Dungeness Crab and Cauliflower Brandade | Wine Enthusiast
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Dungeness Crab and Cauliflower Brandade

Courtesy Mark Stark, executive chef/owner, Stark Reality Restaurants, Sonoma County, CA

This is a fancy version of a homey Provençal dish, made with creamy local Crescenza cheese from Bellwether Farms. Stark says the richness of the brandade pairs wonderfully with the crispness of the Flaunt Brut sparkling wine. When served with a warm baguette, the toasty notes are highlighted.

The Chef

Mark Stark

Stark and his wife/business partner, Terri, run several successful restaurants across Sonoma County, where they first launched Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa in 2002. Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar, Stark’s Steak & Seafood, Bravas Bar de Tapas, Monti’s and Bird & The Bottle have followed, many centered around a small plates concept that locals love. They employ hundreds of people and support the region’s many farmers, purveyors and wine producers. They’ve also shown the ability to run a bustling happy hour.


1 head cauliflower
1 cup milk
Salt, to taste
½ tablespoon butter
1 small leek, dark green top trimmed off, cleaned and diced into ¼-inch pieces
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 pound Bellwether Farms Crescenza cheese, or other soft-ripened Italian cheese
⅔ cup shredded white Cheddar
⅔ cup mayonnaise
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 pound Dungeness crabmeat, or jumbo-lump blue crabmeat
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
1 small baguette


Separate cauliflower into florets, and place in pot. Cover with milk and 1 cup water. Season with salt, to taste. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer until cauliflower is soft. Drain cauliflower, and transfer to bowl.

In small sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add leeks and curry powder. Season with salt, to taste. Cook until leeks become soft and fragrant.

Add leeks to bowl with cauliflower. Using potato masher, mash until mixture has consistency of lumpy mashed potatoes. Stir in Crescenza, Cheddar, mayonnaise, cayenne pepper and salt. Gently fold in parsley and crabmeat. All steps to this point can be done up to 1 day in advance.

Heat oven to 400˚F.

Place mixture in medium ovenproof baking dish. Top with Parmesan. Bake until bubbly and slightly browned.

Toast baguette. Slice and serve alongside brandade. Serves 4–6.

Pair It

Flaunt NV Brut (Sonoma County), $85. Winemaker Dianna Novy Lee’s debut sparkling wine blends 56% Chardonnay and 44% Pinot Noir and was aged on the lees for three years before release. It impresses from first sip, as it shows acid-driven raciness and a core of green apple, lime zest and biscuit flavors that linger. The grapes come from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast sites.

The Winemaker

Dianna Novy Lee

Originally from Texas, Dianna Novy worked in the epicure and wine departments of Neiman Marcus in Dallas in the early 1990s. It was there that she met fellow food and wine aficionado, and future husband, Adam Lee. She convinced him to move to California to make wine, and the rest is history: They landed in Sonoma County and built Siduri Wines, one of the first cult Pinot Noir brands to work with several soon-to-be-famous, outstanding vineyard sites across California. But Novy Lee had always loved bubbles, and after they sold Siduri in 2015, she was at last able to launch Flaunt and focus on sparkling wines.

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