Wednesday, December 17, 2014

This Costco is bigger and brighter -- but I still can't find anything

The new Costco Wholesale in Wayne sells alcohol, including Kirkland Signature wines, unlike the unaffiliated liquor store at the Hackensack warehouse, where I have shopped for years. These boxes hold three 750-milliliter bottles of Dom Perignon Champagne from France and a bonus ice bucket for a bracing $435.99, below.


The new Costco Wholesale in Wayne -- across the road from the old one -- has been open for nearly two months.

But when I shopped there the other day, I found members wandering around just like me, and asking each other for help to find wine, food and other items.

After I finished an errand in Clifton, less than 5 miles away, I used my car's navigation system, which took me past the old store in the Willowbrook Mall.

The new store, in the adjacent Wayne Towne Center mall, was built on the site of a Fortunoff that closed years ago and was demolished.

The exterior color scheme of the new store -- shades of brown and gray -- is a departure from the nearly all-white Costco in Hackensack.

The new Wayne store is supposed to have a gas station, but I didn't see it, just a large parking lot packed with cars and a relatively small entrance.

I imagine the new Wayne Costco is a preview of what loyal Hackensack customers can expect when a bigger Costco opens three miles away in Teterboro --now scheduled for November 2015 -- and the Hackensack warehouse closes.

The Teterboro store will have a gas station, but I haven't seen any word on whether it will carry Kirkland Signature wines.

These farmed Black Tiger Shrimp from Indonesia are eight to the pound, a size I haven't seen in my Hackensack Costco, where I have bought farmed shrimp for years. But now I only buy wild-caught Gulf Shrimp from Mexico or the United States.

Fresh-water lobster tails are previously frozen, as are cooked lobsters, king crab and other shellfish I saw at the Wayne Costco on Monday. I have tried previously frozen Dungeness Crabs from Costco and haven't liked them, but the king crab legs remain juicy after a little steaming.

The only reason for me to shop at the Wayne Costco is the large selection of wine, above and below, including inexpensive bottles of Kirkland Signature California Cabernet ($7.99 for 1.5 liters) and Prosecco from Italy ($6.99).

An unusual 3-liter bottle of Veuve Clicquot Brut, a dry champagne from France known for its yellow label, was $299.99, left.

Treasure hunt

What isn't new at the bigger and brighter Wayne Costco is the "treasure hunt" members must embark on in trying to find items they have purchased before.

It's well-known Costco employees move items around, and place new items on the ends of aisles to attract shoppers' attention.

I had a list with me on Monday, but in searching for what I needed, I came across several items that I bought impulsively:

  • Kirkland Signature Coconut Juice in 11.1-ounce containers -- with nothing added -- for $9.89, a few dollars less that the Vita brand next to it on the shelf.

  • A 30-ounce tin of Starbucks Hot Cocoa powder ($9.99), which makes 42 cups, if you follow the recommended two heaping tablespoons of powder per cup of milk (that seems excessive).

  • Organic Dates from Made in Nature ($8.79), and canned wild Alaskan Pink Salmon (six 6-ounce cans for $12.99).

  • Kirkland Signature Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy, for $6.99, displayed just inside the entrance, far from the main wine displays.

Among items on my list, two 16-ounce jars of Grey Poupon Dijon Mustard were only $5.49 ($6.99 with a $1.50 instant coupon), and a 1-pound package of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.89.

I also found 1.5-liter bottles of Kirkland Signature's wonderful California Cabernet for the equivalent of only $4 per bottle, but couldn't find the store brand of the French champagne I enjoyed last year.

This Ninja food blender and food processor at the new Wayne Costco is rated at 1.5 horsepower, compared to a 2-horsepower system I saw in a Target ad for the same $149.99. My wife couldn't find this item at the Hackensack Costco.

The food counter and number of tables in the new Wayne Costco are about the same as those in the old Wayne store and in the Hackensack Costco. One difference between Wayne and Hackensack is that the tire counter is inside the main store, but members with returns must enter through the exit, forcing them to swim against the tide of members leaving with their purchases.

Costco Wholesale, 149 Route 23, Wayne; 1-973-339-4006. Liquor department, gas station.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Food shopping, leftovers for breakfast, a diabetic's nightmare

Sahara-brand Clementines are on sale for $4.99 at ShopRite in Paramus, but as the name suggests, the 5-pound boxes are from Morocco, not Spain.

