Saturday, September 20, 2014

SEPTEMBER 21, 2014


Jim Knows SARASOTA will be on hiatus the next two weeks. When the blog returns on Sunday, October 12 it will be less than a week before the grand opening of UNIVERSITY TOWN CENTER.....The most eagerly awaited opening in years.  When the doors open,  one of my favorite restaurants will take center stage........

The Cheesecake Factory will be serving all those wonderful over sized salads as well as a menu full of items such as pizza, meatloaf, onion rings to die for, pasta, hamburgers, much more and of course their famous CHEESECAKE. And just a month ago Cheesecake Factory was voted consumer's favorite casual restaurant.  Guess who was voted favorite for steak...Capitol Grille...also opening that week.  More on them in a future blog. 

A few weeks ago we paid a visit to granddaughter Cori in her new digs at University Of Georgia.The campus reminds me of my own, University Of Illinois, spacious over acres of land with their football stadium within walking distance from every fraternity and sorority.  Even had a chance to visit the TEP house.  It was much more luxurious than the house at University of Illinois.

Cori lives at The Standard, an apartment complex that opened just in time for this semester.  Sharing an apartment with 4 other young women; each with their own bedroom/bathroom sharing a common kitchen, dining, laundering and entertaining area.  Easily within walking distance from campus or football/basketball, this is the only way I would ever go back to college; especially after visiting her previous Athens residences!!

I almost forgot to mention best features of her digs...a roof top pool; a game room; a state of the art fitness center; computer center and a media room.

Downtown Athens is a quaint campus town with loads of restaurants, shops, amusements, and of course bars.  OH TO BE YOUNG AGAIN!!!

NEW RESTAURANT ALERT.....TIN FISH a Florida chain serving fresh fish, salads, burgers, loads of sides, soup and full bar, has opened in SARASOTA Commons on Beneva in the shopping center before you come to In-Between  Bridge Club.  Open for lunch as well as dinner, this is a great place to eat before or after that afternoon or weekend bridge game.  Very causal, with great friendly service,  Tin Fish has a salmon special served on a bed of cole slaw, which is not only the house specialty, but served both lunch and dinner.  The portions are big and the lunch menu is also available in the evening.

Over at IN-BETWEEN-BRIDGE CLUB fall lessons are underway.   Easybridge 1 is Thursday mornings 9-11:30.  This class is for absolute beginners.  The cost is $8 per lesson.  Books (optional) are $15.  Easybridge 2 is on Saturdays 9-11:30 and is a great way to refresh what you've already forgotten.  The same price applies.  Easybridge Workshops resume Monday, September 29, 7-9. For information on all classes and games as well as future tournaments click here.  

In a few weeks the Jewish Community will begin our holiest days of the year as we celebrate the beginning of a New Year and remember our friends and family who have passed away this year and previous years.  Normally their is a TASHLISH service for Jews to come together and cast away their sins.  Such a service is being held at Selby Gardens on Day One of Rosh Hashanah.  The entire community, no matter what Synagogue affiliation is asked to assemble at 4:00 PM for a meditative walk through the gardens before meeting at the water's edge to perform the TASHLICH ritual of casting away our past misdeeds.

Last week's blog gave you a list of adult education for the fall.  Several of you reminded me of a very good program at USF.....Lifelong Learning Academy.  Featuring an extensive course program similar to the others.  Their lecture series is already on a wait list. For a list of courses and additional information click here.

As I write this week's blog am listening to Barbara Streisand's new album PARTNERS.  It contains duets with a who's who of your favorite superstar artists from Billy Joel to Josh Groban, John Legend,  Blake Shelton, Stevie Wonder plus several more.  Buy it on iTunes for $7.99.  You won't be disappointed!!

JIM'S RANT....What did I read in the paper this week?  Can it be true a widening of I75?  Hope to be alive for its fact hope to be alive for its start.  Something will need to be done, and soon.  Have you tried driving near the Mall or at Target Shopping Center lately?  Several exit routes are closed due to construction.  This will go away in a few weeks.  The I75 problem will be years before resolution.

BREAKING NEWS!!!!  John Dough, one of the few breakfast/lunch restaurants in the University Parkway area between I75 and Lockwood Ridge,  has shut it's doors at Cooper Creek.  Their commissary in Lakewood Ranch remains open.  Farewell to a friendly neighborhood restaurant.  You will be missed; HOWEVER now is the time for Benderson to fill the space with BAGELS!!!! YES!!!!

L' SHANA TOVA to all my Jewish friends.  I'll return just in time for the UTC opening as well as a surprise announcement in the October 12 blog...Until then...JIM.....and less I forget
Thanks Tracy.....


Saturday, September 13, 2014



Pierian Spring Academy has just mailed their schedule of courses for 2014-2105.  With ten locations in the area including Lakewood Ranch, Sailor Circus Arena and Florida Studio Theatre, they offer the most courses for the least amount of money.  For a complete list of classes and an opportunity to register on line click here

The SARASOTA Institute of Learning has been selling tickets to its very popular Music Series as well as the equally popular Global Issues lectures and seminars held in the city and on St. Armands Circle.  In fact, due to popularity and regular sell-out, the Music Series featuring Nationally  known personality June LeBelle had to move from its Holley Hall location
to Church of the Palms at Bee Ridge and Lockwood Ridge Roads, and it will still be a sellout.For a complete list of Music Monday and Lecture series click here.

