Thursday, November 26, 2015

NOVEMBER 29, 2015

Don't look for me in this crowd.  I was smart enough to avoid the traffic!!!

FIRST SARASOTA presents their annual Singing Christmas Tree, a Christmas tradition for the past 41 years. It begins on Sunday December 6th and runs for only  6 performances.  If you've never seen this one, buy tickets now!!!  Its a holiday musical experience like none other.

Singing Christmas Tree is at the church located 1670 Main St. It is easily accessible to the many restaurants in the downtown SARASOTA  area. For a schedule and ticket purchase click here.

Hollywood 20 and AMC Sarasota 12 are the only places  in town to see one of the better movies of this or any year....SPOTLIGHT....dealing with the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize winning Boston Globe investigation of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal that shocked the world.  Not since All The President's Men has there been such a compelling movie dealing with REAL newspaper reporting and investigation.

An ensemble cast led by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber and more make you feel their pain as they discover what has been hidden by the church for years.  A true Academy Award candidate in every major category, you do not want to miss this one.

There are several well-reviewed movies open, now that the Adult season has started.  Brooklyn, Trumbo and incredibly, Sylvester Stallone has reinvented his Rocky franchise with Creed.

Every review is positive!  I thought Southpaw was the last boxing movie for me, but I am definitely going to this one.  More good movies on the horizon.

The perfect theatre going location
Several of you have been to THE  ROSEMARY at 411 N. Orange Ave.  I have been there as has my contributing Editor Debbie Yonker who writes..."Savory Street was one of our Saturday lunch group favorites, so we went to The Rosemary hoping it would be good enough to return again.  Yes, we will.

The new decor is very nice.  No more bakery counter and the back room had its wall of weeds removed.  New tables, chairs and linens.  And one of Savory's best servers, Lynn, remains.  The food was varied, well prepared and very tasty.  The menu is a work in progress, and though some of our favorite breakfast items were not available after 11, the owner told us he would work on it.

A sample of Rosemary food presentation
The Rosemary is a good location for dinner before performances at the West Coast Black Theatre as well as The Van Wezel and others as it is located on the corner of Orange and 4th.  There is ample off street parking.   Open daily for breakfast and lunch and til 9pm for dinner Wed-Sat. 
Click here for menu and days open for lunch, breakfast and dinner.

For everyone waiting the arrival of SOL MEYER NY Delicatessen, the wait is over.  SOL'S opened Friday at 1743 Main Street, and if my email folder is any indication, several of you have already been there.  Reviews so far are mixed; though I had half of a delicious sandwich hand delivered by a friend.  I will see for myself today (Sunday).  For menu and hours of operation click here.
Here is a unique idea for your Christmas/Hanukkah gift, and you don't have to go far to purchase it, SOUTHERN BASKET, a true Sarasota company  selling gourmet jams, jellies, mustard, pickles, and more from their Saturday Sarasota Farmers Market location  on Lemon and State St.  Or if you don't get down to the market,  proprietor Gail Jeffrey is available by phone 941-923-7451 or

Items too numerous to mention ; however here are a few....Strawberry Jam--low sugar, twice the fruit, Blueberry Jam--spiced with cinnamon and vanilla--and Key Lime Jelly...along with her unique pickles and mustard makes for a wonderful gift or your own use.  We've purchased several items from her over the years.  All exceptional quality and long lasting. AND, if Gail's products are good enough  for the Sarasota Ritz Carlton, then they meet a higher standard than most similar items being sold everywhere.

I am saving reviews of BEACH BISTRO, MARCELLO,  until next week.  There is more restaurant news on horizon.  It was announced in the Herald last week,  the Caragiuilo family is converting the Sam Snead property into Veronica Fish & Oyster, a more formal seafood restaurant different than Owen's Fish Camp.   And there are plans to bring a second Owen's Fish Camp to University-I75  somewhere in the Cooper Creek area, but not on that property.  The list keeps on growing. Einstein Bagels on 41 reopens tomorrow (Monday) and Fresh Kitchen is open Now in Cooper Creek Center!!! Daily Eats opens December 9 in same location.

