Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vodka Sauce without heavy cream, organic brown rice-quinoa combo

Victoria lists the ingredients in its pasta sauces on the front label.


I'm a big fan of bottled pasta sauces without added sugar, but usually avoid those made with cream, including Vodka Sauce and Alfredo Sauce.

For me, the draw is the taste of red tomatoes, not all that creamy, artery clogging saturated fat and cholesterol.

So, imagine my delight when I found a 40-ounce jar of Victoria Vodka Sauce made without heavy cream on sale at the ShopRite in Paramus.

The ingredients label on the front of the jar listed two cheeses and vodka, but no cream. 

The price was $3.99 or $3 off, and there is enough sauce here to dress a full pound of organic whole wheat pasta.

Unfortunately, I could find only one bottle on the shelves.

Costco Wholesale in Hackensack sells the highly rated Victoria Marinara in 40-ounce jars, but I have never seen Victoria Vodka Sauce in the warehouse store.

On the shelf at ShopRite in Paramus, a bottle of Bertolli Vodka Sauce boasts, "Now with More Cream." The label should add, "Now with More Saturated Fat and Cholesterol."

Bertolli Vodka Sauce also has added sugar and xanthan gum.

Seeds of Change organic Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic is already cooked, and only needs to be heated on the stove or in a microwave.

Heat-and-eat Brown Rice and Quinoa

My wife doesn't care for my habit of tossing handfuls of peeled garlic cloves into an electric cooker with organic brown rice or quinoa, even though the cloves turn out creamy.

This week, she found prepared organic Seeds of Change Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Six 8.5-ounce pouches in a box -- a total of 3.2 pounds -- were $8.99, and each pouch yields about three servings.

It's a tasty combination of 100% whole grains, but the garlic taste isn't that evident.

The ingredients label lists brown rice first and then quinoa (say KEEN-wah), but the product is called Quinoa & Brown Rice.

Those labels are supposed to list ingredients from greater to lesser amounts.

At the Paramus ShopRite, blemishes in these organic apples might explain why they are labeled, "Manager's Special."

Monday, January 26, 2015

The first challenge at new H Mart Fresh is finding a place to park

A new H Mart Fresh on Broad Avenue and Fort Lee Road in Leonia occupies a building that was home to two other markets, but the store doesn't have a parking lot.

Editor's note: Today, I report on a brief visit to a new H Mart Fresh in Leonia, and compare wine prices at Trader Joe's and ShopRite.


The other day, I drove through downtown Leonia and was surprised to see the food market at Broad Avenue and Fort Lee Road had been transformed into an H Mart Fresh.

Today, on the way back home from Fort Lee, I wanted to take a look inside, but found parking a challenge.

The bad news is the store has no parking lot, but the good news is street parking is free, if you can find a space.

Still, after I found parking in a municipal lot a short block away from the store and took a foot path to Fort Lee Road through a bank lot, there wasn't a single bargain to be had in the store.

On Sunday, I visited the full-size H Mart supermarket in Little Ferry and saw many items on sale, including California-grown Kokuho Yellow Label White Rice, Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup and organic soft tofu.

None of those items were discounted at the Leonia H Mart Fresh, which opened about a month ago and isn't even listed on the company Web site:

In a creative re-use of store signs, H Mart put its logo on the Aisle 6 marker, above, but left the old market's name on the other side, below.

Second H Mart Fresh

The new H Mart Fresh in Leonia joins the H Mart Fresh near residential high-rises on 16th Street in Fort Lee, a town that also boasts a full-size H Mart supermarket.

H Mart Fresh is an abbreviated version of the bigger stores, designed more for convenience than anything else.

The Leonia H Mart Fresh is in the heart of the borough's downtown, near a few apartment buildings.

I met another shopper who explained why I wasn't able to find a parking space closer to the store.

She said teachers from the school on the next corner lost their lot when an addition was added, and they now park in many of the street spaces.

Unanswered is how borough zoning officials ever approved a food market for a building without a parking lot.

Every other H Mart I have been to, from Fort Lee to Edison, has a parking lot.

And H Mart, part of the Hanahreum Group, also is the only chain I know that doesn't have the same sales in every store, and when an item is on sale in several stores, discounts can vary.

On Sunday, shoppers found the Little Ferry H Mart's parking lot flooded, and the entrance to the store, above and below, as shabby as ever. The entire store, one of H Mart's biggest, is desperately in need of a makeover.

Trader Joe's Wines on 14 Street in Manhattan, near Union Square, offers Charles Shaw Blends from California for $2.99 a bottle, and other red wines for $4.99, $5.49 and $5.99 a bottle.

Hunting for a bathroom

This morning, a part-time job took me into Manhattan, where I parked at a meter and walked to a Starbucks Coffee for a latte.

