Wednesday, June 13, 2018

An ethnic-food run for Mexican, Peruvian and Syrian specialties

An order of Fish Tacos at Taqueria Los Gueros on Main Avenue in the city of Passaic, above. Below, store-made Spinach & Cheese Pies, Mini Vegetable Pies, Fig & Walnut Roll and more at Fattal's in Paterson.


This past Saturday, we went on an ethnic-food run to the cities of Passaic and Paterson for Mexican, Peruvian and Syrian specialties.

See The Sasson Report for all the details.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Do You Really Know What You're Eating? has moved

I shop for good ingredients and prepare colorful and healthy meals.

Do You Really Know What You're Eating? has moved to The Sasson Report, which brings together commentary on print journalism, food shopping and restaurants, the movement to all-electric cars and other topics.


Monday, January 16, 2017

The Sasson Report has more Do You Really Know What You're Eating?

At the H Mart in Little Ferry last weekend,  I bought the biggest whiting I've ever seen -- more than 6 pounds -- for our Sunday dinner.


I'm working on a post about the stunning variety of fresh wild-caught seafood available in northern New Jersey.

From luxurious lobster to the humble whiting, great seafood is just another reason not to eat any of the low-quality meat and poultry sold in stores or served in restaurants.

When I finish, I'll be posting on The Sasson Report, which will include coverage of the news media, food shopping and restaurants, all-electric cars and other subjects.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Two ShopRites have the same owner, but are far different for shoppers

On Tuesday at the ShopRite in Englewood, five 1-liter bottles of Adirondack Seltzer (Original and flavored) were on sale for $2 during the Can Can Sale, above. But 12-can packages of the same seltzer, below, had a missing price sign and didn't appear to be part of the promotion, as they were at the Paramus ShopRite.
I stopped buying liter bottles of Adirondack Seltzer after I found they can lose their fizz even if unopened.


When I had an appointment in Englewood on Tuesday, I stopped at the ShopRite to take advantage of the second week of the 2017 Can Can Sale.

I not only found the store is one huge construction site, but that one of my favorite items -- 12-can packs of Adirondack Lemon Lime Seltzer -- weren't part of the promotion, as they are at the Paramus ShopRite I usually patronize.

But I bought a non-Can Can Sale item, a 3-pound bag of Organic Sweet Potatoes ($3.99), for 50 cents less than at Trader Joe's in Paramus.

ShopRites in Englewood, Paramus and Rochelle Park are owned and operated by Glass Gardens Inc., one of the 50 retailers in a cooperative that includes Wakefern Food Corp., the stores' merchandising and distribution arm.

Glass Gardens Inc. owns a total of 11 ShopRites, most of them in the Garden State.

ShopRites are considered the low-price leaders among supermarkets in New Jersey, but they only occasionally undercut Costco Wholesale, which offers far less selection. 

For example, at the Paramus ShopRite on Thursday, KIND fruit-and-nut snack bars were $1 each if you bought 10, compared to about $1.06 each for a box of 18 at Costco.

Organic Sweet Potatoes at the Englewood ShopRite are a better buy than at Trader Joe's in Paramus.
Season-brand Sardines in Pure Olive Oil are on sale at both the Englewood and Parmaus ShopRites for 99 cents a can with a store card. 
ShopRite's Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Pasta from Italy no longer holds a price advantage over Organic Whole Wheat Pastas sold by Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market. At ShopRite, the price went up to $1.50 from $1.29 for a 1-pound package. 
At Whole Foods Market, 1-pound boxes of Organic Whole Wheat Pasta from Italy in a variety of shapes are $1.49 each. Whole wheat pastas, brown rice and quinoa contain heart-healthy whole grains.
I was tempted by this jar of Puttanesca Sauce, imported from Italy by ShopRite, until I saw that it contains added sugar. Trader Joe's sells a Puttanesca Sauce without added sugar for $2.99 (25 ounces), a dollar less than ShopRite's version.
A new aisle, complete with new refrigerated cases like the ones installed in the Paramus store, at the Englewood ShopRite. An employee said the Englewood expansion and renovation still is a year away from completion.
Part of the Englewood store's produce section.
Three new aisles at the ShopRite in Englewood opened about a month ago, above, but work continues, below.

