Food & Adventures

Thursday 15 March 2018

The Greatest Showman: A Review

The Greatest Showman: A Review

I'm not a big fan of musicals, the last time I saw a musical it was Les Misérable and thought it was utter tosh and just didn't get it. When I saw the trailers for The Greatest Showman I just knew that Mrs. Cool would want to see it and I had a sinking feeling I would be dragged along.

The Greatest Showman has been out for a few weeks now and the hype has been building up with everyone saying how good it is but I was unconvinced as these were the same people who said Les Mis was so good. I thought I had got away with not seeing it but then Mrs. Cool dropped the bombshell that on one of my days off work when the kids were at school we would be going to our local cinema. Well, I could not be more wrong, DO believe the hype. From the very first scene with Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum singing The Greatest Show as we see his dream show unfolding I was hooked.

The Greatest Showman follows P.T. Barnum from the son of a poor tailor to a homeless orphan to a clerk at a shipping company. Barnum marries his childhood sweetheart, Charity (Michelle Williams), against her fathers wishes. They have a couple of kids but are pretty poor, things get worse when the company Barnum works for goes bust and he is unemployed. Using some under handed tactics he manages to get a loan from the bank to start his museum of curiosity. It's a failure as no one wants to see stuffed animals and waxworks, so, after an idea from one of his daughters, he decides to enlist the help of real people with unique abilities.

Featuring acts like the Bearded Lady, Dog Boy, The Irish Giant, A Trapeze Act and the Worlds Heaviest Man things start to pick up. Barnum is able to move his family into a big fancy house just down the road from his wife's parents (Just to rub their noses in his success). Even being taken on a trip to London to meet Queen Victoria by his business partner Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron). There is also a forbidden love story between Carlyle and Ann Wheeler (Zendaya). He is the son of a rich aristocrat and she is one of the trapeze artists in the circus.

However the success isn't enough and Barnum wants to be accepted by the upper classes so to improve his status he takes a European opera singer called Jenny Lynd (Rebecca Ferguson, not that one) on tour. The tour is a roaring success but Barnum being away from home puts pressure on his marriage and causes tension between him and his original acts.

After Lynd quits the tour and a disaster at the circus Barnum is left penniless again and has to eat some humble pie. He needs everyone's help and they all to pull together to get a new venue sorted so they can try and put on The Greatest Show.

I really can't over emphasise how much I enjoyed The Greatest Showman. The performances are great, the whole cast is amazing, I can't single out one individual performance as everyone was so good. It's a proper feel good film and the soundtrack is great. I was tapping my foot from the first scene and every song will get stuck in your head, I've even been listening to the soundtrack in the car for the few days since I saw the film. The more I think about it the more I realise how good it is, I would go so far as to say it is the best film I've seen in the last few years. Everyone really needs this film in their life by the end you will be singing along.

In the words of P.T. Barnum:

"It's everything you ever want,
It's everything you ever need, 
And it's here right in front of you, 
This is where you wanna be".

Fancy going to see The Greatest Showman yourself? Enter my Giveaway using the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win a £10 Odeon Gift Card. Giveaway ends midnight 1/4/18 and daily entry is available via Twitter. Good luck!


Monday 12 March 2018

Monday Munchies: American Style BBQ Cook Out

One of my food guilty pleasures is an American Style BBQ Cook Out (or cook in if the weathers crap). As you may know I'm a massive meat lover and BBQ is meat heaven and I love the messiness of it when you get sauce all over your face and hands. My American Style BBQ Cook Out has slow cooked brisket with a BBQ rub, Buffalo Chicken Wings, Homemade BBQ Sauce and the Best Ever Slaw.

Lets start with the brisket as you need to prep this either the day before or the morning of the meal as it'll need to be in the slow cooker for at least 9 hours. The rub is made from the following:

2 tsp Cumin
2 tsp Paprika
2 tsp Granulated Garlic
2 tsp Chilli Powder
2 tsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp Ground Black Pepper

Mix all the spices together and rub all over the brisket. Make sure you get it into every nook and cranny of the joint. Put the brisket in the slow cooker with a little water (or beef stock for an extra meaty flavour). Every few hours turn the joint over and spoon over some of the juices.

Next the chicken wings, I'm going to put this out there but the wing is the best part of the chicken. Put the wings in a bowl and coat them in a mixture of corn flour and a few pinches of salt. Cook the chicken in a shallow frying pan with a little bit of vegetable oil for about 10-15 minutes until cooked turning them halfway through.

