Saturday, December 31, 2016

JANUARY 1, 2017!!!!

2017  It seems like a few months ago we were busy with LABOR Day; and now into a new year.  The older we get the faster they fly by. 

The new year brings with it a host of new theatre, music, dance and  festivals.  The Asolo is first with next week debuting  THE GREAT SOCIETY.  Lyndon Johnson begins A vision for his legacy; something we are witnessing as Obama ends his Presidency.  Besieged by political opponents, Johnson shows his skills as a leader, stepping out of Kennedy's shadow to  help reshape our  country.

Opening January 13 and running until April 2.  Along the way it will be joined by other productions which I will discuss in coming weeks.   Unlike Guys And Dolls, there will be ample opportunities to see this one.   You can reserve your tickets by calling the box office at 941-351-8000 or by clicking here to order tickets on line. 

Continuing at Florida Studio Theatre is Joe DiPietro's Clever Little Lies.  I mentioned the opening last week, before any published  reviews.  Jay Handelman writing  in the Sarasota Herald Tribune states

 "If it weren't for the free-flying four-letter words and brief but BLUNT description of sexual acts, you might think that Joe Di Pietro's Clever Little Lies, a light and breezy comedy with heart, was a long lost comedy of the 1960's.  It has an old fashioned style, evoking the tone of early Neil Simon, within a more contemporary setting."

He goes on to give a strong positive review.

However, friends Mark Freed and Debbie Yonker recently saw the show and were less than enthused. 

Having seen DePetro's other FST productions they were expecting his lighthearted approach to family, marriage and growing older.  What they got instead was, according to them , a loud, sometimes slapstick and over the top use of profanity to make a point.

 Their view, unlike Handelman was "just OK." If you like this kind of theatre, then by all means go. 

This one runs through March 4.  The box office number is 941-366-9107.  Their web site is a touch away. 

Next  weekend, The Sarasota Orchestra under the direction of guest conductor, Case Scaglione, will be presenting its third  Masterworks program of the season. 

 This one titled Musical Musings of Beethoven and Brahms  features some of the more familiar as well as less familiar works of these two Masters!!!  Scaglione's credits include The New York Philharmonic and one I am personally fond of The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

There should be lots of passion in the room when two of the most venerated composers in classical music are on the same program.  The energy of Brahms' first symphony forever secured his place as Beethoven's successor.

  Beethoven's  genius is on display with his Piano Concerto No.3,   performed by guest artist, Yulianna Avdeeva.  She is the recent winner of the  Chopin Prize and the Arthur Rubenstein competition among others.  The program is available three times.

Good seats remain for all performances for as low as $33.  You can call 941-953-3434 or click here for your on-line link.

This week's new restaurant find comes from friend Ron Emmerman.  Always in pursuit of that unique meal, he found it at of all  places ELLAs 8004  Cortez Road in Bradenton.  What once was a Kentucky Fried Chicken location is now home to family style Greek cuisine serving lunch and dinner daily. 

 Though small with a few tables and designed mostly for carry-out, the menu offers many Greek favorites seen at more well-known Greek restaurants in Sarasota.  Quoting Ron who was extremely enthusiastic when describing his several meals here, "Very tasty with no artificial foods, wonderfully priced, a clean environment, a place we should consider for a great meal with no frills."

Welcoming in 2017
If you've never been to Lucky Pelican, "your neighborhood fish house",  in Lakewood Ranch, you're missing one of the area's most outstanding restaurants. Since replacing the ill-advised Carmine/Goldberg several years ago, Pelican has maintained its high standards of quality food, impeccable service, affordable prices and friendly atmosphere. 

Lobster is a Specialty
Open for lunch daily except Sunday, and dinner every day except Monday,  even in summer months there can be a wait.  But with outside seating the wait is palpable.  If you arrive early for dinner take advantage of beverage happy hour.  Their menu is stable, but each afternoon and evening a centrally located  chalkboard features seafood and meat specials.  And if you can handle it, cheese cake for dessert is a must.

