Friday, January 8, 2010

Adieu--or Perhaps Au Revoir--to Zola

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 7:19 AM

It was food writer pile-on at Zola on Wednesday when Chris Chamberlain gathered a table for a last meal from Deb and Ernie Paquette's kitchen, seated at a table next to Jennifer Justus, food writer at the Tennessean.

After 13 years, the Paquettes (she's the chef, he manages) have decided to close Zola, and they're planning to run a fishing lodge on some sun-drenched island. Partner Rick Bolsom has the business up for sale, and Zola's last night is Jan. 16.

No wonder so many food lovers are rushing to enjoy one last Zola meal. We had so many good things to eat: sous vide sliced scallops to beef short ribs with smoked mashed potatoes, grouper dusted with porcini, and shrimp with beer butter popcorn piled into a martini glass. Riches upon on riches.

click to enlarge gouda_tart_zola.jpg
The gouda tart appetizer was vintage Deb. A 12-inch square tile held so many things we could hardly keep track. There was the tart itself, a tasty packet of gouda and raspberry jam and something else. There was a slice of grilled bread topped with a citrusy, maybe gingery, cream cheese and topped with candied peppers. There were blueberries, a smear of something creamy and mustardy. Spicy candied nuts. Dashes of coulis and reduction. Triangles of sliced (Spanish?) cheese. Any tidbit on the plate tasted miraculous paired with anything else on the plate.

It was innovative, complicated, whimsical and brilliant, and pure Paquette. There was so much going on that you could never hope to remember it, much less replicate it at home. The kitchen was too busy to provide a written list of the ingredients. Like so many specials over the years, it was magical and utterly delicious, and destined to be fleeting. We can only hope that Bolsom follows through on his intention to let Deb "guest chef" at his restaurant Tin Angel when she's in town in the future.

I felt lucky to be in a cozy corner on a cold night with good friends and great food. As Chris so succinctly put it, "We're happysad."

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