Friday, April 24, 2015

APRIL 26, 2015

Many of my readers have left to attend the event.  Some are still here and will watch at home or at the dog track.  Wherever you go have a great time.  If you're looking for a pick here....FORGET IT....I have no idea which horses are even running this year!!

On Tuesday, May 5 take your family and friends to your favorite Mexcian Restaurant for a celebration of CINCO DE MAYO.  A good excuse to drink Mexican beer and splurge on your favorite taco, enchilada, beans, rice and more.  El Toro Bravo 2720 Stickney Point Rd, a few blocks from Swift is as good as it gets for real authentic Mexican meals.

Seems like a week doesn't go by when a new restaurant opens.  BURGER AND BEER JOINT across from KONA GRILLE in UTC opened last weekend to big crowds.  After a lunch of wedge salad and sliders with fried mushrooms, I would say the attention they are getting is justified.  Below is a link to their menu.  I suggest you review before going.  there are so many choices OR you can create your own.  As for the Iceberg Wedge, the large is easily shared.  It is delicious and for the price best value in town. Click hereto see the menu.

I do know a good book; especially if you like mysteries and are a fan of Harlan Coben.  His new one, The Stranger, is another in a long line of unusual stories that keep you guessing until the end what in the world is happening.  I could not put it down.  And, if you have not read The Girl on The Train, which I recommended weeks ago, this is another one that you can't put down.  It remains #1 on all best seller lists after several weeks in publication.

Those of us who attended June Le Belle's SILL MUSIC MONDAY series were treated to a wonderful interview and performance by Brandon and Rich Ridenour.  This father and son team were exceptional and unlike other performances everyone stayed until the last note sounded on Brandon's trumpet. 

 GOOD NEWS.....They are back Saturday 7:30 (long after The Derby) and Sunday 2:00 and 7:00pm as part of the Artist Series Concerts in the Historic Asolo Theatre at the Ringling Museum of Art.  Joining them is special guest soprano Maria Bonde.

Titled "TRUMPET INVASION" it is sure to be  one of the most interesting events of this year's Artist Concert Series.  Tickets are $25-45 and can be purchased at box office or phone 941-360-7399.

Mother's Day is around the corner.  Several restaurants, clubs and hotels are offering brunch; which is a tradition in SARASOTA and most cities. I had brunch at AMORE on Longboat Key a few weeks ago.  If you like your brunch with an Italian flavor you can't pick a better place.

  How do I begin to describe what delicacies that await you?  Of course there is an omelet station.  Of course there is a carving station with as good roast beef you can get anywhere.  And all the traditional Italian dishes from pasta to lasagna, salads and more.  And if you haven't exploded there is a dessert station which is indescribable.  Mother's Day price for adults is $34.95 and $15 for children 12 and under.

If you have not ordered your tickets to Saturday May 9th ORCHESTRA IN THE OUTFIELD, the Sarasota Orchestra's annual outdoor concert at Ed. Smith Stadium, I suggest you do it NOW!! A sellout last year, it is close to one again.   Local artist,  Seyesha will be singing as part of the orchestra's tribute to America Idols like Garland, Wonder, Armstrong and Sinatra.  The program is followed by a gigantic fireworks display.   to order tickets on line click here.

For those of you in need of a good adult movie, go see the current Helen Miren The Woman  in Gold now in wide distribution.  Based on the book The Lady in Gold  it tells of one woman's determination to get paintings confiscated by the Nazi's back to this country for the Free World's enjoyment.  She has to sue the Austrian Government to do so, and against all odds succeeds.  Ryan Reynolds in an understated role as attorney is also terrific.

Next weekend's sports lineup includes afore mentioned  The Kentucky Derby along with the conclusion of the NFL Draft, and the biggest boxing fight in years Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs.  Manny Pacqiao for the World Welterweight Championship.  Billed as The Fight of the Century it will surely gross a record for a  live and pay per view event.   Also 100 million dollars are expected to be bet on fight.  In addition, playoff basketball, hockey and baseball continue.  What a weekend to stay home, grab a brew and become the couch potato you always wanted to be.

JIM'S RANT...Our Saturday walking group ventured to Nathan Benderson Park where we were greeted by 1,700 competitors in the annual FSRA Championships.  Add parents, coaches and others, and now you know why all rooms and restaurants in the area have been wall to wall since Friday.  Is it any wonder why so many of us support this venue not only for the dollars generated, but for the free publicity received  throughout the state and country.  So much for all those anti-newspaper letters.  The benefits reaped by city state and county outweigh all the negatives and then some!!! For event information click here.

