Girls, travel, rockets, transport, hotels, films, Martinis, wine, music, food and ranting!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Miss Vietnam 2010: Nguyễn Ngọc Kiều Khanh


Nguyễn Ngọc Kiều Khanh


For some reason, unknown even to Triple P, we always feature beauty queens on this blog rather than on our Venus Observations site.  Perhaps it is because they tend to be more well dressed than those on our other sites!

Even Triple P can't take a bad photo of her!

 

Anyway, Agent Triple P has just returned from a delightful week in Vietnam where he ran into the completely luscious Nguyễn Ngọc Kiều Khanh who was Vietnam's entry for last year's Miss World competition.


Beach Beauty

 

She had already been Miss Vietnam Europe in 2009 (she was born in Munich in 1992 (!) and is still based there) and Miss Beach Beauty Vietnam in 2010.


Sportif!

 

Triple P has not met that many beauty queens although he does remember fondly another delightful Asian girl, a Miss Makati (business district of Manila) from a couple of years back.


Official Miss World competition shot


Kiều Khanh, as an offical Miss World contestant is the real deal, however, taking part in last year's competition in Sanya, China. 


Kiều Khanh seen with a glimpse of Triple P's Martini and, indeed, Triple P himself!


Triple P met her at lunch and then we went to a performance at the splendid opera house in Hanoi before rounding out the evening with drinks and dinner in an Italian restaurant. 



She was utterly charming and delightful all day, we have to say, and a great representative for her country (even if that may actually be Germany). 


Giving it some oomph in the Miss Vietnam 2010 competition

 

More importantly, after we emerged fom the opera, she helped us in crossing the street.  If you have never crossed a busy road in a Vietnamese city it is rather like that scene in The Empire Strikes Back where the Milennium Falcom has to go through the asteroid field. 



No-one actually stops for a pedestrian, even on a crossing.  You have to proceed steadily and hope the hundreds of scooters and, these days, cars, will steer around you.  Triple P took this picture of the opera house from the far side of the road.   After the performance he had to get back from the steps of the opera house to this point through the traffic!  Kiều Khanh firmly took Triple P's arm and guided him at a constant pace through about ten lanes of speeding traffic.  We certainly needed a Martini after that!


Kiều Khanh in her áo dài for the national dress part of Miss World 2010 in Sanya

There are some lovely girls in Vietnam although, since he was last in Hanoi around eight years ago, the habitual wearing by young women of the elegant national dress the áo dài has almost disappeared, except for hotel staff, shop assistants, stewardesses and the like.


Orange alert!

 

Agent DVD is also now, coincidentally, in Vietnam as well and we have absolutely not given him Miss Nguyễn's contact details!  We are mean!




Kiều Khanh is exceptionally tall for a Vietnamese at 5' 10", given that the national average for women is 5' 1".  A good deal of this extra height is in her legs!  She brought an equally lovely friend along to the opera who was a similar height.  One of Triple P's local contacts said he felt Vietnamese girls were definitely getting taller.




Vietnamese food is very light (compared with, say, Chinese) and features mainly steaming rather than frying but some are already concerned that the increasing consumption of Western food may lead to weight issues in the future.  Not an issue for Kiều Khanh as yet!

Looking her age in the shops!


The only slightly depressing thing was that, as Agent DVD delightedly pointed out, Triple P was more than two and a half times her age!  That's getting up to Hugh Hefner ratios!





The only slightly complex thing about the evening was explaining to S how we had gone to the opera alone and had returned to our agreed rendezvous in a bar with Misss Vietnam and her friend in tow (we hadn't seen her since lunch!).  Fortunately, S, who appreciates a well turned-out young oriental girl was equally as captivated!



Poetry.  In motion!


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Too thin for cling


Helena Christensen in Hervé Léger


French fashion designer Hervé Léger, who has designed some very effective dresses indeed in the past, today said that he no longer ran runway shows because the current crop of skinny, sad-looking models depress him.  Quite right Hervé! 


Cindy Crawford in Hervé Léger


Léger, who sold his eponymous firm back in 1999, harks back to the glory days of the supermodels and says that all today's girls look the same.  Well, the problem is that most of them look like girls and not women. Léger's clingy dresses look best on women with a bit of shape (like Kate Winslett) but despite the fashion industry claiming that it is no longer going to use emaciated women there were another crop of them at London Fashion Week this year. 




