The Best of 2019

Happy New Year, readers!  And welcome back to Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub – the web’s number one virtual location for soaking in warm, relaxing waters and enjoying my virtual adventures.

What a year 2019 has been.  I’ve been to Comic Cons; written album reviews for Ever Metal; indulged in another traditional Halloween Horror Fest – and finally managed to get to a few gigs.  Food and drinks reviews, as well as toy and tat blogs, have also made a comeback.

But what have been the most popular and widely read blogs in the last year?  Let’s rewind the clocks and take a look, with a good ol’ countdown from ten to the number one spot…

10. Little Shop of Halloween Horror Fests

At last!  Some Halloween Horror Fest love, with my final set of reviews breaking into the Top 10.  A first for my horror movie reviews, as far as I remember.  A triple bill of The Wolf Man, Little Shop of Horrors and Lust for a Vampire.

9. New Deck 2019 – Death Skateboards Richie Jackson

All about my latest skate set-up, including sexy pictures of a very fine skateboard.

8. Ewok Village Playset

My vintage Star Wars Ewok Village playset made a welcome appearance.  I must feature some more of my collection in the future.

7. That Beer Place

Very happy to see such a cool local beer emporium prove so popular.  Well done, That Beer Place!

6. Liverpool Comic Con 2019 – Part 1

A great day out, and the blog didn’t fare too badly at all.  No sign of Part 2 in the countdown, though…

5. Death by Tacos, Chester

The number one food place in Chester makes a justified appearance in the Top 5 most popular blogs.  Awesome food and service.

4. Tat Trek Update #8: Jo Guest Strip Pen

Miracle of miracles – an item from my Tat collection rockets into the most popular blogs for the first time ever!  Perhaps the saucy nature of the Jo Guest strip pen is to blame…

3. Wales Comic Con 2019

Always a great Comic Con, with fantastic guests and most importantly – as evidenced by this blog – amazing cosplay.

2. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 1

The first part of my visit to the NEC for Comic Con made it to the number two spot.  Few words but plenty of brilliant cosplay.

And now – announcing the Most Read Blog of 2019 at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub.  What could it be?  Why it’s…

1. MCM Comic Con Birmingham 2019 – Part 2

Only a couple of views more than Part 1, but Part 2 takes the crown for the most popular blog this year!

It’s great to see a variety of different topics be successful this year.  Comic conventions, food and skateboards always fare well, but I’m very happy to see Star Wars toys and a bit of tat break through for the first time.I’ll endeavour to deliver more in 2020 – who knows what we’ll see?

My thanks to all my readers over the last year – I appreciate every single view, like and comment.  I wish you all a healthy and prosperous 2020.

That Beer Place

The indoor market in Chester has had a confident resurgence in recent times.  Still the home of many familiar local traders and stalls, the market has now grown to accommodate a whole new and vibrant concept.

A number of excellent eateries have sprung up, offering food of a wide variety of styles.  To compliment this, That Beer Place has also established itself as a central attraction for beer lovers.

I wanted to write a brief appreciation of That Beer Place – and spread the word if possible – for a fantastic enterprise that deserves success.

There’s a huge selection of beer to choose from, both on tap and in bottles or cans.  Whether traditional or unusual, local or from a far flung locale, there’s so much variety that there’s sure to be a drink to suit all tastes.

Staff are helpful and able to advise, if the magnitude of choice threatens to confound.  There are vegan, gluten free and more options; plus cider, gin, wine and non-alcoholic beverages too.  It’s easy and fun to experiment and discover a new favourite.  I’ve been doing it for a while…

Whilst never raucous, there’s definitely a buzz about That Beer Place that makes it a great place to visit.  It’s friendly and welcoming, with a cool vibe that makes it a crucial part of the revamped market.

Good luck to That Beer Place and Chester Market too (not forgetting another favourite,  Death by Tacos!) – make sure you pay them a visit next time you’re in town.

