Saturday, February 6, 2016

When you buy your takeout dinner at Jerry's, the appetizers are free

At Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood on Friday afternoon, there were free samples at stations throughout the store, including hard and soft cheeses, bread, crackers and focaccia, above and below.

At other stations on Friday, customers could sample farm-fresh milk, extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can try Italian wines. 


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

When I'm in Englewood once or twice a week, I always try to stop at Jerry's Gourmet & More for a delicious Italian takeout dinner at an unbeatable price.

I usually don't get to the specialty food store until late in the afternoon, so I make a beeline for the refrigerated case holding the complete dinners, called Meals To Go, which are marked down to $5.99 from $7.99 after 4 p.m., if there are any left.

On Friday afternoon, I  could choose between dinners with grilled branzino or tilapia, along with vegetable dumplings, cooked carrots with garlic; and two salads, snap peas and fava beans with walnuts.

I grabbed a branzino dinner, and then set out to have a few appetizers, courtesy of Jerry's, before paying and driving home.

I tried a half-dozen cheeses, three or four slivers of focaccia, farm milk and crackers.

If it's from Italy and you can eat it or drink it, you usually can find it at Jerry's, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood (201-871-7108).

Jerry's Meals To Go also are available on weekends.


One of the samples was a spicy Wasabi Gouda ($4.99 a pound), a different take on green cheese.
 
Jerry's own Neapolitan-style Pizza Margherita was $5.99.

After 4 on Friday afternoon, the remaining Meals To Go were marked down with a $5.99 sticker. The restaurant-quality dinners are said to be prepared from Jerry's family recipes.

At home, I plated the Grilled Branzino with Balsamico and Cherry Tomatoes; vegetable dumplings, snap peas and carrots, and reheated them for 2 minutes in a microwave. I also poured a glass of red wine.

My takeout dinner also included a Fava Bean Salad with fresh fava, walnuts, arugula, fennel, radish and radicchio, and I ate that cold from a separate plate. This is a great salad, but I've never seen it on a restaurant menu.

I also purchased a 20-ounce container of pitted olives for only $3.99.

Friday, February 5, 2016

At H Mart, first sighting of Perdue chicken raised without antibiotics

Perdue, which has been selling low-quality chicken for decades, says its Harvestland birds are raised on all-vegetarian diet free of harmful antibiotics and animal by-products, such as kitchen scraps and bits of dead animals.

At H Mart in Englewood, boneless Harvestland thighs or what Perdue calls "filets" were a pricey $4.99 a pound. Chicken drumsticks, at $2.99 a pound, are more competitive. 

Editor's note: On a trip to pick up organic eggs and prepared Korean food, I noticed a new brand of Perdue Chicken. 

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I was heading for the fish counter at H Mart in Englewood the other day when packages of chicken caught my eye.

The Korean supermarket is the first store I've seen that stocks Perdue chicken raised without any kind of antibiotics.

This after decades of selling birds pumped up on harmful antibiotics, and spending millions on deceptive advertising to make the public think Perdue chickens were naturally raised.

Even the Perdue tractor-trailers I've seen on the turnpike had a farmhouse painted on their sides to counter the reality of chickens raised in crowded conditions and growing so large they sometimes fell over and could not get up again. 

We've been buying other antibiotic-free brands, including Coleman and Readington Farms, at Costco Wholesale and ShopRite, and probably won't change to Harvestland.

Perdue's Harvestland brand doesn't replace the cheaper chicken Perdue raises conventionally with harmful antibiotics.



Whole Harvestland Chickens were $2.88 a pound.

Jumbo Brown Organic Eggs were on sale for $3.99 at the H Mart in Englewood, the closest I could get to the $3.50 a dozen Costco Wholesale charges for Large Brown Organic Eggs.

Cage-free, non-organic eggs also were $3.99 at H Mart.

The H Mart at 25 Lafayette Ave. in Englewood has a large selection of prepared food, including panchan, the traditional side dishes served with every Korean meal, above and below.


The H Mart store makes its own items, but also sells food from Jinga and other outside caterers. Prices went up sharply last year.

