Big Stevie Cool

A Men's Lifestyle and Family Blog | North East England

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Thursday, 16 August 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp Review


After the emotional trauma I suffered when watching Avengers: Infinity War I was ready for something a bit lighter from the MCU. When the first Ant-Man was release it immediately became one of my favourite MCU movies and I was hoping the sequel would continue with the humour from the first film. Paul Rudd returns as Scott Lang/Ant-Man along with Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne/Wasp, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Michael Peña as Luis. This time they are joined by Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster, Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch, Randall Park as Jimmy Woo and Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne.

The film is set shortly before Infinity War, Scott Lang is under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Apparently Scott didn't tell Hope and Hank Pym that he was going to help Captain America and they are mad at him as they have had to go on the run. Scott has a weird dream where he is Janet Van Dyne (Hope's mother and Hank's wife) and contacts Hank as he thinks there is more to it.

Hope picks up Scott as it wasn't a dream but a message from Janet in the Quantum Realm and they can use Scott to track down where Janet is and rescue her. Hank and Janet have been building a big tunnel thing to enter the Quantum Realm but they need a part which they are trying to buy on the black market from Sonny Burch. When Hope goes to pick up the part she is attacked by Ghost a baddie who constantly phases in and out of reality and she takes the part to try and cure herself.

Sonny Burch wants to get his hands on their tech so he can sell it for billions and Hope and Hank only have a few hours to get the tunnel to work or they will loose track of Janet for a century. It's then a race against time For Ant-Man and the Wasp to get the quantum tunnel working so they can rescue Janet as well as making sure the FBI don't find out Scott has been out of his house.

There were some issues I had with the film, it wasn't as original as the first (when are sequels ever, though?) as the plot was a bit predictable and some of characters were under utilised. Laurence Fishburne could've had a better part as his character was very generic and although Ghost was pretty cool concept as a villain I didn't feel she was menacing enough to be genuine threat. Also the fact that Michelle Pfeiffer had been trapped in the Quantum Realm for 30 years but she still managed to have fresh mascara on.

I did however really enjoy Ant-Man and the Wasp, the comedy running through the story is still there from the first film and Paul Rudd is great as the hero with a morally ambiguous past. Walton Goggins is also good as sleazey black market dealer Sonny Burch. The return of Luis was also highlight and his bit with the truth serum was hilarious. I also really liked Scott's efforts to make his FBI handler Jimmy Woo think he is still under house arrest. The fight scenes are really good as Ant-Man and the Wasp constantly changing size make then fights so different from other Superhero fights. I also get a kick out of Giant-Man.

I'm looking forward to see if Ant-Man returns in the next Avengers film and how he will interact with the survivors of Infinity War.






Well, that's all for now.

S

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Monday, 13 August 2018

Big Stevie Cool's French Odyssey Part Deux


Bienvenue, Mes Amis. After our time at Camping Les Ecureuils came to an end we drove a few miles up the road to Puy Du Fou in Les Espesses. Puy Du Fou is a medieval theme park which according to trip advisor is the best theme park in Europe and 3rd best in the World. Puy Du Fou is like nothing I've been to before, our hotel was literally a castle.


The Medieval theme continued in our first meal which was a medieval banquet at the hotel restaurant with various meats, vegetables, cheese and pastries on a buffet but we were so tired and hungry when we arrived that we forgot to take any photos.

The next day our main meal was a bit of a spectacular experience at one of the park restaurants called Le Café De La Madelon. The restaurant is like a 1914 Café, where the wedding meal of La Madelon is taking place. The food itself is amazing and you get entertainment in the form of an immersive cabaret involving actors and even the waiters as the food is brought out as part of the show.


For starter we had Salmon Medallions with garnish of salad and boiled eggs. The main was Chicken Parcels with Rosti Potatoes and Tomato Provençal. The dessert was the wedding centre piece of Gourmet Choux Pastries. The food was all really good but the spectacle of the show really made this an dining experience like none I've had before.


Our next meal was at another of the hotels called Les Deux Couronnes where we could feast on King Francis I's favourite meats cooked on the fire in the Camp Du Drap D'Or. This was like the best Barbecue I've ever been to. Beef Skirt cooked rare with mushrooms, marinated pork ribs, pork and mushroom sausage, barbecued chicken thighs along with grilled vegetables were the mains we went for. Desserts were Chocolate Torte, Lemon Meringue Pie and Macarons along with a cheeseboard of Brie, Mizotte and Camté. Honestly this beef was the best I've ever had, so full of flavour from the fire pit. Amazingly tender and so juicy.