That Beer Place

Unit A19, Chester Market, Chester, Cheshire
01244 941990
Find That Beer Place on Facebook and Twitter.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #17

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 29th November 2019

Finally, months later, I made it to another Bring Your Own Vinyl Night.  It’s been far too long, but it was great to be back.  A few beers, some great food, and awesome music always makes for an entertaining evening.

Hosted by Halcyon Dreams in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold, North Wales, Bring Your Own Vinyl Night is an opportunity to be a DJ for a night.  Each person has a 15 minute slot to play whatever they like, vinyl only.

It’s never an easy task, narrowing down my collection to just a handful of songs to play.  I didn’t go for a theme this time, just a few tracks that I thought worthy of sharing.

Here’s what I unleashed:

Betty Davis – If I’m in Luck I Might Get Picked Up

I decided to start the set with this funk-rock hybrid from cult soul singer and one time Mrs Miles Davis: the amazing Betty Davis.  I’d heard about Betty’s work on the grapevine; after checking this album out online I knew I had to track a vinyl copy down.  “If I’m in Luck…” is a raunchy number powered by hard rock guitar riffs and a phenomenally funky beat.  Highly recommended!

Iggy and the Stooges – Gimme Danger

My favourite track on the third Stooges record, “Gimme Danger” is a timeless classic.  The “Raw Power” album that housed it apparently fared badly on initial release, but blossomed with a cult following in later years.  Every home should have a copy of this fantastic record.  “Gimme Danger” lures the listener into a false sense of security with an unusually melodic guitar part, yet still weaves a web of debauchery and chaos.

The Cult – Lucifer

The Cult have been one of my favourite bands over the years, going right back to my teens with the “Love” and “Electric” albums.  They’re still delivering quality music, with the album “Choice of Weapon” (from which “Lucifer” is taken) being a highlight.  There’s a huge, epic riff driving this song – one of those tracks that I usually have to have on repeat, ‘cos just one play ain’t enough.

The Donnas – Who Invited You

In 2002, The Donnas released one of the best rock’n’nroll albums in years with “Spend the Night”, an energetic blend of AC/DC style hard rock and Ramones punk.  Sadly it was released in the CD age, so I don’t own a vinyl copy.  But I did hunt down the 7″ single of “Who Invited You” so that I can enjoy at least one magnificent song from the album on vinyl.  Re-issue, somebody, please!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was that – for me at least.  There were plenty of other great songs played throughout the evening which you can check out via the Halcyon Dreams links below.

In all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening – sharing the wonder of music and vinyl in a great pub.  I mustn’t leave it so long till my next Vinyl Night visit.

With thanks to Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music – well done guys!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

Death by Tacos, Chester

It’s been a long time since I wrote a food blog.  However, I’ve dragged myself out of self imposed food critic retirement, to plug a new local eaterie that I’ve become a huge fan of.  That establishment is Death by Tacos, in Chester market.

Anyone who knows me, or has read previous blogs, will know I’m a big fan of Mexican food.  So it’s no surprise that I love DBT.

On offer is authentic Mexican fare: freshly made, soft corn tortillas filled with a choice of various fillings and mouth watering dressings.  So far I’ve tried the chicken and the chorizo, and I’m working my way through the menu.  Both dishes were fabuloso!

There are also some amazing sounding sides available, like brisket loaded tortilla chips, that I want to try.  Plus with some groovy cocktails and beers, this is Mexican food heaven.

Sitting in Death by Tacos, I was right at home: a couple of skateboards on the walls and classic tunes (Black Sabbath and Smashing Pumpkins were on the playlist on my last visit!).  Plus the staff are friendly and helpful, making the whole experience a real joy.  Oh, I got a sticker and a badge too, wahey!

Chester market has been revamped over recent months, and now features various places to eat and drink that are worth investigating.  On Friday evenings they’re open till 9pm, and there’s a real relaxed and fun vibe that I can recommend.

Death by Tacos is worth your time to experience, trust me.  Great food, cool surroundings, what more could you want?

PS: this review ain’t going on Trip Advisor, ‘cos everyone knows Trip Advisor is for FOOLS.

Death by Tacos, Chester Market, Chester CH1 2HH. 

