Big Stevie Cool

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Monday, 16 October 2017

Dinner and Breakfast at Marco Pierre White Steakhouse, Bar & Grill Newcastle

Once in a blue moon me and Mrs Cool get a child-free night and we like to have a good night out. This happened recently when we went to see Katherine Ryan (Hilarious by the way) at The Tyne Theatre and Opera House, we also spent the evening at Hotel Indigo. The focal point of the hotel is The Marco Pierre White restaurant on the ground floor.  The Steakhouse, Bar & Grill is the Marco Pierre White's only restaurant in the North-East, there are a few menus to choose from (you can find them here).

Dinner:

As we were staying at the hotel there is an inclusive dinner menu we chose to dine from. It changes regularly and this is the one we had.

This being an evening out we obviously had to start with wine. We both love a merlot and this is the one we went for. It was very smooth and had a slight chocolatey taste, lush.


Mrs Cool loves a bowl of soup so she immediately went for the Cream of Carrot Soup. She said it was deliciously sweet and served with with some nice bread to dip in. A perfect warming dish for a cold Autumn evening.

I went for the Ham Hock Terrine, what really made this dish stand out was the pickled vegetables. I loved the sharpness of the pickles. The terrine itself was lush, I often choose a terrine as it's one of my favourite starters and this one was particularly good.

For her main Mrs Cool went for Slow Cooked Pork Belly. Sam loves a bit of pork especially when it has some crispy skin. She said this skin was very crispy and the meat was great as it was falling apart.

I had the Chicken Ballotine, The chicken was nice and moist and the pearl barley it sat on was delish and went well with the wild mushrooms. The crispy bacon and the pea shoots finished the dish off nicely.

For dessert we both opted for the Chocolate Tarte. Which was very luxurious and not too heavy which was good as we were starting to get a bit full by this point.

Breakfast:

The next morning we were up and ready nice and early for breakfast. I don't get hangovers, Mrs Cool however, was not as lucky. They had my favourite breakfast which is Eggs Benedict so I had to choose that. The eggs were cooked perfectly and the hollandaise was delicious.

If you would like to find out more about what else we got up to during our stay check out Mrs Cool's post here.

Well, that's all for now,

S

You can follow Big Stevie Cool on Instagram here.

*Disclosure: Sam and I we invited to stay at Hotel Indigo and dine at MPW on a  complimentary basis
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Thursday, 12 October 2017

I never expected theme park food to be this good


You may have seen, if you follow me on Social Media, that a few weeks ago my family and I had the trip of a lifetime to Florida, USA. We had a pretty packed schedule visiting SeaWorld, Aquatica, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove during our trip. All of which were incredible and the whole family have some great memories from all of the parks but for me, the unexpected highlight was how good the food was.

Theme park food has a bit of a reputation of being a bit... bland. Well that certainly isn't the case at the Parks we visited so I have decided to share with you my top 5 foodie treats from Florida.

5. Sultans Sweets (Busch Gardens)

If you have a sweet tooth you must pay a visit to Sultans Sweets. They have all manner of cakes, pastries, biscuits and tray bakes. The decorated cookies are amazing and the rice crispie cakes looked pretty incredible too. There is also a selection of ice creams to choose from which are great for cooling down in midday heat.



4. Dragonfire Grill and Pub (Busch Gardens)

If you're in a large group and can't all decide on what type of food to have then head over to Dragonfire Grill and Pub. They have five different food styles to choose from. You can have sandwiches and salads from The Market, something with an oriental spice from The Asian Wok. Chicken, Burgers and Ribs from The Grill, Loaded Nachos, Chips and Salsa or Cinnamon Churros from Southwest or you can get Pasta or Italian Flatbreads with various toppings from The Italian. We went to the Asian Wok, I had The Thai Pepper Steak and Sam had the Orange Chicken Tempura we both had Asian Noodles as our side and both were delicious. The Thai Pepper Steak wasn't too spicy but still had a nice little heat. The Orange Chicken Tempura was very succulent with a tangy sauce and tasted very authentic.



3. Pretzels (Discovery Cove and Busch Gardens)

I've grouped a few places together for Pretzels as they were available in a few parks and all were great. The Salted Pretzels at Discovery Cove are available at the food and drinks kiosks dotted around the park and you can help yourself to as many as you like at your leisure as food and drinks are included in the cost of entry (I also recommend the Slushes available at the kiosks as well, White Cherry Fanta was my favourite). I need to make a special mention for the Pretzels at Busch Gardens as there were so many to choose from. Of course there were regular Salted Pretzels but also Bacon Pretzels and even Cheeseburger Pretzels. We went for the Bacon Pretzel because, well, it's bacon!



