Big Stevie Cool

Musings of Dad of 3 from Northumberland | Recipes | North East Restaurant Reviews | TV & Film Reviews


Monday, 24 April 2017

The Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero

One of the reasons we decided to go to Cuba was my love of Rum. It is my favourite spirit and all of my favourite cocktails are Rum based. Staying at the Blau Varadero hotel in Cuba means you get all inclusive food and drink and they have an extensive cocktail menu.

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - menu

When we first arrived it was late in the evening and we had been travelling for around 12 hours so we were obviously very tired but we thought we would have a quick drink and then head to bed, at least that was the plan...

We ended up getting more than a little drunk and came up with this great idea to try all of the cocktails. Originally we were going to try them all that night but we soon realised it would be impossible to try them all in one night.

On to the drinks...

Mary Pickford
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - Mary Pickford
White rum, Pineapple Juice and Grenadine.

I'd not heard of this cocktail before but it turned out to be great. This was one of Mrs Cool's regular drinks and she said very sweet and refreshing.

Ron Alexander
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - Ron Alexander
White Rum, Dark Cacao Liqueur and milk.

Another one we hadn't heard of before but this one wasn't as successful as the Mary Pickford. It's was a bit bland (maybe we had a small measure of rum in ours) and was watery and just didn't seem to have anything to it.

Mai Tai
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - mai Tai
Dark Rum, Lime Juice, Pineapple Juice, Orange Juice and Dark Cacao Liqueur.

A great Rum cocktail. Just a sip of this and you're on holiday. The rum can be hidden behind the fruit juices meaning you can have more rum without it being over powering (although that can lead to a bad head in the morning).

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - sunset
White Rum, Coconut Liqueur, Orange Juice and Grenadine.

The Blau Varadero variation of a tequila sunrise with Rum replacing the Tequila and Grenadine on top instead of the bottom. Another cocktail that just tastes of holidays. For best results, you are advised to mix well before drinking. 

Bloody Mary
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - bloody mary
Vodka, Tomato Juice, Lime Juice, Worcestershire Sauce, Salt, Pepper and Tabasco.

My favourite non Rum cocktail. This is a proper grown up drink but it is an acquired taste Mrs Cool said she can only have a few sips of this but I love them.

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - margarita
Tequila, Triple Sec, Lime Juice and Salt.

I had a few of these and it made me realise that depending on which bar you go to will determine how good it will be. I found the best ones at the Piano Bar they had the right amount of sourness and a good helping of salt around the rim.

Sex on the Beach
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - sex on the beach
Vodka, Peach Schnapps, Orange Juice and Grenadine.

Mrs Cool said she sickened herself with too much Peach Schnapps in her youth so wasn't looking forward to this one. I'm not a big fan of Peach schnapps either, however, this was a good Sex on the Beach but not a drink we had many of.

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - caipirina
Cane firewater (Aguardiente de Caña), Lime Juice, Fruit Lime and Sugar.

I still struggle to pronounce this one so I sent Mrs Cool to the bar to order it. A refreshing cocktail nice on a hot day (of which there are a lot in Cuba).

Black Russian
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - black russian
Vodka and Coffee Liqueur.

For years I thought a Black Russian was just a Vodka and Coke, I don't know why.  This could be a harsh drink as it's mostly Vodka but the Coffee Liqueur takes the edge off.

Piña Colada
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - pina colada
Pineapple Juice, Coconut, Milk

The only virgin cocktail we tried was the Pina Colada which was made in a slush machine. However when we found out you can order them 'Con Ron' (with rum) they became Mrs Cool's Favourite cocktail. The best ones were from the pool bar, great for cooling down in the hot sun.

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - Daiquiri
White Rum, Lime Juice, Sugar and Maraschino.

Named after the beach in Cuba this is a classic Cuban cocktail. This is another good cocktail to cool down with, this one is served over crushed ice with a hint of cherry.

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - mojito

White Rum, Mint, Lime Juice, Sugar, Soda and Bitters.

The ultimate Cuban cocktail and my absolute favourite, I make them at home often. They can be a bit too sweet once you've had a few. Like with the Margarita's they varied depending on which bar you went to, the best ones were from the Lobby Bar. 

Blau Varadero
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - blau varadero
White Rum, Coconut, Banana Liqueur, Blue Curaçao and Milk.

Named after the hotel, this cocktail was an unusual one for me. I don't really like milky cocktails, the flavours were not particularly strong and when you mixed it together it went a pale blue. 

