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Pairings: Domaine Carneros Estate Brut perfect for crab


Our Wine of the Week, Domaine Carneros 2009 Estate Brut ($32), has a special place in my heart. Many year ago, my precocious daughter Nicolle asked to choose the menu for her 9th birthday celebration at a restaurant, long closed, where I worked as a waitress. I wasn't surprised when she selected escargots, Caesar salad, steak tartare and cheesecake, but nearly fell over with her next request.

"I want Domaine Carneros Champagne," she said. "I know your favorite is Taittinger but it's MY birthday."

Precocious, indeed.

The wine is a longtime family favorite and whenever we raise a glass, we laugh about that night so long ago.

Year after year, this wine is a delight, with an elegance and depth that rewards but does not require attention. Sip it casually as you chat with friends or savor it solo, by a warm fire or the glimmering lights of a Christmas tree. You'll notice crisp, cool apples, Comice pear, lemon, pomelo and a smoky, yeasty quality that may have you thinking about buttered toast, hazelnuts and beurre noisette.

At the table, the wine has broad appeal. Enjoy it with oysters on the half shell, country-style pat?or sea scallops seared in beurre noisette, a kind of browned butter. It is spectacular with roasted marrow bones and outstanding with almost any ceviche.

It is also a perfect mate with Dungeness crab, served simply with lemon and Tabasco sauce, say, or in vichyssoise, crab cakes or almost any other way. For today's recipe, I'm pairing crab with avocado in a refreshing tostada, a favorite combination. To serve as an appetizer, use small cocktail-size tortillas, which you can find in Latin markets such as Lola's. The recipe can easily be doubled.

<strong>Avocado Crab Tostadas</strong>

<em> Makes 4 servings</em>

— Meat from 1 Dungeness crab

2 serranos, stemmed, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 small shallot, minced

— Grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon

2 tablespoons freshly squeeze lemon juice, from 1 or 2 lemons

— Kosher salt

4 to 5 tablespoons olio nuovo or Meyer lemon olive oil, to taste

1 Haas avocado

2 tablespoons lime juice

— Warm water

4 corn tortillas, fried until crisp and drained

2 generous handfuls of arugula

3 radishes, cut into thin julienne

1 lime, cut in wedges

Put the crab meat into a bowl, add half the serranos, half the cilantro, the shallot, the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Toss gently with a fork, season with a little salt and add the olive oil. Cover and set aside.

Cut the avocado in half lengthwise, remove the pit, scoop out the flesh and put it into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the remaining serrano and cilantro. Add the lime juice and sprinkle several pinches of salt into the lime juice so the salt dissolves. Pulse several times. Thin with a little warm water — add a tablespoon at a time — until the puree is smooth and creamy, not overly thick. Taste and correct for salt.

To serve, set the tortillas on individual plates. Set aside about 2 tablespoons of avocado cream and slather the rest on top of the tortillas. Top the avocado cream with arugula, divide the crab and its juices among the servings and scatter the radishes over it all. Garnish with lime wedges and enjoy immediately.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>