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SRQ DAILY May 21, 2024

Tuesday Dining and Food Edition

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Tuesday Dining and Food Edition

"Everything about the new space will be similar, but it will be elevated."

- Florence Schmitt, Co-owner, Florence and The Spice Boys.

[The Dish]  Spice Up Your Life
Kate Wight, kate.wight@srqme.com

For the last five years, husband and wife team Florence and Steven Schmitt and their longtime friend and business partner Carl Kolber have been spicing up the Sarasota food scene with their innovative take on Middle-Eastern-inspired street food. Initially billed as The Spice Boys, Carl and Steven hit the streets of Sarasota in a food truck designed by Florence who sometimes joined them to take orders. Locals quickly fell in love with their lively dishes that were packed with flavor and bursting with color. In late 2022, they put the truck in park and opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant in The Landings that they called Florence and The Spice Boys. Now, the trio will open a second Sarasota location of Florence and The Spice Boys at the University Town Center (UTC).

“Moving into the permanent location was incredibly fun and exhilarating but it was also a steep learning curve,” says Florence. “I’ve worked in plenty of restaurants and hospitality is my absolute jam but I had never managed one or run a team or made schedules or done ordering and all the things that goes along with it.”

Diving into the deep end has worked out well. Florence and The Spice Boys flagship location in The Landings has quickly become a local hotspot, thanks in large part to its inventive cuisine which has been inspired by the journeys undertaken by the well-traveled trio.

“Carl was really committed to research. When we were talking about opening the food truck he flew over to Lebanon and went around asking little old ladies how they made their hummus and what’s the best way to make all falafel and did all this market research,” Florence says. “Then on our last trip to Tel Aviv Steven was so blown away with what the young chefs are doing there because it’s all of these traditional flavors prepared in very untraditional ways. The creativity was off the leash.”

That dichotomy is evident in the menu. While the chefs have a deep knowledge of and reverence for authentic Middle Eastern cuisine, they are pushing the boundaries and doing it in a way that feels right to them--and creating completely unique cuisine along the way. Florence’s favorite dish is Bhel Puri, which is traditionally a savory snack in India. This interpretation features green apples and coriander chutney and is dressed with tamarind and yogurt, transforming the dish into one that is tangy, sweet, and savory all at once. One of the most popular dishes amongst patrons in the Rainbow Bowl which is packed with colorful ingredients like purple pickled slaw, golden banana peppers, and blue coconut rice tinted with natural butterfly pea powder. The atmosphere at Florence and the Spice Boys is as eclectic and vibrant as the menu. The stylish space has a laid-back, Bohemian vibe featuring lush greenery and cozy rattan furniture.

Slated to open in late 2024 or early 2025, Florence and the Spice Boys at UTC will have a distinct identity from the location at The Landings.

“Everything about the new space will be similar, but it will be elevated,” Florence says. This includes the menu. While all of the old favorites will be available in the new location, the bigger kitchen will give Steven the opportunity to explore more complex dishes as well. Get ready. Things are about to get even spicier. 

Pictured: The Rainbow Bowl, a favorite at Florence and the Spice Boys, is a colorful dish packed with flavor. Photo courtesy of Florence Schmitt.