REMINDER:  Pick up this week's OBSERVER for their Winter Season Magazine.   The insert covers two months through   February 2017.

BREAKING NEWS:  A Friday press release along with an article in Saturday's Sarasota Herald Tribune business section marks the end at least for now of one of the most bizarre restaurant chapters in recent memory...."Sol's NYC Deli Relocating to Make Way for Main Plaza Redevelopment" ...Open post-Thanksgiving/2015 and closed several weeks after. Then this past February, Sol Shenker along with partners Jesse Biter and David Chessler moved his brand to the vacated Applebees on Main St.  Now Sol promises to expand on his "brand" in a new "top-secret" location.  I am reserving my comments for the next press release.

JIM'S RANT...This time of year many of us venture out to the movies.  With minimal theatre choices most end up at Hollywood 20.  Not a bad option when you factor in the $6 admission (plus tax).  However, a word to the wise.  If going, do yourself a favor and park in their open lot along Fruitville.  Not taking my own advice, we parked indoors Christmas day.  Ouch!!! With traffic coming in and going out, it took at least  fifteen minutes to exit.  No fun for impatient me......

Happy and Healthy to you all...see you next year...JIM

Saturday, December 24, 2016

DECEMBER 25, 2016


Eight  days for Hanukkah while all the Christmas celebrating will be over tonight.   Seems like only yesterday we were preparing for Thanksgiving.  Now here we are with one week left in 2016.  So lets make the best of it and see what this week has to offer.....

I had the opportunity to witness  first hand what I've been raving about for several weeks now, and was not disappointed.  Seeing Million Dollar Quartet on Friday and then Guys And Dolls on Saturday was easily the best weekend of Sarasota theatre I can remember.  Both shows deserve the hype you've read here since they opened.

Crap Shooters...ALL
This is the last week for Guys And Dolls. It cannot be extended. Tickets do remain for several performances, but only at the box office, or by calling 941-351-8000. This Asolo Rep production tops last year's West Side Story; quite a feat  for a show that could be considered by those of us who saw the original, "dated."

Who remembers Stubby Kaye?  He was in that original Broadway production.   Then came Nathan Lane.  But in the hands of talented Todd Budnopane, Nicely-Nicely Johnson takes on a new dimension in the show stopping Sit Down, You're Rocking The Boat.  In addition, the staging, scenery, costumes and orchestrations are Broadway quality.  

Elvis, Jerry Lee, Cash, Perkins
You have a few weeks leeway to see Quartet at The Gompertz.  FST always has stand-by seats for sale; in fact that's how we saw this one on Friday.  Two aisle seats, maybe 10 rows from the stage.  Again, the box office or by phone is your seat strategy 941-366-9000.

In a smaller venue, Quartert is better than the production seen a few years ago at Van Wezel.  The entire ensemble is outstanding, but no one plays Jerry Lee Lewis like Brandyn Day.  What an amazing young talent.  A real treat for this holiday season.


A small downtown Bradenton breakfast and lunch"joint", Sage Biscuit Cafe,  is getting lots of attention from newspaper reviews as well as Sarasota diners.  Good friends, Pam and Randy Silagy went and sent their own....."the food is very good.  Surprised a small place like this has such a large variety of items on their menu.

Pam's Mediterranean
Rye bread passes the not-fall-apart test along with excellent corned beef as well.  Pam had a Mediterranean skillet  with spinach, onions, roasted red peppers, olives, feta, potatoes, two eggs and biscuit. Outstanding." Sounds overwhelming to me!

Both would go back if in the area.  However  it's a long trip just  for breakfast and lunch.

Located at 6656 Cortez Rd. W. Bradenton, Sage is open daily 7am-3pm.  You can call them at 941-792-3970 By clicking here, you will be taken to a web-site befitting a high end restaurant. Menu is available as well. 

