Goodnight Irene

The view from our living room -- waves are almost over the dunes during Hurricane Irene on Pleasure Island, North Carolina.

Hurricane Irene spared much of the Cape Fear Coast and the Wilmington, North Carolina, area. We weathered the storm in our oceanfront condo — a place we playfully refer to as “Banana Cabana.” (I like yellow walls!) Stocked with batteries, water, libations, and food, the four of us — me, Bill, Patrick, and Mike Kelley, fire chief from Montgomery County, Maryland, and Bill’s brother — watched the storm.

Safe and sound, we’re all back home. So ends my reporting from the Carolina Coast until I return. Stay tuned, this fall will bring many more escapades from Kelley Hospitality. I hope you’ll follow me as I transform the ordinary into the extraordinary!

And that's a wrap from Coastal Carolina. See you soon. (Wraps are an easy-to-prepare hurricane food while you're busy storm watching.)

Stoking the Small Businesses in Wilmington, NC — Part II with Fire & Spice

Some of the offerings at Fire & Spice in Wilmington

Fire & Spice Gourmet

Fire & Spice Gourmet in the Historic Cotton Exchange

We’ve been paying Tommy a visit for about eight years in his store, the Fire & Spice Gourmet. Located in the historic Cotton Exchange, Tommy and Judy Cooper offer wine, sauces, seasonings, kitchen gadgets and every hot sauce you can imagine. Tommy knows his products too. We always bought the Aussie rub and Tommie can tell you why in detail the company no longer makes our favorite rub. You may be able to get some of his products online, but visiting the store in person is worth it. You walk out with much more than your purchases.

Kathy, a retired New Yorker complete with the accent, now living in Wilmington, was staffing the shop today. She said, “You wouldn’t believe the women who go for these hot sauces. I’m not a sexist or anything, but I just always thought hot sauce was a macho thing. Not so…women like them too.”

I never quite thought about hot sauce that way, but I suppose if I worked at Fire &Spice, I might think about those kinds of things. I see Kathy’s point. After all, it was my husband Bill who discovered this place and remains a loyal customer.

Every hot sauce you can imagine and more.

Today’s purchases: three hot sauces and a southern treat:

Marie Sharpe’s Comatose Heat Level Habenero Pepper Sauce

The heat level was XXXXX (that is five Xs!). We gave this to our neighbors whose 14-year-old son, Kevin, loves taste-testing hot sauces. The critique came back as not so hot that it made you uncomfortable. It was spicy hot but with a nice flavor. Kevin said that even some XXX levels he has tried just burnt and didn’t have a good taste.

Gecko Gary’s Roastin’ Red PepperSauce

This is a hot sauce with a blend of roasted red pepper, red-ripened pepper and ripened jalapenos and habanero peppers with fresh garlic and southwestern seasoning. It’s robust with a bite and I recommend it for a variety of palates. Love the cute blue gecko on the label.

Magma Hot Sauce (Talk about “Stoking a Fire!”)

This one looks scary. It’s not even red until you shake it up. Directions read “Tilt then Shake.” Manufactured by CaJohns Groumet Foods, I have a feeling this one is true to its label that states: “WARNING! An Eruption of Disastrous Proportions…EXTREMELY HOT!

Oddly enough, the ingredients are vinegar, water, salt, and oleoresin of capsicum which is an agent found in pepper spray. Too bad Tommy wasn’t on site to explain this one.  This remains untested at this writing. I’ll let you know if anyone was brave enough to try it.

And, my favorite southern treat — Rose & Ivy Southern Pecan Pepper Jelly

Pepper jelly -- part of a well-stocked pantry.

When I chose this brand, Kathy rolled her eyes back in her head and said, “Ohh…mmmmm….that one is so delicious but my diabetes won’t let me eat it!”

I completely trust Kathy so I bought it. This all natural pepper jelly is made homemade by Bell Buckle Country Store, Inc., in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, where else?

This pepper jelly should be a pantry staple along with a block of cream cheese for those pop-in guests. Put the cream cheese in a pretty dish and pour some pepper jelly over it and serve with water crackers and they’ll think you’re real southern. Offer the beverages and you are good to go. (Now we’re talkin’ Kelley Hospitality!)

