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

Saturday, June 24, 2017

JUNE 25, 2017


I don't know how you feel, but every time I read an article about airport expansion, I wonder why our own SRQ is sitting with so few flights.  Just last week, newcomer Allegiant Air added new year-round non-stop service to four northern cities from Punta Gorda airport.  If we're supposedly the fastest growing community in Florida, why is our air service so poor?

I can remember better days of Air Tran non-stop to Baltimore and Atlanta.  For those flights you have to travel to Tampa or Ft. Myers.  Please let me know what you think.

Wherever you live in the Sarasota market, you are never that far away from Dry Dock Grill 412 Gulf of Mexico Dr. Longboat Key.  One of our best casual restaurants for soup, salad, pasta and seafood;  they are extremely busy during fall and winter months.  With summer season in full swing,  tables are readily available; especially at lunch or dinner before 6:30.  Preferred seating is available at 941-383-0120.

My Tuesday Romeo group had lunch there recently.  From oysters, to peel-shrimp, to chef salad and fried fish plate, we all remarked how well the food was prepared, and the relative speed in which it was delivered.  It also helped to have a great server.  Open lunch and dinner, I suggest you go before October. 

So many channels, and nothing really great to watch on television.  On Tuesday though, we made a nice discovery.  America's Got Talent on NBC is not only entertaining,  but featured Sarasota's Bello Nock climbing a pole.  Obviously taped weeks ago, Bello  was given 4 yes votes to continue in the competition.   Going out on a limb here, I doubt if he makes finals since he is currently appearing in The Historic Asolo through July 29. 

If you haven't seen his show the $15 ticket price is well worth it for the hour of entertainment. To purchase tickets or for schedule of performances click here.

Finished reading Al Franken: Giant Of The Senate.  Called the "best political book of the year" by many, I found it entertaining, and informative,  but way too long.  At times, I wondered if Franken wrote this to begin his campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination, which he categorically denies.

In any event, true to his SNL roots, there is lots of comedy;  especially his views on fellow Senators.  He is particularly harsh on Ted Cruz.  When asked about this,  Cruz stated the book is "obnoxious and insulting."  Ted just can't take a joke. 

A good read; especially with so much news focusing on Washington.

Smithsonian Festival Poster
 If  you're planning on a DC trip in the next few weeks, be sure and stop by the Smithsonian Center's Folklife and Cultural Heritage Festival.  Performing will be our own Sailor Circus.  Ranging in age from 11 to 18, they will join performers from 11 other youth circuses for a once in a lifetime experience.  Last week, a sell-out crowd attended their dress rehearsal and helped raise funds for the trip.

Also appearing are members of the aforementioned Bello family as well as some of the Wallenda family.

Boats will soon speed back through the waters of Lido Beach as the 33rd annual Sarasota Power Boat Festival continues through Fireworks July 4. Tickets available for
Thursday's kick-off party at Selby Gardens.  Catered by Michael's, the price is right at $150.00 pp.
For a complete schedule of events click here.

JIM'S RANT.....We've been customers of Lucky Pelican through several owners, and though there have been hiccups over the years, we have always gone back.  NOT  ANYMORE..  When using their call-ahead system last week, we were advised it was not necessary since they weren't on wait.  Upon arriving, a wait list had started.  When shown the saved phone text, we were NOT--POLITELY  told by hostess we were out of luck!!!  The owner witnessed the exchange, but did not intervene.  Their popularity will continue long after we're gone; however with so many new and good restaurants to choose from, they will not be missed by me!!!!

Have a great week.  I'll see you as we celebrate The JULY 4 Holiday Weekend.......JIM 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

JUNE 18, 2017


The Jersey Tenors kicked  off  FST's Cabaret season to packed houses.  This newly created  music review includes classic rock hits along with operatic favorites. 

Featuring music from Queen, ABBA, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, and more.  Sounds like great summer entertainment.  Playing through 7/17.  For tickets and performance schedule please click here. 

