Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sushi with cracked pepper, olive oil and kimchi

I continue to work my way through that great block of smoked-mackerel sushi from Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater. See post, "Back in the food-shopping game."

Yesterday, I opened the two packets that came in the box and looked over the inserts from Komego, all in Japanese, which I don't read. I poured the cracked peppercorns and extra-virgin olive oil in separate dishes. This is different. I've always associated sushi and sashimi with soy sauce and wasabi.

This fatty, Omega-3 rich mackerel with rice is good enough on its own, but takes on extra dimensions when dipped first in the oil and then pungent cracked pepper.This morning, I had two more slices and paired one with
Gimchi, a very common side dish in KoreaImage via Wikipedia
crunchy cabbage kimchi before popping it into my mouth. Delish.
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Restaurant coverage in The Record

In Better Living today, an Italian restaurant in Fair Lawn gets two and a half stars from The Record's reviewer, Elisa Ung. That's only a half star more than she awarded a faux-Caribbean chain restaurant in Wayne several weeks ago.

In the review of Davia, Ung reports on a potato-crusted salmon entree and a strip steak, failing to mention whether the former was wild or artificially-colored farmed fish or whether the latter was grass-fed or at least raised without anitbiotics and growth hormones.

Ung spends too much time writing about desserts. Recently, she related she had a "nightmare" about dessert. I guess she doesn't realize that many people are watching their weight or cholesterol and forgo dessert, especially at a restaurant with big portions, like the one she is reviewing today. In fact, she says fewer than half of its customers order dessert, but that doesn't stop her from sampling four of them.

I found the following hilarious. She reports the restaurant is named after the owner's daughter. "Their son, John, wanted no part of the name." That's a good thing, isn't it, but with a name like John, why does that have to be mentioned? Would anyone name an Italian restaurant just John? Wouldn't  people think it's an elaborate bathroom?  Maybe John's Trattoria.

On Page 20  of Better Living, the restaurant health inspections appear, but many towns' restaurants are excluded today and, in fact, never appear in the paper. Thirteen towns are listed today out of the more than 90 in The Record's circulation area.

Tasting and shopping notes

Queso manchego, Manchego cheese.Image via Wikipedia

The block of smoked-mackerel sushi from Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater didn't disappoint. (See previous post.)  In fact, my wife, who squirms at the the thought of eating raw fish, loved the slices she tried. I ate mine without wasabi or soy sauce and they nicely set up our dinner of frozen wild sockeye salmon in a light Asian sauce.

I placed the frozen salmon (from Costco) in a glass plate set atop my steamer (it didn't fit inside), in a shallow pool of olive and sesame oils, fish sauce and cheap sake. I sprinkled salt on the fillets, rubbed them with coarse red Aleppo pepper and steamed them about 20 minutes for medium, serving the fish with leftover rice and peas, salad and pita bread.

The latest batch of Aleppo pepper I purchased from Fattal's on Main Street in Paterson is noticeably darker than what I had and noticeably spicier, a good thing. I keep it in a plastic container in the freezer and sprinkle it over eggs, fish and chicken, but wonder if the intensity fades over time.

I forgot to mention I bought aged Manchego sheep-milk's cheese from Spain at Costco the other day. The price, $8.29 a pound, is 70 cents less than the sale price at Fairway Market in Paramus and several dollars less than the regular price. Storage tip: Trim off the inedible rind, slice the wedge into three pieces and wrap each in plastic wrap before placing them in a freezer bag in the fridge. This also works with a large wedge of Reggiano Parmigiano.

North Jersey markets are running some good sales, starting today.  

Fairway Market has three pounds of herbicide-free Campari tomatoes for $5, three heads of organic romaine for $2.99 and Columbia supremo coffee for $4.99 a pound. Stop & Shop is reprising its sale on drug-free Australian shoulder lamb chops, $3.69 a pound for three pounds or more. And two markets on Railway Avenue in Paterson, El Campesino and El Rancho, are selling limes or lemons at 10 for 99 cents, 20 pounds of Canilla rice for $3.99, three cups of La Yogurt (6 ounces) for 99 cents, Lactaid milk for $4.99 (96 ounces) and Hass avocados, 2 for 99 cents.

If you think Paterson is going too far for food, stop first at Aleppo Restaurant, at Main and Thomas streets, or Hummus Restaurant across the street for a nice lunch, pick up Syrian bread and spices at Fattal's down the strteet, then go food shopping. Hungry food shoppers spend more, research has shown.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Back in the food-shopping game

Mitsuwa Marketplace ミツワマーケットプレイスImage via Wikipedia

I'm back to food shopping after a few days off and really enjoying it. I am going to try and avoid visiting a store just because it has a sale. See earlier post, "Are we sick of food shopping yet?"

We go through a ton of Halloween candy every year, so I headed to Costco in Hackensack for my weekly trip. I picked up 600 to 700 pieces of candy, plus 100% whole grain bread, smoked wild salmon, ravioli stuffed with cheese and spinach, and organic salad greens -- all at great prices. That was yesterday.

Today, I drove to Mitsuwa Marketplace in Edgewater for its autumn food fair, sampling ramen made by Master  Kenji Chiba, owner of a Tokyo noodle-soup shop, Chibaki Ya. I learned that ramen broth isn't always made with pork. This one takes six to seven hours to prepare from fish and chicken. The fair ends Sunday. Nice.

To take home, I bought one of my favorites, a log of smoked mackerel sushi imported from Japan ($29). It comes wrapped in a leaf, inside a box. I also bought two scrumptious, freshly made rice balls with fish roe, wrapped in seaweed. I wolfed those down as soon as I got home. My third purchase were Kobe-style pancakes stuffed with sweet bean paste, made on the spot.

After I left Mitsuwa, I stopped at Trader Joe's, which is just down the road, picking up drug- and preservative-free Applegate Farms cold cuts, two packages of uncured, preservative-free hot dogs; and sliced yogurt cheese with jalapenos.

I also purchased a T.J.'s five-gallon, reusable, insulated bag to replace one I lost, at a bargain price of $1.99. The store doesn't give you any credit for bringing reusable bags, but almost makes up for that with this low price.

CostcoImage via Wikipedia

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Today's food coverage in The Record

In The Record's Better Living section today, on F-2, we read about an "authentic" Greek place that serves burgers, mozzarella sticks and Buffalo wings. I and many other North Jerseyans shop frequently at Korean markets, but an item about Korean black garlic lists no Korean store that stocks it.

These two food reports, an illustrated recipe and a story about wine ($12 a bottle and higher) are all the newspaper could muster on a Wednesday, when readers in the past could feast on an entire Food section.