The following day we were back in the Park and our lunch was La Mijoterie du Roy Henry a renaissance style dining hall. You get a wooden board with grooves cut into it to hold your starter, main and dessert dishes, you take your wooden board u to the serving area and choose you meal. The mains are served in cast iron pots which I thought was really cool.

I went for the Octopus Carpaccio with Potatoes, Marinated Peppers and herbs to start. Raw octopus may not be to everyones liking but this was really good I just wish there had of been more octopus but it was only a starter.


For my main I had Sausage with Mashed Potato, Bacon, Tomato and Haricot Beans. I was in two minds about what to have for main as there were a few I liked the sound of but when I found out the Sausage was Blood Sausage I went for that. It was like a french version of a full english breakfast, the sausage was like really good black pudding.


My dessert was Lemon Cream, Cumble and Vanilla Mousse. Some lemon desserts can be a bit too subtle but that was not the case here the lemon cream was really punchy with citron.


Our final meal at Puy Du Fou was at Le Bistrot a Belle Epoque Brasserie in the Village of Bourg 1900 at Puy Du Fou. The bustling bistrot was like stepping into a french film and felt quintessentially French. For starter I had a Salad of Frisée Lettuce, Bacon Lardons and Croutons, then for main I had Confit Duck Leg, Shallot Sauce, Potatoes and Garden Peas. Like the Duck I had in Vendée this was falling apart and tender but the Shallot Sauce gave it and extra dimension and really took this to another level. For dessert I had Three-layered Chocolate Crunch Torte with Red Berry Coulis and I think this was my favourite dessert of out whole trip, so over the top indulgent.


We never had a bad meal in France and considering we went to a camp site and a theme park this is pretty impressive if you think about the kind of food you would get at these types of places in the UK. Our short stay has won me over to French cuisine and I can't wait to head back to France for another culinary adventure.


Au revoir.

S


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Big Stevie Cool's French Odyssey Part Two

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Thursday, 9 August 2018

Incredibles 2 Review


If I ranked all of the Pixar movies I would probably have The Incredibles on the mid to lower end of the scale. Admittedly I have only seen it a couple of times and the last time was about 10 years ago, also my kids haven't been as obsessed with it as they are with other Pixar movies but when the trailers for Incredibles 2 started doing the rounds they were pestering me to take them. In anticipation we decided to watch the original again and it's actually a lot better than I remember so I decided to go to the sequel with some optimism. Returning The Incredibles are Craig T Nelson and Holly Hunter as Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl along with Samuel L Jackson as Fronzone. They are joined this time by Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener as Winson and Evelyn Deavor

The film picks up exactly where the first film leaves off with the Incredibles chasing down The Underminer who is using his tunnelling machine to rob banks. The damage that is caused leads to renewed calls for Supers to remain illegal. The family are then contacted by a rich businessman (Winston Deavor) who says the problem supers have is bad PR as people only see the damage they cause and not the good deeds that lead to the damage. They decide that Elastigirl should do a few missions with body cam to try and turn public opinion.

With Elastigirl busy Mr. Incredible has to be a stay at home dad trying to work out son Dash's homework and daughter Violets love life as well as juggling Jack-Jack the Superpowered baby. These were some of my favourite scenes as being a father of 3 children myself,  I found them very relatable. During Elasitgirl's missions a new villain emerges called the ScreenSlaver (Pixar really nail the superhero/villain names). The ScreenSlaver hypnotises people using computer screens and eventually hypnotises some supers to ruin all the good work Elastigirl has been doing.

We all really enjoyed Incredibles 2 and it is, in my opinion, better than the original. Yes, the story is a bit predictable but the comedy is great and all of the characters are likeable. I really liked Jack-Jack and the best scene in the film is his fight with a racoon where all of his powers come to the fore. Mr. Incredible stressing about trying to be a good dad is also great.

My only criticism is that the plot is pretty generic and some of the plot twists were obvious but then again it is principally a kids film and kids are stupid. Will there be an Incredibles 3? With this film pulling in pretty impressive box-office numbers I thinks it's inevitable there will be. But, how else can The Incredible family develop? I would like to see something a bit more imaginative along the lines of UP! and Monsters Inc. Will Jack-Jack have a bigger role in the next film? I certainly hope so.




