Friday, December 25, 2015

JANUARY 3, 2016


This is what awaits many of our holiday visitors when they return home!!!


Following a sold-out West Side Story with an equally good play is the unenviable position ASOLO REP finds itself.  But have no fear, the show opening Friday (previews Wednesday and Thursday) is the 2014 TONY Award Winner.......... ALL THE WAY.

  No, it's not based on Frank Sinatra's song of the same name, but is the story of Lyndon Johnson during the year 1964, when he somehow was able to pass our landmark Civil Rights Act.  He was joined by Martin Luther King, Jr. J. Edgar Hoover and Hubert Humphrey in his efforts.   We are going opening weekend, and will report back next week.

If you are a lover of quality London productions reproduced on film then Friday is your lucky day as well.  Playing two performances in Ringling's Historic Asolo is the National Thetare Live performance of Beaux Stratagem

 Running nearly three hours long with intermission, it tells the story of two charming, dissolute young men, who having blown their fortunes in London, flee to provincial Lichfiled where there "stratagem" (strategy) is to marry for money.  Posing as master and servant, they encounter a teeming variety of human obstacles.  Showing at 1:00 and again at 6:30.  For information on this performance, purchase tickets or learn of coming Ringling events, click here.

Michael Poll
Next weekend is the third Masterworks program WINTER DREAMS.  It marks the return of Anu Tali to the podium along with guest artist and renowned pianist Mihkel Poll.  The program includes Tchaikovsky's lush first symphony and the difficult-to-perform Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3.  Dreams begins its performance schedule on Thursday at NEEL PAC and continues the weekend at Van Wezel.  Good tickets still remain for most performances click here for your opportunity to purchase on line or call 941-953-3434. 

The dawn of December marked the release of several outstanding adult movies.  After Trumbo, Steve Jobs and Labyrinth of Lies, today there are several additional  movies to recommend.  I did see STAR WARS Christmas day.  Lots of fun; especially with a theatre full of parents and children.  Harrison Ford, who reportedly was paid $20 mil was as good as anticipated as were Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamil.  Brought back lots of memories from past movies.  Sure to be an Academy Award nominee.

As will JOY, David O. Russell's followup to the wonderful Silver Lining Playbook.  Reuniting Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, it is Lawrence's movie to run with and she does just that.  Her performance will surly get her a nomination.  Ms. Lawrence's range from drama to comedy to action marks her as the go-to actress for several years to come. The movie itself takes too long to develop, but once it does, it rolls merrily along to conclusion.

I highly recommend  CONCUSSION.  Will Smith gives the performance of his life as an accomplished pathologist working in Pittsburgh, who uncovers the truth about brain damage to football players who suffer repeated concussions in the course of normal play.  He is supported  by an excellent cast including David Morse as Mike Webster, former Steeler whose battle with a concussion is the crux of the movie. 

 Albert Brooks, always brilliant, but seldom seen, is a Dr. who works with Smith.  That this movie is factually based makes it one of the best of its kind in years.  I think this may be on the Academy list as well.  Smith surely will be.

Not enough room for The Big Short.  Next week, but here's a clue; don't miss it!!!

When was the last time you visited BONEFISH GRILL?  For me, it had been several years, before a friend called and invited us to join him for dinner.   What a revelation!!!  With so many copy-cat restaurants and franchise operations open now, it is easy to forget the one that got us here.  From the Outback, Carrabba's, Fleming's family of restaurants, Bonefish is easily the best. 

 I was fortunate to have dinner close to home in Cooper Creek location, and lunch in Sarasota.   Both were excellent, with service to match the food.  Lunch is served daily, but only at their at  Cooper Creek.

This Thursday through next weekend marks the 18th Annual THUNDER BY THE BAY with events at Sarasota Ford, Hillview St. and Downtown Main St. Saturday and Sunday.  During 17 previous years, this event has raised over $1.6 Million for Suncoast Charities for Children.  Noisy only during bike arrival, this is an event to make the time to attend at least for a few minutes to contribute to this worthy cause. For a complete schedule of Thunder by the Bay events click here.

JIM'S RANT....Many complaints about traffic flow from Longboat to downtown.  Especially these past two weeks of holiday and beach weather.  Both came to an end this weekend.  Hopefully the 80's will return soon, but with sun and high temperatures you will have to endure heavy traffic.  It could be worse...get on I75 some day and you'll see what I mean.

