Monday, February 28, 2011

Where to go for cheap produce

Washing peppersImage via Wikipedi
Take your pick. Sweet peppers are 99 cents a pound at Brothers Produce.

Cold weather in Mexico and Florida has sent produce prices soaring everywhere, it seems, except at the Paterson Farmers' Market, where the stores were crowded today with bargain hunters.

I was pressed for time, but stopped at Brothers Produce, with its sidewalk displays of peppers, tomatoes, lemons and other items. Inside, you'll find plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, along with groceries, dairy products and imported Middle Eastern food.

Sweet green, red, yellow and orange peppers were 99 cents a pound, as were plump plum or Roma tomatoes; large, shrink-wrapped gourmet cucumbers were two for $1, and lemons were seven for $1.

An employee was unpacking fresh spinach, and I took two large bunches right from the box for $1.

Driscoll's strawberries were $1.49 for 16 ounces, and raspberries and blackberries were $1.49 each for 6 ounces. I also picked up a bottle of date syrup from Lebanon for $3.49, ideal for making a seltzer-based drink or for topping ice cream or yogurt.

I didn't have time to check out the prices for leafy greens or garlic, but scanning the aisles, the most common price I saw was 99 cents a pound.

Prices also were low down the street at Farmer's Produce, but so was the quality of some of the items. I saw Earthbound Farm's organic greens with a sell-by date of Feb. 14.

The lemons looked good, however, at eight for $1. Stick with Brothers for everything else.

Paterson has long been known as Silk City, but today it resembled Pothole City. Streets were filled with litter, and even the South Paterson neighborhood of restaurants, bakeries and pastry shops looked drab as a steady drizzle fell.

Brothers Produce, 327 E. Railway Ave., Paterson; 973-684-4461.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chipotle Mexican Grill earns bragging rights

From the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Colorado Sp...Image via Wikipedia
A Chipotle Mexican Grill in Colorado Springs, Colo., the state where the chain started.

The "Food With Integrity" policy at Chipotle Mexican Grill puts other fast-food chains, fancy burger restaurants and many expensive restaurants to shame.

The policy is posted next to the wall menu at the busy Paramus store: chicken, pork and beef served here were raised without antibiotics, growth hormones or animal byproducts, and some of the vegetables are organic.

Here's what the company Web site says about the pork it uses:
"There are ranchers whose pigs are raised outside or in deeply bedded pens, are never given antibiotics and are fed a vegetarian diet. It's the way animals were raised 50 years ago before huge factory farms changed the industry. We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we've ever tasted.
"We call this style of ranching naturally raised, and since 2001, we have sourced 100% of our pork from producers who follow these guidelines."

When we walked into the restaurant Saturday afternoon around 5, there were already about 20 people on the line and after a few minutes, another dozen or so customers arrived.

The menu is limited: burritos, tacos, and bowls made with or without meat, such side dishes as guacamole, chips and salsa, and soft drinks. Sadly, no fish or shrimp tacos are available. Main dishes are $6.25 and $6.65 (pork).

It's strictly counter service. The menu is posted above servers who assemble your meal as you move down the line, but the pans they are dishing from are unlabeled. Your last stop is the register, where credit cards are accepted. More employees work in an open kitchen behind the servers.

We ordered three bowls, one of them to go, with chopped chicken, shredded pork (carnitas) or peppers and onions, and all of them with white rice, black beans, sour cream, cheese, hot sauce and a side of guacamole ($1.95 extra). Pinto beans made with a little bacon also are available.

Our food was tasty, but not hot enough. I didn't get hot sauce on my vegetarian meal, but used one of the bottled hot sauces next to the drink machine. My wife found a filament in her food and, at home, my son said there was some grit in his guacamole.

Chipotle Mexican GrillImage by shawnblog via Flickr

My son's bowl with shredded pork filled about three-quarters of a dinner plate when we heated it up in the microwave. My wife took home half of her meal, and I was pleasantly satisfied after finishing mine.

In view of the restaurant's popularity, I'd definitely choose take-out next time for all three meals. Although we found a table right away, there was the inevitable bumping into other customers at the drink machine, where I found lemon wedges for my seltzer.

If you Google "Chipotle Mexican Grill," you might come across many negative "reviews" online from people who ate at the Paramus restaurant, but I didn't see any uncleared tables and the staff was harried but friendly. It's hard to know if the store was poorly run at one time or if the reviews are completely off the mark.

As we waited on the line, an employee was walking around the small dining room, sweeping up anything that had fallen to the floor from tables.

Our bill for food and two soft drinks was $30.17, with no need to tip, far less than what a meal for three, tip and tax would be at a restaurant serving conventionally raised, mystery food.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, 81 Route 4 west, Paramus, 
in the 35 Plaza shopping mall; 201-556-0180.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hitting turbulence at ShopRite

A DC-10 similar to the one that dropped the me...Image via Wikipedia
Continental Airlines and ShopRite make rewards much more difficult.

This week, I got an e-mail from Continental Airlines about earning frequent-flier miles at ShopRite supermarkets, which many consider the low-price leader in North Jersey.

I am already enrolled in the program, but haven't rolled up any miles since the rules were changed, forcing you to make purchases of $1,000 every three months or forfeit any miles you might have earned. 