 If going, Randy and Pam suggest giving yourselves ample time since parking is a challenge.

  60 MINUTES Tonight(Sunday)is featuring an exclusive HAMILTON segment with the original Broadway cast....

Another Must See Television event  is  Tuesday night on CBS. The 39th Annual Kennedy Center Honors airs 9-11.  Hosted by Stephen Colbert, this year's recipients include Al Pacino, James Taylor, Mavis Staples, Martha Argerich, and the Eagles. 

 Nominated last year, the Eagles had to delay their acceptance due to the illness and eventual passing  of founder Glenn Frey.   I don't have a list of participants, but you can count on Carol King, Phil Collins, Jennifer Hudson, Sheryl Crow, Bob Seger and Yo Yo Ma  to perform.

This week's  traditional restaurant will celebrate their 5th  anniversary next May!!!  In that short time, Mozzarella Fella,  has not only  become a lunchtime favorite,  thrived with their catering, attract long lines for carry-out, but now  during season are open for dinner as well.  The menu is still full of great Italian sandwiches, salads, pasta and daily specials.

Located 1668 Main St. and very near the new location of  Visit Sarasota County, with the following hours: Mon/Sun 11am-5pm; Tues-Sat 11am-9pm.  Wine and beer available at all meals.  Not lots of seating, though there are a few tables for outside dining.  Bottom line, if you are looking for something quick, reasonable and DELICIOUS, you've come to the right place...Mozzarella Fella. For carry-out call 366-7600.

Those of you planning of attending the opening performance of Violins of Hope procrastinated too long....Sold Out!!!  However, several events are available as well as sponsorships.  For more information call 941-371-4546 or click here for a complete list.

 JIM'S RANT......No rant this week....have a glorious holiday in Paradise.  Let's work hard to  keep the good will and happiness these holiday's bring throughout 2017......See you next year....



Saturday, December 17, 2016

DECEMBER 18, 2016


Available where SANTA lives at UTC MALL
In these frantic last minutes before Christmas and Chanukah come storming on the scene next weekend here are some ideas for this week.

HOLIDAY NIGHTS at Ca'd'Zan Thursday 12/22 and 12/29.   Only two more chances to see what has become a Sarasota tradition.  Celebrated the sights and sounds of the holiday season and help support the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots, serving Sarasota and Manatee counties.

  Visit The Ringling during extended hours on the above dates,  and enjoy holiday music and performances by local schools.  Performances will occur on the Museum of Art Courtyard with special performances in Ca'd'Zan. Food and beverages will be available for purchase until 8:00 PM.  Click here for schedule of performances and additional Ringling information.


Suzanne's window to the world
A new restaurant comes to us this week courtesy Ros Mazur,..... "and though  Simplay  Suzzane's Cafe 3172 Gulf of Mexico Drive" is small in size, it's ample in flavor."   She continues, "more than a  typical  mom and pop  breakfast and lunch restaurant, it serves a growing population on the Key.

It's about a mile down the Gulf after Publix next to a swim wear store and Michael Saunders.  It's very cute; lots of homemade items; friendly and warm; what you would expect from a restaurant of this type; Only Better!!"  Open daily 8am-3pm.  If you go please let me know.

We are a few days from The Perlman Music Program which begins its rehearsal schedule Saturday 12/24 and continues through their 13th annual Celebration Concert Thursday, January 5 at 5:30 pm in the Sarasota Opera House.

The free tickets for all events are long gone, but you are encouraged to buy E-tickets @ $7.50 each by clicking here. All events are listed. Following is just a few. 

A works-In-Progress Student Recital kicks off the festivities Christmas Eve at 5:00pm USF-Sarasota-Manatee 8350 N. Tamiamai Trail.  As with most rehearsals, this one takes place under a heated outdoor performance tent...however, as I write this it is in the 80's as December is winding down.  Several events follow.

