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.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

NOVEMBER 23, 2014


AND PREPARE FOR THE ONSLAUGHT OF SHOPPING TO BE DONE IN THE NEXT SEVERAL WEEKS LEADING UP TO CHRISTMAS/HANUKKAH......Don't you sometimes stop and ask yourself "where has this year gone?"..I know I do almost every day.

With full stomachs and aching feet, it is not too early to think of those visitors young and old who will be with us later this year.  SAILOR CIRCUS is once again presenting December 27-30 performances at their location on 2075 Bahai Vista.  The area's longest running and highly acclaimed youth circus has been entertaining SARASOTA for years.  Reasonably  priced tickets starting at $12 are on sale now. For more information click here.
HELPFUL TIP: AVOID WAITING AT CHEESECAKE FACTORY!   Ever since this UTC favorite opened the wait has been long; sometimes as much as two hours.  You can shop during that time, but really no restaurant is worth the effort.  However, if you're willing to eat around 6:00-6:15 you can walk right into the bar!!!  That's when happy hour ends and the place empties out.  All those nice high-top tables in the center are free as is most of the bar.  So eat early, shop late and beat the crowds!!!

The recently concluded Cine-World Festival was one of the best in years.  In the coming weeks, I will review those movies we saw as they open.  The first movie is in general release next weekend and will be a featured attraction at Burns Court Cinemas...THE IMITATION GAME.  It is based on a true story, takes place during WW11, is filled with espionage, great acting, and unexpected turns to keep you on the edge of your seat.

At last week's Hollywood Film Awards, it was one of the evening's most lauded films, with acting honors for Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley and a directing prize for Morten Tyldum.  If you are in the mood for an intelligent adult movie see this one.
Cumberbatch was also on The Daily Show with John Stewart last week and got his ringing endorsement, as well on the cover of Time Magazine.

While downtown  we revisited two delightful Caraguilo family owned restaurants, the afore mentioned CARAGIULOS Italian America and OWEN'S FISH CAMP seafood and more.

OWEN'S sits next door to Burns Cinema, and is as popular today as when they opened several years back.  Most important, the food is as good as ever.  Though reservations are accepted only for larger parties of 5 or more, be prepared to  wait for lesser sized parties.  There is a cozy front porch for outside dining, and though small, Owen's has found a way to squeeze several at the bar or a community table in front of the bar.  It is noisy, but exciting at the same time.  Our party of 6 would definitely go back. For menu click here.

CARAGIULOS sits on Palm Ave a few doors from Main St.  Their menu has the same popular items the family has been offering for several years.  I am a big lover of salads, and their Chopped "1989" is one of SARASOTA'S best.  It is available in whole or half portions.  If you are sharing a pizza or pasta you can easily share the salad.  BUT, it is big enough to have as a meal.  And, along with their famous Italian bread, you will be quite satisfied. For menu click here. When the weather warrants, outside dining is perfect here!
Those of us who saw The Prima Donnnettes last season at FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE are in for a return engagement as they return in a new revue Dancing In The Street at the John C Court Cabaret through February 7.  Songs range from dynamic 50's girl groups like The Chiffons and The Chordettes along with more familiar artists like Aretha Franklin, Cher and Amy Grant.  This is a soundtrack packed with the hopes and dreams of women everywhere featuring among others, Chapel of Love, Delta Dawn, I Will Survive and Gypsy's Tramps and Thieves. For a schedule of performances or to purchase tickets click here.

PANERA BREAD, recently opened their newest SARASOTA bakery-cafe in an area immediately across from UTC.  Just off Cattleman Rd. it sits in an  outparcel featuring an already open JOS A. BANK  and soon to  open AT&T store, as well as a new eatery to the  area, BLAZE PIZZA.  It could be the location or the new design, but to me the food is tastier at this one.

I had breakfast and lunch over the weekend.  Their egg white sandwich and new cobb salad were tasty and inexpensive.  And unlike other locations, you get a pager , set it down on your table-inside or out, and the food is brought to you rather than waiting.  Another SOLID addition to the Cattleman Rd. area.

