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SRQ DAILY Dec 8, 2020

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"If I'm going to get fat, I at least want it to be from the good stuff."

- J.R. Garraus, Owner and Chef of JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe

-All Roads Lead to Hope, as seen in SRQ's December 2020 Issue. Click for the full story.
[Government]  Botanical Gardens Zone District Moves Forward
Jacob Ogles, jacob.ogles@srqme.com

Sarasota City Commissioners voted to create a new Botanical Gardens Zone District, a major step toward allowing a master plan for the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens to move forward.

A virtual meeting on the matter stretched a couple hours before Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of creating the zoning, a dramatically different series of events than the extended deliberations spanning multiple meetings a year ago that ultimately led to a 3-2 decision against the Selby Gardens application. Since that time, two commissioners who voted no left the board, one declining to seek reelection and the other going down in defeat in November. Commissioner Jennifer Ahearn-Koch, the only remaining commissioner to vote down the last Selby proposal, cast the only vote against the zoning district on Monday. New Commissioners Erik Arroyo and Kyle Battie joined with Hagen Brody and Liz Alpert in approving the change.

Supporters and critics still delivered hours of input on the merits and drawbacks of creating a new zoning district, one that allows for a plan including some controversial elements, most notably a 450-space parking garage. Former City Commissioner Susan Chapman, who lives in a neighborhood adjacent to the Gardens, said that’s an intense level of parking more appropriate downtown. Moreover, she fears the creation of a zoning district specifically for the needs of Selby Gardens would create a means for similar development. “If you want an intensive restaurant and an urban style, why not just become a botanical garden?” she said.

Supporters of the Selby plan said allowing a renovation and redevelopment on the 15-acre site was critical to the institution’s future, and thus would benefit the entire community. “You cannot assess this project in a vacuum,” said former Mayor Suzanne Atwell.

Jennifer Rominiecki, executive director for Selby Gardens, said the master plan for the Gardens, billed as a compromise with significant scaling back of uses compared to the proposal presented publicly last year, boasted far more supporters than dissenters. “We have done everything we can to address concerns,” she said. “Thousands have expressed their support.” The plan itself at this point has been scrutinized in more than 80 community meetings and over the course of 40 hours of Planning Board and City Commission hearings.

The vote Monday isn’t the final say. The creation of a zoning district allows for Selby Gardens to apply for the actual rezoning of the 15-acre site and to prepare a more detailed site plan for consideration in the future. 

[Mexican Food]  El Melvin Unveils Next-Level Menu
Andrew Fabian, andrew.fabian@srqme.com

The restaurant industry is hard enough even for seasoned veterans. Between the thin profit margins and the ever-changing variables associated with trends in cuisine, demographic shifts and, I don’t know, raging pandemics, keeping seats filled can feel like an exercise in futility. Though no formula guarantees success, the restaurants that stick around all have at least two things in common: incredible food and owners/managers that shake hands, kiss babies and altogether demonstrate a hunger for customer satisfaction. It is to the latter attributes that Mitchell Good and Matthew Hess, proprietors of El Melvin, have leveled up.

Rather than sit idly by as COVID-19 decimated restaurant sales, the pair of upstart restaurateurs took the time to tinker. “We don’t just want to survive, we want to thrive,” says Hess, “and we’re always hungry to improve.” The two already demonstrated their customer service hustle by making sure one of them is always at the restaurant, but the bulk of their improvement comes from the revamped menu that features some completely new and some upcycled dishes. With their fresh assortment of flavorful Mexican-inspired cuisine, they hope to cement themselves as “the” place for food from South of the border rather than “a” place. 

An upcycled starter immediately signals the menu has achieved new heights. Mexican street corn riblets take the already-perfected flavor of roasted corn topped with chipotle mayo, queso fresco and a dash of chili powder, but are shareable and less messy by coming in bite-sized pieces. That the pieces are also partially fried almost constitutes cheating, but they pack more punch than the original. The newly added duck taquitos (flautas) feature duck confit seasoned and lightly fried, then topped with queso and crema. Served atop Bibb lettuce cups with lime wedges on the side, the flautas check all the boxes for both refined and rookie palettes. And the lime should definitely be used.