There are some terrific television programs this week with more specials to come in the days leading up to Christmas.  Tomorrow, ABC begins a four week run of The Great Holiday Baking Show, a UK sensation seen recently on PBS.  This American version airs from10-11PM on Monday's and begins with cookies and continues from there. On Wednesday, NBC kicks off the holiday season with the 81st annual lighting of the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center with James Taylor, Andrea Bocelli and more.

On Thursday, NBC is presenting their annual live musical event The Wiz featuring Queen Latifah and a cast of unknowns, among them Shanise Williams, a 19 year old playing Dorothy. Williams will surely become an overnight sensation.  I saw a special on the making of this program, and I wouldn't miss it if I were you.  Remember that handy DVR. 

And finally, a week from today (Sunday) from 9-11PM,  CBS is celebrating what would have been Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday with a Las Vegas concert featuring Tony Bennett, Lady GaGa, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood and many more.
Here's a family-fun show opening Wednesday 12/2 and running right through New Year's Eve...AMOTOWN CHRISTMAS created and directed by theatre founder Nate Jacobs.  The Westcoast Black Theatre's Christmas presentation is far different than the current sell-out FST Cabaret production Soul Mates.  All your Christmas favorites by cast members singing in the style of Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The supremes, Smokey Robinson and more.  This is an entirely new production and will rotate each season with last year's successful Black Nativity. For a complete schedule of performances and to order tickets click here.


JIM'S RANT....Most of my readers are of an age when BLACK FRIDAY was just that.  Stores opened at midnight; people camped out for days under tent and blanket; and outlandish specials were available for a few hours before supplies ran out.  But now, there is no real BLACK FRIDAY as those sales began several days ago and continue right until CHRISTMAS. Oh, for the good old days......

As usual, Tracy did a fabulous job of editing this mess.  And what can I say about Debbie..Just keep on finding those outstanding restaurants to write about. And forgive me for this week's length.  So much happening, I made several cuts to get to this point.   Until next week.....JIM


Friday, November 20, 2015

NOVEMBER 22, 2015


If your guests this holiday are 18 or older I suggest you head to Venice to see a new version of the classic musical HAIR, running through 12/14.  There are mature themes, nudity and strobe lighting, but this version directed by Ben Vereen has been lauded by critics and those who have seen it.  I can still remember some of the music and my awe at seeing HAIR on Broadway years ago.  Tickets are scarce so I urge you to click here now to purchase tickets for this week as soon as possible.

For weeks , I've been telling you about WEST SIDE STORY, the Asolo's season opening  production. Well, it's here with rave reviews; especially Jay Handelman's Herald Tribune article of a week ago as well as Marty Fugate and JuneLebelle's Thursay  Observer reviews.  This one is for the ENTIRE family.  It is especially topical today what with the immigration issue front and center in Presidential debates.  This is a country of immigrants, and never better portrayed on stage than in this performance.  We are going Friday.  To order tickets for holiday performances click here.

FST gives you still another option as their opening production of ONE MAN, TWO GUVNORS also produced on Broadway, debuted  last week .  A word of caution, I've heard fair reviews at best  on this one.  Playing at the Gompertz at least there isn't a bad seat in the house.  For a schedule of performances or to purchase tickets click here.

 The one thing best said about SARASOTA, other than our weather,  you do have several options whether it be theatre, opera, symphony, ballet,  there is something for everyone!  For a so-called small market that's not too shabby.

Some of your guests may be too young for theatre so here are a couple of options for them.  FREE at UTC Center Court is this year's Christmas attraction complete with Santa Claus, falling snow and characters from the new Disney Peanuts movie.  The entire experience is interactive with several television sets showing scenes from the movie while inside a 30-foot Ice Palace.  Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Santa, they're all here. Open daily 10AM-close.

You and your company can shop at dozens of stores and eat at the many restaurants in UTC and the surrounding area.  If you go at night, the wonderful Christmas decorations will mark a spectacular ending to a wonderful day.  And, if you don't do too much shopping, the cost will be minimal.

