Food Quest: To Koutouki, Chester

To Koutouki, Chester

Well Mrs Platinum Al and I deserved a night out, so we packed off the little ‘un to Grandma and Grandpa and headed off to Chester.  A table was booked at a new restaurant in town called To Koutouki, and we were both very excited to try it out.

After years of proclaiming that Chester really needed a Greek restaurant, I was delighted to see, whilst on a recent shopping trip, that the miracle had happened.  Sat at the end of Foregate Street, out of the blue, was To Koutouki – obviously a Greek Taverna, the blue chairs resting outside gave it away. IMG_20160507_194109736

On entering, we were shown to our table upstairs, where the Greek style decor added a real holiday ambience.  Think blue chairs, Greek music and photos of the islands and you’re on you’re way…

We were given some very nice mixed olives and some iced water to begin with.  Drinks were a fairly easy choice for us – the ever reliable Kourtaki retsina and a bottle of Mythos for me!

Service was friendly and very quick, it wasn’t long before our starters arrived.  My good lady ordered saganaki – a fried cheese.  I had a try and it was exquisite!  My own starter was white bait, or maridaki, which was also excellent – a real Mediterranean style dish that reminded me of warmer climes!  Though small, I chickened out of eating the whole of the fish at first – leaving the heads on the plate.  The waiter advised me to gulp the lot down – which I did!  No problem at all, give it a go!

The main courses were very soon with us, and we were in for a treat.  My lovely companion had chosen kotopoulo kokkinisto, a delicious chicken caserole which was served with rice.  I was allowed to have a try, and it was very, very good indeed.  I’ve never had this meal before, and would definitely order it on a return visit.

For my own main, I chose one of my favourite dishes- pastitsio.  This is a baked pasta dish, with beef mincemeat and bechamel sauce, served like a slice of lasagne, but less sloppy.  I’ve had pastitsio in Greece, and the To Koutouki version was simply excellent.  Cooked perfectly, I was very impressed as pastitsio isn’t always readily available when we visit our favourite tavernas in Parga, let alone Chester!

Finally, to finish off we chose some desserts.  Mrs Platinum Al had portokalopita – a yoghurt cake with orange syrup (had a cheeky try, very nice).  I ordered the classic baklava, with a little ice cream, which was fantastic.  We both had a Metaxa brandy to bring things to a close.

To Koutouki was a great experience, excellent food and great service made a memorable meal and we can’t wait to visit again.  This little taverna has managed to create an authentic Greek feel and welcome, with delicious food that demands a return visit.  Highly recommended!

Food Quest Test 

  • Food: Extensive menu of traditional Greek favourites, expertly created and delicious too!
  • Drink: All the classics are on offer
  • Service: Excellent and friendly
  • Cost: Very reasonable for Chester City Centre!

Greek Taverna “To Koutouki”, 112 Foregate Street, Chester CH1 1HB

01244 951725

The To Koutouki website is here.

The To Koutouki Facebook page is here.

All Hail The Twinkie

twinkie

When I first went to the United States of America, I had a mission.  I was 27 years old and had never eaten a Twinkie.  In fact, I’d never even seen one.  Twinkies, though they are a definitive piece of American snacking, were unavailable in the UK.  So on day one of my first US trip, I went to a supermarket and found the Hostess snacks section.  Finally, I was able to experience the wonder of the Twinkie.

You may wonder why this was such a big deal.  Especially if you’re American.

I had been fascinated by this “golden sponge cake” since my childhood days, when I voraciously read every Marvel comic book I could get my hands on.  Between the thrilling tales of Spiderman, The Avengers and the Fantastic Four (amongst others) were numerous adverts for American products that fascinated my young mind.  X-Ray Specs; Sea Monkeys; t-shirts and posters for KISS, Evel Knievel and Farrah Fawcett.  I had no idea what these things were, there was nothing like them in my world.  This pop culture ephemera were tantalising clues to the world I saw on television and in films. P_20140816_141833

Also advertised within the pages of these comic book master pieces were adverts for Hostess snack foods.  There were fruit pies, cup cakes, and of course Twinkies.

These ads featured Marvel superheroes defeating the villains with the aid of snack food items.  A short one page comic strip told how the hero would be able to distract the bad guys with the treats and save the day.  The plots were somewhat random mini stories that shoe horned the products in any way they could.  My mind absorbed it all.  Of course, there were ads in DC comics too, featuring their stable of characters.  You couldn’t escape Hostess snacks anywhere in comic land.