Standout entrees include cochinita pibil and the puffy tacos. Though the cochinita is not wrapped in banana leaves and buried underground with hot coals to cook overnight, El Melvin’s version still impresses with its size and flavor. Marinated in citrus and achiote paste, the bone-in chop gets a nice char in the pan before finishing in the oven and comes with jalapeno grits, blistered tomatoes, pickled onions and queso. The enormous puffy tacos (3), featuring a blue corn tortilla that is both crispy and soft, comes bursting at the seams with lamb picadillo, avocado, lettuce, radish, crema and queso. Both options come in large serving sizes, though they pop with so much flavor they are worth feeling uncomfortably full over.

Notable drinks include the avocado margarita and the “mezcal made me do it.” The margarita takes Milagro silver tequila and cuts it with avocado puree and agave nectar for a rich cocktail that assuages the guilt (maybe) of one-too-many with its potassium, fiber and protein. Casamigos mezcal, lime and pineapple come in a coupe cocktail glass rimmed with chili salt, making the “mezcal made me do it” a smoky, slightly spicy but delightfully complex option for the adventurous drinker.

El Melvin celebrates its 1-year anniversary with the return of an annual holiday block party on Saturday, December 12th from 5 pm to midnight. Featuring music, drink specials and $2 tacos, guests will also have an opportunity to sit down and try the new menu offerings. Social distancing, masks and regular hand washing are strongly encouraged to make this a safe outdoor event. 

El Melvin, 1355 Main Street, Sarasota, 941-366-1618.

Click here for more information.

[Florida Fusion Food]  A Little Bit Florida, A Little Bit Cuban, A Whole Lot of Delicious
Ariel Chates, ariel.chates@srqme.com

“If I’m going to get fat, I atleast want it to be from the good stuff,” jokes J.R., chef and owner of the aptly named JR’s Old Packinghouse Cafe.

At first glance you might write this off as classic Florida fare, but a look further into the dishes and a few bites of anything you order will quickly change your mind. Everything J.R. does has a quirky twist to it. The menu you’ll find at the Old Packinghouse Cafe isn’t skimping on the deliciousness or the calories, but it’s all housemade from scratch or as J.R. put it “the good stuff.” 

For the January menu, J.R. knows several customers will have made the yearly promise to get fit, so he whipped up a Packinghouse friendly version of a salad.  “Oh, it’s totally calorie free. It’s on a bed of romaine,” he jokes again. It’s a playful mash-up of several scrumptious items: bow-tie noodles, grilled shrimp, romaine, feta and kalamata olives. It might be best described as a greek pasta salad.

The January burger? Smothered in homemade queso and tortilla strips served alongside sweet tangy coleslaw and crispy thick cut fries. The wings as well get a unique upgrade: covered in a garlicky sauce and topped with shredded cheese with diced red onion and tomato - you know, for health. 

The cheeky menu, with new specials every month, describes Basa as “grouper’s first cousin,” and advertises their blackened shrimp with garlic toast, “like Mom never made.” 

With all that to choose from, don’t forget J.R.’s Cuban and Spanish heritage means he’s whipping up some seriously authentic plates from melt in your mouth Ropa Vieja to Pica Dillo Cuban Beef to Mojo pork. Their Cuban Sandwich was even nominated as the best in Florida by USA Today - quite a feat in the sunshine state. 

Whatever you’re in the mood for, J.R.’s Old Packinghouse Cafe is bound to have something to tantalize your taste buds. Open Monday through Thursday 11am to 9pm and Friday and Saturday 11am to 10pm. They are closed on Sundays. 

JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe 987 S. Packinghouse Rd Sarasota, 941-371-9358.

Click here for more information.

[RASM]  On the Fence About Selling Your Home?

You may be aware that we are currently in a seller’s market. Many factors are contributing to this hot market: historically low interest rates, the effect of COVID-19 on urban-dwellers’ interest in moving to the less dense suburbs, and a scarcity of homes available to buy creating fast-paced turnover. In the month of October alone, a total of 2,481 sales were recorded in Sarasota and Manatee counties, a 36.1% increase over the same month last year. 

Whether you are thinking about downsizing, upsizing, renting or moving out of the city, this could be the optimal time for you to sell your home. With residential 30-year fixed mortgage interest rates hovering around 2.76%, decreasing time on market, and average sales price at or above asking price, this is the best time to sell in many years. The extra cash from your sale can go toward new furniture, paying down your new mortgage, the kids’ tuition, your 401K – or anything else!

