Sunday, March 31, 2013

San Francisco Indulgence: Nopa

The San Francisco journey continues! 

Before I even left for this trip I had a lot of fun researching possible restaurants I might try while visiting the Bay Area. Trying to choose a restaurant in San Francisco is like deciding where to travel to in the first place -- so many options, so little time! 

I decided to treat myself to dinner at Nopa

Known for its local, organic and sustainable fare, Nopa is self-described as "a San Francisco gathering place" — the perfect place for me to eat, drink and connect. From the moment I entered the restaurant, the place was alive with conversation, cocktails being prepared, wines being poured and of course, wonderful aromas from thoughtful plates of food traveling from the kitchen to diners' tables. Being a 'table for one', I decided to sit at the bar, the perfect place to park yourself if you're traveling alone.

Instantly I was greeted with a smile by the handsome and friendly Sam. A bartender named Sam...not sure if he ever played baseball but he did have a good head of hair and a great smile. I chose an elderflower sparkling wine cocktail to begin and started reading the menu. Shortly after I settled in, a cute young couple sat down to my left and we struck up a conversation (see above re: best place to sit as a solo diner). They gave me recommendations for my upcoming Napa tour and we enjoyed sharing stories like how they met at a breakdancing competition and how I ended up writing a food blog.

Having just visited Fish in Marin, I opted for the little fried fish as a starter. Fresh, with just the right amount of breading and salt and nicely balanced by the creamy dipping sauce, it was a perfect beginning to the meal. I asked if it was supplied by Two X Sea and lo and behold, it was. This was the stuff of 'local food stories' that I was hoping to experience on this trip. It was pretty cool that I had just met the fisherman who caught these little guys, and that I knew that they were caught sustainably.

For my entree, I chose a baked fish dish cooked in a beautiful broth and served with fresh, seasonal vegetables.  Nopa is known for its rustic food that highlights fresh product from local producers and farmers. As I sat and enjoyed my meal and conversation with Sam and the cute couple to my left, I noticed that Nopa is also known for its sense of community. The service was warm, friendly and professional. I felt cared for, not rushed, and valued as a diner. 

I ended my meal with an indulgent cheese and madeira experience. I usually opt for a dessert wine, and Sam told me that they were known for their selection of sherry and madeira. I had never tried madeira before so I decided to have a taste. Sam wasn't wrong and I enjoyed my after dinner drink with a perfect plate of aged cheeses, honeyed almonds and toasted fresh bread.

Like many restaurants that focus on local eating, Nopa lists their purveyors on their website. Take a look here and you'll even read a few stories about some of the farmers and other producers. In case you were wondering, the name "Nopa" is a commonly-known nickname for the area where the restaurant resides — a centrally-located area referred to by some as "North of the Panhandle". During my SF visit, I learned that most locals actually call this area "The Western Addition". A multicultural area, NOPA/The Western Addition is known for its Victorian  homes, jazz music roots and bars, restaurants and small businesses.

You can check out Nopa's current dinner menu here. During my brief visit, I barely even scratched the surface of the delicious, fresh and local food they offer. I get the feeling that if I was a SF local, it might become a place where "everybody knows my name".

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