Thanksgiving Feasts Made Easy

In our family, we like to run the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning or volunteer to help feed those in need. Giving back is the reason for the season and a good way to say thank you to our community.

For those with little time to prepare or hosting visitors, why not create a feast with the help of local restaurants, grocers, liquor stores and specialty shops. Pick up olives and cheeses at Earth Fare, centerpieces at Lou’s Florist and desserts from Sweet IRB.  Every good hostess has a secret posse, and here’s a curated guide to some of our secrets. (Be sure to call ahead and reserve your items/dinner, or shop early!)


If you’re crafty, the Dollar Store and Michael’s can help you decorate like Martha Stewart. Lou’s Florist can help you do the rest, and if you need a hostess gift, they’ve got great ideas as do many of the boutiques on Corey Ave. and John’s Pass.

In the mood?

The party elves at Publix had some easy peasy tips for making your home festive.

  • Wrap autumn-color ribbon around the necks of wine bottles.
  • Fill wire baskets with fresh flowers and produce.
  • Nestle pieces of cardstock with guests’ names atop pinecones for simple place cards.
  • Start a tabletop memory cloth. Set the holiday table with a white cotton cloth and jars of fabric markers. Then encourage guests to create personal place settings before the meal, signing their names, drawing pictures or writing messages to enjoy every year.
  • Thanks with a twist. Have each person write something they’re thankful for on a slip of paper and sign their name on the other side. Wrap the slips in crescent-roll dough and bake. At the table ask everybody to share the message inside their rolls.

Pick Up & Serve:

Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Winn Dixie and Fresh Market offer holiday appetizers, Thanksgiving desserts and pies, gourmet cheeses, dips and tasty delights for keeping the football crowd munching till the Big Event. Earth Fare: If you like your turkey with no antibiotics or hormones, then this is the place to order your classic turkey dinner or everything but the bird (traditional stuffing, simple mashed potatoes, rosemary and roaster garlic green beans, all natural turkey gravy and fresh cranberry sauce or a vegan holiday dinner.


In addition to dozens of spectacular catered platters, Publix carries two different turkey dinners. Each dinner comes with dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, marshmallow delight, and cranberry-orange relish. The sides serve 4-6 people. The regular turkey dinner includes a 10-12 pound turkey with one container of each side and the large turkey dinner includes a 16-18 pound turkey with two containers of each side.


Order your pecan or pumpkin pies from The Village Inn or Sweet IRB Bakery now,

or go hog wild with French Silk or coconut cream dream.  We also like Astoria, St. Pete Bakery and The Pie Factory. Corey Market is sure to offer some delicacies right before Thanksgiving.

Dining Out:

From downtown St. Pete to the South Beaches, hotels and restaurants offer memorable meals AND do the dishes.  There are inexpensive alternatives such as Cody’s, The Waffle House, Boston Market and Village Inn, and a picnic at the beach with turkey sandwiches and all the fixings (or maybe dinner to go from The Roost) makes for a beautiful Gulf outing.

Downtown, we like…

At the beach, here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving celebrations without the clean-up. (Check to see if your favorite restaurant is doing something special; not everyone had their menus ready!)

Bilmar Beach Resort:

Enjoy a Thanksgiving Dinner buffet at the resort or opt out of  Tom Turkey for a seafood dinner, key lime pie and Gulf vista at Sloppy Joe’s. Located at 10650 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island (727) 367-1600

The Loew’s Don Cesar:  

Enjoy a holiday lunch or dinner at the Sea Porch or Maritana Grille’s Thanksgiving Tasting Menu, accented with an extensive wine list, first-class service, and a stunning setting graced by dazzling salt water aquariums.  The King Charles Brunch Buffet, followed by a walk at the beach, is always popular. Located at 3400 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach, FL 33706 (727) 360-1881





Hurricane’s Seafood Restaurant:  

With a superb view of the Gulf of Mexico, you dine downstairs on a turkey dinner or enjoy the Thanksgiving Day buffet of a cold bar (tortellini pasta and spinach salads, cheese tray, fruit platter), a raw seafood bar (snow crab, peel and eat shrimp, oysters), turkey and prime rib carving stations, non-turkey entrees (chicken curry, baked flounder, shrimp a la vodka), sides and desserts. Located at 809 Gulf Way, St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-9558

Middle Grounds Grill:

Serving both its regular menu and some special Thanksgiving favorites, this classy restaurant and spectacular wine/martini list makes every occasion festive. Located at 10925 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island, 727.360.4253

The Pearl:

