Friday, January 30, 2015

FEBRUARY 1, 2014

SUPER BOWL SUNDAY....Need I say more?????

Idina Manzel will be singing the National Anthem, John Legend sings America The Beautiful,  and Katy Perry along with Lenny Kravitz will be performing at halftime.  Between all the entertainment and some really  good football, the deflated balls issue will be put aside.  Two terrific teams.  Seattle, the favorite with most viewers not odds makers to beat those nasty, cheating New England Patriots.  My Prediction...New England...fueled by their  ball controversy and all the negative comments from former players and an us against the world mentality will be victorious 34-16.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR.....The second annual PEDAL FOR PUPS takes place Sunday, March 8  at 8am in Nathan Benderson Park.  Last year's event, with very little promotion; mostly word of mouth, raised over $60,000.00.  PUP'S goal is to at least double that figure this year.  

You have two ways to contribute.  Either ride or walk with or without your pups or just make a donation to Nate's Animal Rescue.  Randy and Shaun Benderson have stepped up and offered to match the first $20,000.00 raised this year.

There are several mileage categories for bikers and walkers, t shirts for all  entrants, refreshments, entertainment and a wonderful way to spend the first Sunday of Daylight Savings Time. To register as an individual or team click here. It is never too early to get started.  All money collected goes to Nate's Honor Animal Rescue.

I hope to see you there.  More information in coming blogs.  But if you want to volunteer at Nate's or make a donation then this site will be of great benefit.

Not too far from Pedal For Pups sits two sparkling new circus tents about to become alive with this year's production of CIRCUS always featuring Sarasota's own Nik Wallenda.  Instead of walking over water, canyons and skyscrapers,  Nik and his family will once again attempt the iconic Wallenda family trademark , the Seven Person Pyramid, including two former students from Sailor Circus making their professional debut.

But there is much more than Wallenda and his family.   Several circus acts from around the globe will be making their USA debut with hand balancing, juggling, acrobatics, horses and much much more.  The tents are new, seating has been imported from Italy, the location is ideal for parking, dining and shopping and you won't get better value than opening weekend when tickets are 20%off courtesy of ABC 7.  Regular prices range from $12 to $50. Tickets can be purchased here or at box office 355-9805

Performances will run from Friday February 6 through Sunday, February 22.

FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE, in the midst of its most successful season yet, has added still another show to their crowded schedule.  I'm A Stranger Here Myself  is written and performed by Internationally acclaimed and multi-award winning entertainer Mark Nadler.  Nadler takes the roles of several well know German actors, artists and musicians and becomes them.  Marlene Dietrich, Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill are just a few.

This show is not a part of subscription series and will only be here for a limited engagement 3/17-3/29 at the Keating Theatre.  The New York times labeled this one "broadly historical and deeply personal." Tickets are available now on line here or at 366-9000. 

Opening this weekend at Hollywood 20 and Royal Palm 20, A MOST VIOLENT YEAR,  has been playing for several weeks in New York and LA.   It is now going wide, having missed out on any Academy nominations.  I can tell you first hand this is exceptional movie.  Jessica Chastain, Oscar Issac and an unrecognizable Albert Brooks all deliver great understated performances.  Nowhere near the violence the title suggests.  Just an old-fashioned good guy vs. bad guy in NY around 1981 when unions were using force to recruit members.

There were so many last minute entries into theatres last year, this one was definitely overlooked.  Go now, or wait for Parkway, but don't miss it!!  

SARASOTA is a city filled to the brim with all types of restaurants.  Many have early happy hours designed to bring you into the restaurant before the evening dining begins in earnest.  We had the fortune to return to Fleming's  recently for their 5 items for $6 until 7PM. The menu is only available in the bar.  Since the bar was full at 4:30, management was most obliging with a table within range of the bar.  Every bite was good, but especially good were the hamburgers complete with cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato and french fries.  At $7, easily the best for price in town.  To see for yourself click here.

February's SARASOTA Magazine lists Fleming's as one of their top 21 restaurants for 2015.  I have not compiled my own list, but I don't think it would include this one.  However; it is still a well populated steak house very crowded on the Tuesday we were there.

