Monthly Archives: December 2016

These are a few of our favorite things

Friends are, of course, No. 1 on our list of things to be thankful for every year. Friends who share great recipes are No. 2.
For these friends and recipes, the holidays are a time for sharing.
Here is the eggnog recipe given to Janet Aubry of Anna Maria by her friend Ralph Ellis of Houston. He told Janet that it was originally published decades ago in Harper’s Bazaar as ‘the’ traditional holiday beverage.
She adds, “May your days be merry and bright after you drink this and, for heaven’s sake, don’t drink it and drive.”

18th Century Eggnog Recipe
12 eggs separated
2 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 quarts heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 pint rum (dark)
1 quart brandy (2 pints)

Reserve six egg whites in one bowl and six egg whites in a second bowl.
In a large bowl beat all yolks well. Add granulated sugar gradually to yolks and beat well.
Add rum and brandy alternately and slowly to yolk mixture. Then, to this mixture, add three quarts of heavy cream.
Beat six egg whites until very stiff and fold into mixture.
Then beat remaining six egg whites VERY stiff and beat powdered sugar into them.
Add, stirring lightly, remaining cream and fold this mixture into the other.
Let stand in refrigerator 4 to 12 hours. Top with grated nutmeg (we prefer fresh grated) before serving. The recipe serves 20, but Janet generously “packages” jugs of joy for her holiday guests to carry home.

Mmmmm, rum cake
Also on our favorite list of friends is Billie Martini of Holmes Beach. She seems to know just the right time and day to appear at The Islander office with deviled eggs and Bacardi Rum Cake, both of which are VERY popular among staff. Post a warning over the “last” piece of cake, as fingers can be crushed in the taking.

Billie’s Best Bacardi Rum Cake
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 18 1/2 ounce yellow cake mix
1 3 1/4 instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup Wesson oil
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)

1/4 pound butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (Fahrenheit). Grease and flour 10-inch tube or 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. Mix all cake ingredients. Pour batter over nuts. Bake one hour. Cool cake. Invert on serving plate and prick the top.
For glaze, melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in rum.
Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over top and sides, allowing cake to absorb glaze. Repeat until the glaze is used up.

Yummy without rum
Susan Nudd warmly agreed five years ago to share her Christmas cookie recipe, passed down by her mother, she said, from a recipe that originated from the Amish-Dutch community of Sullivan, Ill.
“I’ve been making them since high school, then with my mom,” Nudd said.
Nudd’s cookies were discovered by us some years ago as she served them following the Roser Memorial Community Church Bethlehem Walk, and they had been decorated with special care by her granddaughter, Aaron Grace Tribble, then age 5.

Original Amish sugar cookies
First mix one cup sugar, one cup powered sugar, one cup Oleo. (Is that called margarine now, or is there still Oleo?)
Add two eggs, then one cup oil. Add 4 3/4 cup flour, one teaspoon baking soda, one teaspoon cream of tartar, one half teaspoon salt, two teaspoons vanilla.
Cool dough about one hour, roll in balls, press with a fork and decorate with colored sugar, candy sprinkles and the likes. (Not icing.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
“It makes a really big recipe,” Nudd said. “About six dozen cookies.”
And it too is worth packaging and sharing with friends and as holiday hostess gifts.

Happy turkey!
“Season that sucker and cook it hot and fast.” That’s the advice of my longtime friend and chef, Augie Mrozowski, more than 30 years ago on cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.
It’s sage advice, pun intended. Salt and pepper all over, including inside, cook breast side down, 450 degrees for about an hour and a half (18 pounds or so), then flip it and lower the temp to about 350 degrees for 20 minutes to a half hour to brown the top.
It will be moist and delicious — guaranteed. We put trimmings from the veggies, carrot and potato peels, onion skins and celery tops in the bottom of the pan with the turkey. When the turkey is roasted and removed, we then add the wing tips and other non-edible portions of the turkey to the veggies with some water to create au jus. Just put the pan over a burner and bring to a simmer, skim out all the solid parts and add a roux (equal parts soft butter and flour mixed smooth) and giblets, if you like. You will soon have awesome gravy.
Why we don’t cook a small turkey and trimmings once a month is the only remaining question. It’s that delicious.

