Originally published in Taos News
Photo: Tina Larkin
Alexandra Rose has family ties with the Russian nobility and Leo Tolstoy. Her grandfather owned a well-known vineyard by the Dnieper River and one of his wines, named Knyazhev, won the Grand Prix at the Paris Exposition in 1900.
“My grandfather learned to cook from his chefs in Russia and he continued to devote himself to this hobby after he left his country,” said Rose. “My mother, in turn, learned to cook from him and passed on to me some of his recipes.”
Rose was born in Nice, France in 1936. “My parents happened to be there because they traveled a lot,” she said. “My father was an international lawyer and we lived primarily in Italy. He died in 1947 and two years later my mother and I moved to the United States.”
Rose was 13 years old when she arrived in New York. “The only sentence I knew in English was ‘I like chocolate,’” she said. She speaks perfect English now but her love for chocolate and all things sweet hasn’t changed.
“I was always interested in baking,” she said. “I got involved with the Farmers Market in New York City about 35 years ago to sell my products. The market started at a schoolyard and became so successful that profits from the sales allowed the school to get extra teachers, pay for a nice graduation party and fix the gym.”
Rose sold there baked goods, as she now does in Taos. “My linzer tarts were really popular,” she said.
She never attended a culinary school and considers herself mostly a self-trained chef.
“I learned from my mother and by myself,” Rose said. “Someone would give me a recipe and I would try it. I also have a very good sensory taste and that helps a lot in this business.”
Rose also has an artistic side. She attended Trinity College in Washington DC to study history of art and painting and Brera University in Milan, Italy, where she studied sculpture with Marino Marini. Many years later she became a photo researcher for the largest French publishing house, Gallimard.
She married Peter Henry Rose in 1974. “We’ve been together for a long time,” she said. “Maybe the secret is that we got married when we both were older and knew what we wanted.”
Rose made her own wedding cake. “It’s called Orange Kiss Me Cake and is among my best-selling products,” she said.
Her husband considers himself lucky to be married to a chef. “Alexandra knows the Russian, French, Italian, and American cuisines so I get a really diversified menu,” he said.
The Roses lived in New York City for 37 years and worked as private art dealers. They have two daughters and one grandson.
“When my children were little, we always had a family dinner at night, all together,” said Rose. “It was a hot, proper dinner, with everybody seating around the table. It held the family together; we used that time to discuss everything that had happened during the day and exchange ideas.”
The Roses came often to Taos to visit one of their daughters, Catherine Rose, who lived here for twelve years, and were enchanted with the town. “But it wasn’t until 2005 that my husband saw in the real estate section of the Taos News a picture of what is now our house, and was taken with it,” Rose said. “As for me, I fell in love with the smell of the sage, the mulleins, and the view of the mountains.”
Even when they were only living here part of the year, Rose was an active participant in the Taos county fairs. In 2007 she won First Place for her meringue cookies and, in 2010, Best of Show for her Taos Apricot Tart.
“I wanted to use apricots because they are abundant in Taos,” she said.
The Roses moved here permanently in September, 2011. When the 2012 Taos County Fair took place, Rose brought her lemon meringue pie which won Best of Show and first place.
“I love to eat, therefore I love to cook,” she said.
Her favorite kitchen utensil is a whisk. “But I also have a knife that I use only for cutting pastry, and my beloved rolling pin,” she said.
Like so many other chefs, Rose swears by the Kitchen Aid. “I was given 300 dollars when my daughter Catherine was born and used them to buy my first Kitchen Aid,” she said. “I haven’t been without one ever since.”
She likes to use food to mark special moments and keep traditions alive.
“I always make something special for birthdays and Valentines Day,” she said. “If my children were far away, I’d bake a cake and send it to them.”
Rose bakes at the Taos Food Center, a 5,000 square foot commercial kitchen that is part of Taos County Economic Development Corporation (TCEDC). “They are wonderful people,” she said. “They have given me plenty of encouragement and support to carry out my business.”
As for favorite dishes, one is the sugar cookie, a recent addition to her culinary repertoire.
“I came up with this recipe because I wanted cookies that could be easily decorated for Christmas,” she said. “I actually invented it for the Taos News staff!”
Alexandra’s Taos News Butter CookiesPreheat oven at 350 Ingredients: 1/2 pound unsalted butter 1 cup white granulated sugar 2 cups white flour 2 egg yolks Pinch of salt Beat together the butter and sugar until well blended and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat again. Add the flour, blend well. Roll the pastry dough to ¼’’ thickness or any thickness you want, and cut with cookie shapes. Cook in oven at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, then take out and cool. While it is cooling, prepare different colors to decorate the cookies: in one plate put about one cup of white powdered sugar and mix it with white of egg till it is the consistency of sour cream. In another plate form different sections of what you just prepared and put in each section one or two drops of color; mix well. Then, form designs on the cookies using these colors with the flat part or tip of a knife or toothpicks. Spikkelaba –Norwegian reindeer cookie Preheat oven at 325 Boil together: 1/4 cup of dark molasses 1/4 cup of sugar 1/4 cup of heavy cream 1/4 cup of butter Cool to lukewarm and add: 1/4 tsp powdered cloves 1/4 tsp powdered ginger 1/4 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp cardamom 1/4 tsp nutmeg Add scant 1 and 3/4 cup of flour Let stand covered in a warm place for a few hours or overnight. Roll thin to ¼’’ thickness, cut with cookie cutter and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Rub over the cookie dough with 1 egg white blended with a tablespoon of warm water. Place flaked almonds or any other decoration on this surface. Cook in oven at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Alexandra’s meringues Preheat oven at 250 Ingredients: 4 egg whites 1 cup white granulated sugar Beat egg whites till not completely stiff. While you are still beating them, pour the sugar slowly. Lay down a wax paper and spoon the meringues one a few inches from the other. Leave them in the oven an hour or more. When they are hard, remove them. One can incorporate anything in them such as nuts, raisings, or chocolate chips, or top them with sprinkles and eventually tie them side by side and make garlands for the Christmas tree or any other occasion.