In the coming weeks, we'll be visiting more and letting you know the good along with the not so good.

JIM'S RANT.....With gas prices at historic lows, at least as low as I can remember, why aren't several industries reducing prices consummate with the drop in fuel costs?  When was the last time you were at Publix or your favorite grocery store?  Notice any drop in prices?  And how about booking your next flight??  Any drop there???  The consumer always gets the short end of the stick.

Enjoy the game today.  It should be a good one.  AND don't eat too much! You don't want to put on all the weight you lost in January after the holidays.   Tracy, as always you are terrific...until next week I leave you with this picture.....

Thursday, January 22, 2015

JANUARY 25, 2014


Continuing Season of Discovery, the SARASOTA  Orchestra under the direction of Anu Tali presents its third Masterworks concerts...ENIGMA...Thursday through Sunday.  Guest artist, Steven Hough, one of classical music's living legends, joins the Orchestra and  is featured in several piano pieces, including his tribute to British composer, Benjamin Britten.

The Orchestra has been receiving rave reviews, and with the season in full swing, these performances will sell quickly. To order tickets for these concerts click here.

AMORE, a new restaurant on Long Boat Key, has been drawing crowds from all over,  so we decided to see for ourselves.  This new restaurant is owned by Adrea Bozzolo whose popular Andrea's on Siesta Drive in Sarasota continues to thrive. AMORE is in  Paul Mattison's former location tucked behind Publix.

On a Saturday night in January, full to capacity, what jumps out to you immediately is the noise.  Most restaurants here are loud; this one seems louder.  The food is good, not great and for the most part,  not inexpensive; especially if you like a drink or two with your meal.  The service was quite good with many assisting our server.  Amore is a fine addition to those who live on the Islands of Sarasota/Bradenton.   Unless meeting friends who live in that area, it is not a place I would go out of my way to visit.
Chicken Kitchen is having a grand opening celebration this Saturday.  Along with neighbors, Subway and Tijuana Flats. All proceeds that day will go to Girls, Inc.  Along with music and entertainment on the side parking lot; there will be inside and outside dining with a family celebration from 12-3 and an adult party 6-9 with beer and wine for sale.  Come join the fun and at the same time make a contribution to a worthy cause.

The Location is in the Kohl's Center 5215 University Parkway.  While there you can also visit Fresh Market, Jason's Deli and Square 1 Gourmet Burgers, Peltz Shoes, Ryder Bikes and several other retailers.

I am always in search of new and different restaurants.  Found one last Saturday while walking downtown.  IONIE..Amazingly Delicious states their menu.  However, the menu is interesting, and is 100% Organic-Vegan-Raw.  Hours are Monday-Saturday 8:30am-3:30pm.  Not a recommendation from me, but for you nutritious conscious readers, their menu is unusual and not overly priced.  See for yourself by clicking here.  If any of you do try Ionie,  please send me your review and I will use in a future blog.

This week's  SILL/ Music Monday Series was special featuring father and son team of Brandon Ridenour on trumpet and his father Richard on piano.  From Gershwin to Chopsticks we were entertained as well as educated on this duo's success.  And the good news is they are coming back to SARASOTA in May to perform at the Historic Asolo / Artist Series.  There will be two performances one at 7:30 on May 2 and the other at 2:00 pm on May 3. To purhcase tickets before a sure sellout or to learn more about the entire series click here.

AMERICAN SNIPER one of the six movies nominated for an Academy Award is raw and brutally frank.  Telling the story of Chris Kyle who served 4 tours of duty in Iraq,  it is straight forward like most Clint Eastwood movies.  Bradley Cooper is at his best and in my mind goes to the front of the line for Best Actor.  He is totally believable.  And for those who have followed his career from frat boy humor flicks to adult movies he has easily become one of the best earning an acting nomination for the past 3 years.  It will be hard to not give it to him this time.

You have until February 16 to see one of the grandest art exhibits of our era.  No, unfortunately it is not in SARASOTA , but only a few miles away.  Now at the DALI MUSEUM in St.  Petersburg, about 45 minutes from University and 75, the best of Dali is combining with the best of Picasso for a once in a lifetime opportunity to see these great artists  side by side.   After the museum experience, lunch awaits you at THE HANGAR next to Museum.   You can leave your car and walk to one of the most popular casual restaurants in that area. Click here for menu and hours of operation.

