Santa Maria Sun / Eats
Comfort cuisine: Comfort Market in Arroyo Grande serves up feel good food, local wines, and cooking classes
BY WENDY THIES SELL
Five months after opening its doors, Comfort Market is filling a niche, in addition to filling stomachs with satisfying house-made soups, fresh salads, unique sandwiches, local wines, and the ultimate comfort food—the downright delicious macaroni and cheese.
Located in the village of Arroyo Grande, Comfort Market combines a bistro, specialty food and wine market, and a gift basket business all under one roof.
It’s the brainchild of chef and owner Kari Ziegler who previously ran the popular Gather wine bar, which was also located in the village until it closed last year.
“What we found was you really couldn’t have wine without food, so we had a tiny kitchen and started making grilled cheese sandwiches and other appetizers and side dishes for people. [Gather] was really successful, but it was just too small,” Ziegler said.
So she moved up and across the street into a new, bigger, attractive space, bringing along some of the recipes from Gather’s menu, and opened a restaurant with a full kitchen.
“It’s been going really well,” Ziegler exclaimed. “It’s been quite exciting to see how busy we’ve been and how people are really liking our food. The name says it all. We’re all about comfort food. It’s not the heavy-laden, huge portion kind of comfort food. It’s macaroni and cheese made with at least six cheeses, a great béchamel sauce, and done from scratch all the time.”
The salads are made with fresh local greens, seasonal vegetables, and house-made dressings.
Comfort Market has half a dozen different, interesting grilled cheese sandwiches on the menu with ingredients such as a ginger mango Stilton; roasted beets and spicy herbed goat cheese; artichokes and caramelized onions; or Gouda and crispy bacon.
Other popular sandwiches include the Pork Bahn Mi ($9.50): spicy carrot and radish pickle, house-made slaw, pork, and sriracha mayo on a baguette; or the “Cuban” sandwich ($9.50): spice-rubbed, thinly sliced house-roasted pork loin, ham, mustard-y house slaw, and house-made sweet and spicy pickles, served on brioche with tomato mayo.
“We use Mary’s Chicken, so it’s hormone-free, antibiotic-free chicken. That’s what’s in our chicken salad, our chicken baguette, and chicken salad sandwiches,” Ziegler said. “We’re trying to use really great ingredients. We’re known for our soups now, our pickles, and sauces.”
The food is made to order; almost everything can be prepared gluten-free.
And even kids love Comfort Market. While there is a $5.95 Kid’s Menu including a choice of mac and cheese, grilled cheese, or a turkey and apple quesadilla, my preschooler happily devoured half of my Cuban sandwich from the grown-up menu.
I was also impressed by the market’s wine selection and prices—by the bottle or by the glass, Comfort carries great Central Coast labels such as Liquid Farm, Cold Heaven, Bien Nacido, Casa Dumetz, Zaca Mesa, Chamisal, Daou, and Justin.
And there are exciting opportunities for customers who want to prepare comfort food at home: Comfort Market shares recipes during evening cooking classes.
The next class is Thursday, Oct. 30, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Ziegler will demonstrate how to roast seasonal vegetables and teach the class how to prepare sauces for holiday cooking.
“You come into our kitchen, we show you how to chop, we show you how to make the basics for the recipe,” Ziegler explained. “Somebody in the group is in charge of sautéing and getting it ready, sit down and eat, they’re served a glass of bubbles, and you’re sent home with the recipes.”
She teaches a soup class once a month as well.
“It’s been fun to teach people how to save the ends of all their vegetables, and they can make a big savory stock that they can put in their freezer and use it as a base to start all their soups, and then they’re really starting on the right foot,” she said.
During November, Ziegler plans to help customers get ready for the holidays. The restaurant’s pastry chef, Jimmy Mendoza, will lead a class in piecrusts and fun fillings. Then in December, look for a Christmas cookie class. (Make sure to sign up ahead of time. Classes have sold out in the past.)
Speaking of the holidays, Comfort Market rents out the restaurant for corporate events and holiday gatherings, and hosts appetizer and dessert parties.
One of the restaurant’s mottos is written on a kitchen wall: “Slow food made with love.” That sums up Comfort Market.
Sun wine and food columnist Wendy Thies Sell dreams about mac and cheese. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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