Well, that's all for now.

S

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Monday, 6 August 2018

Big Stevie Cool's French Odyssey Part One


Bonjour, Mon Amie. You may or may not know but I have recently been on my hollybobs to France. For the first part of our holiday we went to Vendée which is on the west coast of France not far from Nantes. As you would expect the food was phenomenal, even though French cuisine has a reputation for high quality I wasn't expecting it to be this good.

We stayed at Camping Les Ecureuils which is a Eurocamp campsite a short walk from the beach. We were having pretty lazy days, having late mornings with brunch on the decking of our lodge. The onsite shop doubled as a bakery and we could get fresh bread and pasties so Croissants and Pain Au Chocolat was the usual choice.



Now, a campsite might not sound like the best place to get good food but there was a restaurant on site called Amy's House, we went here a couple of times and were really impressed. Mrs. Cool's favourite dish was the Pizza Chevre, this is a Pizza with Goat's Cheese, Oregano and Honey she said she had never had a pizza like this back home and the combination of Goat's Cheese and Honey was a taste sensation and everyone needs to try it.


Now I couldn't come all the way to France and not have snails. I've had them before about 15 years ago when I took Mrs. Cool to Paris for the weekend and I really liked them, Amy's House has Escargot Farcis (which is Snails with Garlic Butter) as a starter so I ordered six. Snails have a similar texture to mussels but taste a bit meatier and with the Garlic Butter are really good they can be a bit tricky as the slimey little bugger's don't want to come out of their shell.


My favourite main course here was Le Confit de Canard au Miel which is a Duck Leg with Honey. The duck was so full of flavour and because it was Confit it was falling off the bone and tender. The duck came with a kind of honey glaze which was really good too and came with skin on French Fries and these were the best french fries you will ever have.


The desserts at Amy's house were great too, my favourite dessert of all is Crème Brûlée and was happy to see this on the menu. The portion was canny big too and I could have easily shared mine with Mrs. Cool (If I wasn't being a greedy pig). Mrs. Cool is a sucker for chocolate cake and she went for the Chocolate Fondant. Both desserts were gloriously unctuous and the Chocolate Fondant was rich and perfectly oozey.


Just a short walk up the road was the resort centre where there was a waterpark, mini golf and a row of restaurants. The place we visited was a crêperie where Mrs. Cool had a classic Crêpe Au Sucre et Citron (Heidi also went for this) and it was the best Crêpe they have ever had. Mrs. Cool said there are no words to describe how good it was.


I don't have as much as a sweet tooth as Mrs. Cool so I went for a savoury Galette au Jambon de Vendée et œuf which used local ham and a fried egg and was incredible. The yolk of the egg was one of the best I've had (why are ingredients always better abroad?).


That brought this part of our French Adventure in Vendée to an end and we moved on to Puy Du Fou where the food continued to be amazing. Check soon for Part Two of Big Stevie Cool's French Odyssey.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Monday, 16 July 2018

Stevie's Simple Soda Bread Recipe



Is there anything as nice a freshly baked bread? I don't bake bread as often as I would like as making a conventional loaf is a bit of a faff on (who has time to wait a few hours for the dough to rise?). However this is a really simple and quick bread that still has that great fresh bread smell and only takes about 40 minutes from start to finish.

Ingredients:

250g Plain White Flour
250g Plain Wholewheat Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tsp Salt
400ml Buttermilk

Method:

Put the Flour, Salt and Bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and mix together. make a well and add the buttermilk. You might not need all the buttermilk so start by adding half and mixing it in and keep adding more until all the ingredients have combined into a dough.



Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and form into a ball, transfer the ball onto a pre-heated baking tray (covered with baking parchment). Cut a deep cross across the middle of the dough and then dust with flour.

Bake for 30 minutes at 200ºC, you can check the bread is cooked through by tapping the bottom and it should sound hollow. Let the cooked bread cool on a wire rack, I like to have it when it still warm with some butter or toasted with my favourite breakfast ingredients.



Well, that's all for now.

