American Classic Car Show 2016

Stars and Stripes American Classic Car Show, Tatton Park

Over the weekend of 2nd and 3rd July 2016, there was the annual Stars and Stripes Classic American Car Show at Tatton Park.  Featuring all kinds of classic vehicles from the USA, and from different eras, it was – as always – a fantastic day out.

Luckily the weather was pretty good this year, so my family and I made our way to the park for a day out.

There were plenty of cars for me to drool over, dozens of stalls selling all sorts of paraphernalia, even a mini fun fair for the kids.  Not to mention food and music.  Of particular interest to our party this year was an Elvis impersonator, who was doing a mighty fine job.  Thank you very much.

As always, I took a crazy amount of photos, which I can share with you here now.

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And now, one of my favourite cars ever.  A Plymouth Barracuda (in lime green with racing stripes): img_4763

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Finally, a pic of my daughter looking super cool! img_4737

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.

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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.

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!

Food Quest: Hickory’s Chester

Hickory’s Smokehouse, Chester

Is everyone back eating normal food again, after the January diets?  Good, then it’s about time for another Food Quest.

Hickory’s Smokehouse offers authentic USA style barbecue food, and plenty of it.  This is real Man vs Food style cooking, with plenty of smoked ribs, pulled pork and burgers to fill up even the heartiest of appetites.

The Chester premises are located right by the River Dee, in an idyllic location just a short walk from the main centre.  It’s a vibrant scene, especially lit up at night.  Inside is a welcoming venue with walls decorated with appropriate items (guitars, American football paraphernalia, you name it). hickorys

There’s a large drinks menu, but I like to opt for a big old pint of Brooklyn lager, a particular favourite of mine.  Although you can pick this up in bottled form from supermarkets now, an actual draft pint isn’t easy to come by.  Mrs Platinum Al opted for a Jack and Coke, and we enjoyed some complimentary popcorn while we ordered.

On previous visits we have tried some starters, including a freshly baked giant pretzel served with hummus that was delicious.  There’s plenty of choice, but on this occasion we abandoned the appetisers as we had something major in mind for the main course.

We decided to order the Smokehouse Platter, a massive combination of signature dishes for us both to share.  Good job we were hungry.  The platter consists of:

  • Memphis style baby back ribs, hot links, jumbo beef rib, Kansas style ribs, beef brisket, BBQ pulled pork, fries and slaw

It was a massive amount of very tasty food, but we gave it our best shot.  The ribs were amazing and I couldn’t pick a favourite between the varieties on offer.  In particular I enjoyed the BBQ pulled pork – the meat was super tender and served with beans, a top notch dish if ever there was one.  The hot links were also popular, I’ve never had them before – they’re basically small sausages and they are so, so good…

Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite finish all the food – but what we had was delightful!

Mrs Platinum Al and myself have made a few trips to Hickory’s, and I’m sure we’ll go again.  With first rate food, great beer and even quality tunes (plenty of proper Blues – I remember hearing Howlin’ Wolf – one of my faves) – you can’t go wrong.

Highly recommended!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: A huge choice of exciting food to try; I’ve tried plenty and it’s all great!
  • Drink: Again a huge choice and with Brooklyn Lager on tap you can’t go wrong
  • Service: Excellent (shout out to our waitress – Sena?)
  • Environment: Cool USA inspired decor that’s like being on a TV set; brilliant music!
  • Cost: Good value for large portions

Hickory’s Smokehouse, The Groves, Souters Lane, Chester CH1 1SH

01244 404000

The Hickory’s website is here.

The Hickory’s Facebook page is here.

New York City 9/11

No memories or recounting of events this year, just a photo tribute.

I bought this shirt on the evening of September 11th 2001.  As a stranded tourist in the Big Apple, there wasn’t much to do – except try and be a tourist.  Wandering around the streets that day wasn’t as much fun as it should have been, as you can imagine.

The t-shirt says it all.  Great city, phenomenal people.

Whatever your beliefs, spare a thought for the thousands of people caught up in the events of 9/11.

Stay strong, New York.

If you’d like top read last year’s “A Letter to the New York Post” article, click here.

NYC

 

Food Quest: The Palomino

The Palomino, Connah’s Quay

Welcome to the frontier, the Wild West of Connah’s Quay.  No, the Quay isn’t that wild – but there’s a taste of the Big Country at The Palomino.

Once it was the Wepre Inn, now it’s reborn as The Palomino.  A Western themed bar and restaurant that’s decked out in all manner of cowboy paraphernalia.  There are life size statues of cowboys and Indians (including a full size John Wayne on a horse); dreamcatchers and pictures on the wall; plus numerous models of Native Americans and what not all over the place.

I think it’s very cool.  The very first time I went there, they even had Clint Eastwood classic Hang ‘Em High showing on several television screens around the room.

There’s an extensive menu that covers a wide range of steaks, burgers and hearty meals to fill up any gunslinger.  There are of course salads and vegetarian options for the weirdos.  Plenty of drink choices too, though sadly no Sam Adams or Brooklyn lager – they would’ve been more suitable.  I tried Kozel, a Czech beer, which was very nice (though sadly not cold enough!).

On our most recent visit, Mrs Platinum Al opted for the Chicken Espetada.  Never heard of this before; it’s pretty impressive.  Two large chicken and veg kebabs hang vertically down from a metal support over the plate.  Served with chips and salad, It looked great and the smell was enticing.  Luckily I got to try some.  I loved it, one to try next time.

For my own choice, I went for the full rack of ribs.  A massive plate was served to me, with chips, salad, coleslaw and corn on the cob.  The ribs were extremely tender and fell apart nicely, delicious sauce too.  Despite the vast amount of food, I made a valiant attempt and finished nearly everything – leaving just the corn half eaten…

Speaking for myself, I really enjoy going to the Palomino.  The food has always been good, with large portions and a good choice on offer.

