Food & Adventures

Monday, 26 February 2018

Fat Hippo Durham

You just need to take a quick look at my last few food post to see I love a burger. For me the number one place to get a burger is Fat Hippo, I've been to Fat Hippo in Jesmond a few times and loved it every time, also Fat Hippo Underground is one of my favourite restaurants in Newcastle.  Fat Hippo opened in Durham a couple of years ago but I've only just managed to check it out for the first time last week.

We were in Durham to see the Fire and Ice displays (you can see Mrs. Cool full review of Fire and Ice here) and decided to go to Fat Hippo for lunch. As usual all of our food was amazing, the kids menu (which in some restaurants seems to be an after thought) is really good and great value at £6 for a main, a side and a drink. The kids can build their own burger or go for mac and cheese or chicken fingers.

Heidi is the fussiest of our kids when it comes to food and she doesn't like burgers (is she even my child?!) so she went for the chicken fingers with skinny fries. The chicken fingers are coated in herby/spicey breadcrumbs, they are lush and some of the best we've had I would order these myself if I wasn't such a burgerphile.


Harry on the other hand loves a burger (that's my boy), Jack is also starting to like burgers too. Jack had a plain cheese burger and Harry had a cheese and bacon burger with ketchup. The kids burgers are just as good as the adults ones and far better than any kids meals at fast food places.


Mrs. Cool usually sticks to a couple of the burgers on the menu and this time around she went for the Texas Burger which is a Double 4oz patty topped with streaky bacon, cheese, onion rings and BBQ sauce. The burgers are served pink, are really juicy and just look at the size of those onion rings (nom nom nom).


I like to try a new burger whenever I can, when we visited Fat Hippo had a VDay special called the Smokeback Mountain which is a double 4oz patty, Monterey Jack cheese, smoked sausage and beans, Cajun cross cuts, ranch sauce and fresh Jalapeños. This is quite an epic burger, I had to deconstruct part of it by taking the cross cuts out and eating them separately. There's no getting away from the fact this is a messy burger and it's best to just dive right in and worry about the state of your hands and face when you're finished. The burgers were perfect and the smoked sausage and beans were friggin' lush.


I'm still working through the main menu at Fat Hippo and will be back soon and if you're a burger lover like me then why not join The Herd. You can earn points that can be redeemed for various rewards and you get access to the secret Herd Menu.


Well, That's all for now.

S

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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Black Panther. A (sort of spoilery) Review



Marvel have really been nailing it when it comes the the MCU movies, every film just gets better and better and after Spider-Man: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok being two of my favourite movies in the franchise I was really excited to see the full debut of the King of Wakanda, T'Challa AKA Black Panther.

The film starts with the story of how Wakanda was founded when five African tribes joined together on the site of a vibranium meteor that crashed there centuries ago. We then fast forward to 1992 in Oakland, California where King T'Chaka visits his brother, who is undercover, and the King accuses him helping Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) steal vibranium from Wakanda.

Jump forward to present day and it's the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War and (now) King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda to assume the throne and complete the coronation ceremony but he is challenged by M'Baku, the leader of one of the tribes, for the throne. T'Challa wins after a short fight and is crowned King.

Next we meet the main protagonist Erik Stevens (Michael B Jordan) who we later find out is a former US Black Ops soldier with the code name 'Killmonger'. He is working with Ulysses Klaue to sell vibranium on the black market. In South Korea T'Challa takes Okoye, the General of his army, and his ex-lover Nakia (who is a Wakandan spy) to caputre Klaue and get the vibranium back. T'Challa meets CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) who is also trying to get the Vibranium. A shoot out ensues and then car chase and Klaue gets caputred.

Killmonger breaks Klaue out of CIA custody and we find out he has a bigger plan though as he travels to Wakanda, reveals he is really T'Challa's cousin and wants revenge for his fathers death and challenges to T'Challa for the crown and the mantle of Black Panther.

Enough of the plot though, you can find out what else happens when you go and see it for yourself. I really enjoyed Black Panther, it didn't hit the heights of the last few MCU movies but it was still a solid film and really fleshed out the Black Panther character (I didn't really know much about this superhero before now).

The main characters are portrayed well (especially Michael B Jordan) but I think it's the supporting cast that really shine. Letitia Wright as Shuri, Black Panther's younger sister is my favourite character as a sort of Q to Black Panthers James Bond.  Lupita Nyong'o is also great as Nakia as well as Winston Duke as M'Baku.