The Food section was dropped by Publisher Stephen A. Borg, who promised readers food coverage "every day." Unfortunately, despite an occasional house ad touting "every day" food news, there is no food coverage on Thursdays and a vast majority of Saturdays. Monday's coverage usually consists of a single recipe for vegetarians.
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We'll eat, talk and shop for food

GoldenFalafel - Fresh Pita Bread Made Daily

Please join me for an exploration of some of North Jersey's great ethnic food enclaves.

Initially, I will be conducting walking tours of Middle Eastern and Korean restaurants and food shops that will begin with a great lunch. Later, I'll be adding a Latino food tour, starting with lunch at the best Cuban sandwich shop in Hudson County.

I will need a minimum of four people for each tour. Please contact me for details at
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Food coverage in The Record

Grilled hot dogs

In the Better Living section of The Record today, on Page F-1, 2 and 3, a staff written story on Jewish deli maven David Sax and a so-called 15-minute pork-chop recipe from the Chicago Tribune fail to discuss whether any of the meat was raised on factory farms with antibiotics, growth hormones or animal byproducts (bits of dead animals and kitchen scraps), or whether the hot dogs contain preservatives linked to cancer.

The paper's food coverage rarely discusses these issues, whether in a feature story, restaurant review or recipe. I've always been in favor of reviewing supermarkets, rating them on price and how much naturally raised food they stock. But For The Record, that might jeopardize sorely needed advertising revenue.

On Page L-10 of The Record, in business news, there's no mention in the Start-Ups column of whether the sea salt being promoted contains iodine, a necessary nutrient.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Exploring my pantry, fridge and freezer

I'm determined not to go food shopping, even though my wife made a list over the weekend but didn't follow through by actually going to her favorite ShopRite, in Englewood. This morning, she promised to go tomorrow. (See earlier post, "Are we sick of food shopping yet?")

We have plenty of food in the freezer: steak, chicken (feet for soup and pieces), wild salmon, lobster bisque, spinach pies, but I am also trying to eat some meatless meals, so I will serve big spiral pasta in tomato sauce with sardines (lots of Omega-3s and Vitamin C), plus salad and bread.

I have half a pound of the spirals, a half bottle of Fairway Market garlic pasta sauce and three cans of Moroccan sardines in spciy oil from Fattal's in Paterson. There is romaine and green-leaf lettuce, too, plus terrific dinner rolls from Balthazar Bakery in Englewood. And I could open a bottle of red wine and enjoy a glass or two with my dinner, then fall asleep in front of my TV.
ShopRite logo (1974 to 2001)Image via Wikipedia
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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Madre's Cuban Cuisine in Teaneck

Guarapo is a Cuban drink made from sugar cane.

For our single weekly restaurant meal last night, we went to Madre's Cuban Cuisine, a new restaurant on Cedar Lane in Teaneck. We were the first to arrive for dinner, but when we left, people were waiting for tables.

Our food was good but not great so we probably will return to Casual Havana Cafe on Main Street in Hackensack or Las Palmas in West New York when we want roast pork, black bean soup and other Cuban specialties.

Madre's is owned by a Dominican family, but the chef  is described as a "20-year veteran" of Cuban food, according to The Record, so we don't know if he is actually Cuban.

We ordered chicken and black bean soups, mofongo with chicken, a Dominican dish of mostly plantains; lechon asado, roast pork with yellow rice and black beans; and yuca con mojo, yuca in a garlic sauce.

Soft yuca with garlic sauce is Cuban comfort food, but the version we got was hard and fibrous. 

I liked the mofongo, but my wife and son turned thumbs down, despite a tasty, light tomato sauce. (My 12-year-old son was pouting because I wouldn't order tostones, twice-mashed and fried plantains.) 

The roast pork was moist; it would have been better if  some of  the crackling skin had been served with it. 

We did love the complimentary plantain chips we got at the start of the meal, especially the light "lulu" sauce with cilantro and vinegar that came with them. The check was under $50 before the tip.

The BYO is at 477B Cedar Lane, Teaneck, 201-357-5190.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Are we sick of food shopping yet?

I shopped for food on nine of the 11 days ended yesterday, going to a few stores only because they had a sale. We do need a lot of food to make home-cooked meals five days a week, but this is ridiculous.

I did most of the shopping and preparation because my wife has been unusually busy with other things and stopped making her weekly visit to the ShopRite in Englewood, where we used to live. And I wanted to use a a $10-off-$100 coupon from Fairway Market in Paramus before it expired. But I won't be schlepping up to the Fashion Center mall again to use a $10-off-$75 coupon from Fairway. Food sales are beginning to lose their allure.

The day after my Fairway splurge, I stopped at a ShopRite, where sparkling cider from Spain was on sale. The next day, I was at Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood to meet a friend and returned for three of its superb, restaurant-quality dinners for $6.99 each. I went back to ShopRite for more cider (limit of four on each visit), then to Costco for organic salad greens and juice and to return diced and fresh tomatoes.

I took a two-day break before stopping at Ikea in Paramus for frozen pancakes, crispbread and cookies. I also bought dish towels there. The next day, I had a meeting in Morristown, so stopped in Paterson on the way home, because I was out of Syrian bread. At Fattal's Bakery, I picked up bread, spices, lamb sausage and prepared muhammara -- a red-pepper dip made with walnuts and breadcrumbs.

The next day, I combined trips to Crate & Barrel (to return items bought online) and Trader Joe's on Route 17 in Paramus. The final two trips were to ShopRite in Paramus for drug-free Readington Farms chicken, which was on sale, and H Mart in Little Ferry for wild-caught whole red snapper cut into steaks, head and all. I coated the pieces in seafood rub (Costco), baked them about 20 minutes and served them with leftover rice and broccoli from a Chinese takeout dinner.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Food for thought: Eye on The Record

I launched a new blog today, Eye on The Record, a critical look at the daily newspaper in northern New Jersey where I worked for 29 years as a reporter, copy editor and food writer. I welcome all comments, anonymous or otherwise. Here is the link:

Who took the plain out of plain breadcrumbs?

I needed plain breadcrumbs to complete the chili-breading recipe I wrote about the other day (see post, "Chili chicken, pork and seafood"). I usually grab and run, but I was at the ShopRite in Paramus to buy antibiotic-free Readington Farms chicken at 25% off and to pick up some other stuff, so stopped to read ingredients. (A home-improvement store in being built on the land being cleared near the store; it was a parking lot, not covered by trees, as I had feared.)

