Tag Archives: Kel’s cafe

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


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!

Tip of the Week – Save Time With Store-bought Salads

As much as I love to tinker around in the kitchen, sometimes it’s just easier and quicker to buy food that is already prepared. And when I’m not eating meat that usually translates into purchasing store-made salads. I’m not talking about the traditional salad bars found in many grocery stores and markets, but side salads prepared in-house. I’m lucky to live less than 10 minutes from a Whole Foods Market and a Fresh Market, both of which make some tasty ones.

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Got Gazpacho?

One of the best bowls of gazpacho I ever tasted was at a restaurant (can’t remember its name, unfortunately) in 2002 in St. Helena, California. Brad and I were on our honeymoon and decided after leaving Hawaii to spend a few days in Napa Valley and San Francisco before coming back home to Raleigh. The temperatures in Napa were in the high-90s to low-100s and a chilled bowl of gazpacho was just the ticket. This one was fantastic, with nice chunks of tomato, celery, cucumber, onion, corn and other great ingredients. I’ve worked for years to recreate this wonderful gazpacho, and have come up with my own recipe that will make you come back for seconds! Go ahead – it’s low-calorie and good for you to boot!

Now that veggies are in full season in Raleigh, especially the tomatoes that make or break this soup, I visited the Farmer’s Market to stock up on what I needed to make this cool and hearty gazpacho. It does take  time to chop all of the vegetables (I refuse to use my food processor for this), but it is well worth the effort at the end. This is one of my all-time favorite soups ever!

Ingredients (serves 8 or so)

  • 2 cups tomatoes, diced small (I used three romas and one large field grown)
  • 1 cup cucumber, peeled, seed and diced small
  • 3 stalks celery (approx. 1 cup) diced small
  • 2 ears corn kernels (I used Silver Queen, boiled for 7-8 minutes – you don’t want the kernels too soft.)
  • 3 banana peppers finely diced (I picked these from my garden. You can substitute with peppers of choice.)
  • ¾ cup sweet onion, diced small
  • ¼ cup fresh sweet basil, cut into tiny pieces
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups tomato or vegetable juice (if you use vegetable, you may want to alter the seasonings to taste.)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon Worstershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (this cuts the acid of the tomatoes)
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • Garlic salt to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Hot sauce to taste

 Garnishes (optional)

  • homemade croutons (see recipe below)
  • parsley
  • spring onions (both white and green parts cut into small pieces)
  • avocado slices


Combine the first eight ingredients in a large bowl.

Add the tomato juice and the rest of the ingredients, mix together well. Chill for several hours so that the flavors have time to develop and and meld together.

Once you are ready to serve, add your favorite garnishes. Serve immediately – the colder it is, the better. This keeps in the refrigerator for several days in a non-reactive container.

Homemade croutons

These are so easy to make and much better than any of the prepackaged ones. And this recipe has just four simple ingredients. Even the kids prefer these fresh croutons over the store-bought ones!

Ingredients (2 servings)

  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 3 slices of crusty bread (I use the La Brea Three Cheese Semolina from Harris Teeter, so the slices tend to be smaller than regular loaf bread.)
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
  • Garlic salt to taste


Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium pan. Cut bread into small cubes, and add to the melted butter.

Drizzle with the olive oil, and add garlic salt to taste. Brown the bread cubes on all sides and then drain them on a paper towel to absorb some of the butter and oil.

These cook up in no time and are great in salads as well!

Most restaurants (at least around Raleigh) only serve gazpacho in the summer to take advantage of the local, fresh vegetables. If you know of any restaurants serving great gazpachos in our area right now, please let me know. And, no, they do not need to be chunky like mine. Most places tend to puree the ingredients, and that’s fine, as long as it tastes good (see my recent posting on Zelo in Minneapolis for an example of a good, pureed gazpacho.)

Bon appetit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

Tip of the Week – Buy the 8/31/11 issue of Wine Spectator


We just received our latest copy of Wine Spectator in the mail and it is one of the issues I most look forward to each year – “The List.” The first “list” was published 30 years ago in 1981, and much has changed since then, as mentioned in the article.

This year 3,700+ restaurants (U.S. and international) that won a Wine Spectator award for their wine programs are listed in more than 60 pages. There are three award levels and instructions on interpreting the guide (see p. 84). You may also access the list at: http://www.winespectator.com/restaurants/search

I’m not sure if this issue (dated August 31, 2011) has hit the newsstands yet, but keep an eye out for it, especially if you travel much or just want to see what restaurants are featured in your state or country. I immediately went to the North Carolina section to see how many of these restaurants I’ve visited.  No real surprises and many new places to visit, especially next time we go to the outer banks or to the mountains!

This annual issue is a great read and a keeper for future reference.

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!


  • 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)


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!

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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July 4th Jell-O

Donkey: You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no,  I don’t like no parfait”? Parfaits are delicious. – Shrek, 2001.

My kids love Jell-O - I’ve never met a child that doesn’t. I whipped up these patriotic parfaits for a July 4th treat, and they were a big hit! They are easy to make, but do take some time for each layer to set.

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 3 oz. Berry Blue Jell-O
  • 3 oz. red Jell-O (I used sugar-free raspberry)
  • Lite Cool Whip
  • Fat free whipped cream (in a can)
  • Fresh blueberries
  • Fresh raspberries


Make the blue Jell-O according to the directions on the package. Pour into four clear dessert trifles (clear wine goblets or tall glasses work well, too.) Refrigerate until the gelatin sets (a few hours or so.)

Spoon in a layer of Cool Whip. Again, refrigerate for at least an hour.

Prepare the red Jell-O following the directions on the box. I use the “speed method” which calls for adding ice to the mix. Add this as the next layer, and refrigerate for a couple of hours, until set.

Top off with whipped cream, blueberries and raspberries. Kids love to help with this part!

Watch these treats disappear!

Hey adults – these parfaits make a great dessert for you, too, but if you want something a little more grown-up, check out my patriotic jell-o shots recipe at: http://kelleychisholm.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/patriotic-party-shots/

Eat, drink and be merry!