Cocktail Time: Valencian Orange

Summer is here! Warm sunny days, late nights, relaxing by the pool. Paddling pool, that is, as travel is still something out of reach for most of us at the moment. But never fear: Platinum Al is here with the perfect cocktail to enjoy on a balmy evening as you watch the sun go down.

The Valencian Orange cocktail can be a potent concoction, as you can tell from the ingredients. It should, of course, be made with freshly squeezed Valencian oranges, but as that’s a bit impossible at the moment, regular freshly squeeezed will have to do.

Valencian Orange Cocktail

  • Vodka
  • Gin
  • Sugar
  • Cava
  • Freshly squeezed orange juice

You’ll need a large glass (see the big wine glass in the picture for reference). Add one measure of vodka, one measure of gin, and a teaspoonful of sugar.

Next, pour in a generous amount of Cava. There’s no specified measure for this, so play around with it to your taste. I’d aim for a small glass of wine’s worth for starters. You can play around with all of these measures to get your preferred taste.

Finally, top up with the freshly squeezed orange juice, et voila – one Valencian Orange cocktail.

TIP: The cava and the orange juice both need to be chilled (or ice cold) – as ice cubes will melt and water down the taste.

In the accompanying photo, you’ll notice that the glasses feature a sugared rim. This is really just for appearances. You can recreate this with grenadine and sugar, mixed on a plate – which you then place the rim of the glass into, upside down. Obviously, do this part of the creation before you put the liquid in the glass…

Now you’re free to enjoy this great cocktail. It’s refreshing, fruity and potentially heady, all in one drink. Enjoy!

Soundtrack: Spanish Caravan by The Doors, Gipsy Kings, Rodrigo y Gabriela.

Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Valencia. I stole this recipe from an episode of Travel Man, starring one of my heroes, Richard Ayoade.

The Best of 2020

Well, that was a mad old year, wasn’t it? 2020 was more like a bizarre disaster movie than the regular fun ride that we’re used to. A pandemic made hermits of us all; working from home became the new normal for many and travel and events ceased to exist. A year from hell for most of us, though it’s far from over yet.

Here at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub, we’ve aimed to soldier on and bring you the very best in blogging entertainment. Be it music, skateboards, toys or tat, whatever nonsense I could investigate was delivered with all the expected wit and style.

As is customary at this time, let’s take a look back at the top ten most popular blog posts of last year. Calling it “The Best of 2020” seems somewhat incongruous, but let’s roll with it for traditions sake.

10. Haiku – Autumn

An encouraging response to my creative writing, I was very surprised to see that this poetry piece in the Japanese Haiku style was my tenth most-read post of the year. Encore?

9. Firebreather – Under a Blood Moon Album Review

There was a distinct lack of live music in 2020 (Obviously), but quite a few album reviews for my old pals at Ever Metal. This review of Swedish doom metal band Firebreather’s album was the most read at the Virtual Hot Tub.

8. Halloween Horror Fest 2020

The first of my annual horror movie reviews of 2020, this one featured the Hammer version of Dracula.

7. The Best of 2019

I’m not sure if last years top 10 blogs appearing here is a good thing or not? Either way, 2019’s round up of the most popular blogs was a winner.

6. STYLE: Safari Jacket

2020 saw the materialisation of the long-promised STYLE section at the Virtual Hot Tub. This first blog, concerning the wonderful Safari jacket, got us off to a great start.

5. Skate Art: Liane Plant/Death Skateboards

A feature about some of my favourite skate art, as created by the super talented Liane Plant for Death skateboards. Awesome stuff.

4. SK88: Old School Skateboard Playlist

More skateboard based action, with a playlist of songs from my skating youth in the late 80’s. Full of stone-cold classics, these songs still inspire my sessions today.

3. Death Star Playset

I love my vintage Death Star playset. Setting it up with original Star Wars figures for some blog photos was a lot of fun, it’s great to see it was popular!

2. 1980s Skateboard Style

More skateboarding, and another successful entry for the STYLE section! It’s me, dressed in old skate clothes from the late 80s that still fit (or did, before lockdown).

…And what will be the most popular, widely read blog of 2020? Drum roll, please:

  1. Kantouni Village Sausage and Tzatziki

Yes, the most popular was this food blog, which benefitted from a genuine traditional recipe, and an idea to recreate a Greek holiday vibe with ingredients from the local supermarket.

As travel wasn’t happening this year for most of us, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Greek recipe blog came out on top. It was written as an ode to holidays and Mediterranean sunshine, something that wasn’t a possibility for many last year. I hope you found some nostalgic comfort from this post.

Usually my annual Top 10 has featured a load of comic con events – or similar – at the top of the list. Those events didn’t happen this year, so the Top 10 has a very different flavour. Who knows what 2021 will bring us?

