Love is nothing short of a national sport here in France and the French claim to celebrate it every day of the year, not just on February 14th. It is more beloved than soccer or philosophical debate, though love plays heavily into both. All store fronts are bedecked with Valentine’s decorations but regardless of the time of year, people are always kissing.

Sometimes it’s charming, like this couple below I spotted smooching after a long lunch at the Palais Royal; other times you want to hurl, like when the couple in line in front of you at the post office are slobbering on each other so much so you feel like you are in the front row of the dolphin show at Marine World. Anyways, back to Valentine’s Day…

I got a bit carried away with the heart theme. I bought heart dessert plates, too many red flowers, big red chargers and little porcelain heart dishes for the amuse bouche. We cut hundreds of hearts from a block of foie gras, roasted beets and country bread. The dessert was heart shaped, the foie gras amuse was heart shaped, as were the sliced beets and croutons that topped the soup. Fortunately, my friend Jeff came over for a few hours in the early afternoon and saved the day. I immediately delegated all heart cutting duties to Jeff as I began dicing the tiny mango and beet brunois (1mm x 1mm dice).

There were of course a few disasters. It wouldn’t be a normal day in my kitchen without at least one or two things going wrong. This time one was culinary, the other travel. I am beginning to think my kitchen is haunted and I know I am cursed travelwise. First I roasted the parsnips to make the soup. I didn’t have much time so I cubed the parsnips to roast as quickly as possible. I put the oven on 300F but the parsnips on the lowest sheet pan still burned on the bottom. I spent the next hour carefully slicing off the burned bottoms as my blood pressure creeped north. I had not factored in an hour to slice off burned parsnip into my timeline. ARGH!

Then, about midway into my mango brunois-ing my stomach did a flip. I forgot to buy my ticket back to SFO in a week and it expired the previous night! AAACK! I dialed up United and was told my flight from Paris to Frankfurt was still there but the leg from Frankfurt to San Francisco was gone. I took a deep breath and tried not to cry, envisioning Seat 53B next to the bathroom as the last remaining seat. Miraculously my same seats were still available and I bought the ticket right there on the spot. Disaster no.2 avoided and another 20 minutes eaten into my timeline.

For each dinner, I try to cook a different recipe for the main course. I thought about roasting a filet mignon but cooking meat makes me nervous and always involves some sort of drama. This I was desparately trying to avoid. I was flipping through the Canyon Ranch cookbook looking for inspiration when a scallop recipe reminded me of one I made in cooking school.

a recipe from cooking school and my to do list and timeline…

Scallops I can do plus I knew there would be two other cooks at dinner in case things got crazy in the kitchen. I keep forgetting to buy a salad spinner so my dishrack once again saved the day. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say…

I bought rings to stack risotto, then wilted spinach and arugula, topped with sauteed scallops, cut in half crosswise and fanned around in a circle. A drizzle of lemon oil (zest and juice of 3 lemons blended with a cup of olive oil) and some beet and mango brunois on top of the scallops, around the plate and call it a day.

La Fete des Amoureux!
Valentine’s Day!
Samedi, 10 Fevrier 2007
chez Laura en Paris

Brut Cuvee Rose, Champagne Veuve Monnier

Pate aux Armignac – Pate with Armignac on Croutons with Cornichons

Endive avec Framboises et Roquefort – Endive with Blue Cheese and Raspberries

Amuse Bouche
Chateau de Rolland Sauterne, Barsac 2000
Petit Coeur de Foie Gras avec Noisettes et Balsamique – Small Heart of Foie Gras with Chopped Roasted Hazelnuts and Balsamic Reduction Drizzle

Pernand-Vergelesses, Bourgogne 2002
Sous le Bois de Noel et les Belles Filles
(Under the Christmas Tree and Beautiful Girls)

Potage de Panais avec Couers de Betterave et l’Huile de Truffe – Parsnip Soup with Beet Hearts, Heart Croutons and Truffle Oil Drizzle

Coquille Saint-Jacques, Risotto et Epinard avec l’Huile de Citron – Scallops Stacked with Risotto and Spinach with Lemon Oil Drizzle and Mango and Beet Dice

Domaine de Banneret, Chateauneuf du Pape 2002

Assiette des Fromages – Cheese Plate

Decadence de Chocolat et Glace de la Fruit de Passion Fait Maison – Chocolate Decadence Heart with Homemade Passionfruit Ice Cream with Passionfruit Coulis

Bonne Fete des Amoureaux! Happy Valentine’s Day!

Most of my usual posse along with a few new faces… one you might see on the next Top Chef….sssssssh!


by Robert Burns

O my luve’s like a red, red rose.
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my luve’s like a melodie
That’s sweetly played in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will love thee still, my Dear,
Till a’the seas gang dry.

Till a’the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will luve thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o’life shall run.

And fare thee weel my only Luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile!

by Elvis Presley

Love me tender,
Love me sweet,
Never let me go.
You have made my life complete,
And I love you so.

Love me tender,
Love me true,
All my dreams fulfilled.
For my darlin I love you,
And I always will.

Love me tender,
Love me long,
Take me to your heart.
For its there that I belong,
And well never part.

Love me tender,
Love me dear,
Tell me you are mine.
Ill be yours through all the years,
Till the end of time.

When at last my dreams come true
Darling this I know
Happiness will follow you
Everywhere you go.

La Fete des Amoureux – Valentine’s Day 4 February,2009Cucina Testa Rossa

  • jenn

    WOW!!!! Love all the valentine hearts!!! Those roses too ahhhhh I’d love that! And *ahem* which one is on topchef??? 😉

  • cucina testa rossa

    thanks so much jenn! 🙂 the potential future top chef is our very own ms. glaze, 2nd from the right, who hails from palo alto but now lives in paris.

  • Ms. Glaze

    Thank you so much for having us over to share La Fete des Amoureux. Your food, hospitality, and warmth left us glowing all the way home. I hope some of the recipes are included in your second cook book!?!?

    I haven’t got the Top Chef spot yet!!! But keep your fingers crossed for me.

    Gros Bisous,
    Ms. Glaze

  • Katia

    Oh my goodness, you certainly pulled out all the stops. What a wonderful way of celebrating Valentine’s Day.

    I love the innovative way of drying the salad greens 😉

  • cucina testa rossa

    ms g – it was so fun having you and e-man here to share in the evening. we are all rooting for you! bon courage or merde as they say… 🙂 gb, laura

  • Passionate Eater

    Tres bien! And absolutely gorgeous take on the “heart theme!” Also, I love the poem & the lyrics from my all time favorite Elvis song. You really took the best of romance and Valentine’s Day, and bottled it up in one blog post.

    Glad you’ll be coming back to SF soon and got the airline tickets okay.

  • cucina testa rossa

    thanks katia – it was fun! and i love my new salad spinner. takes a bit longer but much more colorful 🙂

  • cucina testa rossa

    mangeuse passionnée (passionate eater) ~ merci merci merci! so glad you enjoyed the three thousand hearts we cut and trimmed and baked for hours 🙂 worth it though in the end. the soup was my favorite though the amuse foie gras was pretty darn cute, if i do say so myself. i’m waitlisted to upgrade – cross your fingers and toes for me! 11 hours in a coach seat kills me every time. i love your noodle post. i’m a closet top ramen addict! a votre sante, laura


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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