Finally, one of the Island’s best
More than 18 years ago we first featured Bernard Haulsee of Anna Maria and his 20-year tradition of baking a fruitcake recipe handed down by his mother.
When it comes to holiday baking traditions, this is one of the tastiest. Really. It is not to be categorized with the store-bought brick variety.
Each eight-pound cake is full of cherries, pineapple, coconut, raisins and pecans — and an abundant “baptism” of Jim Beam.
“I love to bake them,” said Haulsee in 1993. “It’s a hobby. Some people tease me by telling me it’s a pretty expensive hobby, but I tell them it’s a lot cheaper than playing golf!”
The week before Christmas was Haulsee’s favorite time during the holidays. With his cakes wrapped carefully in foil, he made his rounds to deliver his delicious gift to friends and local businesses — those who had helped him during the year.
“They are always glad to see me,” he said. “This makes it a nice Christmas for all of us.”
As a holiday gift to Anna Maria Island, Haulsee agreed to share his recipe.
“Be sure to tell them not to stir the butter and sugar and eggs too much. If they do, the cake will crumble after its baked. Don’t want it to crumble,” he warned.
Many thanks to Mr. Haulsee, who we learned only recently is 102 and living near family in Tennessee.

Bernard Haulsee’s Heavenly Fruitcake
“Barely” cream together:
1 pound butter or margarine
3 cups white sugar
Add 1 egg at a time until 11 are added.

Mix together in order in another bowl:
1 1/2 pounds candied cherries
1 1/2 pounds candied or dehydrated pineapple
3 cups pecan nuts
2 pounds raisins
2 cups grated coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces grated ginger root
5 cups all-purpose flour sifted on top of dry ingredients
2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix dry fruit batter in with butter, sugar, egg batter. Mix well. Recipe makes two cakes. Grease or spray each loaf cake pan with Pam. Bake 2 1/2 hours at 275 degrees. If using Pyrex loaf pans, cut baking time to 2 hours.
After cakes have cooled for 24 hours, set cake in a small amount of Jim Beam. After liquor is absorbed. Flip cake over and repeat. Let soak two days or more before “sharing.”

Many thanks and best wishes to Janet, Billie, Susan, Augie and Bernard.
Readers: Warm your hearth and your heart and share some of our friendly, good cooking for the holidays.
And share your favorites here. Just click “post a comment” and enter your recipe(s).

Selby, commissioners take Anna Maria oath

A capacity crowd of about 60 people gathered in the chambers at Anna Maria City Hall Nov. 9 to watch city clerk Alice Baird administer the oath of office to newly elected Mayor Michael Selby.

Baird also gave the oath of office to incumbent Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Chuck Webb, who were unchallenged in the Nov. 2 election.

It is Webb’s second consecutive term on the commission, while Mattick began her third term. Webb also served a term from February 2002 to November 2003.

Webb chairs commission
In the commission’s organizational meeting following the swearing-in ceremony, Webb was elected commission chair and will serve as the city’s deputy mayor in the absence of Selby.

Mattick was elected vice chair.

Webb accepted the position, noting he has an active law practice on the Island, and he will rearrange his work around commission meetings.

He also thanked Commissioner John Quam for the seven years he served as commission chair and for running the commission during some difficult times.

“He kept the lid on the kettle many times when it was about to boil over,” Webb said.

Quam had been chair since he was first elected to the commission in 2003.

He said he could not have done the job “without the support of the city staff. It would have been very difficult, but they made it easy and a pleasure.”

Commissioners adopted “Roberts Rules of Order” as well as a suggestion by Selby that all elected officials get to speak during a meeting after recognition by the chair.

The commission and mayor also agreed to sign an elected officials code-of-ethics statement after each election.