The package of Jinga Whole Roll or Kimbap I bought for $6.79 was labeled 16 ounces, but weighed more than that on my kitchen scale, lessening the sting.

Jinga's Whole Roll is meatless. Ingredients include seaweed, rice, egg, pollock and crunchy julienned vegetables, and the package includes hot jalapeno slices and Korean pickles. This serving made a light dinner followed by a big salad.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Missing signs and products can make ShopRite in Paramus a hassle

At the ShopRite in Paramus this morning, I found a sign for an 18-ounce package of blueberries from Chile, but not for the smaller container below it.

The smaller container was marked 1 dry pint and weighed 12 ounces.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Missing price signs make shopping a hassle, but maybe food stores want you to take the item to the register and buy it no matter what it costs.

I stop at the ShopRite in Paramus, because it is on the way home from the gym. 

This morning, I went there to use a super coupon for three 24-bottle packs of Poland Spring Water ($9) as long as you spent $10 on other items, and used a store card.

An 18-ounce package of blueberries from Chile, a so-called Manager's Special, was marked down to $5.99 from $8.99.

Not only was that a dollar more than at Costco Wholesale, but I could see many of the blueberries were broken or bruised and unappetizing.

A smaller container had no price.

I looked and looked for a 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes I had purchased there regularly, but couldn't find any for the second week in a row. 

So, I bought three half-gallons of ShopRite Lactose Free Milk ($2.99 each), and a 1-pound package of Luigi Vitelli Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli ($1.25).


At the Paramus ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east, all varieties of ShopRite 100% Lactose Free Milk are grouped together.

But last week at the Rochelle Park ShopRite, 220 W. Passaic St., varieites of the store-brand of Lactose Free Milk were scattered. I was looking for 1% milk. However, this store had the 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes I couldn't find in Paramus.

Food warehouse

I've gotten some good buys on organic and non-organic extra-virgin olive oil for salads at the International Food Warehouse, 370 Essex St., Lodi.

But this afternoon, so many price signs were missing, I had to bring up to the register 3-liter and 2-liter containers of Iliada-brand Kalamata EVOO from Greece to find out they were priced too high.

I did buy a 5-ounce package of non-organic Spring Mix and another of Arugula for 99 cents each.

The Food Warehouse has a good selection of Middle Eastern pocket breads, and extra-virgin olive oils from Lebanon, but here again, price signs are missing or prices are higher than you'd find in Paterson.

And I saw a package of bread sticks made in Damascus, Syria.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

We're loving Costco Wholesale more, but visiting the warehouse less

Triple-washed Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix is ready to go from the package to your plate, and Costco Wholesale's price is the best in northern New Jersey.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The price of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, the world's best store-bought salad, hit a low of $4.29 a pound last week at Costco Wholesale.

And the Teterboro warehouse has added more organic products under the Kirkland Signature house label, including marinara sauce and pignoli nuts.

Still, we're cutting our visits to once every two weeks from once weekly, because the Teterboro Costco, like the smaller Hackensack warehouse it replaced, is just too popular.

The Teterboro Costco opened in mid-October in a Route 46 shopping center that is a work in progress, and parking is always tight.

And the store itself is far larger than the Hackensack warehouse, so we're still familiarizing ourselves with where everything is.

But even with all that extra room, the warehouse always seems to be crowded, and that may be because Costco signed up more than 1,000 new members in the days after the Teterboro warehouse opened. 

The one salvation is that check-out seems faster and more efficient than it was in Hackensack, and the receipt checkers at the door don't hold you up when the warehouse is busy.


Costco Wholesale sells smoked wild Alaskan sockeye salmon two ways, including this fully cooked fillet made with brown sugar that doesn't require refrigeration before it is opened. 

The slow-smoked salmon fillet from Trident Seafoods lists only 1 gram of sugar for a 2-ounce serving. The 1.5-pound fillet I bought in December was $15.97, and carried a use-by date of 2021.

Smoked salmon 2X

One must be kept refrigerated, and tastes like salted slices of raw fish -- good in omelets, salads and eaten out of hand.

The other, with a shelf-life of more than 5 years, is both sweet and salty, and tastes great on its own or in salads.

The Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Kirkland Signature and Trident Seafoods both use the same heart-healthy fish, but the resulting product couldn't be more different.


The thicker, skin-on sockeye salmon fillet from Trident Seafoods tastes closer to canned fish. Add it to a salad for a light dinner with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.
Pitted olives, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, Campari Tomatoes and cucumbers over Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, all dressed in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

An organic spring-mix salad with organic pignoli or pine nuts.

Pine nuts are one of the ingredients in Costco's wonderful prepared Basil Pesto, so they make a terrific garnish for Organic Whole Wheat Shells with Pesto and Black Truffles. The small $10 bottle of truffles from the Teterboro warehouse didn't have much flavor, but that may because I didn't have enough for the pound of pasta I prepared. On a travel show I saw recently, a waiter in a restaurant in Italy shaved a couple of ounces of large black truffles over a single dish of pasta.

Snowy fillets of fresh wild-caught flounder after they were poached in pre-heated Roasted Poblano Salsa made creamy with no-fat Greek yogurt. The fish was $7.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale, and the salsa came from Whole Foods Market, where the 365 Everyday Value brand contains no added sugar.


Price checks

My wife made our last visit to the Teterboro Costco on Wednesday, about two weeks after her previous trip. 

She brought home: 2 pounds of Campari Tomatoes, the only way to get through a winter without Jersey tomatoes ($4.99); 10 pounds of California carrots ($6.49); 5.5 pounds of Gala Apples from Washington State ($9.99), and that 1-pound tub of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix ($4.29).

The price of the organic salad mix fluctuates throughout the year, but the highest I've seen at Costco is $4.99, compared to $6.99 at ShopRite supermarkets.

Three large, long hothouse cucumbers were $3.49. They carried a label with a weight of 2 pounds, but were fatter than usual and on my kitchen scale hit 3.3 pounds.

A 2-pound bag of Organic Green Beans -- washed, snipped and ready to use -- was $5.99.

Raw, sodium-free California Almonds were $17.99 for a 3-pound bag. We roast them and dust them with cinnamon for snacking. 

A 5-pound bag of large limes from Mexico was $5.79. Six Hass Avocados from Chile were $3.99.

Two 3-liter bottles of Pure Olive Oil, a cooking blend that includes extra-virgin olive oil, was $27.99 or about $4.67 a liter.

Olive oil doesn't contain genetically modified ingredients (GMOs), unlike many others for cooking, including soy, canola and corn oils.



Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli from Whole Foods Market dressed with no-added-sugar Botticelli Marinara Sauce from ShopRite, and sardines and anchovies from Costco Wholesale. I also added a few ounces of red wine, extra-virgin olive oil, red-pepper flakes, granulated garlic and other seasonings to the sauce before I heated it up.

Rebates on way

In the next few weeks, I'm anticipating the arrival of rebate checks from American Express and Costco that more than cover my annual executive membership fee of $110.

A regular membership is $55 a year.

The American Express rebate is 2% for purchases at Costco, and we also earn cash back at restaurants, gas stations and other stores.

On top of that, we get a 1% rebate from Costco on everything we buy in the Teterboro warehouse.

Friday, January 29, 2016

NYC Restaurant Week: At Aureole, farmed salmon fillet is no bargain

The highlight of my $25 three-course lunch at Aureole in Manhattan on Thursday was a starter of Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Jicama, Bonito Cream, Cucumber and Purple Basil.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I've never met a farmed salmon fillet that packed the flavor and vibrant color of the wild-caught original.

So, you can imagine my disappointment at the pale-looking, artificially colored salmon I was served on Thursday, one of the three courses on the $25 Restaurant Week menu at Aureole in midtown Manhattan.

You'd expect more at a restaurant with the reputation of Aureole, which was fully booked for the bargain lunch on Thursday.

I was able to walk in and sit at a bar stool with a hard-leather seat, but there wasn't enough legroom to get as close as I wanted to the place setting and my food.


Unlucky 13

I counted the bar stools -- there were 13 -- and that didn't augur well. 

At least I enjoyed the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare starter, especially the pleasantly tart Bonito Cream and the contrast of the tender cubes of raw fish with crunchy jicama and cucumber.