Although Black Panther isn't the first black superhero (that goes to Blade) I think he is the first African Superhero. This film really is a celebration of Africa with many scenes portraying the music, clothing and culture of Africa. When I was very young me and my family lived in South Africa and although I was too young to have any memories of that time I have always had a soft spot for African culture and loved seeing it shown in such a high profile film.

There is also a strong anti-colonialism theme that runs through the film with T'Challa trying to protect Wakanda's resources from outsiders and Killmonger wanting to use Black Panther and the weapons Wakanda has to punish those who benefited from slavery and the theft of Africa's natural resources. Music also plays a big part in the film with Kendrick Lamar producing an amazing soundtrack which weaves it's way though each scene in a way that made us want to listen to the album as soon as we came out of the film.

Mrs. Cool noted that it was one of the most violent films she had seen recently that has a 12A rating, I didn't think the film is overly violent and we took out 7 year old to see it too and he was fine about it but maybe we're desensitised to it by now. I'm looking forward to seeing Black Panther again as I want to find out  more about this marvel hero and see which other allies and villains he will encounter. I'm also really excited to see Avengers: Infinity War.


Well, that's all for now.

S



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Monday, 19 February 2018

Valentine's Date Night at Evan's Bistro

I'm really lucky that my brother-in-law Mark is an exceptional chef and is the head chef at his own restaurant in Whitley Bay, Evan's Bistro. We asked my Mam to Babysit so we could have a night out for Valentine's Day. We don't really make a big fuss of Valentine's Day (we don't even get each other cards or anything) but we still like to have a good meal.

Mrs. Cool helps with their facebook page and we decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine our date night for Valentine's Day with taking some photos of the amazing food at Evan's Bistro.  

For starters Mrs. Cool ordered the Roasted herb, tomato and garlic tartlet with rocket and olive oil. This dish is suitable for vegans and I was surprised Mrs. Cool ordered it as it's not something she would normally go for. The pastry was perfectly flakey and the filling was full of rich tomato flavour.


I was torn between a few of the starters but in the end the combination of black pudding and poached egg won me over. I ordered the Seranno wrapped asparagus, black pudding and poached egg. I love asparagus when it's wrapped in crispy ham. I'm a big egg fan and black pudding is always a must when I see it on a menu. The black pudding from Evan's Bistro is unreal and my poached egg was perfectly runny.


For mains Mrs. Cool, being the dainty lady she is, went for a massive cut of beef and ordered the 8oz sirloin steak topped with honey and chilli king prawns, house chips and salad. The steak was cooked perfectly (Medium), the king prawns were very juicy and the chilli sauce was also great. Now, I need to spend some time talking about the chips. Evan's Bistro's chips are just the best. Remember when you were a kid and your Mam would make proper chips for tea? That's what the chips at are like at Evan's, like a nostalgic blast from the past.


I was in the mood for some fish so I ordered the Oven baked hake fillet, braised greens, spring onion rosti, crisp pancetta and a caper butter. The Hake was beautifully flakey but not dry and went really well with the saltiness of the crispy panchetta, The spring onion rosti was also delicious.


As it was Valentine's day we decided to treat ourselves to dessert. Mrs. Cool ordered the melt in the middle chocolate fondant and vanilla bean ice cream and when she cut into it it oozed with chocolatey goodness.


I went for the frozen berry soufflé, chocolate dipped berries and fruit coulis. I was interested to see how a frozen soufflé turned out. It was kind of like a frozen yoghurt but more creamy. The berry flavours were very fresh and it was a perfect palette cleanser.


As Mrs. Cool was taking photos we also had to order the profiteroles and these are the best profiteroles we have ever had. They were made in-house by apprentice chef Jenny who has a passion for desserts. They are dipped in white chocolate and have a raspberry cream filling.


I may be biased but I have never had a bad meal at Evan's and I'm not the only one as you can see from the reviews on their facebook page. Although Valentine's is over I'm already looking forward to my next visit to Evan's Bistro. If you haven't been before then get yourself a table next time you're in Whitley Bay. They have a great main menu and their kids menu is really good. They're also a kids play area and are dog friendly.

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Thursday, 15 February 2018

10 boxsets I've binge watched on Netflix



Gone are the days of waiting all week for a new episode of your favourite show, it's all about the binge watch. If it's a short show (1-2 seasons) then I'll get through a whole season in couple of nights but if Mrs. Cool wants to watch a show too or if there are a few seasons then we'll usually watch a show over the course of a few weeks. After reading a similar post by The Life Bath I was inspired to write my own list. We have the Sky box sets package and Amazon Prime but we never really binge on those, for us Netflix is the place to get our fix.