During this time of year, Jewish Family Children Services asks the community to "Adopt a Family for the Holidays".  Benefiting families of all faiths, JFCS, with your help, provides the  less fortunate with basic life necessities such as food, blankets and clothing. In addition if the family has young children toys are provided.  For more information email Lauren Fair at

JIM'S RANT......there will be no rant this week, as we pause to give thanks for all our blessings. Family, friends, the good life of  SARASOTA, the freedom to speak your mind on any issue and not get jailed for it... and, .I, especially want to thank all of you who read this blog week in and week out.  From a few, readership is now in the hundreds!!!! Have a great Thanksgiving....happy shopping....

Tracy, as usual, did a fantastic editing job.....see you next week....JIM

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NOVEMBER 16,2014

Above is just one of the many pleasures awaiting you along University on your way to UTC and their own wonderful center court FROZEN attraction.  Along with SANTA, scenes from the movie with a sing along ,and lots of gifts to buy for young and old. 

We are nearly two weeks away from the normal  BLACK FRIDAY, which retailers have been celebrating since VETERAN'S DAY. many retailers are open on THANKSGIVING there really is no need for midnight shopping.  Well, actually there is.  People are in line as this is written at BEST BUY, one of the few remaining retailers to honor tradition!!!!

Last week saw the SARASOTA cultural season kick into high gear with Masterworks, Opera, and the opening of two major Broadway musicals which I am glad to say will be here at least through the holiday season and possibly longer.  The first to open in the Asolo's intimate Mertz Theatre....SOUTH PACIFIC...has been well received by audience and viewers alike and is sure to sell-out for most of its run.  The second, though not as beloved as the other, is still a musical for all ages which has been performed on Broadway, the movies and cruise ships, HAIRSPRAY at the Gompertz Theatre as part of the 2014-15 FST season.

I personally have not seen either production, but those who have are raving about them.  FST has a larger subscription base than ASOLO so tickets may be hard to come by in a few weeks or in the weeks leading to and beyond the holidays.  To make it easier for you I am including a link to the FST web site.   

Not to play favorites, here is a link to Asolo Theatre web site for tickets to South Pacific as well as other shows this season.

If you are looking for a restaurant to grab an early dinner before a show Thursday-Saturday 5:30pm-9:30pm there is a such a place on the Trail.  I did not initially  recommend TOASTED MANGO CAFE for dinner a few weeks ago when announcing their new hours.  Now that I have eaten dinner there, I am happy to review this wonderful addition to your neighborhood.   The food is delicious, the service fast, the wine our party had was special and we were finished just in time to catch a movie or concert.

The menu is simple to make the experience quick and enjoyable.  We all ate the prime rib, so unfortunately that is only entree to recommend.  But there is duck as well as pasta. and other choices like burger or salad.  Each meal comes with salad and choice of vegetable or potato.  No time for dessert, but they do have several.  Whether it breakfast, lunch or dinner, TOASTED MANGO serves some of the best food in town.  For reservations call 941-388-7728.

For all bikers who live west of 75 in the University Parkway corridor; you now don't have to travel very far for good bike service. RYDER BIKES recently opened in the Fresh Market shopping center.  I recently had some bike issues and arrived at 10am.  As the clock struck 10 the door opened.  I was prepared to leave bike and walk home, but manager Rich Linkenhoker made the repairs in minutes and I was on my way.

If you're in the market for a new bike or accessories for an old one then by all means go to RYDER BIKES at 5275 University Parkway.  The company  has 2 addition allocations in Bradenton 1905 Cortez Road W and Sarasota 1530 Dolphin St.  For more information click here.

One of the best reviewed movies of 2014 is now showing exclusively at Burns Court CinemaWHIPLASH  is easily  one of the best we've seen this year.   Included in the cast is J.K. Simmons who you may remember from TV series  The Closer and a young actor who you will be hearing lots  more about in the future, Miles Teller. 