The Paramus ShopRite also has 1-pound packages of Sunset's incomparable Campari Tomatoes for $3.99, compared to 2-pound packages of the same tomato for $4.99 or less at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Editor's note: Food shopping is hard work and stores take a lot of short cuts on signs and other aids. Today, I also discuss assembling a quick, nutritious breakfast from leftovers, and a Trader Joe's holiday sales flier that contains so much sugar my teeth ache just reading it. 


The food we buy in our local supermarkets and warehouse stores comes from all over the world, meaning there is no substitute for reading labels.

That may look like a good price for clementines, but are they from Spain or Morocco? I prefer the Spanish ones.

Australia is known for low prices on grass-fed beef, but one of the producers, Clayton's, follows organic practices and another, Nature's Reserve, doesn't.

I've been buying Campari Tomatoes for years, but for some reason, the ones that come in Costco Wholesale's 2-pound packages taste better than those in the 1-pound packages sold by competitors.

ShopRite confused two Australian producers on the sign at left that I saw on Thursday. Three 1-pound packages of Nature's Reserve Grass-fed Ground Beef were $14.97. Clayton's Organic Ground Beef was $5.99, right.

Six enormous California Pomegranates are $14.99 at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. Each one yields 2 cups of pomegranate seeds. The seeds from ShopRite's smaller and cheaper pomegranates weren't as good.

Going clockwise, a breakfast of leftovers includes sauteed Chinese broccoli with lots of chopped garlic, sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive oil; and two items purchased from H Mart in Englewood, stewed-tofu and japchae, translucent noodles with vegetables. I often use gochujang, a vinegared red-pepper paste, on tofu.

On leftover patrol

My personal record at breakfast is clearing five containers of leftovers from our crowded refrigerator.

You won't ever catch me skipping breakfast or stopping for one of those artery clogging breakfast sandwiches at a fast-food place.

But you will find me leaving enough time in the morning to reheat a plate of healthy, simply prepared food, often supplemented by an egg-white omelet with reduced fat cheese or organic whole eggs fried sunny side up.

Most of my breakfasts include leftovers that used ingredients from Costco Wholesale, Whole Foods Market and H Mart.

H Mart, a small Korean supermarket chain, is known for its prepared tofu and other side dishes, and fresh produce and fish, such as the whole king whiting my wife bought on Friday for $4.99 a pound, dusted with cornmeal and fried for dinner.

Chinese broccoli, mashed sweet potatoes and tofu make way for a Jamaican specialty, ackee and salt fish, accented with Valentina Mexican Hot Sauce (Black Label).

An egg-white omelet with a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese, Aleppo pepper and za'atar thyme mixture joins more tofu and organic brown rice with organic lentils. 

Organic 100% whole-wheat pasta shells, prepared with bottled sauce, anchovies and sardines, joins japchae and two organic eggs fried sunny side up with grated Pecorino Romano Cheese.

Trader Joe's sugar fixation

The latest edition of Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer is labeled, "Holiday Guide 2014."

The 24-page sales flier, which I receive in the mail, is filled with promotions on so many sugary treats and full-fat cheeses I had to resist the urge to schedule a physical after reading it.

Caramels, fondue, chevre with truffles, scallops wrapped in bacon, egg nog ice cream, chocolate, cupcakes, shortcake, marzipan and cookies pose a real minefield for diabetics and even people who are just watching their weight and cholesterol.

I'm someone who doesn't add sugar to coffee, doesn't eat dessert and hates the taste of bottled pasta sauces with added sugar.

There is not much that interests me in this flier.

Friday, December 12, 2014

$2.99 cheese pizzas, unlimited $3.99 pasta and women eat free

Jake & Gianna's Trattoria and Pizzeria in Hackensack replaced Metro Pizza about six weeks ago, but its promotions are being offered through the end of December.


Jake & Gianna's Trattoria and Pizzeria in Hackensack has some terrific holiday promotions through the end of the month.

A full-page ad in today's Hackensack Chronicle, a weekly newspaper, includes the new restaurant's menu and promotions:

Large cheese pizzas (18 inches), normally $12.95, are only $2.99, whether you pick them up, have them delivered or eat them there.

I stopped by this afternoon and picked up two for $6.40, including tax, and my wife and son loved the simple, thin-crust pizza, which I ordered well-done. 