07791 068464

https://www.facebook.com/DeathByTacos/

www.instagram.com/deathbytacos_ 

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #16

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 25th January 2019

January is a bloody miserable month, so it was nice to have an event to look forward to.  The event in question was Bring Your Own Vinyl Night – the first one I’d been able to attend (for various reasons) for quite some time.

There was a loose Scottish theme for those who chose to indulge, with it being Burns Night.  Personally I didn’t bother as I had other plans for my setlist.

As it’s been a while, here’s a recap on what Vinyl Night is all about:

Organised by the awesome chaps from Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music, Bring Your Own Vinyl Night is held in The Queen’s Head, a dependable boozer in Mold.  Aspiring DJs can play a fifteen minute set of any songs they choose, but the format must be vinyl.

Here’s the selection I made:

1968 – Devilswine

This is the opening track from the superb debut album by 1968, “Ballads of the Godless”.  That behemoth of a record was one of my favourites of 2018 – a stoner rock classic in the making.  The song is a heavy, riff fuelled monster with a groove that will make your head nod.  Psychedelic biker rock, retro metal, fuzzed up grunge; call it what you will – these Chester lads know how to rock.

Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind – Dream

I’ve long been a fan of Jim Jones’ previous bands like Thee Hypnotics and Jim Jones Revue, so I swiped a copy of this latest musical venture as soon as I could.  The album “Supernatural” is amazing, full of swampy, bluesy rock’n’roll that’s part Stooges, part Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.  “Dream” is also the opening track, and it’s lethal.  HIghly recommended.

The Incredible Bongo Band – Bongo Rock

This is a 7″ single that I was lucky to pick up for a few pence in a charity shop.  I really need the album too.  This is early seventies funky soul-pop and extremely groovy.  It will make you want to wear a polo neck jumper and huge flares whilst sporting a gaucho moustache, Beastie Boys style.  The Incredible Bongo Band are an integral part of the story of how Cliff Richard invented hip-hop.  If you don’t believe me, Google it.

RL Burnside – Goin’ Down South

My final track was another opener, this time from RL Burnside’s amazing “A Ass Pocket of Whiskey” LP.  When I first heard this heavy blues stomper on a CD compilation, I knew it had to be mine one day.  An infectious collaboration with The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, this was recorded in the nineties but sounds timeless.

In retrospect, it seems that my set inadvertently did have a theme after all – though I swear that the suggestive images of ladies on record covers was purely incidental.

With thanks to Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music, hope to see you all again soon.

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night #14

Bring Your Own Vinyl Night

The Queen’s Head, Mold

Friday 13th April 2018

It’s been a while since I last attended Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, and boy did I miss it.  It was great to be back in the Queen’s Head pub in Mold with the chaps from Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music to spin some records.

If you’ve missed previous episodes (where HAVE you been?), it works like this:  Each person gets a fifteen minute set to play whatever songs they like, but only on vinyl.  Simple as that.  Throw in some beer and some music based chat and you’re in for a great time.

As it was getting close to Record Store Day, Tom from Halcyon Dreams pitched a challenge for us would-be DJs: our set had to be comprised of artists who would be releasing music on the day.

No problem, I thought.  Here’s how my set went:

Killing Joke – The Wait

To begin, a thunderously loud track from the first Killing Joke album.  A riff so mighty that Metallica covered it for their $5.98 EP, this tune also has an incessant tribal beat under the choppy punk guitar.  A great song from an essential album, in my opinion.  I’ve been a fan of KJ for a long time and they’re still turning out screaming punk/metal/industrial noise to this day.

Johnny Cash – Folsom Prison Blues

Well you can’t go wrong with a bit of Johnny Cash, although I was surprised that this track really seemed to go down well with the pub crowd.  Regular readers will know how big a fan of Johnny Cash I am, he’s just unbeatable.  This classic song was taken from an old compilation I picked up at a record fair, crammed full of great tunes.  I’m glad to say this song seemed very popular!

