Monday, May 2, 2016

On way to Starbucks, I stumble across an authentic Italian coffee shop

At Coffee Break, an Italian cafe on Main Street in Hackensack.

Editor's note: Restaurants and cafes open and close regularly on Main Street in Hackensack, where the second major apartment-building boom in the city's history is under way. 


The only company owned Starbucks in Hackensack is on the ground floor of a busy medical building with a parking lot from hell -- far from downtown.

On the way there this afternoon, I stopped to take photos on Main Street, and discovered Coffee Break, a cafe that serves Italian coffee, breakfast and lunch.

I ordered a double espresso and chatted briefly with the owners, a couple from Calabria (the toe of the Italian Boot).

Coffee Break's menu offers crepes, panini, salads, croissants and other items.

A double espresso at Coffee Break was $2.65.

More comfortable chairs are set in the bright window, across the street from a Main Street mural, below.
Main Street Gateway Mural wraps around the corner.

Coffee Break is at 71 Main St., Hackensack.

Delhi Palace, an Indian restaurant that serves halal meat, opened recently at 136 Main St., Hackensack, with small and large dining rooms. 

Across the street from Delhi Palace is Quench, which offers smoothies, salads and other items.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Food photos: Spicy seafood soup, tuna salad, home cooking and more

At Ewha Won, a Korean-Chinese restaurant in Closter, a seafood soup with green noodles and oysters, called jampong, costs $1 more when you ask for the extra-spicy version containing cut up whole chili peppers ($13.99). The large bowl of soup, which will leave your lips tingling, is a filling meal for one or can be split, if you order an appetizer or another dish.

Ewha Won, at 570 Piermont Road in the Closter Commons shopping center, served us three complimentary side dishes, including crunchy radish kimchi, above, and black bean paste for the soup.

If your soup isn't spicy enough, you can always use a shaker of ground red pepper on the table. On Saturday afternoon, after a large group of parents and children were seated for a birthday party, it was difficult for me and my wife to get a refill of our water glasses or extra napkins.

The Mediterranean Salad at the Suburban Diner, 172 Route 17 north in Paramus, includes white tuna, mixed greens, Kalamata Olives, Feta Cheese, Capers and Artichoke Hearts, dressed in a vinaigrette of extra-virgin olive oil and lemon ($13.50). I took home leftovers. Organic tea is $2.50.

Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood, was out of takeout seafood dinners when I stopped there after 4 on Friday afternoon, but I picked up two steak dinners -- complete with pasta, vegetable and salad -- for the meat eaters in the family at a reduced price of $5.99.
I'm happy with a dinner of pasta, salad and wine at home, especially when I prepare it with Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli, Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto and Organic Pignoli Nuts, the last two from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.

After lunch on Thursday at the Suburban Diner, I stopped at Trader Joe's, 404 Route 17 north in Paramus, for two 3-pound bags of Organic Sweet Potatoes ($4.49 each). The next day, I boiled the potatoes from one bag with whole peeled garlic cloves, mashed them with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings, and had some for breakfast with an egg-white omelet and sauteed spinach, above and below. I baked the others.

I stuffed the omelet with smoked wild salmon and fresh organic salsa, both from Costco, and dusted it with Ras el Hanout, a Moroccan spice mixture.

A kitchen-sink Frittata I made at home on Saturday morning contained slices of smoked wild salmon, chopped black olives, whole eggs, egg whites, grated cheese and fresh tomatoes. I served it with leftover organic brown rice and fresh organic salsa.
For Sunday night dinner, we shelled and deveined 2 pounds of raw frozen wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico that were on sale at the Paramus ShopRite ($19.98), preparing them with fresh spinach, extra-virgin olive oil, pitted green olives, fresh tomatoes, shredded cheese and lemon juice. They were ready after 10 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven. 

At the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack, a 2-pound bag of Mayorga Organic Cafe Cubano dark roast coffee beans was $13.99, perfect for my built-in coffee machine, which grinds them for espresso, lattes and other drinks.