Tracy had the week off, so what you see is what you get.  Thanks to Rosemary Restaurant  for the mention in their Ticket Ad this week.  And a not so thank you to Cheap Eats choices...the writer must eat with his eyes and mouth closed....see you next week..... but before you go see below..JIM

Reminder to all residents of UPCC, once again, Life in THE PARK is hosting a meet and greet your neighbors 5:30pm January 12.  The location is the  locally owned and very successful
REVELRY Pub and Grill 3005 University Parkway.  They are offering 20% off entire menu.  Hope to see you there!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

DECEMBER 20, 2015



Looking for a fun way of entertaining your friends and family over the holiday.  Then head on down to BLUE ROOSTER at 1525 Fourth Street.  We were there last  Saturday and saw an old time blues master along with some local musicians;  Lazy Lester with Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones.  Almost every night there is some form of entertainment to go along with their Southern Style menu.   Also happy hour daily 5-7 and Sunday a Gospel Brunch featuring Gospel music and an authentic Southern Fare buffet. For more information and a calendar of events click here.

Last week, I wrote about two new and adjacent restaurants in the Shoppes at UTC (Formerly Cooper Creek Shopping Center) ; Fresh Kitchen and Daily Eats.  Contributing Editor Debbie Yonker and Mark Freed recently had lunch at DAILY EATS, and she writes ecstatically,  "......the look is retro-diner along with a modern take on the typical diner food menu. Everything is cooked in house including the turkey.

Breakfast is available all day.  I asked our server if I could get a lox, bagel and cream cheese plate, since the menu had those items but scattered throughout on different dishes.  No problem, and with all components on one plate I had one of my favorite meals.  And, yes, it was delicious.  The owner, who came by the table, is putting this one on the menu to see how it sells.  It will be available from open to close.

There is ample parking and outdoor seating for dining with pets.  I think DAILY EATS is a winner!!!"  Had lunch Friday and heartily endorse Debbie's review.  A real winner for our community. And yes, the lox plate is on the menu; just ask for it!!!

SAILOR CIRCUS Holiday performances begin the day after Christmas and run through December 29th.  This is a wonderful family experience especially for the younger ones.  This circus features students ages 8-18 who are in training to someday join Circus Sarasota which begins its winter performances in February under the big tent at Nathan Benderson Park. 

 I have not seen the name Nik Wallenda as a performer yet, so I doubt he will be here; however even without the family this is an entertaining show which will sell out quickly in its new location.   Sailor Circus is located at The Circus Arts Conservatory 2075 Bahai Vista. For performance times click here or call 941-355-9805.

A new and exciting theater is causing conversation in Sarasota. Appealing to a more discriminate audience and in an in intimate location, URBANITE THEATRE has been getting rave reviews since opening early this year.  Located at 1487 Second Street, across from Whole Foods, this small venue presents plays that make you think and respond. 

LUNGS is currently playing through January 3rd.... "in a time of global anxiety, erratic weather and political unrest, a millennial couple wants a child, but they're running out of time......" As with all productions, adult language is plentiful.  This is cutting edge theater at its best, and if that is your ticket then I suggest you buy one!!  Click here for performance times and information times for remaining shows this season.

As easily predicted here last week, STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS opened to mostly positive reviews ( you can't please all critics, especially those with an axe to grind) and record box-office numbers both here and abroad.  With all the hype, and memories of earlier movies,  Roberta has agreed to see this one, but won't see CREED. Go figure.

How many times this week has your cell or home phone been subjected to unwanted calls?  I'm sure the number is several.   I recently learned of our own FLORIDA DO NOT CALL PROGRAM run by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer services.  Enrollment is simple, but since word is just getting out about this program, relief does not come instantly. We enrolled recently, but it won't go into effect until April due to backlog of subscribers.  To learn inclusions and exclusions to program as well as enroll click here/ 

Here's an item for trivia buffs....What year saw the last full CHRISTMAS moon??? 1977.  It's happening again this year, and it won't happen again until 2034, according to The Weather Channel.  December's full moon is called the "cold moon" because it leads to the coldest and darkest days of winter.  So far, most of the nation, including Florida is experiencing an unusual winter.  Let's hope it continues.