2. Dine with Shamu (SeaWorld)

If you want a meal with a bit of a show then Dine with Shamu is perfect. The Buffet is all top quality with Roast Beef, Roast Pork, Chicken, Fish, Pasta, Salads as well as some amazing cakes. I've never really liked Carrot Cake but the one I tried here has converted me, it was delicious. The kids were able to pick what they wanted from the buffet and Jack went a bit OTT with Chicken Nuggets and had about 20 on his plate, he still finished them all and even had room for a brownie too. Although the food was amazing what made this extra special was that you're sat poolside and halfway through your meal you're joined by a Pod of Orcas who give a great display and their trainers are on hand to answer any questions and have a lot of interesting facts about the Orcas.



1. Sharks Underwater Grill (SeaWorld)

The reason why Sharks Underwater Grill is my Number 1 is it is a dining experience like nothing I've ever experienced before. Your table is next to a large window that looks into an aquarium full of all kinds of marine animals. We were joined by a large grouper who stayed by the window for our whole meal (probably eyeing up our food) but there were all kinds of sharks and other fish going about their business while you eat your meal. While the setting is great, the food really is the star of the show. Easily surpassing the quality you can get in a 5* restaurant. The menu has everything you could want from a seafood restaurant, Sam had the Mussels to start and then the Tempura Shrimp. I had the Godzilla Roll (which is a giant Sushi roll) to start and then had the Swordfish Steak from the Specials menu. My Swordfish was the best thing I have eaten for a long time. Jack loves fish, it's his favourite food, and he was full of praise too saying that his battered fish was the best he had ever had.



Well, that's all for now.

S


This is a collaborative post. 
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Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Porterhouse Butcher and Grill at Fenwick Foodhall

A few months ago I was a little bit sad as I found out that Ko Sai at Fenwick Food Hall was closing down. I loved the little Thai street food place and had been many times, but I need not have worried as it has been replaced by something rather special.
Credit: Porterhouse Butcher and Grill
Porterhouse Butcher and Grill is an amazing little gem in the centre of Newcastle. It's part of Fenwick Foodhall so there is a proper butcher shop where you can get all the quality meat you want (I'll come back the meat in a bit). There is also a Bar and a seated restaurant, The restaurant serves meat straight from the butchers counter and as their website says Porterhouse has a philosophy of "We cook what we sell, we sell what we cook". I love this kind of of ethos from a restaurant and you really get the impression that everyone there is really passionate about the quality of their produce.

Anyway, back to the meat. The butchers counter is fully stocked with all the cuts you could possibly want. We didn't buy anything from the counter this time (we were just there for lunch), but I will definitely be going back next time I'm in town. The menu focuses on a few Steak dishes but also has a wide selection of other mains, small plates and a raw/cured selection. The menu changes on a regular basis so keep checking their website for the latest update.

All of the steak dishes come with a side of fries and and a selection of mustard and bearnaise sauce. The chips were incredible and had a real meaty flavour, I assume there were cooked in beef dripping (it makes all the difference).

All the steaks are cooked medium but you can ask for it to be cooked to your liking (please don't ask for well done, I would be disappointed in you if you did). Mrs Cool loves a bit of meat and she went for the Sirloin Steak.

I love an egg when I have a steak so when I saw the Minute Steak with two Fried Hens Eggs on the menu I knew I had to have it. The Steak was perfection and the eggs had runny yolks (always a must) and mine came served with HP sauce.

I you're a meat lover you have to try this place. The food is amazing and the price isn't too bad either. We had two steak mains with chips and two bottles of Coca-Cola and it came to £46 including tip.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Thursday, 14 September 2017

5 Things that happen when you and your partner both work from home



Working from home can be great, you don't have the rush hour commute to work, you can take a break whenever you want and you choose your office environment such as furniture and decoration. It’s not all sunshine and roses though, especially when both you and your partner use the house as your office. Living and working in close proximity can lead to disagreements from time to time. I’ve compiled a list of the top five things that Mrs Cool and I are most likely to lock horns about:

1. One person is always tasked with making the coffee. 



I’m a recent convert to coffee but I am a bit of a coffee snob and my preferred drink is an Espresso. I enjoy them so much I decided to get myself an Espresso machine a few months ago. Mrs Cool is happy to have instant coffee (although she only likes the expensive kind) but she prefers an Americano. Our machine isn’t hard to use and can easily make an Espresso and an Americano at the same time but it seems to be beyond Mrs Cool as it’s always Muggins here who has to make the coffee.

2. Someone always hogs the office desk 



Mrs Cool started working from home long before I did and it was Sam who decided to get an office desk. However now we both often work from home there can be a bit of a race to get set up at the desk first. I often lose this race and am relegated to the dining table, I think it won't be long until I get my own desk and I have my eye on a few here.