For full menu click here

[The Dish]  Gecko's Annual Iron Chef Competition

Join the Gecko’s Hospitality Group family of restaurants to celebrate the culinary creativity of your favorite Gecko’s Grill & Pub Chefs during the annual Gecko’s Hospitality Group Iron Chef Challenge. From May 13th – June 9th and June 10th-16th each of our six Gecko’s will participate in a weekly special Iron Chef Menu, with several of our Chefs designing delectable and inventive fare, plus some of our guests’ tried and true favorites with a creative twist. The contest is a weekly competition between Gecko’s Kitchen Creatives and guests may sample what the GHG kitchen pro’s have up their Chef Jacket sleeves.  Whichever Iron Chef Special Menu is the favorite of our GHG guests for the week wins the Iron Chef title for that week and a cash prize with the Iron Chefs named after the competition knives have been cleaned and put away in June. There will be a Championship Final the week of June 10-16th, with the winning GHG location being crowned the Gecko’s Hospitality Group’s Iron Chef 2024 Champ. Weekly Iron Chef recipe’s all must contain CREATIVITY!  Menus must include minimum of three Entrees, with a maximum of five items on the menu and including the use of either filet or rib eye. Winners are based on Iron Chef menu item sales vs. total food sales at each location, with one Iron Chef per location. We will also crown one location as the Gecko’s Hospitality Group’s Iron Chef Grand Champion with a cook-off week of competition!  The Chef & Sous Chef team from each location will collaborate on a menu and compete against the Chef & Sous Chef teams from the other GHG locations. The team who wins that week will be the GHG Grand Champion with the winning team earning a handsome bonus & bragging rights for the year. The Iron Chef Champion in 2023 crown was reclaimed from 2022 by Stickney Point Gecko’s James Roberts...but the GHG siblings have been eagerly awaiting the return of this In House competition, are sharpening their knives and gunning for the coveted champion’s Chef coat and trophy!  Join us as our Gecko’s Chef’s fire up their stoves and as always, delight in sharing our award-winning Gecko’s hospitality with you. 

[Arts & Entertainment]  Venice Theatre Launches 2024 Community Survey
As Venice Theatre kicks off its landmark 75th Season, the organization invites community members to participate in a comprehensive survey aimed at shaping the future of their local theatre. Following the announcement party of their milestone season this past Tuesday, May 14, the theatre is eager to engage with the community to ensure that they are meeting the unique desires and needs of the area they serve. Since its inception, Venice Theatre has been committed to making a dramatic impact on all stages of life, and among their core values are inclusiveness, accessibility, accountability, and growth. With this historic 75th Season, the theatre seeks to build upon its legacy of excellence through community engagement by incorporating valuable insights and feedback from its patrons. The community survey provides an opportunity for individuals to share their thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on a variety of topics, including productions, amenities, events, education programs, and more. Whether attendees are seasoned theatre enthusiasts or newcomers to the stage, their input is instrumental in Venice Theatre’s continued growth.  By actively engaging with the community through initiatives like this year’s survey, Venice Theatre reaffirms its commitment to creating an inclusive and dynamic cultural experience that enriches the lives of all who participate. The 2024 Community Survey is being conducted now through June 20. For anyone wanting to provide feedback, they can complete the survey via this link: surveymonkey.com/r/TFF5BXT. For more information about Venice Theatre and its 75th Season, please visit, venicetheatre.org.
[Arts & Entertainment]  Florida Studio Theatre Presents The World Goes Round

Florida Studio Theatre (FST) kicks off its Summer Mainstage Series with The World Goes ‘Round, a captivating musical revue celebrating the legendary works of John Kander and Fred Ebb. This dynamic revue weaves together a collection of unforgettable songs from iconic shows like Chicago, Cabaret, and more. The World Goes ‘Round begins on June 5 at FST's Gompertz Theatre. Single tickets range from $39 to $59 and are now available at FloridaStudioTheatre.org or by calling 941.366.9000. The World Goes ‘Round is part of a three-show subscription package, which also includes Ken Ludwig’s heartwarming drama Dear Jack, Dear Louise, and The Outsider, a comedy that cleverly critiques modern politics. Subscription packages start at just $59 and can be purchased at 941.366.9000 or online at FloridaStudioTheatre.org. 

[Arts & Entertainment]  Hot Tonic Orchestra to Perform at Van Wezel Friday Fest

Friday Fest, the free, outdoor summertime concert series returns this year with an exciting lineup of bands who will bring the audience to their feet! Guests are invited to bring blankets or lawn chairs while they take in the music and the sunset. Food and beverage from local vendors will also be available. Opening the 2024 Friday Fest Concert Series is Hot Tonic Orchestra! The high energy musical act mixes swing, Latin jazz, and popular music to create a unique live show like no other. For real authentic swing and jazz, Hot Tonic Orchestra delivers that big beat, for Latin American songs and Cuban dance rhythms, they light the fire, and when it’s time to really dance, the band delivers their own unique take on popular songs. Led by bandleader Victoria Woods, her sultry vocals and driving acoustic bass bring alive the masterful arrangements of musical director and virtuoso guitarist Josh Hindmarsh.