JIM'S RANT...I don't know about you, but I'm happy CNN's Republican Debate is over.  These past few weeks have been filled with Trump, Cruz and the rest ad nauseum.  Give Trump credit for helping create the wall to wall coverage with his daily manipulation of the media.  And, I am happy to see Black Friday finally give way to last minute Christmas sales. Beginning the middle of October, what once was a beautiful time of year has become a media nightmare of advertising.  BAH HUMBUG!!!

As usual,  Tracy has done a terrific job of editing.  And Debbie has again found a new restaurant to review;  this one with many of  her favorite dishes.  Until next week when I will attempt my first best and worst list of 2015 for SARASOTA, and if you have any ideas  please email to Christmas to all and to all a good night....JIM 


Saturday, December 12, 2015

DECEMBER 13, 2015


It was May 25, 1977 when the first  STAR WARS was released.  At the time I was the general manager of a radio station in Baltimore.  My station promoted and gave away free tickets to a private screening the Wednesday before the movie opened.  It is a night I will never forget. We were at the biggest theater in Baltimore and gave away close to 1,000 tickets.  Several hundred additional people came and made this not only our biggest opening ever, but created a nightmare situation with many ticket holders turned away.  No free screenings of this one!!

In somewhat of a departure, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Broadway's runaway smash hit Hamilton, wrote the music for the movie's cantina scene.  In the first STAR WARS that scene introduced us to Han Solo, Harrison Ford's character.

Even at a ungodly running time of 136 minutes, not including all those trailers, I am going on record that this film, in a very short time, will surpass TITANIC as the highest grossing movie of all time and will re-energize Hollywood as current box office figures are way down from previous years. 

If Galactic is not your thing, I suggest you head to Burns Court where you can see TRUMBO, a SAG nominee for best ensemble cast and Golden Globe nominations for best actor, Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren for best supporting actress.

TRUMBO has an amazing cast headed by Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, Diane Laine his wife,  John Goodman/Movie Mogul,  Mirren as Hedda Hopper and a grown up Elle Fanning as Trumbo's daughter.  Blacklisted by the McCarthy hearings, Trumbo must produce scripts in an anonymous name to support himself.

But with help of Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger his career is resurrected and reputation restored when McCarthy is exposed of making accusations of treason without any evidence.  For those of us who lived through his hearings in the 50's this one will bring back memories of the nightmare McCarthy created for so many innocent people.

Florida Studio Theatre got off to a shaky start with their first production One Man, Two Guvnors  which was poorly reviewed by even Jay Handelman, who almost never has anything bad to say about Sarasota theater presentation.  According to friends who attended the preview of FST's latest production of BUTLER, it is well worth your time and you won't be walking out at intermission.  Set during the Civil War, an escaped slave seeks sanctuary, but the laws of the land are unrelenting.  With sharp wit and tongue-in-cheek humor, BUTLER, takes you on a journey to find the true meaning of freedom. 

TELEVISION ALERT:   If you're reading this before Monday 8 pm, then go to NBC to watch ADELE's Radio City Music Hall Concert that was performed and recorded last week.  This is her first live concert in several years, and comes when 25 is breaking records for most albums sold in its initial distribution.  HELLO, the first single released from the album continues to be #1, and Entertainment Weekly rates her television performance as a Must SEE this week!!!

LUTHER, starring Golden Globe nominee Idris Elba returns Thursday 12/17 at 9 p.m. on BBC America.  If you've never seen LUTHER, it is better than most network series.  Elba plays a rogue detective who creates havoc for the police department as well as the criminals he chases. This is a one time only special and runs nearly 3 hours. The language and violence are typical of cable television.

Now it's food time, and what better person than to bring you the first review;  Debbie Yonker who writes ..."An exceptional Italian restaurant at 4144 S. Tamiami Trail is causing quite a stir.  MARCELLO Ristorante Italeano has the basic ingredients lacking in many of Sarasota's restaurants; good service and great food.

She continues..."we ordered Caesar Salad prepared at the table.  The salad for 4 easily feeds 6.  Each entree is made individually by chef/owner Marcello, who is easily spotted cooking in the kitchen.  The many entrees include Branzino. boned at table side; osso buco, braised a day earlier, finished upon ordering , and served with pasta and the braising sauce.

