Wednesday, July 23, 2014

H Mart bargain hunting, Costco-inspired dishes, a new salad

Jun's Tofu is made with non-GMO soybeans and sold at H&Y Marketplace, a Korean supermarket at 1 Remsen Place in Ridgefield. I like the tofu with wild sesame and sea salt, eaten hot or cold. A 28-ounce package is $5.


H Mart is the biggest chain of Korean supermarkets in New Jersey, but the North Jersey stores don't seem to be run by the same owner.

Last week at the H Mart in Englewood, a 15-pound bag of California-grown Kokuho Yellow Label White Rice was on sale for $9.99, a savings of $5.

The catch: You need the store's Smart Card coupon and must buy more than $30, excluding coupon items.

The next day, I stopped at the H Mart in Little Ferry and found the same 15-pound bag of rice for $10.88, with no strings attached.

This H Mart put the regular price at $15.99 -- not the $14.99 quoted in Englewood -- and my receipt showed a savings of $5.11.

I also found a large seedless watermelon in the Little Ferry store for $4.99, compared to $7.99 in Englewood.

The Englewood store did have Chinese broccoli on sale for 98 cents a pound.

Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale in an open-face omelet of 100% Egg Whites, also from Costco, served with mashed sweet potatoes from Trader Joe's. 

Good ingredients from Costco

Cold-smoked wild sockeye salmon from Alaska, refrigerated basil pesto, salted pollock, pignoli nuts, organic quinoa -- the list of quality ingredients from Costco Wholesale is long.

Supplement them with a few key items from other stores, such as whole-wheat pasta, and meal preparation is a snap.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale is a wonderful dressing for whole-wheat pappardelle, mouth-filling pasta ribbons from Italy, with added pignoli nuts and fresh basil, two of the ingredients in pesto.

An egg-white frittata made with sweet peppers, garlic, shredded cheese and salted Alaskan pollock, a cousin of the cod. I served it with a mixture of organic brown rice and quinoa with salsa verde.

A salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix with organic beets, Campari tomato and pignoli nuts -- all from Costco -- dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

New salad from Earthbound Farm

I picked up a new organic salad from Earthbound Farm at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

The blend of tender baby kale, chard and spinach -- called "POWER" -- can be used in salads, smoothies and as a pizza topping.

A 1-pound bag is $5.99, compared to $4.49 for a 1-pound tub of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix.

The resealable plastic bag is similar to the one the spring mix was sold in at one time, and it is easier to store in the refrigerator than the bulky plastic tub.

I tried the assertive greens in a salad with spring mix, reduced-fat Jarlsberg Swiss Cheese, Jersey blueberries and Campari tomatoes, all from Costco (photo below).

Friday, July 18, 2014

In every store, check the nutrition label for added sugar

These sardines from Thailand seemed like a good buy at ShopRite in Parmaus, but when I looked at the nutrition label on the ones with tomato sauce, sugar was listed as one of the ingredients.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss nutrition labels that list added sugar, and shopping at Costco Wholesale, Trader Joe's and ShopRite.


Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods -- in juice, raw in salads and in cooking -- but a lot of products made with them also contain added sugar.

Bottled pasta sauce with sugar is commonplace, as I discovered at Trader Joe's the other day. But what is sugar doing in sardines?

I've been buying 99-cents canned Moroccan sardines with tomato sauce at Fatal's in Paterson, because they have less sodium than the same fish in oil, and often use them with pasta.

At the ShopRite in Paramus, I saw 3.75-ounce of sardines in tomato sauce from Thailand for only 59 cents during the Summer Can Can Sale.

But the nutrition label listed sugar as one of the ingredients.

I bought three jars of Archer Farms Roasted Salsa Verde from Target, and liked its thick, chunky style.

When I tasted it and then looked at the label, I saw sugar is one of the ingredients. 

No sugar is used in green salsas made in Mexico, and sold by Goya, La Costena and others.

Two bottled pasta sauces at Trader Joe's in Paramus, above and below, contain added sugar. I buy Kirkland Signature Marinara and Classico Tomato & Basil at Costco Wholesale. Both are made without sugar.

The front label on Trader Joe's Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil says it is "imported from Italy and packed in U.S.A." But a label on the back notes the bottle contains a blend of oils from four countries.

