Sunday, May 30, 2010

Miss Mac takes a break

The Kings are up for eats!Image by Unlisted Sightings via Flickr

After nearly 20 years of running one of the best Jamaican restaurants in North Jersey, Parlet McLeod has bowed out and leased the Hackensack business to another operator. She also has stopped baking her wedding cakes, which contained fruit soaked in Jamaican overprooof rum for three months.

Not far away from the former Mac West Indian Restaurant on Central Avenue, a new Trinidadian restaurant has opened in what was once the home of Laurel Restaurant, but the new owner's awning and sign are not up yet. I went searching for Kaskadoo on Saturday morning, but didn't have the address, and my hunger pangs drove me to eat breakfast at what is now Maxx Caribbean Cuisine.

I sat at the counter of Maxx and ordered cabbage and salt fish, with boiled green banana and fried dumplings, and the woman who served me gave me the news about McLeod, who was known to one and all in the Jamaican community as Miss Mac. She opened Mac West Indian in 1991 and operated it with her son Junior, leasing it out in January. My breakfast was $7 with two cups of coffee and tax.

On the way home, I stopped at Laurel Restaurant to pick up a menu and discovered that it was now Kaskadoo (named for a fish). I returned for dinner with my wife. We had a large stewed king-fish dinner ($12) and a shrimp roti ($8) with side dishes, but the food was served warm, not hot, after a long delay.

The food in Trinidad, as in Jamaica, is influenced by the many Asian Indians who have lived there, so my wife's side dishes included chickpeas and potato with a hint of curry. Roti is an unleavened bread or pancake with various fillings, such as shrimp, vegetables and so forth, but Kaskadoo serves its roti deconstructed. 

My side dishes were spinach rice, macaroni pie and stewed pumpkin.

Kaskadoo's menu lists intriguing items, including a breakfast bake 'n shark, an entree of pelau and a side dish called bodhi, so more exploration might be in order. I just wish the service was faster and the food hotter.

Maxx Caribbean Cuisine, 207 Central Ave., Hackensack; 

Kaskadoo Trinidadian Cuisine, 189 Central Ave.,
Hackensack; 201-343-4305.

(Photo: A mouth-watering restaurant sign.)
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Small package travels a long way

Kaak bi Ajwa or Ma'amoulImage by luluinnyc | Amy Dreher via Flickr

I was paying for Syrian bread at Sahara Stores in Hackensack the other day when I noticed a small package marked "maamoul" --  a date cookie with the same name my mother gave her round, walnut-stuffed cookies, dusted with confectioner's sugar or dipped in marshmallow spread.

The single, round cookie was made in Saudi Arabia with "selected Saudi dates."  Grace Sasson, my mother, also made cookies with dates, but they were small, cigar-shaped and open at both ends -- more dates than dough -- and she called them date-and-walnut crescents.

I tried the Saudi cookie after dinner last night, and it was delicious, though not the equal of my mother's version. This wasn't a madeleine moment, but it reminded me of all the wonderful cookies and pastry my mother turned out in Brooklyn -- to serve to her friends with coffee or at parties and to put out with our weekly dairy meal.

My father's Sephardic Jewish family were halwani, or pastry makers, in Aleppo, Syria, and my mother learned how to make baklava and other delights from him. Her maamoul used rose water in the dough, and her date-and-walnut crescents included grated orange or tangerine rind.

The cookie I bought in Hackensack for 55 cents was made by Halwani Bros. The ingredients are simple: wheat flour, date paste, butter, sugar, yeast. I'll have to check out Fattal's and other pastry makers in Paterson for their fresh-baked versions.

Sahara Stores, 242 S. Summit Ave., Hackensack; 

Fattal's Syrian Bakery, 975-977 Main St., Paterson; 

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New food items at Costco Wholesale

Kirkland Signature Organic Salsa at Costco Wholesale.

After we stopped eating meat at the end of February, I started noticing all the alternatives that are sold at Costco. 

I am not a big fan of prepared food. Most of the stuff I've tried from Trader Joe's, for example, were one-time purchases. But Costco is selling some keepers.

We really love the Boca-brand soy burger (16 patties for $9.49). We usually heat these in the oven, cover them with a slice of cheese and then add onion, ketchup, mustard and so forth. 