Serving a traditional turkey dinner from noon – 8 pm with all the trimmings for only $22. Includes house salad, turkey, Chef Karim’s special stuffing, giblet gravy, yams, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and cranberry relish. The Pearl’s regular menu will also be available including Lamb or Sea Bass Tagine. Located at 163 107th Ave., Treasure Island, 727.360.9151

Sirata Hotel:

Bring your family and friends to the Majestic Ballroom for a Thanksgiving buffet 11 am – 5 pm, serving Tropical Fruit and Cheese, Spicy U-Peel Shrimp and Clams, Florida Smoked Fish Dip, Roasted Corn & Crab Bisque, salads, Honey Baked Ham with Spiced Rum and Pineapple Glaze, Baked Sweet Potato with Pecans, Classic Green Bean Casserole, Roasted Tom Turkey with Southern Style Cornbread Stuffing, Carved Slow Roasted Baron of Beef, Pan Seared Salmon with Fresh Dill Sauce, Wild Rice & Toasted Pecan Pilaf, veggies, country breads and holiday desserts. Located at 5300 Gulf Blvd, St. Petersburg,  (727) 897-5200

Tradewinds Island Grand:

Enjoy a massive buffet from 11 am – 3 pm in the Grand Palm Collonade and Ballroom. In addition to the pulled BBQ turkey sliders, turkey sage sausage, turkey curry with basmati rice and Cajun turkey bacon, the carvery features traditional turkey and prime rib.  Soups, salads, a breakfast and omelet bar, grilled vegetables, house-smoked seafood, poached salmon, a pasta bar, non-turkey entrees (lavender salmon, grilled chicken breast with wild mushrooms, bourbon and cane syrup glazed ham), sides and desserts including my fave, a chocolate fountain and petit fours. 5500 Gulf Blvd, St Pete Beach, (727) 367-6461



La Cote Basque Winehouse:

Serving both their awesome early and regular French and Continental menus and their very popular $18 Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, this cozy hideaway makes the holiday feel like you’re dining and celebrating the holiday at Grandma’s house. Located ablock north of the Casino in Gulfport for 40 years, tell them when you call that Paradise NEWS sent you to get the best table available. For Thanksgiving dinner to go, call ahead or stop in after 4 PM. Located at 3104 Beach Blvd. S. Gulfport Fl., 33707  (727) 321-6888

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

Story by Nanette Wiser

Avoid Penalties: Medicare Deadlines

Most eligible Medicare Beneficiaries meet enrollment date requirements in Part B and Part D by either a voluntary or involuntary benefit election based on one of these likely triggers: eligibility prior to 65 after receiving SSDI for 24 months, turning 65 (aging in described below) or at a later date because the individual had other […]

Investments: What Sells or What Works

Evidence-based investing is the practice of grounding your investment strategy in a rational methodology backed by peer reviewed academic research.  The goal of academic research is to find the truth about how capital markets really work, while the goal of Wall Street research is to sell you stuff.  As fiduciary advisors, we don’t work on commission, so we don’t care about what sells.  We care about what actually works as we build portfolios to help clients make the most of their one financial life.  When we look at risk factors in a portfolio, we:

  1. Assess a factors’ capacity to deliver expected returns and diversification benefits repeatedly.
  1. Understand why such factors exist, so we can assess whether they’ll persist.
  1. Explore additional factors that complement our structured approach.

Assessing the Evidence

Academic research has identified three long-term stock market factors:

  1. The equity premium

Stocks have returned more than bonds.  Stocks are more volatile than bonds over the short term.

  1. The small-cap premium

Small-cap stocks have returned more than large-cap stocks.  Smaller companies are more volatile than larger companies.

  1. The value premium

Value companies (low price to book stocks) have returned more than growth companies (high price to book stocks.)  K-Mart is riskier than Walmart.

Similarly, academic research has identified two key factors driving bond returns:

  1. Term premium – Longer dated bonds have returned more than shorter bonds (albeit with more volatility).
  1. Credit premium – Bonds with lower credit ratings have returned more than bonds with higher credit ratings.  Lower quality bonds entail more default risk.

Caution: targeting premium returns involves engaging more risk so effective diversification is crucial.

Understanding the EvidenceEvidence – based investors strive to determine not only that various return factors exist, but why they exist. This helps us determine whether they will persist such that we can capture them in a client’s portfolio.  The key is to consider all of these powerful risk/return factors in creating a portfolio aligned with your particular goals and circumstances.  The goal is to help you make the most of your one financial life.  That’s what we do.  

Call today for a free second opinion.  There is no cost or obligation.

Brian Puckett  “Don’t you deserve a fiduciary advisor that puts your interest first and backs it up in writing? Call now for your FREE consultation.” (727) 455-0033

Story by by Brian Puckett, JD,CPA,PFS,CFP®

Dining: Chef Oliver is the Catch at MadFish

Chef Oliver and sister Ella bought “MadFish” about 18 months ago and they have transformed the shiny diner into an elegant dining destination.