Thank you Tracy and all of you for reading....see you next week...JIM

The Wides family enjoying a drink and a day in sunny Florida


Saturday, April 11, 2015

APRIL 12, 2015

Though closed today,  the 2015 Best of Ringling Juried Student Exhibition continues through next Saturday. The exhibit features Selby Gallery's works of Computer Animation and Interior Design students through 4/22.   Gallery hours are Mon-Sat 10 am -4pm. Tues 10 am-7pm.  For more information call 941-359-5100. For a complete list of galleries, exhibits and location on campus click here.

You still have time today (Sunday) to attend the final day of SIESTA FIESTA, but if you wait until Saturday 4/18 there is yet another show on ST. ARMANDS, a Fine Art Festival with original paintings, sculpture, jewelery, pottery, glass, textiles, wood, photography and more.  

 Seems like a weekend doesn't go by without at least one of these. For more information and a list of exhibitors click here.  This event is brought to you by the same company responsible for the March show on Gulfstream in downtown SARASOTA, easily the best of winter's shows!!   While visiting St. Armands you might want to sample one of their many fine restaurants, mostly old and established, but there is a new one causing lots of comments a few steps away from the Festival.

BLU KOUZINA, on N. Blvd. of the Presidents  near the Circle has been drawing lots of crowds since its opening several weeks ago.  First returns were mostly positive for the food but negative on service.  I am happy to report, the food reviews are correct, even better than advertised, and the service on the night we were there was excellent.  I realize not everyone likes or even understands Greek food,  but if you give BLU a chance, I think you will become hooked.

Our group ate way too much from the large menu including warm bread to Greek Salad to Lamb and more.  Everything was served piping hot and easily shared.  Be prepared to eat family style as portions are ample and designed for sharing.  We did not have their coffee or baklava as we were stuffed from the meal, but our friends raved!

My advice to those of you who were disappointed last month  go back for a second helping.

Continuing through 4/19 is the SARASOTA OPEN professional tennis tournament in its new Lakewood Ranch location.  This Southwest Florida event attracts many of the top players on the ATP World Tour.  Past champions include Kei Nishikori, James Blake and Nick Kyrgios.  Moving this year to Lakewood Ranch Tennis Center, it features  two stadium courts including the newly constructed James T. Driscoll Centre Court. For more information on schedule as well as directions to Lakewood Ranch site click here.

Longtime reader, Judy Bronstein writes this week of a new restaurant find on Osprey.  Just a few doors down from neighborhood favorite Knicks and across the street from Serving Spoon is FANDANGO'S. Owner Fred, who first became prominent here as one of the original owners of Chutney's way back to the mid-80's, is reinventing himself in a big way.

  This is a very casual, reasonably priced restaurant featuring  Middle Eastern, Persian, Indian, Caribbean, Oriental and vegetarian. I don't know how they accomplish this feat in such a small space,   Judy and friends were very pleased with their meals and recommend we all try it and let Fred know who sent them.  I am going to take her up on that suggestion next month.

Those of you who have not purchased tickets for this week's GREAT ESCAPES/DOWNTON ABBEY concerts at Holley Hall, waited too long.  All four evening's are SOLD OUT!!  You can add your name to a wait list starting Sunday, April 12.  Their web site does not make it clear the best way to go about this.  Here are two  the box office tomorrow morning 941-953-3434 or click here for the site and scroll to "send email" and try that way.

If the popular PBS series is one of your favorites, I would try to get on that wait list.  The holidays are over, and the young spring breakers are not into Abbey.  Included in the program will be music from Titanic, War Horse, and a tribute to Charlie Chaplin. 

Starting Sunday April 12th and for the next four Sundays, the Spring Music Series at Selby Gardens is back.  The music changes from week to week.  Your membership gets you in for free, or become a member for a day.  Bring your own lawn chairs, sit in the shade of many banyan trees. listen to great music and enjoy food from several unique vendors.  Don't tell me there's nothing to do in SARASOTA in the spring!! 

At this point in the blog.....A friendly reminder....if you have not already filed your 2104 income tax forms they are due on Wednesday....but you already knew that...right????

JIM'S RANT.....Friday's Herald editorial on the Florida  on our WEAK texting law was right on!!!  Since October 2013 the grand total of 45, yes you saw it correctly, 45 citations have been issued.  Florida's law is secondary; cars cannot be pulled over for just texting.  C'mon guys get with the program.  Texting is illegal in 45 states and The District of Columbia.  When was the last time you saw someone texting and driving??Today maybe.....

Tracy as always has done her creative job of manipulation and making me look good.  Have a great week.....JIM

Saturday, April 4, 2015

APRIL 5, 2015


Tonight (Sunday) also marks the opening of 2015 Baseball Season with a very nontraditional game at Wrigley Field between the Cubs and Cardinals.  I can only assume this event was created with a renovated Wrigley Field in mind.  Though there is one of those gigantic high-def scoreboards, the bleachers are nowhere  ready, and the Cardinal's players will have to shower elsewhere.