These conditions will not last forever. Whatever is standing between you and your next home, local REALTORS® can help. They offer the expertise to sell your home at the right price and market it effectively and safely. They can refer you to resources for decluttering, staging, financing and moving. Will 2021 be the year for your next big move?  Learn More  

Visit the RASM Website to Learn More

[New Show]  A Come Together Holiday Concert Free to the Community

Key Chorale’s free streaming online concert, A Come Together Holiday premieres Monday, December 14 at 6pm. “With many of our families apart this year,” said Artistic Director Joseph Caulkins, “It our hope, that even in a small way, this online free concert may bring us just a little closer. Music is such an important part of this season. So, no matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, I hope these selections bring the joy of the season to all.” The free online streaming concert will be available any time after the premiere on December 14 at 6pm on Key Chorale’s YouTube Channel: www.youtube.com/c/KeyChoraleSarasota.  

Click here for more information.

[New Hire]  Michael Saunders and Company Announces New Assistant Branch Manager

 Michael Saunders & Company is pleased to welcome Laurie Minear as the new assistant branch manager for the Main Street-Sarasota office. Laurie can be reached by calling 941-951-6660 or by email at laurieminear@michaelsaunders.com. 

[New Position ]  Visit Sarasota County Announces Fiscal Year 2021 Board of Directors

 Visit Sarasota County (VSC) is excited to share the newly-elected Fiscal Year 2021 Board of Directors. The Executive Committee of the Board of Directors is comprised of the following individuals: Chair, Christine Johnson, President, Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast; Vice Chair, Nick Mavrikas, General Manager, Embassy Suites; Secretary/Treasurer, Lorrie Liang, Chief Operating Officer, Sarasota Memorial Hospital; and Immediate Past Chair, Steven High, Executive Director, The Ringling Museum.  

Click here for more information.

[New Hire]  Brooke Chase Associates, Inc. Recruits Lisa Mahon as Director of Human Resources for Wellborn Cabinet

Joseph McElmeel, Chairman and CEO of executive search firm Brooke Chase Associates, Inc. is pleased to announce the successful recruitment by its Executive Recruiter, Richard Mohrman of Lisa Mahon as Director of Human Resources for Wellborn Cabinet. 

Click here for more information.

[Local Market]  After Hours at The Bazaar

On Thursday, December 10th The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime will keep their doors open until 7pm. Enjoy live music and meet local artisans and vendors with art, clothing, furniture, plants, and so much more. Grab a bite to eat at Hamlet’s Eatery in the courtyard and stay for the 7:30 pm show, A Christmas Carol. Show tickets are $20 and available through The Players Centre for Performing Arts. 

Click here for more information.

[In This Issue]  SRQ's December 2020 Edition Out Now

SRQ's December 2020 edition is out now with stories of local philanthropic heroes, holiday gift guides and more. 

Click here for the full December 2020 edition of SRQ Magazine.

[SOON]  MUSIC: Sarasota Orchestra: Beethoven @ 250 , December 10 – December 13

The Sarasota String Quartet throws a 250th birthday party for the irascible master Beethoven, born December 16, 1770. To celebrate, our foursome will present two of his most treasured quartets from December 10 until December 13, 2020, from two vastly different periods in the composer’s life. The Quartet No. 4 was included in the very first set of string quartets Beethoven published, and he had toiled continuously for over two years to complete the set. The high drama that would come to be a hallmark of Beethoven’s music is already evident here, and the work is among his most popular. Nine years later the mature Beethoven produced his good-natured Quartet No. 10, nicknamed “Harp” due to the unusual usage of pizzicato string writing. Spend an hour with the birthday boy and marvel at the drama and energy of his glorious string quartets... certainly a cause for celebration in any year. $10 Streaming Access from December 17 through 22.

Holley Hall, 709 North Tamiami Trail

[SOON]  THEATER: Virtual: Florida Studio Theatre: Reckoning: Race in American Theatre , December 10, 11am

America's scars of racism run deep - both North and South of the Mason-Dixon Line. Hear from playwrights Rachel Lynett and Kenneth Jones on December 10, 2020 at 11am about their works in progress, tackling America's history of division and inequality with undeterred honesty. Lynett's play, Carry Me, based on real events, centers on two wealthy Black Suffragists from Philadelphia who face a challenging decision about the politics of progress. Jones shares about his play, Last Call at the Old Slave Quarters Lounge, a bold new work set in a popular Mississippi restaurant steeped in unsettling history. When long-buried secrets are unearthed, they challenge the status quo of three generations of a family of restaurateurs, revealing conflicting views on heritage, community and responsibility.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: Artist Talk & Demo with Choreographer Liony Garcia & Dancers , December 10, 11am