Pearls-brand pitted California olives are a better buy during the Can Can Sale than ShopRite's own pitted black olives.
At ShopRite, Goya-brand Mango Nectar contains a maximum of 35% mango juice, plus added sugar, above and below.

Whole Foods Market carries Ceres-brand 100% Juice -- from pears and mangoes grown in South Africa -- without added sugar, and I was able to find a liter container on sale for $2.50 at the Closter Whole Foods.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Revisiting Meson Madrid's $19.95 twin-lobster special, plus Art of Spice

Two whole lobsters, plus side dishes, for only $19.95 is a great deal at Meson Madrid in Palisades Park, where the promotion is held three nights a week.


Lobster lovers know where to go to get plenty of delicious claw and tail meat -- plus soup or salad and two more side dishes -- for only $19.95.

Meson Madrid, a decades-old Spanish restaurant in Palisades Park, offers the Twin Lobster Special at dinner on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

We drove there on Tuesday afternoon, just as servers were setting up for dinner, and had the chilly main dining room to ourselves.

We tried the Twin Lobster Special in August, and Tuesday's meal was almost as good.

Expecting a rush, the kitchen partially pre-cooks the lobsters and finishes them when they are ordered -- steamed or broiled.

The claws of my two lobsters were covered in an ashy white from congealed hemolymph or what the crustaceans have instead of blood.

Soft claw, leg and knuckle shells proved a bigger problem, making it difficult to crack them and extract the meat. Tails are split and removing the meat from them was a lot easier.

Both me and my wife took home leftovers.

The Twin Lobster Special includes a small salad served with French dressing or soup, and on Tuesday, I had the salad and my wife tried the Caldo Gallego, a white-bean soup with ham.

You also get yellow rice and house-made potato chips, both of which were glistening with oil but not greasy, and second helpings if you have room.
I ordered a glass of the house Cabernet ($8), and asked for extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter so I could dip pieces of the toasted bread we were served, below.

We wanted to see an early movie in Paramus so arrived at Meson Madrid just as servers were setting up the dining room.


Meson Madrid Restaurant, 343 Bergen Boulevard, Palisades Park; 201-947-8211. Open 7 days. Twin Lobster Special at dinner Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Website: Traditional Food from Spain

Indo-Chinese Shrimp Schezwan Noodles, top, and Palak Dal with basmati rice at Art of Spice on Main Street in Hackensack.

Indian-style fine dining

You wouldn't think a traditional Spanish restaurant such as Meson Madrid would have anything in common with Art of Spice, a fine-dining Indian restaurant with moderate prices.

But at both restaurants, we encountered a lot of delicious, hard-to-resist carbs -- such as potatoes, rice and bread -- and found that Asian-Indian cooking relies heavily on butter, which I try to avoid.

Of course, the appeal of Art of Spice is aromatic food prepared with an array of freshly ground spices that you find in no other cuisine, and plenty of dishes for non-meat eaters.

An appetizer of Vegetable Samosa, which are stuffed with pureed potatoes and fried ($7).
A sweet-and-savory snack called Dahi Puri includes crunchy fried dough holding cold yogurt, both flavored with tamarind syrup ($7).

Art of Spice also serves Indo-Chinese fusion dishes, such as Shrimp Schezwan Noodles ($13), but the shrimp were hard to find.

Our server suggested we order bread, but said the Garlic Naan usually is made with butter. We ordered a non-butter version ($4.50). Once you are seated, you receive complimentary thin, crispy chickpea wafers and two dipping sauces, tamarind and a fiery green chili.

The dining room at Art of Spice is a cavernous space that seats 100. This table is in a window looking out at one of the most forlorn blocks in downtown Hackensack, opposite a construction site that has been idle since late June.

Art of Spice serves a lunch buffet for $10.99 on weekdays and $12.99 on weekends.


Art of Spice, 159 Main St., Hackensack; 201-342-3444. Open 7 days, but closes between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. BYO, metered street parking and a small lot in rear. Delivery available.