JIM'S RANT.....Throughout the country as well as SARASOTA, record numbers of you are suffering either the flu or a bad cold.  Please do yourselves and those around you a favor.....STAY HOME.....GET RID OF THE not pass on to others..
Friday evening a childhood idol of mine passed away.  Living within blocks of Wrigley Field, I was privileged to see Ernie Banks  play the game of shortstop as well as anyone ever has.  He was one for the ages and will be missed.

Thank you Tracy for a job well done and the necessary editing need this week.  Until next week.......JIM

Friday, January 16, 2015

JANUARY 18, 2015


An extraordinary leader in the movement for racial equality you can now see a rousing biopic of Dr. King's life in SELMA. It is easily the best of all the "Great Men" movies in theaters now. 

 Nominated for an Academy Award that will surely go to BOYHOOD, it covers the chapter of his legacy; the tinderbox three-month period in early 1965 when he led a campaign of civil disobedience to help speed up the passage of President Johnson's Civil Rights Act.  King's accomplishment reverberates today as we go through another period of unrest among police and people of a different color. 

The movie is slowly paced, but it is beautifully acted and takes you back to an era where Governors like George Wallace ruled the South.  His son recently defended his father as unfairly portrayed in the movie.  I remember it well, and Wallace was a bigot!!!

Enough of the serious stuff, let's get down to the business of SARASOTA, mostly good, but some not so good.

The day is beautiful and so is the Craft Show on Gulfstream downtown SARASOTA.  One of the best we've seen at this site in years.  It's worth the trip.  Only two blocks in length, nearly every booth has imaginative and creative crafts for every pocketbook.

I recently had dinner at STATE STREET, one of the trendy new restaurants to open off Main St. and at the time, one of the better.  Not so today.

 They are an over-priced, under-portion imitation of their former selves.  Success definitely got the better of them; from management to service.  The menu has been downsized, portions are small, where once they could be shared, the substitutions no longer allowed, and the service so rushed it made our party uncomfortable.  There are several better choices throughout the market.

One of the better new restaurants, is SOPHIE'S at NIGHT .  We've had dinner there twice in the last month.  The food is delicious.  The portions are large.  The menu ranges from cheeseburger to fish.  And the prices are no higher than most of the better restaurants here.  The big advantage of SOPHIE'S is their intimacy which allows you to have a table conversation without shouting.

A couple of very interesting and informative  events are scheduled over the next few weeks.  Both are presented by Jewish Organizations, but open to the community.  AJC's 2015 Winter Lunch & Learn program is Friday January 30, 11:30-1:30 at Michael's On East.  Titled, "The Changing Face of Christianity and Its Meaning for Christian-Jewish Relations, it features Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC director of inter religious and Inter group Relations and Rev. Dr. Cynthia M. Campbell, Pastor highland Presbyterian Church, Louisville, KY.

For $25 you get a delicious lunch and informative program to go with it at one of Sarasota's finest restaurants.  Last summer's programs were well attended so I suggest you contact Tess at AJC tomorrow 941-365-4955 or email  Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, January 28, 7pm at Riverview High School, 1 Ram Way, SARASOTA,  JEWISH FEDERATION's People of the Book 2015 speaker is recent Golden Globe winner, Jeffrey Tambor.  The event serves to recognize and thank Federation's Annual Campaign donors; those making a minimum gift of $36 individual/$72 household are invited to attend the event as guests of Federation.  Limit two tickets per household. For more information or to make a contribution contact Jeremy Dictor at 941-343-2106 or

Tambor is best remembered for his roles in Arrested Development, and Larry Sanders,  but his new Amazon series, Transparent,  has certainly revived his career.

Don't forget to mark your calendar for next Saturday and Sunday when  the biggest craft show of the season pops up at St. Armands Circle.   Always well attended with more art, crafts, pottery, jewelry and statues than any other show this season.  Plan on arriving early as parking is a premium, and depending on weather, outside of Siesta Fiesta, this one outdraws any on Main St.  And has been doing so for 12 years!!!!

