New Avon restaurant focuses on comfort food |

New Avon restaurant focuses on comfort food

Caramie Schnell
Vail CO, Colorado
AE blue plate1 KA 01-06-08

AVON, Colorado ” It’s not surprising to hear that Adam Roustom used to hang out in diners for hours as a kid. Even the name of his new restaurant, Blue Plate Bistro, harkens back to the “blue plate specials you got in diners on the East Coast,” he said. Comfort food is sprinkled throughout the restaurant’s menu. There’s pot roast ” “a twist on my mom’s New England pot roast,” he explained, complete with from-scratch mushroom gravy and cabbage cooked in the meat’s stock; the tender homemade meatloaf comes with buttery mashed potatoes, gravy and baby peas; the oven-baked macaroni and cheese is topped with buttery, browned breadcrumbs.

The concept of Blue Plate Bistro, which opened in mid-December, is simple ” honest food for an honest price, Roustom said. A few restaurants, most recently Narayan’s Nepal Restaurant and the Sherpa Cafe have cycled through the space in the Christie Lodge building in Avon, but Adam believes Blue Plate Bistro will have staying power.

“We based our concept on the location. I could have done French Bistro, fine dining or Mediterranean, but this is the concept we thought would work best here, within the hotel and within the town. We lack good quality homecooking that’s approachable to all,” he said.

While Roustom runs the kitchen, his wife Elli, works the front of the house, greeting and seating customers, running food and mixing drinks behind the bar (she makes a mean cappuccino martini if you dare). The couple met five years ago at the Sonnenalp in Vail. Elli was working as a sommelier while Roustom was the chef de cuisine. He was yelling from the kitchen one night when she ducked her head in and told him to be quiet. That first night the couple stayed up for hours talking about food and wine, Elli remembered.

“Three weeks later we were married in Vegas for $75 bucks,” she said, her words revealing an Austrian accent. “That was five years ago.”

Both Roustom’s have an impressive resume ” Elli spent two-and-a-half years as the head sommelier at the Sonnenalp, a year-and-a-half as the maitre d’ at the Left Bank and a season managing La Botega in Vail. Adam was the executive chef at the Sonnenalp and opened up Marketplace on Meadow Drive in Vail. When the opportunity arose to open Blue Plate Bistro, they jumped on it, he said. The couple debated about what style of restaurant to open, before deciding on “straightforward American cuisine, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish,” Elli said.

It’s clear Adam cares about quality first and foremost. He sent back the salmon that showed up earlier in the day because it wasn’t fresh enough, he said. At first he was cutting the lamb for the signature lamb sandwich (served on a homemade pita with creamy sesame sauce) on the lunch menu by hand, until the sandwich became so popular he couldn’t keep up. Now he’s waiting for a big order of the lamb, which will be hand cut in Denver before it’s shipped here. The trout on the menu is farm raised in Colorado and arrives at the restaurant three times per week. They’d rather run out of items then sacrifice quality, Elli said.

The dinner rolls aren’t baked until you order them, a waitress explains to a nearby table of Mexican tourists gushing about the skiing in Colorado being “the best in the whole country.” Indeed, Elli warns “don’t burn your fingers” minutes later as she sets down the steaming, fist-sized rolls at our table.

For three days before the restaurant opened, Elli focused her attention almost entirely on the bread, she said. It was hard to get the recipe for the baked-to-order rolls just right, she said. Some batches refused to rise, others rose too much. She was so excited when she opened the oven to find perfect rolls that she grabbed the tray and burned both of her palms, she said.

The dense, sesame seed topped rolls smell so good, it’s nearly impossible to keep your hands off them long enough for them to cool.

Even though the Roustom’s are shooting for simple, like-mom-used-to-make cuisine, small touches, like those usually found in white-tablecloth-and-new-silverware-for-each course establishments, sometimes sneak into the food.

The fried Monterey Jack cheese isn’t a pile of greasy cheese sticks. Instead, a bright-green herb vinaigrette is drizzled next to the browned hunks of Jack; a sweet lingonberry compote is served alongside the cheese. The acid in the fruit balances out the rich, fried cheese. The humus is drizzled with olive oil and topped with pickled red onion, roasted red peppers and banana peppers and served with crispy homemade pita triangles for dipping.

The Rocky Mountain trout ($15.95) is cooked with the head on for more flavor, Elli explains, but removed before it’s served alongside parsley potatoes and broccoli. Layers of sliced lemons and parsley inside the fish keep it from being even remotely “fishy.” The sauce in the Shrimp Scampi ($14.95) is simple ” butter, lemon juice, white wine and capers ” but perfectly executed.

Each week the restaurant will offer a fresh fish special as well as other specials, Adam said. On special last week was a grilled, peppered New York strip steak served with bernaise sauce, cheesy potato “puffs,” and porcini mushrooms, which were hand picked by Elli in Vail at the end of August and flash frozen.

“We can still do fun stuff like bernaise, but it’s nice to have fun with it rather than over think it, or over cook it,” Adam said.

The same tender meatloaf that’s served with buttery mashed potatoes and crisp green peas ($12.95) at dinner is served on sourdough at lunch with homemade steak sauce and mashed potatoes ($8.95).

“That sweet hint you taste in there ” that’s pomegranate molasses,” Elli said, gesturing towards the meatloaf. “(Adam) asked me ” ‘is it as good as mom used to make?’ No, it’s so much better,” she said, laughing.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at or 748-2984.

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