lost in their beauty. To get the latest in exhibits and pricing click here.

EXCLUSIVE....EXCLUSIVE....The University Parkway corridor is about to get more populated . 

PARKWAY COLLECTIONS at the corner of University and Lockwood Ridge,  home to Parkway Cinema's, Infuzion, Outback Steakhouse, Peaches, Ufit, Tuesday Morning and others is about to reinvent themselves.  Detwiler's has signed a lease for the former Sweetbay location,  and is about to begin construction on the interior.  No announcement of opening date.  Known for its organic fruits and vegetables, Detwiler's also carries homemade pastries,  seafood, deli,  and many other healthy items.  To learn more about this unique food market click here.

There are several new movies to tell you about.  Playing for a few weeks now, the James Brown biography, Get On Up starring Chadwick Bosman of 42, reconstructs the troubled life of the so called "King of Soul".  I found it disjointed and difficult to follow with the director cutting from present to past to make his point.  The music is great as is the acting.  However after over two hours I was happy for the blast of hot air as I left Lakewood Ranch Cinema.

Also playing at Lakewood Ranch, a far better movie The Hundred-Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren is playing.  Adapted from the best selling book,  this is the third food themed movie of the summer and it is equally as delightful and entertaining as the other two.  And, when has Helen Mirren ever been in a really bad movie?  She is simply one of the best actress's of our generation.  If this one doesn't send you out of the theater hungry there's not much more I can do for you.

There are several first run-before theater release movies appearing weekly right in your living room.  VOD....Video on Demand is generating more revenue for art releases then their actual theatre release.  Playing now are The Calling with Susan Sarandon, Ellyn Burston and Donald Sutherland; Frontera with Ed Harris, Eva Longoria and Amy Madigan,  and Four Minute Mile with Richard Jenkins and Kim Basinger.  All rent for 48 hours at $9.99.

Located at Philipi Creek Village with a magnificent waterfront view, The Table, offers you an exciting SARASOTA dining experience.  From its beautiful and modern bar to main dining room to their spectacular outside seating along Philipi Creek you will be treated to as good a meal you can find anywhere.

And if you hurry, their $29 summer menu is still in effect.  The menu is full of wonderful dishes very creatively prepared by their chef and served by a professional wait staff well trained in their craft.  We were told, when crowded, The Table was noisy. Not anymore.  Fully occupied on a Saturday night, the sound level is what you would expect from such a big crowd.  Go enjoy a wonderful meal at The Table.

As we move closer to fall, several major venues are announcing all or parts of its schedule.  Florida Studio Theatre which just concluded a very successful summer program released its first  attraction , and it's a Whopper..............

.....they are following  up last season's hit production of Monty Python's Spamalot, with another big Broadway musical, the multi-Tony Award winning HAIRSPRAYOpening date at Gompertz, is Nov.14. I've seen  Hairspray on Broadway, aboard a cruise ship, as a movie and now in Sarasota.  This is one show you can see again and again and come away as entertained as the first time.

A true comedic genius is no longer.  I will always Remember Robin Williams for his humor, sensitivity and willingness to go where others were reluctant.  He was tireless in his travels to entertain our troops all over the world. Mork and Mindy, Tonight Show appearances, The Bird Cage, Good Will many wonderful Williams well will be missed.

JIM'S RANT....The primary for November's election is still a week away, and I don't know about you, but I am totally finished with the campaign.  Ad after ad after ad..mostly negative....thankfully I record most programs so miss many of them.  The Supreme Court's decision to allow unlimited PAC money will go down in history as one of their worst...If Crist loses does he become a Libertarian next????And Scott has done so many good things for us I am at a loss to remember them......

I'll be with Tracy and family next week and will return with last blog of summer the following week.   Effective that day, 8/31 Jim Know's SARASOTA returns to a weekly blog. Until then, have a great two weeks.....JIM

Saturday, August 2, 2014

AUGUST 3, 2014


Your favorite football teams have been in camp for almost two weeks.  Exhibition games are about to begin. The first is today's Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio; and in a few weeks you can join thousands on Sunday to watch AMERICA'S favorite game FOOTBALL; either in the comfort of your own home or at the dozens of Sports Bars in SARASOTA.

Which leads me to my first article announcing the opening of a new, better and bigger GECKO'S at Cattleman and Fruitville across the street from Sam's Club in the former location of shuttered Trader Vic's.  Several screens are available for all games on Sunday as well as college football on Saturday.  And along with the game comes the food GECKO'S is known for.  Salads, burgers, cheese-steaks, hot dogs, pizza, wings, fries  Not to be outdone by the food, there is a wide variety of beer along with mixed drinks and soda.

GECKO'S other locations are The Landings, Braden River Plaza, Twelve Oaks Plaza, Palmer Crossing Circle and Southside Village. As we move closer to opening kick-off I will try to feature many of Sarasota's best Sports Bars.