The final concert features  internationally acclaimed violinist and conductor Itzhak Perlman as he leads the fully rehearsed PMP string orchestra on stage at the Sarasota Opera House.  This special performance also features Patrick Romano leading the PMP chorus.  Always a  sell-out , you can get tickets at the above link for $40, $60 or $80.  If you prefer telephone to on-line 941-328-1300.  See you there.

Beginning tonight with Saturday Night Live and throughout the week,  the best viewing is special events, since most shows are on hiatus until January. 

Hosting at 11:30 on NBC,  is Casey Affleck, star of Manchester By The Sea.  His performance in a sure to be nominated Academy Award Best Movie, is career changing.  The movie, not at all what you would expect this time of year, is nevertheless one of the best I've seen in a long time.  It easily surpasses Moonlight, which is also pretty dark for end of year movie going.  La La Land opens here next week.

For me,  one of the BIG TV events of 2016 is Tuesday when NBC celebrates Tony Bennett with a splashy special 90: The Best Is Yet To Come.  Tony turned 90 in August, but you'd never know it by the sound of his voice. 

He is a musical genius and along with him will be Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin,  and more.  Many of Bennett's catalogue will be covered by these iconic artists.  Of course there will be Christmas music as well.  The show airs at 9-11pm.  Preceding Bennett, Michael Buble  has his annual Christmas special, also on NBC.

ABC is celebrating The Year in Review at the same time as TonyB!!!  You can't watch both; so I am going to tape Year and watch Tony in real time.  Your choice.

In just three years, Marcello, has established itself as the go-to Italian restaurant when you're looking for the REAL thing.  Tucked nicely in an inconspicuous strip mall 4155 S. Tamiami Trail,  and seating about 50 diners, this is one place where a reservation is a must.  Open 6-9pm Mon-Sat,  they can be reached at 941-921-6794.

Yes, there is noise.  But once seated.  you are more  overwhelmed with the smell of Italian coming from the open kitchen.  There chef Marcello creates his magic while Gus, or one of the other waiters is at your table with a chalkboard menu featuring the day's specials.  Everything is delicious from the pork chop to the pasta and most of all to the authentic caeser salad tossed fresh right before your eyes.  Delicious bread, an exceptional wine list and homemade dessert complete your meal.  Pricey, but well worth it.

JIM'S RANT...A letter to the editor in the Sarasota Herald Tribune caught my eye this week.... topic was bike paths and how narrow they are.  As a bike rider, I understand the writer's frustration; however, the major streets as well as several side streets have ample bike paths.  The ones that don't should be avoided!!!  They are dangerous and could result in an accident.  In addition, bike riders should ride with traffic and not  against it, as some do......

Before I leave, if some of you are looking for a great meal, other than Oriental on Christmas Eve or Day,  The Rosemary is open.  For reservations, give them a call at 941-955-7600. George and Carlos are sure to have some surprises to mark the occasion.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

DECEMBER 11, 2016


Lights in Bloom illuminates Friday

This annual light display begins Friday 6pm for its 13th year with nearly one million lights.  Outside of the University Park Benderson extravaganza, there is nothing to compare to Selby's Lights in Bloom presentation.  Nightly entertainment adds to the festivities.  You can go for the lights or stay for a  Selby Experience ticket that includes open bar, buffet and reserved parking.   Catering is now provided by Michael's.  Need I say more?  For Selby hours and additional information please click here.

Colleen L writes this week about a Sarasota gem,  BOOKER HIGH SCHOOL,  home to some of the most talented youngsters in the country .  The school has a monthly calendar of weekend presentations;  Colleen saw their Vaudeville Show which closed yesterday.  BUT, there is one more show this week before the school goes on winter break.  Their Billboard Music Concert runs 7pm Friday and Saturday.  Tunes from The Beatles, Frankie Valli and Usher will be covered.  Also included are many of  your holiday favorites.