Liaison assignments
Selby will serve as liaison to the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials, the Island Transportation Planning Organization, the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Manasota League of Cities.

Quam will liaise with the Island Players, including inspections, and with the Anna Maria Island Historical Society.

Commissioner Dale Woodland is liaison to the capital improvements advisory committee, while Commissioner Gene Aubry will work with the Anna Maria Island Community Center.

Webb continues as liaison to the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and the city pier centennial committee, while Mattick remains liaison to the transportation enhancement grant committee, the environmental education and enhancement committee and for grant exploration.

With oil spill gone, real estate should thrive

Real estate sales on Anna Maria Island tumbled like a circus act while the Deep Horizon oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans was bubbling to the surface.

With concerns about oil reaching Anna Maria Island gone, many real estate agents now anticipate a good number of sales through April. The number of real estate shoppers would seem to confirm that, said Jason Sato of Sato Real Estate in Anna Maria.

“During the oil spill, nothing was selling and no one was looking, but that’s all changed now,” Sato said.

During the past two weeks, he’s seen about 50 walk-ins at his office, much more than normal at this time of year.

“They’re coming from the Midwest, from Canada, from Great Britain, from everywhere,” he said.

“And they are serious buyers. The question now is to find out what they can afford.”

Island home prices are generally a bit higher than the mainland, including those at Lakewood Ranch.

Sato said that it’s good news to learn that Neal Communities had a record number of sales in October this year with a 40 percent increase from October 2009, but many Neal properties are in Lakewood Ranch.

“We are always different. It’s two separate markets, and prices there have dropped significantly” the past three years. A homebuyer can still get a new or fairly new single-family home for $150,000 in Lakewood Ranch, Sato said.

But Anna Maria Island is the peaceful paradise many people want out in a Florida home.

“Once they’ve been here, the Island is where everybody wants to buy.”

Sato Real Estate handles quite a number of vacation rentals and that’s their target market.

“Once we get someone down here for a vacation, we’ve got a captive audience. Invariably, they will say they are in love with this place and ask about buying property.”

Sato said the company stays “on top” of its rental market and about 75 percent of all visitors are repeat business. Many of those repeat visitors end up as buyers of Island real estate.

“And there’s a lot of good value on the market,” he said.

Right now, a few single-family homes can be found on the Island in the low-$200,000 range, he said.

“If someone puts a house up for $200,000, it will sell almost immediately.”

With the winter season just around the corner, Sato expects contracts and sales for homes in all price ranges to jump as more visitors and winter residents arrive.

“There’s definitely renewed interest in Island property with the oil scare gone. Prices have stabilized and are about the same as last year, and many sellers are negotiating,” he said.

Jesse Brisson of Gulf-Bay Realty in Holmes Beach said the few condominiums that were priced just under $100,000 earlier this year have sold. Now, there are some condo units priced from $150,000 to $200,000, he said.

“There’s good value in condominiums and there’s always value in a single-family home,” Brisson said.

As always, the closer one wants to be to the water, the higher the price.

Brisson said the few canalfront homes listed around $500,000 are “a great bargain,” but are selling quickly.

Interested real estate buyers should move now, before the seasonal rush, he said. “We really get busy from February through April,” Brisson said, but activity is picking up now, which is unusual.

“We’ve had a lot of walk-ins and calls, now that the oil spill is gone from the headlines. Prices are very good right now. If we get a rush of sales as I expect, we might see a slow increase.”

Terry Hayes of Signature Sotheby’s also has seen an unexpected jump in the number of walk-in clients in recent weeks.

“We lost a good three months of activity during that time,” she said. “Thankfully, people have short memories. It’s been absolutely a very busy time the past few weeks,” she said.

Hayes, who specializes in high-end properties, said everyone wants a house on the Gulf or the waterfront.

“People want the beach, and I’ve had a lot of interest in some very good bargains on the beach.”

And some of those homes are a bargain. She’s got several beachfront listings between $1 million and $1.5 million that, when several years ago those properties would have been quite a bit higher.

