Tag Archives: food blog

Family Fun in Myrtle Beach From Two Perspectives

We recently vacationed in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with our close friends, Jeff and Terry. Between us we have four kids ranging in age from 8-10 years old. This was our third visit together to Kingston Plantation and, once again, a great time was had by all.

Those of you with young children know that life is much easier when you take them to eat at places where they want to go. However, that doesn’t always result in the adults getting decent food. Luckily, I have a couple of recommendations that kids of all ages should like, from two perspectives.

Kid Perspective

Ultimate California Pizza Sports Zone  (959 Lake Arrowhead Rd, Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29572) was right up the road from our condo and where we went our first night. I have to admit I was not expecting much from this place, and anticipated cardboard-tasting pizza in a loud place (it has an arcade, which is the main attraction) that was sure to bring on a headache before I left. But they do serve alcohol and since it’s all about the kids anyway, off we went. And I was pleasantly surprised, enough to go back a second time later that week.

I thought the food was good – especially the pizza, and was happy that a number of vegetarian specialty pies were on the menu. I tried the personal size Santa Cruz  pizza and it was quite tasty, with artichokes, black olives, red onions, feta, roma tomatoes, and mozzarella. The crust was nice and chewy. While it’s not on my top-5 favorite pizza list, I’d certainly eat it again. The rest of our group, including the kids, ordered various pizzas and said they were all good.

The restaurant has full ABC permits and the beer selection is pretty decent. A number of flat screen TVs are in the restaurant/bar area, showing various sports.

What makes this place great for the kids is the arcade, of course. Lexi hit it big our second visit and won 1,000 tickets on a machine – she was just too happy for words. I decided to try my luck as well, and had a great time. Gabe was happy since he was on the receiving end of the majority of my tickets (and I won quite a lot!) and to no surprise “Mr. I’m the funniest boy in the world” redeemed some of them for a mega whoopie cushion.

Overall, Ultimate California Pizza Sports Zone is a great place for the kids, and not bad for the adults!

Adult Perspective

Now, to switch gears a bit. The kids always want to go to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (1114 Celebrity Circle, Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29577 ) whenever we’re in Myrtle Beach for a number of reasons, including the hurricane blender  -

the balloon-making guy on stilts -

and the proximity of the carnival rides less than two minutes away.

BTW – the adults do not mind to oblige, because it’s always five o’clock somewhere.

Kudos to Margaritaville’s brilliant marketing and management teams for making this place appear to be suitable for kids. Think about it – is a restaurant named after an alcoholic beverage and a song by a crazy musician known for some of the most drunken concerts I’ve ever been to really appropriate for children? Well, of course it is – at least that’s what we can tell ourselves as we suck down our margaritas and beers while the kids are entertained with balloon animals and hurricane shows. As long as the kids can score something at the gift shop and go on the rides when we leave then they are happy, which in turn makes us happy.

I’ve eaten at other Margaritaville locations  and the food is consistently good – the nachos are superb and I’ve been saved by many a cheeseburger in Key West and Las Vegas (before kids, of course.) On this trip I had the Jumbo Lump Crab and Shrimp Salad, which was a blend of shellfish tossed with rotini pasta, olives, tomatoes, carrots and lemon-herb vinaigrette served atop a bed of mixed greens. It was tasty and fresh and I would definitely get it again, but to be perfectly honest I would have ordered a cheeseburger had I not been in vegetarian world. Just because. For some reason I forgot to take pictures of the food, so I’ll show you a picture of my 5 o’clock Somewhere drink ;)

The next time you visit Myrtle Beach with kids in tow, keep both of these places in mind – they are fun for young and old alike!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Tip of The Week – Win a $25.00 Visa Gift Card!

For this week’s tip, I am shouting out to my readers to tell me where to get the best burger in Raleigh or Durham. All of you who make recommendations in the comment section below will be entered into a drawing for a $25.00 Visa gift card  – wooohoooo! I’ll be taking suggestions until 8/15/11, and will announce the winner on an upcoming blog post!

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Quick and Easy Refrigerator Bread and Butter Pickles

Pickles are one of my favorite snack foods ever and I love all kinds of them – dills, bread and butter, okra, beets, peaches, gherkins, banana  peppers, jalapenos, artichokes – the list goes on and on.  Luckily there are so many commercial brands to choose from in the grocery stores and homemade ones available at farmers’ markets, flea markets, roadside stands and specialty stores. The best thing is that you can buy them year round and they still taste great!

