With charters both carefree and affordable, three-year-old Key Sailing with Tim and Jan attracts locals as well as visitors. “They realize we’re a great alternative to the hassle and expense of boat ownership,” says owner Janet Hamel Solomon, who serves up “fresh air, fine chocolates and a few hours of peace on earth” with every pampering cruise. Two-hour semi-private cruises on the Key Breeze (a 41-foot Morgan and the newest, largest sailing vessel out of Sarasota) are a steal at $48 a person, maximum six guests (or choose private personalized parties from $280). Key Sailing, siestakeysailing.com, (941) 346-7245, Sails from E-18, Marina Jack.
The hottest flavor on Anna Maria Island is Brownie Batter Mix (brownie batter folded into chocolate ice cream) at Joe’s Eats & Sweets. Ice cream artisan Joe Spallino delights in inventing new epicurean treats, and the wondrous array of 50-plus flavors is ever-changing. Joe’s Funfetti Cake Batter ice cream is akin to birthday cake in a cone, and Cotton Candy with Nerds (candy) is as much fun as a visit to Coney Island or Sarasota’s county fair. Cones from $3.19 at Joe’s Eats & Sweets, 219 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach (941) 778-0007.
Learn to Fly
Children of all ages (five to 75-plus) are soaring, back-flipping and making “catches” at Tito Gaona’s Trapeze Park and Academy on the grounds of the old Ringling Brothers Circus winter headquarters in Venice. Gaona, said to be the
greatest high-flying trapeze artist of our time, performed in various circuses, including Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Two-hour classes (kids, $30; adults, $40) help build self-confidence, character and fitness while preserving the circus arts in Venice. It’s safe, high-flying fun, with an adrenaline rush that’s addicting. The Flying Trapeze Academy, 1401 S. Ringling Drive, Venice, (941) 412-9305.
Wine aficionados are abuzz over the all-new Michael’s Wine Cellar & Tasting Room, redesigned, expanded and like no other wine and spirits shop in the region. A new tasting bar has been added, along with 200-plus wines under $20, 50 craft beers, indoor and outdoor seating, and a boutique. Styled after the hippest new European enotecas, Michael’s offers specialty foods, wine glasses and accessories, and small plates. Check michaelsoneast.com for weekly events and monthly Wine Discoveries nights. Michael’s Wine Cellar & Tasting Room, Midtown Plaza, 1283 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 955-2675.
Everyone’s wary of Wall Street these days, hence the rise of “passion investing” in fine art, classic cars, Bordeaux wine and such luxury timepleces as Philippe Patek watches. “Purists prefer Patek Philippe because it’s a heritage brand worthy of their investment,” says Roland Moser of McCarver & Moser, noting that rose gold is the Patek customer’s hot new precious metal of choice. The coveted rose gold men’s Aquanaut ($28,300), at left, or women’s rose gold Nautilus ($33,700 with diamonds) are available here, which often astounds tourists from big cities who know only VIP retailers have a shot at scoring them. McCarver & Moser, 482 John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota (941) 388-3666.
Jack Peffley says the LoudMouth Golf clothes at Taffy’s speak volumes without speaking a word. “In this age of foreclosures and bankruptcies, people want to have fun; they walk in and say they’ve got to have these prints—the more outrageous the better,” Peffley says. Customers of all ages are buying crazy-colorful plaids, harlequins, patchwork and stripes to spook opponents on the golf course, for father-and-son tournaments and for team uniforms. “They’re even wearing LoudMouth to cocktail parties and weddings,” he says. Taffy’s wants the fair set to get their games on, too, carrying women’s skorts, with ladies’ tops and shorts expected by January. Taffy’s Men’s Apparel, 14 S. Boulevard of Presidents, Sarasota (941) 388-1155.
Meet the Beer Meister
Mark Tuchman is to beer what a sommelier is to wine, and his new craft beer bar in Gulf Gate (appropriately dubbed Mr. Beery’s) is the go-to destination for beer lovers from the barely educated to the passionately savvy. With 25 beers on tap and another 25 in bottles, the selection continually rotates. “I’m a craft beer nerd and forever researching the newest and most complex ale or lager,” Tuchman explains. “I’ve had over 8,000 different beers, but always go back to staples like Southampton Double White Ale.” Check for tastings, classes and events at Beerysgulfgate on Facebook. Mr. Beery’s, 2645 Mall Drive, Sarasota (941) 343-2854.