“We’re seeing many prices down to what they were in 2002 and 2003. Not all, but the values are incredible.”

Hayes said she’s getting phone calls and e-mails from people up north telling her when they are coming to the Island and what they would like in a property.

“Buyers want it perfect, not a fixer-upper, and they want to see some rental income.”

Hayes expects to be busy between now and April, based upon what she’s seen the past few weeks and the interest people have in owning a piece of the Island.

“You can’t find this value or lifestyle on any other barrier island. I think sales are really going to jump this season,” she predicted.

All of which means buyers sitting on the sidelines should jump now before the winter rush, Sato said.

Island tourism slows but future bright

After Anna Maria Island tourism numbers increased seven of the past nine months, occupancy of Island accommodations fell slightly in October. Still, industry officials say it was just a minor hiccup: All signs point to a solid winter season.

Overall occupancy of Island accommodation units fell 7.6 percent in October when compared with the same month last year, according to facilities routinely surveyed by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

For October 2010, the BACVB reported the Island’s occupancy rate was 47 percent against 50.9 percent in October last year.

In the BACVB marketing area, occupancy decreased 6.6 percent in October, dropping from 50.2 percent last October to 46.9 percent for October 2010.

The average daily rate of surveyed accommodations in the BACVB market rose in October to $116.30, a 1.2 percent increase from the $114.85 average reported for October 2009.

No worries
The October decline in occupancy had few people in the local tourism industry concerned.

Mary Ann Brockman, president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, said the drop is a “slight hiccup” for the Island.

“It’s to be expected in October. No one is concerned. In fact, everyone is very, very optimistic about the coming season. Advance reservations are going through the roof,” Brockman said.

Sally Norman of Mike Norman Real Estate in Holmes Beach said advance reservations for their managed accommodations for the 2010-11 season are “well ahead of last year at this time.”

Advance bookings have been “good, solid and steady,” Norman said. “Our season is looking very good.”

She had friendly advice for those considering Anna Maria this winter to book early: The Island is no longer a secret, but a very popular destination.

Norman said she tells everyone who calls for information to “make your reservation as soon as you can so you get what you want and get the best bargain.”

“We try to accommodate everyone to find a place,” Norman said, including working with resorts and the chamber’s vacancy list.

Her comments were echoed by Jason Sato of Sato Real Estate.

“We are taking a lot of calls for accommodation rentals,” Sato said.

The requests range from a three-months stay, 30 days, a week or for the Thanksgiving weekend.

“People appear confident about the economy and, with the elections over, are making winter vacation plans,” he said.

“I would urge everyone considering Anna Maria to book as soon as possible. The best units and the best prices don’t last long,” Sato said.

David Teitelbaum, owner/operator of the Tradewinds, Tortuga Inn and SeaSide resorts of Bradenton Beach, said the rush for reservations began in earnest two weeks ago.

“One day, it was all quiet, and the next day we had five people working the reservation lines,” he said.

“People don’t book ahead anymore. They are now booking one or two weeks in advance, or maybe just a few days before they want to arrive. We try to find room for everyone, but the way reservations have been coming, I would tell everyone to make reservations early,” Teitelbaum said.

With a steady flow of reservations at all three resorts, Teitelbaum proclaimed the season is “shaping up nicely.”

Brockman agreed.

“Everyone is filling up for Thanksgiving,” she said. “I haven’t heard any complaints from members, and if you’re thinking about a Thanksgiving or Christmas weekend here, call now.”
It appears the numerous media articles and web stories about the quiet, family-oriented, old Florida atmosphere of an Anna Maria Island vacation spurred considerable interest, she noted.

“We’re getting e-mails and phone calls every day from people asking about the Island, telling us they just read a story or saw an advertisement. They want to know more about the Island.”

Island discovered
Along with more than 5,000 hits on the chamber’s website in October, the chamber had more than 2,000 e-mails that month requesting information about the Island, as well as 2,074 walk-ins to its office, 682 people phoning for a brochure or vacation packet and 577 people visited the chamber’s page on Facebook.