Today (Sunday) is the last day to take advantage of a tax-free weekend featuring clothing, computers and back to school items.  I doubt any of you will need the latter!!  Spent part of Friday at Ellenton Outlet Mall where parking was a premium, many stores packed to capacity and the average age made us look even older than we are!!  But, to lure customers, many locations around SARASOTA are offering incentives to get you into their doors.  Check today's paper for last minute deals.

Looking for an inexpensive lunch and dinner that is not time consuming? Try Jason's Deli in the Fresh Market shopping center off University.  Since opening a few years ago, Jason's has improved its menu with creative offerings featuring daily soup specials, several sandwich creations and an extensive salad bar as well stocked as their neighbor Sweet Tomatoes.  The entire menu is available for take out and delivery.  Offering gluten free as well as FREE ice cream. You won't go home hungry. For menu and hours click here.

RUMOR CONFIRMED....RUMOR CONFIRMED....Due to the overwhelming success at it's first FLORIDA location right here in SARASOTA....TRADER JOE'S IS seeking a second SARASOTA to be determined...I'll let you know as soon as decision is final..........

A new addition to our downtown area is the BALTIMORE  SNOWBALL FACTORY.   Located around the corner from El Greco on Orange Ave.  This is one of the only shops I know of in SARASOTA dispensing snowballs.  What a way to escape the heat with an inexpensive cup of chipped ice with your favorite flavor.  There are dozens of flavors  to choose from root beer, cheese cake,  Silver Fox/Almond favorite!!

  If you are planning a party or event, Baltimore Snowball Factory can come to you.  If you are looking to cut down calories while at the same time craving something sweet and cold this is the place for you. For a complete list of flavors and other information click here.

A few weeks ago, we saw a delightful movie at Hollywood 20, which has spread to several other area theaters.  Begin Again, stars Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley.  Mark plays a down on his luck music executive with a broken marriage and teenage daughter who he has little time for.  Knightley, whose boyfriend is Adam Levine of The Voice and Maroon Five, is attempting to enter the music industry. 

With New York as a background, Ruffalo helps her cut an album.  What she does with it in the end is a nice way to wrap up an entertaining couple of hours.  John Carny, who created  and created Tony winning Once, is the director/producer of this one as well.

Today is the last day to see a wonderful performance at Florida Studio Theatre, Becoming Dr. Ruth.  I wrote about the show in the last blog and had  a chance to see it myself last week.   What a character study by Susan Greenhill.  By the end of her performance you will be on your feet cheering.  Closing as well today,  is Clearly Invisible in the Cabaret.  Though I have not seen it, I am told Carl Seiger is an illusionist as good as any.

VAN WEZEL continues to announce shows for the coming season.   They are going to release the full list early September.  But if you want to get a jump with and early purchase you can call 941-953-3368 or click here and order on line.  Among the recent announcements are Capitol Steps 11/1, Wanda Sykes 11/16, Mannheim Steamroller 11/19 (a sure sell-out with some of the best Christmas arrangements around, and Kenny Rogers 11/29.  Along with Bill Maher, Audra McDonald, several Broadway shows and the usual number of Symphony Orchestras, you should be spending many a winter evening at VAN WEZEL.

WBTT this week announced their 15th year anniversary season kick-off. A fund-raiser, also at
VAN WEZEL on 10/6.  A one time only performance of an electrifying show, The Eve of Jackie:  A musical tribute to Jackie Wilson.   Award-winning Broadway singer Chester Gregory stars in this raw and jaw-dropping tour de force of Jackie Wilson during his last complete performance in September 1975, one night before his career ends during that  performance.

As you can imagine, tickets are not the normal WBTT price range. This summer's series was priced at $29.  Tickets for this show begin at $100 and close at $35.  Click here to purchase tickets for this show and the remaining performances of Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul.  We saw the show at a sold-out performance and highly recommend.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman's last movie before his untimely death in February, A Most Wanted Man,  showcases his depth as an actor and how much he will be missed.  John Le Carre's post 9/11 political passion play about sins committed in the name of national security showing exclusively at Burns is true to the book.

 It is also an art-house thriller with its psychological plot of more talk than action; however, don't let that keep you away.  Shot in Hamburg Germany where the 9/11 attack was planned, the city's gloom and beauty make the movie that much more compelling.   It will keep you guessing until the final scene.  If you did not read the book I recommend going on line for a review to better understand what you are about to see.

Those who have seen A Most Wanted Man have their own take on the ending.  This movie makes for great  discussion over dinner or drinks. My choice for sleeper hit of summer.

JIM'S RANT.....Seems like the only land-line calls are telemarketers of one kind or another.  I recently received one of  the most unusual.  I was awarded $7,000 no strings attached.  Just had to supply a credit card or bank account for quick deposit of money.  I may be OLD, but not stupid.  AND the area code was 202 for Washington, but the voice was distinctly Indonesian.  AND re-registering again at DoNotCall doesn't eliminate the problem as it was designed to do.....

Tracy did her magic again and Roberta had her usual comments!!!!...Until August 17.....JIM