Tickets are $10- $15 and can be purchased at the door 3201 North Orange.  For more information call 941-355-2967. 

 Between now and the end of the year, I hope to review several restaurants which are either new or traditional to Sarasota.  The new follows, while the traditional is just a few stories down.

  Since opening its doors last year, WHEATandWATER,  7303 52nd Place E., Bradenton, has become a go-to restaurant for good and inexpensive Italian.  My best advice is to book ahead, since they take reservations. Their number is 941-216-3562.

Buddy Kaufman writes, "We had sausage with peppers and onions as an appetizer.  Wonderful!!! Enough for 3 people. I had pork chop.  Excellent!  Linda had shrimp scampi.  All very good.  Entrees came with salad, soup or pasta.  Everything was fabulous, but we ordered too much.  By the way the salads were large and great....."

Joan Blum also writes, "...the food is excellent in this wonderful neighborhood Italian restaurant.  If you enjoy unpretentious "real Italian style" cooking, this is the place.  The chicken with goat cheese and pork chop are very yummy!  Wonderful veal dishes and several pastas along with pizza  are on their large menu.  Plenty to eat along with warm sour dough bread.  Keep going back, and never disappointed."

Opening this week at Florida Studio Theatre is the latest from JoeDiPietro,  Clever Little LIES.  If you're a regular, then you will remember The Last Romance, Over The River and Through the Woods, I Love You, You're Perfect, now Change...all from his magic pen.  His latest is a story of long-term love and marriage...for better...and for worse!!!  To purchase tickets call 941-366-9000.

Still going strong and extended at least through January 1st is the enthusiastically received  Million Dollar Quartet.  I haven't heard one negative about this one; even from those who saw it on Broadway several years ago.

 I am going Friday and then seeing Guys and Dolls at Asolo Rep the following night.  This one definitely closes on the 1st to make way for the plays to follow.  Good tickets can still be had at the box office; not on line however.  And if you have a AAA membership 10% comes off the ticket price.  Call 941-351-8000 for additional information.

Hadn't been to TOOJAY'S  in several months.  Went a few weeks ago for lunch.  Outstanding!!!  If you're in the mood for deli and crave hot corned beef piled high on almost perfect rye bread, then this is the place.  Served with sides ranging from cole slaw to potato salad, french fries or a pickle you can't go wrong.  Add a cup or bowl of chicken soup with noodles or matzoh ball you'll be in heaven.

Joe Marsh wrote this morning about a deli STAPLE forgotten above..CHOPPED LIVER.  Great with sliced tomato and a slice of onion on that "almost perfect rye bread."

TooJay's, open daily 8am-9pm, recently updated their menu for all meals.   So many choices from brisket, to chicken, to huge salads to bagels and lox.  For those unfamiliar, their location is in  Westfield-Southgate 3501 S. Tamiami Trail.

On the way out, take a look at their delicatessen counter where along with chicken salad, tuna salad, cole slaw and potato salads are their famous pastries.

Two interesting comments from readers this week.  

In response to last week's rant regarding the new sports bar under construction on University, Pacy Oletsky writes:

"You'll be glad to hear that DUFFY'S is great!  It's the best sports bar in FL featuring at least 40 TV's showing every sporting event in the country, great prices, good food and unbelievable daily specials.  Remember when you go to get your DUFFY'S card."

And from a disgruntled reader who unsubscribed with this reason...."I don't like the author's snide remarks about restaurants that aren't posh enough for his standards.  Don't need to read junk like this."  What can I say???  

JIM'S RANT.....Traffic on our major streets has become a nightmare.  Almost no one follows speed limits or yellow lights or stop signs.  A day doesn't go by when I don't see one or more accidents.  My advice is to stay off the main roads, and take the side ones.  Much safer that way.  Cooper Creek at University solved their congestion problems  Saturday with a policeman hand changing the signals!  Short term solution for an ongoing problem.

Thanks, as always for reading.....until next week when it will be one week until......