I’ve been canning my own pickles on and off since the early 1980s, although I must admit that lately it’s been more off than on. I recently ran across some recipes for easy refrigerator pickles that did not  require processing them in a boiling-water bath, so I took some of the ingredients from each of the recipes and came up with what follows. And I’m glad I did – these are so easy to make, take only a couple of days until they are ready to eat and are addictively delicious!

The key to making great pickles is using the freshest ingredients, including the spices. I went to the farmer’s market to get the cukes, etc., and made these as soon as I got home.

Ingredients (This makes 3 pints, loosely packed)

  • 6 cups fresh cucumbers, sliced thinly (3-4 small to  medium cucumbers)
  • 2 large banana peppers, sliced into rings, seeds removed (fresh from my garden!)
  • 1 red chile pepper, sliced into rings, seeds removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 & 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill weed
  • 2 teaspoons whole peppercorns (I used a medley for this batch)
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 2 tablespoons Kosher salt

Preparation

Place cucumbers, banana peppers, chile pepper, garlic and bay leaves in a large bowl, gently mix together.

In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar, dill weed, peppercorns, mustard seed and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir frequently to ensure that the sugar is completely dissolved.

Pour the liquid into the bowl with the cucumbers and other ingredients and gently stir. Cover the bowl and let it cool for a couple of hours.

Once the pickles are room temperature, I transfer them to sterile pint canning jars. However, you can leave them in the bowl if you like, or store them in any other non-reactive container. The good thing about placing them in jars is that you can put your own label on them (include the date made) and give them away to your friends – that is if you make enough! I did not make enough this batch, but could be bribed to do so :) soon.

These pickles are ready the next day, but keep in mind that the flavors will deepen the longer you leave them – they should last a couple of weeks or so. While I love these straight out of the jar, they also go great with sandwiches, burgers (black bean or otherwise), etc. Chopped, small, they can be served as a homemade pickle relish. Yum!

**Note – I also made some okra pickles the same day since the okra was fresh and abundant at the farmer’s market. It will take a few weeks before these are ready to try. If they are as good as they looked, smelled and tasted (at least the brine) while I was making them, I will be posting about them soon! (OK – these were great and here’s the link: http://kelleychisholm.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/peppery-pickled-okra/)

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Brad and Kel’s Most Delicious Guacamole

I fell in love with fresh guacamole on a trip to Cozumel and Cancun in 1999. Brad and I had been dating only for a few months, and it was the first big trip we took together. We ordered some guacamole one of the first days we were in Cozumel, became hooked and made it our goal to find the best while we were in Mexico.

Since we were both late eaters at the time (i.e., before kids), we spent many a late afternoon trying out guacamole and chips in various venues. And it was all wonderful. If I remember correctly, my favorite guacamole was at a small restaurant located in the Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa, with numerous runner-ups! Luckily, I have found a number of places in Raleigh that also serve great guacamole, which I will be blogging about soon.

When we returned to Raleigh, I spent a number of years trying to perfect my fresh guacamole recipe. When I finally did, I taught Brad how to make it and I have to admit his usually outshines mine. The only difference in our guacamole is that I add a little bit of light sour cream to the mix, maybe a tablespoon or so for this recipe. It helps the guac stay fresh and green. Anyway, good teacher, great student!

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe Haas avocados
  • 1 lime
  • 5-7 large garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup spring onions (about 5 or 6 stalks) cut into small pieces
    (use both green and white parts)
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped into teeeny, teeeny pieces
  • 1 medium ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup jalapeno slices, diced (I use the stuff in the jar, but you can use one medium-sized fresh jalepeno with seeds removed, diced minutely. Wear gloves when working with fresh peppers!)
  • Hot sauce to taste (I use Smack My Ass and Call Me Sally jalapeno hot sauce)
  • Salt to taste (garlic or Kosher)
  • Tortilla chips (I like Garden of Eatin’s Red Hot Blues and Sesame Blues, and Tostitos Hint of Jalepeno)
  • Margarita of choice (to sip as you prepare the guac)

Preparation

Cut the avocados in half, remove pits and scoop into a large bowl. Smash with a potato smasher or a fork to desired consistency (I like mine with visible chunks of avocado still present.)