For my Buffalo sauce you will need:

2 tbsp Chipotle paste
1 tbspCider vinegar
1 tsp Granulated sugar
2 tbsp Boiled water

Dissolve the granulated sugar in the boiled water then add the cider vinegar and the chipotle paste and mix it together this was enough for about 10 wings as you just want it to be a coating rather than a dipping sauce (you can increase the measurements if you are making more wings). Coat the cooked chicken wings in the sauce and then return to the pan and cook for a few more minutes until they are nice and sticky.

Onto the BBQ sauce, which should only take a few minutes so you can knock this up while the chicken is cooking. You will need:

1 Small Onion (diced)
2 Cloves of Garlic (crushed)
1 Red Chilli (finely chopped)
1 tsp Sweet Smoked Paprika
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1 heaped tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
2 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
pinch of salt and pepper
A good glug of ketchup

Fry the onion on a medium heat until it goes translucent then add the garlic and red chilli and fry for 2 more minutes. Add the paprika, chilli powder, sugar and soy sauce and mix until the sugar is dissolved. Next add as much ketchup as you need and then add salt and pepper to taste. You can either leave it chunky or blitz it up with a blender for smooth sauce, I prefer the blitz mine.

The slaw is honestly the best slaw I have ever had and it was a lot easier to make than I was expecting so I think I will always make my own now. To make it you will need:

250ml Mayonnaise
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon
2 tbsp Cider Vinegar
1 tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
1 tsp Salt
1/4 head of White Cabbage (sliced thinly)
1/4 head of Red Cabbage (sliced thinly)
2 Carrots (Juliene)
1 Red Onion (sliced thinly)

Combine the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, vinegar mustard and salt then mix this with the vegetables in a large bowl until it's all coated.

When the brisket is falling apart it's time to serve. Toast a brioche bun on a griddle pan before filling with the shedded brisket then top with BBQ sauce and slaw and you're ready to tuck in.

We left room for dessert so Mrs. Cool dusted off one of her Jamie Oliver cook books and made a pretty cracking New York Vanilla Cheesecake. You can find that recipe here but Mrs. Cool made a slight change and used cherries instead of blueberries.

If you decide to have this whole meal you will need a lie down afterwards as it is very likely you will slip into a food coma but it is sooo worth it.

Well, that's all for now



Thursday 8 March 2018

Project Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun

"Ours is the loneliest profession, Mr. Bond."

Of all the Roger Moore films in the James Bond franchise I remember The Man With The Golden Gun most fondly. I thinks it's because Christopher Lee is one of my favourite actors, as a kid I had only seen him as Dracula so seeing him portray the gentleman assassin Francisco Scaramanga was a delight.

Roger Moore returns as James Bond for his second film, Christopher Lee plays the titular Man with the Golden Gun. Britt Ekland and Maud Adams are the Bond Girls as Mary Goodnight and Andrea Anders repectively. Bernard Lee returns as M along with Desmond Llewellyn as Q and Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny

I didn't find out until recently that the production of this film was fraught with trouble and the breakdown in the relationship between the two main producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman almost led to this being the final Bond movie in the Eon franchise.

The film starts with the Scaramanga relaxing on the beach with his associate Andrea Anders when a man who appears to be a Mafia hitman is shown in by Scramanga's diminutive valet Nick-Nack as he has seemingly hired the killer to 'off' his boss. The hitman works his way through an elaborate 'fun house' of obstacles until he tracks down Scaramanga but it's the man with the golden gun who gets in the killer shot. We see a waxwork of Bond at the end of the fun house as the title song begins. The song 'The Man with the Golden Gun' by Lulu is not one that immediately springs to mind when thinking of a classic Bond theme but it is a catchy tune full of innuendo that fits the film well (Personally I wish the producers went with their original idea and used the Alice Cooper song of the same name).

When the film resumes Bond has been summoned by M (who is joined by recurring character Chief of Staff Bill Tanner for the first time). Bond is told that MI6 has been sent a golden bullet with 007 etched into it and that Scaramanga plans to kill Bond. Chasing a lead Bond heads to Beirut and hooks up with a belly dancer who is using one of Scaramanga's old bullets as a navel jewel. Bond is on his knees smooching the woman's abdomen when he's attacked (obvs) and swallows the bullet. After retrieving the bullet (yuk) and having it examined by Q he is directed towards a bespoke weapons maker in Macau.

