Last week, I had the pleasure of attending an after-hours blogger bash at one of Saratoga Springs’ newest restaurants, Comfort Kitchen. I also had the pleasure of finding a FREE parking spot, the last one on Spring Street, during track season. That in itself was a miracle.

Chef/Owner Rory Moran was our gracious host, alongside his wife Lucy and his staffers Dan and Jennifer. Rory, who most recently worked in the kitchen of Max London’s, opened Comfort Kitchen earlier this summer, in the Marketplace mini-mall located at 454 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.

Their menu changes regularly, using local and seasonal ingredients sourced from farms, markets, and businesses around Saratoga. As Rory explained to us that night, “no Sysco trucks stop” at Comfort Kitchen. There’s a real dedication to local and sustainable, and I hope he’s able to continue that model and remain profitable. It’s a tough world out there, and sometimes it’s easy to compromise with cheaper ingredients that you think the customer might not notice. I have faith in Rory – he seems committed to picking and choosing the best of what’s available locally and incorporating it into daily offerings.

The Comfort Kitchen team put out a great spread of food for us to try – here’s what we got:

Housemade Tater Tots – served with four different dipping sauces. A creamy interior with a dense crispy exterior, lightly covered with seasonings (and some Parmesan?). I’m a fan of crispy deep-fried things, and these were really fantastic. I was secretly thrilled that someone accidentally left two baskets on our table (thanks, Jen). The sauces were great too – “Awesome Sauce” (secret recipe), blue cheese, maple mustard (my favorite), and BBQ. I don’t think the tater tots were meant be served with the sauces; rather, it seems they were a way for us to sample the sauces, which are scattered across the menu on various dishes.

Veggie Burger – a black bean burger topped with pickled red onion, avocado, and chipotle mayo. It was served to us sans-bun, so the flavors of the burger itself would shine. It was soft but not mushy, and I really loved the spiciness.

The Comfort Burger –  Rory explained that it’s a blend of custom cuts of meat from The Meat House, freshly ground and cooked on a cast-iron griddle. The smoky, rich flavor of the meat made me think for a minute that there might be some bacon fat hanging around that griddle, but I’m going to speculate that there’s a generous helping of ground pork in the patty mix. No one would say, so that’s just my guess. It was topped with American cheese, pickles, lettuce, and a splash of Awesome Sauce. I’m not a burger connoisseur, but this was damn good. Seriously, the best burger I think I’ve ever had. Nice job.

Mac N’ Cheese – two varieties: 4-cheese traditional and pulled pork. I loved that they used cavatappi pasta instead of traditional elbows – the long ridged pasta pieces allowed more of the cheesy sauce to adhere to the surface. Besides, cavatappi is an under-appreciated pasta shape. It doesn’t get the respect it deserves. The traditional mac & cheese was the superior variety, in my opinion. Sharp and creamy, with a great balance of gooey filling and crunchy baked-on topping. The pulled pork mac & cheese was decent, but not something I think I’d order – it was less creamy than the traditional, and the smoky sweetness of the pork and sauce overwhelmed what mac & cheese should be all about – cheese.  It wasn’t bad, just not my cup of tea. My pal Marion loved it, however.

Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwiches – inspired by those so-bad-they’re awesome Good Humor ice cream bars (and the impending Saratoga-Albany ice cream sandwich showdown), Rory bought up the last few pints of strawberries at the Saratoga Farmers Market, whipped up some homemade ice cream, smooshed it between two homemade vanilla sugar cookies, and rolled them in some strawberry/cookie crumbles. I’d call that experiment an unqualfied success. Sooooooooooooo goooooooooood. The best part was that the ice cream didn’t get squeezed out of the sides when I bit into it – one of my ice cream sandwich pet peeves. It was brilliant to freeze them before serving. I hope he considers keeping at least a variation of these on the menu, now that strawberry season is over.

I’d share more photos with you, but they all somehow evaporated as I was trying to transfer them from my phone to my computer. You’ll have to visit the blogs of some of my fellow diners to see what all this fantastic food looked like (and get their reviews as well):

I was hoping the Saratoga Idiots were going to be there, but they apparently had better things to do that night.

Overall, a great little restaurant in a neat space, tucked in the back of the Marketplace at 454 Broadway in Saratoga Springs. Other things on their unpretentious menu include grilled cheese sandwiches, tacos, soups, salads, and sides. Dessert choices include milk & cookies and hand pies.

Hours are Mon – Sat: 11:30am-7:00pm (during track season they’ll be open until 9 on Friday and Saturday). Website is Better yet, follow them on Facebook, where you’ll find daily specials that will make your mouth water. I saw today that they’re offering chocolate peanut butter bacon cookies. I mean, I don’t know what to think about that. They’ve got to be awesome, right?

I don’t get up to Saratoga Springs very often (I think the past two weeks set a personal yearly record), but Comfort Kitchen is a place I’ll definitely return to the next time I’m there.

Thanks to Rory, Lucy, Dan, and Jennifer for a fantastic evening!

A final note: when we all arrived that night, we filled out a little card with our names, website addresses, and our favorite comfort food. I wrote down “peanut butter and jelly sandwich”. Rory told me he was going to get PB&J (with his own spin) on the menu somehow at some point. I hope it’s soon, and I hope he lets me know!