Peaky Blinders (Seasons 1-3)
Peaky Blinders has been going a few years and a lot of people I talked to have said it's great. I liked the look of it but never got around to watching it. When the fourth season was on BBC recently we decided now was the time to watch it. We watched all four seasons over about 3 weeks and loved every minute. Seasons one to three are already on Netflix but it's be a little while before season 4 arrives. On a side note Peaky Blinders also has a killer soundtrack.

The Shelby Family run the criminal underworld of Birmingham in the years after World War One. The Peaky Blinders is the name of their gang and their charismatic leader Tommy (Played by Cillian Murphy) has plans to make them legitimate but as with the best drama series' things don't always go to plan.

Suits (Seasons 1-7)
This one was picked by Mrs. Cool for us to watch and I really enjoyed it too. Seasons one to seven are already on Netflix and Suits will return in march. I expect there will be a lot more people getting into this now that one of it's stars, Meghan Markle, will soon be marrying Prince Harry.

Harvey Spector (Gabriel Macht) is the best closer in New York City. Mike Ross (Patrick J Adams) got kicked out of collage for cheating but happens to be a genius with a photographic memory. A chance meeting with Harvey leads to Mike becoming Harvey's associate despite not having a law degree and the pair have to keep Mike's secret whilst closing their various cases.

DareDevil (Seasons 1-2)
There are a fair few Marvel TV shows that tie in with the cinematic universe but this is by far the best. It is a far cry from the DareDevil film from a few years ago and although it deals with someone with super humans powers it still manages to feel 'real'.

Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is a blind lawyer from Hells Kitchen, New York, due to the way he lost his sight as a child all of Matt's other sense are heightened to superhuman level and he uses these powers to fight crime as the masked vigilante DareDevil.

Punisher (Season 1)
One of the best things about DareDevil Season two was the introduction of The Punisher. When I found of that Punisher was getting his own show I couldn't wait. This is the show we've watched most recently and even Mrs. Cool, who normally doesn't like comic book stuff, really enjoyed this one.

Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) is a former US Marine whose family were murdered and Frank sets out to punish those responsible. This leads him to cross paths with an agent from the Department of Homeland Security called Dinah Medani who is on her own crusade to bring to justice the killers of friend who was murdered in Afganistan.

Fargo (Seasons 1-3)

Fargo is inspired by the 1996 Coen Brothers film of the same name, it is a crime drama with elements of comedy in an anthology format where each season has a different story featuring different characters but they all take place in a similar setting in Minnesota. The series boasts some big stars with Martin Freeman in season one, Kirsten Dunst in season two and Ewan McGregor in season three.

Each season takes place in a seemingly sleepy town somewhere in Minnesota and centres on a crime (or series of crimes) that have been committed. The show follows the perpetrators of the crimes along with the Police who are investigating.


GLOW (Season 1)

I'm a fan of wrestling, I'm a fan of the 80's and I'm a fan of the ladies so I was always going to enjoy this show. Mrs. Cool, who hates wrestling, also loved this one. GLOW is the fictional story inspired by the real life women's wrestling show of the same name.

Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) is a struggling actress in LA in 1985. She goes for an audition for a new TV show that would become GLOW The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. With big hair and bigger personalities the ladies try to make GLOW a hit.

Breaking Bad (seasons 1-5)

This is what started binge watching for me. I watched all five seasons in the space of about 2 weeks. It is TV perfection and you really can't get much better. It is dark but also funny, the writing is amazing and the acting even better. If I could only pick one show this would be it.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school science teacher who discovers he has cancer but can't afford the medical bills and is too proud to ask for help. To raise the money to pay for treatment he seeks out a former student and low level drug dealer, Jesse Pinkman (Arron Paul), and the pair make and sell Crystal Meth.

The Crown (Seasons 1-2)

I really love historical drama especially those that cover the history of the Royals. The Crown so far follows the early years of The Queens reign. Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) is crowned Queen early in season one and is recently married to Prince Phillip (Matt Smith). The first two seasons follow The Queen dealing with her government with three different Prime Ministers as well as the troubles caused by her rebellious sister Princess Margaret . Prince Phillip's reluctance to to be subservient to his wife and accusations of adultery on the Duke of Edinburgh's part.

