Frenetic schedules, far-flung families and numerous obligations often preclude that mythic homemade holiday meal. The Tampa Bay area's big hotel restaurants offer the next-best thing during the holiday season, with festive decorations and special seasonal menus. Here's what some of the better-known places are cooking up for the holidays; call for reservations at least one week in advance.
Laura Reiley, Times food critic
Don CeSar Beach Resort
3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach; toll-free 1-866-728-2206 or www. doncesar.com
Nov. 27 and Dec. 25: Sea Porch Cafe 7 to 11 a.m. and noon to 10 p.m.; Nov. 27 and Dec. 25: Maritana Grille 4 to 9 p.m.; Nov. 27 and Dec. 25: King Charles 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Sea Porch Cafe will offer a regular breakfast buffet and a special Thanksgiving buffet for $29.95 for adults, $14 for kids. In the Maritana Grille, the regular a la carte menu is available, augmented with specials like Maine lobster agnolotti with coral butter and white truffle oil, or orange-habanero barbecued grouper. At the King Charles, live piano and a strolling trio provide the entertainment while guests check in at the podium in the lobby level and then proceed to the fifth floor. The buffet menu, $59 for adults and $24.95 for children 5 to 12 (4 and under free), includes an array of seasonal cold salads, chafing dishes, carving stations, an omelet bar and pasta station, as well as a special kids' buffet area.
Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay
2900 Bayport Drive, Tampa; (813) 874-1234 or www. grandtampabay.hyatt.com
Nov. 27: Petey Brown's 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Oystercatchers 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Dec. 25: Petey Brown's 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
While Armani's is closed, both Petey Brown's and Oystercatchers will host Thanksgiving buffets. Petey Brown's features a traditional Thanksgiving brunch with an additional breakfast station for $39 for adults, $16.50 for children, under 10 free, then Oystercatchers lays out a traditional Thanksgiving dinner buffet with a seafood bar and dessert room, bloody Marys and mimosas included, for $55 for adults, $16.50 for children, under 10 free. On Christmas Day, Petey Brown's offers a buffet brunch (same pricing as Thanksgiving).
Renaissance Tampa Hotel's Pelagia Trattoria
4200 Jim Walter Blvd., Tampa; (813) 313-3235 or www. pelagiatrattoria.com
Nov. 27 and Dec. 25: 5:30 to 10 p.m.
Pelagia will offer its regular a la carte menu for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the addition of several seasonal specials, such as barbecued pomegranate-marinated jumbo shrimp with orange-grape relish and fennel salad ($12.50), oven-roasted turkey with chestnut stuffing, cranberry-kumquat sauce, brussels sprouts, yams, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy ($24) and a pumpkin-caramel gelato for dessert ($7.50).
Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club
501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg; (727) 894-1000 or www.marriott.com
Nov. 27 and Dec. 25: 1 to 8 p.m.
Marchand's Bar and Grill sends out a four-course menu for Thanksgiving featuring roasted pumpkin soup, a fall greens salad with candied walnuts and cranberries, and entree selections including filet mignon and a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings. The Vinoy's pastry staff will also offer dessert selections, all for $55 for 12 and over, $16 for children 11 and under. For the same price, the Christmas four-course dinner in Marchand's features entree selections of roasted duck, herb-marinated lamb loin, horseradish-crusted beef and coriander-roasted salmon.
1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota; (941) 309-2008 or www. ritzcarlton.com
Nov. 27: brunch 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., dinner 2 to 8 p.m.
The Ritz is a smorgasbord for the holidays, its chefs offering a cooking class to help ease kitchen anxiety, to-go feasts and a fine-dining Thanksgiving experience with all the trimmings. From 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Nov. 22, chef Rick Deivert shares easy tips to serve up the perfect turkey and sides. The class is $39 per person.
A complete to-go meal for $210 serves four to six and consists of a Florida-style citrus-basted Tom Turkey with traditional corn bread stuffing, plus sides and desserts.
A traditional Thanksgiving brunch includes carving stations, traditional holiday favorites and fresh seafood for $95 for adults, $25 for children 12 and under. And in Vernona, a four-course dinner is offered for $130 for adults (children order a la carte), $175 with wine pairings.
