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.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

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.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

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.

ShopRite's Can Can Sale ends today.


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 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.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

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.


Details

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.

Details

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.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Baby aspirin, egg whites, organic pasta, takeout, Can Can sale, more

If you take a baby aspirin every day, as I do, you'll be struck by the dramatic price difference at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro between 400 Bayer tablets for $12.49, above, and the 730 Kirkland Signature tablets for $4.49 that I bought last week, below.
Costco's Kirkland Signature Low Dose Aspirin tablets are supplied by LNK International. The Hauppauge, N.Y., company makes solid- and liquid-dose over-the-counter pharmaceutical products for retailers nationwide, according to the January 2017 issue of The Costco Connection magazine.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Although not everyone agrees on the health benefits of taking a baby aspirin every day, Costco Wholesale members are unanimously in favor of how much they save over a national brand.

You get nearly twice as many coated, low-dose aspirin tablets -- and save $8 -- when you buy Costco's Kirkland Signature brand instead of Bayer, a German pharmaceutical giant.

This is another dramatic example of how Costco puts added value in most of the products sold under the house label.

Everything from Kirkland Signature's 81-milligram aspirin tablets to such Kirkland Signature wines as California Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec from Argentina, both available at the Costco Wholesale in Wayne. 

On a visit to the Wayne Costco in December, I picked up eight bottles of wine, including a non-Kirkland Signature boxed set of four Grands Vins de Bordeaux from France for $29.99 or about $7.50 a bottle.

The one bottle of Bordeaux I tried so far was delicious, but I was disappointed to learn I could have found the same bottles elsewhere for about the same price. 

Kirkland Signature Organic Quinoa, on the other hand, appeared on Costco shelves last year in a larger package and at a lower price than the national brand it replaced.



A hearty breakfast includes an egg-white omelet stuffed with wild Alaskan smoked sockeye salmon and reduced-fat Swiss cheese, served over organic quinoa prepared with organic diced tomatoes and California garlic cloves -- all from Costco. Kirkland Signature Cage-Free Egg Whites are $8.99 for six 16-ounce cartons or about $1.50 each, below.


365 Every Day Value Organic Whole Wheat Shells from Italy dressed in a homemade, heart-healthy ragu of Victoria-brand Vodka Sauce, sardines and anchovies.
At Whole Foods Market, 1-pound boxes or packages of organic whole wheat shells and other shapes are $1.49 each, a better buy than non-organic brands sold in smaller packages. They also can't match the nutty taste of organic whole wheat pasta, which is also available at ShopRite supermarkets and Trader Joe's. Cooking time for the pasta is about 9 minutes, not the 14-15 minutes listed on the package.
I reserved a few ounces of sauce to use for poaching eggs. Victoria is one of the few brands offering a Vodka Sauce free of artery clogging heavy cream. All the ingredients are listed on the front label. I usually add a few ounces of red wine, extra-virgin olive oil, some red-pepper flakes and dried Italian herbs to the pan as the sauce is being heated.
Before adding them to the sauce, I rinse and drain the anchovies to reduce the sodium content of the dish, and mince the sardines (3 cans for 1 pound of pasta) with a fork before they go into the pot. Fattal's at 975-77 Main St. in Paterson sells Al Shark-brand sardines for 99 cents a can.
On Friday afternoon, Jerry's Gourmet & More at 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood ran out of complete restaurant-quality dinners to go, so I picked up two containers of Cheese Lovers' Tortelloni, made with five cheeses, for my wife and son.
As I browsed at Jerry's, I enjoyed several free samples of cheese and bread, including a chewy olive loaf, top.


Can Can Sale at ShopRite

On Thursday, I shopped the first week of the 2017 Can Can Sale at ShopRite in Paramus.

I made a few purchases, including five 12-can packages of Adirondack Seltzer for $10, a savings of $8.95 with a store card, according to my receipt.

The Can Can Sale doesn't offer the wide range of deep discounts it once did, and you can find great buys at ShopRite at other times.

For examples, I picked up several bottles of ShopRite Sparkling Cider from Spain (100% juice) for $1.67 each on Dec. 29.

Golden Pineapples were $1.97 each.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A bunch of organic cilantro from Whole Foods Market goes a long way

A wedge of a cilantro lover's frittata served over organic brown rice. I folded chopped fresh organic cilantro and grated cheese into a mixture of eight whole eggs and a couple of ounces of low-fat milk, and showered the finished frittata with more cilantro.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

In the dead of winter, fresh herbs bring homemade dishes alive.

Last Saturday, I drove up to the new Whole Foods Market in Closter to see if I could use a coupon for $30 off on a purchase of $150 that expired that day.

As I walked around the store, I picked up a few things, including a generous bunch of organic cilantro ($1.99), one of my favorite herbs.

Cilantro is also known as Chinese parsley, and the dried seed is ground and sold as coriander.

The Closter Whole Foods doesn't sell wine, and I didn't think I could use a dozen cooked Dungeness Crabs, which were on sale for $9.99 a pound at the fish counter.

So, I ended up giving the coupon to a woman with a full shopping cart after the cashier estimated she had purchased more than $150.

We chatted briefly, and the woman said she knocks herself out buying organic food for her family, but her teenage son can't wait to go to a fast-food restaurant.

I've been using the chopped cilantro all week long, and finished it tonight, when I added it to plate of organic quinoa.


Fish from Iceland

I rely on Costco Wholesale in Teterboro for fresh wild-caught fish fillets from Iceland.

But rough winter weather has kept boats in port and disrupted the supply to retailers big and small, including The Fish Dock, a fresh-fish market in downtown Closter owned by Icelanders.

On Tuesday, the flounder I bought at Costco came from Canada, and there was no Icelandic cod or haddock in the refrigerated case.


On Wednesday night, I showered boneless-and-skinless flounder fillets with fresh chopped cilantro after poaching the fish in Roasted Salsa Verde, from Whole Foods Market; fresh lemon juice and crushed Aleppo pepper, below.

I usually use the salsa and lemon juice by themselves, but I had chopped garlic, sweet pepper and onion left over from another recipe, so I sauteed them in olive oil first. After the mixture started boiling in a covered pan, I add the translucent fillets, which turned white and plumped up in about 5 minutes after I covered the pot again, indicating they were ready.
A 16-ounce bottle of 365 Everyday Value Roasted Salsa Verde, which is free of MSG and added sugar you find in other brands, is $2.69 at Whole Foods Market. I used only half the bottle, and refrigerated the rest for adding to omelets or as a sauce over quinoa or brown rice.
On Tuesday, after I purchased 2.2 pounds of the flounder from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro ($7.99 a pound), I coated most of the fillets in Asian Indian spices and prepared a Fish & Vegetable Medley with fresh spinach, tomato slices, chopped black olives, grated cheese and fresh lemon juice, above and below.
I showered the fish and other ingredients with fresh chopped cilantro before putting the pan into a preheated 400-degree oven. The flounder was ready in 15 minutes.
I used about a half-pound of organic spinach from Costco, drizzled with olive oil, in a large rectangular pan lined with parchment paper, then added the fish and other ingredients 
Fresh cilantro accenting a plate of leftover organic quinoa, which I prepared in an electric rice cooker with chicken broth, organic diced tomatoes and chopped fresh garlic.
For the frittata, pour the mixture of eggs, low-fat milk, grated cheese and cilantro into a 10-inch non-stick pan with olive oil over a medium flame. Add slices of plum tomatoes and more grated cheese.

When the crust sets, move the pan into the oven, using a low broiler setting, above.

After about 25 minutes, the frittata was ready. Remove from oven and garnish with fresh cilantro.