“And that was just October,” exclaimed Brockman.

In the past two years, stories about the old Florida atmosphere on Anna Maria Island have been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Southern Living, Los

Angeles Times and other print media, in addition to Island highlights on the web and television.

And the chamber continues to spread the news about the benefits of an Island vacation.

Brockman said several chamber members purchased co-op ads in an upcoming issue of the New York Observer tabloid, which is read more than any other newspaper by Manhattan’s most affluent residents, according to the website Wikipedia.

30-day limit for cottage

A 30-day window is open for someone to step forward and offer to save or salvage the city-owned Monroe Cottage in Bradenton Beach.

The Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency — which consists of the city commission and mayor — voted Nov. 9 for the removal of the 60-year-old cottage, but also asked for alternatives for demolition within the next 30 days.

Additionally, the motion provided the go-ahead for LTA Engineers of Bradenton to make a detailed plan for a public parking lot that would include the cottage land.

Mayor Bob Bartelt said city officials have considered several options for the cottage, but none of them proved financially feasible.

To use the cottage at its present location as a welcome center or other public building, the city would need to invest at least $150,000 in improvements to comply with federal Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Another option, moving the cottage to public property near the north boat ramp at Coquina Beach Bayside, would cost more than $100,000 for the relocation alone, the mayor said.

“It’s a tremendous effort,” he said.

Also, Bartelt said, before any move, the city still would have to fund structural improvements “so the thing doesn’t self-destruct under its own weight.”

So, Bartelt and commissioners invited someone or some entity to take the cottage, or at least take the wooden porch on the back of the building.

“We’re looking for a new owner,” Bartelt said. “I think we’d be happy right now if we could find a home for it…. We’re hoping we could find an alternative in 30 days.”
Several residents spoke at the meeting.

Bona Lee Wortman suggested the cottage could become the first of several artist residences/galleries in an Island version of the Bradenton Village of the Arts.

“Why couldn’t we encourage artists to come out and buy up these older buildings and make them into something?” she asked.

Rosemary and Paul Georges, who live to the south of the Monroe Cottage on Church Avenue, said they didn’t object to neighboring a parking lot provided the city erected a high fence and prohibited both overnight parking and the parking of sanitation trucks.

Paul Georges added that he is a proponent of preservation and perhaps the Florida Maritime Museum complex in Cortez could take the cottage. The Cortez-based Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage board discussed such a move at a recent meeting.

“That would be a possibility,” Bartelt said, noting that the cottage could travel across the bay by barge.

Resident Jo Ann Meilner asked whether the city had investigated the availability of grants for preservation or relocation.

However, public works director Tom Woodard said grants might not be easy to obtain since the cottage lacks a historic designation.

The city acquired the cottage, built circa 1950, several years ago for $300,000 for a future expansion of city operations. The cottage property is adjacent to the public works department and near the police department.

At some point, the mayor said, the city may need to build a city hall at the site. However, for now, the city wants to add public parking.

Until this summer, the city housed the project/program management department in the Monroe Cottage. That office no longer exists.

City considers outsourcing trash pickup

Bradenton Beach commissioners may dump the city-operated trash collection service due to concerns about increased costs associated with maintaining its garbage trucks.

The commission, meeting Nov. 10 at city hall, voted unanimously to proceed with issuing a request for proposals from solid-waste companies for trash and yard waste collection.

Mayor Bob Bartelt brought the matter to the commission in a special meeting that followed some difficult days for the city’s sanitation crew.

Both of the city’s garbage trucks have needed repeated repairs recently. On one collection day, with both trucks down for repairs, the city crew had to collect trash by hand, using a flatbed truck.

While praising the employees’ efforts to get the job done despite equipment failures, Bartelt said the commission seriously needs to consider the future of city-operated sanitation services.

One city garbage truck was built in 1999 and must be replaced, Bartelt said. The city has about $127,164 set aside for a new truck, which will cost $250,000, leaving a $72,989 deficit.