TREE UMPH! adventure course is fun for the whole family.  Go on a supervised excursion among trees and ropes or an obstacle course  and end your day with a fantastic zip line.  For all ages with activities designed for small and tall from 7 to adults of any age who feel they can climb and zip with the best of them.  Click here for hours of operation and discount promotions. 

Located 21805 SR70, a few miles east of 70 in Bradenton.  Be prepared for a 3-4 hour stay.  Bring a book or go to UTC and have your kids text near the end.  It is well worth the drive.

Additional perfomances for Christmas
One more activity for your young guests.  FLORIDA STUDIO THEATRE is presenting a Kids Komedy Club with  a sketch comedy show for "children of all ages", but obviously designed from ages 8-18.  Tickets are only $6 including a snack and drink.  The date is November 28 and at a reasonable time for non-shoppers 2PM.  To order tickets click here or call 941-366-9000.

Two of your favorites from ABBEY
Changing the subject from holiday activities to television, those of you who are devout followers of DOWNTON ABBEY and cannot wait until January, WEDU is having a special screening of parts of the sixth and final season December 4 SARASOTA Opera House 61 N. Pineapple 7:30-9:00pm. Tickets for this event are FREE and can be obtained by clicking here.

There is a terrific documentary on HBO....The Latin Explosion...A New America....among the many Hispanic stars featured are Jennifer Lopez. Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, Jose Feliciano whose Felice Natividad is all over the radio, Rickey Martin and George Lopez.  Especially poignant and current with all the immigration debate we are having.  Check their schedule.   Only an hour, it is well worth your time.

And if you're not too stuffed from Turkey and desserts, you should watch a special 8-9PM Thursday on TLC, Broadway at the White HouseHosted by Kristin Chenoweth (who will be here in February) and Matthew Morrison, with  perfromances from them and others as Michelle Obama hosts dozens of high school art students for the event.

Next week I will review ROSEMARY, a terrific addition to our downtown eating choices and Debbie Yonker will be back with her take on Marcello. Hint, Hint, she "loved" the restaurant. AND, the most up to date information on the Sol Meyer opening!  Plus a first time visit to one of the area's best Beach Bistro.
Photo courtesy Mark Freed/Chicago/Sarasota.  Look what we don't have to contend with this week!!

JIM'S RANT....Why can't our two political parties put squabbling aside and try to work on joint solutions instead of one side versus the other?  The world changed forever on 9/11 and events of the past several weeks only solidify that reality.  I am old enough to remember a time when both parties worked together to the betterment of our country.  Now totally opposite. 

On a positive closing note, enjoy the holiday with your family.  And save some turkey for me!!!!  

Tracy, take the rest of the week've earned it.....Until next week...JIM 
                             Make a donation now 941-379-6337

Friday, November 13, 2015

NOVEMBER 15, 2015

Having recently seen this movie at a private Ringling College screening, I highly recommend you see it as well. It will be shown again this Thursday, November 19th at 9pm.  You may even recognize some of the veterans, as several are living in the area.

At the same time, CNN is running a documentary from this year's Sundance Film Festival.  Though well reviewed, it received very little attention upon release this spring.  The Hunting Ground interviews victims of sexual assault at colleges around the country. A good time to set that DVR to one or both.  It is very rare to have quality television and even rarer at the same time.

Christmas continues to invade the area even though we are still a few weeks away from Thanksgiving.  Among several Christmas themed shows coming to the VAN WEZEL over the next  weeks are two in particular that have become seasonal Sarasota traditions.  Dave Koz and several guest artists including Bill Medly, one of the Righteous Brothers will appear on Friday November 27th at 8:00PM.  On Friday December 3rd at 8pm  Kenny G will perform his annual Christmas show.  Tickets for these as and more this season are available now.  Click here for a complete season schedule and to purchase tickets as well.