3. You can never decide what music to listen to

Me and Mrs Cool have very contrasting taste in music. Sam likes acts like Girls Aloud, Sia and Rhianna where as I like The Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Oasis. This is one area where I usually get my own way. I have a subscription to Apple Music so can stream all the music I want, I am a nice guy though and I will sometimes let Mrs Cool pick a playlist.

4. The WiFi always gets clogged up

If you both work online you must invest in good home broadband. We used to get frustrated by our WiFi and there is nothing worse than trying to upload a video or blog post when your WiFi signal freezes due to your other half using up all the bandwidth. This is not so much of a problem anymore as we upgraded to Fibre Broadband and most providers will have unlimited packages. I would advise you to get it as it is a godsend. It also helps when work is done for the day and you want to watch the latest season of Narcos on Netflix while the kids are on YouTube or playing on Xbox with their mates. 

5. You can never agree on the right temperature

This one causes the most arguments in our house as me and Mrs Cool are polar opposites when it comes to a comfortable temperature. Mrs Cool is always turning the heating on and is happy to sit in sauna like temperatures and I am always too hot and have been known to have a window open even when there has been snow lying on the ground outside.

Do you work from home with your partner? What do disagree about? 

Well, that’s all for now.

S



*This is a collaborative post.
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Monday, 4 September 2017

Monday Munchies: Death by Chocolate Orange Cake


I like to think of myself as a good cook but I very rarely bake. I make the odd pie now and then but I've never made a cake. With the return of Great British Bake Off, I really like the new series by the way (anything with Noel Fielding is a winner for me), I decided to challenge myself to bake a cake and I roped the kids in to help.

I scoured our many cook books to find some inspiration and settled on Death by Chocolate Cake from Mary Berry's Baking Bible. I didn't follow the recipe exactly as I wanted to put my own spin on it.



Ingredients:

For the Cake:

275g plain flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1½ level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ level tsp baking powder
215g caster sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
3 large eggs, beaten
225ml sunflower oil
225ml milk
1 small capful of orange extract

For the Icing:

225g Terry's chocolate orange
225g Cadbury's Dairy Milk chocolate
200g unsalted butter

To Finish:

1 Terry's Chocolate Orange, separated into segments



Method:

Start by pre-heating your oven to 160°C (140°C Fan). Grease two 20cm cake tins with butter and line the bottom with greaseproof paper. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a mixing bowl and then add the caster sugar. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the golden syrup, milk, oil and eggs then mix until smooth. Mary Berry says to mix with a wooden spoon but that seemed like a right faff. I have a food mixer and it only took a couple of minutes using a silicone creaming beater, it worked a treat and saved a lot of hard work (I'm all about skipping hard work).


Pour the cake mix evenly between the 2 cake tins and bake for 35 minutes or until you can insert a wooden skewer into the centre of the cake and it comes out clean. Turn out the cakes and leave to cool on a wire rack while you make the icing.


Melt the chocolate, Mary Berry says to break the chocolate into pieces and put into a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, again I found a shortcut by putting the chunks of chocolate into a Pyrex jug and microwaving it for 20 seconds at a time until it was melted. Once the chunks are all melted add the butter and stir until it's all mixed.


Once the cakes are cool, pour a third of the icing onto the first cake and spread it evenly. Add half the Chocolate Orange segments around the edge to decorate. Place the second cake on top and then pour the remaining icing on top and smooth it over the top and sides with a palette knife (I was a bit rubbish at the sides but it was still ok) then add the remaining Chocolate Orange segments around the edge.


Baking a cake was a lot easier than I was expecting it to be so I think I'll be trying a few more in the future.

Well, that's all for now.

S


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Monday, 24 July 2017

Tapas at home Inspired by La Casa Delicatessen


Let me tell you abut a little place I have fallen in love with. La Casa Delicatessen in the Grainger Market in Newcastle is somewhere I didn't know existed until a couple of months ago. Already it is my favourite place to pick up any Spanish food I'm in the mood for. The guy who works there is great (I should really ask his name next time I'm there), he is so friendly and really passionate about the produce they sell and that sort of service really stands out for me. The first time we went we tried a selection of Manchego that had been cured in various ways. One with beer, one with chilli and one with brandy. All were delicious and we left with a little wedge of the brandy cured Manchego and a small pack of sliced chorizo. We promised ourselves the next time we have tapas night at home (which we do every few months) we would go back and stock up on supplies.

A couple of weeks ago it was time for our next Tapas night, I did make a couple of dishes from scratch just with store cupboard ingredients. I made some quick garlic bread, which is just toasted bread drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with garlic granules (so easy but really tasty). I also made Patatas Bravas by cutting a couple of potatoes into cubes and frying them in olive oil with some rosemary sprigs. The Bravas sauce I make uses passata heated with some chopped garlic, paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper. Put the potatoes into a bowl and spoon over the sauce and finish with a few teaspoonfuls of Garlic mayo dotted on top. Now onto the produce we got from La Casa.

