Food that Takes You Back
Recently, I was lucky enough to land an invitation to a local food blogger event at the newly opened Comfort Kitchen in Saratoga, courtesy of the lovely Jen. It was a great opportunity to connect with locals I’d previously met, some I only knew online and met a couple of new folks as well, like the Jesus of Cheese, Eric, the Cheese Traveler.
The owner of Comfort Kitchen, Rory, was there to greet me when I arrived before anyone else. He was enthusiastic about the event and obviously passionate about his food, his staff and the role he wants for his restaurant in the community. I can’t imagine anyone meeting Rory and not loving him right off the bat, his energy is infectious. Rory and his sous chef have this amazing knack for taking your favorite foods from childhood and turning them into something you still want to eat today.
During the course of good conversations with the attendees about local restaurants, appetizers of tater tots were brought around with a variety of dipping sauces. I have many fond memories of tater tot day in the lunchroom, and I always looked forward to my mom’s tater tot casserole at the dinner table. As a kid, the tater tot was definitely my favorite form of the potato. I know this sounds crazy, but it wasn’t until eating a freshly fried tater tot that I actually questioned how these were made. Usually I’m not so dense, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around doing anything but emptying a bag of pre-formed tots onto a baking sheet or into a fryer. It’s obvious that the potatoes are shredded, but what holds them into a ball and only fries them on the outside? Again, I know this sounds totally ignorant, but I guess the tater tot is one of life’s great mysteries to me. These tots were delicious. They were fried to a deep, golden brown and, tasty dipping sauces or not, these were perfect. Crunchy on the outside, and an almost creamy potato on the inside, they were easily the best tater tots I’ve ever eaten.
The next round was a perfect veggie burger. I’m not exaggerating on this either. I’ve made chickpea burgers a few times and they’re great, but it’s hard to get the consistency right. The texture of this one was spot on. This was a black bean variety seasoned wonderfully with fragrant cumin topped with avocado, pickled onion and a chipotle mayo (I’m a sucker for anything in adobo sauce). It seems nuts, but I would drive from Albany to Saratoga for this alone. I could eat ten of them in one sitting not feel ashamed. No one who’d tried one would ever blame me.
At this point in the evening, it was time for the entrees. We were served burgers and two types of mac and cheese. The burger meat was ground three hours prior to preparation and was cooked to medium perfection. It was a simple burger topped with American cheese and pickles, lettuce and their own “awesome sauce”. Each bite was a little bit of burger heaven. It was so good I felt like I was cheating on the veggie burger.
Now we have a tale of two mac and cheeses. There was the regular mac and a pulled pork mac. The regular mac was had a lovely creamy texture with a delicious crumb topping but was incredibly underseasoned. Maybe it’s because I make my own mac with a ton of salt and cayenne, but I’m not a huge fan of mild mac and cheese. The pulled pork mac was another story. I’ve been eating my own pulled pork for the whole week yet it didn’t damper my opinion on this pulled pork mac. The barbecue sauce was smokey and tangy and, surprisingly, it didn’t overpower the cheese. The addition of the stringy pork took me right back to my youth when we ate a lot of Kraft macaroni and cheese with tuna. While the two tastes couldn’t be more different, the texture took me right back there, but with the bonus of a real grown-up flavor.
Speaking of these childhood memories, Rory tapped right into my favorite treat from the ice cream truck. I never went for the chocotaco or the rocket pop. For me, it was the Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake bar every time. Rory played an ice cream sandwich off of this concept. He baked a delicious vanilla sugar cookie, filled it with a homemade ice cream with fresh strawberries and added a strawberry crumble that captured the essence of what made that Good Humor bar such a treat. I would normally prefer a softer cookie in an ice cream sammy, but that’s because I have sensitive teeth, so biting hard through a crunchy cookie and landing on cold ice cream was a little tough, but it couldn’t have tasted better. Each one of the components was tasty enough to eat on their own, but together, the sweet warmth of the vanilla sugar cookie with the fresh ice cream worked so nicely together.
Sitting at home later that night I was craving those strawberry shortcake crumbles again and tweeted to the Comfort Kitchen that those cannot go to waste. If they get their liquor license, they would be awesome lining the rim of a glass or sprinkled on some sort of creamy strawberry cocktail (if there’s a key lime pie cocktail sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs in this world, there must be a strawberry cream pie cocktail that should be topped with these crumbles, right?).
It was a really fun evening filled with terrific food. I really wish Rory and his wonderful staff the best of luck in Saratoga, they have something special there. Comfort Kitchen is located at 454 Broadway in Saratoga.