Miami based dancer and choreographer Liony Garcia will discuss his time as an artist in residence at The Ringling, and his project Corporeal Decorum on December 10, 2020 at 11am. Joined by his dancers for this  broadcast from the Historic Asolo Theater, this part artist talk-part demonstration will elaborate on the Art Deco movement of Miami, and discuss how the past can be brought into embodied practices by translating historic architectural and object design into present day movement and scenography. This opportunity is $5 for the public and free for members.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Selby Gardens: Selby Gardens-Style Living Holiday Wreath Class , December 10, 10am-1pm

Deck the halls with a Selby Gardens signature style living epi-wreath. Join veteran Selby Gardens horticulturist Addie Worth on December 10 from 10am to 1pm to create a bright and beautiful holiday adornment for your home. Design and arrange red, green and silver bromeliads and cacti for a spectacular display of greenery while learning about epiphytes and their unique care requirements. When properly cared for, epi-wreaths can last for years to come. Materials fee will cover wreath and plants, you may bring other decorations. Class fee is $65 and $55 for members and the materials fee is $85.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Selby Gardens: Pioneer Boatbuilding Program , December 11, 10:30am-12pm

Join Historic Spanish Point campus staff for this 90-minute program will include an introduction to the maritime heritage of the region and observation of the boat building now in-process boat building. This in-person program will be conducted outside on December 11 from 10:30am to 12pm - shine only. Selby Gardens Members get in free or paid admission to the Historic Spanish Point campus. Sponsored by Florida Department of State - Department of Community Affairs.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Van Wezel: Cabaret by the Bay starring Whitney James , December 11 – December 12, 7:30pm

Join the Van Wezel on Friday, December 11 and Saturday December 12, 2020 at 7:30pm. Tables for up to 2 guests are $40 and tables for up to 4 guests are $80. Whitney James pairs incredible vocal skills with intimate, meaningful interpretations. She brings to the bandstand a flawless intonation, a broad range of colors, sounds, and an instrumentalist’s sensibility. She trained in opera and musical theater before focusing on a career in jazz and became a protégé of master jazz vocalists Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan. Early in her career, she opened for Nina Simone and Betty Carter as well as pop giants Earth, Wind & Fire and Macy Gray. She was featured on Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz Rising Stars on NPR hosted by Jon Weber in 2012. Her album, The Nature of Love, has been acclaimed by US and International jazz press. She currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Jazz Vocal Performance at University of North Texas.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 North Tamiami Trail

[SOON]  FOOD: Jazz Brunch with Nancy Pastore and Danny Hoefer , December 13, 10am-2pm

Join Hamlet's Eatery for a Jazz Brunch on Sunday, December 13 in the gorgeous outdoor courtyard of The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime. Relax under the covered patio at 821 Apricot Avenue, Sarasota from 10am until 2pm. Menu options will include both traditional and vegan dishes from build your own omelettes with fresh organic eggs to tofu scrambles. Free mimosa with entree. Starting at 10:30am until 1:30pm, enjoy live jazz music featuring Nancy Pastore and Danny Hoefer. Stay afterwards for A Christmas Carol presented by The Players Centre for Performing Arts. Showtime at 2pm and tickets are only $20 available through The Players.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Virtual: Key Chorale: A Come Together Holiday , December 14, 6pm

A Come Together Holiday is a virtual one-hour celebration of music for the holidays on December 14 at 6pm. Featuring the Chamber Singers, Section Leaders Ensemble and soloists Jamal Sarikoki, Amy Connours, Lorraine Murphy, Michelle Caulkins and Mark Wagstrom. Special performances also by violinist Daniel Jordan and clarinetist Laura Petty. Viewers can also be part of the performance with eight singalongs such as Joy to the World, Winter Wonderland, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Jingle Bells and more. So grab your cup of eggnog, or hot chocolate, and enjoy the joy and peace of the season with Key Chorale. This one-hour concert is perfect to watch and sing along with family and friends from the comfort of your home.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Virtual: Newtown Business Assistance Grant: Informational Meeting , December 8, 1pm-6pm

Ever considered starting a business in Newtown? Come learn about grant funds available to help attract new businesses to North Sarasota from 1pm to 6pm via Zoom on December 8, 2020. Grant funds are also available to expand/improve existing businesses. Grant Summary: Provided by the Newtown CRA and City of Sarasota, up to $60,000 available, Newtown residents must provide a 20% match and non-Newtown residents must provide a 50% match, funds interior or exterior improvements to a building in the Newtown CRA area, can fund retrofits of food trucks or trailers.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: Selby Gardens: Botanical Briefing , December 9, 12pm-1pm

