Friday, October 16, 2009

Shopping at Jerry's: Walk, stop, munch

At one point during two visits to Jerry's Gourmet and More in Englewood yesterday, every customer I passed seemed to be chewing on one of the great food samples the store puts out every day: several cheeses and cheese spreads, fatty mortadella, walnut bread, Neapolitan pizza, extra-virgin olive oil, chocolate, cookies and crackers.

Customers of the Italian specialty store know the routine well, strolling around slowly with a cart or basket, pausing at the sampling stations, tasting and moving on. Virtually all are shopping for the superb take-out food, wines, olive oils, dried pasta and so forth, but I saw at least two customers enter, sample several items and then leave empty-handed. At Jerry's, that's OK. There are even free wine-tastings on Friday and Saturdays.

I met a friend there, then returned 90 minutes later to shop for dinner. I sampled the food on both occasions -- too much, as usual. But I came away with three wonderful Jerry's Meals To Go: Chilean sea bass, grouper and chicken balsamico, complete with small portions of salad, dumplings and vegetables.

I know I have raved about these meals before, but they are restaurant-quality food at such an incredibly low price -- a mere $6.99. My buttery sea bass was a good inch thick and baked just enough to keep it moist. It was covered with a red-pepper sauce and accompanied by a salad of rice, shrimp and broccoli; shrimp and vegetable dumplings, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and stuffed mushrooms.

This is a meal that calls for a glass of wine and a toasted slice or two of great bread to make it complete. I added a small green salad. At that price, it is unlikely you can find a better take-out dinner in North Jersey. Here's a hearty round of applause for Jerry's.

Jerry's Gourmet and More, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood, (201) 871-7108; open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., except Sundays, until 2 p.m.

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