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - canchanchara
Cane Firewater (Aguardiente), Lime Juice and Honey.

Another one I'd never heard of and this one I really liked. I don't think i've had a cocktail with honey in before but it was really good. Great as a post dinner Digestif.

Havana Special
The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - havana special
White Rum, Pineapple Juice and Maraschino.

This one was Mrs Cool's favourite I think she had one every night. She said the combination of pineapple and cherry was delicious and reminded her of a slice of cake.

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - bar menu

That was all the cocktails but Blau Varadero also have wine, beer, spirits and other drinks available. The Cuba Libré from the Beach Bar are particularly good. Mrs Cool like the wine as usually in all inclusive's the wine is poor but she said it was very drinkable. I also need to give a special mention to the Whisky list as the measures they give are certainly not shy.

The all inclusive Cocktail menu at Blau Varadero, Cuba - whiskey

Well, that's all for now.



Thursday, 20 April 2017

Iron Fist: A Review

Marvel's partnership with Netflix has been on a roll. The highlight of these productions has been Daredevil with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage also being big hits with fans and critics alike. The next entry in this universe is Iron Fist.

Starring Finn Jones as Danny Rand/Iron Fist with a supporting cast of Jessica Henwick as Colleen Wing, Jessica Stroup as Joy Meechum, Tom Pelphrey as Ward Meechum and David Wenham as Harold Meechum. It also sees the return of Marvel/Netflix recurring characters Claire Temple played by Rosario Dawson and Madam Gao played by Wai Ching Ho.

Danny Rand is the heir to Rand Enterprises a multi-billion dollar company who is involved in a plane crash when a child. His parents die and the is presumed dead. Years later he returns claiming to have been rescued by monks and taken to the mysterious K'un-Lun where he has been trained in Kung Fu and chosen to be the Iron Fist, protector of the entry to K'un-Lun and sworn enemy of The Hand (a villainous organisation already shown in the other Marvel/Netflix shows).

Ward and Joy Meechum are Danny's childhood friends who are now running Rand Enterprises at first they don't believe that this homeless hipster who claims to be Danny is who he says he is and initially reject him and have him committed. Harold Meechum is the pairs father who faked his death years ago after making a deal with The Hand to cure his illness in return for The Hand having access to Rand Enterprises. Harold is the one who believes Danny and makes Ward and Joy give Danny his shares in the company and welcome him back.

Danny spends most of the series not in control of his powers and struggling to summon The Iron Fist. Harold is only using Danny as a way of ridding himself of The Hand so he can return to public life. Ward initially seems like a generic hard nosed businessman but then with revelations of his drug use and that he wants to get away from his father and the company his story becomes more interesting. Colleen Wing is a Kung Fu instructor who befriends Danny and helps him from Time to time but their relationship becomes more complex after they sleep together and Danny discovers a secret Colleen has been keeping from him.

The show doesn't hit the heights of the other Marvel/Netflix shows. The writing is a bit repetitive, I think the line "I am The Iron Fist, Sworn enemy of The Hand" is said in just about every episode and the fight scene aren't as dramatic as in Daredevil as there are far too many cuts which makes the scenes disoriented.

That being said I still found it enjoyable, I liked Danny Rand and Iron Fist seems like quite a cool hero (especially if he gets his costume in the next series) and once he masters his powers he will be formidable addition to the MCU. The show has also provided the last piece of the eagerly awaited team of The Defenders which will be debuting later this year and I'm looking forward to seeing how Iron Fist interacts with Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage.

Well, that's all for now.



Thursday, 13 April 2017

Kong: Skull Island. A Review

Ever since I was a kid King Kong has held a special place in my heart. I think it is because the original 1933 film is one of my Mam's favourite films and I've seen it like a million times, Kong has always been my favourite movie monster. I've passed this love of the giant gorilla onto my sons Harry and Jack who love the 2005 remake and when it was announced there would be a new reboot we were all really excited. When it was finally released we decided to take my Mam and Dad with us as part of my Mam's birthday celebrations.

