Saturday, February 27, 2016

FEBRUARY 28, 2016


There is much controversy surrounding tonight's presentation for total lack  of African-American nominees when so many deserved one.  Chris Rock, who is the emcee, will surely address the slight as will many presenters and winners.  True, Will Smith and wife are boycotting, but Whoppi  Goldberg and John Legend are not.  Here are a few predictions....(I'm always wrong)

Best Picture....Spotlight/ Big or the other
Tonight's host Chris Rock

Best Director...George Miller(Mad Max)
Best Supporting Actor....Sylvester Stallone....a sure thing!!!
Best Actor...Leonard DiCaprio....hated The Revenant, but he is deserving more for past slights than this awful movie
Best Actress....Saoirse upset, but she was great in Brooklyn
Best Supporting Actress....Kate Winslett....I owe the Steve Jobs movie at least one award   
Best Foreign Film....Son of playing exclusively at Burns Court Cinema

The AWARD PROGRAM starts at 7 on ABC and lasts forever!!!  A DVR never looked so good! 

Once every season comes a show that meets the test of true entertainment.  Although I recommended YESTERDAY without seeing it,  I can now confirm that I was correct.

On Sunday we saw the afternoon performance of YESTERDAY at Goldstein Cabaret of FST.  If you have fond memories of the 60's and the music of that era, then you should get to this one before it closes May 15.  In the intimacy of this theater you are so close to the musicians you can make out every word of  the songs that will bring to your youth as well as the good and bad times of those days.  Do not miss it.

This week marks the WORLD PREMIERE of THE SAM COOKE STORY at Westcoast Black Theatre.  Written and directed by Nate Jacobs, it is the story of a musical icon who became the first African-American singer to control the rights to his own music.  Some of those, I'm sure you remember.......You Send Me, Saturday Night, A Change Is Gonna Come and Twistin The Night Away.  Cooke died tragically way too young at 33, but his music and influence in the music world lives on today.  Opening on Wednesday,  it runs through April 9. To order tickets click here.

I am moving my PEDAL FOR PUPS/DOGGY BONES RIDE AND RUN information into the blog, as this is the last week to become a part of this big event.  How can you miss it??  You contribute to the well-being of so many rescue animals and for entering are treated to a free breakfast courtesy of FIRST WATCH, a free lunch courtesy of THE POLO GRILLE, and free beer courtesy of  GOLD COAST distributors of BUDWEISER.

The date is next Sunday March 6, kicking off at 7am and ending after the last runner or biker has his or her fill of meal and beer.  So join us at NATHAN BENDERSON PARK at Cattleman Rd/
DeSoto Rd by clicking her to enter or make a donation. SEE YOU THERE!!!

Next Sunday marks the first day of SARASOTA'S 36th Annual JAZZ FESTIVAL.  Presented by our Jazz Club  and running through the 12th, it features performances at Phillipi Estate Park and several locations throughout the market.  For VIP Patron Package & Trolly Pub Crawl Tickets call 941-366-1552. Or call 800-838-3006 for further information.  For schedule of events click here.

Looking for a good fast paced read?  Look no further than the newest James Patterson mystery NYPDRED4.  Written by Marshall Karp (I'm sure you must know by now that Patterson isn't writing any of his books.  He's got a team of writers that turns them out monthly or bi-monthly releases).  Recommended by Mark Freed, I decided to read this one after avoiding Patterson's books for years.  Red4 is a fast paced mystery (what else) large print, small chapters and easy to read on the treadmill while at Crunch or whatever gym you choose.
Debbie Yonker returns with a review of an oldie but goodie on Main St.  I am talking about CAFE AMICI, one of the true originals.  She writes "If one is attending a performance at FST or Opera House CAFE AMICI is a good choice for a reasonably priced dinner.  With quite a bit of competition for their product, AMICI more than holds its own.  Portions are generous.  Our dinners of Chicken Milanese, Pasta Bolognese and Lasagna were all good, if not better than some of pricey Italian restaurants in the area.  There is a full bar with a wine list mostly Italian.  Our service was exceptional and delivered well in time for our theatre performance."