Coconut Cloud Martini
1 part Tommy Bahama White Sand Rum
1 ½ parts vanilla vodka
1 ½ parts coconut rum
½ part cream of coconut
Place all ingredients in a chilled cocktail shaker. Add a few scoops of crushed ice. Shake until mixture is thoroughly blended and well chilled. Strain into martini glass and top with a fine sprinkling of toasted coconut.
Paddle boarding is perfect for our crystal-clear waters. Insiders are opting for the custom designs of world-renowned local shaper Juan Rodriguez of One World Surf Designs. Rodriguez’s boards have displacement hulls for stability at four miles per hour, the speed he recommends for a dynamic low-impact workout. “You have to stay steady on the board because the water is always changing,” he says. Stand-up paddle board packages are $1,200 for new 2011 models; ask for referrals for rentals, classes and eco paddle board tours. One World Surf Designs, 6245 Clark Center Ave., Suite H, Sarasota (941) 925-0007.
A Taste of Tommy
The quintessential purveyor of the island lifestyle that celebrates Sarasota just released its own cookbook: Tommy Bahama—Life Is One Long Weekend ($35). With recipes for more than 100 meals, side dishes and cocktails that have made Tommy’s restaurants world-famous, the book will help you keep an island state of mind even after leaving our fair city (which gets a two-page spread in the book and is described as the cultural hub of Florida with endlessly inviting beaches). With recipes like Tommy’s Coconut Cloud Martini, you can recreate your dreamy Sarasota vacation any day of the year. Tommy Bahama, 371 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota (941) 388-2446.
Listen to the lullaby of the surf and feel the salty breeze blowing through the privacy panels of a little tiki hut while you luxuriate in the strokes of a Swedish massage along with a bit of deep tissue work and reflexology—you have officially arrived in Sarasota nirvana. In addition to individual massages, Amanda Escobio, LMT, offers couples’ massages and girlfriend parties. The Silver Surf Gulf Beach Resort, 1301 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach. annamariabeachmassage.com; (941) 779-6836. –Janis Frawley
At Sarasota’s newest spa, the pampering begins with citrus-y prints and sea glass-blue walls. Adjacent to L. Boutique (LeeAnn Swor’s chi-chi fashion emporium), L. Spa offers a custom L. Signature Facial ($85 for 60 minutes) that’s been dubbed the little black dress of facials: It’s the starting point from which experienced aestheticians build your “skincare wardrobe,” and it can be customized for men and teens. L. Spa offers a full range of services from Botox to manicures, and hot new CleanSmart skincare products specially formulated by Dermalogica for teenagers. L. Spa, 556 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota (941) 906-1358.
Living with Lilly
Take a sneak peek at Lilly Pulitzer’s first-ever collection of furniture—200 pieces bursting with color and island style. You can order online, or through catalogues in our local Lilly shop, which will display small accent pieces like this gem of hot pink gloss-lacquer jewelry chest. We love the cool white armoires with Lilly heritage print drawer liners, dining tables with legs filigreed in Lilly’s famous “white lace,” and a cushy bedroom ottoman that neatly stores 24 pairs of shoes. Decorating a beach house just became more colorful—and fun. Lilly Pulitzer, 443A John Ringling Blvd., Sarasota (941) 388-3091.
Chillin’ at the Chickee
Get into that carefree, island-state of mind that Jimmy Buffet sings about by relaxing under the chickee hut right on the beach at the Gulf Drive Café. The area’s newest beach bar is housed under a huge chickee just steps from the surf line, where seven umbrella-styled tikis are scattered in the sand. Forty different beers, along with tropical drinks, team up with the ultra-islandy atmosphere and scheduled live music to make for a relaxing-good time. Open 11 a.m. to close; the chickee can also be rented for special occasions from luaus to weddings. 900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach. (941) 778-1919.—Janis Frawley
Itsy Bitsy Scientists
At G.WIZ science museum’s new Deborah Ann Naiditch Tot Zone, infants and toddlers can play, explore and actually take “science classes” held Wednesdays for two- and three-year-olds (with Mommy) from 10 to 11 a.m., and for four- and five-year-olds (without Mommy) from 11 a.m. to noon. Designed to emulate an Everglades natural habitat, the Tot Zone has a grand opening Dec. 6, but toddlers have been testing out crawl-and-climb spaces since a soft opening in June. Classes on Florida’s natural flora and fauna are free for tots under three, $7 for ages 3 and up, or included with annual family membership ($75). G.WIZ, 1001 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota (941) 309-4949.
