Passion for pairing |

Passion for pairing

Laura A. Ball
AE Ludwigs Wine Dinner BH 7-21

VAIL ” Ludwig’s Executive Chef Adam R. Roustom and Sommelier Steven Teaver debate heatedly in the mid-afternoon sun on the patio outside the Sonnenalp Hotel Friday as they swirl, sniff and sip a dry rose.

“A watercress salad with a peppery bite,” Roustom asks tellingly.

“Yes, but stay away from citric acid to let the wine stand on its own,” says Teaver.

“It could be good with a light scallop,” Roustom remarks.

“What about wildberry honey?” Teaver suggests.

As the foodie and the winie dream up a menu for Thursday’s winemaker dinner fit for the slew of Knipser wines before them, they spitball ideas at one another, bringing their joint expertise to a boil. The two go head to head, letting their minds swell and contract with possibilities until they come up with the best possible morsel for the glass. The outcome: a reduction of eight wines and the most delectably paired five course meal.

“It’s almost a living thing to create a menu like this,” Roustom says. “You have to be willing and able to adapt.”

Paring wine with food walks the line between art and science.

“It’s not just about the food, it’s about the harmony between the food and the wine,” Teaver says.

The goal is to eliminate the palette’s ability to decipher between the range of flavors in the mouth at a given time.

Roustom loves the challenge because he is able to step outside of the box from the regular menu at Ludwig’s, but he also feels slightly vulnerable.

“When you present these dinners, you kind of wear your heart on your sleeve,” he says as he recalls the last winemaker dinner where he nervously presented lamb tartare to a captive audience. The unusual dish won over his dinner guests that night, and the outcome proved even more successful because he took a risk.

Roustom admits he comes to the table to discuss the pairings with some preconceived notions about the menu. He must take into consideration what ingredients are most attainable and fresh.

He lights up when he announces he has just found a purveyor of fresh frog legs. Taking advantage of the opportunity to use his creative license, he’s intent on using them because “you don’t usually see them on menus in Vail,” he says.

He envisions the frog legs with truffle oil, a perfect match for the Steibuckel reisling. Maybe a little butter, Provencal.

Perfect with the rose, Teaver says. Roustom strays from that idea. It’s too predictable. It is what comes to mind, Teaver says.

The chef noticeably drifts off into creative space, pondering whether he can leave the frog legs on the bone. People won’t hesitate if they’re poached, he thinks aloud.

“People in the states love the meat, but they don’t like other parts of the animal,” says the Damascus, Syrian-born chef, who learned to cook as a young child under the supervision of his mother. “You have to trick them into trying it.”

They try a bite of the watercress and imagine the rest: frog legs with Provencal sauce, watercress salad and organic Tunisian olive oil.

“You still get everything from the rose,” Teaver smiles knowingly. “It doesn’t dissipate anything from the mid-palette. You can’t tell which is which.”

Roustom agrees.

One pairing down, seven to go.

Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 748-2939 or

Vail, Colorado

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