Another Main St. eatery has undergone several positive changes form our last visit a few years ago. Once a book store with food and coffee,  CLASSICO at the corner of Main and Palm is now a trendy location with great menus for bar and regular dining  as well as exceptional service.  AND,  they offer outside seating which is a popular alternative to the inside noise of the restaurant. Their hamburgers, salads and entrees are all delicious.  Most evenings  music begins  after 8:30, so if you want to avoid it,  go early.  Their happy hour menu offers more variety than their downtown competition with pricing  also comparable to other neighborhood competition.

JIM'S RANT....I am following with great interest plans for a new Van Wezel and home for Sarasota symphony.  The INITIAL funding of a planning committee will be $1 million.  Just  8 years ago, Nate Benderson offered the symphony board a gift of land adjacent to the now functioning UTC and $1 million in seed money to build a new symphony hall.  The board with exception of one, turned this down!!!! Too far from Longboat!!!  The planning will cost millions and it will be years before new facilities can be built.  Benderson's would up and running today......

Welcome back Tracy from her BOSS concert.  She and Cathi tell me, Bruce still puts on a great show.  Speaking of shows, hope to see you at Pedal for Pups on the 6th.  It will be a fun party with lots of bikers, runners, walkers and dogs.  Thanks for reading.  Until next week.....JIM 

Friday, February 19, 2016

FEBRURARY 21, 2016


For a schedule or to purchase tickets call 1-866-3995 or  click here. Individual tickets are $10.  

After all my negative comments about Sol Meyer's Delicatessen, did I ever expect to write the following.  In his new location and with deep pocket partners, Sol Shenker has come up with a winner.  SOL'S NYC DELICATESSEN 1991 Main St. (former home of Applebees); though not perfect yet, it's getting there.

 The food is as good as advertised.  The portions huge.  The cole slaw and pickles are what you expect from a delicatessen.  The matzo ball soup as good as my grandmother use to make, and the potato latkas well cooked and delicious.  The corned beef served hot and piled as high as advertised.  The bread is still too thin, so a club roll may be a better choice.  And they charge $1.00 for ice with bar it's not perfect, but it's your best option for deli outside of Too Jays. Plus its downtown location at the foot of Main and 301 is ideal.

And be prepared to wait longer than necessary for your food.  It's not the servers, but the kitchen that is prolonging the delivery of your meal.  I'm sure this will be fixed in due time.

We ate at the bar and had conversation with many.  A turkey sandwich piled high was praised as was the tuna salad sandwich which was also a large portion.  And, I found the price for most items fair and reasonable for the quantity and quality.

Even with ample seating, there was a 30 minute wait on Thursday.  When I left an hour or more later, several were  waiting inside and out.  Reservations are accepted; however,
the system I witnessed gave me pause.  Go ahead and make one, but be sure to reconfirm before going.  Their reservation # is 941-444-0413.  Only open a few days, I know the service will improve.  But the food can stay the way it is!!!  It's that good!!!

There's another relatively new and exciting restaurant at 1936  Hillview St.  Recently opened MERCATO,  by former owners of Matto Matto on Pineapple in Burns Court area, is a charming and lively pizzeria and bar, with much more on the menu than their delicious brick oven pizza.  Salads, pasta, seafood and meat entrees as well.

  And save room for their fabulous dessert of tiramisu.  Made from a recipe by the owner's mother, it is even better than the one I remember from former location.  Reservations accepted in main dining room.  Bar area is open seating.  Open for lunch and dinner 11am-10pm with extended hours on the weekend.  To make a reservation or their menu options click here.

After a long wait, NANCY'S at the Ranch is open.  Smaller than their Pineapple location, and without her fabulous bbq ribs, Nancy has kept all her other  famous items for eat-in or carry out.  The interior is modern and comfortable and when the weather is warm there is seating outside.  For those familiar with Nancy and her early beginnings as a street vendor you  will be pleased with her expansion.  Those of you who are not, and live in the Lakewood Ranch area, will love their Main St location 8141 Lakewood Main St. Click here for an eat in or carry out or catering menu.

Next week's blog will be published on the eve of the 88th ACADEMY AWARDS. I have seen all nominees except Room.  Last week caught 45 YEARS  at Burns Court.  Charlotte Rampling is nominated for a best actress award for her portrayal of a married woman who finds a dark secret about her husband days before their 45th wedding anniversary celebration.  The theatre was packed for a 5pm screening and most sat in stunned silence as the movie ended.  Everyone was left with their own ending.  Mine was very simple....DON'T WASTE YOUR TIME!!!!

