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If you’re not already head-over-heels about Sarasota, you’ll find 282 reasons to fall in love with our sunny city in this “Best of 2015” issue, from the winners of our annual readers’ poll to the “Best of the New” editors’ picks. Think there’s even more to applaud in town? I agree, and so I asked some of our editors and bloggers in fields from arts to real estate to share the best from their beats this year.

 

Best Weekend Fun. llene Denton edits our popular e-newsletter, “Weekend Insider,” which highlights the top 5 events every weekend. The event she loves best of all? Selby Gardens’ Sunday outdoor music series, held in the fall and spring under the magnificent banyan trees at the garden. “It’s a wonderful melding of our area’s natural and cultural assets,” says Ilene. “The fun and diverse lineup of music, from ’60s rock to Brazilian jazz, gets many people up and dancing—but we like to lounge in a shady spot and people watch.”

 

Best House on the Real Estate Market. Our Real Estate Junkie blogger Robert Plunket is familiar with just about every listing in the two-county area. His current favorite is the old Chick Austin residence at 227 Delmar Ave. in Whitfield Estates. “Austin was the first director of the Ringling Museum and one of the great tastemakers of the 20th century,” says Plunket. “The house still has many of his creations, including a 40-foot-long ballroom and a beautiful sun porch with Chinese Chippendale motifs. The current owner has given the place his own touches that neatly complement Austin’s, particularly the acre-plus garden. I’d buy it in a minute if I had the $869,000 asking price.”

 

Best News for Beer Lovers. When it comes to beer, associate editor Hannah Wallace has cred—she’s one of those immortalized on the walls of Shakespeare’s Pub for sampling all 80 beers in its international collection. Wallace is high on the region’s new breweries. “They’re so distinct—circus-themed Big Top, beachy JDubs, gearhead-friendly Motorworks, South American-inspired Darwin—but they’re united in their passion for making superb, creative brews,” she says. “A couple of years ago, my San Diego-based sister took me on a tour of Southern California breweries; this year, I was able to return the favor in Southwest Florida.”

 

Best Winner in our “Sarasota’s Best” Food and Wine Contests. Web editor Megan McDonald oversees our monthly quest to choose “Sarasota’s Best” in categories from crab cakes to pizza, a task that includes spending a day sampling all the finalists. She says this year’s most memorable winner—and competition—was for Sarasota’s best margarita. “I’ll let you figure out how a full day of margarita-drinking ended—one judge may have hijacked the stage at O’Leary’s later in the afternoon,” she says. “But we barreled through and found the winner at State Street Eating House, where margaritas are crafted with tequila barrel-aged in-house, orange liqueur, a secret simple syrup recipe and peach salt. And in case you’re wondering, yes, we all showed up for work the next day.”

 

Best Dressed Man and Woman at a Black-Tie Event. Our Fashion IQ columnist and blogger Heather Dunhill spied her season winners at the Sarasota Ballet gala. Shoko Kobuta radiated “fierce femininity,” says Dunhill, “marrying an architectural Helmut Lang gown with vintage-inspired earrings, black patent Manolo Blahniks and a fabulous beaded clutch.” And Eduardo Anaya created fashion drama with “well-curated pieces by Zara and Express Men’s,” she says, including his “notice-me-now peacock-blue jacket, crisp white shirt, classic bow tie and a Cartier-esque panther lapel pin.”

 

Click here to see all the winners in the Best of Sarasota 2015. >>

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