The Longboat Key Education Center's Fall program runs from late October through December. Classes ranging from Yoga to movies to books to Mah Jong to lectures with several opportunities to attend throughout the week.  The yearly schedule is posted here.

The SARASOTA COUNTY Technical Institute located south on Beneva has already begun a full schedule of fall classes, but you are welcome to join at any time.  Arts, awareness, games, travel, cooking, do it yourself, home and garden and all sorts of history classes are just a small sample that awaits you by clicking here and going to their website.

FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE announced their classes with an email this week.  They will be announcing the 2014-15 schedule today and I will share that with you next week.  For information on classes and a first look at what you'll be seeing starting next month click here.

Looking for some delicious BBQ, and find CHOO CHOO too far away, look no longer.  Roberta and I made a discovery last weekend based on recommendation of friend ...Alday's BBQ & Catering.
Alday's is located on the corner of Beneva and Bahai Vista on the side of a gas station.  Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 Alday's is a sweeter tasting version of Choo Choo.  Featuring ribs, pork, beef, chicken, steaks and fish fries with sides of cole slaw, baked beans or potato salad.  Their hours are 11-7 during the weekend.  It is well worth the ride.  Scrumptious! Alday's has a second location at 7305 53rd Ave. which is west of ESR70 in front of a BP station. For a menu and pricing click here.

Along with culture, restaurants and continuing education, SARASOTA has some wonderful shopping opportunities; especially if you are contemplating adding some pillow accessories or covering an old piece of furniture with quality designer fabrics at wholesale prices. 

BOCA BARGOONS, on the corner of First and Orange, has dozens of fabrics to choose from.  And all are at reduced end bolt prices.  If you can't find it, they will get it for you from their nine other Florida locations. It's worth a trip even if not in the market.  There are sales and markdowns every week. Their easy to navigate web site will you an idea of types of materials available. Click here to learn more about Boca Bargoons. Thursday's Herald had their latest sale ad, a 50%off on many items.

Once you've selected the material only a few miles away is AIDAN'S UPHOLSTERY at 2068 17th Street just east of 301.  Adain and her husband are magicians when it comes to pillow making or reupholstering your furnature.  They are also quite reasonable, reliable and when not overwhelmed with business, quick to respond. Adain's is a family business owned by Aidan and her husband. To learn more about this remarkable company click here.

My Sarasota person making a difference this week is Bea Friedman whose guidance, leadership and monetary contributions have made the Sarasota Orchestra one of the finest in Florida, if not the United States.  Her role as supporter of the orchestra extends far beyond financial.  She has been a member of the orchestra's board, although never its chair, since 1981, and her Beau Ciel condo serves as both gathering spot and rehearsal hall during the Sarasota Music Festival, the orchestra's annual three-week celebration of young musicians. 

In addition, she has supported the Asolo Repertory Theater, the now-closed Flanzer Jewish Community Center and several women's leadership.  But at 94 and still going strong the orchestra continues to be her truest passion.

TELEVISION ALERT...Tonight (Sunday), Ken Burns latest documentary begins a seven night run from 8pm-10pm on PBS.   Old time photographs, Paul Giamatti voice-overs, presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin are all featured in this 14 hour saga about the political dynasty that produced two presidents, one very important First Lady, and the New Deal.  In black and white, Burns creates a fascinating biography that feels more like a movie than a television series.

Now playing at Burns Court is a continuation of The Trip, an English movie featuring Rob Byrdon and Steve Coogan recreating their roles and heading south to Italy.  Though beautifully photographed with magnificent scenes of the country and with six meals where most of the action takes place, I found it a total bore.  Playing as well ON-DEMAND, it was not worth the $6.99 spent for two days. 

If you are looking for a good movie this weekend, I hear The Drop starring James Gandolfini in his last role is terrific.

JIM'S RANT......this week The Ringling Museum discontinued their Docent program on Free Monday.  I do not claim to know the rationale behind this decision, since the Docents are volunteers and there are several available on Monday.  I should know from my own experience at Treviso.  Several came in for lunch on that day and never once did I hear a complaint about giving tours to the hundreds who came for free day.  John Ringling would roll over in his grave on this one.

Thanks again to Tracy.  I promised a feature this week on our trip to Athens Ga. with her family, but space did not permit. Next week......JIM
Congratulations to Christain Stoinev for making the finals of America's Got Talent.  Though falling short, he did SARASOTA proud.

Saturday, September 6, 2014



Anu Tali,  the new Music Director of the Sarasota Orchestra, will be on scene most of season. This is just one reason for the anticipation. The other is a strong program across the board from Masterworks to Pops to Great Escapes.  Last year 39 concerts sold out.  This season promises more sell outs.  For a complete month to month schedule as well as on opportunity to buy tickets online click here.