Olivia Braida, Director of The Academy of Botanical Art at Selby Gardens will share A Brief History of Botanical Art on December 9 from 12pm to 1pm. Olivia, whose work and Academy is featured in the Museum of Botany & the Arts Orchid Show display will share a fascinating history of botanical art and illustration. Become a member of Selby Gardens to register for this lecture.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Selby Gardens: Florida Archaeology Program , December 9, 10:30am-12pm

Join the staff at Historic Spanish Point campus for this 90-minute program that will include an introduction to the Native American heritage of the region, and observation of in-process archaeological work. The in-person program will be conducted outside on December 9 from 10:30am to 12pm – shine only. Selby Gardens members free or paid admission to Historic Spanish Point campus. This event is sponsored by the Florida Department of State – Department of Community Affairs.

Historic Spanish Point Campus, 337 North Tamiami Trail, Osprey

[SOON]  GALLERY: Ringling College: Sally Pettibon: Personal Geography , October 19 – December 11

"Personal Geography represents the connection I feel for my hometown of What Cheer, Iowa. This small town with its boarded-up buildings and a melancholy that permeates the streets holds so many memories of my early life. Although I lived there for only five years, it has a hold on me that’s difficult to explain. Perhaps it’s my inherent need to belong somewhere, perhaps it’s the memories of my family who are no longer alive, or maybe it’s the place itself with its rolling hills, verdant cornfields and own distinct quality of light. More likely it’s my memory of a place where both my father and I were born, where my Grandparents and Great-Grandparents lived nearby. The map of my life extends quite far, I lived in four different states by the time I was 16. But it’s this tiny forgotten town that has a hold on me both temporal and spiritual that I don’t fully understand. Combining family snapshots with photographs I have taken in What Cheer since the 1970’s Personal Geography explores the impermanence of history and memory and the permanence of place." This exhibition is open by appointment only. Please email galleries@ringling.edu to request an appointment. This exhibit began at the Larry R. Thompson Academic Center on October 19, 2020 and will end on December 11, 2020, during museum hours.

Larry R. Thompson Academic Center, 2700 N Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34234

[SOON]  THEATER: Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe: Black Nativity , December 2 – December 27, 2pm and 7:30pm

WBTT lovingly presents its Christmas card to the community, Langston Hughes' Black Nativity. The show is a celebration of the Nativity story, with gospel, blues, spiritual and Christmas music paired with the poetry of Langston Hughes and the creativity of WBTT. Children and adults alike will be enthralled by this high-energy, inspiring show. The show will run at 2pm and 7:30pm from December 2, 2020 until December 27, 2020.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1012 North Orange Avenue

[SOON]  MUSIC: Online: The Perlman Music Program Suncoast: Cellist Sterling Elliott , December 10

The Perlman Music Program Suncoast is celebrating their 2020-2021 Season with virtual programming - featuring the gifted talents of The Perlman Music Program (PMP) alumni, for you and your family to enjoy from the comfort of your own home. PMP alumni are professional musicians, many of whom hold leadership positions among renowned orchestras and faculties. Please be sure to check back often as they will be adding more content throughout the Season. They will also add a few surprises along the way. Cellist Sterling Elliott will play virtually on December 10, 2020.

Online, Online

[SOON]  FESTIVAL: Selby Gardens: Lights in Bloom: An Open-Air Holiday Light Show , December 12 – January 2, 6pm-8pm

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens brings you Lights in Bloom: An Open-air Holiday Light Show on December 12 to 23, 26 and 31 and January 1 and 2, 2020 from 6pm until 9pm. More than two million lights illuminate the gardens, and walkways are transformed into sensory light tunnels. Stroll through magical gardens filled with beautifully lit flowers, radiant rainforest butterflies, dragonflies, and more. Lights in Bloom: An Open-air Light Show has become a tradition for residents and visitors to celebrate the holiday season in Sarasota. Masks are required for entry. Access each evening is limited. Selby Gardens will monitor the number of visitors to ensure appropriate social distancing and safety for all. Santa will not be visiting this year and interactive games will not be available. Instead, we will be offering a special, free photo opportunity for you and your guests. Food and beverages will be available for purchase at a variety of locations throughout the Gardens, including the Selby House Cafe. General admission is $20 for members and $25 for non-members, early access is $30 for members and $35 for non-members, and four night passes are $80 for members and $100 for non-members.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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