Cut the lime in half. Sprinkle one of the halves on the smashed avocados and add the garlic.

Mix in the spring onions and cilantro.

Fold in the tomato.

At this point you want to take a taste to see if you need to add more garlic or cilantro.

Add jalepenos, hot sauce, the juice of the rest of the lime and salt.

Taste again to see if you need to add more hot sauce, adjust as necessary. This is where I add the sour cream when I’m making it. Refrigerate for an hour or so before serving. Again, take a small taste to see if you need to add additional hot sauce or salt.

This stuff rocks as a stand-alone dip, but is also wonderful as a quesadilla topping, in burritos, as a burger topping or a spread on turkey and bacon subs, etc.

Postscript: Our trip to Cozumel and Cancun confirmed what I already knew in my heart – I was falling in love with Brad, and it was the beginning of great times to come! And 12 years later we still seek out great guacamole wherever we go.

Bon appetit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Tip of the Week – Scoop Some Sorbet

Heat got you down, especially in all of this 90+ degree weather? Here’s one great way to cool off (well, maybe just a little bit.) This week’s tip is to scoop some light and refreshing sorbet – not only does it taste great, but you don’t have to feel guilty eating it!

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Restaurant Review: Mura – Raleigh, N.C.

We recently had an unexpected night away from the kids and decided to go to Mura at the last minute. This is becoming one of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh. Located in the once again trendy North Hills shopping center off of Six Forks Road, Mura is a beautiful Japanese fusion restaurant, serving Kobe beef, a variety of steaks, seafood, mixed cuisine and the finest grade sushi. It has won a handful of “best-of” awards since opening in 2008.

This was my third (or fourth) visit to Mura, and it keeps getting better each time!

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Tip of the Week – Skewer Evenly

Aaaah, summertime, when grilling outside is de rigueur. One of my favorite meals to grill is kabobs because that way I can cook my meat (or in this case, shrimp) and veggies/fruit all at once.

This week’s tip is about arranging the food on your skewers so you have tasty kabobs with all of the ingredients cooked to perfection.

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Restaurant Review: Solera – Minneapolis, Minn.

Those of you who have been following my blog know that I recently was in Minneapolis on a business trip. It was my first visit to this city, and I would love to go back. My hotel was in walking distance to a number of great restaurants in the heart of downtown and I was able to dine at four great ones while I was there: two for lunch, two for dinner.

A couple of the places that I have already reviewed  – Crave and Zelo -  I stumbled upon on my own. I found Hell’s Kitchen, also reviewed earlier, on the Internet and my hotel staff whole heartedly gave it their blessing. This final restaurant review is on Solera, which a colleague (and fellow foodie) highly recommended at a meeting my last day in Minneapolis. I am so glad I took her advice – a fantastic way to end my trip!

Solera (900 Hennepin Ave) is cheerful on the outside and that spills over to the inside as well. I decided to start at the rooftop bar- why not, my meetings were over! Even though it was overcast, it was still pleasant up there.

If you peeked through a few of the buildings facing out from the left of the bar, you could see a sliver of Target Field, home of the Twins. From the right, you could see Crave’s rooftop bar. The background music was some techno dance mix, which was cool. One of the bartenders told me that on Sundays during the summer, Solera and Crave throw big parties and have music blasting and are packed – quite a fun and festive scene! (*Note to self – go back in the summer on a Sunday.)

I ordered one of Solera’s specialties – the signature sangria ($12.00.) Cocktails are only served in plastic cups (ick) on the rooftop, some type of city ordinance I’m sure. This sangria was good. It was made with Castano, Courvoisier and Lazzaroni, topped with Coca-Cola and  small bits of orange and green apples. I must admit I prefer my own sangria, but I wouldn’t turn this one down. The service was good and the bartenders were nice.

I went downstairs after finishing my sangria to order some dinner. I wound up sitting at the bar, which I often do when I’m dining alone, especially when I’m out of town. Usually the bartenders are friendly and I learn more about the city I’m visiting.