One plain breadcrumbs I looked at had high fructose corn syrup and grated cheese, plus a long list of other ingredients I didn't want. Another shopper pointed out Jason-brand breadcrumbs, which I had never heard of, and the ingredients list was the shortest of all, but they were the most expensive, more than $4 for the large cannister.

I ended up buying 4C seasoned, Japanese-style, panko breadcrumbs, which were on sale and had a relatively short ingredients list, including grated pecorino-romano cheese and spices.

I bought Readington Farms leg quarters for $1.11 a pound and a roaster for $1.81 a pound. I also found another brand of Campari tomatoes that were pesticide-free, like the Canadian ones sold under the Sunset brand at some ShopRites and Fairway Market. These were grown in the U.S., but are sold under the Euro Fresh Farms brand, "The Foodies' Favorite." The small, deep-red globes on the vine were $4.99 for two pounds.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Some deep discounts at Fairway Market

The sale circular for Fairway Market in Paramus arrived with the paper today. Deep cuts on prices for Tropicana orange juice and Campari tomatoes take effect Friday and run through Oct. 29.

For the first time, the circular carries a coupon good for $10 off a purchase of $75 before tax, compared with Fairway's previous $10-off-$100-coupon in ValPak mailings. This new coupon may indicate the New York-based chain is having trouble attracting shoppers to its store in the dowdy Fashion Center mall on Route 17. The rent must have been low there for Fairway to ignore Bergen Town Center, where Whole Foods Market and Target (with a full grocery) opened new stores.

Fairway's sale price on Tropicana is $1.79, compared with $1.88 recently at ShopRite. Three 1-pound packages of Campari greenhouse tomatoes are $5, an especially good deal if these are the ones grown without herbicide. Check the label before you buy. Previously, Fairway sold a package for $2.99 or two for $5 on sale.

The great Spanish Manchego sheep's milk cheese is $8.99 a pound -- $4 off -- but that's about what you would pay at Costco. Murray's free-roaming, drug-free chicken isn't on sale.

Fairway makes a big deal over its USDA Prime shell steaks for $8.99 a pound, but doesn't tell you prime only means it is fattier than Choice and Select, the other two grades the federal government uses to classify beef. It also doesn't tell you the animal probably got fat by being confined to a feeding pen, where it received antibiotics, growth hormones and animal by-products to speed it to the slaughterhouse.

We can only hope the steaks didn't come from a "downer," a sick animal that collapses at the door, but is nevertheless dragged to its death and dismemberment. Bon apetit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bringing home the bacon

My 12-year-old son has been complaining that we've been out of bacon for two weeks, so I headed to Trader Joe's in Paramus today to pick up that and some of our other favorites.

Trader Joe's isn't anywhere as big as a supermarket and doesn't reward you for bringing re-usable bags, but it has a great selection of antibiotic-free meat and poultry, and drug- and preservative-free cold cuts and bacon. Not everything is a bargain, either, but you'll find a lot of quality food at good prices.

I picked up Applegate Farms sliced roast beef and smoked turkey, uncured Italian salami, Trader Joe's uncured bacon (three packages, two for the freezer), T.J.'s sliced yogurt cheese with jalapenos and one of our all-time favorites, a 3-pound rack of fully cooked and sauced St. Louis-style pork ribs from the Niman Ranch, a relative bargain at $5.99 a pound.

The 2%, lactose-free milk cost about the same as I pay for organic at ShopRite. Organic plain, low-fat yogurt was a steal at $2.99 for 32 ounces, but organic and conventional tomatoes from the small produce section were pricey. I paid $2.99 for 20 ounces of tomatoes on the vine, compared with $2.99 for 16 ounces of herbicide-free Campari tomatoes at Fairway Market.

I stopped at Trader Joe's about 1:30 yesterday afternoon. The store was crowded, with customers jockeying for position with their carts. If I stopped to read ingredients or look for a price sign, another customer would invariably thrust past me to pluck an item off the shelf. The staff is perky and helpful. But few of the customers were smiling.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peddling hype at the supermarket

Premium is a word some supermarkets love to use, even though it is meaningless. All natural is a phrase favored by food producers who are trying to hide the unnatural things they do to the animals they raise.

You'll find lots of similar words and phrases in the sale circulars of North Jersey supermarkets, including A&P and Pathmark. (A&P owns Pathmark.)

Pathmark says its marinated top round London broil, sliced chicken breast and rotisserie chicken are "gold quality." So is the domestic Swiss cheese it sells. There's no indication that the beef or poultry are raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics or growth hormones.

At A&P, 1855-brand boneless center-cut pork chops are "all natural, premium." The Angus boneless top round London broil is "premium gold," but only USDA Choice, the middle grade of three used to classify beef. Marinated meats are "gold quality" and Plumrose sliced bacon is described as "premium." Again, we are told nothing about how the animals were raised or whether the bacon has harmful preservatives

A&P's circular trumpets "See Red & Save," referring to "Red Tag Savings." Circulars that are filled with hype are just making me see red.

Chili chicken, pork and seafood

I really hate long, elaborate recipes. We cook family meals five days a week, and my attention span in the kitchen is only 15 to 20 minutes. I prefer rubs to sauces, and don't eat or cook with butter or cream. I recall vividly the New Year's Eve when I prepared Spanish Duck, Mountain-Style from a New York Times cookbook. Not only did I spend the evening alone, my duck wasn't done until long after midnight.

That's why I love a breadcrumb and spice mixture that makes quick work of preparing chicken, pork, fish and shrimp. I keep a large tub of this breading in my refrigerator, where it lasts for months.

The basic ingredients are plain breadcrumbs from the supermarket and the spices and salt in Wick Fowler's 2-Alarm Chili Kit, which you can find in some stores or buy online. Over the years, I've improvised and added black sesame seeds and even more spices.

I wet the chicken pieces, pork chops, fish fillets or shrimp, then coat them in the mildly spicy breading before popping them into the oven to bake as usual at 350 to 375 degrees. I love how the juices mix with the coating to produce a savory, down-home flavor.

Start with a large can of plain or flavored breadcrumbs and the spices, salt and other ingredients from six chili kits -- onion/garlic, chili pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin/oregano and paprika. Do not use the masa flour, a thickening agent like corn starch. This week, I added more salt, Korean red pepper, black pepper, black sesame seeds, allspice, garam masala, tumeric and sumac. No spice would be out of place here.

The balance of breadcrumbs and spice is up to you, but you want a breading that taste predominantly of spice. You don't even have to use Wick Fowler's kit, unless you want to make chili. Enjoy.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's not barbecue, it's BBQ

You might wonder why a Korean fried chicken restaurant in Cliffside Park is called BBQ Chicken and Beer. See earlier post, "A dingy Korean bar with terrific food."