You only have to look at these pictures of Cindy Crawford and Helena Christensen from the nineties compared with the others from this year's London Fashion Week to appreciate the difference between then and now.  Agent Triple P knows what he prefers.  He suspects that most other men prefer the same.  He would also suspect that most women would prefer to see clothes modelled by someone who at least looks like a healthy (albeit exceptional) woman than someone who actually looks quite ill.  So why do designers continue to use these models?




If designers' clothes really only look good on fifteen year old girls who look like sticks then maybe they should get another job, as most women look nothing like this.   Surely the clever designer is one who can make a normal shaped woman look good?


Sick?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

French Cooking...in Hanoi



One of our regular followers, the delightful CJ, recently remarked on one of our posts that she was not that familiar with French cooking. This, we have to say, took Agent Triple P somewhat by surprise, as French cuisine has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember.  His main influences being his father, his family holidays and the only French cookbook you really need; Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, which was actually designed to teach Americans about French cooking.


Rocamadour
Agent Triple P’s father was an enthusiastic amateur cook but several of his friends were professional chefs. This interest in cooking was passed on to Triple P at a very young age and he was soon recruited as sous chef at home. When he was small, all of the family holidays were taken in France. A friend of Triple P’s father owned a house in the south of France and we used to go there for three or four weeks every summer. There were no autoroutes down to that part of France (Languedoc-Roussillon) in those days so our journey down there was a leisurely three to four day tour of interesting local restaurants and hotels. It was during these overnight stays in places such as Poitiers, Figeac, Sarlat, Limoges, Rocamadour, Cahors and Castelnaudary that Triple P was first made aware of the regional nature of French food. It was also where we had our first grenouilles, cassoulet, escargot, cheval, ris de veau  and many of the other foods that made many of our school friends recoil in horror when we told them about them later.

Much of the glamour of French cuisine in the nineteen sixties was because of the appalling state of food at home in England. Since then food in Britain has undergone a revolution that has left us with one of the great restaurant and food cultures in the world. If you eat out in Paris you will largely be confined to French food and wine. If you eat out in London you will be faced with a bewildering selection of cuisines from around the world. When Triple P was small, however, his father had to source many ingredients from specialist shops in Soho in London; ingredients that are now easily available in every supermarket. Classic French cooking in Britain is now seen as rather a retro taste. Primarily it has suffered because of the perceived heaviness and unhealthy nature of much of the ingredients: alcohol, butter, cream etc.  French restaurants have become less popular over the years just as the almost total dominance of French wine in the nineteen sixties has been reduced by the presence of wine from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, America and, latterly, Chile and Argentina. Less and less people would take a bottle of French wine to a dinner party these days and very few would cook a traditional French recipe.

Answering CJ’s question would take a blog in itself and probably several years but we shall endeavour to discuss French dishes as we encounter them in the future.


The very French Metropole Hotel, Hanoi

 

It is, therefore, nice to be able to occasionally indulge in some classic French cuisine and where better than where Triple P is at present, in the capital of the old French colony of Indochina. Triple P is enjoying the colonial splendour of the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi. Built in 1901, the year before the French shifted the capital of Indochina from Saigon (where we will be travelling later in the week) to Hanoi. The Metropole is one of the great hotels of the world and, indeed, Triple P has not enjoyed a hotel so much for some time. No doubt the added presence of his particular friend S, from Vancouver (currently ensconced in the spa) has something to do with this.


Into the bath, you dirty girl!


S had arrived at the hotel at about 20.30 after a rather gruelling 26 hour voyage from Vancouver via Hong Kong. Surprisingly perky on arrival (the advantage of First Class travel) we immediately dunked her into our splendidly colonial bath for a good scrub (the hotel thoughtfully supply rose petals for the bath which were received with considerable delight).




As it was now 10.30pm we slipped down to Le Club bar and were then shown to the delightful L’Orangerie pavilion at the rear of the bar where rather more substantial food than bar snacks were available. It is something of a coincidence that the last French restaurant we ate in was also called L’Orangerie!