 It tells the story of a  music professor at a NY college  and one of his prize students who is trying to impress him as best drummer in class.  It is intense, terrifying, pshycological and moves at a ferocious pace, keeping you on the edge of your seat; and yet it is not a mystery!!  Winner of Grand Jury Audience Prize at Sundance earlier this year, it will definitely garner consideration when the Academy sends out ballots next year.

Looking for a Christmas or Hanukkah gift for a grandchild this year then look no further. I have discovered a series of books fondly written for that  4-10 year old who love pets, and better yet loves sharing their pet  adventures with grandma.

GRANDMA COO COO NUTS written by KJ Wilhelm, grandmother to 11, creatively puts child, grandmother and pet together as they address the challenges of travelling with animals and the responsibility inherent with the adventure.  There will be 11 books, of which 3 are now available.

The cost for each book is $8.50 and can be purchased at
or directly from KJ at kathsq@yahoo.com100% of the sales go to to ITS MY HEART-New England. For more information click here.

JIM'S RANT.....Enough already about the traffic and parking at UTC.  I live close by and have never had any problems getting to; getting out; and finding a parking space.  HINT...there are two main entrances to UTC.  The one facing 75 has the most empty spaces.  The #3 section is easily accessible and within easy walking distance to shops and restaurants.  There is valet parking on the Cattleman side as well.

As always, Tracy is here when I need her...see you next week as we celebrate Thanksgiving and really begin our holiday shopping in earnest AND advice on how to get a table at CHEESECAKE.....JIM


Saturday, November 8, 2014

NOVEMBER 9, 2014


THAT EVENING at 7 on HBO is THE CONCERT FOR VALOR  featuring Bruce Springsteen, Carrie Underwood, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Hudson, Oprah,  and many more of your favorites.  Starbucks is the corporate sponsor and if you are not an HBO subscriber, this one is on them.  The cable network channel will be opened to free viewership.

Today is your last chance to visit ST. ARMANDS CIRCLE for their 26th annual craft show.  Over 100 artists of all stripes are on display.  This event is the real kick-off to the SARASOTA craft show season.  In December the Sarasota Craft Show returns to Robarts Arena.  You can mark the dates 12/5-7 on your calendar, but I will have more on that show next month.  As you know, parking is limited on Circle so get there early or search for a space on the grass.

It has been awhile since movie reviews.  The last one, Gone Girl, is still around, but soon will be replaced by seasonal movies leading to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. I saw a movie this week which is under radar,  but is a MUST-SEE if you appreciate a small  intelligent  one with over the top acting.  ST. VINCENT features Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Terrence Howard and a wonderful young actor Jason Lieberher. It is a story filled with warmth, humor and tears.  At least tears for me, as I cried three times while watching.

If Murray is not at least mentioned at Academy Award time it will be a travesty of justice.  Naomi Watts has never been better and Melissa McCarthy makes you forget about her weight in a truly remarkable totally different performance you are used to from her. 

After not one but two meals at BRIO it is safe to say UTC has another winner among its growing lists of restaurants.    A friendly atmosphere, outside dining, a lively bar scene, tons of people, BRIO is the place for you if you like casual Tuscan style Italian.  Soups, salads, pasta, pork chop, fish all cooked a special way.  Located near Capital Grill, Cheesecake Factory and Season's 52 and with access from the parking lot it gives you another choice for quality dining at reasonable prices. 

A few more restaurants to open in the coming weeks, but from the early sampling of the above and Kona Grill the Mall will be a major competitor to the other restaurants  on University and Lakewood Ranch.
The Perlman Music Program 2014-2015 SEASON, including a new series HERE&NOW starts Thursday, December 4 at 7pm with two graduates of PMP:  Rachel Lee Priday, violin and David Kaplan, piano appearing at the SARASOTA  Opera House, followed by an optional Meet the Artists reception.  Tickets begin at $30 for the concert and $40 including reception.  You can learn more by calling the Opera House 941-366-8450 ext.1.