Is it my imagination, or does SARASOTA have more food-trucks than anywhere in the country?  It sure seems so, and this next discovery can be made in most neighborhood's with a large commercial office park.  One exists at 5901 Honore in the office complex across the street from the Sarasota Memorial Urgent Care Center.

This past Friday, we spotted a truck not only with my first name, but good food beyond their meatballs; JIMMY MEATBALLS!!!  A different truck occupies this  space every Friday, and by the line waiting to be served, it is a busy location. The food varies from burgers to hot dogs to ribs.  Fast, convenient to those who live east of 41, but if you are going to UTC and want a fast bite this is the place.

SPRING TRAINING is almost here! In fact the ORIOLES just concluded a mini camp for pitchers and rehabbing players at Ed Smith Stadium. No mention in the Herald!!  The real training begins next month with games scheduled for the month of March.  In what surely will be a sell-out season of spring training games, I suggest you get your tickets early!!  Mark your calendar for 1/24 10:am when single tickets go on sale at the stadium.

JIM'S RANT....Happy to read FDOT has awoken from Rip Van Winkle nap and decided to do something about the light problems on University Parkway.  When more cars are allowed into UPCC on a green arrow than are allowed to make left turn from University onto 41(Tamiami Trail) it doesn't take a brain surgeon to see a problem.  Nowhere in the article does it mention a time frame.  Considering the work on Old Bradenton Rd. is into its second year; it won't be soon!!!!!......

Kudos to Daniel Jordan for his virtuoso performance from Fiddler on the Roof at this weekend's pops concerts.  His standing ovation was well deserved.  The concert itself was mixed.  With an entertaining first half and so so second half. 

Thank you Tracy.  Until next week you have a great one....JIM

Saturday, January 10, 2015

JANUARY 11, 2015



There are several reasons to live or visit this, accessibility to other Florida cities, shopping, dining....BUT one of the best reasons is our many venues featuring music, theater, opera, orchestra and art.  This week I will hit what I consider some of the best, but surely not all.

Extended for a last time through 1/24,  HAIRSPRAY, at FST/Gompertz is a must!!! I finally saw this production last week and was literally blown away.  The show, as performed on a small stage with one of the best casts I have seen anywhere, to my mind anyway, is the most entertaining of all the other editions The cast is genuinely engaged, energetic, talented and puts on a show that brings the audience to its feet at the end.  Greg London, in the featured role of Edna Turnblad, is BETTER than Harvey Firestein.

Now playing at the original FST Keating location is DANCING LESSONSOnly 90 minutes without an intermission, it is nevertheless compelling theater.  The subject matter about a college professor with autism in search of dance lessons has received rave reviews from critics and friends. 

I have not seen DANCING LESSONS yet, and won't until the middle of January,  but based on word of mouth and the quality of this theater's productions, I recommend going.  What can you lose?  Literally, for the price of a pizza and beer  you can see a high caliber show.

This weekend at the Van Wezel, the Sarasota Orchestra under the direction of Andrew Lane is presenting  the first of three Pops Series programs...VOICES of the Movies.  Some of the most memorable music of our era has been composed for the cinema.  Oscar winning as well as classic favorites will be performed by Broadway talents Susan Egan and David Burnham. 

Among the dozens of songs are last year's Academy Award winner Let It Go from Frozen, a Judy Garland medley, music from Lawrence of Arabia, Fiddler on the Roof, a medley of several Oscar winners, and much, much more.

These Pops concerts are nearly sold out.  You can call the box office at 941-953-3434 or click here to order tickets on line.  If you are a Great Escapes attendee, you surly will enjoy the full Pops Orchestra in an acoustically friendly environment.

Friday, January 16 from 4:30-7 pm, you are invited to a new event hosted by Ringling College of Art and Design: ART WALK.  Have you ever wondered what is going on at one of the best universities of its kind in the US?  Here is a chance to check it out.  Seven galleries throughout the campus will be open to visitors. 

Exhibitions include a traveling show from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, stunning artist glass, creative videos and more.  Along with plenty of convenient parking, refreshments will be served at all seven galleries. For a complete list of galleries along with exhibitions at each click here.