First off the makers of this film are not shy about showing you that the star of this film is a Giant Ape. Within the first minute of the film King makes his impressive appearance as an American and a Japanese pilot fight it out on the beach of Skull Island after they crash land. The titles role through news pictures and videos until we arrive in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War. We're then introduced to the other characters, John Goodman plays Randa and Corey Hawkins plays Brooks a pair of scientists who work for an organisation called Monarch (for anyone who doesn't know this is the same organisation trying to track down and stop Godzilla in the 2014 film). They are trying to get funding for an expedition to Skull Island as they think there will be some undiscovered creatures on the island

Randa hires Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) as their tracker, not that Kong will need much tracking. Next we see a Helicopter Squadron lead by Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who are just about to be sent home after the Vietnam War when Packard accepts the mission to take the expedition. Then there is photo journalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) and a group of other scientist who are also travelling to Skull Island.

Obviously when they arrive at Skull Island everything goes wrong immediately. As Kong attacks the Helicopters a lot of the group are killed and the survivors are scattered across the island. Soon after this happens we meet Hank Marlow, played by the always brilliant John C Reilly,  the American pilot who has been on Skull Island for the last 29 years. Marlow is my favourite character as a man out of time and little bit unhinged. Marlow takes the group to the native Islanders village and fills them in on how things are on Skull Island.

The group need to get to the other side of the island to get rescued but Packard wants to get to his remaining men, even though he isn't sure their even alive, and wants revenge for the men killed by Kong.

As with other Kong movies there are other monsters on Skull Island. No dinosaurs this time but giant spiders and buffalo type creatures. The main monsters Kong has to battle the Skull Crawlers, as Marlow calls them. Giant lizard like creature that live underground and come above ground for a fight with Kong every now and then.

The whole film plays more like a Vietnam war movie than it does a monster movie. It is utter nonsense, but enjoyable nonsense. The cast is incredible with Tom Hiddleston as the action hero (Mrs Cool said that she can now see him as James Bond in the future) and John C Reilly as the comic relief being the highlights. The visual effects are great and all of the monsters look amazing.

There has been a trend recently of incredible soundtracks on movies and with songs from Jefferson Airplane, David Bowie and Creedence Clearwater Revival this is another fantastic soundtrack.

Mrs Cool has never seen any of the other King Kong movies and only came as the rest of the family were going, she thought she was not going to like it at all but actually loved this. Harry said this is now his favourite Kong film and my Mam also loved it. While this isn't as good as the iconic 1933 original it easily surpasses all of the other Kong movies.

This being next entry in the movie universe first set up in Godzilla (2014) there will be sequels and crossovers for years to come. Lovers of movie monsters rejoice as there will soon be the long awaited showdown of Godzilla Vs. King Kong and I for one cannot wait.

Well, that's all for now.



Monday, 10 April 2017

Sunday Lunch at the Wylam Brewery

Resembling a postmodern courthouse, Wylam Brewery, in Exhibition Park in Newcastle is an impressive building but not as impressive as the food and drink available there.  The Sunday Lunch they serve is up there with the best I've had, you can view their menu here. The decor inside was industrial which I quite like but as it was full of fellow diners enjoying their meals it did make it quite a noisy room.

I have been a fan of Wylam Brewery beers for years and when I spotted the Puffing Billy Smoked Black Bitter I knew I had to try it. I have tried a smoked a once before and it was a revelation and this pint was amazing. It's darker than a black hole and this will sound weird but it's like drinking a platter of cured meat. If you're a meat and beer lover you have to try it.

On to the food, We started with a plate of cured meat (which went perfectly with my pint), olive oil and sourdough. My only criticism is that this plate was on the small side. It was £7 and we only got a few slices of meat, a couple of slices of cheese and 2 slices of sourdough. It was all delicious but could've done with a few extra slices of meat (but maybe I'm just being greedy). The roast dinners come with roast parsnips, root mash, roast potatoes, buttered greens and Yorkshire pudding. Mrs Cool went for the Roast Beef which she said was deliciously tender with flavoursome gravy and plentiful.

Kids can have a small plate of any of the main meals. Heidi went for the Roast Beef and Harry and Jack went for the Lamb (they love lamb).

Now for my meal, I've said many times that I'm a meat lover and Pork Sunday Lunch is my absolute favourite. This pork was amazing, melt in the mouth tender and the crackling was out of this world. So crunchy that it almost broke my teeth and perfectly salty.

Everything on my plate was perfectly cooked and delicious. I think it will take a long time for me to have a Sunday Roast that tops this one. I'll be thinking about that crackling for months.

Well, that's all for now.



Monday, 3 April 2017

The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 16 "The first day of the rest of your life"

What a shit season!

