da vinci code

Continuing from last week’s musing being up close and personal on the set of The DaVinci Code movie, I’m sure you are wondering if or where the actual cooking took place… Well look no further…

The chateau kitchen is huge, really huge, not well equipped but huge, and should I actually own a home someday with a kitchen that I could design, I would love one this huge with a huge table like this right in the middle. Baskets under the table held all the dry goods so one basket had flour, sugar, baking power, etc. Another held pastas and bread and so one. One family that stayed there would come in during the late afternoon and have appetizers and champagne at one end and while I finished cooking dinner at the other end. I also gave a few cooking lessons around the table including making gougeres with two 10-year olds and cutting up whole fish with a plastic surgeon 🙂 In the center of the room hung a huge chandelier – something every respectable kitchen should not be without. It was dazzling in the afternoon when the sunlight would stream in, reflect off the thousands of crystal raindrops and splash tiny rainbow dashes about the walls.

da vinci code
the chateau’s main kitchen (there are 3!)

The produce was surprisingly not as good nor plentiful nor varied as I can get in Paris. I never knew if the market would have zucchini or melons or tomatoes or herbs on any given day so dinner was really what inspired me that afternoon at the market. If you have ever shopped for 30 people day after day after day….sorry, back to the story. As I mentioned, I tried to buy the freshest, most delicious produce I could find at the markets, the freshest fish from Madame Charlotte, the freshest bread from the local boulanger hot out of the oven that morning, and the most succulent meat from Mr et Mme Saunier. The strawberries were magnificent last summer so I bought flats of them whenever possible making everything from strawberry soup to strawberry sauce to strawberry tartes. I have yet to taste a strawberry like those in the states, except perhaps the ones I grew in my backyard when I was little.

da vinci code
Copper bowl of apples, avocados, limes, lemons

In the middle of the table I always tried to keep a big copper bowl filled with vibrant lemons or limes, oranges or pineapples or melons or apples along side a vase of huge stalks of fresh rosemary or basil picked fresh from the garden. It was my refuge from the ensuing, permeating insanity. I’d bury my head in the herbs and inhale deeply hoping that when I lifted my head I’d be back in my beautiful Left Bank apartment waking up from what had been a very bad dream. Alas, it was not to be so I focused on the task at hand which was trying to get the kids’ dinner out first and then the parents’ dinner. Someday I’ll tell you the Russian diamond mafia story complete with a Matrix-looking guy named Alexi and a sting set up…. but until then, enjoy these pictures of life cooking in the most famous (thanks to The DaVinci Code) chateau in France….

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the formal dining room

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breakfast fruit platter I put out each morning

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braised leeks with a tarragon vinaigrette sprinkled with brunoise of red peppers and chopped chives

da vinci code
mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil from the garden

da vinci code
roasted peppers stuffed with chevre, garlic and fresh herbs

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filet mignon ready for roasting

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a carralet about to get reconstructive surgery

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poached sea bass with cherry tomatoes on arugula and risotto

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duck breast with blueberry chutney

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Berry trifle with creme chantilly

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molten chocolate cake with strawberry sauce. click here for recipe.

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fresh fruit tarte

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my uber-tart lemon curd tarte. click here for recipe.

da vinci code
My life is a dog… in the mornings, and more often than not afternoons, I would pop by this tabac/cafe and toss back a double espresso to get me through the day, while trying not to trip over the dog on the way out.

Here is one of my favorite salads I made last summer. I don’t have a picture of it so my apologies. It’s quick, easy and the guests loved it.

Asparagus draped in Salmon with Lemon-Dill Dressing

1 cup creme fraiche (you can sub sour cream or plain yogurt)
1/8 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
– zest of 2 lemons
1/8 cup dill, freshly chopped
1 splash Grand Marnier (optional but highly recommended)
1 pinch fine sea salt

1 pound steamed asparagus
4 handfulls baby arugula
1 small red onion (or 1/2 large onion), thinly sliced
8 slices smoked salmon, thinly sliced

1. combine creme fraiche, orange juice, lemon zest, dill, grand marnier and salt in a blender and mix well. You can also whisk it in a non-reactive bowl.

2. toss the arugula with 1/2 the dressing sparingly, adding a little bit of dressing at a time. Place on 4 plates.

3. arrange the asparagus on top of the arugula and sprinkle with the sliced onions.

4. arrange smoked salmon over asparagus and drizzle the sauce over salmon and asparagus.

5. garnish with a sprig of fresh dill.

Bon appetit!

Cooking the Code, DaVinci Style 27 May,2006Cucina Testa Rossa

  • SF Photorama

    Braised leeks sounds too tasty!!!!!!

  • Catherine

    Wow! Looks like quite a fairy tale but I bet it was hard work. I love your breakfast fruit platter! And the leeks and the mozzarella salad!

  • cucina testa rossa

    thanks sf photorama! that one i learned in cooking school.

    thanks catherine. you know the saying: if it’s too good to be true….. well this fairy tale quickly turned into a cauchemar (nighmare).


Cucina Testa Rossa

After a decade in Silicon Valley, Laura traded her keyboard for a cutting board and moved to New York City to immerse herself in food and wine studies and restaurant operations. She graduated from the French Culinary Institute where she studied under Master Chefs Jacques Pépin, André Soltner, Alain Sailhac, and Master Sommelier Andrea Immer. While in New York, Laura cooked with some of the world's most highly acclaimed chefs including Mario Lohninger (Danube), Morimoto, Mark Franz & Emily Luchetti (Farallon), Michael Romano (Union Square Café), Mario Batali, Marcella Hazan, Jonathan Cartwright (White Barn Inn), Martin Heierling (Bellagio), Dave Pasternack (Esca), Richard Reddington (Redd, Auberge du Soleil), and the legendary Alice Waters (Chez Panisse).

After working as the Back Kitchen Chef of Jacques Pépin's PBS cooking show, "Fast Food, My Way", Laura moved to France to cook her way around the country. She cooked at the Cannes Film Festival, then to the northwest corner of France, to Britanny, to cook on a lobster boat, then east to Paris to the world famous Pierre Hermé Patisserie where she made thousands of his macarons every day! Laura cooked for the fabulous Olivia de Havilland and interned at 3 Michelin Star Le Cinq under Chef Philippe Legendre and Pastry Chef Fabrice Lecleir. Laura was the executive chef and cooking instructor at the DaVinci Code chateau outside of Paris where she was on set during the filming of the movie.

In Fall 2007, Laura worked on Jacques Pepin’s most recent PBS television series as prop and food stylist. "More Fast Food, My Way" should air in the Spring of 2008. “My Keyboard for a Cutting Board ~ Adventures in a French kitchen v1.0”, Laura’s first book highlights her first three months cooking in France, was published in Summer 2006. Convivialité is her second book and will hopefully be published in the fall.

Laura now splits her time between Paris and the San Francisco Bay Area doing private chefing, teaching cooking classes and leading market tours when in Paris. Bon Appetit!

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