Now playing through February 8 at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is the well reviewed Knock Me A KissWritten by Charles Smith, it is the story of the clashing of wills between a  well-known father and his adventurous daughter. This is the second show of this season's subscription series.

The third show,  February 25-April 4 , Jazz Hot Mamas has already been extended a week due to popular demand and is nearly sold-out. Featuring the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughn, and Peggy Lee it will bring lots of memories for those lucky enough to have tickets.If you  have not been to this theater,  it is located downtown on Orange and 10th Street. To learn more about the theatre, purchase tickets, show times and more click here.

Last week, SILL (Sarasota Institute of Lifetime Learning) began its 44th season of classes/lectures with one of the most popular of SARASOTA  programs, Music Monday Series.  This year due to the limited capacity of Holley Hall, they have moved to the spacious, beautiful, accessible and the vastly improved sound system of Church of the Palms 3224 Bee Ridge Rd.  Eleven programs remain, and you can still order a season ticket for $85.  Tickets are available at the door and cost $10 for each performance.

Host June LeBelle was the first female announcer of a major commercial classical music station in the U.S.  She continues on radio today Sundays 4-5pm on WSMR 89.1&103.9 with artist interviews and music. For information on GLOBAL ISSUES SERIES now extended to Lakewood Ranch click here.

ASOLO REPERTORY THEATRE began their 56th season in style with the nearly sold out run of South Pacific.  Now, the theater resumes its schedule with a series of plays  culminating in May and June with a world premiere Luck Be a Lady, the iconic music of Frank Loesser and Woody Sez, the life and music of Woody Guthrie.

Currently playing is The Matchmaker, a play by Thornton Wilder.  This is the show that inspired one of the most popular musicals in Broadway history, Hello Dolly.  Opening a few days ago, I will have more to say about this in a coming blog. To get a complete schedule click here.

TELEVISION ALERT...Tonight( Sunday) on NBC 8-11pm, it's the GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS with hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.  This is the first of many award shows leading up to the ACADEMY AWARDS hosted by Neil Patrick Harris on February 22 on ABC. The Oscar nominees will be announced live on Good Morning America this Thursday.

JIM'S RANT.....How many of you have recently had phone conversation with a bank, credit card company or newspaper...stupid question, as I am sure most of us have had  the "pleasure" of being prompted to death only to get the wrong department and go through all the same prompts again while yelling "representative" or customer service"??  And all those out-source call centers.....makes you yearn for good old cash only days....

Thanks to all of you who purchased DERSHOWITZ tickets this week for his now sold out presentation.   And thanks to Tracy for her attention to detail....until next week.....JIM

Guess the grandchildren

Friday, January 2, 2015

JANUARY 4, 2015


Beginning Tuesday you can purchase tickets for the first LEN MAZUR MEMORIAL LECTURE on Global Anti-Semitism featuring well known attorney, television commentator and Israel's most visible defender, Alan DERSHOWITZ.  Len's wife Ros and family are making this possible for a small donation of $15 per ticket 7:00 PM February 25, The Ritz Carlton Sarasota.  Free parking available (gratuity not included).  There are only 800 seats and they could be gone by tomorrow's end. To order tickets starting Tuesday, click here.

With the rise of Anti-Semitism around the world and the continued deteriorating race relations in the US, the Mazur family  could not have picked a better time or spokesperson to address these issues.  No matter what your faith, I urge you to attend this important lecture.

Now and continuing through January 30,  good friend and artist extraordinaire, Janet Mishner, will have many of her collages and recent works on display at Art Uptown Gallery at 1367 Main Street.  Janet and the gallery are hosting a wine and cheese reception Friday January 9th from 6pm until 9pm.  This is not a first Friday, so crowds and parking should not be difficult. 

 While there, please look for the many new shops and restaurants on Main St.  I wrote about several in my last blog of 2014, and Justine Griffen featured many in her Business Article in Monday's Herald Tribune.

A few weeks ago, we re-visited  one of SARASOTA'S first go to restaurants, Captain Brian's at 8421 N. Tamiami Trail.  I believe they offered one of the first Sarasota  Early Bird Special Dinners and still do 4pm-5:30pm.  But at any time their prices are ridiculously low and include one of the best salad bars in our city.  The fish is fresh, always available, and they have some of the best stone crabs in the area.   You can also shop in their Seafood Market where much of the fish served on the menu is available to take home for your own creative recipes.

