Spicy Lamb Flatbread, Red Onions, Sumac and Pinenuts

One of my all-time-favorite movies is My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I loved when the crazy aunt with the absorbed twin would hoist her shot glass, shout “OPA!” and slam back the ouzo. I want to be doing that at her age! I wanted to do it last week after my first visit to Nopa. I wanted to stand up and cheer, clap and shout “OPA!” I’d heard the buzz all the way across the ocean and when I realized that the Jeff from Nopa was my friend Jeff from *years* ago in our previous lives as accountants, well that was all I needed to hear.

I gathered up a gang of American expat pals that had lived in Paris and were now back in the US to catch up and see how they were assimilating back to Bay Area life. It’s a challenge for me just when I come back for short visits and when I allow such thoughts as moving back to enter my conscious, I immediately start missing my farmers market and my baker and my fishmonger and my butcher and the cobblestone streets and the oh-so-convenient and clean metro and, and, and… So to infuse a little bit of France to this Mediterannean dinner we stuck with French wines. I must say it helped.

Dining at Nopa (which stand for NOrth of the PAnhandle) evokes images of dining alfresco in the Italian countryside with their rustic dishes. Nopa serves what I would call elegant delicious comfort food. Gorgeous creamy polenta, succulet roast chicken with herbs slid inder the skin, a spectacular steelhead that made me want to swim upstream and the vegetables were cooked to a crisp, bright green perfection.

Jeff Hanak, owner and restaurateur extraordinaire

If you didn’t pick upon it earlier, and in full fairness and complete disclosure, I know the owner and he took very good care of us as did our server. My only comment that isn’t off the scale gushing is the noise level which was pretty high when we arrived at 7pm but by 9pm we could talk without shouting 🙂 There is a big communal table when you walk in which I love. In France, and most of southern Europe, the tables are so close you are practically in your neighbor’s lap which at first horrified me but I’ve come to enjoy it and appreciate the interaction it creates. I give it “four snaps in Z formation”. I know, huge nerd…

Voila nos menu…

I love this menu. Simple, elegant, delicious.

JP Dirler “Saering” Grand Cru Muscat 2003, Alsace
Chef EJ Keller picked this perfect start to the evening. A light, crisp, floral Alsatian white wine.

Entrees (Appetizers in French)

Dancer “La Romanee” 1er Cru 2004 Chassagne Montrachet, Burgundy
I’m a sucker for white Burgundy. I have a huge sign on my back whenever I walk into a wine store and an interal radar that shoots the needle to the right when I’m within a hundred feet of this Chardonnay. Light, crisp, earthy, yummy. Can’t describe it very well, it just makes me swoon!

Warm Marinated Olives
Great starter, not too salty and served with lemon confit. Had they brought twice or three times as much, we would have eaten them all.

Warm Goat Cheese, Crostini and Pickled Beets

Hearts of Romaine, Grated Serena and Creamy Herb Vinaigrette

Crispy Duck Confit, Baby Greens, Honey-Balsamic and Toasted Walnuts

Wood Baked Giant White Beans, Feta and Oregano
Apologies but I couldn’t snap fast enough. Delicious and cooked to perfection!

Spicy Lamb Flatbread, Red Onions, Sumac and Pinenuts
Delicious! Perfectly thin crust, not overloaded with ingredients, beautiful melding of flavors.


Mas Julien “Les Etats d’Ame” Grenache-Syrah-Cinsault 2003, Languedoc

Braised Lamb Shank, Creamy Polenta, Rapini and Pinenut Gremolata

Rotisserie Herb Chicken, Wilted Escarole and Rosemary Croutons
Apologies again but I tucked into this as soon as the plate landed with a rousing “Bon Appetit!” and I didn’t want to post a picture of a mangled, half eaten chicken. Image a succulant, juicy rotisserie chicken with herbs lovingly placed under the skin that has since crisped to perfection on top of wilted, but vibrant green, with a bit of a crunch Escarole and big rosemary croutons that soaked up the jus. Watch out Zuni!

Pan Roasted Steelhead, Farro, Asparagus and Tarragon Butter

Creamy Polenta and Parmesan


Grenache “Cuvee Parce Freres” Banyuls 2005 La Rectorie

Shaft Blue Cheese, Dates, Walnuts and Honey
Another one I couldn’t snap fast enough.

Espresso Creme Brulee and Cocoa Nib Cookies
I’m not a creme brulee fan but everyone else gave it two thumbs up.

Warm Doughnut Holes and Rum Caramel
My hands down favorite. I had a hard time sharing. Light, airy, sugary dipped in the caramel sauce.

Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake and Whipped Cream
Absolutely delicious, a toss up between this and the donut holes as my favorite. Moist, beautiful spice that wan’t overpowering, just delicious.

Chocolate Cake and Vanilla-Stout Swirl Ice Cream

Trio of Citrus Sorbets and Vanilla Cookies
Mango, lemon and I can’t remember the third, sorry, but all were smooth, tangy and refreshing, a perfect way to end the meal.

Opa! for Nopa! 17 March,2007Cucina Testa Rossa


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 PĂ©pin, AndrĂ© 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 CafĂ©), 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 PĂ©pin’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 HermĂ© 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. ConvivialitĂ© 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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