Last week, I got a chance to sample some of the foods at the new Comfort Kitchen in Saratoga as part of a Blogger Bash thrown by the proprietor, Rory Moran.
From glancing briefly at the menu, it’s clear that the focus of Comfort Kitchen is to provide classic American favorites at low prices; the most expensive entry on the summer menu is $10, and that’s a dual component grilled cheese and tomato soup. Further scrutiny into the menu reveals that the staff at Comfort Kitchen is dedicated to supporting local farmers, and, in speaking with Rory, who is adamant that no trucks deliver to their shop, these values are the core of the business. And, if you ask me, that’s important.
The space is small, quaint, and unpretentious, and it’s clear that the staff has a sense of humor by some of the things on the wall.
When I got there, after mingling with some of the people I had met before, I took the opportunity to take a gander at the menu on the wall.
The crazy part of me that is obsessed with Cobb salads focused on the fact that you can order a Cobb salad at Comfort Kitchen!
[Side note: for those of you who follow along, The Albany Brown Derby now offers a Cobb salad.]
As the room started to fill, Jennifer passed around some of the house-made tater tots along with four different sauces, homemade BBQ, maple mustard, buttermilk blue cheese, and a sauce they referred to as “Awesome sauce,” which reminded me of the sauce people associate with a Bloomin’ onion.
The tots had perfectly crisp exteriors and creamy and tender interiors. They were nicely seasoned and really embodied everything you would want when eating tater tots. They may be a little on the oily side, but they are tater tots.
The sauces were all good. I didn’t feel that the maple mustard or buttermilk blue cheese worked particularly well with the tots, but, on their own, they tasted great.
After we munched on those, Rory came out from the kitchen and addressed the bloggers. He really drove home some of the points I made above and informed us of what was in store for us.
Then he passed around some of their homemade veggie burgers, which were described as a black bean patty mixed with various spices and topped with chipotle mayo and pickled red onion.
While different in texture, this reminded me of falafel, most likely due to the cumin and spices in the patty. It was nice, but not exactly what I would think of when I hear the word “comfort.” It’s great that a non-artificial vegetarian alternative to a burger is on the menu, don’t get me wrong, and, if you fed this to an unsuspecting carnivore, I doubt they’d flinch at the fact that there’s no meat in it.
Rory came back out with what he called “the main event,” two bubbling cauldrons of macaroni and cheese. Pulled pork mac and cheese, left, and their signature 4 cheese blend mac and cheese on the right.
While I don’t remember now, Rory revealed three of the cheeses in their signature mac and cheese, but he wouldn’t tell me the fourth. I’m fine with secrets. I first tried this mac and cheese, because I was very keen on the look of the top.
As you may be able to tell from the above image, there’s some motion to the mac and cheese. It was creamy and fluid, and that’s something that’s somewhat unique. This attribute is achieved with a bechamel base that’s constructed to order, and Rory stressed that their mac and cheese is always made to order. While the texture was rich and creamy, I made the input to Rory that it was lacking seasoning, and, as a result, the taste was one-dimensional. I couldn’t tell that there was even one cheese in the sauce, let alone four. He went to the back and tried some and agreed with me. What I could tell from tasting this dish was that with an opportunity to salt the pasta during the boil and with some salt and pepper (I’d suggest white) added to the bechamel base prior to the cheeses, this is something that’s extra special. I’m confident that the flavors would pop. I absolutely adored the buttery breadcrumb topping that was laced with rosemary.
The pulled pork mac and cheese was very good. The seasoning seemed to be much better with this dish, but, because of the pulled pork, and BBQ sauce, there were more opportunities for things to balance out. This dish was a little sweet, but that’s something you’d need to expect if you order BBQ pulled pork mac and cheese.
Some of their signature “Comfort Burgers” were assembled for us as well. The meat in the burgers, sourced from personal favorite, The Meat House, is a special blend designed by Rory; he told us they get freshly ground meat 2-3 times per week. The burgers were nicely cooked and placed on Martin’s Potato rolls and topped with American cheese, lettuce, pickles, and some awesome sauce.
Rory had also been working on dessert for us. He took the challenge of the Saratoga Idiots and crafted an ice cream sandwich inspired by a Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake ice cream bar.
This was really good. The homemade ice cream with fresh local strawberries in the center was delicious and creamy. I would have liked to see a little more ice cream inside. The sugar cookies sandwiching the ice cream tasted good, but, just like any ice cream sandwich with real cookies, they were pretty hard after the freeze. The crumbs around the outside of the sandwich were amazing, and really nailed the taste and texture of the Good Humor bar.
Before it was time to go, Rory posed for some pictures for us with his wife and his sous chef, Dan.
I’m happy to see that there are young chefs looking to build businesses through building relationships with the community. The dedication to local values is something that I believe will keep their craft constantly evolving and improving.
Based on what I’ve seen, Comfort Kitchen offers some good, down home, locally sourced eats at extremely reasonable prices, especially for Saratoga. I could definitely see myself sitting down for a burger and some mac and cheese next time I’m in Saratoga.