Friday, May 24, 2024, 5:00 – 9:00 p.m, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall – Lawn and Terrace, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 

[SOON]  FOOD: Late Night Happy Hour at Geckos on Hillview Street , November 29 – May 31, 10pm-Midnight
Join your friends, after-work buddies and the team at Geckos for our new Late Night Happy Hours. Every Friday and Saturday from 10 pm to Midnight, we will offer food, wine, cocktails and beer specials sure to prolong your weekend fun. Join us and ask your friendly barkeep or server about our Late Night Happy Hours. ONLY at Geckos on Hillview Street in Southside Village. GeckosGrill.com.
[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Fresh Harvest Farmers Market at Wellen Park , June 25 – December 29, 9 am to 1 pm

Visit Fresh Harvest, the newly launched weekly farmers market in Downtown Wellen. Fresh Harvest offers a selection of local goods from nearly 40 local vendors. Fresh Harvest takes place every Sunday in Downtown Wellen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees can peruse different vendor booths and stock up on a variety of goods. Vendors will offer a wide variety of locally grown and produced food, including herbs, spices, cut flowers, teas, canned and preserved fruits and vegetables, syrups, baked goods, pickled foods, fresh seafood, meats, poultry, eggs, milk and prepared food and beverages. A limited selection of craft vendors also participate in the farmers market. For a listing of participating vendors and more information on Fresh Harvest Farmers Market, visit wellenpark.com/events/fresh-harvest-farmers-market. Downtown Wellen, 19745 Wellen Park Blvd., Venice.

[SOON]  FOOD: Geckos Grill and Pubs Trivia and Bar BINGO , April 26 – April 30, 7:30pm
If you love a made-to-order meal, cocktail specials and prizes while you play Trivia and Bar Bingo, join the fun at Geckos all year round. We will have prizes, giveaways and specials plus the Geckos hospitality you love. Monday TRIVIA will be held at the Clark Road location in Palmer Crossing with BAR BINGO on Hillview Street in Southside Village. Tuesdays is BAR BINGO at SR 70 and TRIVIA at Geckos on SR 64 and Stickney Point. On Wednesdays, TRIVIA will take place at the Hillview Street location in Southside Village. We will keep the good time flowing and make your week more fun. www.GeckosGrill.com.
[SOON]  FOOD: A Taste of Art , February 1 – January 31, 5:30-8pm
Longtime friends Chef Charles Amherst of Chaz 51 Steakhouse in Venice and Barbara Gerdeman, co-founder of Creative Liberties Artist Studios in Sarasota, have joined forces to create a series of interactive live art dinner showcases called A Taste of Art. The first of these events takes place Thursday, February 1, 5:30-8 p.m., at Chaz 51 Steakhouse, 549 US 41 Bypass N, Venice. The events will continue on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings. Guests who visit Chaz 51 on these evenings will be able to witness the creation of captivating works of art in real-time. To make a reservation, call Chaz 51 Steakhouse at 941-484-6200. To find out which artists are scheduled for February, check out the calendar at CreativeLiberties.net.
[SOON]  FOOD: Geckos Hospitality Group Iron Chef Challenge , May 13 – June 16, Various times

Join the Geckos Hospitality Group family of restaurants to celebrate the culinary creativity of your favorite Geckos Grill and Pub Chefs during the annual Geckos Hospitality Group Iron Chef Challenge. From May 13th to June 9th and June 10th to 16th each of our six Geckos will participate in a weekly special Iron Chef Menu, with several of our Chefs designing delectable and inventive fare, plus some tried and true favorites with a creative twist. The contest is a weekly competition between Geckos Kitchen Creatives, and guests may sample what the GHG kitchen pros have up their Chef Jacket sleeves. Whichever Iron Chef Special Menu is the favorite of our GHG guests for the week wins the Iron Chef title for that week and a cash prize with the Iron Chefs named after the competition knives have been cleaned and put away in June. There will be a Championship Final the week of June 10-16th, with the winning GHG location being crowned the Geckos Hospitality Group’ Iron Chef 2024 Champ. www.GeckosGrill.com.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Bradenton Market Returns , October 7 – May 25, 9am-2pm

Realize Bradenton is happy to announce the return of the Bradenton Market to its weekly schedule. This beloved community gathering will be held Saturdays through May 25, 2024 from 9:00 am - 2:00 pm on Old Main Street in Bradenton. Founded in 1979, the Market has expanded to include more than 90 local vendors. In addition to the weekly shopping and music, the Market hosts special event days throughout the season. Halloween at the Market will be held on Saturday, October 28. This family-friendly event includes trick or treating with vendors, face painting with Manatee School for the Arts Academic Team from 9:30 am - 12:30 pm, and a dance performance by Slick Motion Studios at 10:00 am. For more information, visit RealizeBradenton.com.