COMING SOON.......5th Annual Longboat Key Gourmet Lawn Party....raising thousands of dollars for local children's charities and youth scholarship.  Presented by KIWANIS Club of Longboat Key and sponsored by Observer.  The lawn party takes place from 12-2pm on Saturday, December 5 at The Resort at Longboat Key Club.  

Admission of $50 gets you entry and a continuous feast donated by some of the areas best restaurants,  but here are just a few....Amore, Chart House, Lazy Lobster, Duval's, Euphemia Hay, Harry's Continental Kitchen and Blue Rooster. For more information call 941-383-0440.

The 27th Annual St. Armand's Circle Fall Arts Festival is in its last day.  Bigger in scope than last year. there you will see many of your favorites and several new artists,  jewelers and craft dealers.  Open Sunday, November 15th from 10AM-5PM.  For a parking space close to the Festival my advice is get there early. Don't worry if you miss this one, there is always another one around the corner; for instance.....
Mark your calendars now for a Christmas gift event at Robarts Arena.  For the seventh year,  America Art Marketing is presenting the SARASOTA CRAFT SHOW December 4-6.  Attracting  participants from all over the country, it is the perfect spot for that tough to buy for friend or relative.   What makes it unique, it is indoors totally away from outside elements and it's not free. Click here for hours and pricing and list of participating artists.

STONE CRAB season is in full swing.  You can get them at restaurants (expensive) food emporiums like Whole Foods or Maggie's at the Farmer's Market.  However, if you want big, juicy and tasty crabs at a reasonable price then I highly recommend STEVE COCHRANE.  A local fisherman,  his stone crabs are fresh, as well as  cracked if requested.  AND, his prices beat them all.  You can phone Steve at 941-921-4627or email him at  He is located off Trail and Stickney Point.

DUVAL'S 1435 Main st. (just a stones throw from Sol's) is getting rave reviews.  My chief correspondent, Debbie Yonker recently had dinner there and writes..."The bartenders poured generous drinks and all the food was delicious.   Both the wedge and Caesar salads were cold, crisp and nicely dressed.  Some ordered appetizers instead of an entree. the crab and shrimp cakes, mussels, eggplant rollantini and steak spring rolls were enough for the group of 6.

Among the dinners were ocean cobb salad, roasted salmon and fish and chips.  All included sides and were delicious.  In addition, unlike most SARASOTA restaurants, Duval's bar menu is available at the table as well. No one left hungry and we will be back again." I am definitely going after reading Debbie's review.  It is 8:30 and we just returned from a wonderful meal at Duval's. It was everything she said and more.  Highly recommend.  Place was packed including outside dining.

Those of you who are awaiting the opening of Tom and Chee this fall, forget about it!!  I walked by the restaurant yesterday, and though the doors were open and air-conditioning running, there were bare walls and floors.  However, there is a now hiring sign, so it may be sooner than I suspect. AND, where art though SOL????

JIM'S RANT....Black Friday sales began a few weeks ago.  Halloween was an afterthought, and now Thanksgiving has disappeared, at least at Starbuck's.  Two weeks ago they introduced A Thanksgiving blend.  It was bold, rich and their best tasting coffee to date.  Equally as good as Pike.  Monday morning, after a walk, I stopped for a cup.  Guess what???? No longer serving.  Now it's their Christmas blend.  Enjoy it while it lasts.  Easter is around the corner. And, their holiday cups are just fine Donald T!!!!

Thanks to Debbie who after a leave of absence has resumed her role of Contributing editor and to Tracy who remains Editor in Chief.  Until next week......JIM

Opening Tues for lunch and breakfast....dinner begins Wednesday
                                     411 N. Orange Ave...941-955-7600.....Click here for menu

Saturday, November 7, 2015

NOVEMBER 8, 2016


This week also marks the beginning of ASOLO Rep's 2015-16 season.  It promises to be one of their best in years starting the 13th with one of the best Broadway musicals EVER....WEST SIDE STORY.  And, Joey McKneely, a former Tony nominee is directing  this stunning revival.  Some of our most memorable theater music comes from this one; including Tonight, America and Maria.