L7 – Everglade

Another crushing riff, this time from the “Bricks Are Heavy” album from all-girl punk rock grungers L7.  My favourite song from that album, and one of my favourite bands from that era.  I saw the band live a couple of years ago at Download fest, they were amazing.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that girls can’t rock – L7 were the best band of the day.

The Members – Sound of the Suburbs

And finally, an old punk rock classic on 45rpm courtesy of the Members.  This track also seemed popular!  I only have the 7 inch single of this song, so I could do with tracking down some more records by them.  Great fun.

So that wraps up another Bring Your Own Vinyl Night, and what a great night it was! My mixing skills need some sharpening up, but I really enjoyed myself.  Well done Tom and Colin, looking forward to another bash soon.  I know those guys are very busy, but the Vinyl Nights are always a treat.  See you soon!

The Halcyon Dreams blogspot is here.

The Halcyon Dreams mixcloud page is here.

The Halcyon Dreams Facebook page is here.

The VOD music website is here.

PS – Great food in the Queen’s Head too.  £6 for a massive mixed grill!

Food Quest: Piccolino, Chester

Piccolino, Chester

It was a hard slog of a shopping trip, but luckily there was a safe haven awaiting us.  Despite the crowds outside, a warm welcome would be found at Piccolino; a chance to recharge and enjoy some great food.

I’ve been to Piccolino before, but not for a while, so this lunchtime treat was very satisfying.  The staff were very helpful and we immediately felt relaxed.  All four of our party – including a six year old with fussy tastes – were looked after very well.

Here’s a brief over view of the food I enjoyed.

As it was lunchtime, we didn’t bother with starters as such, but ordered some garlic bread to share.  This Pane All’Aglio was served with tomato and basil – essentially a tomato sauce – and was delicious.  Especially popular with our youngest member.

For my lunch proper, I ordered Fusilli Puttanesca Con Pollo – a pasta dish, with chicken, tomato, olives, chilli, anchovies and capers.  I was looking forward to this dish, and I wasn’t disappointed – it was superb.  Not just any old thrown together pasta meal, this was exquisite.  I was very impressed, even better than expected.

Mrs Platinum Al ordered a pasta dish also – Farfalle Al Salmone (probably just because it had my name in it).  Joking aside, this was also very good – I had a sneaky try to confirm.  I would happily order this meal myself on my next visit, if not for the fact that my Fusilli Puttanesca Con Pollo was so damn fine.

The little ‘un had a cheese and tomato pizza – that’s a Margherita to us professionals – and she destroyed it.  The pizza proved very popular indeed.

I’d had a cheeky beer (Moretti La Rossa – excellent), and decided to splash out on a dessert.  This was not a mistake, no sir.

I was tempted by some ice cream, and made a radical choice.  Despite not being much of a fan of coffee, I chose the Affogato – Amaretto, espresso and vanilla ice cream.  This was presented more like a cocktail than a pudding, with the ice cream covered in Amaretto and a shot of espresso to pour over the top.  This was an amazing dessert – I still have dreams about it now! img_20161008_143441512

A fabulous time was had by all of our party at Piccolino.  The food was divine and service perfect.  To top it all, our little girl had a great experience and we’d happily return for more family fun.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: Enormous choice and delicious
  • Drink: Plenty to choose from, need to try more next time!
  • Service: Professional, friendly, hard working
  • Cost: Very good value for quality food

Piccolino, 33 Pepper Row, Pepper Street, Chester CH1 1EA

01244 312123

Check out he Piccolino menu here.

Chester Vinyl Night

Chester Vinyl Night

The Lock Keeper, Chester

Friday 7th October 2016

So the two Bens – Ben the Swede and Coben – decided to stage a vinyl night in Chester.  Not to detract from the great night in Mold – but living in Chester they were keen to see how it would go.  There had been plenty of feedback from Chester locals who would love to try out the concept and play a few of their own records whilst having a few beers.

After some research, the Lock Keeper pub near the canal, just down Frodsham Street, was selected as the ideal venue.  The upstairs function room was ideal, with loads of space and a DJ area at the back.  The pub itself offered some fine beers at reasonable prices, so it was all set.