I was told the two white Maseratis I saw parked outside are not delivery vehicles.

The restaurant is diagonally across the street from NJ Transit's Anderson Street rail station.

Women eat free

On Mondays, all-you-can-eat pasta is only $3.99 when you dine in.

On Thursdays, women eat free in the restaurant from a limited menu.

The newspaper ad includes a 20% off coupon for dining in, and the takeout menu includes five more of the same coupon.

Jake & Gianna's Trattoria and Pizzeria, 111 Anderson St., Hackensack; 201-488-2511

Open 7 days, BYO, metered street parking or shopper's lot across the tracks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lousy service, $47.90 fish sour us on Lan Garden in Ridgefield

If you think the whole striped bass I was served at Lan Garden in Ridgefeld looks angry, you should have seen my face when I got the bill and realized the waiter neglected to mention it was priced by the pound. The total was an exorbitant $47.90.


I visited Lan Garden three times in August during the soft opening of the Chinese restaurant on Route 46 in Ridgefield, lured by a food discount of 30%.

As you'd expect during the first weeks of a new restaurant, the menu was limited, service was slow and somewhat disorganized, and the kitchen ran out of certain items.

But I liked the food, especially the whole fish served with ginger and scallion, a succulent lobster and greens sauteed with fresh garlic.

Four months later, not much has changed in terms of the disorganized service. 

The kitchen even ran out of steamed white rice, and we had to wait until more was prepared.

We arrived starving

On Sunday afternoon, we returned really hungry from a visit to Manhattan and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, and drove straight to the restaurant.

Only a few other tables were occupied, but after we ordered, we waited and waited for our food.

I didn't recognize our waiter from my August visits or an older man who later said he is the manager.

Too many menus

I wanted to try a few plates of dim sum, which are prepared in a separate kitchen and available all day until 1 a.m.

They are listed on a separate paper menu, but you're also handed two bound menus, one containing specials of the day and banquet meals, and the other listing the regular fare. 

Dim sum are priced from $3.50 to $8.95 per plate, but one of the three I ordered -- Pan-Fried Chive Cake -- wasn't available.

The waiter recommended the Peking-style Pork Chops, prepared in a sweet red sauce, but my son said they were merely OK. He had to wait nearly 10 minutes for a small bowl of steamed white rice to eat with the pork, unheard of in a Chinese restaurant.

The menu didn't mention the Dried Sauteed String Beans are made with ground pork, which I don't eat. My wife thought it was garlic. When I sent it back, the waiter deducted the dish from our bill.

We loved two of the dim sum: The Fried Canton Carp Ball, above, and Super Har Gow Jumbo, delicious dumplings packed with minced shrimp, accented by a centerpiece of roe, below.

From dim sum to striped bass

Both of the dim sum we ordered were terrific. The Super Har Gow Jumbo (shrimp dumplings) were $6.95 and the Fried Canton Carp Ball was $5.95.

An appetizer of two soft-shell crabs was priced at $20, but after I ordered, the waiter returned from the kitchen and said they were all gone.

That was the third time Lan Garden couldn't deliver the soft-shell crabs listed on the menu.

The menu listed whole fish, but the only one available was striped bass, a great eating fish.

Still, no price was listed on the menu, and the waiter didn't mention the 2-pound fish was $23.95 per pound or a total of $47.90.

That's outrageous -- the kind of markup you usually see only in a high-end Greek fish house.

During the soft opening, I ordered a whole flounder on two visits and paid $23.95 and $26.95 before the discount.

The striped bass we were served on Sunday tasted wonderful, and the indigestion didn't start until I saw the check.

When I spoke to the manager, he said the waiter is supposed to mention to customers the fish is priced by the pound.

Our other dishes were Pork Wonton Soup ($3.95) and Chicken with Broccoli ($14.95).

The total for four people was $108.77, including three ginger ales and tax. 

I reluctantly left a $15 tip, only learning later the waiter forgot to level with me on the exorbitant price of the whole fish.

The glass teapot and a chopsticks stand are nice touches, above and below, but I'd do without them in return for competent service.

The paper dim sum menu, above, and a page from the specials menu listing what looks like banquet meals costing $188 and $888, below.

Lan Garden, 88 Route 46 west, Ridgefield; 201-840-8688. BYO until the restaurant obtains a liquor license.

Web site: Specializing in seafood and dim sum