Friday, October 20, 2017

OCTOBER 22, 2017



In The Heights, the brainchild of Lin-Manuel Rivera (Hamilton), opened on Broadway in 2008, and went on to win 4 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.  It's the opening show at Westcoast Black Theatre, where it's playing to capacity nightly.

This show looks back in time when immigrants migrated from the New York to the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan.  Through songs reflecting the heritage of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic,  you are transformed into their world .  Miranda's score includes hip-hop, salsa, and Caribbean that will have you dancing along with the cast.

Now playing through November 19, you can call 941-366-1505 or go to their website for tickets and information about this show and the entire season.  If tickets are gone, check back, as performances are being added, including a matinee this Thursday October 26.

 The fall movie season is in full swing, what with Cine-World Film Festival a few weeks away, and the always anticipated end of year movies a month away. 

Running Friday 11/3-Sunday 11/12, you have a strong list of over 30 films to choose from.  Ranging American, foreign, documentary and closed caption, at first glance this year's list seems an improvement on the past couple of years. 

Many of the films have played in festivals from Cannes to Toronto.  Here is a short list of some of the best.....

Borg Vs. McEnroe....taking place in 1980, these two top tennis players of that era squared off against each other at Wimbledon.  If you enjoyed Battle of the Sexes, you will love this one.

Lady Bird.... As the world changes in 2002, a mother and daughter living in Sacramento Calfironia compete against each other in a changing world. 

Last Flag Flying....A top rate cast including Bryan Cranston, Lawrence Fishburn and Steve Carell, these three come together at funeral of young Marine killed in Iraq War.  

Score....An inside look at how music is composed for the movies we enjoy so much.  This documentary features John Williams and Danny Elfman among others.   Spoiler Alert...this one is also on Amazon, but wonderful on a big screen.

Happy movie-going!!! 

And if  you are  one of those "would rather watch at home", you're in for a treat.  This past Sunday, Netflix began streaming a NEW movie from acclaimed director, Noah Baumbach :The Meyerowitz Stories.

Featuring Dustin Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Marvel and even more, it tells the story of a father and his relationship with wife and children as they grow apart and grow into adulthood.

Filmed on the streets of New York at many locations familiar to those who live or travel there, the two hours fly by.  And if you need a refreshment or get a phone call there's always the pause button.  

Bravo Coastal Bar & Kitchen is open at Westfield Siesta Key and it's a winner.  Totally different from it's sister chain, Brio Tuscan Grille at UTC;   serving lunch, dinner and even coffee with  pastries in the morning for early breakfast,  Kitchen is so much more than Italian.
Their dining room is ultra contemporary and open.   The 6,900 square-foot, 323 seat restaurant comes equipped with USB ports and electrical outlets which encourage those of you who like to work and eat to do so.  There is an outdoor patio complete with fire pit, television and lounge furnitre.

Now for the best part.  The food is really good.  From small plates to full meal, there is much more than pasta and your typical Italian.  Along with salad, hamburger, calamari, they serve the best skirt steak I've had in Sarasota.  Along with crispy fries you've come to expect now with this dish, it will make you want to come back.

For several years now, The Manatee Community Band has been performing
throughout the community in High Schools, Colleges and Parish's.  Their 2017-18 season is about to kickoff with a very special program Saturday Oct. 28.  Along with  a touring band from France, Les Philhammonsite in a program aptly titled, USA MEETS FRANCE.

Admission is free for this 7:30 p.m. concert at Manatee High School 902 33rd St. Ct, Bradenton.

Seating is open, so if you want to spend an evening listening to music from around the world, the place to be is here.   Click here for additional information including how to become a participant.

JIM'S RANT.....Sarasota is now 6 weeks removed from Hurricane Irma;  I'm still having nightmares!  Not nearly as damaging a storm as Harvey or Maria, Irma took down several trees and created a waste nightmare.  Why is it though, many neighborhoods are still waiting for this debris to be cleared?  Very disappointing.  

Have a great week.....JIM 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

OCTOBER 15, 2017


Sarasota at Sunset

Once again,  our wonderful community is called best place to retire for 2018 by US News& World Report in their recent publication.

Conducting interviews with hundreds of adults 45 and over and focusing on housing affordability, happiness, taxes, the job market and access to top-quality hospitals, Sarasota came out on top.  