But the store on 3rd Avenue and East 15th Street doesn't have a bathroom, and I was directed to a Trader Joe's on East 14th Street.

There, a security guard directed me to a Trader Joe's Wine Store a couple of doors down the street, where I did find a bathroom, and a store full of red-wine bargains.

Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw Blends) now costs $2.99 a bottle for Merlot, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, and I bought one of each.

I also picked up a bottle of Green Fin organic Cabernet Sauvignon for $4.99, TJ's Growers Reserve Petite Sirah for $5.49 and Grifone Toscana Rosso for $5.99.

Trader Joe's Wine Store, 138 E. 14th St., New York, N.Y.; 1-212-529-6326.

The wine department at the ShopRite is Paramus isn't the place to shop, if you are a wine lover in search of bargains. In a quick walk through the aisles last week, I couldn't find any bottles of red wine in my price range, $3 to $7.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

At BCD in Fort Lee, the soft tofu in that spicy soup is 100% organic

A large green-lipped mussel emerging from the Seafood Tofu Soup at the popular BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee.

A beautifully battered and fried yellow croaker is the standout among the complimentary side dishes served at BCD Tofu House, an international chain based in South Korea. The others are excellent cabbage kimchi, spicy raw squid and iced sour pickle slices any Jewish deli would be proud of.

Editor's note: Calling all garlic lovers. On Friday, we stopped at BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee for a belly busting lunch, and on Saturday, we had dinner at Wondee's in Hackensack, our favorite Thai restaurant, where we tried to ignore the tattered carpet.


I absolutely love the food and service at BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee, but could do without the crowds and the wait for a table.

Having said that, I always look for an excuse to eat there, as I did on Friday afternoon, when I was returning from taking photos of an Edgewater apartment building that was destroyed by fire.

My visits have been infrequent since the restaurant was recommended to me in 2012, but this time, I immediately noticed the place-mat menu declaring only 100% organic tofu is used in the signature soup.

The menu also notes prices have stayed the same now that House Foods-brand organic tofu has been added.

Tofu is made from soybeans, one of the major crops that are being genetically modified. 

Organic tofu is GMO free as are some non-organic tofus that carry a seal from the Non GMO Project, including the House Foods Firm Tofu sold at Costco Wholesale.

On Friday afternoon, the restaurant was packed when we arrived around 1:30, but we got a table in about 5 minutes.

I ordered Seafood Tofu Soup, my wife had Pork Tofu Soup, both prepared "Hot," and we shared a Seafood Pancake.

BCD prices

BCD's Tofu Soup or Soondubu Jjigae is $10.99 at lunch (10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and $12.99 at dinner, including six side dishes, steamed white or brown rice and a fresh egg to crack open and poach in the bubbling broth.

That's a dollar or two more than So Gong Dong in Palisades Park, our usual go-to place, but BCD serves more free side dishes and the quality of seafood used in the soup is superior.

One of those free side dishes is a beautifully fried small fish, a yellow croaker, that is so good I ate the whole thing, including the head.

So Gong Dong has nothing like it.

The range of spiciness available at BCD are Plain, Mild, Regular, Hot and Danger. Tofu Soup is one of the world's great comfort foods.

BCD, an international chain based in South Korea, also has a more extensive menu of such traditional favorites as stone-bowl bibimbap, spicy raw crab, pork belly and cold noodles called naegmyun.

The complete Tofu Soup meal served at BCD Tofu House is the best in North Jersey. Now, if they only took reservations.


Two of the complimentary side dishes at BCD Tofu House are slices of fried tofu, front, and marinated green beans and mushrooms. The Haemul Pajeon or Korean Seafood Pancake, below, serves four, and we took home leftovers ($8.99).

Seafood Soondubu is $10.99 at lunch.

BCD Tofu House has a playroom for children that parents can monitor from the dining room. 

A takeout order of Pork Soondubu included a fried yellow croaker, above, and Chinese broccoli and bean sprouts, photos below.

Inspired by our delicious lunch at BCD Tofu House, I made Tofu Soup at home on Saturday, using ground red pepper, roasted black sesame seeds, Pulmone-brand Tofu Broth Seasoning and, from Costco, organic chicken stock, firm tofu, and skinless and boneless hake fillets.

BCD Tofu House, 1640 Schlosser St., Fort Lee, hidden away in Fort Lee Towne Center, a small shopping center with a Korean bakery, gym and other businesses; 201-944-2340.

Web site: A dish loved the world over

Ocean of Garlic at Wondee's in Hackensack combines deep-fried shrimp, squid, small scallops and mussels sauteed with black pepper and minced fresh garlic and served with pickled cabbage and other vegetables ($18).

At Wondee's, focus on food

I've always judged restaurants by food and then service, because you can't eat the wallpaper.

At Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, the food and service are still great nearly 18 years after Chef Wandee Suwangbutra opened on Main Street in Hackensack.

I have to just keep on reminding myself I can't eat the carpet at my favorite Thai restaurant.

The restaurant's floor is raised in the back so you have to step up, if you enter through the door off of the rear parking lot.

Then, the floor slopes in places and is flat in the front, but the carpet throughout is worn, faded and crudely patched with tape.

The chairs also have seen better days. The interior is a liability lawsuit waiting to happen.

Two favorites

Wandee is at the top of her game, especially when preparing two of my favorites, Ocean of Garlic and the classic Green Papaya Salad.

The seafood in the Ocean of Garlic is deep-fried, but not greasy, and tender, and I love the contrast with the crunchy pickled vegetables.

The Green Papaya Salad is served over a large romaine lettuce leaf so you can tear some off, wrap up the crunchy strands and pop them into your mouth. 

Now, if only Wandee's landlord could invest in a new carpet for the restaurant, loyal customers like me can focus completely on the wonderful Thai food.

Thai Fried Rice is made with shrimp, pork, egg, scallions and bell pepper ($10.50)

Som Thum or fresh Green Papaya Salad packs plenty of crunch and plenty of heat from chili peppers ($8).

Geuw Nam or Wonton Soup with roast pork and vegetables ($3.50 for small).

Coconut Juice with pulp ($3).

Wondee's is a BYO.

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700. BYO, parking in rear, no delivery. Closed Mondays.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Portuguese food delivery in Hackensack could be our new Chinese

Grilled Codfish or what the Portuguese call Bacalhau Grelhado from Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack.

Fire Pit Barbecue also delivered an aluminum tray holding a whole barbecued chicken (cut up), yellow rice and black beans.

Editor's note: After two solid days of eating out in Manhattan's expensive restaurants and trying to avoid butter, cream and other high-cholesterol and high-calorie food, we returned home, looking forward to simpler meals.


How tired are we of having Chinese food delivered? Don't ask.

We've been loyal customers of Zen Kitchen in Teaneck, but our last few deliveries haven't been up to par.

My wife complains the food we've received lately is "greasy," and we have a hard time getting dishes prepared simply with fresh garlic.

So, after we returned on Monday from spending the weekend in a luxury Manhattan hotel, I called Fire Pit Barbecue on Essex Street, a mile and a half away from our home in Hackensack.

The restaurant's name doesn't hint the menu is filled with Portuguese-style barbecue and other favorites, plus wraps, soups and salads.

Pork with shrimp

When I ate meat, I always loved ordering Pork with Clams at Portuguese restaurants in Newark's Ironbound.

Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack lists Pork Cubes with Shrimp on its menu ($16), and Shrimp, Meat and Cod Fish Cakes ($1 to $1.50 each).

For dessert, you'll find Flan and Rice Pudding ($3 each).

I ordered three items from the online menu and had them delivered:

A whole BBQ Chicken with two side dishes ($14), a half-order of BBQ Spare Ribs ($9) and Grilled Codfish with Potatoes, Peppers and Onions ($19).

The whole chicken and grilled codfish came in aluminum trays with barbecue and spicy sauces -- generous portions that were enough for three to four people.

They were a better value than the half-order of spare ribs.

I loved the smoky taste of the salted codfish, and the vegetables that came with it. We got three portions of fish and vegetables from the tray.

Fire Pit Barbecue, 357 Essex St., Hackensack; 201-489-3473. Portuguese food. Eat in, take out and delivery. 

Online menu is being revised and might not match price increases. A second Fire Pit Barbecue is in Kearny.

Web site:

The Grilled Codfish delivered by Fire Pit Barbecue was smothered in green peppers, onions and garlic, and came with steamed broccoli and carrots, and white potatoes, all in a generous pour of extra-virgin olive oil.

Back to egg whites, whole grains

When we checked out of our hotel last Monday, we didn't go to breakfast in Manhattan, but returned home late in the morning and prepared our own meal. 

Open-face omelets made with 100% egg whites and seasoned with Aleppo pepper, za'artar thyme mixture or grated Pecorino Romano, a sheep's milk cheese from Italy, above and below, and served with organic quinoa or an organic quinoa-brown rice combination, both from Costco Wholesale.

Two Costco Wholesale Organic Eggs fried in olive oil with bits of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, served with mashed sweet potatoes and Kabocha squash made with extra-virgin olive oil. How sweet it is.

Last Sunday evening in Manhattan, the Michelin 3-star restaurant Per Se in the Time Warner Center didn't offer a green salad. On Wednesday, on the way home, I stopped at Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood for a Kale Salad with dried cranberries, pignoli nuts and shredded cheese ($3.99), added the salad to Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix and Campari Tomatoes, and dressed them in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.