What separates this show from the current Burt and Me at Main Stage are the performers.  The Tenors quartet grew out of a Frankie Vallie and The Four Seasons tribute band.  In addition all cast members have Broadway credits, professional voices from pop to opera, and know how to belt out a song.

On the other hand, if you're tired of recreations of old songs and yearn for the real thing; YOU'RE IN LUCK.......

 One of our great singer-song-writers of the rock and roll era, Diana Ross, makes a return engagement June 23 at Van Wezel.  Though somewhat ancient, she does put on a good show of hits along with several costume changes.  Time has done little to dull the famous sound of the 60's,70's and 80's.

Tickets for the World Rowing Championships at Nathan Benderson Park are on sale now.  You can purchase tickets daily at The Visitors Center kiosk inside UTC. You can also purchase tickets on line by clicking here.

If any of you paid a visit to the High School event at Benderson last weekend where over 1,700 rowers competed, you know the kind of crowds to anticipate.   According to what I've read, several thousand more will be competing September 23-October 1. 

With close to 45,00 people expected for the event, tickets will become a premium later this summer.

John Grisham's newest thriller, Camino Island, starts like a speeding train and never lets up until near the end when it falls apart.  Yes, even Grisham can have a clunker.  It was as if he was in a hurry to finish for publication.  To be drawn in for over 300 pages and cast aside for a disappointing ending is enough to ask for a refund.  I give this one a C minus!  Grisham is scheduled for one of his legal thrillers later this year.  I hope for a more satisfying finish to that one.

Currently  reading Al Franken Giant Of The Senate and will have a review next week.  HINT..far better read than current Grisham.

Though Savor Sarasota may have ended its run on Thursday; it still continues at several outstanding restaurants.  Among them, Capital Grille, MoZaic, Hyde Park and The Rosemary. I have been to each and  highly recommend.  Their menus are deep, the servings are normal size, and they treat you like a real customer, not someone dining at a discount.  Not mentioning any names, but some restaurants had the audacity to serve their items at 1/2 size portions. 

And why does Savor Sarasota Month run two weeks instead of four? 

Megyn Kelly
Megyn Kelly, who gained instant notoriety when ridiculed by Donald Trump last year, immediately parlayed that exposure, leaving FOX for NBC.  Her first venture for them is not going well.  Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly is getting clobbered by 60 Minutes.  So, in order to create conversation she's booked controversial far-right radio talk show host Alan Jones this week at 7pm.  

Alex Jones
Jones, whose claims of  Sandy Hook shooting "a hoax perpetrated by forces hostile to the second amendment" have caused outrage among most intelligent Americans; many of whom are angered at the idea of any more publicity for Jones.

Kelly is too smart not to call Jones out on his implausible views. And, she has every right to do so! Jones has now released his transcript of the interview and is crying foul even before the program airs.  You watch and make your own conclusions.  Sandy Hook was no "hoax"!

JIM'S RANT.... Remember when shopping at a favorite store or mall was eagerly anticipated?  Not anymore, as major retailers make it easy to shop same store items on line and have liberal return policies to boot.

Maggie Menderski wrote last week in her Herald Retailing and Tourism column of  having recently discovered the convenience of shopping Amazon on-line for more than just a book.  Her enthusiasm is unbridled as she makes a convincing argument to stay at home and shop.

 I don't see how the Sarasota  retail community could be too thrilled with her column.  Though on-line shopping is now a way of life for so many it should not be for someone who writes a column in support of in-store shopping.

Many of you received last week's edition of Jim Knows Sarasota for the first time in weeks.  I'm happy to say, delivery issues have been resolved.  So until next week....thanks for reading...JIM 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

JUNE 11, 2017

Beginning at 8 on CBS, is Broadway's own Super Bowl;  The 71st Annual Tony Awards.  As of this writing, it is still uncertain whether Bette Midler will be joining the cast of Hello Dolly, as they perform one of the songs from her hit revival.  Even without her performance, Kevin Spacey and many others will keep you entertained for over three hours.

Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Carl Reiner
If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast is the HBO documentary about vitality.  Celebrities from
Carl Reiner to Dick Van Dyke to Mel Brooks are only a few of the 90-plus-year-old people profiled in this earnest and comical documentary about growing old and enjoying it!! 

There are so many wonderful moments in close to two hours, but none better or more touching focuses on Ida Keeling, who took up jogging to overcome grief, and ran a 100-yard dash last year-at age 100.  You can catch this On-Demand. 

Many of you have seen Burt and Me and in no uncertain terms let me know about it.  However, along with the negative have come positive comments.  I find out for myself tonight (Saturday) and will have one final comment next week.  But I couldn't resist a comment from Irv Becker who writes....."the setting was lovely and everything down hill from there...amateur hour would be a step up from this performance."

Larry Coleman and Marlene Meyer both told me if you like Bacharach's music you will be entertained. If you want to see for yourself, this one closes in a week.

Old friend and faithful reader, Pacy Oletsky writes "Most of your restaurant reviews center around what salad you ate.  I wonder what 90% of your readers who eat real food think."

This week I am going to review two restaurants in UTC, both of which I highly recommend, either now during Savor Sarasota, or anytime after.  By the way both are great for special occasions.

Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon
Seasons 52 should be a familiar name to most of you.  They have several locations around the country in addition to Sarasota.  We had birthday dinner with granddaughter Cori in their Tampa location. From the moment we gave our name for reservation, to our booth, server, bread basket, meal and dessert, we were treated like the only customers in the restaurant. We've been to the UTC location with the same experience. 

For reservations call 941-702-9652; especially if you want the quiet of a booth.

Our Capital Grille experience was similar, and we took advantage of their Savor Sarasota menu. (Only a few days left for this promotion.  I urge you to call NOW for whatever reservation time is left (941-256-3841) Like Rosemary, there was nothing skimpy about their portions, including steak and salmon.

Started with a glass of wine, followed by a wonderful bread basket, dinner of bone-in-dry-aged NY strip and salmon along with family style servings of potatoes and vegetable.  Finished with a dessert of flourless chocolate cake or creme brulee.

Pacy, do you feel better about my eating habits now???

An interesting store recently opened at UTC/Cooper Creek.  Five Below near a fading Leroy Selmon  is loaded with items $1-5.00.  Here's just a sample: greeting cards, beauty products, cell-phone covers, candy, clothes and pool toys.  The list goes on, but you get the idea.  Easier to navigate, and far brighter interior than $ Store, Five Below also frequently changes merchandise.  So if this kind of shopping is your thing, a weekly visit is not out of the ordinary.

Tonight Rosemary District's Pomona Restaurant served its last meal.  The owners are now going to concentrate on Main Street's Lila.  Rumor has it an Italian restaurant (how many of those do we need?) will be taking over their beautiful location.  Still unconfirmed, the new restaurant is People's Pizza, expanding here from Cherry Hill New Jersey.  Rosemary continues to be the district's premier restaurant.

 JIM'S RANT....There are many reasons to fall in love with Sarasota.  One is not our rainy season.  It just doesn't rain here, it pours.  Days at a time, measuring not in puddles, but inches.  What once was a drought has now become hazardous.  Please stay off the roads if you can't handle precipitation.  Too many who don't know how to navigate standing water took to the streets this week creating a nightmare for all of us.

Until next week...stay dry....JIM

The VANITY plate sweeping the country


Saturday, June 3, 2017

JUNE 4, 2017


It may be a quiet time for Sarasota, but you would never know it by the number of venues offering Summer entertainment. 

Though the Sarasota Symphony Orchestra is on hiatus for the summer, classical music abounds for the next few weeks.  For several years the Orchestra has been host to  Sarasota Musical Festival, as young talent gather from all over the country to learn from a professional staff of musicians.  The sessions take place at either Holley Hall or the Opera House.

The first Saturday Symphony on June 10 showcases the talent of both faculty and student participants in full orchestral splendor at the historic Sarasota Opera House. Along with Flutist Jasmine Choi, a 2105 student and Music Director Jeffrey Kahane this first concert is titled " The Triumphant Fifth", with music from Beethoven, Faure and Ibert.  