Most often you enter a restaurant expecting the inside décor to match the outside.

Not so at MadFish, a cozy-looking streamlined diner located at 5200 Gulf Boulevard about three blocks south of the TradeWinds Resort on St. Pete Beach. The inside décor is beautifully appointed, with gleaming wood booths, a shiny tin ceiling, sparkling periwinkle lights and a stylish checkered black and white floor. Sparkling clean cloth napkins and lovely trendy tableware are featured.

Chef Oliver and his sister Ella bought “MadFish” about 18 months ago. They plan to change the name as it no longer suits well.  While this casually elegant eatery serves a tantalizing variety of fresh fish and seafood dishes, they also offer an appealing selection of choice, aged steaks. Filet Mignon, New York Strip, T-Bone, Angus Ribeye steaks and an amazing 24oz. Chateaubriand for two are offered, seared on a new 1200 degree grill.


One of the most frequent comments they hear is “It is rare to find a place where both the seafood and the steak lovers in our party feel like we chose the restaurant catering to their wishes.”

Even vegetarians can find an elegant and delicious feast here with Flash Fried Brussel Sprouts, a colorful Caprese Tower, salads and a host of vegetable based side dishes.

Patrons are raving about the food prepared by Chef Oliver, who trained for ten years under a Michelin Star Chef in the U.K. Perfectly cooked steaks, seafood and chef’s specialty items all seem to be prepared with equal skill and attention to detail. His signature dish, Beef Wellington is a popular special at Madfish.

Tripadvisor currently rates MadFish as the 4th best of 108 eateries in St. Pete Beach.

Recent diners have left raving reviews there and elsewhere.

“Don’t let the outside fool you – this place is fabulous” says a recent tripadvisor review, “And the food….oh my goodness the food. Both my husband and I had the filet, which was mouth wateringly magnificent. It’s difficult to get a bit hunk of meat (10oz and 8oz) perfectly pink throughout but the chef at MadFish nailed it.”

“Amazing food, service and atmosphere….” The food, ambiance, music, service, and all around evening were outstanding! Such a romantic evening Compliments to the Chef, we were blown away by the food, I cannot wait to go again, I want to try everything! A definite 5-star experience.


Madfish’s wine list is a great one, even without vintages listed. Selections available are thoughtful and reasonably priced for a restaurant of this caliber. Live Music is provided Wednesday through Sunday outdoors with an eclectic mix of jazz, electronic violin, acoustic and vocalist.

And the food… “Chef Oliver’s Chilean Bass dish is one of the most spectacular I had tasted,”  said Joyce LaFray, who reviewed the seafood at Madfish. . “This ethereal white finfish is often found in the chilly waters off the coast of Antarctica and other countries, but there are many other versions found elsewhere. My portion is large, thick served over coconut rice and melts in my mouth.Truly, I have never tasted bass quite as delicious.”


“Another signature seafood selection is their  Lobster Encrusted Grouper.

Because I love grouper and lobster (even more so), this sounds like a winner and it is, with its lobster-breaded coating.  The fresh Gulf grouper is perfectly cooked and served with a side of hollandaise. It is accompanied by a huge pile of red-skin mashed and chunked real potatoes and a lovely sauté of leeks and sundried tomatoes, topped with four thin stalks of verdant grilled asparagus.”

“Another appetizer consists of a generous serving of two dozen mussels steamed in a garlicky sauce chock full of sliced and seeded orange and red tomatoes, another blue ribbon dish.”

“Extra sides are optional. We order the piping hot fresh sautéed buttered spinach with chopped garlic galore. Its delish.”


“Though I feel compelled to spread the word about the Chilean sea bass, you may prefer first to linger over a fine wine (reasonably priced and well selected) and one or two appetizers. My dining companion and daughter, Christy LaFray, is crazy wild about the half dozen large shrimp drowned in a luscious creamy pink sauce. The toasted Cuban bread (served with black olive tapenade) is perfect for sopping up the sauce, every bit of which is gleefully consumed. “

For dessert, choices are ersatz Key lime pie, flourless chocolate cake, crème Brulee and hot apple pie (a la mode) covered in a remarkable walnut-caramel sauce. Simply divine.

madfish-interior madfish-bar

Service was excellent. Our waiter was friendly, informed and attentive.”

MadFish –  727-360-9200, 5200 Gulf Boulevard, St. Pete Beach

Open 7 days a week from 4 pm to close. Reservations preferred.

Check for Early Bird times.