[SOON]  FOOD: Geckos Grill and Pubs New Summer Menu , May 13 – July 31, 11am

NEW!! Gecko’s Grill & Pub’s have launched a special Summer Lunch Menu at all of our six locations.  With specials from our menu sure to delight you, including our award-winning ½ lb. USDA Choice Angus Gecko’s Burger, Sandwiches, our Signature 1992 Salad and more…for $8 you can enjoy our favorite time of the year with some of your fav Gecko’s dishes when you dine in with us for Lunch.  Always fresh, always made-to-order, join us to kickstart your Summer with our Summer Lunch specials from 11-3 Monday-Friday.  Dine In only. 

Gecko's, 1900 Hillview St, Sarasota, F

[SOON]  FOOD: Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch , September 3 – September 30, 10am-2pm

Experience some of the best food and flavors of the region with more than 100, and still growing, curated vendors. The Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch has fast become a favorite weekly tradition for people from all over the region seeking farm-fresh produce, delicious prepared foods, and specialty items and gifts. Aside from all the goodies you can shop at the Farmers Market, find your flow in a free yoga class or have the kiddos get creative during weekly-hosted workshops. 1561 Lakefront Dr., Lakewood Ranch.

[SOON]  FOOD: Siesta Key Rum Distillery Tours , September 2 – September 30, Various times

Siesta Key Rum runs free year-round tours for guests to learn the story of the craft distillery, the awards they have won and the secret to how they make their rums taste so good. During our 30-45 minute tour we will discuss the following topics: history of Siesta Key Rum, an overview of the awards our small company has won, what makes our rums taste so good, the rum-making process from mashing and fermentation to distillation, barrel aging and bottling of our rums. After the tour, we welcome you to sample a freshly made Siesta Key Rum cocktail, stock up on your favorite rums and browse our gift shop. 2212 Industrial Blvd., Sarasota.

[SOON]  MUSIC: Friday Fest , May 24 – October 4, 5-9pm
Friday Fest, the free, outdoor summertime concert series at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall returns with an exciting lineup of bands who will bring the audience to their feet. This year the festivities kick off in May. Each event runs from 5-9 p.m. on the lawn of the Van Wezel overlooking beautiful Sarasota Bay. Bring blankets or lawn chairs, take in the music and the sunset, and enjoy food and beverages from local vendors. Bringing in food, beverages and coolers from outside Friday Fest is prohibited. For additional information, visit VanWezel.org.
[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Sights and Sounds at Waterside Place , July 28 – May 31, 6 to 9 p.m.

Head out to Waterside Place for a rocking evening as part of the Lakewood Ranch Sights and Sounds Program. Enjoy a live concert in partnership with Easterseals and EveryoneRocks, featuring artists who are rocking their spectrum. This event is free and open to the public; there is limited seating at the Plaza, but attendees are welcome to bring their own seats. Food and beverages will be available from numerous Waterside Place merchants. For more information on shows, dates, and times, visit lakewoodranch.com/sights-sounds/. Waterside Place, 1560 Lakefront Dr., Sarasota.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Lets Connect at Oscura in Old Manatee , August 31 – December 26, 8:30-10am

Connect with local business owners at every Thursday at Oscura. Lets Connect is a community of collaborative business professionals from the Manatee and Sarasota County areas. RSVP on Eventbrite to attend, admission is free.

[SOON]  BUSINESS: Collaborative Coworking Meetup at UTC , September 1 – December 27, 11am-4pm

Attention all business professionals, join us for a productive and inspiring coworking event at Panera Bread at the UTC Mall every Friday. Take advantage of this opportunity to network and collaborate with fellow professionals in a relaxed and comfortable environment. Limited spots available, so register now on Eventbrite. Panera Bread, 215 N. Cattlemen Road, Sarasota.

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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