Every time we have this meatless burger, we also heat up Dr. Praeger's spinach cake -- small, tasty disks of spinach and potato (20 for $8.99).

Costco also sells two wonderful cheese-and-vegetable quiches that make a great dinner with the addition of a homemade salad. One is made with asparagus, the other with artichoke, and they are packaged together (I don't have the price).

I recently tried the mango juice in aseptic containers from Brazil Gourmet. It's thick, sweet and delicious, despite being a 100% juice blend ($11.69). It's the only mango juice I've found to rival the pure mango juice sold in Cuba.

Pasta Prima's lobster ravioli actually have lobster in them, and the lobster flavor is noticeable. You get two servings for two or three people for $11.99. They don't even need sauce -- just a drizzle of good olive oil and cracked black pepper.

Another recent purchase are 100% whole grain tortillas from the Sante Fe Tortilla Co. You get 20 large, soft tortillas for $3.99, a good buy. 

This tortilla rivals Trader Joe's handmade tortillas, which are pricier. I just popped a Sante Fe tortilla, slice of cheddar cheese and salsa in the microwave for 45 seconds for an instant quesadilla. Yum.

On Tuesday, I bought burgers made from wild Pacific salmon (keta and pink), oil and spices that are sold under the Trident label. You get 12 for $12.99, but I had a $3.75-off coupon. We haven't tried them yet.

Looking for an alternative to Rosa Mexicano Restaurant's $12 guacamole (one avocado), I picked up three, one-pound portions made with Hass avocados for $7.99 on Tuesday. 

They are sold under the Wholly Guacamole label, and are made with jalapeno, onion, garlic and salt. They can be frozen, too.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Our son chickens out

54", 34lb Female Dolphin Fish off coast o...Image via Wikipedia

Nearly three months ago, we pledged to stop eating meat -- chicken, pork, beef and lamb. I've lost a little weight and spend less time and money in food stores. But our 13-year-old son is tiring of fish and really misses meat.

Awakening from an afternoon nap Monday, I smelled something unfamiliar and couldn't imagine what my wife cooked for dinner. When I got downstairs, I found out: jerk chicken legs for our son and mahi-mahi with onion and tomato for us, along with rice and salad. The Readington Farms antibiotic-free chicken (ShopRite) didn't tempt me at all, but our son loved his meal, bones and all.

It was the third time he broke the pledge. When he was served a hamburger on a flight to Jamaica in March, he ate it instead of asking for something else. A couple of weekends ago, he ordered his favorite version of won ton soup with roast pork at Wondee's in Hackensack.

Tonight, I'll serve a "meatloaf" made from wheat gluten and soy in barbecue sauce and ask my wife to make potato salad with hard-boiled egg and mixed vegetables.

(Photo: Dolphin fish, or mahi-mahi, caught off the coast of Jamaica.)
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Welcome, Holly

Sushi by Costco (32)Image by kantokuruza via Flickr

I tried to publish a comment from Holly on whether Costco farmed salmon contains growth hormones, but can't seem to locate the post she commented on. But she is right, if Costco fish didn't contain additives such as antibiotics, the store would say so. The label does say farmed salmon has added color.

Whole Foods Market provides far more information about its farmed fish than does Costco. As a result, I almost always buy wild-caught seafood at Costco.

The good news is that wild salmon from Alaska should start appearing at Costco in a couple of weeks and be available until the fall.

(Photo: Sushi at Costco.)
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

In Hackensack, the best restaurant outside of Mexico City?

The dining room of Rosa Mexicano Restaurant in Hackensack. Corn tortillas are made by hand at the counter in the rear.



We celebrated our son's 13th birthday Saturday night with a wonderful meal at Rosa Mexicano in Hackensack, where we love the handmade guacamole and corn tortillas, and sparkling salsas.

If there is better Mexican food in North Jersey, I don't know where it is served. 

I recall visiting the flashy Mama Mexico when it first opened in Englewood Cliffs, and the food was terrific, but I haven't been back. That restaurant eventually closed.

At Rosa Mexicano, just about everything is made from scratch with good ingredients, and you'll pay for it. 

You'd have to go to Mexico City to find food prepared at this level.

The guacamole for two, made at your table with onion, tomato and jalapeno, is $12 -- and that's for one avocado. 