The side or back label, left, lists an oil blend from Italy, Spain, Argentina and Greece. ShopRite sells a liter bottle of 100% extra-virgin olive oil from Italy for $7.99 and for $6.99 during the Summer Can Can Sale.

Trader Joe's

At Trader Joe's in Paramus, I looked at bottled pasta sauces with sugar, but bought a 25-ounce jar of Trader Giotto's Organic Tomato Basil Marinara, which is unsweetened ($2.29).

A package of Trader Joe's uncured, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef hot dogs was $4.99.

Applegate naturally raised sliced ham and roast beef come in 7-ounce packages for $3.99 each.

A 2-pound bag of small sweet potatoes was $1.69 or about 85 cents a pound.

Summer Can Can Sale

I took advantage of Summer Can Can Sale discounts at the ShopRite in Paramus. 

The sale continues next week, though different items may be discounted.

A 1-pound package of Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Pasta from Italy is $1, compared to $1.39 for a similar product at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's.

I bought spaghetti, linguine, fusilli and capellini.

Liter bottles of Adirondack Lemon-Lime Seltzer were 40 cents each, and come in a 12 pack, a better value than the same seltzer in 12-ounce cans or 20-ounce bottles.

Bing Cherries were $1.99 a pound, reduced from $2.99.

Two-hundred Melitta basket filters for 4-cup coffee makers were 77 cents, reduced from $1.99.

Costco Wholesale calls this a "food court," but with only one counter, it's really just a food stand with tables. At the Montreal Costco, you can buy coffee and espresso drinks, but not in Hackensack.

A Melted Turkey and Provolone Sandwich is $3.99.

Costco Wholesale's $9.95 pizza

The slices on baked-to-order Costco Wholesale pizzas are so wide they are cut in two.

I ran out on Thursday to get an 18-inch pepperoni pizza at my Hackensack warehouse store for my wife and son ($9.95).

Before I went on a diet, I loved this pizza for all of the filling dough. And you can get a non-meat version with vegetables.

You can ask for it well done, but I'm not sure that is actually bakes longer in the conveyor-belt oven.

I used to bring it home and put the slices in the oven to bake even more.

The waiter said the Watermelon Salad at the Suburban Diner in Paramus comes with soup, such as this tasty vegetarian lentil, below. But when I got home, I noticed I was charged $4.10 for a small bowl.

The popular diner is cutting down trees to add more parking spaces.

A refreshing summer salad

I met a friend for lunch on Wednesday at the Suburban Diner in Paramus, and enjoyed a terrific Watermelon Salad with peppery arugula, diced cucumbers, feta cheese, salsa verde and a vinaigrette dressing with more cheese ($11.95).

I asked for the dressing on the side, and the waiter left it in the kitchen, but he brought it later when I asked for "more dressing."

He also told me a small bowl of soup came with the salad, but my check included a charge of $4.10.

I called the diner today and was told the soup is included. The next time I am there, a man said, the error will be fixed.

A cup of Mighty Leaf Organic Earl Grey Tea was $2.25.

Suburban Diner, 172 Route 17 north, Paramus; 201-261-2605.

At Maison Keyser on Third Avenue and 74th Street in Manhattan, a latte will set you back $4.50 plus tax, including a small pastry made in the artisan bakery. I couldn't find a Starbucks Coffee in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Butter is still bad for your heart, health experts say

When I compared Smart Balance Spread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, above, to Original Smart Balance in June, I overlooked another reason to buy the former: Less saturated fat. Reducing saturated fat can be good for your heart, if you replace it with unsaturated fat, according to Consumer Reports On Health.


Headlines such as "Butter is Back" in The New York Times and "gleeful" news articles urging people to eat more bacon were premature, according to Consumer Reports On Health, a monthly newsletter.

Those reports were based on a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine that "suggests ... saturated fat, long thought to be a major contributor to heart disease by raising LDL (bad) cholesterol, isn't a dietary demon after all," the July 2014 newsletter states.

"The study got a lot of us hoping we could chow down on buttery croissants and fried chicken without any risk to our hearts," Consumer Reports said.

Not me. I never use artery clogging butter or cream, especially not in my cooking, which relies exclusively on heart-healthy extra-virgin olive oil. 

And when I eat out, I ask the kitchen to use olive oil, not butter, to prepare my food. 