In Macau Bonds meets Mary Goodnight who also works for MI6 and she assists him while he's there. Bond also tries (albeit half-heatedly) to seduce Goodnight. Bond finds the weapons maker and follows him to a casino where Andrea Anders picks up some golden bullets from him. Back at Anders' room Bond slaps her around a bit (Bond is still a bit of a bastard then) until she gives Bond some details about Scaramanga. After Scaramanga takes a shot at Bond but kills someone else Bond is picked up by the police and something seems off. The copper actually works for MI6 and takes Bond to see M who is on a secret base inside a sunken ship (believable, right?). Turns out the bloke killed by Scaramanga was the real target as he was an expert on Solar Power.

Still on the trail of Scaramanga, now in Bangkok Bond poses as the man with the golden gun in order to get close to a man called Hai Fat who is a Thai businessman who (unbeknownst to bond) works with Scaramanga inevitably Bond is subdued and taken to a Kung-Fu style compound (because, why not? Kung-Fu movies were big at the time). There is a fight to the death between two combatants before everyone goes after Bond. Bond escapes after a short boat chase that involves the return of Sheriff JW Pepper from the previous film. Scaramanga decides that Hai Fat is no longer needed and kills him taking over his solar power business (see there is a point to all of this).

Still trying to find Scaramaga Bond nicks a car that happens to be occupied by JW Pepper and the pair chase Scaramanga and Nick-Nack all around Bangkok including the famous car flip stunt over a river. Scaramanga escapes after converting his car into a plane and heads to his secret Island in Communist Chinese waters.

Bond follows Scaramanga and the pair meet and trade pleasantries and over dinner decide to face each other in a duel on the beach but this is a ruse as Scaramanga lures Bond into his Fun House type obstacle course from the opening scene. Bond outsmarts Scaramanga and kills him before he and Goodnight destroy Scaramanga's solar weapons plant before the pair leave. But, they are attacked by Nick-Nack but Bond gets him out of the way so he and Goodnight can finally get down to a bit of nookie.

I think I'm coming around to Roger Moore as Bond, maybe my childhood memories of his films were seen through whatever the opposite of rose-tinted glasses are. That being said a few elements reminded my why I thought the Moore's films were sub-par compared to Sean Connery's films. However, I enjoyed The Man With The Golden Gun enough to be looking forward to the next film.

Project Bond will return with The Spy Who Loved Me.

Well, that's all for now.



Monday 5 March 2018

Big Cool Five

February was a busy month for us we had a lot to cram into this short month. We were all finally free of the lurgy and were able to make the most of our time. I really had fun this month so here is my February Big Cool Five.

Dabbawal and The Stand Comedy Club.

Me and Mrs. Cool try and have a date night as often as we can. This month we hit The Toon for nice curry and a few drinks before going to a Comedy Club. We went to High Bridge which is a street in Newcastle that has a few bars and restaurants, the restaurant we went to was Dabbawal. They have a pre-theatre menu which is two courses for £12.95 and the food was really good probably the best Lamb Rogan Josh I've ever had.

Then we had a few drinks at Pleased to Meet You, they have an extensive cocktail menu. I fancied something with whiskey so went for The Lumberjack, Mrs. Cool had an Orange Espresso Martini both were great. Next we headed to The Stand Comedy Club, we met up with our friends, had a few more drinks and watched the acts. The comedians were really funny (Jason Cook's story about the ferry to Amsterdam was hilarious), you can read Mrs. Cool's full review of our night here.

Darwin Forest (Peak District)

We had a little break away with the kids at Darwin Forest in the Peak District. We stayed in one of the lodges there and were able to get up to lots of fun despite the weather being pretty shitty. The kids loved the water walking in the giant inflatable balls and we all loved the hot Tub.

There's also a great pub and restaurant on site from which you can order takeaway and take back to your lodge. I was able to have a nice pint watching England vs Wales in the 6 Nations Rugby while waiting for our order. You can read Mrs. Cool's full review here.


The main TV show we watched in Feb was Marvel's The Punisher on Netflix. I've really enjoyed all of the Marvel shows on Netflix and Punisher is one of the best. If you like an action show that's heavy on the violence then Punisher is for you. Even if you don't like Superhero stuff it's still a great watch.