The grilled veal chop was thick and cut as ordered.  Finally, the Cioppino was full of clams, mussels, shrimp and fish.  Reservations are a must as this small restaurant accommodates a limited number of patrons." To view the Marcello menu and make reservations click here.

In one of the fastest constructions ever seen here, the building housing CICIO Restaurant Group's new twin restaurants is complete with both restaurants open and doing an early thriving business.

FRESH KITCHEN is a healthier version of Chipotle, especially in light of their health problems.  You get a bowl with food of your own choosing.  A base of either brown rice, kale slaw, summer salad and much more.  Add two veggies i.e. Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, and again much more.  And finally top off with a protein of either Grilled Chicken, BBQ Chicken, Grilled Steak or Tuna Poke.  Add your dressing, purchase a drink and you're out of here for less than $12. Caution, the portions are not gigantic, so you make have the urge for something else a few hours later.  They are open 11AM-9PM daily.

DAILY EATS claim to fame is serving breakfast all day from 7:30 am to close.  The good news is that lunch and dinner are also available as well.  There are several types of sandwiches including hamburger, triple decker club, ahi tuna club, patty melt and too many to mention here.  It's their unique breakfast menu that will bring you back serving omelette's, breakfast nachos, French toast & eggs.  McDonald's now serves breakfast all day.  This is so much better!!! They are open daily from7:30AM-9:30PM.

Both restaurants are located off Honore in the Cooper Creek Shopping Center across from Pier One with ample parking and easy access to Total Wine, Home Goods and all the stores and restaurants in the plaza.
JIM'S RANT....Today marks the 100th edition of Jim Knows Sarasota. When I started three years ago in my wildest dreams did I think I'd get to that number.  Thank you all for reading and supporting and commenting and sometimes criticizing.  I enjoy reading your comments; especially last week when my story of SOL MEYER got more reaction than any written to date.  After writing and editing this week's issue I picked up a copy of the East County Observer only to discover still another glowing article.  If you have the stomach, try SOL and let me know.

Thanks again to Tracy for her editing and Debbie for her review. Also, thanks to all of you who worked with me on Saturday at PEDAL FOR PUPS and to all of you who came by our van and said hello.  Mark your calendar now for next year's event,  3/6/16.  Hope to see you there.  Until next week........JIM

Ca d'Zan in all its Christmas splendor

Saturday, December 5, 2015

DECEMBER 6, 2015

Simply stated, HANUKKAH is the Jewish festival of lights.  When ancient Jews were free they had enough oil to burn for one day.  Miraculously, the oil burned for 8 days. The Hanukkah lights remind us of the great miracle that a small band of Jews defeated the mighty Greek armies.  Foods fried in oil are a must, especially potato pancakes and small donuts.  This brings me to one of my favorite recent items...

Sign posted on window Sunday
Contributing Editor Debbie Yonker and I went at different times to SOL MEYER  New York Delicatessen, one of the most talked about new Sarasota restaurants in recent memory. 

Friday the day after Thanksgiving, Sol opened its doors to the public.  But due to the crush of business, they were out of food by Sunday!!  Reopening on Monday, the crowds formed again.

  On Wednesday, Cooper Levey-Baker, Correspondent for the Herald-Tribune in the CHEAP EATS section of their weekly Food and Wine section wrote: "Sol Meyer lives up to the hype" and for the better part of his review he is right on.  Long lines, servers explaining the menu, owner Sol Shenker slicing meat in the back, etc.  He's got it right to that point; however after that he must have been in a different restaurant than the one I, Debbie Yonker and several others visited.

First of all, there is nothing "cheap" here. Prices for most items are over the top and anything "special" is extra.  A club roll instead of rye bread is $1.00 additional as is first cut meat an additional $2.00.  Each table gets 2 small servings of Cole Slaw, no matter the size of party.  Additional servings will cost you, though our server gave us the third at no charge.  The rye bread is sliced so thin and the meat so warm that midway through the sandwich you can imagine what happens to the bread; did not happen with the roll.