Everyone who has seen it, has been lavish in their praise for  SARASOTA Opera's version of Verdi's Aida.  Eight performances remain before it closes.  A classic tale of lover's triangle performed in our best venue for opera or music...the Sarasota Opera House. To purchase tickets through final March performances click here.  

And as far away as you can get from opera is a FST Cabaret production titled Yesterday with music from the Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks and other groups from that era.  It is one of best reviewed shows of this or any season and has been extended to May 8. For a performance schedule and to purchase tickets click here.

Everyone is raving about this year's CIRCUS, RED WHITE and BELLO!!! Under the tent in Nathan Benderson Park adjacent to UTC.  Time is running short.  The show closes a week from today. And while there take advantage of the many dining opportunities in the area, both inside and outside the mall.

Here are  three very diverse Sarasota entertainment  opportunities to visit while either living or vacationing here.  Tickets for all are limited.  Your best immediate option for FST is to purchase stand-by, as according to their box-office nearly everyone gets seated before showtime.  There are still tickets available at the box-office for the other two.

Mark your calendar for Tuesday March 22 for the 12th annual JFCS Celebrity Chefs Food & Wine Tasting & Golf challenge  What started as a small event on Longboat has grown  with both golf and new this year men's and women's double play tennis added to the original concept of food and wine tastings.  With over 25 of SARASOTA's best restaurants  participating, it would be impossible to mention all , but here are a few, Selva Grill,  Jack Dusty, Chart House , Sophie's and Michael's On East For an up to date list of restaurants and to purchase tickets please click here.

The Resort at Longboat Key Club-Islandside is where all this happens.  The food and wine portion is under a tented area.  In addition there is a silent auction and live music.

JIM'S RANT....I know it just isn't me when I wish we could fast forward to the evening of November 8 and elect our next President.  It's only late February and I've grown weary of both parties slinging insults and dirt at each other and the 24 hour coverage being provided by cable news stations as well as the  debates and town hall meetings rotating on the major networks.  Where I use to dread the start of advertising for Black Friday door-busters; this year I cannot wait!!!  Oh come all ye faithful joy full and......

ONLY A FEW WEEKS TO GO BEFORE PEDAL FOR PUPS IS HERE!!! You can register here...NOW...hope to see you Sunday March 6.  

 Tracy and Cathi caught Bruce Springsteen in Atlanta so Roberta has been editor this week.  Tracy will return rested form the concert to provide her editing next week.  Until then......JIM

Friday, February 12, 2016

FEBRUARY 14, 2016


Don't miss tomorrow night's 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards on CBS  from 8-11:30 pm.  This one I highly recommend since there will be lots of ADULT entertainers.   For openers, how about the entire cast of  HAMILTON performing live from their theater as one of the nominees for best cast album of the year.  Other surprises not revealed, but look for your favorites from Alicia Keys to Sam Smith  performing and presenting as well as Stephen Colbert who CBS is really pushing in its late night battle with rivals NBC and ABC.

  Or the increasingly  popular LADY GA GA singing a tribute to the late David Bowie. And wasn't her rendition of our National Anthem at Super Bowl 50 one of the best since Whitney Houston's 1991 version? As well as newest recording sensation ADELE, Taylor Swift and John Legend.

There will also be a tribute to super-star Lionel Richie with many entertainers singing a medley of his many hits.  As well as  tributes to recently departed Natalie Cole and Glenn Frye of the Eagles.  CBS is doing  a red-carpet arrival 7:00-8:00pm for the first time.  They did a great job with Super Bowl half-time show; though not without controversy.  At least no Janet Jackson costume malfunction.  The Grammy's run long, but is easily viewed the next day on your DVR.

Abe Lincoln and George Washington have different birthdays, , but by tradition both are celebrated as PRESIDENT'S DAY  and commemorated together to give the banks, post office and Federal workers a day off to SHOP!!!  Sales galore Monday and many lasting for at least a week.  Nothing like a holiday for shopping.  Especially if you need a new mattress or home furnishings.