I'm starting to think I watch Netflix more than regular TV now. There are so many good shows it's definitely worth the monthly subscription. I wrote a post about my favourite shows on Netflix and Punisher features on there too. You can read that post here.

A Day in Durham.

We had a trip to Durham to check out their Fire and Ice trail which this year were ice sculptures from literature including Shakespeare, The Gruffalo and The Nights King from Game of Thrones (above). Next years trail has just been announced as Heroes and Villains and we'll definitely be visiting again for that.

It was Chinese New Year when we visited and there was a martial arts display and a Chinese dragon and then we went to Fat Hippo Durham for lunch. I tried their VDay special the Smokeback Mountain and it was epic, read a full review of Fat Hippo Durham here.

Black Panther.

The film we saw this month was Black Panther, the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We all loved it, the action was fast paced, the usual Marvel humour was there and there is a great soundtrack.

The cast are great with standout performances from Michael B. Jordan and Letitia Wright and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the characters again in the Avengers: Infinity War. You can read my full review of Black Panther here.

Well, that's all for now.



Thursday 1 March 2018

A day out in Kielder and Otterburn

Living in Northumberland is just the best, we have so many great places to visit. This past week me and the family went for walk around Kielder Forest and then on to Otterburn for Sunday Dinner. Kielder has some great memories for me from when I was a kid. I went on my first trip away from home with school to Kielder when I was in primary school and then again when I was in middle school and loved it both times. My oldest son, Harry, recently went to Kielder with school too and he also had a great time.

Every year for the past few years there has been a trail through Kielder Forest based around the books of Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo, Stick man etc.) and this year it was the turn of the Highway Rat. The trail is a great way to get kids excited about having a walk in the countryside as they hunt for clues and facts about nature and meet the various characters from the books along the way. You can read Mrs. Cool's full review of the trail here.

The Highway Rat trail was about 2 miles from start to finish and we were all tired and hungry by the end so we headed off in search of food. Mrs. Cool had booked us a table at William De Percy Inn and Créperie in Otterburn, it was about a 45 minute drive from Kielder to Ottherburn including a stop off at along the way at Tower Knowe on Kielder resevoir. The views here are amazing and it is so peaceful going at this time of year, we were the only ones there and the only noise was the sounds of nature, perfection. Also the ticket machine at the car park was knackered so I didn't even have to pay for parking, Score!

I recommended that you book a table at William De Percy as it can get full and you don't want to make the trip to find out you can't get a table. The main menu at William De Percy looks great but we were there for Sunday dinner and it's a good 'un. Described as 'They Best Sunday Dinner in Northumberland' and it's hard to argue with that description. They use local produce from around Northumberland which is something I love to see in a restaurant and the quality of all our food was great. Also, it's dog friendly and who doesn't love seeing a pooch snoozing by the fire when you're tucking into your Sunday roast.

Me and Mr. Cool shared a starter of Salt and Pepper Squid with garlic mayo. This is one of our favourites as a starter and even Harry now likes to steal a few pieces of squid when we get it.

For our mains we both had Sunday Dinner. Mrs. Cool had the Roast Sirloin of Beef and I had the Roast Leg of Lamb. Sunday dinners come with Roast and Mashed Potato, Mashed Swede and Green Beans along with a hefty Yorkshire pudding, a side of seasonal vegetable and lashings of gravy. The meat on these meals were so good you can really taste the quality as it just melts in your mouth.

Roast Leg of Lamb
Roast Sirloin of Northumberland Beef
The kids menu is pretty good too and had something that each of our kids liked (they all have to have something different). Heidi has the Cheese and Tomato Flatbread Pizza, Harry had the Cheese Burger and Jack went for the Fish fingers and Chips, and just take a look at the epic portion of Jack's meal.

Being a Créperie William De Percy is famous for it's crépes so Me and Mrs. Cool shared the After Eight Crépe which is a sweet crépe with mint choc chip ice cream chantilly cream and crushed After Eight Mints.

The kids desserts were pretty good too. Jack had Chocolate Ice Cream, Heidi had 'Design your own Cookie' but Harry's was the most impressive as he went for his favourite of Sticky Toffee Pudding.

After having our fill we headed home, everyone had a little snooze in the car except for me, I was listening to some bangers from one of my playlists on Apple Music while enjoying watching the Northumberland Countryside go by.

Well, that's all for now.


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