Here's good wishes to our immediate area teams, BALTIMORE ORIOLES, PITTSBURGH PIRATES and our neighbors to the north TAMPA BAY RAYS.  My predictions for this season are playoffs for Baltimore and Pittsburgh but not Tampa. Joe Madden has departed, pitching issues and no hitting continue to be an issue.  But who knows, I've been wrong before....lots of times.

A JIM KNOWS SARASOTA EXCLUSIVE!!!!!!.....Finally, the long awaited commitment by CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN to open in Sarasota!!.....Construction on an out parcel near UTC  begins this summer with a target opening early 2016.  This news has been confirmed by the people at their Tampa store. No formal announcement by Benderson Development.

Mark your calendar for a special performance of ARIEL QUARTET,  part of the Perlman Music Hear and Now series featuring PMP alumni.  Sunday, April 19, 3p.m. Sarasota Opera House.  Tickets are from $30-40 with a meet the Artists  Reception following the concert for an additional $40.  Call 941-386-8450 to purchase tickets Or you can simply click here and order the tickets on line.  

On Wednesday, April 22, AJC West Coast Florida is sponsoring a special ASOLO matinee of the recently opened Sotto Voice.  The performance is at the historic Asolo Theatre located in the Ringling Museum Welcome Center. Included with your $50 ticket is High Tea & Panel discussion with the cast and moderator Matt Walsh, owner and publisher of The Observer.

Sotto Voice  tells an all too familiar WW11 tragedy of the S.S. St.Louis, a ship carrying Jewish refugees fleeing Germany.  Refused entry by Cuba and US, the ship was forced to return to Europe where its passengers faced concentration camps.  The narrative comes from a German born novelist who lost the true love of her life on that ship.  She relives those days  years later when a young writer contacts her while doing book  research of the ship's tragic voyage.

To purchase tickets for this event,  contact the Asolo box office 941-351-8000 and use Discount Code SOTTOAJC. 

FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE/CABARET has again extended the run of AMERICAPIE through May 3.   We have not seen this show yet, but are going to in a few weeks.  Everyone who has seen PIE tells us it is one of the best Cabaret shows in recent history.  You will experience the music of the 60's, 70's and 80's with artists including Neil Diamond, Carole King, Elton John and Billy Joel.  To purchase tickets for this show as well as other shows playing at FST click here.

Get your DVR ready for today (Sunday 4/5) when not only Mr. Selfridge and The Good Wife continue, but MAD MEN, on AMC, begins its final seven episodes.  This ground breaking series will be missed not only for its wonderful story but strict attention to detail.  Seven seasons, nine mistresses,and thousands of Lucky Stirkes!!  I was there in Chicago as a struggling time salesman when Mad Men began. Everything about it is true.  It really happened; the drinking, smoking, lusting and eating.  

And HBO, which at least can be seen On Demand with no commercial interruption,  commemorates the 100th birthday of one of our greatest entertainers Frank Sinatra.

This two part documentary event, with plenty of his actual performances runs tonight (Sunday) and Monday at 8PM.  For many of us who grew up with Frank, this one will bring back lots of memories.

You may ask why all of this great programming on Sundays??  Why not another night??   Simply put, more people watch television tonight than any other night of the week.  Sounds like one of the Four questions!!!
We  had an interesting dinner last week at CRAB & FIN.  Packed with diners both inside and out, it was a fun experience, and believe it or not, this was my first dinner at Crab & Fin after several years here. Not only is the food good, but I can only imagine the fun one has by sitting outside while listening to piano player and watching the crowds walk by.  There are several seafood restaurants I prefer, but you can't beet this one for atmosphere.

Also, we  paid a visit to LAZY LOBSTER  on Gulf of Mexico Drive.  They have a location on Lockwood Ridge in SARASOTA and a less elaborate but equally good spin off,  KACEY'S seafood and more on Fruitville Rd. East of McIntosh.  When we left after 8pm there was a 90 minute wait for tables.  My guess is isolated location and difficulty getting off the island this time of year adds to their popularity.  Quite frankly, the food is better at Kacey's.

JIM'S RANT.......Am I dreaming or is our traffic nightmare over?? Seems so; though The Herald Tribune disagrees.  The season may still be going strong, but many have left to go north for Passover and Easter.  April continues to be a busy tourist month with spring breakers, but I guess the snowbirds got tired of the sunshine and decided to gamble on the weather turning warmer in their neck of the woods. LOL.....have a good summer.  See you next year when all those new road projects kick in..OUCH

Tracy has done her usual great editing job even though she complained about the length this week.  Unfortunately I heard about CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN yesterday (Friday) and could not wait......Until next week.....JIM