I will alert you when tickets become available for the Perlman rehearsals at FSU.

NOW OPEN.....An exhibit worthy of a trip to the DALI in  St. Petersburg.  Along with Dali's paintings, the popular museum is featuring the art of PICASSO with over 80 of his paintings  as well.  This landmark exhibition highlights rarely loaned works from 20 international art museums and private collections worldwide pairing these two legendary artists.

The exhibit runs through February 16, 2015.  Advanced timed tickets are available now. Weekend hours through the exhibit have been extended until 8pm on Friday and 5:30pm on Sunday.  For more information and purchase of tickets, timed or otherwise click here.

This is one more advantage of living or visiting SARASOTA....our easy accessibility to either Tampa or St. Pete for even more culture.  The Dali offers trolley service to downtown St. Pete for other museums and restaurants while leaving your car right where it sits in their parking lot.

Last year, all 1,500 tickets for The Grand Tasting event at the annual FORKS&CORKS Food and Wine Festival (Jan 23-26 2015) sold out in under 8 minutes!!! Tickets go on sale TOMORROW at 7pm. But you don't have to be left out in the cold!!!  General admission tickets are $95.  Get on line before 7 tomorrow and wait your turn.

We saw a truly memorable MASTERWORKS performance last night.  The orchestra has never played so brilliantly or seemed so enthusiastic as they were with ANU TALI conducting.  If the weather has played havoc with your schedule today (Sunday) there are still tickets available at box office for the 2pm performance.  SARASOTA is extremely blessed to have a conductor of Tali's caliber in residence.

  Tonight  at 9(Sunday) on HBO begins the final season of Newsroom starring Jeff Daniels among others.  If you appreciate great television drama and are interested in how cable news really works Newsroom  is for you.  Daniels is far better in this one than  his new movie with Jim Carrey Dumb and Dumber To due in theatres next week.

JIM'S RANT....with the election behind us, the negative ads history for two years, the country divided, isn't it time for both parties to stop the bickering and come together for once.  Won't happen with a broken system....BUT, I can dream can't I?  There is one piece of good news from Tuesday...Independent Senator Bernie Sanders is considering a run for President.  Look him up.  Many of you from both sides just might be on his side!!!

Thank you as always,  Tracy and until next week....JIM signing off.....

Saturday, November 1, 2014

NOVEMBER 2, 2014


Tonight on Discovery Channel, 424HD Comcast, Nik Wallenda is doing another of his unimaginable stunt walks; part of which is over the Chicago River.  For some of the walk he will be blindfolded!! What a way to make a living.  While practicing at Benderson Park he drew thousands of spectators as well as television and news teams from Fox News, The 700 Club, NBC, Reuters, Inside Edition, The London Times, as well as reporters from Australia, London, Canada and too many more to mention.  The publicity is great for SARASOTA.  Remember when all everyone knew about us was the now shuttered Colony?  Oh well, those days are long gone.

The walk itself takes around 20 minutes, but Discovery is making the most out of the huge audience it will draw to this one time "DEATH DEFYING" event by starting at 7:00 and running til 9:20.  Set your DVR and watch 60 Minutes and The Good Wife.  I wish him well, but he is just a little crazy don't you think?

This weekend marks the return of SARASOTA Orchestra Masterworks series with our new director ANU TALI.  The dates are November7,8&9 at the Van Wezel.  Titled FRAMED, the concerts feature an all-star lineup of Russian composers.  Tali, having studied conducting in St. Petersburg, Russia, developed a deep understanding of the style of those composers.

Tali's schedule was limited last season to a late contract signing and her prior commitments.  Such is not the case this year.  For more information on these concerts as well as the rest of this exciting season click here.