For a second avocado, you'll pay $12 more.

We treated our single order as an appetizer, and kept on asking for the small corn tortillas to fashion tacos with the two small cups of hot sauce.

We ordered two more appetizers -- small crab empanadas with a mango salsa ($10.75), and a quesadilla with huitlacoche ($8.75)  -- the exotic, black corn fungus that my wife and son ate, though they usually avoid mushrooms. The latter was served with a Mexican sour cream and green salsa.

We shared an entree -- a butterflied, whole red snapper (sans the head), with each half covered in a different hot sauce ($26). 

We couldn't get the kitchen to serve us the head, too. 


I also ordered roasted vegetable tacos -- wild mushrooms, squash blossoms, zucchini and garlic -- served with flax-seed tortillas, Mexican street or creamed corn and beans with roasted pumpkin seeds ($17).

We would have been satisfied and full without the vegetable tacos, which seem expensive, and I had to eat them myself. My son ordered dessert -- churros (fried dough) with chocolate and two other dipping sauces ($6.95).

This is one of the most beautiful restaurants in North Jersey, with Mexican pottery, sconces and wall hangings. Service is attentive, but I wish the waiters wouldn't push the expensive, exotic drinks or that second avocado for the guacamole.


Rosa Mexicano, One Riverside Square, in The Shops at Riverside, Hackensack; 201-489-9100. Reservations recommended on weekends.

Rosa Mexicano website

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Three-minute meal. What's the catch?

Wheat gluten flourImage via Wikipedia

It looks like meat. It feels like meat in your mouth. But these "beefless tips" are made from wheat gluten and soy protein, and come with Burgundy-wine sauce and vegetables, and rice -- in pouches. Sold under the Gardein label (garden protein), this refrigerated meal from Canada weighs a total of 10.5 ounces.

I plated the contents of the box, managing to squirt sauce on my shirt, pants, shoes and the kitchen floor. I microwaved the tips, sauce, rice and some leftover broccoli, carrot and red pepper for close to four minutes, but the rice remained hard.

I ate everything but the rice and put it back in the microwave for two more minutes, cooking it. The tips had a nice texture, but they didn't taste like any meat I have ever had. I was filled after finishing everything, but only because I ate a big romaine lettuce salad with slivered almonds a couple of hours earlier. I found Gardein's Burgundy Trio at Whole Foods Market in Paramus.

Click on the link below to go to the company's Web site and see other meatless meals that resemble chicken breasts, pulled pork and kabobs.

Garden Protein International

(Photo: Wheat gluten flour.)
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Friday, May 21, 2010

Whole Foods fined for sanitary code violations

From the food bar at Whole FoodsImage by javajoba via Flickr

Until Whole Foods opened a supermarket in Paramus, I made the trip to its Edgewater store only a couple of times a year. The view of the Hudson was superb, but it was just too much of a schlep.

Today, The Record of Woodland Park reports the Edgewater store was fined $1,037 on May 13 for violations of the state sanitary code, including "improper storage of waste, improper sanitizing, failure to keep equipment in good repair, improper food protection and failure to keep food-contact surfaces clean."

(Photo: From the food bar at Whole Foods Market.)
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ShopRite answers competitors

The ShopRiteImage by joshuapaquin via Flickr

The ShopRite sales flier delivered with my newspaper this morning answers the beef sales of three competitors, noted in my previous post, How low can they go on beef prices?

USDA choice, top round London broil is on sale for $1.49 a pound and Certified Angus Beef London broil is going for $1.99 a pound, both with a Price Plus card. This is conventionally raised beef, so you'll also be eating antibiotics, growth hormones and, probably, animal byproducts (bits of dead animals, kitchen scraps and so forth in cattle feed).

We're not eating beef right now, but if we were, I'd go to ShopRite and check out its price for Australian free-range, grass-fed filet mignon, which is raised without any of the nasty stuff and sold here at lower prices than U.S. beef.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

How low can they go on beef prices?

Beef Cuts - Where They Come FromImage via Wikipedia

Three supermarket circulars came with the newspaper this morning, offering beef for $1.47 to $5.99 a pound.

The A&P flier declares: "We will not be undersold!" USDA choice, boneless top round London broil is on sale for $1.47 a pound. Choice is one of the three grades U.S. agricultural officials assign to beef: prime, choice and select.