Whatever the strange pan-dimensional cross flux of crazy brings us next, I’d like to thank you all for reading my blog. Please remember to pop by Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub as soon as you can!

Kantouni Village Sausage and Tzatziki

In this edition of the Food blog, I’m taking you on a journey to beautiful Parga in Greece – with an authentic Greek recipe and a rendition of a simple but tasty dish.

Charming and radiating a warm welcome, Parga is one of my favourite holiday destinations.  A small town on the mainland of north western Greece, the beaches and olive groves are idyllic and unforgettable.

Kantouni is a taverna in the centre of Parga’s small, winding streets.  The visitor is sat in a small square, tourists and locals milling around – it’s a wonderful location to put your feet up and watch the world go by.

The menu at Kantouni is varied and authentic, with lots of  traditional Greek food available.  My family and I have visited many times and it’s always delivered excellent food and service, in a unique setting.

Here I’m going to sow you how to recreate a basic taverna meal in the style in which it was served.  Kantouni offer many dishes that are more complex than this, but this is easy to replicate with the right ingredients – and attitude.

Kantouni Village Sausage

Ingredients:

  • Village sausage (available from Lidl in Greek week)
  • Pitta bread
  • Onion (1)
  • Tomato (beef tomato works best) (1)
  • Oven chips (French fry style)
  • Tzatziki (see below)
  1. The first step is make sure you know when Lidl are doing Greek week.  Get down there and buy a pack of the village sausage from their chiller section.
  2. Cook your village sausage in the oven for around 12 minutes.  Next, cut the sausage lengthwise (ie butterflying) and place in a frying pan to finish off for about 10 minutes.  This gives it a more char grilled flavour.
  3. Cook your oven chips in the oven as normal.
  4. Wash your tomato and cut into slices, then slice your onion.
  5. Pop the pitta bread in the toaster and toast till warm.

Yes, this is a very simple meal, but it’s all about recreating a basic dish in the authentic manner.  Serve the prepared ingredients on a plate as shown in the picture, together with mustard (American style is best) and tzatziki (we’ll discuss how to make this next).  You can eat the meal however you choose, but I recommend combining the ingredients in a pitta to make a sort of sausage gyros.

Don’t forget a glass of retsina or Mythos beer, and ensure you have some Greek music playing in the background.  I have an extensive library on Greek vinyl, all of which I’ve bought for pennies from charity shops.  So, no excuse.

And now, the really important part: a recipe for authentic Greek tzatziki…

Tztaziki (serves 2)

This is an authentic Greek recipe that was passed on to us from a Parga local.  You will need:

  • Full fat Greek yoghurt (half tub)
  • Cucumber (1/2)
  • Fresh garlic (2 cloves)
  • Fresh mint
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  1. First of all, peel and grate the cucumber.  Put this in a sieve over a bowl.  Then put a clean tea towel on the cucumber in the sieve – placing a heavy weight on top to draw out the liquid.  Leave for 15 minutes.
  2. Scoop the cucumber up into the tea towel, then ring it out to remove as much liquid as possible.
  3. In another bowl, put the Greek yoghurt – half a tub should do the job.  You need the full fat version, low fat doesn’t work as you need the creaminess.  Add to this the cucumber, chopped fresh mint (as much as you like), and chopped garlic.  Then add 1 dessert spoon full of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice and salt.  Mix this all together.
  4. This is best made the night before, or at least on the morning that you’re going to serve it.  Adjust quantities to suit number of people.

There you go – an easy Greek style meal to make.  If you take care to add to the ambience with music and drinks, this can be delicious and bring back holiday memories.  Pretend you’re in Greece – a little comfort as travelling is so unlikely at the moment!

Thanks to Vanessa for doing all the work, and to Christos from Irini Studios for the tzatziki recipe!

Hanky Panky in Chester

Hanky Panky Pancakes, Chester 

Not that type of hanky panky, you bunch of deviants.  I’m talking about a great new pancake emporium in the city of Chester.  It’s a laid back, homely place with literally tons of tasty grub – all featuring pancakes in some form or other.

The Platinum family visited Hanky Panky pancakes recently whilst on a day trip to Chester.  If you know the town centre at all, you’ll know Commonhall Street.  For the uninitiated, it’s tucked away off Upper Bridge Street, but very easy to find.

We popped in for a mid afternoon break, and were happy to find a novel and delicious base for a spot of nourishment.

Basically, at Hanky Panky anything you can think of related to pancakes will be found.  Different types of pancakes, served either savoury or sweet – your choice.

On this visit, it was mid afternoon so I opted for something sweet: the amazing Rocky Road.  This consisted of pancakes adorned with chocolate chips, marshmallows, rocky road ice cream and chocolate sauce.  As an irredeemable choc fiend, this was pure ecstasy!

I enjoyed a Fentimans Cherry Tree cola with my treat, which was very good.