"Much more than a beach town." The Sarasota school of architecture, orchestra, ballet, opera, theatre, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and Doctor's Hospital were mentioned as many of the reasons to retire here.

Several new dining options became available late last season and all summer long.  Thanks to all of you who sent suggestions and reviews these past few months.  I will get to ALL in the coming weeks, but I'm going to start the new season with a personal experience. 

Connors Steak and Seafood has been open for two weeks and, boy are they thriving. We were there this past Tuesday, and every table was occupied when leaving at 8:45.

Located  at Westfield Siesta Key in an area housing Metro Diner,  Bravo Coastal Bar and Kitchen, and soon to open Naples Flatbread and Wine Bar it is helping to bring relevance back to the Mall, still hurting from the opening of UTC.

Connors puts a casual twist on the traditional upscale steakhouse experience. With a price point between Outback and Capital Grille, this is a restaurant you could go to for a simple dinner, a special occasion, or a a happy hour during the week. 

Entrees come with side salad and baked potato, and are reasonably priced.  The lamb chops were excellent; the steak not so.

Open for lunch and happy hour daily you can go on line by clicking here.
or dial 941-260-3232 for reservation.  

FST Winter Cabaret Season is in full swing with Mack The Knife: The Bobby Darin Songbook kicking things off in grand fashion.  At the young age of 25, Darin was touring the world with his music and compelling stage performances. 

In addition to Mack, Darin was known for If I Were a Carpenter, Beyond The Sea and many more.  All are performed here.  Playing into February, you can get tickets by calling 941-366-9000 or by clicking here.

If planning on Main Stage or Cabaret this season,  a subscription is the best way to go.  Always offering a liberal exchange policy and pricing from $39

If you want to participate int this year's RINGLING INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL time is running out.  It begins  Wednesday evening with an eye-popping opening night party in their Courtyard with food, wine and beer.  Sometime during the evening there will be a performance of WANTED by eVenti Vertical.

Over the next several days attend performances of music, dance and theatre.  For more information please click here.  Your admission to any of these performances is an admission to Ringling as well.

Before departing, for those of you tired of television comedies and drama there are a couple of documentaries streaming now worthy of your time.   GaGa:Five Foot Two/ Netflix takes you back to her Super Bowl performance, and much more.  Spielberg/HBO, is a fascinating look at his career from beginning to now.

JIM'S RANT.....What use to be a charming, quiet, little known vacation or retirement location has grown into a  BIG CITY.  Sarasota, complete with most of the chain restaurants known to man;  cultural venues as good as most major cities; a social calendar competing with itself; and traffic which will be indescribable in a few months is no longer a rest stop between Tampa and Naples!! ......Until next week........JIM

Your best choice for before theatre dining

Saturday, July 15, 2017

JULY 16, 2017



Several of you were among the hundreds dining at the recently opened METRO DINER 3501 S. Tamiamai Trail.  Located at Westfield Siesta Key, many of you who wrote were ecstatic with your first Metro meal.....

Debbie Y writes, " The Debbie's had lunch at Metro Diner, and it was GREAT!  Although it was filled we were seated very quickly.  We tried the Reuben sandwich, the fried chicken platter and took home a pork tenderloin sandwich with fixing's for another meal.

Moderately priced, retro feel, excellent iced tea. This is a WINNER"

Marlene writes..."Went to Metro Diner for lunch and really enjoyed it.  Great grilled cheese sandwich with three cheese choices.  House made chips are to die for.  Overall a fun dining experience with great service in a very busy restaurant."

Here's some good news for those of us in the University Parkway area:   Metro Diner is opening a second location near Detwiler's and Parkway Cinemas.  Target date is 12/1/2017.    Look for their sign this summer. 

Actor Jeffrey Plunkett should be a familiar name for those of you who visit Florida Studio Theatre.  Over the last 20 years he has performed in close to a dozen show in this venue.  He's back again in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

His performance was recently praised by Jay Handelman...."he takes his art to an even richer, more detailed level playing nine roles in James Lecesne's one-man play."