The Pathmark circular offers USDA choice New York strip steak for $4.99 a pound ("save up to $5 a pound").

At Fairway Market in Paramus, "whole, fully trimmed beef" for filet mignon is on sale for $5.99 a pound, but there is no indication whether this meat was raised in the U.S. or what grade it might be. Fairway usually features USDA prime beef in its circulars (prime has the most fat or marbling), but the absence of that phrase in today's circular might prompt you to ask questions at the store.

Only the Pathmark flier says anything about how the beef was raised. Its steaks are "Western grain fed." You can assume the beef sold by the three stores was raised conventionally with antibiotics, growth hormones and animal byproducts.

Contrast these sales with the $3.99 to $4.99 a pound charged by ShopRite  when it has a sale on free-range, grass-fed beef  from Australia. In March, A&P and Pathmark had Australian leg of lamb on sale for $1.99 a pound -- the lowest I had ever seen.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Layers of flavor for breakfast

McDonald's Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwichImage via Wikipedia

How much can you cram into your breakfast sandwich?

This morning, I started with two toasted slices of 100 percent whole grain bread, spread hummus on one and added organic salad greens, a small egg-white omelet with Aleppo pepper, a slice of muenster cheese, smoked wild sockeye salmon and Dijon mustard.

If  I had pesto, it would be at home in this sandwich. I ate a Campari tomato with za'atar thyme mixture on the side, along with kimchi, but tomato slices with za'atar would work, too. I'll try that tomorrow. Everything in my sandwich -- except Aleppo pepper and za'atar -- can be found at Costco. Fattal's Syrian Bakery in Paterson stocks the pepper and thyme mixture.

My eating habits have come a long way since the 1980s, when I'd eat an Egg McMuffin (photo) for breakfast, drink coffee and finish with a cigarette.
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Monday, May 17, 2010

Some like it hot

Salsas picantesImage by saguayo via Flickr

That quick fish taco, scrambled eggs or just about anything else you're eating benefits from a liberal dose of hot and not-so-hot sauces.

We keep several around, notably salsa taquera (hot) -- a teaspoon or so does nicely on your fish taco (leftover fish, tortilla, salsa taquera and 30 to 45 seconds in the microwave). Goya and La Costena both sell salsa taquera, but I prefer the former.

We had haddock cooked in mild Mexican green sauce (salsa verde) for dinner last night, and I used some of the leftovers to make two fish tacos for breakfast, with salsa taquera. A third tortilla got a slice of muenster cheese and some salsa taquera, and 30 seconds in the microwave melted the cheese -- a quick, simple quesadilla.

One of the hottest sauces we use  is Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce (the one with the green cap, made in California). You see this sauce on tables at Vietnamese restaurants, including Saigon R in Englewood, but it's really hot, so using too much can ruin your pho. My 13-year-old son loves this sauce on sandwiches.

My favorite all-around sauce is Valentina salsa picante -- thicker, smokier and not as hot as Tabasco-brand sauce and considerably cheaper (second from right in photo above). I buy Valentina in the 34-ounce bottle and use it liberally on eggs, omelets and Jamaican ackee and saltfish. In a pinch, you can use Valentina on your tacos.

H Mart in Little Ferry and other Korean supermarkets carry a dizzying array of hot pepper paste -- the dipping sauce for barbecue or dumplings. They are both spicy and sweet. I usually select one based on a lower price.

Another alternative to Tabasco is Grace-brand hot pepper sauce from Jamaica, marked "very hot," which uses Scotch bonnet or capsicum peppers. A far milder Grace sauce is Fish & Meat Sauce, made with tomato paste, mango puree, cane sugar and cane vinegar.

Mexican and Jamaican sauces are available at Hackensack Market on Passaic Street. ShoRite also carries some Mexican sauces.

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another great (meatless) meal at Wondee's

Food for Life distributes food on an internati...Image via Wikipedia

We didn't get to Wondee's until 8:45 or so Saturday night, but we were lucky to get the last vacant table. My wife and I ate only seafood or vegetarian dishes at the Thai restaurant in Hackensack, where we pledged to go meatless on Feb. 28. But our 13-year-old son, celebrating his birthday, ordered wonton soup with sliced pork (he says it's the best he's ever had).