The rest of the family also enjoyed sweet pancake joy, though I can’t remember what they ordered.  Mine was the best, anyway.

Our trip to Hanky Panky was really appreciated by all of us.  We hope to make another trip soon – maybe next time I’ll go earlier and opt for a savoury choice.  The “El Matador” (chorizo and sun dried tomatoes) sounds incredible.

All in all, recommended for a different family treat food-wise in Chester, that you’ll want to visit again.

Hanky Panky Pancakes, 20 Commonhall Street, Chester CH1 2BJ.

01244 319225

The Hanky Panky website is here.

Cocktail Time: Blue Hawaiian

IMG_20160213_182122090

It’s that time again!  Time to chill in the Virtual Hot Tub with a refreshing cocktail, letting the week’s stresses flow away.  And what a great cocktail I have to share with you this time!

The Blue Hawaiian is a classic cocktail, simply delicious and full of summer excitement.  There’s plenty of time till summer, so get your kit together and practice making this tipple ready for those warm evenings.  I highly recommend a blender is used for this recipe, rather than just shaking. IMG_20160213_180025383

Blue Hawaiian

  • White rum
  • Blue curacao
  • Coconut cream
  • Pineapple juice
  • Ice

First of all, get that blender prepped and ready.  Pour in 2 measures of the white rum and one measure of the blue curacao (for one person).  Add 3 tablespoons of the coconut milk and a few ice cubes.  Give the mixture a quick 30 second mix in the blender, to get the colour even.

Then pour in the pineapple juice.  The recommended amount is 3 tablespoons, but I would experiment here and add a more if required.  Now give the mixture a full blitz in the blender until it’s frothy, man.

Now you can pour the mixture into your glass, and garnish the hell out of it.  Umbrellas, straws, slices of pineapple – go for it with whatever you can find. IMG_20160213_181643659

The result is a beautifully fruity cocktail that is ideal to sip and chill out with.  I highly recommend some Hawaiian music (on wax, of course) to complete the mood.

Enjoy!

Soundtrack: Hawaiian tunes (see photo); Arthur Lyman’s “Hawaiian Nights”; Les Baxter; Martin Denny; Elvis.

Seasonal drink: Snowball

If you’re still in a party mood – and who isn’t, with New Year’s Eve on the way? – here’s a recipe for a seasonal cocktail that I’m sure you’ll enjoy.  The festive season may be coming to an end, but this tipple is still a top recommendation.

The Snowball is well known, and can be made to your particular taste.  You may know the ingredients already, so consider this a reminder of a winter classic.

Why not pull up a chair at the Virtual Tiki Bar and ask Veronica, our Virtual Bar Attendant, to concoct one of these for you?  Made just how you like it. IMG_2740

Snowball

  • Advocaat
  • Vodka
  • Lime juice (cordial)
  • Lemonade
  • Ice

The amounts required for this drink depend on the drinker’s taste, and the size of glass used.  Experiment and adjust to your preference.

Add ice at first, then pour a small amount of lime cordial.  Throw in a shot of vodka – this can be substituted by brandy, if desired.

Pour in a big old dose of the Advocaat, then top up with lemonade.  Veronica was a bit sketchy on the measures, so just play around.  Mix with a stirrer and enjoy.

Drink responsibly!

Soundtrack: Christmas with the Rat Pack, or Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails (Vol I and II).

Food Quest: The White Bear

The White Bear, Mancot

Not too long ago, Mrs Platinum Al and I went for a meal at the White Bear in sunny Mancot.  I should say “another meal”, as we’ve been there many times.  Here’s a quick round up of our experience.

The White Bear is a great little village pub.  There are numerous events throughout the week – every week – making it a lively, welcoming place.  Drinks are affordable – no-one’s getting ripped off.  The food is also affordable – but unlike many other local boozers, the grub manages to be damn good stuff.

Our starters were mushroom and brie bake (for her, you must know what I think about mushrooms by now); and chicken wings for me.  Both great.  The wings were tasty but no overkill on the spice, a commendable job.  My only suggestion would be to provide a finger bowl for this, and other messy food such as ribs.  31029-1_main

Despite the pub being very busy on the evening we visited, the staff were very helpful and attentive.  You can buy drinks at the bar, or one of the waiting staff can bring them over for you.  They are battle hardened and ready to move tables and seats around, provide advice and attempt any task to help their customers.

The main courses were The Legendary Fish and Chips for her; and Kick Ass Chicken for moi.  The fish and chips are indeed the stuff of legend: you get three substantial fish goujons plus chunky chips and good ol’ mushy peas.  Highly recommended – I can speak from experience.

The Kick Ass chicken is not a pretend superhero.  It is in fact a dish consisting of chicken and bacon topped with cheese, in a tangy barbecue sauce.  What’s kick ass about that?  I forgot to mention the JALAPENOS.  Served with chips and peas, this meal is pleasantly spicy, but soon warms up.  By the end, the Kick Ass chicken totally kicked my ass.  But in an “I’ll be back for more next time” way.