Words by Joyce LaFray and Peter Roos
Photos by Tropical Focus – Bob Schlesinger

Remembering the SPB Aquatarium

If you lived on St. Pete Beach from 1964 to 1977 you should have fond memories of one of the country’s leading marine attractions.

The Aquatarium was built by Marine Attractions Inc. on 17 acres on what was then St. Petersburg Beach, between 64th and 66th avenues, right on the Gulf  of Mexico. It was built somewhat on the plan of the Miami Seaquarium, with a signature 160-foot-tall golden geodesic dome.


The Aquatarium opened in 1964, with its main attraction being shows featuring trained porpoises, sea lions, and pilot whales. Shows were staged under the dome, which sheltered the audience from the sun as they were seated around the world’s largest circular marine tank 100 feet in diameter and 25 feet deep, containing 1.244 million gallons of seawater. 


The Aquatarium shows were billed as “The World’s Greatest Marine Show,” or “World’s Largest Marine Attraction,” and starred a dolphin named “Floppy.”

She was famed for her 25-foot leaps into the air, leading to her characterization as “the world-champion high-jumping dolphin.” A Zoological Garden was added several years after the opening, with Bob Campbell as director and it became a favorite visitor site on its own very quickly.

In 1968 Frank Cannova, a local hotel owner, bought the Aquatarium for $2 million, just in time to watch tourism in the area decline as Walt Disney World opened and the gasoline shortages of the 1970’s hit.

An attempt was made to rebrand the Aquatarium as “Shark World” in the mid-seventies following the release of the blockbuster movie  “Jaws”  in 1975, but that was little help. After city zoning officials refused to approve the construction of a waterslide at the park, it closed at the end of the 1977 summer season and was eventually torn down to make way for what is now the Silver Sands Beach & Racquet Club condominiums.

Many Local Memories

A number of local, long-time residents and civic activists have more direct memories of the Aquatarium. Julian Fant, former Treasure Island Mayor and general manager of the first Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce, had lived in St. Augustine where he had been involved with its Marineland attraction (see Paradise News, March 2016 issue).


Julian first visited Marineland at age 7 with his Dad, and recalls riding with other neighborhood kids about six miles to a salt water lagoon near our homes to watch the secretive training of the first dolphins to enter Marineland’s daily shows. He recalls, “Marineland was also the scene of a feature movie, ‘Revenge of the Creature’, In which I had a romantic  ‘lover’s lane’ scene and it was the debut of a young man who played a lab technician … his name was Clint Eastwood.

“In my native St. Augustine Carl Selph and I became good friends. We were both members  of the Jaycees, which had its annual awards banquets at Marineland’s restaurant. Carl became GM, and I was a broadcaster with the local radio station, WFOY.”

“After moving to Treasure Island and when I resigned as TI Chamber manager, I was visited at my office by none other than Carl and Cliff Ball, a son of the Aquatarium’s founder. They hired me as PR director to help launch the attraction in the early 60s. I was successful in placing a number of feature articles, as well as having an attractive  young female diver on the popular TV show,  ‘What’s My Line?’  The panel failed to guess that Sandra Brown was a  ‘whale feeder.’ “

“One of my less fond memories was being bitten on my right hand by a Galápagos penguin while announcing a show, and I still have the scar….at age 85!”


“Ronnie Capo’s collection boat had an access hatch which opened at water level to allow the easy transfer of specimens.  Grady Marlowe’s collection boat was equipped with an ingenious ‘ice tongs’ device on a long pole which allowed deep water Dolphins (spotted) to be captured safely.”

“During my tenure at the Aquatarium, I was approached by a large delegation from Treasure Island, urging me to run for mayor. Aquatarium officials gave their approval, and I was elected at the age of 33, in 1965 and the rest, as they say,  ‘is history’.”

Laura Campbell and her husband Bob are long-time residents. She has operated the Poodle Palace in the same location since the 1970’s at 6660 Gulf Blvd. Bob was in charge of the Zoo, which the Aquatarium added several years after the opening, and it became a favorite visitor site on its own. He has many good memories of the zoo, and is very proud of the time he spent with the marine and other animals that were a big hit at the Aquatarium.


Mike Cannova, the son of Aquatarium owner Frank Cannova, is also a long-time resident of St. Pete Beach. He remembers when his dad bought the attraction, and the many happy hours he spent at the Gulffront location.

For Julian Fant, his memories of both the St. Augustine Marineland and the SPB Aquatarium are still very special pieces of his long-time service to his communities. PN

Story by Steve Traiman

[Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Julian Fant, Linda and Bob Campbell, and Wikipedia for the good information and photos.]

[Steve Traiman is President of Creative Copy by Steve Traiman in St. Pete Beach, offering freelance business writing services.  He can be reached via email at ]