The Hackensack Business Center also sells 2.2-pound bags of Lavazza espresso coffee beans for about $10 less than I have seen them elsewhere.

KIND Fruit & Nut Bars are 18 for $18.99 at the Costco Business Center. The warehouse also sells 1 pound of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix -- with lettuce, arugula, radicchio, spinach and chard -- for $4.29.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Costco Wholesale helps me serve a healthy dinner in just 15 minutes

A Codfish Medley with organic spinach, organic diced tomatoes, pitted olives and shredded cheese cooks in less than 15 minutes in a preheated oven.

Editor's note: We continue to spend most of our food dollars at Costco Wholesale, but on our last visit to the Teterboro warehouse, some of the prices for fresh fruit seemed high.


Costco Wholesale may have a limited selection of wild-caught fish, but I never get tired of the fresh cod fillets from Iceland for only $7.99 a pound.

On Tuesday night, I prepared a Codfish Medley with about 2.3 pounds of the wild-caught skinless-and-boneless fillets, and other ingredients from the Teterboro Costco.

They include organic spinach (1 pound for $4.49), organic diced tomatoes and shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (1-pound jar for $10.59 after an instant coupon).

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees, and lined a large pan with aluminum foil.

Then, I added the ingredients in layers: 

Spinach to cover the bottom of the pan and a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, followed by lightly salted fish portions, ground red pepper, organic diced tomatoes spooned from the can, pitted olives, shredded cheese and the juice of a Meyer Lemon.

I placed the pan in the oven, and the fish was translucent and flaked beautifully in about 15 minutes.

I poured a glass of red wine, and finished my meal with a big salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix (1 pound for $4.29 at Costco) dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Thanks to The Fish Dock, an Icelandic fish store in Closter, for inspiring me to prepare a medley.

I've also prepared a medley at home with Icelandic flounder fillets from the Teterboro Costco, and the store's fresh Canadian flounder is a third possibility.

And nothing says you couldn't use wild-caught shrimp in a medley.

Other ingredients in the homemade Codfish Medley include extra-virgin olive oil, Meyer Lemon, sea salt and Aleppo red pepper. 

This morning, I had Codfish Medley leftovers with leftover organic brown rice, which I prepared this week in an electric cooker with whole peeled garlic cloves and organic diced tomatoes from Costco Wholesale, and organic black beans from ShopRite.

Fresh fruit at Costco

On Tuesday, the Teterboro Costco was selling 4 pounds of large fresh strawberries for $9.99, and an 18-ounce container of blueberries was $8.99.

In February, that same container of blueberries was only $4.99.

We did buy a 4-pound package of Red Seedless Grapes for $8.99. A large Golden Pineapple was $2.99.

And 3 pounds of Organic Bananas were only $1.99, the lowest price in North Jersey.

We also bought 24 Organic Eggs, $6.99; Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon, 1 pound for $14.89; three large Gourmet Cucumbers, $3.39; and a 3-pound bag of raw California Almonds for $16.99.

We roast the almonds at home (275 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes), and dust them with Saigon Cinnamon from Costco for an after-dinner snack, with or without fresh fruit and cheese. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Little Ferry H Mart cuts back on free samples, stays mum on new store

These part-time employees at the H Mart in Little Ferry dispensed free seafood samples on the weekends for about a year, but last Sunday, they were gone for good, a store employee said. 
This empty space was where free samples of seafood were available, not far from the main fresh-fish counter, including seafood pancakes, crab meat, boiled octopus, smoked farmed salmon, broiled eel and broiled mussels topped with fish eggs. A few free samples, including meat, were available elsewhere in the store on Sunday.
The Korean supermarket occupies about half of the former Valley Fair building, which dates to the 1960s. A cyclone fence now surrounds most of the structure as workers clean the steel supports under the building, though it's not known whether the work is related to the company's plan to build a new store in the vacant half.


The shabbiest H Mart in Bergen County is long overdue for a complete makeover.