It's planned that The Crown will last for 6 season and will also trace the later years of Queen Elizabeth II reign. I'm interested to see how this show progresses as the makers plan to replace the main cast every two seasons. Olivia Coleman is set to take over from Claire Foy as The Queen for season three and four.



Narcos (Seasons 1-3)

Everyone loves a charismatic bad guy and they don't come much more charismatic than Pablo Escobar. Crime drama is one of my favourite genre and the fact that this is set during the 80's and 90's made me really enjoy it as I love all things 80's.

Narcos tells the story of the US DEA agents' Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook) and Javier Pena (Pedro Pascal) efforts to take out the cocaine supply line from Columbia to the USA. Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) is a hero to the people of Medellin, Columbia but is also the King of Cocaine in the 80's and early 90's, trafficking 80% of the world Cocaine and becoming one of the richest men in the world.

Rick and Morty (Season 1-4)
 
If you like surreal comedy then give this show a watch. Yes it is a cartoon but this ain't no Mickey Mouse. This is not suitable for younger kids and I made the mistake of letting Harry watch this too but a lot of scenes I was cringing at while we watched.

Morty Smith is normal teenager (a bit of a loser) who is dragged on adventures by his Uncle Rick Sanchez. Rick is an alcoholic, eccentric mad scientist who can travel to infinite to universes. Rick is usually trying to cause chaos and Morty is usually an unwitting pawn in Rick's plans.

What shows have you been watching on Netflix? Have you watched any in my list?

Well, that's all for now.

S

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Monday, 12 February 2018

Chicken Tagine with The Spice Pioneer


One of my favourite places in the world is Marrakesh in Morocco. Me and Mrs. Cool visited there for my birthday a few years ago, one of my fondest memories from the trip was learning to make a tagine. when I got home I bought my self a tagine dish and promised I would make them all the time. however I have never used my tagine dish since I bought it. I was recently contacted by a new company The Spice Pioneer asking if I would like to be sent one of their spice boxes to try. I was thrilled when it arrived and it was for a Chicken Tagine, finally an excuse to dust off the tagine dish.

The Spice Pioneer is a subscription service that each month will send you a box of spices and a simple to follow recipe for a tasty meal for 4 from somewhere around the world. Each recipe is inspired by one of the many places The Spice Pioneer has visited and includes all the spices required for a starter, a main and either a side or dessert.

At £8.99 per month this is a premium culinary experience but it is worth it for a monthly treat. You get more than just a spice box, you can also access all of the recipes in their library that you to make yourself at any time and access to specially selected music playlists for when you're preparing and eating the dishes which will be great for a dinner party. I really enjoyed the music while preparing this meal and it made the meal feel more authentic having a soundtrack to go with it.


The recipe I had was Chicken Tagine with Apricot and Ras El-Hanout, Orange and Date Salad with Preserved Lemon and Pomegranate Molasses and Couscous with Roasted Fennel Butter. The box includes the spices, lemon and molasses but you need to buy the rest of the ingredients yourself which were all available at our local supermarket.

It really didn't take all that long from start to finish was only around 45 mins including prep. The flavours of this tagine are amazing and it really took me back to my trip to Marrakesh but the unexpected highlight of this meal was the Orange and Date Salad. It was very clean dish and a perfect palette cleanser bursting with flavour.


Vist The Spice Pioneer website to get yourself a subsrciption.

Well, that's all for now.

S


*I was sent a spice kit from The Spice Pioneer but was under no obligation to write this post.
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Thursday, 8 February 2018

Project Bond: Live and Let Die

"Names is for tombstones, baby! Y'all take this honky out and waste him! Now!"



Sean Connery was out as Bond, the producers needed to find a new leading man and needed someone who could carry the franchise for the next 10+ years. They found that in the raised eyebrow and solid chin of Roger Moore. I'll be honest Roger Moore is not my favourite Bond, In fact he isn't even top 3, I haven't watched any of his Bond films for quite a while as my memories of them are that they became a parody of earlier Bond films.


The film starts with a pretty standard Bond intro, we see UK agents being assassinated at the UN in New York, at a funeral parade in New Orleans and finally via a snakebite at a Voodoo ritual in the Caribbean Island of San Monique.

This leads to the theme tune by Paul McCartney and Wings, personally I prefer the cover version of 'Live and Let Die' by Guns n Roses but the original is still pretty good.


Next we meet the new Bond who is up to his old tricks in bed with a beautiful woman who turns out to be an Italian agent he seduced on his last mission. Bond is woken up with a knock on his door and it's M (played once again by Bernard Lee) who tells Bond of his mission to investigate the assassinations and MI6 believes there is a link to Dr. Kanaga (the "Prime Minister" (really Dictator) of San Monique.