This off-Broadway hit is about the disappearance of a 14-year-old boy, and a New Jersey detective's effort  to find out what happened to him.  Running 75 minutes with no intermission, Handelman writes, "..the production leaves you feeling joyous for a young life...and the imaginative way that the story is being told."  Playing until August 6, call 941-366-9000 or click here to their website and purchase tickets on line.

I never go tired of author Daniel Silva.  He's back again this summer with his 19th thriller, House of Spies.  His legendary spy, assassin and art restorer, Gabriel Allon is back in his new role of Chief of Israel's secret intelligence service.  He is out for revenge; determined to hunt down the world's most dangerous terrorist, a shadowy ISIS mastermind known only as Saladin.

I am only a quarter through this lengthy book, but am thoroughly enjoying Allon again; even though at times I feel I've been here before.  Nevertheless, this is a very, very good summer read.  Silva is at the top of his game here.

MUSIC ON MAIN, the successful and growing Lakewood Ranch promotion continues through the summer and beyond.  Running every First Friday 6-9pm, you are encouraged to bring a chair and enjoy food, drink and music on main Street. No coolers, but  leashed pets are allowed.   The remaining dates are 8/4 and 9/1 at 8100 Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. See you there.

Good news for those of us waiting the arrival of Whole Foods second location on University and Honore.  Thursday morning the Opening Soon signs were posted at that location.  My guess is late this month or August 1.  See you there.

JIM'S RANT.....Jay Handelman must be back in good graces with FST again.  His review of The Absolute Brightness is being used in their advertising.  What was it, a month ago when FST was really upset with his review of Burt and Me?  So upset they sent an email to summer subscribers telling them how wrong he was.  And, by the way, most agreed with Jay and not FST.

That's all she wrote, folks.  Have a wonderful summer and I'll see you sometime this fall.....JIM

On Streets of Chicago
 Photo courtesy of Debbie Y and Mark F...........

Friday, July 7, 2017

JULY 9, 2017

The beauty of Selby Gardens

One place to start is SELBY GARDENS.  You have the rest of this month to see one of their most popular exhibits in years, Marc Chagall, Flowers, and the French Riviera: The Color of Dreams.

This exhibit combines the botanical imagery of Chagall with the living artwork of horticultural displays.  Overlooking Sarasota bay, this is a truly beautiful display of flowers, plants and painting.

Over the course of the past two weeks, several of you recommended newly opened Il CONTE Ristorante Pizzeria & Bar.  Located in the San Marco Center, Lakewood Ranch 8209 Natures Way.  We went with neighbors last week, and the four of us were underwhelmed.  

Though the interior is bright, modern and trendy, the food was not.  Our salads came without dressing and the pizza was over-baked.  In fairness, this was their first week; so we'll be back once the dust settles and report in the fall.

If you think summer could not get any hotter, it will starting July 31, as MTV premiers its new reality show  Siesta Key.   Taped in May and June, it's centered around "wealthy" college students home for the summer.

There is already kick-back from Siesta residents as they fear the notoriety will add to the year long congestion now associated with this Sarasota hot-spot.  What with a full parking lot for the July 4 holiday along with a packed beach most weekends. Siesta Key/Beach is hot already!!

Don't You Wish
Letter, I get Letters....  Randy writes of his wine store discovery in Lakewood Ranch.  Fine Wine & Tastings 8111 Main St. "is comparably priced to the big box stores but offers a selection of hard to get small production wines.

The inventory is eclectic and more interesting in choices than some of their better known competition."  Their Wine Bar offers over 25 choices as well as a weekly happy hour Mon-Fri 5-7pm.

For Fine Wine and Tastings inventory click here.

MUSIC MONDAYS will resume in the fall, but sadly without June LeBell, who lost her courageous fight with cancer last April.  In her stead will be husband Edward Alley.  The entire 2018 season is dedicated to June's memory.  The list already announced will be sure to please those of us who attended these wonderful mornings in the past.

Leading off January 8th is Bruce Adolphe, pianist, composer and author of NPR's Piano Puzzler.  The programs continue through March 26 with several guests including John Miller of the Sarasota Orchestra,  MET opera tenor Rafael Davilia and saxophonist Ashu.

To subscribe NOW, click here and then click red button that says ORDER TICKETS.  See you there next year!!!