Be sure to visit Fire & Spice Gourmet in the Cotton Exchange, 312 Nutt Street, Wilmington, NC 28401. Phone: 910.762.3050. Email:

And remember, support those local businesses wherever you are!

Stoking the Small Businesses in Wilmington, North Carolina — Part I

Many antebellum homes like this one can be seen on a stroll through the city.

Wilmington, North Carolina, located on the Cape Fear River, is the quintessential Antebellum city. Incorporated in 1739, this charming city and its port played a key role in the Civil War — it was a major base for Confederate blockade runners. The Union Army captured the city in the Battle of Wilmington but since the battles took place a distance from the city, many antebellum homes and buildings are still standing.

The view along Front Street

A walk down Front Street along the Cape Fear River takes you back in time, yet you know you are in the 21st Century with attractive shops and restaurants. Local beaches — Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach — are nearby, as is Cape Fear Community College and the verdant campus of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Battleship USS North Carolina is parked in the harbor. Take a tour on this ship that was in service during WWII. The kids will love it -- it is like traveling through a maze in the belly of the ship!

Buying local and keeping small businesses in business is important to me having grown up in a family who owned a chain of restaurants. We depended on  local people to help build and grow the business. A trip to Wilmington is a always on my list when I’m at the beach. Come with me on my stroll while I visit some special places today.

Hot Pink Cake Stand

A real sweet find on Front Street

When you walk down Front Street, you can’t miss this storefront and its bold sign, so I wandered in to see what was baking. I discovered a charming place with a counter where you can take a break and enjoy a cake and tea. Their “open kitchen” means they are busy baking the cakes all in the open where everyone can see. They aren’t ignoring you, they are just on a deadline, except for Whitney who was serving the customers the day I came.  I chose four cupcakes to take back to the beach — cookies n’ cream, peanut-butter chocolate, “Hostess” cupcake, and coconut. They were all moist and delish.

Whitney chooses my cupcakes. I ask her if I can blog about them and she says, "Sure if you say something sweet!"

Sometimes fancy cupcakes are just that — fancy — but blah with no distinct flavor like they were all made in the same mixing bowl. Not these! Their cupcakes rival the Georgetown Cupcakes I get back home in the D.C. area. (INMHO even better!) Since January 21, 2010, Jody Carmichael, owner and cake artist, sees to it that the cakes are always fresh, beautiful, and on time for your special event!! Visit the Hot Pink Cake Stand when you are in Wilmington.

With Hurricane Irene on the way, why not stock up on some cupcake provisions?

The Italian Gourmet Market

Bruschetta seasoning ready for tasting at the Italian Gourmet Market.

I stepped in and Valerie asked me if I wanted to try the bruschetta seasoning. Most, if not all (I didn’t read every label), of the stock in this enticing market is from Italy. Owner Frank Delia travels often to Italy seeking the best Italian foods. The bruschetta seasoning, manufactured by Cannamela, is a recipe of salt, garlic, black pepper, crushed chillies and basil. Valerie had some olive oil on a plate with the seasoning sprinkled on top. I dipped the bread in the seasoned oil…SOLD! I’ll take a jar. They also carry a selection of fresh pastas — had I been at home cooking and not at the beach I would have tried some. What a delight. Visit the Italian Gourmet Market on Front Street, you’ll be glad you did.

Stay tuned for the next blog posting where I visit Fire & Spice.

Down by the Sea

Patrick Kelley on the beach in North Carolina

August means the Kelley’s head off to the Cape Fear Coast and the antebellum southern port city of Wilmington, North Carolina. This year, my plan is to blog from the coast. I will tickle your taste buds with recipes and descriptions from all the local spots—some southern fare, some seafood, and some just local-yocal.

When I started this blog on January 1 of this year, I thought I would write weekly entries of hospitality and food escapades. But, ah, the life of a busy magazine editor—always on a deadline! The life of a working mom and wife! And, the life of one who loves to welcome you to our home!  All good but not much time left to blog.

I plan to take photos (yes, more photos from now on because I got that camera  — a Nikon Coolpix L120 — I talked about in Wintertime Dessert Party), I hope to draw you into my coastal experience. Let’s try it. See you soon.