The Year of the Goat: How to Properly Ring in the Chinese New Year 

The Don'ts: Don't have any sharp objects around. You can't utter a word signifying bad luck. Nothing can be dropped or broken. Don't wear black.

The most important do of Chinese New Year is your attendance at a formal banquet, a multicourse extravaganza of small dishes with symbolic meaning. Two Chinese restaurants in town have big New Year banquets: Full Key and Peking. The banquet can be up to a dozen courses long and feature the occasional dish that is not for the squeamish. The following is an abbreviated banquet menu. The wines were chosen to match the flavor of the foods.

Course 1- Jellyfish. It is cold, glutinous and chewy, all at the same time. This dish symbolizes prosperity because it seldom appears during the year.

Course 2- Seafood with shrimp, scallops and lotus root with abalone. A dish symbolizing wealth. If you can afford the abalone, then wealth should be no problem.

Course 3- Oysters in black-bean sauce with cilantro. The fabulous salty tang of the oysters and black beans get you prepared for the cilantro cooling it all off. The wine for the first three courses (you can skip the jellyfish and wine if you wish) is a chardonnay, Manzanita Canyon Chardonnay, 2000, California, $10. The citrus fruit of the chardonnay and the light toast of the oak work beautifully with both dishes.

Course 4- Seafood and bean-curd soup. One of those eggy little creations that seem to appear on every Chinese menu. The amazing thing here is the wine pairing. The Castle Rock Winery Pinot Noir, Russian River, 2001, $12, proves that a fruity, delicate no-tannin pinot can accompany anything.

The ultimate prosperity dish is lobster with ginger sauce. Their shells glow with the red and gold of abundance. You don't really eat this dish, you put the lobster in your mouth and dream. The ultimate wine to accompany it is the exotic Lacryma Christi del Vasuvio, 2001, Mastroberardino, $20. You'll find crispness and smokiness here with nuances of almonds. This is prosperity itself.

Happy New Year. Hope you have time to clean the house.

— Layne

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