Upon Graham’s (the bartender) recommendation, I ordered a glass of the Codorniu Brut Rosé from Spain ($8.00). It was refreshing and had nice strawberry and cherry flavors. I love bubbly, and will occasionally switch to a less traditionally rosé every now and then. This one did not disappoint.

Solera is known for its tapas, but also offers platos fuertes (main entrees) with choices of fish, chicken, steak and paella. I decided to sample some of the tapas, and started with the piquillo peppers ($5.00) These had herbed goat’s milk cheese and spicy garlic butter. The combination of the flavors exploded in my mouth. Yum!

Again on Graham’s advice, I ordered the beluga lentils ($7.00), mainly because I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients. It came with a poached farm egg, frisée, truffle oil and grilled bread and was excellent! This was my favorite of the three tapas I tried. OMG – the egg was perfectly cooked and it was just a wonderful symphony of flavors throughout the dish. Get this if you go. Seriously. Get this.

Lastly, I got the Tortilla Espanola ($5.00), which came with roasted shallots, potato, arugula and manchego aioli. This had a wonderful texture and was quite tasty! It would be great as a breakfast/brunch entree.

While I was eating my tapas, I noticed Graham making what looked like a mojito, but saw him adding white wine as the base. When I asked what he was making, he replied it was Solera’s S&M sangria ($9.00), which consisted of Verdejo (a white wine from Spain’s Rueda region), strawberry and mint. So, for all purposes, it is a mojito disguised as sangria, or visa versa.

Of course I had to try one, especially since I love mojitos and sangria, as mentioned in my earlier posts on both of these drinks. Okay, I have to admit I liked the name of the drink, and bonded with it well. It was wonderful – light and refreshing – another re-create at home as soon as my mint starts taking off!

I loved this place and will be back. The service was casual and friendly, and Graham was a great bartender with funny stories and full of tidbits about the city. The food was reasonably priced and good – plenty of choices for vegetarians and pescatarians.

Ratings

  • Price:   Great         Price is right, both drinks and food.
  • Service: 4.75         Great overall (5.0 in restaurant bar.)
  • Food:   4.75           Tasty, fresh, innovative.
  • Recommend:        In a heartbeat!
  • Kid friendly:         Maybe, depending on the kid’s tastes. Mine
    wouldn’t get it at this point.

1= hater, 2=poor, 3=adequate, 4=above average, 5=superb

Eat, drink and be merry!

Tip of the Week – Brew Some Cold Brew

My late step-father Jerry (miss you bunches!) hooked me on Lipton Cold Brew Iced Tea about five years ago or so. I have to admit that at first I was somewhat skeptical on how it would turn out, but I’ve been making it ever since and have always had great results. The tea tastes freshly brewed and I’ve never had a cloudy batch. And the best thing is that it is super easy and fast to make!

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Green Garden Salad

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist. The problem is entirely the same in both cases – to know how much oil one must mix with one’s vinegar.” Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Back in the ’70s and late ’80s I used to get a great salad at Leon’s Deli in Raleigh’s Cameron Village shopping center. Leon’s was a great little place located next to the Village’s Professional Barber Shop and where Quiznos is now. Leon’s had wonderful Reubens and other deli sandwiches that were out of this world, but my favorite item on the menu was the green garden salad (at least I think that’s what it was called.) I’ve been making this particular rendition of the salad for years and absolutely love it, especially in the summer when the veggies are at their freshest.

Ingredients (2 small or 1 large serving)

  • 6 oz. of 2% low fat cottage cheese
  • ½ cup diced cucumber
  • ½ cup diced tomato
  • 1/3 cup diced radishes
  • ¼ cup finely chopped spring onions (I use both the white and green parts)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Seasoned salt and ground pepper to taste
  • Sour cream, low fat ( optional garnish)
  • Fresh chives (optional garnish)

Place the cottage cheese in a bowl. Fold in the vegetables. Add the vinegar and mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least one hour so that the ingredients to meld together.

Place salad on a plate and add a good spoonful of low fat sour cream and sprinkle with fresh chives (this is one of the herbs that I like to have in my garden as mentioned in my previous “grow your own” post.)

I like to serve this with Keebler’s reduced fat club crackers or captain’s wafers. This is a low fat, tasty salad that is easy to make and also good for you!

Please let me know if you ate at Leon’s – I would love to hear your memories of this great deli.

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink, and be merry!