Heyyyy, this early winter has been fairly mild now, hasn’t it? Of course now that I said it I should apologize for the 10 weeks of nearly nonstop snow I likely jinxed all of us with. In the meantime, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
* We have to embrace winter, right? Yes, and one way you can do that is to dress warm and get out of the house and get moving. One of the Spa City’s best kept secrets, at least in the winter, is the Spring Run Trail. This east side trail, which is plowed regularly to remove snow, goes from East Avenue up to the Northway paralleling Excelsior Avenue. Click here for a map. It goes through a beautiful section of woods with a picturesque stream meandering along and underneath the trail. You feel like you’re deep in the woods when you’re walking through there, and although we didn’t see much wildlife when my wife and I went this past weekend, I would not have been surprised to see a deer jump out in front of me. It was beautiful and serene, right here in the city.
Spring Run Trail, enjoyable in summer, remains open for winter fun as well
* I’ve read a lot of good things about Comfort Kitchen in the past several months, and now that I finally tried it for myself I have to say it lives up to the hype. First of all, just phoning in my order was a pleasant experience. The person taking my order was not only patient, pleasant, and knowledgeable, but she was even downright passionate about the menu. How often do you call a place to make an order and shake your head at an employee’s lack of interest and phone skills? Not so at CK, and when I walked in I was greeted warmly by a young man, who I suspected was the owner and he confirmed he indeed was. Two plusses so far: Great phone skills from the staff, and an owner who genuinely expresses appreciation for his customers’ business. Are you reading this other Saratoga restaurant owners? I don’t think I ever did get his name, but after a little bit of online research I am concluding that the owner I met is none other than Rory Moran.
The important thing of course is the food, and Comfort Kitchen delivered the (delicious) goods. We ordered the pulled pork macaroni and cheese – and this may have been the best mac-n-cheese I ever had. They used the hearty and thick kluski type noodles and big chunks, not slivers, of pork, which really made me appreciate the warmth of this comfort food on a cold January night. The butternut squash soup was flavorful, and they got my special request right when I asked for the maple cinnamon cream on the side. The Chopped Salad, which was fine but a tad boring and certainly not chopped as the menu indicated, was the only thing that I might not order next time. Comfort Kitchen gets the little things, and the big things, right, and I will be back soon. You can read more about Comfort Kitchen from a November Times Union review here, and don’t forget that the restaurant is one of the many establishments included in the Spa City Packs, a fun deck of discount cards encouraging support of local businesses.
* None of the DZ Restaurants are part of Spa City Packs (booooo! – forgive my blatant plugs for Saratoga Wire and Spa City Packs owner Jonathan Greene’s worthy endeavor), but if our wonderful dinner at Boca Bistro was any indication, DZ Restaurants is another company that is raising the stakes and showing the others how it should be done. The food at Boca Bistro was really flavorful, and the staff is very well trained (again – other Saratoga restaurant owners – are you reading this?). It was kind of funny, as well trained as the staff there is, our server was dumbfounded when we asked her to think outside the box and bring us something non-alcoholic. She came up with “soda” and “juice” for ideas – “no”, we explained, something creative from the bar. She just couldn’t think creatively despite our help. Well, a mild quibble. What really caught my attention was the – and aggressiveness perhaps is too strong of a word but that’s what is coming to mind – the aggressiveness of DZ Restaurants’ efforts to create a rewards program giving many encouragements to be loyal to the company’s four local restaurants. They signed us up for the program, gave us some scratch off coupons for February promising prizes ranging from 10% off dinner to a private cooking school with Mama Theresa, or even an overnight getaway at a New York Winery. Then when we left they gave us a complimentary bottle of olive oil. It’s a pretty sophisticated and like I said, almost aggressive effort.
* Another restaurant with great staff and great food is Maestro’s, and I had a business related dinner there this week. They also have a rewards program similar to DZ Restaurants that I signed up for, but they didn’t have the extras like the aforementioned scratch offs or the bottle of olive oil. But Maestros’ traditional complimentary dark chocolate offered at the end of the meal has always been a nice touch.
* The Times Union Table Hopping blog is reporting that a NYC maître d’ and a chef associated with Creo Restaurant down in Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland (Albany) are opening a new restaurant at an undisclosed Spa City location. That blog is also reporting a game dinner at the Wine Bar.
* It looks like the Spirit of Saratoga, the Saratogian’s magazine that went from monthly to quarterly in 2012, is completely gone. I haven’t seen one since the summer issue that came out in July.
OK folks, that’s it for now. The weatherman is saying the weekend temperatures will get into the 50s, so let’s enjoy it.
If you would like for me to include your restaurant or other organizational information in this weekly column, please email a web site or Facebook page link to me at Dan@SaratogaWire.com.
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