Second, they continue to run out of menu items.  There was no corned beef or Potato Latkes when we arrived. The delivery truck did not appear at 4 AM as anticipated.  They were frying pancakes as we left.  Before we walked out the door a look at their deli case makes this a work in progress at best.
In general, the pastrami and tongue  were average as were the sides.  Hopefully once they get their act together this will be a good restaurant.  Moving in that direction, SOL, is now opening at 10:30 AM for lunch and dinner.  No breakfast. A long way to go though before product can be favorably compared to NY DELICATESSEN.  For menu along with price per item click here.

On  Wednesday, Servandos opens in the empty space that once was Darwin's at 1525 4th St. The menu is Catalonian/Spanish.  The new restaurant will feature Mexican/southern cuisine along with Southwestern specialties plus tapas and ceviche, steaks and smoked meats.

  The family also owns Blu Que Island Grill on Siesta Key and will include some favorites at this location.  Entertainment provided by Flamenco dancers and live music nightly.

 Servandos joins Blue Rooster, Station 400, Pomona, The Rosemary and Mandeville Beer Garden; all within walking distance from each other; easily making this one of the top eating/entertainment locations in Sarasota.

More restaurants next week, Including Debbie's take on Marcello and the opening of Fresh Kitchen and Daily Eats.  But now I turn your attention to two terrific movies; one,  Brooklyn is currently selling-out at Burns Court Cinema while Youth opens this weekend in select markets and was the opening night film at Cine-World.

I put Brooklyn right up there with the best I've seen this year.  That takes into account Spotlight, which is also worthy of Academy Award consideration.  Both should be competing for the Award next February; and each won awards last week at the Gothams in New York.  Spotlight won for Best picture; Saoirse Ronan Best actress for Brooklyn.

Brooklyn, simply put, is the story of a young Irish immigrant who leaves her interfering family and friends and moves to Brooklyn as many did in the 1950s.  How she adapts to America while discovering new friends as well as romance is the centerpiece of this film.  But at some point she goes home for a visit and is forced to deal with her new life versus the old.  Beautifully photographed,  well acted with an honest ending,  it will be playing at Burns for several more weeks before eventually moving to Parkway Cinemas. 

Youth is  directed by Academy Award director Paolo Sorrentino and features an International cast including Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and in a stand-out cameo, Jane Fonda.  The story centers around these characters vacationing at a spa hotel in the foothills of the Alps.  Weisz is Caine's daughter and Keitel his best friend. The men, both in their 80's face their waning years with humor and dignity.  Youth is  beautifully mounted and though slow at times, it still is a film worthy of your viewing.  Opening this weekend in NY and LA,  it should be here by Christmas.

If your choice is to stay at home and watch your movies on television or some streaming service, then A Very Murray Christmas streaming now on Netflix is the one to see.  Starring Bill Murray as a singer whose Christmas Eve cabaret act at the Carlye Hotel goes bust when New York is shut down with the snow of the century.  Joined by Paul Shaffer, late of Letterman, Amy Pohler, Maya Rudolph and more plus a dream sequence with Miley Cyrus and George Clooney that's both naughty and nice.  Now that's a gift that keeps on giving.
If you have not seen West Side Story,  playing at the Asolo, you better get your tickets now.  We saw it last week and it is sensational!!  Some of the best choreography you'll ever see, and if you're familiar with the music then you'll appreciate how well that holds up over time.  Playing through December 27.  If you only see one show this season see this one!!

If you see Westside Story on December 11th,  you can create a full day of entertainment without having to move your car! Playing that day in the Historic Asolo, same location, is National Theatre's  Everyman as performed and taped on the London stage, and featuring Academy Award nominee, Chiwetel Lojor (12 years a slave).  Everyman is successful, popular and riding high when death comes calling.  Showing at 1:00 & 6:30 PM. Enjoy lunch or Dinner at MUSE inside the visitor center of The Ringling Museum between performances.

JIM'S've heard this one before, but my son-in-law who was here this week on business stormed into the house....."what drivers you have here!!  No one pays attention to stop signs or traffic lights, and to make matters worse, I've never been in a city with so many poorly timed lights. Ridiculous.  I'm heading back to Atlanta where this isn't a problem because most days traffic is at a standstill."

Tracy not only edits well but is a good listener at home!!!  And thanks again to Debbie, who is rapidly gaining on me as she continues to eat well in SARASOTA....until next week...JIM.......
Join us Saturday 12/12 at Sarasota Farmer's Market as we  kick off our campaign for 3/6/16  PEDAL FOR PUPS