Several restaurants are continuing SAVOR SARASOTA through September.  Table Creekside, Hyde Park Steakhouse, Bijou Cafe, Salute, Ruth's Chris Steak House and The Rosemary are just a small sample.  If you haven't been out in awhile there is value to be had at these and more.  I suggest you check with your favorite and see what specials they're offering through July and beyond.

 JIM'S RANT......After a 70% voter approval of Medical Marijuana in November, we are finally seeing some dispensaries open in Florida.  But not in Sarasota, as officials banned sales within the city limits.  Instead, a vote was passed allowing for an additional 60 days in able to draft an ordinance that will eventually allow sales here.   Only in Florida could the will of the people be so ignored.

Once again thanks for reading.  I'll be publishing next week, but then it's off until sometime late September......JIM


Friday, June 30, 2017

JULY 2, 2017


Leave it to WBTT to come up with the perfect summer attraction.  Their Broadway In Black presentation is drawing rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.

This new production featuring award winning Broadway musicals that helped launch the careers of Melba Moore in Purlie, Ben Vereen in Pippin, Jennifer Holliday in Dreamgirls, and Nell Carter in Ain't Misbehaven.  The Benjamins write:  The singing and dancing are fabulous.  It is a very entertaining show; do not miss it!"

Be prepared for an entertaining show, but a long one, as their presentation, with an intermission, runs nearly two and a half hours.  Playing through July 23 you can reserve your seats now by clicking here.

Took an excursion south on the Trail last week, and made first, and probably last visit to SPROUTS. I say last, since with two Whole Foods Markets and Fresh Market a few miles from home there is no reason to travel that far for a similar product.  Plus throw in Detwiler's for their meat, seafood, produce and specialty items.

However, Sprouts is a great addition to the market; especially those of you who live south of Main St. The store is wide open, with easy to navigate aisles.  Prices are less than above mentioned stores, but not by much.   Located 8330 S. Tamiami Trail and open daily 7am to 10 pm daily.

Simon's Daily Special Board
While in that part of town,  had lunch at an oldie but goodie, Simon's Coffee House 5900 S. Tamiami Trail.  Open for breakfast and lunch Mon-Sat 8am-3pm;  they are always busy, but with swift service, and not too long a wait.  

Simon's totally wholesome menu offers a wide variety of food options, including vegan and gluten-free.   Their many sandwiches are prepared with daily baked bread by The Bavarian Bakery,  which is also in their strip-mall location.  Outside dining is available as well.

Many of us have been underwhelmed by this summer's movie releases.  Lots of special effects, transformers, mummies, zombies, etc.  Finally, this past week a movie opened for and about humans.  Baby Driver comes zooming into theaters with a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and a 92% user score.

Starring Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, John Hamm and Ansel Elgort as the driver, Baby sounds like the perfect movie to see this holiday weekend.    The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and Washington Post are just few of the publications to praise this one.  You can see it before or after the fireworks.

Speaking of Fireworks, the place to be Tuesday evening is Bayfront Sarasota.  The display starts after 9, but there is plenty to do before then.  Several restaurants are offering carry-out dinners to take to the show.  You can always try a reservation of one of the many Main St. eateries, but I doubt if anything is available before 7:30

Those of us still smarting from FST's recently closed Burt & Me, take heart.  The Cabaret has come to the rescue with an outstanding Jersey Tenors.  The four tenors met while performing in Les Mis and the rest is history. Along with Frankie Valli's greatest hits, this group is as easily at home with Queen, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, and opera!! 

 Entertaining from start to finish no wonder the run is nearly sold-out.  However, performances are being added daily.  My advice is to call 941-366-9000 click here for a schedule of performances and purchase tickets on-line.   

Several of us saw Thursday night's performance. For most, if not all, it ranks right up there as the best FST/Cabaret show ever.

Last week's Rant generated many comments.  More than one of you wanted to know why I didn't take down name of person at call-ahead.  Simple answer; the system is automated, and serves more than one restaurant. I did save text to phone to no avail.   Now for this week.......

JIM'S RANT....After several trips on University Parkway's new divergent diamond, I am able to report some good news.  The Diamond is only confusing if you watch the video and read the FDOT materials.    I've had no issues east-west or north-south.  If you stay in your designated lanes, as one normally should, the trip is a breeze.  And this is happening even before project completion in a few months......

As always, thanks for reading.  See you next week.....JIM