The headline above is actually the motto of this huge franchise. "It's not barbecue, it's BBQ: Best of the Best Quality Chicken."

Don't you just love food marketing?

Another fish jumps into the salad

I continue to tweak my no-mayonnaise canned fish salad, this time by adding anchovies and fresh lemon juice in addition to pickled lemons (recipe follows). See previous posts, "Cleopatra's tuna-sardine salad" and "Way better than tuna salad."

I combined Alaskan red salmon, albacore tuna (two cans), spicy Moroccan sardines and anchovies, with their oil or water to keep the salad moist. I added a small red onion (diced)  and three small pickled lemons (minced), plus juice from a large lemon. I also added a half cup or more of powdered cumin. Diced celery would be great, too.

The pickled lemon and the spicy oil from the sardines came through, but I couldn't taste the anchovies. I'm still getting the heart-healthy benefit of their Omega-3 fatty acids, which is found in all the fish I used. You could even invite a fifth fish -- salted cod -- to join the party.

If you miss the mayo, I suppose you can spread some on your sandwich bread or toast, but I prefer pesto, hummus or my own low-fat organic yogurt cheese. Feel free to add organic greens and sliced tomatoes with za'atar spice mixture or even sliced cheese, such as Trader Joe's yogurt cheese with jalapenos.

Four-fish salad

1 can of Alaskan red salmon (about 15 ounces)

1 can of albacore or light tuna in oil or water

1 can of Moroccan or other sardines

1 can of anchovies with or without capers

3 small pickled lemons, minced

1 small red onion, diced

juice of one large lemon or more to taste

powdered cumin to taste

Add the fish with their liquid to a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the other ingredients. You can find the pickled lemons, za'atar and cumin in a Middle Eastern market, such as Fattal's at 975 Main St. in Paterson (973-742-7125) or Sahara Stores at 242 S. Summit Ave. in  Hackensack (201-487-7222).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A dingy Korean bar with terrific food

We've had it with the slow service, time-worn surroundings and loud pop music at BBQ Chicken and Beer in Cliffside Park, where the specialty is spicy Korean chicken, fried twice in extra-virgin olive oil.

The restaurant has been one of our favorites in the past couple of years, when several Korean fried chicken outlets opened in North Jersey. We had dinner there last night after an absence of many months and found some changes, but the fried and grilled chicken and American side dishes were as good as ever, and my mug of beer was icy cold.

After we placed our order for wings and drumsticks of fire -- requesting them as spicy as possible -- and grilled roasted pepper thighs, we got our drinks and a small bowl of peanuts, in place of the cut vegetables the restaurant once served. Then we waited, and waited, and waited.

Finally, we got the wings and coleslaw. Later, our crunchy waffle fries were brought out, followed in several minutes by the drumsticks and, eventually, the grilled chicken and steamed rice, but butterflied legs were substituted for the usual thighs. The restaurant was out of its terrific mac and cheese, and we had to ask for water several times.

Fortunately, there is a second BBQ Chicken at 10 E. Edsall Boulevard in Palisades Park (201-461-0201), which is where we will be going in the future.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reusable shopping bags revisited

Here are some corrections to my previous post, "Please be a good neighbor, Fairway," in which I complained that Fairway Market in Paramus doesn't reward shoppers for bringing reusable bags.

I wrote that ShopRite stores deduct 15 cents for each bag, but that is incorrect. They deduct 5 cents for each bag. Whole Foods Market in Paramus deducts 10 cents for each bag. Trader Joe's in Paramus gives you no credit at all. ShopRite is alone in accepting plastic bags for recycling. Whole Foods' reusable bags are oversized and beautifully decorated.

Trader Joe's does enter your name into a lottery for a free reusable bag. The odds of winning can't be too favorable, though. I've entered at least three times in the past year with no result.

First-time sale on ShopRite's drug-free chicken

The ShopRite in Paramus looks old and the parking lot is cramped. When I shopped there last week, a large piece of land across from the store was being cleared and my stomach sank as I wondered if all of this had been trees.

The store's sales circular, which arrived with the newspaper, has a nugget buried in the back pages: the first sale I have ever seen on Readington Farms chicken, the ShopRite brand that is antibiotic-free and raised on vegetarian feed. The sale starts Sunday and runs through Oct. 24 at the Paramus store.

The discount is 25%, or $1.11 to $4.49 a pound, compared with the 50% sale ShopRite stores recently had on inferior, drug-filled Perdue chicken. My wife prefers the taste of Readington Farms chicken over Murray's free-roaming chicken, the drug-free brand sold by Fairway Market.

One grower, two lines of tomatoes

Have you tried those delightful, greenhouse-grown Campari tomatoes -- small, deep-red orbs on the vine that are bursting with flavor? They taste so good year-round, you may not miss Jersey's famed beefsteak. But if you read the label carefully, you'll discover that not all Campari tomatoes are created equally.

These beauties are grown in Mexico, distributed by a Canadian company, Mastronardi Produce Ltd., and sold under the Sunset brand, whose motto is "Goodness Grown Naturally." That motto is true for the Campari tomatoes you'll find at Fairway Market or ShopRite, but not for those in a special package sold by Costco.

The 1-pound package I picked up at Fairway for $2.99 this week is "greenhouse-grown, vine-ripened and herbicide-free" (look for a two-tone green label). The 2-pound package I bought at Costco yesterday for $4.49 says only, "Greenhouse-grown, vine-ripened." That label is blue and tan.

The label's of both say the contents are "the tomato-lover's tomato." That's no hype, but I wonder why Costco is selling the lower-quality version.

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.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

How did this stuff get into my baguette?

One of the items I bought at Fairway Market in Paramus on Tuesday was a baguette for 99 cents, but I'm not sure whether that's the sale or regular price. This is a good loaf of bread, though you shouldn't expect anything like the signature baguette from Balthazar Bakery in Englewood.

When I looked at the ingredient list of the Fairway loaf, I did a double-take. Here it is, as it appears on the label: "Flour, white sour (wheat flour, acetic acid, lactic acid, canola oil), malt, USA 500 (datem, sodium stearol, lactylate, soybean oil, L-cystine, asorbic acid, potassium bromate, ada enzyme), salt, yeast, corn meal."

I called Balthazar for the ingredients of its baguette. Here they are: flour, white rye flour, water, salt, barley, malt, yeast." The loaf is 8 ounces, compared with Fairway's 12 ounces, and the price has been $2 since Balthazar opened in November 2002.