I've been critical of this season throughout and the finale lived up to the disappointment. Although I wasn't expecting the double cross the final battle seemed obvious with Rick on his knees again and Negan threatening to kill Carl but as no one of any great importance died it just seemed a bit flat.

So it looks like we'll have to wait for season 8 for the real war between The Saviours and the Alliance. I will give it one more chance as I've invested a lot of time in this series over the last 7 years but if season 8 doesn't blow me away it may be the end for me and The Walking Dead.

Well, that's all for now.



Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu Review

We try and visit Newcastle every week on my day off work and stock up on essentials from the Grainger Market. Normally, we'll stop off somewhere for breakfast, brunch or lunch (check out my last trip to Tapas Revolution here) and Mrs Cool had been dying to take me to The Alchemist in the Grey's Quarter of intu Eldon Square ever since she visited for cocktails last week so we booked a table on my next day off work.

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu Review

The Alchemist opens for breakfast from 8am on weekdays and 10am on weekends. We had booked ahead for our 10am table online but really this wasn't necessary as we were the only ones there. The Alchemist's breakfast menu is very heavy on the egg (much to Mrs Cool's disappointment - she's not an egg fan - weird!) with 90% of dishes being served with egg. The staff are a friendly bunch though and I'm pretty sure they'd omit the egg from any dish if asked.

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu Review | Complimentary water

I really liked the surroundings and we had the pick of tables - ranging from cozy booths to long tables with bar stools. We decided on a booth and helped ourselves to the complimentary water that was waiting for us on our table (nice touch). The staff offered to switch it to sparkling if preferred. I half expected an extra charge for water to be added to our bill at the end but I'm pleased to say there wasn't.

The Alchemist Newcastle | Coffee and Tea Selection

Despite what you may think, The Alchemist isn't all about the cocktails. They serve a decent range of teas and coffees too. 

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu Review | Coffee menu

Mrs Cool opted for a single Americano which was nice but it tasted a little weak to me - I'd recommend heading straight in for the double. I think the kids would like to try the hot chocolates here. 

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu Review | Tea menu

I went for a classic English breakfast tea which can be served plain or 'Alchemist style' at no additional cost. Obviously I went for Alchemist style and I loved the dry ice, china tea cups and the flask of milk. It was proper loose leaf too and definitely worth the £2.50 price tag.

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu Review | English breakfast loose leaf tea with dry ice

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu

Our server recommended the Eggs Benedict to me so that's what I went for. Presented on a black slate with an individual pinch of sea salt and extra hollandaise on the side, it was delicious and well thought out. The eggs were perfectly cooked and had that all important ooze.

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu Review | Eggs Benedict

Mrs Cool went for a classic bacon butty served with brown sauce on the side. Sam said it was her kind of bacon sandwich - packed with 6 rashers of crispy bacon and soft white bread. It was a bargain at just £4.50.

The Alchemist Newcastle | Breakfast Menu Review | Bacon Sandwich

The service throughout was super friendly and we were made to feel very welcome. Nothing was too much trouble for the staff at all and we were served pretty quickly. We did contemplate extending our breakfast and ordering a non-alcoholic cocktail but time was getting on and Mrs Cool had a long list of 'essential' holiday items to shop for so I'll save the cocktails for another time. 

Some people have had a few choice words to say about the new restaurants in the Grey's Quarter but all of our encounters have been spot on so far and The Alchemist is a fantastic addition to Newcastle. Our breakfast bill was £16.55 for two which I think considering the quality, service and atmosphere was well worth the £. 

For more food reviews around the North East, follow Big Stevie Cool on Instagram here.

Well, that's all for now.



Monday, 27 March 2017

The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 15 "Something They Need"

Ah Man! Why did Dwight have to grow a pair right at the end, I was looking forward to the shifty prick getting shivved by Daryl or someone else but that doesn't look like it's going to happen and it seems like he'll be instrumental in the war against the Saviours.

A lot was happening in this episode, Gregory is getting seriously worried about his position which is funny as he is the worst leader of all of the groups, he has no usable skills at all and the people of Hilltop are now realising this.

The Alexandria group totally screwed over the Ocean side group but taking all of their guns and leaving them defenceless but they I guess they were given a choice and the Alexandria group gotta do what they gotta do.

Negan... ah Negan, still the best thing about this season. He knows something is coming and with the finale next week I can't wait to see this. But the disappointment I've felt throughout this season I have a bad feeling the finale may be a let down.

Well, that's all for now.


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