Bond heads to USA and makes contact with his old mate from the CIA Felix Leiter who is already engaged in surveillance of Dr. Kananga. Obviously Kananga gives the CIA the slip but 007 is quick on his trail and follows him to Harlem where Bond meets a Tarot card reader named Solitaire who is helping Kananga and Harlems criminal Kingpin Mr. Big.


Obviously Mr. Big has a henchman who is the Archetypal Bond villain called TeeHee who has a missing arm that has been replaced by a claw, they're not a proper Bond villain unless they have some prothesis.


Not a lot happens in the first half of the film, Bond heads to San Monique and meets his CIA contact called Rosie. There is a lot of walking around looking at stuff but not much action and I found it to be quite slow. However during Bonds rambling around the fields of San Monique he discovers a huge Poppy plantation.


It turns out Kananga and Mr. Big are the same person and he plans to release tonnes of heroin to the black market for free to but his competitors out of business and make millions of new addicts. Bond is taken to a crocodile farm where Kananga is making the heroin where he is to be killed by crocodiles but in that classic scene he escapes by running on the crocodiles back.

There is boat chase which is pretty cool and we meet a Louisiana Sherif called J W Pepper who will also pop up in the next Bond film. The second half of the film is a lot better and is really action packed however once it gets going it seems to be over really quickly. Bond fights another of Kanaga's henchmen, the Voodoo Priest, Baron Samedi. Bond quickly kills him by throwing him into a casket of venomous snakes. The most ridiculous death though is that of Dr. Kanaga who is inflated with a canister of compressed air. I know it was the 70's and SFX weren't that great but this death is truly atrocious.

Bond seemingly victorious heads off with Solitaire on a train but is attacked by TeeHee. Bond manages to get rid of him by chucking him out the window and gets down to business with Solitaire. The film end with the back of the train where we see Baron Samedi is still alive.


Despite it's pacing I really enjoyed this film and it was better than I remembered. However you clearly get the impression that this film was made solely to cash in on the Blaxploitation genre that was big at the time. There are loads of racial stereotypes like the gangsters driving pimpmobiles, the Louisiana police's overt racism and a lot of racial slurs. The bad guy all being black and the good guys all being white was a little uncomfortable and in fact I'm sure at one point Bond refers to Mr. Big and his gang as 'blackies', not cool 007, not cool.

However, with renewed optimism I'm not looking forward to the other Roger Moore film and the next film in the series is my favourite staring Moore.


Here's the trailer.



Project Bond will return with The Man With The Golden Gun.

Well, That's all for now.

S

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Monday, 5 February 2018

Big Cool Five

I had a bit of a rubbish post Christmas and New Year as I was struck down with the flu. I was ill from a few days after Christmas (including being practically bed ridden for about a week) and even now a month later I still have a bit of a cough so I just couldn't really be bothered to do much. I did manage to get out and about a few times however, so here are my January highlights.

Bouchon Bistrot.
Me and Mrs. Cool will often have a date day through the week while the kids are at school. A couple of weeks ago we headed to Hexham to try out this great French restaurant. I've written a full review of their lunch menu here.

Peaky Blinders.
I love to binge watch TV shows and there is some great TV around at the minute. This month we have managed to get through all four seasons of Peaky Blinders and what a show it has been. The Shelby family take on all comers to keep control of the Birmingham criminal underworld. I can't believe after watching it all in the space of a few weeks I now need to wait until next year for another season.


A stay in Alnmouth.
I'm so lucky living in Northumberland that I have so many great costal towns to visit nearby. One of the most picturesque is Alnmouth. We stayed at the stunning South View House over looking Alnmouth beach. This amazing apartment was super high tech and made me want to live there full time. You can read Mrs. Cool's post about it here.

Northumberland Country Zoo.
Who knew there was a zoo in Northumberland? There are some great animals here including Porcupines, Racoons and Capybaras but our favourites were the Armadillos. You can read a full review from Mrs. Cool here.

Breakfast in Felton.
If you haven't been to the Running Fox in Felton then you need to try it. I've never been disappointed when I've been there. This month we visited for breakfast and again the food was great. This picture is of the Fox Cub breakfast which is their smaller breakfast plate and at only £5.50 I think it is a bargain.

Look out for my February highlights next month.


Well, that's all for now.

S

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