The idea was the same, borrowed from Halcyon Dreams and VOD: bring along a few records, have a 15 minute set to play whatever you like – vinyl only.

I volunteered to do my set early on, whilst waiting for the punters to arrive.  Thus following on from The Swede’s opening repertoire, it was my turn.  Playing to an audience of six people.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon Rising

I’d planned on playing the superior, and slightly less well known, “Born on the Bayou” by CCR as my first song.  However I mixed up Side 1 track 2 with side 2 track 2, and we got this evergreen classic instead.  No major mishap, “Bad Moon Rising” is a fantastic song anyway.  Always reminds me of “An American Werewolf in London”.

The Stupids – Mega Zombie

This is from one of the first records I ever owned, the “Frankfurter – Eat EP” by UK hardcore punk band The Stupids.  They were at the forefront of late eighties skate rock, and sound tracked many a days skateboarding in my youth.  This sublime song is just over one minute in length, with the words “Mega Zombie” repeated 27 times.  Very fast and a true challenge to prepare the next track in time!

The Ohio Players – Fopp

Luckily I just made it, and dropped the needle on this magnificent chunk of seventies funk.  The song first came to my attention via the Soundgarden cover, eventually I picked up a CD “Best of” compilation (also featuring “Love Rollercoaster”, as covered by RHCP).  Not long ago I added the Ohio Players album “Honey” to my vinyl collection – which both songs are taken from.  This is a solid piece of funk rock with a cool groove. op

Tone Loc – Loc’ed After Dark

I wanted to play some tunes to show case some variety, and felt that a bit of old school hip hop would be nice.  “Loc’ed After Dark” is the B-side from the “Wild Thing” 12 inch single.  I chose it as again, there’s a nice funky beat.  Got me strutting my stuff in the DJ booth, anyway.

So alas, my set was over – with still only six people in the audience.  Never mind, the evening picked up and soon the function room was full.  I even got to play a couple of tracks again at the end of the night to a fuller crowd!

The Chester Vinyl Night was a great success, with a room full of people enjoying the music and drinks.  There was a picture quiz which proved popular, and a wide range of tunes spanning several genres – from dub to hip hop to classic rock.  There was even a Phil Collins tribute section…

There will be more Vinyl Nights at the Lock Keeper soon.  Well done to Ben and Ben for organising the evening – looking forward to more of the same soon!

The Chester Vinyl Night has a Facebook page, click here.

You can also find The Lock Keeper on Facebook here.

Thanks to Halcyon Dreams and VOD Music for help and advice.

vinyl-poster

Food Quest: Chiquito, Broughton Park

chiquitoChiquito Restaurant Bar & Mexican Grill, Broughton Park

Regular readers will already know how much I love Mexican food.  It’s fair to say that I’m pretty obsessed with grub from south of the border, be it tacos, enchiladas, burritos or whatever.  Just wrap it up in a tortilla and I’m one happy hombre.

Of course, I have been to a Chiquito restaurant before, there’s one at ChOaks (that’s Cheshire Oaks, amigo).  However I was anxious to try the newer establishment at nearby Broughton Park, if only because – well, it’s nearer.

I got my chance on a lunch time visit with work colleagues.  I saddled up my pony and rode over the border home into Wales for some refreshment at the Chiquito cantina.  Even though the website says Broughton Park is in Chester (England), which it’s not.  Minus points for racism, Chiquito. nachos

As we only had an hour before the banditos would be back on our trail, starters were skipped.  Which is a shame, as there were plenty of tantalising items on offer.  Likewise, I didn’t opt for an alcoholic beverage with my meal, though I could have chosen from an array of suitable beers.

Instead I had a coke, but the good news was that there were free refills!  Just ask your courteous waiting on staff.  I like that.

So on to the meal.  After some deliberation, I opted for a chimichanga – a dish I love and have enjoyed before at other establishments.  Now for those of you who are unschooled in the ways of Mexican food, a chimihcanga is essentially a fried burrito.  Still none the wiser?  Take a tortilla, add the filling of your choice (in my case pulled pork) and throw in some rice, refried beans and sauce.  Roll it up and cook/fry.

el-taco-grande

El Taco Grande enjoying his meal

The chimichanga was accompanied by fries and the usual suspects – salsa, sour cream and guacamole dips.