No need to schlep downtown for mouth-watering Italian comfort food: The fantastic and authentic pizza and calzones that consistently earn kudos for Il Panificio on Main Street are now replicated in a new Gulf Gate location, which has expanded menu offerings, seating indoors and out and the opportunity for residents of south Sarasota to get their takeout back home while it’s still sizzling. Il Panificio Gulf Gate, 6630 Gateway Ave., Sarasota (941) 921-5570.
Manatee’s newly restored Robinson Preserve offers more than 40 acres of diverse marshland, plus uplands with nature trails for walking and biking, kayaking/canoeing streams, a boardwalk for birdwatching, and bridges and piers for fishing. Wildlife viewing areas, including an observation tower, offer sightings of eagles, bobcats, gray foxes and river otters. Lots of eco-events here: sunrise paddles, Audubon bird tours, master gardener tours and naturalist-led tours aboard a real Conestoga wagon. The restored Valentine House, bright blue with a shiny tin roof, serves as a new visitor center. Visitor Center open Friday-Sunday, preserve hours, 8 a.m.-sunset. ymanatee.org/conservation.html (941) 745-3723.—Janis Frawley
Bob Horne has poured his heart and soul into rescuing and restoring the sadly neglected JomaR, John and Mable Ringling’s once glorious private railroad car (c. 1917). To help raise funds for this massive labor of love, Horne created Bob’s Train, a fun Big Top-themed restaurant occupying three restored circus train cars open Monday through Friday for lunch, and Sunday for brunch. Now he’s introduced Jazz at the JomaR, six-course, three-hour dinners with live jazz ($40 per person) held every Thursday evening. Check out Bob’s collection of historic Sarasota circus photos lining every inch of one of the cars, and ask for a peek at the JomaR. Bob’s Train, 2211 Fruitville Road, Sarasota (941) 321-5643.
The Gulf Coast arts scene is teeming with music, theater, dance, galleries, museums and artist’s studios to enjoy and explore. But with so much available, how do you choose what to see? Find the answer in our just-released 2010 Annual Southwest Florida Guide to the Arts, the definitive guide of all things art from Manatee to Marco Island. And if you subscribe to Sarasota Magazine, you’ll also get the Along the Gulfshore 2-for-1 Arts Ticket Book to help you enjoy it all. To order the guide ($3.95 plus shipping) or subscribe to the magazine, go to sarasotamagazine.com.
When they became one of the first U.S. retailers to sign up for the new line of furniture by British design sensation Kelly Hoppen, Pam and Marcus Anast of Sarasota Collection earned a promise of a store appearance this winter by the collection’s world-renowned creator. “I’ve been a Kelly Hoppen fan for years; her trademark is a slightly lived-in look with contemporary edginess,” says Pam. Look for Hoppen’s signature taupe, neutral leathers, wood and high-gloss lacquer finishes and a practical but sophisticated selection of tables masquerading as trunks. Sarasota Collection Home Store, 622 Central Ave., Sarasota (941) 955-8313.
U Go Girl
Eco-fashion maven Olivia Bono has created a brand-new temple to luxury green design at Whole Foods
Market Centre, with a roster of socially responsible designers including the hot, hot, hot Edun brand, at left. Founded by U2 singer Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson, whose new partners are the fashion powerhouse LVMH (owners of brands like Louis Vuitton), the Edun collection features great-looking textiles and fibers that promote industry in Africa and have won a following of celebrities. Juno & Jove, 1425 First St., Whole Foods Market Centre, Sarasota (941) 957-0000.
A Fine Romance
Husband-and-wife team Mark and Susie Holt have a new home and a new name (Posh on Palm) for their romantic shabby chic concept store, formerly known as The Cat’s Meow. Their cozy slip-covered chairs, sofas and whitewashed vintage furniture look better than ever now that they’ve moved to “Posh” Palm Avenue in Sarasota—where they’ve just added vintage-style gauze clothing and sensuously retro Bella Notte nightgowns and robes ($50 to $200). Susie’s new passion (handmade rose brooches, $38.95, crafted from ribbon, lace, tiny keys and more) and Mark’s bodacious 1920s-inspired rhinestone jewelry are the talk of the blogosphere as well as our town. Posh on Palm, 33 S. Palm Ave., Sarasota (941) 954-7674.