I was invited to a menu sampling at one of Saratoga’s newest restaurants – Comfort Kitchen, which is located in the Marketplace downtown. To me the name “Comfort Kitchen” is a little bit of a misnomer. When I think of comfort food (being from the south) I think of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, chicken fried steak, biscuits and gravy, chicken and dumplings. Not burgers, tots and salad. But I guess it’s a North/South thing. And I do have to say that the menu we sampled was the “summer” menu. For southerners summer menus consist of BBQ, potato salad and sweet tea.
The crowd consisted of other local food bloggers. I really love it when I’m in a room full of people who photograph their food before they eat it. Makes me feel normal.
Parking downtown is always at a premium especially during track season so I ended up parking about 3 blocks away in a garage. Made it easier for me to maneuver my huge SUV and I didn’t have to try to squeeze into a tiny spot on the street. As I was walking, it occurred to me that Saratoga is a microcosm of a large metropolitan city. It was after 7 pm so the sidewalks were lined with diners at the many restaurants and bistros along Broadway. Clothing racks were still outside some of the shops, and families, couples (old and young) were walking the sidewalk. But I think the one thing that I like the most about walking along Broadway on a summer’s evening is the street performers. There is such a wide range – from the guy playing the Barney theme on his banjo, to the woman playing classical music on her violin. It’s all these things – and more that make Saratoga a thriving mini-metropolis.
Comfort Kitchen is in the Marketplace in a former cupcake bakery. But as owner Rory Moran said, “there’s no cupcakes here.” Instead you will find comfort food in many forms, from hamburgers and mac and cheese to tater tots and cookies and milk.
Our first sampling was tater tots (which are deep fried) with different sauces. One of the sauces is called their awesome sauce, which they use on their burgers also. Awesome sauce is their version of a secret sauce (although I did get a few of the ingredients: ketchup, mustard, siracha, honey, vinegar) It’s a little spicy but not too bad. Another sauce is their house made blue cheese that they serve on their cobb salad.
We were then served the veggie burger. I had high hopes for this patty made from local zucchini, carrots and black beans, but I found it to be spicy and then topped with another spicy sauce –chipotle aioli and pickled red onions just made it too much. Even though it was topped with a couple of slices of avocado I think it needed more balance of another cooling agent like sour cream. I like spicy food, although I’m the first to admit, I’m pretty wimpy. But there is a difference between spicy and just plain unpleasant, and this burger fell closer to the latter than the former.
Then it was onto what I would call the main event, the basis for many a comfort food meal –burgers and mac and cheese. Here I would have to say Rory gets it right. The burger is made from a custom ground blend of meats that are freshly ground for the Comfort Kitchen. The burger is served with American cheese (a classic) along with Awesome sauce and house-made bread and butter pickles on a potato roll.
The burger is cooked in a cast iron skillet, the way Rory's mom (and mine) used to.
The mac and cheese is made to order. I think any restaurant that makes anything to order should get “props” and this mac and cheese deserves them! It’s made with a four cheese blend that is creamy and a little unusual with the addition of rosemary, (I’m not sure if it was in the herbed bread crumbs or in the sauce itself). I was a little apprehensive about the rosemary because it’s such a pungent herb but here it worked. The mac in the mac n cheese wasn’t the usual (and comforting) elbow macaroni but cavatappi which is a cork screw shaped pasta. This large pasta makes it actually easier to eat because you can pick them up with your fork one at a time.
Rory told us a little bit about himself and his vision for the restaurant. He has worked in restaurants most of his life, one of them being Max London’s. He hopes to create a farm to table type restaurant using the best of what local farmers have to offer while still bringing customers back to memories of their childhood table. By using local ingredients Comfort Kitchen is able to serve a fresh spin on classics. I guess being from the south myself I was a little surprised by what Rory thinks of as “comfort food.” Southerners think fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy -- not really burgers and salads. But there is enough on the seasonally changing menu to satisfy anyone’s need for comfort. Who doesn’t remember coming home after school to a plate of cookies and a glass of cold milk? Comfort kitchen offers cookies baked daily.
For dessert we were promised something special – ice cream sandwiches. Yeah, I know, they’re all the rage these days, but I make ice cream for a living and after all the spicy food I just wanted something chocolate. Instead we got vanilla cookies with strawberry ice cream. The ice cream wasn’t really ice cream but custard. When I asked Rory how he made the ice cream he said it was heavy cream, sugar, vanilla, eggs- that’s a crème anglaise (the base for custard) that is then cooked, cooled and then put into an ice cream maker. Frozen custard is usually rich and thick with a smooth texture. Unfortunately this ice cream wasn’t rich, thick or smooth. It was icy and the unsweetened berries made the flavor less than pleasant. But like I said I make ice cream for a living, so I’m spoiled.
Comfort Kitchen specializes in fresh, local ingredients
Most of the food is made from scratch
It's a "gem" in Saratoga and fills a niche
In some respects the dishes aren't ready for "prime time"
Veggie burger is too spicy to eat.
Prices are a little high for food I make at home all the time.
So if you are, then stop by Comfort Kitchen and give the menu a try. I'd like to know what YOU think.