I looked at several brands of butter at ShopRite in Paramus the other day. Saturated fat in one tablespoon was 35% to 37% -- more than four times the saturated fat in Smart Balance Spread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Many missed the 'correction'

British researchers looked at 72 previous studies "on the role of fat in heart disease and concluded that the evidence didn't support the advice to cut back on saturated fat, which comes primarily from animal sources [meat, poultry and cheese], and to eat more saturated fat, which comes mainly from vegetables, nuts and fish," the editors said.

"Well, not so fast. That report got a lot of attention, but less noticed was the authors' correction a week later.

"Turns out that when it came to unsaturated fats -- the kind in olive oil and fish -- they had goofed. Their correction shows that consuming that kind of fat does help protect against heart disease." 

Grilled wild sockeye salmon with a reduction of extra-virgin olive oil, chopped fresh garlic, diced organic tomatoes, red wine, organic chicken stock and fresh herbs. The fish was $10.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale, and most of the other ingredients also came from the Hackensack warehouse store.

Extra-virgin oil also forms the basis of a pasta sauce for organic whole-wheat fusilli with sardines. After reheating leftovers, you can drizzle more olive oil on the pasta at the table.

Two organic brown eggs fried sunny side up in extra-virgin olive oil with smoked wild salmon and Aleppo pepper. I served them with garlic mashed sweet potatoes, also made with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings.

Eat more unsaturated fat

Consumer Reports says the study by British researchers "had other shortcomings to muddy the message about dietary fat."

"For example," the newsletter states, "our experts say that it left out research showing that the benefits of cutting back on saturated fat depend on what you replace it with.

"If you stop eating butter and cheese but start eating a lot of sugar or processed foods, you're unlikely to do your heart or your health in general much good," says Maxine Siegel, R.D., who heads Consumer Reports research on food and nutrition.

Considerable research shows that if saturated fat is replaced with unsaturated fats, the risk of heart disease goes down, Consumer Reports says, adding:

"It still pays to watch your intake of saturated fat, Siegel says. "Aim for no more than 7% to 10% of total calories from the stuff (about 140 to 200 calories, if you consume 2,000 calories per day).

A tablespoon of ShopRite butter contains 100 calories, all from fat.

"But equally important is to replace saturated fat with heart-healthy alternatives, such as unsaturated fats, fruit, vegetables and whole grains -- not refined carbs such as those in white bread, sugar and many snacks."

Drugs and tests

Consumer Reports on Health also discussed other research on preventing heart disease:

"Aggressive new guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology mean that 13 million more Americans -- including almost all men ages 60 to 75 and more than half of women in that age range -- should now take a cholesterol-lowering drug, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor and generic) or rosuvastatin (Crestor).

"A number of leading medical groups have questioned the usefulness of several heart-disease screening tests, including EKGs and exercise stress tests, long part of an annual checkup for millions of Americans, as well as newer and often heavily advertised tests, such as CT scans of the heart."

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Jazz, food, city views and more photos from Montreal

A man on stilts amusing the crowd during Montreal's annual International Jazz Festival, widely acknowledged as the best in the world. The 11-day festival -- the Canadian city's 35th -- wrapped up on July 6. 

There are free and ticketed performances 12 hours a day outdoors, in clubs, and in small and large concert spaces. This group gave a free concert of New Orleans jazz.

Every style of vocal and instrumental jazz, blues and funk can be heard at free concerts, such as this one by a big band.

Montreal pianist and composer Alain Lefevre and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra performed Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story" and other compositions on June 26 in a packed Maison Symphonique, drawing standing ovations. Members of the orchestra tuned up before the concert, above. The hall opened in 2011.

Lefevre also performed as part of a jazz trio. On July 1, I heard jazz pianist Brad Mehldau in a solo concert at Maison Symphonique.

Jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves wowing the audience on June 27 in Theatre
Maisonneuve, one of the major concert halls grouped together on the Place des Arts, similar to Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

A singer named Buika, an African woman who was born in Spain and now lives in Miami, performing with her flamenco-inspired trio on June 29 in Theatre Maisonneuve. Her many fans in the audience sang along with her. On July 1, we returned to the same hall for a wonderful concert by jazz singer Stacey Kent, a New Jersey native.