Additionally, Bartelt said there’s a possibility the city’s other garbage truck, a 2004 model, may need replacement, if not this fiscal year then perhaps next.

“The problem is we have a 1999 and a 2004 truck and they seem to have worn out their usefulness,” the mayor said. “The 1999 has pretty much a rusted-out belly… .The 2004, that puppy has worn out its useful life.”

Commissioners, during the meeting, also discussed the difficulty in collecting past-due accounts for sanitation, as well as costs associated with personnel, vehicle insurance and emergency repairs or services.

Commissioners wondered whether contracting with a private company would result in increased or decreased rates or savings. Currently the city rate for trash collection at a single-family residence is $195 a year. The rate for a commercial business with a 1.5 cubic yard Dumpster picked up twice a week is $1,456 per year.

Public works director Tom Woodard said compared with rates in other cities, Bradenton Beach’s current rate is “cheap.”

Woodard, discussing the mechanical breakdowns with the commission, said, “By no means am I trying to talk myself out of sanitation… .I just want you to be aware.”

Earlier this year, as it worked through the 2010-11 budgeting process, the commission hired Waste Pro to collect recyclables in the city.

Defendant not guilty in AM home invasion

A jury last week found defendant Michael Gambuzza not guilty of the April 2008 home invasion and robbery at the residence of former Anna Maria City Commissioner Linda Cramer.

At the time, Cramer resided with Joe Pandolf and was alone at his Crescent Drive house in Anna Maria. According to the police report of the incident, she was beaten and left bound by her attackers on the floor.

Police arrested Christopher Drescher with Gambuzza in May 2008 in connection with the crime.

Both Drescher and Gambuzza originally entered not guilty pleas, but Drescher changed his plea to guilty just before his June 28 trial was to begin and received a 15-year sentence.

At Gambuzza’s trial, Drescher testified that a man named Robert Reed, not Gambuzza, was with him when the crime took place.

Drescher also testified that an unidentified person paid him $2,000 to arrange the break-in on behalf of Pandolf.

Both Reed and Pandolf testified at the trial and denied Drescher’s allegations, according to defense attorney John Fleck, a Bradenton attorney appointed by the court to defend Gambuzza.

Cramer said she was “totally devastated” when the jury returned a not guilty verdict.

Before the trial, Cramer had identified Drescher and Gambuzza as her assailants.

Drescher’s testimony identifying Reed as his accomplice stunned Cramer.

“I was just appalled. He clearly lied,” she said.

Drescher testified about an “unnamed person” who offered him $2,000 to rob Pandolf’s home, but that also was a “total lie,” Cramer said.

Cramer reported to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office that she called 911 immediately after freeing herself from her bonds, but got no answer. She then called the MCSO Anna Maria substation and a deputy arrived about 10 minutes after her assailants left.

Following the acquittal, Fleck discounted Cramer’s claims, saying there was no evidence she was bound and there was no record of her 911 calls.

Cramer said she still has many unanswered questions about the entire process.

“I want to know how (defense attorney John) Fleck can assassinate my character during his summation to the jury and get away with it,” she said.

When Drescher opted to plead guilty and receive a reduced sentence, Cramer said she agreed to the plea bargain because she thought Drescher would testify against his then-alleged accomplice — Gambuzza.

“I don’t know what happened. I never saw the plea bargain Drescher signed,” she said.

Cramer said she waited two-and-a-half years for justice, only to have Gambuzza go free.

“The verdict did not serve justice and this guy is now free and back in the community,” she said.

Efforts to reach prosecuting attorney Jon Byrne for comment were unsuccessful.

No charges in Tampa clinic case

Authorities will not pursue any charges against an Anna Maria doctor arrested earlier this year under Tampa’s new pain clinic ordinance.

Tampa police arrested five people in late October for allegedly operating an unlicensed pain clinic, which would be in violation of a new city law. Among those arrested was Anna Maria resident John Lanning.

Lanning pleaded not guilty Oct. 27.

On Nov. 9, the state attorney’s office notified the Hillsborough court that it would not be filing any charges and the case was closed.