Another thing I noticed on the Fairway label is the words "artisanal bakery." Artisan bread is hand-formed, and if you go to Balthazar's cozy retail store on South Dean Street around mid-day, you'll see the bakers shaping the dough. Does Fairway really hand-form its bread?

It's no contest. The Balthazar loaf is the one to buy. It also comes as a double baguette for $4. Either Balthazar loaf is great for sandwiches, great for sopping up pasta sauce, great for just tearing off a hunk and dipping it into extra-virgin olive oil.

No answer from Fairway's corporate office

English: The Fairway supermarket in Red Hook, ...
The Fairway supermarket in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Wikipedia)

Since receiving no reward for bringing reusable bags to Fairway Market in Paramus, I have been trying to find out the reason for the store policy. (See earlier post, "Please be a good neighbor, Fairway.")

I called on Wednesday and asked for the store manager, but was told he wasn't in and that I could speak to the floor manager. 

When I asked him why Fairway didn't give customers a token payment for each reusable shopping bag, he said that is a "corporate" decision and that "corporate" would have to tell the Paramus store to reward shoppers for not using plastic bags. 

He gave me the number for the corporate office in the city.

I called Wednesday and today, and was switched to the voice mail of "Vladimir." He has yet to return my call. 

Not only is Fairway's Paramus store at variance with the practice of ShopRite, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and other markets, Fairway also doesn't take back plastic bags for recycling, as ShopRite stores have done for years.
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Twenty rules about eating?

I'm passing along an article in The New York Times on rules about eating from readers. It cites author Michael Pollan's 20 favorite rules and asks readers to submit more.

The rules are folksy and lighthearted. None of the rules say you should try to avoid eating animals that are raised on factory farms, on a mixture of  antibiotics, growth hormones and animal by-products, additives that have an impact on human health. Here's the link to the Times piece:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Please be a good neighbor, Fairway

I brought a bunch of reusable bags with me on my $100 shopping trip to Fairway Market in Paramus yesterday. But the cashier didn't give me credit for the bags. Why isn't New York-based Fairway Market giving its North Jersey shoppers an incentive to reduce their use of plastic bags? (See last post, "Trying to warm up to Fairway Market in Paramus.")

I'm convinced the plastic bag will be the last thing left after life ends, with tens of thousands of them blowing around as evidence of our rampant consumerism. Reusable shopping bags are larger and hold more. There are quilted ones for cold items, too. They just make so much sense, as long as you remember to take them into the supermarket, which is not as easy as it sounds.

ShopRite gives customers 5 cents back, not 15 cents, as I write peviously, for each reusable bag. Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Stop and Shop and other markets do likewise, though the amount varies.

And high and mighty Fairway? Here's another example of why many of us are slowly souring on the food-shopping experience at its new store in Paramus.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trying to warm up to Fairway Market in Paramus

I went to Fairway Market in Paramus today with a $10-off coupon I had received in the mail. All I had to do was spend $100, which I found easy by stocking up on some favorite items. And by making a list, I spent only $1.29 over $100, in contrast to the first time I tried this and went $10 to $15 over.

I bought seven jars of pasta sauce, on sale at $2.49 each; seven one-pound packages of salted cod, $8.99 each; about six pounds of Murray's drug-free chicken wings and three Murray's leg quarters, $13.45 and $3.50, respectively; a Fairway baguette, 99 cents; and Campari herbicide-free tomatoes, $2.99. Only the baguette wasn't on my list.

With the coupon, my total was $91.29. But I was torn about buying wings, because Fairway prices them much higher than Murray's thighs, legs and leg quarters. I bought the family pack for $2.49 a pound; smaller quantities are priced at $2.69 a pound, a full dollar above the other parts.

After I checked out, I asked a woman who identified herself as a manager why the wings were priced so high. She seemed surprised and said she didn't know. Maybe the chickens put up a bigger fight over their wings than over their other parts. Or maybe it's just a rip-off.

I still don't feel warm all over about New York-based Fairway opening a store in North Jersey, even though I shopped for years at its Harlem store. The Paramus outpost is six miles from my home in Hackensack, in the dowdy Fashion Center, compared to just over a mile to Whole Foods Market in Parmaus and between one and two miles to three ShopRites. And I can't help feel a chill from some of the snooty shoppers and the unhelpful store personnel.

On top of all that, Fairway doesn't have a large selection of antibiotic-free poultry and meats, compared to Whole Foods, and some of the items it does have are priced higher than such competitors as Trader Joe's. I saw three brands of uncured, preservative-free bacon, but they were all 12 ounces, not the 16 ounces sold at Trader Joe's for less.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A frugal, filling, satisfying meal

For our Sunday dinner, I unearthed from the freezer a pound and a half of thinly sliced beef that had been marinating in Korean bulgogi sauce since mid-June, when I bought a whole Australian tenderloin for filet mignon for only $2.99 a pound at ShopRite with a store card.

I am not going to tell you this free-range, grass-fed beef melted in our mouths. But it was tender and flavorful, and cooked in about 10 to 15 minutes on the stovetop. Wrapped in red-lettuce leaves with kimchi,  soybean paste, steamed rice and scallion salad, it made a fun meal last night. We also steamed three kinds of Korean dumplings from Best Dumpling in Englewood, but I failed miserably at making an egg souffle, a traditional accompaniment for Korean barbecue.

To get tender Korean barbecue, I had to trim the tenderloin carefully. Now, I have only a couple of steaks left, but I missed last week's sale on the Australian beef, which was going for $3.99 a pound with the ShopRite card. I'll wait, though, reminding myself that the last time we ate Korean "mystery meat" barbecue at a restaurant, it cost more than $80 for three and the service was just-so-so. See earlier post, "Korean restaurant falls off list of favorites."

American v. Australian lamb

When I bought antibiotic-free Australian shoulder lamb chops at Stop and Shop this month, I noticed they came in a box with a seal that read: Mountain States/Rosen Co., which markets drug-free American lamb and veal. (See earlier post, "Just where does our meat come from?")  So I e-mailed the company. I received an answer today.

I wrote:

I never see antibiotic-free U.S. lamb in supermarkets, only antibiotic-free Australian lamb. Why is that? In fact, I bought Australian lamb at a Super Stop and Shop that came in a box carrying the Mountain States/Rosen Company seal.

The answer: 

The reason that antibiotic-free lamb is seldom found in US supermarkets is due to the cost associated with raising and producing this product. It is very expensive to raise and to produce in the US. The Australians have much lower raising and feed costs than the US ranchers and essentially only feed their animals a grass diet, which again in much cheaper.