S


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Thursday, 12 July 2018

Sea & Soil | Amble | Brunch Review Menu


Last weekend Mrs. Cool was asked to try out a bus route from Newcastle to Berwick (It was more fun than it sounds) and one of the stops was Amble, one of our favourite coastal towns in Northumberland. I've written before about a restaurant in Amble (see here) and this was a chance to try somewhere new.

Sea & Soil is a restaurant on Queen Street, literally 2 minutes walk from the harbour. The decor is just the type I like, contemporary but with a rustic twist, they have the specials on slate tiles hanging on the wall and wooden tables for insanely instagrammable foodie pics. We managed to bag a table by the front window, gotta have natural light for that perfect shot.


We ordered our drinks first, Americano for me and Mrs. Cool, Blackcurrant Juice for Jack, Milk for Heidi and Coke for Harry. The coffee is really good, nice and strong and the biscuit was great too (you can buy the coffee beans for home from Amble harbour pods). The Brunch menu has a great selection and so many of the dishes tempted me. Next time we go I'll have to try the Eggs Bennie as this is one of my favourite Breakfasts. Mrs. Cool chose the Breakfast Roll and went with Sausage and brown sauce (the correct type of sauce for a sausage sarnie). Harry and Jack also went for this and they all loved it. The sausage was really good you tell they were good quality and it was a good sized portion.


Heidi has been going through a bit of a vegetarian phase at the minute (although she will still have chicken nuggets) so she went for the Pancakes and Syrup. Again the portion size was perfect and Heidi really loved the pancakes.


I was in the mood for Black Pudding so I went for the Sea & Soil Special which is described as "The Chef's Favourite Breakfast Ingredients" so I knew there would be Black Pudding (All Chefs love a bit of Black Pudding). I was really impressed with this, it was presented perfectly with all the items you would expect on a breakfast. Sausage, Bacon, Black Pudding, Hash Brown, Wilted Spinach, Tomato, Mushroom and Poached Egg all topped with Hollandaise Sauce. The Sausage was amazing, the Bacon really crispy and the egg was cooked to perfection. The Hollandaise was something I haven't had before on a full english but it worked great with all the meaty flavours and the Black Pudding was just what I was looking for crispy and black on the outside but still slightly red in the middle.


I'm sure we'll be back in Amble soon and the main menu at Sea & Soil looks really good too so I think we will be back to try something else.

Mrs. Cool has made a video of our day out in Northumberland, You can watch it here:




Well, that's all for now.

S


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Monday, 9 July 2018

Horton Grange | Alfresco Lunch


Summer's here, the sun is shining so that means outdoor dining is on the cards. This week was particularly glorious so me and Mrs. Cool headed out for lunch in the sun. We originally wanted to go to The Boathouse in Blyth and sit by the harbour but when we got to Blyth it was totally misty so we headed in land to find warmer climes.

Next we headed to The Parlour in Blagdon for lunch in the garden but when we got there we were told there were no tables available outside and when we asked if we could book one for later the said they did take reservations for the garden however when we questioned why there was a reserved sign on one of the tables outside we were given some BS response so decided against giving them our custom.

Finally we arrived at Horton Grange, a Country House Hotel and Restaurant in Ponteland. The garden is really pretty and it is a great sun trap on sunny days. Even though it was a weekday afternoon, the heatstroke must have got to us and we ordered a glass of wine each and had a read of the menu.


Mrs. Cool was after a light meal so she went for the Halloumi and Roasted Pear Salad. When the salad came Mrs. Cool was disappointed that the pear wasn't roasted and it was just thin slices of raw pear. The rest of the salad was really nice and the dressing was a sweet raspberry vinaigrette and made this a very fresh lunch.


Since Mrs. Cool was having a salad I decided to have a salad too. I went for the Caesar Salad and added the Roast Chicken Breast for an extra £2.00. I too was a little disappointed when my salad came as the menu said it had anchovies (which I love) but when it came my Caesar Salad was sans Anchovies. However the chicken more than made up for it, the breast was cooked perfectly and was so juicy and the skin was incredible with a little caramelisation. The Caesar dressing was really nice too and not too overpowering and there was a good helping out croutons.


Despite the issues with the salads we still enjoyed them and the wine was really good, out bill came to £25 which isn't bad for lunch. The garden is really great and there is loads of space and it would be great to take kids, there is a giant chess set too if you fancy teaching your kids the rules. There are some great nooks with flowers dotted around and a swing chair and all very Instagrammable.



Well, that's all for now.

S


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