Here's a tasty discovery.  One of yours and our favorite casual breakfast and lunch restaurants...Toasted Mango Cafe has expanded its hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday to include dinner 5:30-9:30 along with wine and beer.  The menu is creative and features Prime Rib, Crispy Duck, Stuffed Norwegian Salmon among the entrees along with lighter fare including salads and pub burger.

The preferred payment is cash and your server will be helpful with a cash discount.  There is an ATM on premises. AND, they do take reservations at 941-388-7728.  I w
ill try it and give review next week, but based on several trips for breakfast, it HAS to be good!!!

The 25th Anniversary of CINE-WORLD FILM FESTIVAL begins this Friday, November 7 and runs through Sunday, November 16.  Screenings take place at  Burns Court & Lakewood Ranch; however the bulk of them are at Burns.  This year's movies lack the star powered attractions of past festivals, but nevertheless feature a cross section of Foreign and Independent Cinema.

We have been attending the festival for several years and always walk away with a gem or two that later become box office hits or Academy Award contenders or even winners.  There is no King's Speech or Black Swan, but there are several worthy of your attention.  My choices follow, but by no means should you quit there.  Stop by the box office and pick up a brochure or go on line for a complete list. Members and non-members are able to order tickets on line as well.

The list that follows should not limit your selections.  For sake of space I am going to list my preferred films and hope you do research on others you  might enjoy.   Here goes:  MR TURNER (opening film), TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT, THE IMITATION GAME, FORCE MAJURE (open in NY to rave reviews by NY Times and WSJ), HUMAN CAPITAL, ESCOBAR:PARADISE LOST and GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM.

In addition to the above there are several documentaries to choose from.  You're on your own there.  See you at the movies!!
A week from today, all faiths food bank's yearly sold-out BOWLS OF HOPE once again will be at Phillipi Estate Park of US 41 and Phillipi Creek Drive.  For a $25 donation you will help feed thousands this holiday season and enjoy a meal of soup, fresh bread, desserts; all a reminder of the empty bowls you can fill together. 

In addition to all that wonderful food DONATED by more than 30 well-know
SARASOTA restaurants and live entertainment throughout the event you will receive to take home a beautiful handcrafted bowl.  For additonal information and an opportunity to make a donation if you cannot attend click here.

One of the greatest musicals of our generation kicks off the ASOLO season November 14-December 28.

SOUTH PACIFIC, the Broadway show that made Mary Martin and Enzio Pinza stars forever, is this year's featured production.  It follows a long line of opening  productions worthy of Broadway.  A few years ago,  Bonnie and Clyde starring Jeremy Jordan actually made it to Broadway, but didn't last long.  Jordan recreated his role and then moved on to Newsies.    Showboat and 1776 are two more opening productions that come to mind.

Previews begin November 11 and lead into opening night on the 14th.  These shows always have great seats for the first few weeks then sell-out.  I suggest you go early. To get a jump on ticket purchases for South Pacific click here now!!

This week, Roberta and I attended a reception hosted by George and Janet Miles at Ringling College of Art and Design for the first Sarasota showing of Barnes and BeyondA film telling the compelling story of how the Barnes Board of Trustees and the arts community saved one of the greatest artistic treasures in the world.  Special guest and speaker was Dr. Bernard C. Watson, Chairman Emeritus of the Barnes Foundation.  I will let you know if and when it is shown again.  For anyone who enjoys art and its preservation should see this film.

JIM'S RANT.....On Tuesday we once again vote for a Congress, local and state offices as well as Governor.  I don't know about you, but I am glad to see this election cycle come to an end.  One of the most negative campaigns ever seen...both Gubernatorial  candidates are flawed; even more so by their ridiculous FAN debate and their incessant negative advertising.  Our choice here is slim and none!!!!  And while I'm at it, the opponents of medical marijuana have spewed enough lies about Amendment 2,  I have serious doubts it will pass.   And the SUPREME COURT needs to revisit it's ruling allowing PAC monies unlimited access to television advertising.......

Thanks as always to Tracy for her editing and advice.  Until next week.....JIM