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A typical Twinkie comic advert

Add in the fact that these cakes have been featured in films and television as well, and you have a pop culture phenomenon.  Twinkies are featured in Ghostbusters, Die Hard and Zombieland, as well as many others.  One of my favourite examples is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, where the villain – whose touch decays everything – finds the only food he can hold without it crumbling to dust is a Twinkie.  A nice reference to the old comic ads, there – and the urban myth of Twinkies being imperishable!

But what is a Twinkie?  It’s basically a sponge finger cake, with a creamy filling.  As I found out when I first ate one, they’re not that amazing really.  In fact I was a little under whelmed.  Mr Kipling this ain’t.  But then Mr Kipling didn’t stop Galactus from devouring the planet with a Bakewell tart.

Nowadays you can find Twinkies on sale in the UK, and in various forms too. Along with the original variety, I’ve tried banana; and chocolate is available too.  All easily found in your local B&M store, and a lot cheaper than the speciality American sweet shops that sell boxes for £13 (more like £3).

They’re good, but not the most delicious of cakes.  However the Twinkie is without equal in the realms of popular culture.  At least for those, like me, raised on American superhero comics.  Twinkies are still an exotic treat, to be enjoyed with a wry smile and fond memories of those old comics. P_20151122_153035

There are some great examples of Hostess adverts in comic books here.

The Hostess cakes website is here.

More Hostess foods soon!

Rancid Rock

In which our intrepid adventurers explore a world of oddly flavoured confectionery…

For our recent trip to Sci Fi Weekender in north Wales, my compadres and I were well stocked with food and drink.  Along with the usual savoury food stuffs, there was plenty of sweet: chocolate, cakes, Twinkies.  All the good stuff.

And yet, with the reckless abandon of enthusiasm and the bravado of beer, we were destined for far murkier waters.

Some time previously, I had purchased some novelty rock on a trip to Rhyl.  You know what rock is – long cylindrical sticks; usually peppermint flavoured; either chewy or (as the name suggests) hard and brittle.  Brightly coloured sticks of sugar, the quintessential seaside souvenir.  IMG_3995

It was three sticks for a quid, and I bought these flavours:

  • Chicken Tikka
  • Fish’n’Chips
  • Cookie Dough

After a few beers one night, I decided it was time to experiment with these substances and see what the effects were.  Here are my observations.

Chicken Tikka

Now I love Indian food.  However Chicken Tikka rock is not to die for.  Imagine, if you will, the miserable surprise of sweet tasting rock being replaced by a vaguely spicy Asian flavour.  My brain thought a cruel trick was being played on it.  The rock was chewy rather than hard.  The taste was bland; with a strange, mild spiciness.  Like licking a stick of celery that had been waved near a curry flavoured Pot Noodle.  The only good thing is that this rock wasn’t hot spicy at all, just leaving an insipid warmth on the tongue.  Totally vile.

Disgusto rating: 3/5

Fish’n’Chips

Next up was the Fish’n’Chips flavour.  Now what could go wrong – the amalgamation of two British seaside classics, rock that tastes of fish and chips?  More like what couldn’t go wrong.  The chewy rock was strangely missing the traditional sweetness, instead it was a truly bland flavour with a remote hint of ancient battered cod.  But the smell of it was utterly putrid – a million maritime nightmares sheltering in the salty cove of your mouth.  Plain sailing this was not – Fish’n’Chips rock is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Like that time when, as a kid, you fell over while paddling in the sea; and got a mouth  full of salty seawater, seaweed, and dead crab.

Disgusto rating: 5/5

Cookie Dough

After the previous monstrosity, I was actually looking forward to Cookie Dough flavour.  Surely this one would be OK?  After all, the previous two varieties suffered from the juxtaposition of sweet becoming savoury.  No such luck.  Cookie Dough, despite being generally fantastic when added to ice cream, does no favours for rock.  It just tasted of aniseed.  Big disappointment.  Like being given an Easter Egg that looks great, but tastes of punch in the face.

Disgusto rating: 2/5

All in all not an experience I would like to repeat.  Though it was pretty funny…

Here’s what my friends had to say about the whole sorry affair:

Adam: “They smelt like the arse hole of a dead badger and pretty sure that’s what they tasted like too….  I can still taste it now late at night when it’s quiet in the house and I’m alone in my thoughts.”

Greeny: “I only tried the fish one, I didn’t dare try any others after that cos I wanted to die.  It tasted like cat shit and feet, wrapped in a thong that Jordan had worn for a month.  And it smelt pretty much like that too.”