The store takes up the back half of an enormous 1-story building on Bergen Turnpike in Little Ferry that began life as a Valley Fair discount store.

The parking lot floods regularly, the dingy lunchroom closed years ago and the entrance to the Korean supermarket looks awful.

Still, the store attracts customers by offering fresh seafood, an unmatched variety of Asian greens, fresh produce and prepared Korean food -- much of it at low prices.

On Sunday, for example, a box of 16 small, yellow Ataulfo Mangoes was on sale for $8.99 with an instant coupon, reduced from $14.99.

Jackfruit was only 99 cents a pound.

I called H Mart headquarters in Lyndhurst on Monday, but couldn't find anyone who could tell me whether plans for a new store in the vacant half of the Valley Fair building are going forward.

A package of Stir-Fried Vermicelli, left, a yam-flour noodle Koreans call japchae, was $5.99 at the Little Ferry H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike.

Baby Bok Choy were cut to 68 cents a pound at H Marts in Englewood and Little Ferry.

A spicy preparation called Stewed Tofu was $4.99 at the Little Ferry H Mart. Prepared food is made in-store or supplied by such outside Korean caterers as Jinga.

A snack I enjoy at home is a small plate of reheated japchae with spinach and other vegetables topped with crunchy kimchi from my refrigerator.

Stewed Alaskan Pollack sections with skin and bones ($7.99 at H Mart) and Stewed Tofu served with leftover  Kabocha squash mashed with olive oil, and sauteed cabbage and sweet peppers.
The seafood counter at the H Mart in Englewood, where whole wild-caught whiting usually are $3.99 a pound.

A large tray of Kimbap -- a Korean roll filled with rice, vegetables, egg and imitation crab made from pollack, right front -- was $6.79 at the Englewood H Mart, 25 Lafayette Ave. Trays of sweet dessert Rice Cakes, rear, are 50% off after 4 p.m.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Costco Wholesale pizza withdrawal cases are mounting in Hackensack

Now that small businesses can get delivery of orders they place online, the parking lot at the Costco Wholesale Business Center on South River Street in Hackenack usually is almost empty, as it was last Monday afternoon.
On Monday, the shuttered food court from the old Costco warehouse looked like it did in this March 15 photo. Employees said a renovated food court is expected to open in the first week of May.


As a supplier to restaurants and pizzerias, Costco Wholesale Business Centers sell pizza boxes, but not the pies themselves.

The Business Center in Hackensack is different, however, because it's a renovated Costco warehouse with a food court that catered mainly to consumers for more than 21 years before closing last October.

When the warehouse reopened on March 15 with a new sign and a new purpose, the food court remained closed, but employees said it would reopen in a couple of weeks.

On Monday, when I stopped by for one of Costco's 18-inch veggie-combo pizzas ($9.95), the food court still was closed.

But I was assured the food court will indeed open in the first week of May.

As the opening has been delayed, I've been showing Costco pizza withdrawal symptoms.

No-pizza diet

The last slice of Costco pizza I had was more than six months ago, on Oct. 15, when the new, bigger and more crowded Costco Wholesale opened in Teterboro.

I could get only a slice of the regular cheese pizza (which is cut into two smaller slices), and, as usual, it was gooey and filling.

I went on a no-pizza, no-bread diet to lose weight more than five years ago, so I only allow myself the guilty pleasure of a couple of slices of Costco pizza once or twice a year.

The pies are pre-made, and baked in a conveyor-belt oven that can't be slowed, if you want a well-done pie -- my preference.

I usually put one or two slices in my oven at home, and crisp them up.

I saw 22-ounce jars of refrigerated Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto marked down last Monday at the Costco Wholesale Business Center, apparently because of a freeze/use by day of April 27.

The price was cut in half to $3.97.

I bought two 34.5-ounce bags of Quaker Simply Granola for about $1.85 a pound, below.