It has been way too long between visits to PUCCINI'S  at 2881 Clark Rd.   Four of us had dinner there last week.  We were seated in the kitchen, as this is by far your best dining experience! We all enjoyed watching Owner/Chef Richard work his culinary magic in a small space and smelling all the different flavors.  This alone is well worth the trip.  However, if you cannot sit in the kitchen, don't let that stand in your way of going to PUCCINI'S.  The other dining area is small and QUIET!!!

There are two seating's nightly in the kitchen; 6 and 8.  However, the main room takes reservations 941-923-7002 at other times.

I know some of you will disagree, but PUCCINI'S is superior to MARCELLO, a new favorite Italian Restaurant south on the Trail.  For one, you can have a conversation without yelling at each other.   And two,  though lacking a table side Caesar salad, the food is superior.  And you bring your own wine or miniatures,  which reduces the cost of the evening.  No credit cards accepted.  There is a set menu, but each evening brings chef specials of either seafood, veal or meat.  

Time is running short to reserve your table for TEMPLE EMANU-EL's 60th Anniversary celebration.  The festive evening begins at 5:30 Feb 28,  and will be over in time for you to get home to watch most of the Academy Award telecast on ABC.  That show is better recorded anyway.  Too many commercials and not enough entertainment.  Here, you will be entertained by Robbie Gold's orchestra, treated to a fine meal and be surprised by an unannounced prize drawing at the end of the evening.  For more information call Renee Gold at 941-379-3298 or email her at

Where else but in SARASOTA would a movie theatre have front page publicity?  The opening of Cinebistro in Westfield Southgate Mall generated just that on Tuesday.  These theatres are seen as revitalizing what what was once our most visited shopping center.  Knowing there is a Cinebistro in Atlanta, I went to Editor in Chief, Tracy, for her review....

"We've been there twice.  We ate only once.  Food was OK: Sarasota menu is different than Atlanta's and offers more variety.  As more open, I assume the menu will be tailored to that market.    Service was efficient as everyone needed to be served prior to movie start time.  Second time we went, we had only drinks and candy.  The theater is Clean with nice decor.  It does not replace regular movie going as tickets with dinner are pricey.'

Friend Debbie Hull went Saturday afternoon and writes..."It was fun.  I had a sandwich with sweet potato fries served before start of movie.  A gratuity of 17.5% was added to bill.  Staff was courteouss, attentive and knowledgeable.  The theatre was lovely inside; it felt like flying first class with big screen and limited seating.  Chairs were extra wide, reclining, soft leather; all very comfy."

My take is Westfield will need much more than a unique  movie theatre to revive its shopping center.   More restaurants (Too Jays is IT at the moment), more shops beyond Macys and small boutiques. The announced closing of Coach along with the earlier loss of Starbucks makes it even more difficult.  Plans are in the works for outside dining with more restaurants on the horizon. to purchase tickets for Cinebistro on line or view the menu please click here.

SARASOTA'S best Orchid show opens today at Selby Gardens.  The show runs through March 27, giving you ample time to view and purchase your spring orchid as we get ready to welcome our most beautiful weather of the year.  You do not have to be a member to attend, but members have exclusive hours this coming Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  If you are not already a member you can join by clicking here to become one. In addition, there is more information on this show and other Selby exhibits.

JIM'S RANT....The unseasonably cold weather last month and the first several days of February should make us appreciate the warm up of this week.  I am writing and looking out a dark blue sky with sun everywhere.  This is why we live here.  A few cold days only makes me appreciate Sarasota that much more....JIM

We are getting closer to PEDAL FOR PUPS Sunday March 6.  I encourage you to click the link below poster below to register...And watch for our signs....they're all over town!!!

Thanks to Tracy for wearing two hats this week.  Editing and reviewing.  And thank you for reading each week....until next week....JIM


Friday, February 5, 2016


I would love to see Payton Manning win his 4th Super Bowl  on probably the last football game of his career; however, I cannot overlook the strength of Cam Newton and his Carolina Panthers.  So I pick them, but root for Manning!!!

Lady Ga Ga, no longer the outlandish entertainer, but a full- fledged star will be singing The National Anthem.  And Beyonce joins Cold Play for half time.

If you're a fan of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, or have never watched before, you'll have your chance tonight.  Colbert has been given the coveted spot immediately following the game with a live one hour special.  He was terrific on Comedy Central and has moved his adult brand of comedy to CBS.  If too late for you, tape this one.