Years ago, long lines were the norm. That's not the case anymore.  It does not mean the restaurant is empty.  To the contrary, the night I was there they were busy with a short wait.  BUT over the years, their quality and service have remained consistent.  Dress casual and enjoy dining like it used to be.  Brian's is also open for lunch with most of the dinner menu at even lower prices. For complete menu click here.

TONIGHT (Sunday, 1/4) at 9pm on CNN is the first television showing of a sure to be Academy Award nominee for best documentary, LIFE ITSELF.  This is the amazing story of Roger Ebert as he fights throat cancer while it takes away his speech but never his determined spirit to live life to the fullest even bedridden and in and out of hospitals.  This movie played the festival circuit in 2014 and was featured at Burns Court Cinema as well.  Filmed until his death, it will break your heart as well as uplift your spirits.

  It also tells in detail his rocky relationship with Gene Siskel, a Chicago movie critic competitor, who reluctantly joined forces with Ebert  to create one of the most popular shows ever on PBS.  As Roger would say, "two thumbs up" for this terrific movie.  Don't miss it, but at least DVR for future viewing.  I saw it and highly recommend.

Also returning tonight on PBS Downton Abbey, and later this week my favorite on FX American Horror Story/Freak Show.

HOLIDAY MOVIES....A few weeks ago I recommended THE IMITATION GAME finally showing at Burns Court.  Their recent Golden Globe nominations and Oscar buzz make this one a must.  It is taut, well acted, and is based on a true story during the tumultuous days of WW11. This movie is another reason NOT to miss CINE WORLD come November.  At least one movie from this event goes onto Oscar consideration.

STILL ALICE, not playing in Sarasota yet, is sure to be an Academy Nominee for best actress Julianne Moore.  Her performance is raw, real, emotional, heartwarming, exceptional....I could go on, but you get the point.  This is the most real performance of her career if she doesn't win the Oscar it will be a travesty of justice.  Alec Baldwin plays her husband, Kristan Stewart one of her daughters and her son in real life is her son here.  If you know someone who has Alzheimer's you will totally relate to this movie.  NOT TO BE MISSED!!!!  Opening in a few weeks.

INTO THE WOODS is a treat for all ages.   Adapted by Disney from the Sondheim Broadway musical, it weaves several well known Grimm  fairy tales into an eye popping movie featuring  Meryl Streep as A wicked witch.  Her voice is much better than in Mama Mia which leads me to believe her singing in dubbed.  I cannot find anything to back me up, but I stand by this.

The cast includes Emily Blunt, James Corden, Christine Biranski, Chris Pine and many more.  I am not a lover of Sondheim, but his music along with the Disney special effects, and charming story make this one of the better Broadway musical adaptions in memory.

A week from today,  the Temple Emanu-El sisterhood is presenting a one time only showing of TO LIFE! a dazzling insight into Jewish composers and lyricists who created the American Songbook.  Richard Friedman, instructor of American Musical Theatre at The Institute for Life Long Learning will be your host for this mixed video/talk presentation. Some of the composers include Ocsar Hammerstien 11, Kurt Weill, Richard Rogers, Jules Styne and more who  were at the epicenter of Broadway musicals.
The program on Sunday, January 11th includes a light lunch. It begins at 12:30 at Temple Emanu-El.  Tickets for the event are $18, available at the door, and OPEN to the Entire Community.  For $25 you can get a wine and hors d'oeurves reception following the presentation.   Temple Emanu-El is located 151 McIntosh Rd. Sarasota.  Email Wendy Barnett for more information.

JIM'S RANT....This is the heart of flu, cold and cough season.  Many of you are trying to get through the day without sneezing.  If sick, please don't go to your nearest fitness center where germs are bad enough.  But if you must then use the wipes provided to wipe off the equipment!!  More don't than do.  I've called out a few at CRUNCH.  I'm sure you've seen them at your club. Stay home and get well before spreading your germs around......

Tracy is aboard again as editor this year.  Until next week......JIM