It was another great meal at one of our all-time favorites and we didn't miss meat. The value is outstanding. Wondee's is one of the few restaurants in North Jersey where a whole fish is priced at $16.95 (up recently from $14.95).

We ordered fried shrimp dumplings with a tasty plum sauce, mock duck salad (with crispy tofu instead of crispy duck), soft-shell crabs in Panang curry (a special) and pineapple fried rice with shrimp.

Everything was terrific, but we especially like the two big crabs (cut in four pieces) in the spicy curry, which was flecked with red pepper ($16.95). The dish included some crisp green beans and sweet pepper.

The fried rice dish is so much bolder than Chinese fried rice, which often is made from leftovers. Wondee's version includes big chunks of canned pineapple and three or four crunchy shrimp.

Our son didn't eat all of the sliced pork in his soup -- only the second or third time he has had meat in the two and a half months since we decided to give up meat and eat seafood.

Wondee's has a vegetarian menu and offers vegetarian versions of dishes with meat. For example, another special was a Thai summer roll with or without sweet sausage in tamarind sauce. But we got there too late; the kitchen was out of the meatless version.

Wondee's Fine Thai Food & Noodles, 
296 Main St., 201-883-1700;  parking in rear 

Friday, May 14, 2010

More hype from New York-based Fairway Market

Picture of Fairway Market - Paramus Location, ...
Fairway Market on opening day in Paramus.(Wikipedia)

If you're not reading the Fairway Market sales flier, you are missing out on one of the slickest marketing campaigns for a supermarket in North Jersey.

Farm-raised shrimp, conventionally raised prime beef -- all of it looks terrific, and there are photos of the humans behind each department at its Paramus store with a quote or two for good measure. 

None of this can obscure the truth -- that Fairway is selling a lot of pretty ordinary food, except for Murray's drug-free chicken, wild seafood  and organic items.

There are some gems, though. 

Whole porgy and whiting for $2.99 a pound is the lowest price I've seen on these fish (the sale starts today). Organic, Fair Trade coffee at $4.99 a pound is a steal. Three pounds of herbicide-free, Campari tomatoes for $5 is another great buy.

Capt. Tony Maltese, a licensed commercial fisherman, is shown and identified as the director of seafood. 

But above his name there is a quote from R.W. Apple Jr., a reporter for The New York Times whose appetite was legendary and who roamed the world to write about food. 

What is this quote doing in the flier and who is the "we" Apple refers to? 

The quote is in bigger type than the attribution, so unless you look closely, you may think the "we" is Fairway and the person being quoted is Capt. Maltese. It's not clear. (Could Apple have covered the opening of a Fairway store in New York before he died and spoken to Maltese?)

"We pay serious attention to the fact that where a fish was caught, how a fish was caught and when it was caught is at least as important as how it is best cooked."
It gets better. Ray Venezia, Fairway's third-generation butcher, also is pictured in the flier.

"It's really very simple. We cut every piece of meat as if we were going to serve it to our own family."
That doesn't say he actually brings home the conventionally raised beef, pork and lamb Fairway sells. In fact, the store sells only American lamb, not the grass-fed, drug- and hormone-free lamb from Australia that you can find at Costco and ShopRite, generally at lower prices than American lamb.

Fairway also doesn't carry naturally raised beef from Australia.

Fairway Market, 34 E. Ridgewood Ave., Paramus; 201-444-5455. Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grass-fed beef is a natural

Whole Foods MarketImage via Wikipedia

Grass-raised and finished beef is a rarity in most supermarkets. It's more expensive than conventionally raised beef, but it cooks faster and is better for you. Here is more about grass-fed beef from Whole Foods Market, whose blog (Whole Story) is listed to the right of this post. The Paramus store has sold grass-fed beef raised in New Jersey for $9.99 a pound (on sale). Just click on the link below:
Whole Foods Market blog
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

99 cents sardines in Hackensack

Essaouira fishermen (Morocco)Image by Ahron de Leeuw via Flickr

I was delighted to find the Moroccan sardines I have been buying in Paterson for 99 cents a can at Sahara Stores -- the Middle Eastern deli and grocery in Hackensack where I stopped for bread on Tuesday.