Serrano Ham


Charcuterie is a big favourite in our house and for me cured ham is King. The Charcuterie selection at La Casa is vast and there is everything from Lomo Ham, Cecina Smoked Beef and Iberico Ham. We went for the Serrano Ham and weren't disappointed, the meaty slices were perfect, just enough fat to enhance the flavour and very moreish (why do we always buy too little?)

Chorizo


As I said Charcuterie is a big deal to us and Mrs. Cool's preference is Chorizo. There are numerous options available from slices of Chorizo to whole sausages. We went for these little links which I fried in olive oil. The Chorizo was to die for and the oil was great for dipping the garlic bread into.

Manchego Cured in Brandy


The Cheese, My God! The Cheese. Where do I begin with this cheese? This cheese is what brought us back to La Casa and it will be brining us back again. I can honestly say this is the best cheese I have EVER had. Not only is the flavour on the Manchego great but the subtle brandy taste really elevates it to something exquisite. This stuff is like crack, once you have a taste you want more and more and more. I really need to have some more right now. I'm having withdrawls.

Wine


You can't have Meat and Cheese without having Wine, It's the Law! The wine selection is huge and we went for this lovely Rioja. I'm not usually a fan of Rioja but as it was a Spanish tapas night we couldn't really have a Sancerre or a Merlot. It was outstanding and really went perfectly with all our dishes.

It amazes me that this little nook in the Grainger Market is so packed full of amazing produce, I can't sing the praises of La Casa highly enough, I really love this place and hope you will to. If you would like to find out more you can visit their website here and you can follow them on Twitter here.

Well, that's all for now

S

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

How one DIY job turned into a room makeover

I like to think I'm pretty good at DIY, nothing too adventurous but if there is a little job to be done I'm all over it. A while ago our toilet was damaged and we needed a new one, I decided replacing the toilet was too much for me so hired someone else to do it. However, after the new toilet was in it left a gap in the flooring around the toilet as the new one was a different shape to the old one. EASY! I thought, it's only lino. I can pick up a little bit of lino that matches and patch it up. But this one small job turned into a much bigger job, which then turned into several jobs, which then snowballed into a makeover of the whole room.


When I got to the local DIY Superstore there was a lino that matched ours, Huzzah! I thought this will be a doddle, however I had brought Mrs. Cool with me (that was my first mistake) and she noticed another lino with a wood design that she liked better than ours. If i'm honest I didn't like our old lino, it was already down when we moved in and had probably been there for years so I agreed that instead of patching up the old lino I would rip out a the old one and lay down the nice new one.


We also had a little damage to the bath panel so as we were looking around we decided to get a new bath panel. Oh! well, while I'm on I might as well re-do the sealant around the bath as it was a bit discoloured (what am I doing giving myself more work). On the way home Mrs Cool chirps up saying the towels, bath mat and shower curtain we have won't match the new floor. Great! more expenditure, We headed to another couple of shops to look at accessories. As well as the already agreed upon towels and bath mat etc we also ended up getting new storage baskets, a mirror, a candle, bin, toilet brush and a bath tidy! It was at this point that I realised Mrs. Cool was actually Carole Smillie and I had wandered into an episode of Changing Rooms.

Luckily (or unluckily however you want to look at it) our bathroom is quite small so the lino was surprisingly easy to change over, the old one came up really easily and I was able to use that as a rough template to cut the new one to size. I laid the new one down and used a stanley knife to cut it to fit around the fixtures. The bath panel was the hardest part, this as due to the shape of the bathroom I needed to cut a small section off the panel so that it would fit. But this was an excuse to get a new hack saw (all boys love using a saw right?).


Using white spirit I was able to remove the old sealant, I may have used too much white spirit as the fumes were a bit strong, I would suggest keeping the door and window open if you're planning on doing this to avoid getting lightheaded. Putting the new sealant down was a bit messy but I had the foresight to wear disposable rubber gloves so my hands didn't get covered.


That was all the big jobs done and all that was left was to put the accessories in place. The whole job only took a few hours (not including the time spent shopping for all the stuff, that took longer) and it only cost around £300 (including getting the new toilet fitted) which I think was bit of a bargain. I'm very happy with the finished room and more importantly Mrs. Cool was really pleased with how this project worked out.


Mrs. Cool did a little video tour of the new bathroom and you can see it here.



The problem I now have is that the bathroom is now putting the rest of our house to shame. We have plans to redesign our living room and we've already bought some a new coffee table and TV stand as well as some new art but we have more to do in the next few months.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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