Sandpearl Resort's Caretta on the Gulf
500 Mandalay Ave., Clearwater Beach; (727) 441-2425 or www.sandpearl.com
Nov. 27: breakfast buffet 7 to 10:30 a.m., a la carte breakfast 7 to 11:30 a.m., brunch buffet 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 5 to 9 p.m.; Dec. 24: breakfast 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Dec. 25: breakfast buffet 7 to 10:30 a.m., a la carte breakfast 7 to 11:30 a.m., brunch buffet 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., dinner 5 to 9 p.m.; Dec. 31: 6 to 11 p.m.
In Caretta on the Gulf, there will be a Thanksgiving breakfast buffet for $23 for adults, $12 for children 10 and under; brunch buffet, $49 for adults, $19 for children 3 to 12 (the a la carte lunch menu will not be available); and traditional Thanksgiving three-course prix-fixe dinner, $55 for adults, $20 for children 3 to 12. On Christmas Eve, the standard a la carte menus will be available in both Caretta on the Gulf and the more casual Tate Island Grill (the grill will close at 7 p.m.). And on Christmas Day, there will be a breakfast buffet, $23 for adults, $12 for children 10 and under; brunch buffet, $49 for adults, $19 for children 3 to 12 (the a la carte lunch menu will not be available); and traditional Christmas three-course prix-fixe dinner, $55 for adults, $20 for children 3 to 12. On New Year's Eve, Caretta on the Gulf hosts a four-course prix-fixe menu with champagne toast for $125 per person, while in the Tate Island Grill it will be business as usual.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
5223 N Orient Road, Tampa; (866) 502-7529 or www. seminolehardrocktampa.com
Nov. 27: Green Room noon to 11 p.m., Council Oak and Floyd's 5 to 10 p.m. Dec. 25: Green Room noon to 11 p.m., Council Oak and Floyd's 5 to 10 p.m.
The hotel's Green Room offers a traditional carved roast turkey feast on Thanksgiving for $24 per person; on Christmas there will be roast leg of lamb with cranberry demi-glace, served with fresh vegetables, garlic mashed potatoes and white chocolate candy cane cream pie for $36 per person. Council Oak Steaks & Seafood will have an a la carte deep-fried turkey on its Thanksgiving menu for $35, with sausage and apple dressing, mashed sweet potatoes and garlic potatoes and pan-seared brussels sprouts petals. On Christmas Day, Council Oak offers a special prime lamb chop dish for $40. In Floyd's, it's going to be turducken (you know, turkey stuffed with duck stuffed with chicken, etc.) and fixings offered for $28 per person for Thanksgiving, roast goose for Christmas for $35.
Sheraton Sand Key Resort's Rusty's
1160 Gulf Blvd., Clearwater Beach, (727) 595-1611 or www.sheratonsandkey.com
Nov. 27 and Dec. 25: 1 to 9 p.m.
Each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Rusty's puts out a buffet for nearly 500 people in its dining room, each at a price of $29.95 for adults, $13.95 for children 6 to 12, children 5 and under free. There's a piano player running through classical and jazz numbers while patrons choose between curried pumpkin and apple soup with Serrano ham, chilled guava barbecued pork loin or gulf grouper piccata. There also will be carving stations. Desserts this year will include bananas Foster and cookie dough ice cream pie.
TradeWinds Island Resorts 5600 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach; toll-free 1-800-360-4016 or www.tradewindsresort.com
Nov. 27: buffet 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Palm Court 5:30 to 10 p.m., Bermudas 5 to 10 p.m.
Palm Court Bistro and Bermudas Steak & Seafood are both serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as well as regular a la carte menu selections, while the Grand Palm Colonnade Thanksgiving Day buffet will cost $37.95 for adults, $29.95 for seniors 60 and over and $17.95 for children 10 and under. There will be ice carvings along with buffet items including shrimp cocktail and Jonah crab claws and a traditional roast turkey with giblet gravy and sage stuffing. And beyond the traditional pies for dessert, there will be a chocolate fountain with strawberries, pineapple and melon cubes.