For dessert, Mrs Platinum Al went for a brandy snap basket with ice cream and toffee sauce.  I indulged in toblerone cheesecake – never before experienced, my mouth soon forgave me for the jalapenos.

Personally, I cannot believe how the White Bear manages to provide such excellent food – consistently, I might add – for a reasonable price.  There’s plenty of choice on the menu, the surroundings are warm – I can’t recommend it highly enough.  This is pub grub, done the right way – and so much better than the local rivals*.  Good size portions, great taste – the White Bear ticks all the boxes.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: Great taste, large portions
  • Drink: Affordable = good.  A mid strength quality lager would be great (ie bring back Stella 4%!)
  • Service: Friendly, helpful
  • Environment: Traditional pub, busy later on
  • Cost: Very reasonsable

The White Bear, Mancot Lane, Mancot, Deeside, Flintshire CH5 2AH

01244 539077

The White Bear Facebook page is here.

The White Bear web page is here.

*Rhymes with Pubic Hair.  You know the one.

Drink of the Week

I refuse to accept the summer is over.  With some warm weather over the last few days, it’s been quite easy to pretend that summer will go on.  Here’s a drink that’s great for warm evenings, with a melon taste that oozes mellow.  

Midori & leomonade

Midori & lemonade

And what a fantastic colour!

Come on over to the Virtual Hot Tub, take a dip in the virtual water and don’t forget to pick up one of these drinks from the Virtual Tiki Bar.

Midori & Lemonade

  • Midori
  • Lemonade
  • Ice

I don’t really need to tell you how to make this, do I?  Take your glass, add midori, ice and top up with lemonade.  Enjoy.

Soundtrack: “Green Hell” by The Misfits.

Pasta Sauce recipe

Here’s a recipe for pasta sauce. I would recommend this sauce to be served with meatballs (and pasta of your choice).

Now I’m not one for bragging, but my pasta sauce is gaining quite a reputation as a fine example of the art. And what’s the key ingredient?

AUDACITY.

Do not be afraid, be bold – and this sauce will create itself. The more daring you are the better the results will be.

Pasta Sauce 

  • Onion
  • Green or red pepper
  • Chopped tomatoes (tin of)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic paste
  • Tomato puree
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Tomato sauce
  • Chilli powder
  • Olive oil
  • Mixed herbs (including Oregano)
  • Sugar
  • Optional: Salsa sauce

Heat some oil in a large pan. When the oil is hot, chop the onion and pepper and put in the pan. Stir and cook the onion and pepper, add some salt and pepper to season.

Add the tin of tomatoes and simmer. After a few minutes, add the tomato puree. Then add Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce – as much as you dare. You will need to add the garlic paste (about half a teaspoon) next, not forgetting to flow the salt and pepper too.

Now is the time to add the rest of the ingredients as you like. Be liberal with your chilli powder – if you dare – and add more Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. If you have some salsa sauce (try Lidl) or dip, throw a bit of that in. I also like to add a squirt of tomato sauce. Some folks like to add a teaspoon full of sugar, to counter act the acidity of the tomatoes – this is up to you. This is a very simple recipe, I’m sharing it as the message is to play around and see what works. You will notice that I’ve not stated any measurements above as this is the fun part – experiment and see what you can add.

Finally, don’t forget to add the mixed herbs. A generous amount of Oregano will develop an authentic Italian aroma.

Simmer the sauce for a good ten minutes. You will have cooked your meatballs in the oven by now, add them to the sauce when ready.

Prepare the pasta of your choice, and serve together with the meatballs and sauce when ready. Finally, finish with some parmesan cheese.

I hope you enjoy the pasta sauce. Do not be constrained by exact quantities with this recipe – fly free like the brave eagle over the plains, and the joys of exquisite pasta sauce shall be delivered to you.

Surf Rider

Surf Rider cocktail

Surf Rider cocktail

We’re back at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub, following a short break due to technical problems.  And it’s time for another cocktail recipe straight from the Virtual Tiki Bar.  This is one I discovered recently and has become a firm favourite.

Surf Rider

  • 3 measures vodka
  • 1 measure vermouth 
  • Lemon juice 
  • Orange juice
  • Grenadine 
  • Ice

Start with four or five ice cubes in your cocktail shaker.  Add the vodka, then add a liberal dash of lemon juice.  Pour in your grenadine – the recipe recommends 1/2 teaspoon but I would go for more.  Be a devil.  Then top off with fresh orange juice and shake.

The result is a refreshing summer drink, not too dissimilar to a Love on the Rocks, but not as sickly sweet.

Soundtrack: The Ventures, the Beach Boys

Drink responsibly.