I hope this answers your question, and if you require further info please email me back and I will be happy to go into more detail with you.


Chris Abel
Mountain States Rosen LLC

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The imported side of ShopRite

I really enjoy some of  the ShopRite-brand food items imported from Italy and Spain. Two of my favorites are the oversized artisan pasta and the sparkling 100% juices.

On Friday, I bought three packages of specialty pasta formed on bronze dies: barchette, rigatoni giganti and fusilloni (corkscrews), which come in 17.6-ounce bags. The first is a large boat-shaped shell, and the others are two- to two-and-a-half-inches long. They were on sale at the Hackensack ShopRite for $2.79 each with a store card. (The cooking time listed on the package can be optimistic, so you may have to boil them longer and watch them carefully.)

The sparkling juices from Spain include 100% red or white grape, peach and apple, and they are absolutely delightful. This stuff is so much better than flavored seltzer. They will be on sale Oct. 14-17 for $1.77 a bottle (24.5 ounces), with a limit of four, meaning I'll have to go to more than one ShopRite to get the dozen bottles I want.

Two other ShopRite imported items I've liked are Italian breadsticks and the lemon-flavored lady fingers (great with tea or espresso). I recently tried the canned artichokes from Spain, but they were waterlogged and a far cry from fresh artichokes, such as those I've had in the Spanish dish alcachofas con jamon (ham).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Frying chicken to an ethnic beat

My mouth is still watering after reading a New York Times piece on Asian- and Dominican-style fried chicken. The good news is you can try excellent Korean fried chicken on this side of the GWB.

The chicken is extra crispy, because Koreans fry the pieces twice. The sweet and spicy sauces are two other bonuses. We drive past the Korean take-out storefronts and head for BBQ Chicken and Beer on Anderson Avenue in Cliffside Park.

The chicken is cooked in extra-virgin olive oil. The beer is some of the coldest I've found. The Korean pop music often is too loud and service can be sluggish. But the chicken is superb. My son loves the wings of fire and challenges the restaurant to make them as spicy as possible. I love the non-spicy broiled thighs. Side dishes include cole salw, mac and cheese and steamed rice. It's at 555 Anderson Ave., Cliffside Park;  201-840-8421.

Here's the link to the Times story:

Restaurant Week in North Jersey

I was hoping I wouldn't like the lunch we had Friday at Nisi Estiatorio, the Greek restaurant in Englewood that has the nerve to charge up to $38 a pound for whole fish. But the food tasted great and portions were generous -- a steal at $17 for three courses during (201) Magazine's Restaurant Week.

I started off with house-cured salmon topped with micro greens, which I enjoyed with the complimentary olives and crusty, toasted bread, and my wife had lentil soup. The menu didn't specify the origin of the salmon, but the waiter said it was wild, not farmed. We both had grilled white sea bass fillets with wilted greens for our main course and finished with a fresh fruit cup for her and yogurt and stewed figs for me. Neither of us could finish our food (I ate way too much bread).

For our entree, we received boat-shaped dishes, each with two skin-on fillets that were grilled beautifully on both sides and bathed with olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, capers and a little mustard, which I soaked up with bread. A bowl held a delicious tangle of sauteed escarole. Service was excellent at this white-tablecloth fish house. We got more bread and olives without asking for them, and bread crumbs were cleaned off between courses, though I should mention that only six or seven tables were occupied while we were there.

(201) Restaurant Week continues Oct. 11-15 at about three dozen North Jersey restaurants. Lunch is $16.95 and dinner is $29.95 for three courses, compared with $24.07 and $35, respectively, during Restaurant Week in New York City this year. You don't want to bother with some of the restaurants taking part in the (201) promotion, including Blue Moon Mexican Cafe, with its phony Mexican fare. More information: week. (When I tried the Web site today, it was unresponsive.)

It turns out Nisi Estiatorio offers the $17 lunch all the time, so I can enjoy its food again without being taking advantage of. The restaurant's motto is, "Eat fish, live longer." Mine is, "Eat fish and have the money, if you live longer."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Wrong choice for Thai food in Hackensack

Bangkok Garden Thai Restaurant in Hackensack was awarded two and a half stars today by restaurant reviewer Elisa Ung of The Record, but lovers of Thai food know the only place to go in River City is Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles.

Wondee's is only a couple of blocks from its white-tablecloth competitor on Main Street. Chef Wandee Suwangbutra turns out dish after dish with sparkling flavors, and her food is a better value. You'll save even more by bringing your own wine or beer; Bangkok Garden has a liquor license.

Wandee told me in an interview in 2005 that she especially got a kick out of how her homemade curries and other dishes have made loyal customers of of workers from competing Thai restaurants. I ate at Bangkok Garden only one time several years ago, but never went back.

The rating of Bangkok Garden -- between good and excellent -- also calls into question the reviewer's judgment. She gives it only a half star more than Bahama Breeze, the faux Caribbean chain restaurant in Wayne she reviewed in September. In the Thai review, Ung lists one of her recommended dishes incorrectly. It's green papaya salad, not papaya salad.

Each time I taste Wondee's green papaya salad, it reminds me of  "The Scent of Green Papaya" (1993), a beautiful but heart-breaking movie set in Vietnam.

Why does the great chef bite his finger nails?

Belarmino Rico, left, "King of the Cuban Sandwich,"and son Joseph at La Pola in West New York. With a Cuban sandwich as good as the one they make, you can skip Miami.

Last night, I came across a video of chef Bobby Flay sampling Cuban food in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, and it's pretty clear he hasn't been able to stop biting his finger nails. 

Maybe this is how the so-called celebrity chef stays so thin, gnawing on his fingers rather than several snacks throughout the day.

I recall watching many hours of the chef's cooking and grilling shows on the Food Network where he handled and chopped food. 

In fact, it was during one such show several years ago when I noticed during a close-up that his nails were severely bitten, and it disgusted me.

What exactly is he worried about? He's a multi-millionaire who owns many restaurants and has a glamorous wife and New York lifestyle. 

When he opened a hamburger restaurant in Paramus, The Record of Hackensack heaped a ton of  adulation on the chef, as if thanking him for taking pity on all those North Jerseyans who supposedly don't have access to good hamburgers.

What the newspaper failed to mention is how Flay put profits ahead of his customers' well-being by serving a line of beef raised with antibiotics, growth hormones and animal by-products, instead of choosing the same type of beef raised on a vegetarian diet and without additives. 

And he had the nerve to call the place a Hamburger Palace.

In the video, Flay's nail-biting is most evident in the scenes where the unshaven chef samples a Cuban pastry and empanada. 

