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.
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…
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.