On Tuesday, very early in the morning, Punxatwany  Phil, that infamous Pennsylvania groundhog came out of hiding and did NOT see his shadow.  He then went back in hiding for another year after predicting an early spring!!!  We had a taste of spring temperatures in SARASOTA last week. Not so much this weekend.   Hope wherever you're reading this you had the same.

After slipping noticeably (at least in my estimation) KONA GRILL seems to have its mojo back.  Granted one lunch does not make a big sample, but six of us thoroughly enjoyed our meals.  Soup, sushi, salads and hamburger all served hot, fresh and quick.  Service was excellent and the manager even visited to see how meal was. With ALL the competition on University Parkway, and more coming every day, it's nice to see KONA delivering good product again. 

We ate at one of my SARASOTA favorites last week.   One which I never grow tired of and is as consistent in quality and service as any restaurant in town.  I am speaking of EL TORO BRAVO, a true authentic Mexican restaurant in a strip mall off Clark and Swift.  With limited seating  we had a small wait, but well worth it.  However, we learned some exciting news from owner/chef Ruben.  El Toro Bravo is moving into a new location in a few months allowing for more seating and a full bar as well.  I know for some of you the travel time is lengthy, but once there you will not regret the extra mileage. 

Recently, we had a wonderful Sunday brunch at ROSEMARY along with several others fortunate to have a table at the time we were there.  Owner George Armstrong in just a few short months has turned this once dormant property into a must have reservation location for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

And, don't forget the private dining area in back of the restaurant.  Seating 11 comfortably it is great for meetings or small parties.   Call 941-955-7600 for reservations.

As with most of us, television viewing has changed over the years.   We spend less time with drama and more time with news; especially cable.  Case in point, the recent Iowa Caucus coverage started at 6pm and lasted until well after midnight.  You have to give it to the media for creating this circus. Iowa should be thankful for all the dollars Caucus brought into their state through advertising, food and lodging.

But do not fret.  Forget about New Hampshire and go to FX Tuesday at 10, and for the next 9 weeks (you'll have to watch the first episode on demand) be riveted by an event most of us lived through many years ago.  The People v. O.J. Simpson:American Crime Story is a brilliant re-telling of the murder, car chase and trial.  Based on the book by Jeffrey Toobin "The Run of His Life", as with the book, this one is hard to put down.

What a great cast.  John Travolta, Nathan Lane, Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer,  Cuba Gooding Jr., Connie Britten and more.    The ending is well-known, but many facts presented in this unique television event are not.  Don't miss it!!!

Looking for a good read other than the Toobin book?  Stuart Woods is still writing Scott Barrington mysteries, and with his 31st has written one far different from previous books.  I stopped reading Woods years ago since I felt the Barrington series was stale.  Not his latest, Scandalous Behavior. It is entertaining from the beginning,  while Woods seems to have improved with age.  One can only guess how old Barrington is, but he hasn't lost his touch with the women; that's for sure.  If you're looking for a no-brainer of a mystery pick up a copy today.

Last week's Town Hall program was timely.  Following the Iowa Caucus by two days, former CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson moderated a lively and informative discussion by Jim Messina, Manager of 2012 Obama Re-election campaign and Karl Rove, Manager of 2000, 2004 Bush campaigns.  Their insight on Trump, Cruz, Clinton, Sanders and all the remaining candidates along with anecdotes from their past campaigns easily filled the hour and beyond.  This outstanding series continues next week with Sir Ken Robinson, an expert of Creativity and Innovation.

AND, if you missed YANNI kicking off his International Tour at Van Wezel, you missed one of this or any year's best performances.   A solid 2 hour 20 minute non-stop music.  He LOVES SARASOTA, and the sold-out loved him back.
JIM'S RANT...Once again I am ranting about traffic; specifically , those lights that control traffic. It cannot be my imagination, but aren't most signals poorly timed?  No way to predict how many cars move through green before that yellow caution light pops up and how long it will stay up. And why is it the busiest intersections seem to have the shortest lights. Could all this be leading to the many accidents we witness on a daily basis....????

Three cheers for Tracy and her editing of this week's blog....until next week....JIM
  To make it easy, I am adding this link to registration!!!