We had already decided to go for typical French items, if available, purely for the purpose of this post although other options, including oriental (Vietnamese food is superb), were available.




Triple P decided to start with that prototypical opener, soupe à l’oignon. Onion soup is an ancient dish going back at least to Greek and Roman times but the modern French recipe, made with caramelised onions, dates to the eighteenth century, if not earlier (the first bouillon appeared in the seventeenth century). Oddly, Escoffier, who essentially codified, in that particularly Gallic way, French food did not include it in his Guide Culinaire (1903); possibly, because he considered it far to much of a peasant’s dish. By 1913, however, the current version with bread and Gruyere was included in Edmond Richardin’s L'Arte du Bien Manger. Elizabeth David, who did much to bring proper French cooking to the rest of the world through her book French Country Cooking (1951) could not abide soupe à l’oignon with its "sodden bread, strings of cheese and half-cooked onion floating about". The biggest challenge is eating it decorously, as the pieces of onion, sodden bread and part melted cheese all conspire to escape the spoon at every opportunity. This was an excellent, piping hot example and the only criticism we had of it was its sheer size. Fortunately, S passed on a first course, other than a green salad, and was able to assist Triple P in disposing of it, although we got some odd looks from a couple on a neighbouring table at our actions in mutually licking off the inevitable spills from each other’s chins.  We can only plead the effects of long absence...




For our main course we both had the coq au vin.  Cooking meat slowly in wine in order to tenderise it is another ancient technique but, again, carried with it the stigma of poor peoples' cooking.  Cocks, unlike hens, were kept alive longer and so their meat tended to be tougher; hence the need for tenderising.  Nowadays, of course normal high quality chicken is used.  Unlike soupe à l’oignon, coq au vin is a comparatively recent dish first beinbg mentioned just before the First World War.  Coq au vin was the very first dish that Triple P cooked on his own and the mixture of chicken slow cooked in red wine, button mushrooms, shallots and lardons of bacon has been a favourite ever since.  The Hotel Metropole version, which was very popular with Noel Coward, who stayed at the hotel, dispenses with the mushrooms. 

 


We had cheese afterwards but S stole most of Triple P's.  It was eaten, as is the French way (S is half French), with a knife and fork, of course.

So, a most enjoyable meal in lovely surroundings.   We will have more on Triple P's adventures at the Metropole hotel shortly: including some Italian food, some history, a beauty queen, big breakfasts and the inevitable Martini!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Martini of the Week 7: L'Oranger, St James Street



Agent Triple P was in St James Street, the other week, looking for a restaurant and there, across the road was the far from budget L'Oranger.  It's rare that Triple P eats out in the West End in the evening and even rarer in and around Picadilly.


Still, L'Oranger was a very attractive looking restaurant; although quite aggressively French, which is not our usual choice.  The food, by Dordogne-trained chef  Laurent Michel (previously Chef de Partie at the Three Michelin Star restaurant Taillevent), is elegantly presented but traditional seasonal French (with a Provencal twist) cooking and none the worse for that. Service is by traditionally uniformed French waiters; something of a rarity in London. 



What more traditional thing to have in a traditional French restaurant than Tournedos Rossini.  In fact, this was the very first main course Triple P had when he first took a young lady out to dinner, at the restaurant La Sorbonne in Oxford, where the chef was one Raymond Blanc who has now gone on to stratospheric heights.  So, as ever, when partaking of this particular and, today, increasingly politically incorrect, dish we thought about K and indeed, the subsequent enormous fight with C with whom we were also supposed to be going to this particular restaurant first.  Fortunately, both parties literally kissed and made up with each other as well, as Triple P.




L'Oranger got into the press late last year when a Latvian gentleman was arrested after trying to escape without paying his £1.000 bill (yes, running up a bill like that (for two, in this case) at L'Oranger is quite feasible!).

The Martini itself was, very classic.  Stirred and with one olive (hooray) but in an unchilled glass (boo).  Not cold enough for Triple P's liking but nice and strong so  scores 6/10.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Future interiors from the Past 6: Frigidaire kitchen of the future



Here, from 1956, is Frigidaire's kitchen of the future, which still looks modern and stylish today.  At this time Frigidaire was owned by General Motors and so the kitchen featured in a segment of their amazing film Design for Dreaming (1956) about a woman (dancer Tad Tadlock) who dreams of being whisked off her feet by a man (as did all women then) and visiting the General Motors Motorama (perhaps less of an aspiration for most women).