Sardines are so versatile -- they make a great sandwich with hummus, cheese, greens and tomato; they're wonderful added to rice or spaghetti and tomato sauce; and they are a tasty component in canned fish salad (sardines, tuna, red salmon, chopped red onion, cumin and Dijon mustard).

I have been buying Al Shark-brand Moroccan sardines from Fattal's Syrian Bakery, which has the lowest prices around, even lower than the much bigger Corrado's supermarket about a mile away. They come in oil, spicy oil and tomato sauce -- usually 99 cents for a 4 and three-eighth ounce can.

On Tuesday, Sahara Stores had the Al Shark sardines in spicy oil for 99 cents, and I picked up 10 cans. I also bought California Gardens-brand fava beans with mild chili for $1.09 a can and grape leaves stuffed with rice (Turkey) for $2.79. This is a well-stocked grocery and I didn't check out all the items.

Chef-owner Mohsen Mekawi, who is Egyptian, also prepares a large number of Middle Eastern dishes. Falafel are four for $1 and a pound of stuffed grape leaves is $5.99. Sandwiches range from falafel for $2.99 to egg and basterma for $5.99. Dinners with rice, salad and bread are $9.99 to $11.99.

Sahara Stores, 242 S. Summit Ave., Hackensack; 

Fattal's Syrian Bakery, 975-977 Main St., Paterson; 

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why Fattal's bread doesn't travel well

hummus, babaganoush, and spicy carrots w/ pita...Image by graciepoo via Flickr

I have been eating bread from Fattal's Syrian Bakery in Paterson for decades, but have always wondered why I don't see it in served in restaurants or sold in grocery stores.

Down to my last two loaves and not wanting to drive the 20-mile round trip to South Paterson, I stopped for bread Tuesday at Sahara Stores on South Summit Avenue in Hackensack and discovered canned goods for the same prices as at Fattal's.

After I paid, I asked Mohsen Mekawi, the friendly proprietor, why he doesn't carry bread from Fattal's, which I consider the best in North Jersey. It's simple, he said. Fattal's is the only Middle Eastern bakery that doesn't credit him for unsold bread.

The others take back the day-old bread and deduct it from the bill for the loaves that are delivered fresh daily, he said. With Fattal's, he is stuck with old bread.

I bought two packages of Kings Pita (no hyphen), a thinner, larger, Lebanese-style pocket bread, for $1.50 each. The bread is baked in Paterson, unlike Fattal's bread, which is now baked in Fair Lawn.

But Kings Pita is only a stopgap, because it isn't as tasty or as good a value as Fattal's loaves. I'll have to try some of the other brands sold at Sahara Stores (despite the name, it's only one store) when I'm out of Fattal's and don't want to drive to South Paterson.

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Where seafood lovers gather

NJ - Newark - Ironbound DistrictImage by wallyg via Flickr

The Seabras are an enterprising Portuguese family in Newark with a supermarket and restaurants in the Ironbound section, including Seabra's Marisquiera, where seafood is king. With the word "sea" in their name, how could they miss?

To avoid the Mother's Day rush today, I took my wife and son there Saturday night for a bountiful meal of lobster, shrimp and cod. We watched other families digging into platters of octopus salad, fried squid and whole fish.

 My wife and son started with a briny, pureed seafood soup that had shrimp, pieces of lobster in the shell and some elbow macaroni floating in it. One portion ($8.50) yielded two bowls of soup. I was very happy with a crisp watercress, tomato and onion salad ($4.50) that came on a large metal platter and was perfectly dressed in just enough oil and vinegar, good for sopping up with soft Portuguese bread.

My wife and son shared an entree -- twin lobsters stuffed with crab and accompanied by those addictive, homemade potato chips ($34). The waiter grabbed two live lobsters from a tank and brought them over. Did we want a single big one or two small ones? When I said two small, the eye of the junior crustacean seemed to swivel in my direction.

The lobster meat was tender, but I ended up eating must of the chips after my wife and son asked for some rice.

The waiter tried to talk me out of my selection -- salted cod boiled with potato and onion  ($21) -- and steer me to grilled fish. But I wanted to try the cod. A long, thick fillet of the snowy fish came on a platter with crisp broccoli and carrot, black olives, potato and onion -- a classic boiled dinner. This was the tenderest salted cod I had ever tasted, but it could have used a simple sauce. It wasn't salty at all, so I sprinkled on fresh lemon juice. It also was a big portion; I took a lot home.