Costco Wholesale Business Center, 80 S. River St., Hackensack; 201-296-3044. Food court, 201-296-3061. Call for warehouse hours. Closed Sundays.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In northern New Jersey, seafood lovers should start with reading labels

Inspired by a fish medley I bought at The Fish Dock in Closter, I prepared fresh, wild-caught flounder from Canada with spinach, pitted olives, tomatoes, Mexican-style salsa and Aleppo red pepper.

I also used extra-virgin olive oil, Meyer Lemon and a little sea salt on the fish before putting the pan into a preheated 350-degree over for about 12-14 minutes. The flounder fillets were $7.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.


One day, we were eating local Black Drum Fish, freshly shucked oysters and crawfish prepared in a spicy boil. 

But on our return from New Orleans, we found ourselves surrounded by imported seafood, including farmed fish from China and Vietnam, two countries with poor food-safety records.

New Jersey boasts several fishing ports, and you can find seafood from the shore at the Whole Foods Market in Paramus, including whole fish and clams.

But if you shop at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro, you'll see wild fish only from Canada and Iceland or just labeled "USA."

The Fish Dock, a small market owned and operated by Icelanders, specializes in wild and antibiotic-free farmed fish from Iceland, but also carries domestic shrimp and other items.

Restaurants and take-out present a special problem, because few places tell customers whether the fish, shrimp or other seafood they sell is wild-caught and, if farmed, whether antibiotics or preservatives were used.

The Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack is aimed at restaurants, caterers and other small businesses, but carries no fresh fish. Frozen farmed catfish fillets from Vietnam -- called Basa or Swai -- will likely end up on restaurant or catering menus. A restaurant can buy a pound of this fish for just $2.40.

Aqua Star is a Chinese processing company, and although these frozen salmon fillets are wild-caught, they are from keta salmon, not the more desirable sockeye, coho or king. A pound of 6-ounce fillets costs about $5.40 at the Costco Business Center.

Aqua Star also offers frozen Coconut Breaded Butterfly Shrimp to restaurants and caterers for about $5.50 a pound (16-20 per pound). The box doesn't say whether they are farmed or wild, but I'm guessing the former.
In New Orleans, a Rouses Supermarket offered fresh wild-caught Gulf Shrimp for only $5.99 a pound. You also could find ready to eat spicy boiled crawfish, wild caught in Louisiana, for $2.49 a pound, below.

Back in New Jersey, nothing says welcome home better than a hearty dish of organic whole wheat fusilli in marinara sauce with wild-caught Moroccan sardines and anchovies from cans, the first dish I prepared on our return home.

I fried two organic eggs in olive oil for breakfast the next day and ate them over leftover fusilli. 
My wife seasoned sections of whole fresh King Whiting and pan fried them. I ate mine with sauteed cabbage and sweet peppers, and Meyer Lemon. Fresh, wild-caught whiting usually goes for $3.99 a pound at H Mart in Englewood and Little Ferry. A single center bone makes them easy to eat, even out of hand like a chicken leg.

I had leftovers of my homemade fish medley with sauteed spinach and organic quinoa, prepared in a rice cooker with organic beans and organic diced tomatoes.

Before we attended a performance of the Doo Wop Project at William Paterson University on Saturday night, we enjoyed a dinner of seafood, pasta and salad at Amore, 611 Ratzer Road in Wayne (973-595-7717). We split a special of Black Linguine with Lobster, Shrimp, Clams and Mussels in a light tomato sauce ($36.95), above and below.

Missteps by the kitchen included some overcooked shrimp, above, and a Trecolore Salad that was much too tart and didn't have enough extra-virgin olive oil in the dressing ($9.95), below. I don't know whether the seafood was local or imported, wild or farmed. 

We also had a Caesar Salad ($8.95) and a glass of Chianti ($8).

At Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood this afternoon, I picked up three takeout seafood dinners, including Shrimp Scampi, Linguine with Red Clam Sauce, Roasted Potato and Artichoke-Fennel Salad, above and below, marked down to $5.99 after 4 p.m. I don't know whether the shrimp are wild or farmed.
Jerry's is at 410 S. Dean St., Englewood.