One of the sequences features her baking a cake in this futuristic kitchen.  Motorama was a travelling exhibition (which ran from 1949 until 1961) organised by General Motors which showcased prototypes, concept vehicles and other futuristic exhibits. Occasionally, accompanying films were made to show to people who were unable to visit the exhibition itself.  The 1956 version went to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Miami and a total of over 2 million people went to see it.  The film Design for Dreaming directed by William Beaudine was filmed in Miami although it purported to be set in the ballroom of the New York Waldorf hotel (one of the venues for Motorama).  


I think I'll bake a cake!

The kitchen featured special recipe cards which bring up an image of the finished dish.  There was also an ultrasonic dishwasher, a marble topped range with induction coils that didn't get hot and the plexiglass domed oven. 


A very cool fridge!


Our favourite bit is the curve fronted revolving interior fridge, however. We would really like one of these!

I can prance about in my hi-tech garden/recreation area whilst my kitchen bakes my cake


In the film it not only cooks the cake whilst the lady is off playing golf and lounging about in her swimsuit it seems to miraculously put lighted candles on as well!


Hooray, what man could resist me!  I'm sure he'll whisk me away in a Firebird 2 now!


The future will be very exciting!  You can watch the whole film here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Big Breakfast of the Week 7: Oscar Restaurant at the Charlotte Street Hotel



The Charlotte Street Hotel is a good place for a breakfast meeting if you need to be the Tottenham Court Road end of Oxford Street.  It's also a good place for afternoon tea and the bar is always busy.  Agent Triple P used to go there regularly as his office used to be very nearby, so it was nice to be back there again the other week.




Although the building is old it didn't open as a hotel until 2000 and is a small boutique five star establishment with just 52 rooms.  It was designed by Kit Kemp and features work by contemporary British artists.


Oscars Restaurant


We have to say that although we like the atmosphere of the place the service in the restaurant and bar is rather average.  The cooked breakfast at £20.00 is supposed to consist of eggs, a Cumberland sausage, sweet cured bacon, plum tomoatoes, grilled field mushrooms, black pudding and bubble and squeak.  Included in the price are freshly squeezed juices, toast and preserves and tea or coffee, which is not a bad price for a West End hotel.




However, we found our breakfast tasty but on the small side.  One egg, one mushroom and no sign of the black pudding.  Our companion passed on black pudding and we suspect they got confused.  You are a five star hotel you shoudln't get these things wrong.  We asked for baked beans instead of bubble and squeak (a disgustuing mixture of fried cabbage and potoes, for our foreign readers) and were charged an eye watering £4.00 for two tablespoons of beans.  Worse than that, and we have to reiterate that it was tasty, was that the tea was lukewarm by the time it arrived which rather wrecked the fact that it was proper leaf tea.

So all in all good potential but let down by the service (as ever) so we can only give it 6/10.

Calendar Girl March 2011: Ashley Jones

Ashley in her calendar pose


Mercy me it's the first of March and we have our calendar girl up already!  This month we have a comparativeley elderly calendar girl  in the not displeasing shape of American actress Ashley Jones who is 34, the poor old thing.


A nicely turned posterior

We have never heard of Ashley but that's because we don't watch the American soaps The Young and the Restless or The Bold and the Beautiful in which she appears.  We suspect they don't appear on British TV anyway.




She has appeared in a show that we have heard of and which does show over hear which is one of those vampire shows; True Blood.  We gather it's like Twilight with tits. It sounds dreadful.


Easily passes the does-she-look-good-in-a-vest? test


Ashley was born in Memphis Tennessee (yeagh hah!) in 1976 but moved to Texas with her family when she was five and made her first appearance on TV at that age in a commercial.  She attended the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston (as did Beyoncé Knowles) and  acted on stage with the Actors Theatre of Houston.  She went to University in Malibu and did an arts degree.  She made her first appearance on a TV show, as a teenager in Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman in 1993.




It's nice to see someone who isn't in their twenties as a calendar girl!