A small bottle of Portuguese green wine (two to two and a half glasses) was $10. I finished with an espresso.

Seating is in a front room and bar and a rear dining room, where tables are lined up family style, so another group might be seated next to you. The two rooms are split by an open kitchen and a display of beautifully iced whole red snapper, sections of larger fish such as grouper and hake, enormous shrimp that looked to be five to six inches long and tanks of live lobsters.

The menu is extensive and offers cold and hot seafood combinations for four ($45). When we left, waiting customers were lined up in the corridor connecting the two seating areas.

The cod dish had a happy ending this morning, when my wife incorporated the leftover fish and potato into her Jamaican ackee and saltfish breakfast. Delicious.

Seabra's Marisquiera, 87 Madison St., Newark; 
973-491-6634. Open seven days. Off-street parking. 
rdison ax: (973) 491-633087 Madison Street, Newark, N
Fax: (973) 491-6330
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Friday, May 7, 2010

Breakfast spans the globe

Tomato slices.Image via Wikipedia

I opened the refrigerator, bottles and a can to assemble a delicious, globe-spanning breakfast this morning. I only had to warm pocket bread and pour some iced tea to make it complete.

On a small plate, I covered tomato slices with za'atar thyme mixture, and placed some cabbage kimchi next to it. On a larger plate, I arranged stewed tofu in red pepper sauce, two fat Moroccan sardines in spicy oil, a ball of Lebanese yogurt cheese, an Egyptian preserved lemon and the warm bread. I also had imported hummus, made from a can.

The instant black tea came from ShopRite -- I added water, fresh lemon juice and mint from my garden. Most of the other ingredients came from Fattal's Syrian Bakery in Paterson. The kimchi and tofu were from Arirang Kimchi in Englewood and H Mart in Little Ferry, respectively.

All this great food found a home in my kitchen.
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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A delicious, meatless meatloaf

Whole Foods MarketImage via Wikipedia

Our last meal with meat was on Feb. 28 at Wondee's in Hackensack, and we've tried a number of substitutes -- some good, some great and some we won't be eating again.

Two of our best meals -- great texture and taste -- came from the Original Field Roast Grain Meat Co. in Seattle, which is carrying on a tradition rooted in 7th Century China, according to its Web site. That's where "grain meat," the precursor to seitan, was developed. 

We had a meatloaf and a stuffed celebration roast, both from the refrigerated section of Whole Foods Market in Paramus and both about $7.99. The dense, 1-pound loaves -- made from wheat and vegetables -- each serve three, with rice or potatoes and a salad. In both cases, I heated the loaves in the oven and poured barbecue sauce over them for the last 10 minutes. 

Fluctuating prices at Costco

One of my favorite purchases at Costco -- Earthbound Farm organic spring mix -- has gone up 50 cents, to $4.99 a pound. Still, you won't find it for less anywhere else. I love this pre-washed salad for taste and convenience -- salad-making or sandwich-stuffing is accomplished in minutes. 

But two pounds of Sunset-brand, herbicide-free Campari tomatoes were $4.59 on Tuesday -- a drop of at least 40 cents. 

One item I bought Tuesday for the first time was a package of six sweet red peppers for $6.99 -- compared to $3.99 a pound at H Mart and $4.99 a pound at ShopRite. There is no weight on the package.

ShopRite's natural meat and poultry

Although we haven't been eating meat, I've kept an eye on ShopRite's sales fliers for discounts on free-range, grass-fed Australian beef and lamb, and its Readington Farms antibiotic-free chicken. None of these have been on sale since the end of March, when you could buy leg of lamb for $1.99 a pound.

The beef is sold under the Nature's Reserve label, but the lamb appears under several names.
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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Looking for a big bowl of noodle soup

Highway 4 shieldImage via Wikipedia

As dinner time drew near Monday evening, I felt like driving over to Wondee's in Hackensack and ordering its biggest bowl of noodle soup. Of course, when we got there, we remembered our favorite Thai restaurant is closed on Mondays.

So we just turned toward the shopping center near Route 4 and the best Chinese restaurant in North Jersey -- Lotus Cafe, which is open seven days a week.