Later, he watches a cook prepare a Cuban sandwich. Two things are evident besides his nail-biting: he knows zilch about Cuban food and the Cubano served in Miami dwarfs the North Jersey versions.

Here's the link to the video, which is preceded by a brief commercial. (I don't know when this video was made.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Getting my ducks in a row for Thanksgiving

We love Thanksgiving and we're already planning for the holiday, the first time in several years that we're going to roast a whole bird. But we won't be having one of those industrial broad-breasted turkeys, bred to have acres of white meat. (See earlier post, "What do people see in white meat?")

We usually go to the Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff a week before the holiday and pick up turkey drum sticks, thighs and wings, plus a bottle of Uncle Dougie's spicy, Chicago-style wing marinade. The turkeys, ducks, quail, geese, and chickens and capons (both up to 8 pounds) are raised on a vegetarian diet without antibiotics. I also like the fresh duck eggs sold there.

This year, we plan to buy a heritage turkey, which was developed in the United States and Europe over hundreds of years. The Narragansett variety sold in Wyckoff will be going for $5.95 a pound (live weight) and the bird we get will weigh 8-10 pounds after gutting and cleaning. Compared to the ungainly, tasteless, broad-breasted white turkey, the Narragansett is an athlete with flavorful meat.

This week, I received a roasting pan large enough to accommodate a 25-pounder. I ordered the rectangular  Graniteware black-and-white enameled roaster and cover from

I plan to roast the turkey with spaghetti, Syrian-style. The bird will be seasoned with salt, allspice, cinnamon and Aleppo pepper and baked in the oven, covered, for about 45 minutes. Then I'll remove the turkey and mix the spaghetti, boiled separately, with bottled sauce and the turkey juices (fat), and season it with allspice and cinnamon. The pan then goes back into the oven, uncovered, until the turkey is done and the pasta has a little crust on top.

I'll probably serve it with a big salad, mixed vegetables, baked or mashed sweet potatoes and a nice red wine, such as malbec from Argentina or pinot noir from California.

Here is the link to the poultry farm's Web site:

Sale on Maine lobsters, pasta sauce

The latest Fairway Market sale flier is offering Maine lobsters at $4.99 a pound in Paramus -- matching the lowest price at ShopRite. Prices are good Oct. 10-16.

Five varieties of Fairway pasta sauce, in generous 32-ounce bottles, are on sale for $2.49, a great deal when you consider this stuff tastes as good as bottled sauce costing far more. You'll laugh when you see sauce for $8 or $9 a bottle.

Other sale items include romaine hearts, cereal and roasted coffee beans. But the beef, pork, lamb and veal listings say nothing about whether they are free of antibiotics and growth hormones.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What do people see in white meat?

One of the enduring mysteries through decades of eating out is the affection restaurants show for white meat -- specifically, the chicken breast. It's often bland, dried out and little more than filler, but you just can't escape it. What happens to all those bone-in pieces -- glorious drum sticks, delectable thighs and doubly good leg quarters -- oozing juices and flavor?

The chicken breast is not only served just about everywhere, but it is almost always raised with antibiotics, so you rarely get moist breast meat. It's hard to overcook dark meat and the taste is well worth it, despite the extra fat and cholesterol. Last night, we made jerk chicken drum sticks that were terrific right down to the bone.

In an Italian restaurant, the breast meat is pounded thin and flavored with lemon, cheese and tomato sauce, and other preparations that preserve some flavor. But in too many restaurants, dry chicken breast is added to salads, the easiest way to ruin a healthy meal. Even marinating a chicken, such as the one served in Pollos El Chevere, the great Peruvian restaurant in Passaic, can't prevent the awful taste of dried-out breast meat.

Yesterday, I met a friend for a lunch of soup and salad bar at the Coach House in Hackensack. He chose a hearty bean soup, but I made the mistake of ordering chicken "gumbo." Not only was it nothing like gumbo, it was filled with tasteless chunks of overcooked breast meat.

Boneless thigh meat is juicy and feels great in your mouth, but you'll be hard put to find it on a menu. I only know of one place, BBQ Chicken & Beer, a Korean fried-chicken restaurant in Cliffside Park, that serves broiled boneless thighs. Last week, we cooked up boneless and skinless thighs at home, coated in chili spices, and my wife raved. If we roast a whole chicken, or prepare it on a rotisserie, we ensure moist breast meat for sandwiches by buying drug-free or organic birds.

Of course, you'll find lots of greasy drum sticks and thighs at American fried chicken restaurants, but it's usually a  cheap brand, such as the Tyson poultry used by KFC.

I suspect many restaurants have skinless and boneless breast meat delivered in sanitary packages for not much money by food distributors. Sysco offers restaurants chicken breast portions that only have to be warmed in a convection oven, such as one done Kiev-style. No muss, no fuss. They're ready to go, cook up fast and are profitable -- great for the restaurant but not for the customer.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What do "cage free" and "free range" mean?

"The USDA doesn't regulate the use of the term 'cage free' at all," Consumer Reports On Health reported in its February 2009 newsletter. "And it uses 'free range' only for poultry, not other meat or eggs. Even for chicken, the term doesn't mean much -- 5 minutes of open-air access daily is all it takes to qualify."

This raises a couple of questions. Why is Murray's chicken, the drug-free brand sold at Fairway Market, called "free-roaming" and not "free-range"? Shop-Rite advertises Australian beef as "free range," which would seem to be a violation of USDA rules. Or is Australian beef exempt from U.S. rules, even though it is sold here?

Monday, October 5, 2009

They really stand behind their products

I guess the the FedEx guy didn't know I was home when he literally tossed a large carton on my front steps this afternoon. Once I saw the return address, I hoped Calphalon had replaced the 10-inch, non-stick sautee pan whose blackened interior I could no longer get clean.

I had returned the Calphalon One pan with a short note, saying I would be happy if Calphalon would just clean it. (I want to say and write Calaphon.) But inside the carton was a smaller carton with a replacement. We often used the pan to make omelets and frittatas that we started on the stove and finished in the oven.

This year, I also returned two cooking knives to Gerber Legendary Blades; though usable, the handle of one was warped and pulling away from the steel, and the handle cover of the other had deteriorated. After a while, the company returned both Balance Plus knives, saying it hadn't made them since 1988. But it also sent along a catalog and a gift certificate that allowed me to order two beautiful pocket knives with genuine horn handles.

In a previous post, I wrote about having to fight Pfaltzgraff for a refund after I returned a dinnerware set from China that had been recalled for high levels of lead and cadmium. Pfaltzgraff could learn a thing or two about customer service from Calphalon and Gerber. Maybe the company should be renamed Falsegraff. See post, "If it's made in China, is it safe?"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Just where does our meat come from?