To purchase tickets call 941-953-3434.

Burt & Me, featuring the songs of Burt Bachrach and Hal David opened FST's Mainstage summer season Wednesday and runs through 6/18.  The show is about a young man who learns to enjoy taking piano lessons his parents force on him after his teacher introduces him to Bachrach's music.  More than a play with music, this is a coming of age romantic comedy.

Several more familiar Bachrach songs are performed by the talented cast.  They include Close to You, What the World Needs Now, Close to You, One Less Bell to Answer, and Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.  Sounds like a good way to spend a HOT June night.  To purchase tickets for all shows click here or call 941-366-9000.

After a disappointing Premier and run of  Beatsville, Asolo Rep closes its season with its annual family production.  A theatrical reimagination of Jules Verne's classic deep sea tale, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, opens Wednesday and plays through July 1.

According to their publicity, "Leagues comes to life through visually striking multimedia story-telling, with vivid projections and puppetry taking the audience on the voyage of a lifetime."  Should be terrific entertainment for the young and young at heart.

Several  area attractions are partnering with Asolo.  Among them, Mote Marine Laboratory, South Florida Museum, Manatee County Libraries and Schools, and Conservation Foundation of Gulf Coast.  You can click here to reserve tickets for this family show.

Back by popular demand... SHIRLEY AND ME.  A total sell-out at the recent Sarasolo Festival.  Actress, artist, and writer Jan Wallace appears in a one time only performance next Friday, June 9, 8:00pm at the Starlite Room 1001 Coconut.  Tickets are $15 at the door or call 941-979-8084 to reserve one.  Pre-show dinner is available as well.  To reserve a table call 941-708-5613.

More summer fun next week.  But if you can't wait, this week's OBSERVER includes Summer 2017 SEASON....copies all over town.

Last week my Tuesday ROMEO group made a return visit to BOCA  As some of you may recall, the same group had lunch there several months ago, and came away dissatisfied. 

Not anymore!!!!

A new easier to navigate lunch menu,  new manager and terrific server, erased any negative memory.  The food was delicious.  Three of us had the chopped salad with several components from romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, garbanzo beans and air-chilled chicken plus several more ingredients.  Their salad easily blows most of the like salads away.  A special  donut with ice cream dessert completed our triumphant return.
Main dining area of BOCA

Unlike several other restaurants in that area, BOCA does accept reservations at  941-256-3565. A word of caution.....BOCA has become a very popular spot and does get noisy in the evening.  My best advice if you want quiet is to book their second floor.  Your lunch can easily be enjoyed in their main dining area.  Either way, I  NOW enthusiastically endorse BOCA!!!!! 

Next weekend you can take advantage of still another St. Armands Circle CRAFT FESTIVAL.  Running June 10th-11th 10am-4pm.  This is the 16th annual from promoter American Craft Endeavors, which is one of several bringing these events to the Circle.

JIM'S RANT.....I am a big supporter of Savor Sarasota.  Though the cost for dinner has gone to $32, it's still  good value for the money.  However, if you DON'T eat dessert,  then you'll find in most cases, it's better to order from the menu.  Some restaurants will let you substitute a starter for dessert; several won't.  What with the entire restaurant industry in a funk (see WSJ article 5/31) most Sarasota restaurants are offering deals.  Support the promotion, but watch that waistline......

Footnote:  Ariana Grande, along with several recording and performing super-stars, is back in Manchester tonight for a star-studded benefit concert in support of the bombing victims.  When tickets went on sale Thursday, they sold out in 7 minutes!!!!

If you want to watch the show live, The Free Form network channel 444 is carrying the entire performance.  ABC will be repeating that after their NBA playoff coverage.
Pres. Trump's Word of The Week

Thanks for reading....see you next week...JIM

JIM'S RANT....I am a big supporter of Savor Sarasota.  However, I have a word of caution as you make dinner reservations at your favorite restaurant.  Beware of