Tickets are going fast for ALL performances so I urge you to act now as the show must close December 27 to make way for the January opening of 2014 Tony Award winner for best play, ALL THE WAY.  It's 1964 and Lyndon Johnson is about to change America forever. To purchase tickets for these performances and the ones that follow click here.

I Saw a movie at Burns Court which is on the shelf until after Cine-World.  VICTORIA was shot in real time over the course of 21/2 hours starting sometime around 4:30am and ending close to 7:00.  Very few movies are done this way, and most don't get away with it. VITORIA does, though the first hour which sets up the "caper" is confusing; so I suggest you read the synopsis before going.  But, if you do go, and you like creative movies, you will like this one.  It involves a heist, some violence and lots of good acting.  Check the listings to see if it's playing.

Looking for a place for lunch that comes along with a beautiful view,  or would you prefer a big Sunday Brunch buffet?  You'll find them at  University Park Country Club.  Though a private club, they do open the doors to non-members for lunch and Sunday Brunch.

    This time of year reservations are a must so call The Park Grille & Cafe 355-3888 ext.247. Lunch is served 11:30am-2:30pm with typical lunch menu; Monday is soup, salad and deli buffet for $10.95.  Sunday Brunch 10:00am-2:00pm $21.95. Price does not include tax and tip.
Turkey season is upon us, though it's hard to recognize what with the Benderson lights and decorations already up since late October and FM radio station  92.1 wall to wall Christmas music.  I for one, eat turkey year round not just on holidays, and made a discovery a few years ago I am going to share.  BJ'S, along with their rotisserie chicken also has a rotisserie turkey available every day.  Two pounds of turkey breast from Harvestland for the ridiculous price of $4.99.  Of course to get this exceptional product you have to be a BJ'S member. 

And, while on the subject of food, Contributing editor,  Debbie Yonker sent an interesting cooking tip not only for the holidays, but year round.  She states..."when slicing, dicing or chopping onions light a tea candle next to the cutting board.  The flame will absorb the fumes from onion that cause your eyes to water and burn..."  I now can state without equivocation...Jim Knows Sarasota has information well beyond what I know about living here!!!

Blu Kouzina has become a very popular restaurant on the circle, with people waiting for tables as late as  8:30,  and this is with the addition of several sidewalk tables.  The food is as good as ever, in fact, maybe even better than you remember; however, buyer beware.  The prices are higher this season; especially the fish and the portions, again the fish, smaller.  However, if you are the mood for authentic Greek cuisine, this is the place for you.

Sarasota will be home for the 2015 ISPS Handa Cup Tournament November 12-14.   Presented by Palm Aire Country Club & The LPGA Legends Tour, the event kicks off with a 9:30 exhibition on the 12th with Nancy Lopez, Sally Blalock and other legends.  If you're  unfamiliar with Palm Aire it is located at University Park Blvd and Whitfield Rd.  Call 877-776-8162 or go online to order your tickets in advance. 

Mark your calendar for next weekend as the27th annual St. Armands Circle Fall Craft Festival fills the area with artists, craftsmen, jewelers each day 10:00am-5:00pm.  Arrive early as parking around the Festival is at a premium.


As I sit here writing this week's blog it is 88 degrees and sunny.  I am also listening to 92.1  playing wall to wall Christmas music NOW!!! 

And the Christmas lights are on all over UTC as well as every Benderson shopping center in and around University.  If you don't live near University and I75 it is well worth the trip to see this year's beautiful displays.  They've outdone themselves.

JIM'S RANT.....Last week's rant hit a nerve.  Much negative reaction from readers who felt I was targeting  states and countries unfairly as well as snowbirds and tourists.  The states were chosen at random; did not mean to single out any one state.  However, every Florida plate does not necessarily mean a full timer.  Many have opted to become Floridians for at least 6 months to avoid the tax back home.  Bottom line, even with a green light look both ways.  People do drive crazy here!!!

 Once again, Tracy has put her fine touches on this week's blog.  See you next week....JIM