VAN WEZEL recently announced their  programs for the coming year.  In all honesty, I am underwhelmed.  After teasing us with Bill Maher, Multi-Tony winner Audra McDonald, Martina McBride, Phillip Phillips and a strong line-up of Broadway musicals, Dance and Symphony Orchestras, the  schedule appearing in the Herald Tribune was much of the same old of past years.

Don't get me wrong, Johnny Mathis, Paul Anka, Wanda Sykes and Diana Krall are great entertainers, but outside of the above mentioned plus Vanessa Williams and Susan Boyle,  VAN WEZEL's remaining dates are uninspiring.  For a complete list of performances along with an opportunity to purchase tickets on line click here. Single tickets  go on sale September 12.

Main Street at Lakewood Ranch relaunched their Farmer's Market as a once a month event in hopes of going weekly by winter.  Sad to say, there was not much to recommend about last Saturday's market.  There were twenty two vendors with little or no produce to offer.  Mostly jellies, crafts, food and little else.  The longest lines were at Starbucks, which as you know if you read this blog on a continuing basis, was "overlooked" by the Herald Tribune in their list of top 20 Main St. attractions.

On the other hand, Saturday was a big day at the only Farmer's Market that matters.....Lemon and Main in downtown SARASOTA.  According to merchants we spoke to this has been their best summer.  And for good reason.  An expanded and growing number of booths with fresh produce on both ends and organic produce in the middle.  Food booths galore, and the additional attraction of Whole Foods once you have finished with market.

Continuing my reviews of restaurants committed to the University Town Center, I was going to tell you about Zinburger.  While in Atlanta we stopped at their Lenox Mall location to give it a try.  Unfortunately,  the Bradenton Herald reported today that Zinburger had backed out in July. It would have been a nice addition to Sarasota.

I am happy to report their replacement is in the same genre ; unfortunately they will not be ready for the October opening.  Look for B&B Burger and Beer Joint to join the other restaurants in time for Black Friday shopping frenzy.  Their wide menu of burgers even offers a 10-pound "mother burger" along with a bar offering more than 75 beers, several of which will be local.

It was also announced national chain Noodles would occupy one of the out parcels near the mall.  No opening date as yet.

TELEVISION ALERT:  For those of you Bill Maher fans who have tickets for his Van Wezel performance in October, you can also catch him for TWO hours this Friday on HBO.  In an interesting programming move, Maher will return to Real Time (9 pm) live in D.C. with Jerry Seinfeld and Nancy Pelosi among his guests.  Then he will run to another venue where he will perform his comedy act (10pm) in front of a live audience.  He promises everything from religion to Donald Trump to the political dysfunction in Washington.  These are two hours to record or watch live or catch On-Demand; but they are hours you should not miss!!!

I am beginning a new feature this week honoring those who are making a difference with their money, services, and hands on approach to community commitment in SARASOTA/MANATEE.  Without the generosity of this community in total we would be like any other Florida city offering beaches, restaurants, shopping, warm weather and not much more.  Due to that generosity our culture and other services far exceeds many larger markets and is responsible for the good word of mouth SARASOTA creates around the country.

My first "person making a difference" is not an individual, but a company led by a father and son, Randy and Shaun Benderson, who learned how to make it matter from their father/grandfather, the master , Nate Benderson.  The Benderson Family gives so much to the community beyond the landscaped beauty of their shopping centers and other developments from Ellenton to North Port and beyond. 
There is the Nathan Benderson Park attracting world class rowers from around the world; Benderson Rehab Center in the Anchin Pavilion; contributions to Temple Emanu-El such as repaving  the driveway and parking lot, putting  in landscaping, as well as matching funds for a renovation of the social hall and sanctuary.  The Benderson's are heavily involved with All-Faiths Food Bank, as well as JFCS and of course Nate's Place where you can adopt a rescue dog. All donations to Nate's Place go directly to the care and rehabilitation of these rescue animals.  There is more, but you get the idea.  Giving back and doing it with NO fanfare is what makes us so fortunate to have them as citizens of our community.

Hat's off to the Benderson Family for making SARASOTA a better place for all of us.

JIM'S RANT....Once again I am targeting the Herald Tribune for not paying attention to it's winter, but really year round resident, THE BALTIMORE ORIOLES. As of this writing The Orioles  stand atop their American League Division, and hopefully not jinxing them, a lock to win and advance to the American League playoffs at least. If not for the daily box score you wouldn't even know this team existed.  Think of all the dollars generated by the Orioles and the attention they bring to Sarasota throughout the season. You would think the Herald would have the good sense to make them part of their daily sports reporting and you can add the Manatee neighbor  PITTSBURGH PIRATES as well.....just one man's opinion; though I have heard this from several others.

Once again, we have lost an entertainment icon.  Joan Rivers was the ultimate entertainer, and even at 81 was as strong as ever.  She was a true trailblazer for female comediennes, and she will be missed.  Hard to believe she Joins Robin Williams who passed away a short time ago.  If you did not see her documentary it is available On-Demand.  

Thanks, as always to Tracy for her editing my early messy version of this week's blog.   More about Tracy and her family next week.....JIM