The Little School of Jazz entertaining children and their parents at one of their daily performances inside Complexe Desjardins, above and below, part of a vast underground network of malls, supermarkets, office buildings, hotels and subway stations in Montreal.

Ty Tyler, vocalist with the soul band Vintage Trouble, is the reincarnation of James Brown, and he packed them in for a free outdoor concert on July 1 that saw him leave the stage and climb one of the light and camera towers in the plaza.
Diana Ross, above and below, gave a sold-out concert on July 3 in Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, but her strong voice often was drowned out by her big band, which included a Latin percussionist. She sang only one song from "Lady Sings the Blues," the 1972 film in which she played jazz singer Billie Holiday.

Diana Ross also didn't address the audience very much, in contrast to her daughter, Rhonda Ross, who opened for her with a small band and three back-up singers. Rhonda Ross spoke in perfect French to the mostly French-speaking audience and sang half of a song in that language, drawing a roar of approval.

A free concert and an appreciative audience on a mild evening in Montreal's Place des Arts, above and below, as seen from the terrace of the Hyatt Regency, the headquarters hotel for the annual festival.

Bistro SAQ is one of the pop-up restaurants on festival grounds.
Montreal has a visible homeless population. Not far from where this man was sleeping downtown, another homeless man in heavily stained clothing was reaching into the large garbage cans inside a Burger King, searching for something edible. We saw a young woman in baggy skinny jeans panhandling drivers stopped on University Street.

Bicycle lanes downtown carry two-way traffic, in contrast to those in Manhattan. The island of Montreal is larger than Manhattan island, but fewer people live there and traffic congestion never approaches the nightmarish proportions in New York.

This 1985 sculpture, called "The Illuminated Crowd," draws a lot of attention from pedestrians in downtown Montreal. 

One of the entrances to Montreal's Chinatown, which seems to have as many Vietnamese restaurants as Chinese ones. One restaurant we wanted to visit was Orange Rouge, which serves Thai, Korean, Chinese and Japanese dishes at 106 De La Gauchetiere ouest, but we ran out of time.

Want Chinese roast duck for dinner?

One of the many Vietnamese restaurants in Chinatown, below.

Montreal's Jean Talon Market is the only one I know that offers free samples of fruits and vegetables, but no toothpicks.

Prince Edward Island oysters on the half-shell are $2.50 to $3 Canadian each, if you want to eat them at this counter in Jean Talon.

Across from the oyster bar, a fish market offers live lobsters for $10.99 Canadian a pound and also sells fried smelts and other seafood that can be eaten at picnic tables.

Restaurants, charcuteries and other food shops line streets surrounding Jean Talon.

Hanging flower pots and street signs in Montreal's Outremont section, near Vanhorne, a restaurant with "cuisine du marche" or "cooking from the market."

A Vietnamese restaurant outside of Chinatown.

One of two large electric fireplaces at a McDonald's in a service area on Route 15, not far from Saint Sauveur, Quebec.

A World Cup-themed Big Mac, which contains mystery meat in any language. McDonald's is the "official restaurant" of the FIFA World Cup, the international soccer competition.

Travelers line up to order at McDonald's.

Hotel de Ville or City Hall in Old Montreal.

Old Montreal slopes down to the Saint Lawrence River, below.

From Old Montreal, tourists can see the island where a Formula 1 race is held every June. It can be reached by Montreal's Metro or subway.
Metro cars run on rubber tires, making them quieter inside and out than Manhattan's subway, though Montreal's system isn't as extensive. A single ride costs $3 Canadian.

Eaton Center downtown is one of the city's enclosed malls linked by the subway.
A passageway in Complexe Desjardins, which includes a mall, food court, hotel, office buildings, major concerts halls and a subway station, Place des Arts. On July 2, I heard jazz pianist Randy Weston and saxophonist Billy Harper in Cinquieme Salle, a small concert space off of this passageway. Weston, who was heavily influenced by trips to Africa, told the audience nature was the first orchestra.

A valet parking attendant in the Complexe Desjardins, which has a multilevel garage with about 1,000 spaces.

The KPMG Tower in downtown Montreal.

A church spire reflected in glass sheathing an office building.

A sign on a Montreal hospital. Cardiac teams have their work cut out for them in view of the rich French diet. In some restaurants, servers are amused when you ask for food cooked without artery clogging butter and cream, assuring you only "a little is used."