With my main course, I liked the Herbed Couscous with Pomegranate seeds, but didn't touch a Citrus Hollandaise designed to give the bland salmon fillet some punch.

And the dessert, Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Mango Lime Sorbet, was tasty, but I needed a knife to cut the fruit.

Aureole serves a small wooden bowl holding three kinds of bread, and on request, extra-virgin olive oil for dipping. 

All in all, a filling meal, and you can't beat the price.


Poached Salmon with Pomegranate Herbed Couscous (hold the Citrus Hollandaise, below). I wanted the farmed salmon medium rare, so the bartender said he'd ask the kitchen to grill the fillet. But it was served poached and medium.


Vanilla Roasted Pineapple with Coconut Macaroon and Mango Lime Sorbet.

Before lunch service started, the bartender cut lemons, above, and two servers methodically folded napkins, below.


Aureole is at 135 W. 42nd St., between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, Manhattan; 1-212-319-1660. Web site: 'Progressive American Cuisine'

Details

The Winter Restaurant Week promotion at more than 350 places in Manhattan runs through Feb. 5, with three-course lunches for $25 and three-course dinners for $38, plus tax and tip.

Lunches are a better value. If you pay for your meal with a registered American Express card, you will get a $5 statement credit (up to four times), and that covers a 20% tip at lunch.

Web site: $25 lunch in Manhattan


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Consumer Reports: How dangerous bacteria travel from farm to table

This easy to understand graphic appears in the January 2016 issue of Consumer Reports, a magazine that has taken the lead on trying "to stop the antibiotic overuse in meat and poultry production that gives rise to dangerous bacteria."


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

You could say the story of how dangerous bacteria gets from the factory farm to your table is full of shit -- or manure, if you prefer a more polite word.

The story begins on farms where healthy animals "are routinely given antibiotics in their food and/or water," and "bacteria that's present in the animals' intestine react with the antibiotics," Consumer Reports says.

"Some of the bacteria are killed, but a few survive. Those resistant bacteria flourish."

In the final part of a three-part series, the magazine traces bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics as animals excrete it in manure, and how the bacteria can be spread to the community.


Many carriers

In the January 2016 issue, the magazine's editors note resistant bacteria or superbugs spread:

"Via soil, when animal waste is used to fertilize crops; via water, when waste seeps into groundwater; and via air, when bacteria are carried by the wind."

Also, "via farmworkers, who pick up the bacteria on their skin and transfer it when they come into contact with other people; and via flies, which carry bacteria they have picked up on the farm."


During slaughter

Even scarier, "resistant bacteria can also contaminate raw meat during slaughter or processing" in a number of ways.

"Plant workers can pick up bacteria on their skin and transfer it to the meat or to other people," and "raw meat sold in supermarkets may contain bacteria that may infect people who handle or eat it."

The bottom line is that people become ill with antibiotic-resistant infections, and some die.



See: The Rise of Superbugs


Factory farms

Nowhere are antibiotics "more inappropriately employed than in the meat and poultry industries," according to Consumer Reports.

"Abut 80 percent  of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are give to animals raised for food -- including hogs, cattle, chickens and turkeys.

"The most recent data from the Food and Drug Administration show that more 32 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use food animals in the U.S. in 2013 -- up 17 percent from just four years earlier."

About 20 percent of people sickened by an antibiotic-resistant bug don't pick it up in the hospital or from another person -- they get it from food."


Best practices

The article contains two lists showing which chain restaurants, and meat and poultry producers use human and animal antibiotics, and which don't.

I was surprised to learn that Coleman Natural and Niman Ranch, two brands known for organic or naturally raised meat and poultry, are owned by Perdue, which uses antibiotics widely.

The only chains that ban antibiotics for growth promotion and disease prevention, as well as other drugs, are Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread (beef, chicken, pork and roasted turkey).

What you can do

I've stopped eating meat and poultry altogether, but other family members look for organic or antibiotic-free beef, chicken and turkey.

When I buy seafood, I look for wild-caught fish and shrimp or farmed fillets that are raised without antibiotics.