This was all very tasty, and I really enjoyed the food.  It had a home cooked feel to it, not mass produced and thrown together at all.

The only thing that confused me was the serving style – the food was presented in a little deep frying metal container.  This looked very cool, but wasn’t the easiest way to eat.  Unless you’re supposed to pick the chimichanga up and eat with your hands – surely not?  I must be wrong.

All in all, my experience was very good – with a couple of minor criticisms.  Firstly, although the style and decor of Chiquito was really groovy, the music was a bit hit and miss.  It seemed like every other song was Enrique Iglesias, mixed alternately with some more authentic Latin sounds.  Enrique may be OK for the ladies who lunch crowd, but I expect more genuine Mariachi music.

My delicious chimichanga. Half eaten, sorry.

My delicious chimichanga. Half eaten, sorry.

But then Chiquito is Tex Mex, rather than just Mex.  They even have a steak and fish menu, as well as burgers.  This may be far too normal for my tastes, but I suppose that it may entice some Brits in – they may even, one day, try something a little more exotic than chips and egg.

I have no real problems with Chiquito – the food and service were both great.  I really enjoyed my meal and was impressed by the large amount of choice on the menu.  Go give Chiquito a try – but please, try the Mexican food!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: large amount to choose from.  Great Mexican dishes, with some more traditional choices for anyone with a less adventurous palate.
  • Drink: I was on soft drinks, but they have free refills – yes!  Tons of alcoholic choices too.
  • Service: Very good, friendly staff.
  • Cost: Acceptable for a lunch time treat!

Chiquito, Unit 19 Broughton Chopping Park, Broughton CH4 0DE

01244 530564

The Chiquito website is here.

Root Beer

I remember the glory days; back in the late 1980’s, when we used to be able to buy root beer in McDonald’s.  We used to go skateboarding, and always choose root beer to accompany our meal if ever we went to Ronald’s.

But root beer proved too bizarre a taste for the staid British market, and soon enough it was impossible to buy any from Maccies.  Around that time, I embarked on a long personal veto on visiting the burger clown (for several reasons, not just the drinks).

Eventually root beer started cropping up in some super markets, and with the arrival of American sweet shops cans of the stuff were available again.  It was like repealing prohibition, but prices were high. P_20140907_111836

Root beer is essentially a non-alcoholic (despite the name) fizzy drink.  It’s never quite translated well over here, unlike many of it’s soda compatriots.

To be fair, it is something of an acquired taste.  I’ve previously described root beer as tasting similar to Dandelion & Burdock with a whiff of Germolene.  It’s often compared to mouthwash.

Yet I (and many of my friends) have developed a love of the sweet fizzy stuff.  Perhaps it’s the thrill of the rare and exotic.  More likely, it the fact that root beer was featured in US comics, films and TV – so just like Twinkies they became a part of a fascinating pop culture.

And don’t forget that classic British skate punk band The Stupids were known to refer to it (see “Root Beer Death” on the Van Stupid album).

Top of the crop is A&W Root Beer.  I remember trying this for the first time on my trips to the USA some while ago.  I probably tried a few different brands, but this is the only one I recall.  This brew is smooth, not too fizzy and not too sweet.  Unfortunately it’s usually only available at a premium price from specialist sweet shops. root

A cheaper option, also from a US sweet shop, was the Day’s root beer.  This only came in at just under a quid.  However, it’s not quite the quality drink that A&W offer.

Another choice is Carters Refreshing Root Beer.  This can be purchased much more cheaply, in packs of six from your local Asda.  However, this version is cloyingly sweet to the novice, and not as mellow a taste.  Still, for the price and ease of purchase it’s worth checking out.

So there you have it: a synopsis of my love of root beer.  An under appreciated and derided beverage, it beats a cup of tea any day.  ‘Cos I hate tea, me.