I haven't seen Australian lamb shoulder chops at my usual source, ShopRite, for many months, but there they were in glorious color as a weekly special in the Stop & Shop circular. At $3.69 a pound with the store card, they are a cheaper alternative to Australian lamb chops at $8.99 or more per pound, and they're grass-fed and raised without antibiotics.

When I visited the Super Stop & Shop in Teaneck on Saturday, I couldn't find them on the shelf, but the butcher brought out a large cardboard box from the freezer and then a second box. I asked if the boxes had anything on the outside about antibiotics, and he said no, only that the contents were from Australia.

The box also had a seal from Mountain States/Rosen Company and an address at the Hunts Point Cooperative Market, the huge food-distribution center in the Bronx. An Internet search showed Mountain States/Rosen represents three brands of naturally raised American lamb and veal, none of which I have ever seen in North Jersey markets.

Inside the boxes were four Australian lamb shoulder chops, looking a lot bonier than the ones in the Stop & Shop circular, arranged on a foam tray and shrink-wrapped. The butcher hit some buttons on a machine and slapped a label on the package before handing two of them to me.

When seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked rare, the lollipop-like Australian lamb chops melt in your mouth. These shoulder chops probably aren't as tender, but they have a distinctive taste and will make terrific fall meals. Here is a link to the Web site that describes how the animals are raised and lambs' nutritional value.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Alaskan wild salmon for breakfast and dinner

Here it is October, and I am still enjoying fresh wild salmon from Costco. The price is the same as the Northwest sockeye fillets I started buying in June ($8.99 a pound), but now this Alaskan fish is coho, a variety with less of those beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids.

I'm wild over this salmon because of its deep color, great taste and how you get a nutritious meal after only 10 to 15 minutes in the oven, seasoned with salt, Aleppo pepper (coarse, red, with a little heat) and fresh chopped herbs. I like my fillet on the rare side.

I cut my $11 fillet into six portions. For dinner the first night, we baked red potatoes in the microwave, heated up organic mixed vegetables and made a salad of organic greens. The remaining three fillets went into the fridge, ready for my mid-morning sandwich on toasted whole-grain bread with pesto, organic greens, sliced tomato with the herb mixture called za'atar, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Free-range beef is ready for its close-up

The grass-fed, free-range beef from Australia is going on sale again at ShopRite. The deep discount, $3 off per pound with a Price Plus Club, will be available tomorrow through next Saturday (Oct. 4-10). The final price, $3.99 a pound, is not the lowest of the year; I bought some for $2.99 a pound

The color photo in the ShopRite circular shows slices from the Nature's Reserve "whole beef tenderloin for filet mignon," prepared medium rare. In truth, you'll have to do a lot of trimming to get the steaks to look like that. The tenderloins come in a plastic sleeve with some blood, and weigh 6 to 8 pounds. The beef, raised without antibiotics and growth hormones, is chewy with a pronounced beefy flavor.

I cut a bunch of small steaks from my tenderloin and sliced the rest thin for Korean barbecue (it went into a freezer bag with Korean marinade you can get at H Mart).

ShopRite will also be discounting USDA Select whole beef tenderloin for $4.99 a pound with the store card. This is a rare case where a naturally raised product is sold for less than the conventionally raised one, complete with antibiotics and growth hormones. Imagine the Australian cattle roaming grassy fields and the USDA animals confined in feeding pens in an effort to get them to market as soon as possible.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tell me more about food, less about decor

Few restaurants in North Jersey tell you where the food they serve comes from, perhaps fearing that if you knew, you'd run for the exit. Exceptions include Tasteatery in Fort Lee and Green Door Cafe in Tenafly.

That's one of the reason I almost always choose seafood, preferably wild-caught seafood, when I dine out with my wife and son. Where seafood is not available, I take a leap of faith, figuring one meal of mystery meat or poultry won't kill me and trusting that most restaurateurs put their customers first and profits second.

Now, The Record of Hackensack reports in its Starters feature, Bistro 55 has opened in Rochelle Park, in the space once occupied by South City Grill. Yes, this is part of the South City [Restaurant] Group, which has been the subject of nearly overwhelmingly positive stories in the newspaper since restaurant reviewer Elisa Ung slammed South City Prime in March 2008 for "too-rare steaks and rotten sushi."

In today's Better Living article about Bistro 55, writer Amy Kuperinsky tells us a great deal about the origin, or provenance, of some of the food served, quoting the chef: drug-free chicken from the Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff; sea scallops from Viking Village, the fishing cooperative in Barnegat Light; and antibiotic-free veal from Vineland. Still, the restaurant serves burgers made from grain-fed -- not grass-fed -- beef.

On the very next page of the Better Living tabloid today, Ung reviews Bazzini in Ridgewood, and in typical fashion, tells us virtually nothing about the origin of the food, except to note one entree she tried was "organic or free-range chicken." The veal in the meatballs? The New York strip steak? Your guess is as good as mine.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The most dangerous room in the house

I have long felt the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house, given the controversies over cookware, dinnerware and the industrial methods applied to how much of our food is grown or raised. (See last post, "If it's made in China, is it safe?")

There is plenty of good, healthy food on sale, but it is usually only a fraction of what a normal supermarket carries. I have visited Costco, Super Stop & Shop and ShopRite in the past week or two and watched what other consumers select.

Drawn by low prices and deceptive TV advertising, a lot of people are buying that crappy Perdue chicken and passing up healthier alternatives -- chicken raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics.

Fairway Market occasionally puts Murray's free-roaming chicken on sale, but ShopRite rarely discounts its drug-free Readington Farms poultry. Yet ShopRite will turn around and offer drug-free Australian beef at bargain-basement prices. Stop & Shop has a line of natural food called Nature's Promise -- poultry, beef and pork, among other items -- and sometimes offers discounts. Whole Foods Market frequently puts its naturally raised food on sale, but prices are still higher than most competitors.

This afternoon, there was an online auction at offering $50 back on a purchase of $100 or $25 back on a $50 purchase at Whole Foods Market, but it sold out quickly.

Can supermarkets promote unadulterated food better? I think so. A consistent sales policy -- discounting both conventional and naturally raised food -- would go a long way toward that goal. I don't mind paying more for food that costs more to produce, but give me a break once in a while.

And the media, which depend on supermarkets for precious advertising dollars, virtually ignore the challenge of shopping for food these days, lest they have to criticize these food giants for sales policies that seduce consumers into making the wrong choices.