And there it was on the menu: seafood soup noodles ($11.95). In truth, the bowl isn't that big, but there is enough broth, homemade noodles, shrimp, scallop, squid, fish cake and spinach for two to three people as an appetizer.

The fat, toothsome noodles appear in other dishes, notably zar jiang mein, the Chinese version of spaghetti Bolognese, with a hearty meat sauce that will have you coming back for more.

Following the soup, we really enjoyed the house special, pan-fried tofu ($9.95) with white rice. The soft, eggy tofu is dipped in a light batter before stir frying with meaty black mushrooms and vegetables. Another nice dinner.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack; 201-488-7070.
Open seven days, BYO, free delivery within 3 miles ($12 minimum).
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Monday, May 3, 2010

The Australian lamb sold at Costco Wholesale

The original drawing of the Australian coat of...
Image via Wikipedia

Editor's note: I wrote this post in May 2010, when I still ate meat and poultry. I haven't looked at Costco Wholesale lamb  for several years, but continue to buy grass-fed beef from Australia at ShopRite supermarkets for the meat-eaters in the family.


I've noticed that some readers arrive at Do You Really Know What You're Eating when searching for information on whether Australian lamb sold at Costco is raised with growth hormones. 

I'm providing the Internet link that will tell you everything you need to know about the lamb from Down Under.

As far as I know, all the Australian lamb sold at ShopRite, Costco and elsewhere in the United States  is supplied by the same ranchers, producers and exporters. 

American lamb producers say their costs are much higher and they have to sell conventionally raised meat for more money than the naturally raised, grass-fed meat from Australia. 

Be sure to click on "About us" at the link below:

Australian lamb Web site
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Sunday, May 2, 2010

On the way home from the shore, stop at The Fishery in South Amboy

Fort Hancock is part of the Sandy Hook National Recreation Area on the New Jersey Shore.

Editor's note: In 2016, The Fishery in South Amboy was no longer in business.


We drove down to Sandy Hook on Saturday for an open house at American Littoral Society headquarters and stopped on the way home for an early dinner at The Fishery in South Amboy (though I've always thought it was in neighboring Sayreville).

The squat building housing a fish market and restaurant on Route 35 has only 22 seats amid a simple decor of white tile and oversize fishing lures, but there's table service and a full menu of fresh and frozen seafood, including one-pound Brazilian lobster tails and colossal shrimp. 

Most of the interior is taken up by fish cases and the open kitchen.

Me, my wife and our son started with one dozen, steamed Little Neck clams ($9.95) in a broth with chopped tomato and parsley that I sopped up with garlic bread and scooped up with empty shells. 

Then, we each tried a different soup: lobster bisque, Maine lobster and corn chowder and Maryland crab and corn chowder ($3.50 or $3.95 for a cup). All were terrific.

Mateo, the Greek chef who bought The Fishery from the original owner about a year ago, buys his fish at the relocated Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. He said so many different items are coming in now, after a lackluster winter, he feels as excited as a little boy shopping there.

But he excels in the simple grilling of fresh fish, and does less well when he tries something like the monkfish scampi with linguine I ordered off the specials blackboard ($14.95). 

My wife had some of my fresh fish and pasta -- which needed seasoning -- and also shared my son's selection, a platter of beautifully fried red snapper with Buffalo fries -- spicy potatoes under a blanket of mozzarella cheese (also $14.95).  

We enjoyed a side order of simply sauteed fresh spinach ($3.95), but wish the portion was larger.

As we were leaving, I noticed a whole red snapper nestled in ice I missed on the way in. That would have been terrific grilled with a Greek-style oil, lemon and oregano sauce on the side -- as we've had whole fish there before. 

I also wished I had room for the baklava or rice pudding.

One change we noticed on this visit was a printed menu with the South Amboy address, rather than  the familiar Sayreville, which separated from the former many years ago. Sayreville and the Raritan River are considered the start of the Jersey shore by many.

At the American Littoral Society open house in Fort Hancock, I got my first taste this year of fresh clams, but the man shucking these sweet mollusks said they were from Chesapeake Bay, not New Jersey. They were no less delicious.

The Fishery, 1812 Route 35 north and Midland Avenue, South Amboy, N.J.; 732-721-9100; open seven days.  

You may be able to bring your own wine. Please call ahead.
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