Of course, what makes The Palomino unique is the decor.  You can see from the photos here what the place is like.  Unfortunately, I hear that the place is having a make over soon – so there’ll be no more Western memorabilia.  This makes me very sad.  Like a cowboy who’s had to shoot his lame horse.

I’m sure the food will continue to be great.  It’s just a shame that such a fun, different venue won’t be the same.  If you want to experience The Palomino as it is, better saddle up soon.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: a wide range of American style food, plus trad favourites, and large portions.  How about a Man vs Food style burger challenge?!
  • Drink: good range of beers, American beer like Samuel Adams and Brooklyn Lager would be great though.
  • Service: good, not perfect, but cheerful.
  • Cost: good value for large portions.

The Palomino Bar & Restaurant, Wepre Lane, Connah’s Quay CH5 4JR

01244 811122

The Palomino website is here.

The Palomino Facebook page is here.

Buffalo Wings and Beer

Buffalo Wings & Beer, Cloverly MD

Continuing the American theme from my last post, this time I’d like to tell you about a very special place.  It’s my favourite bar – possibly of all time.  Though it’s been a long time since I last paid a visit, I have some very happy memories.

Back in 2000, I went on “vacation” to Maryland, USA – and again the following year.  Some relatives of mine were living in the area, and I was lucky enough to be invited over to visit.  So my family and I made the trip from Wales to America.  We had a fantastic time catching up with our family and being amazed by the country itself.  An unforgettable part of the trip was when we were introduced to the BWB.

BWB stands for Buffalo Wings and Beer – which is, quite simply, what the establishment offers.  It’s a bar, and a local of sorts to my relatives, and we were to visit there quite a few times!

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Recreating BWB at home recently with wings and Sam Adams beer. Note BWB shirt and cap!

Quite different to the pubs we’re used to at home, the BWB is a sports bar also offering food.  So unlike our boozers back home, you can have a few (or several) beers and you don’t need to leave to get food.  When you get hungry, you can order food right there!  Now we have restaurant pubs in the UK, but at the BWB you can order food at later times not just during the restaurant opening hours.  No need to run off to the kebab shop here.

Great food too – I became a big fan of the chicken wings in particular.  But not too hot!  This was also where I grew to love Samuel Adams Boston lager too.  Not to mention the buckets of beer – literally of bucket with ice and several bottles of booze!  Fine ale and good food – it couldn’t get better.

Except it could.  BWB also housed the coolest jukebox ever, pool tables, pinball, dart boards, arcade games – awesome stuff.  As a sports bar, the TV Screens showed sports, but as this was the US the entertainment was not what I was used to.  I even saw a vert skateboarding competition being shown there once.

It must be said that the people in the BWB were great also – welcoming, polite, fun – both customers and staff.  They were pleasant and genuinely interested in us as visitors to the country.

If you’re ever in the area, make sure you visit.  There are a few BWBs in the chain, the one I visited was in Cloverly.  Awesome place.  I hope I get to go back there someday.

With thanks to Lesley, Simon and Ben Stagg, who introduced us to the world of BWB!

Buffalo Wings & Beer Cloverly, 15412 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905

The BWB website is here.

The BWB Facebook page is here.

A Letter to the New York Post

Some of you have heard the story before, for which I apologise.  For those that haven’t, the details are below.  Strange, the twists and turns we experience.

The email below was written some years ago, after the events of 9/11.  You’ll understand why I wrote it, I hope.  As far as I know, this letter has never been printed.  If you’d like to share it, please feel free to do so.  It may eventually find it’s way to it’s intended recipient.

With continued respect and affection for New City and the people who live there.

From:XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

To: <letters@nypost.com>

Sent: 24 August 2004 21.18

Subject: IMPORTANT: Message from UK

Hi,

I live in North Wales, in the United Kingdom.  I am writing to you in the hope that you could perhaps print a message to a citizen of New York city in your newspaper.

In September 2001 I was staying with relatives in the Washington DC area, on vacation, and decided to take a trip on the Greyhound bus to New York.  I had always wanted to visit the city having seen it on television and read about it over the years.  So two friends and myself decided to make the trip.

When we arrived we explored, and that evening went out to eat and see some more sights.  Around 10.30pm we left the Broomhill bar (I think in Little Italy?) with the intention of going across the river on the Staten Island ferry.  The taxi driver who drove us was a great character, friendly and a real New Yorker.  He asked us what our plans were, to which we replied, “We’re going to go up the Empire State Building tomorrow.”

The driver pointed out the window, and gave us some honest advice: “See that building there?” he asked.  We nodded.  “That’s the Twin Towers.  Go there tomorrow morning; it’s free, you don’t have to wait, and it’s higher up so you get a better view.”  We thanked him and said we’d take his advice.

The next day, as you can probably guess, was September 11th.

My companions and I never made it to the top of the towers (we stayed out late and didn’t get up that morning early enough).  We were lucky, as the horror that unfolded that day proved.

I just want to let that taxi driver know – we didn’t go to the Towers that morning.  Just in case he is tortured by the advice he gave us.  I don’t know the taxi drivers name, just that he drove a yellow cab and was a native New Yorker (his father, he told us, had worked on the Staten Island ferry).  I hope that you can print this letter in the hope that he may read it, so his mind may be eased if this has troubled him.  Because if he has been troubled, he need not worry anymore.  I’m sorry this letter hasn’t been written sooner.

With fondest regards to the people and city of New York,

Alun Jones

Wales

UK

(Email address removed for privacy)