Also, before the change, you received 1 mile for each dollar spent; now, you have to spend $2 for each mile. 

Under the former reward program, you could use a credit card that earned 1 mile for every dollar spent to buy food at ShopRite and get a second mile for every dollar spent from the supermarket.

But I never liked using the Continental Airlines frequent-flier program. If you didn't reserve a seat using miles many, many months in advance, you were often out of luck. And if you got a seat, you'd still have to pay security fees and other charges of $50 or more per flight.

1974–2000 ShopRite logo, still in use at some ...Image via Wikipedia

I switched from a credit card that earned miles to one that earned cash rebates.The new program started on Jan 1, 2009, and continues in 2011, according to ShopRite.

In recent years, we have been making more and more of our food purchases at Costco, where prices are low for high-quality items such as wild-caught fish, sliced cheese, organic produce and other items. 

To qualify for ShopRite's airline mile program, I would have to spend an average of $77 a week, according to the store Web site. I haven't done that in a long time, and don't plan to start now.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Avoiding higher produce prices, enjoying a bargain lunch in the city

Tomatentyp RomanaImage via Wikipedia
Roma tomatoes are grown in hothouses and sold under the Sunset label.


Field-grown produce in Florida and Mexico has been damaged by cold weather -- leading to shortages and higher prices in New Jersey supermarkets and warehouse stores -- but consumers might find what they need by looking for vegetables grown in greenhouses.

One of the biggest such producers is Mastronardi Produce Ltd. in Canada, the company behind the Sunset brand. It sells hothouse-grown Campari tomatoes, large cucumbers, bell peppers and other items, many from Mexico, and they have been unaffected by the weather.

An employee who gave his name as Al said the supply is steady, but that shortages "in the field" have led to more demand for hothouse-grown products.

I have been under the impression Sunset-brand tomatoes and other produce are herbicide free, but Al said a small amount of herbicide is used and that his produce is close to organic. 

"We can't legally call it organic," he said. The company does sell organic produce, but I haven't seen it in North Jersey.

At Costco in Hackensack this week, I bought 2 pounds of Sunset-brand large Gourmet cucumbers for $3.79 and 2 pounds of Campari, European-style tomatoes for $5.49. Sunset Roma tomatoes were $4.99 for 2 pounds.

Fish on ice in Manhattan

Estiatorio Milos, one of those expensive Greek fish houses in Manhattan, has an impressive display of fresh seafood and produce on ice, and charges up to $49 a pound for whole fish. 

But the restaurant also serves a three-course Restaurant Week menu year-round, and its $24.07 lunch attracts a full house of business people and tourists.

My wonderful lunch today started with two plump sea scallops atop orange-section slices in a balsamic reduction. 

My wife had a tomato salad with feta cheese, and my son chose a platter of appetizers, including spinach pie, hummus, taramasalata and strained yogurt with garlic.

My entree was a whole grilled fish -- loup de mer from Greece -- de-boned and served butterflied with extra-virgin olive oil and capers. 

The fish was moist, but needed fresh lemon juice, so we asked for lemon edges. The side dish was broccoli. My wife had the same. 

My son ordered a single, thick lamb chop (cooked medium) with french fries, broccoli and cauliflower.

Dessert was either honey cake with ice cream or fresh fruit. I chose the fruit. We were served toasted bread and olive oil during the meal.

The interior of the ground-floor dining room is industrial -- mostly unadorned concrete, painted walls and ducts, and the "wine cellar" is on the second floor.

Estiatorio Milos, 125 W. 55th St., Manhattan, 1-212-245-7400.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Conquering the all-you-can-eat monster

A fried calamariImage via Wikipedia
Sanducci's serves fried calamari like this as part of its $16.95 all-you-can-eat buffet.

Can you tackle one of those all-you-can-eat buffets and stay on your diet, too? The answer is "yes," if you show a lot of self-control and eat the same foods you do every day.

On Tuesday night, we drove over to Sanducci's -- an Italian restaurant in River Edge that is less than 3 miles from our home -- for the $16.95 buffet. It's served on Sundays from 5 to 8 p.m., and on Mondays and Tuesdays from 6 to 8 p.m.

We had a choice of seven main dishes, including fish, chicken, pasta, fried calamari and eggplant parmigiana, plus two salads, mixed vegetables and pizza (I missed the vegetables initially because they were hidden under the pizza pan in a covered chafing dish.)

My son had two plates of chicken, pasta, pizza and bread, but I'm not eating meat, so I started with two dinner plates of salad, the second topped with fried calamari; then had three pieces of fish in lemon sauce and two plates of mixed vegetables.

I didn't have room for the eggplant parmigiana. I didn't eat pasta or pizza, and on the scale at the gym this morning, I had shed a pound, compared to the day before.

We've eaten here before and like the food. It's a BYO, but I forgot that and didn't bring any wine. My wife didn't have a big appetite and ordered angel-hair pasta in a tomato sauce with lots of crab meat ($17.50). She took most of it home.

As for the buffet, the sauce with the tender rings of fried calamari was too mild for my taste, and I would have preferred the wild-caught sole listed on the early bird menu to the farmed tilapia I had. 

But the broccoli and carrots in the mixed vegetables retained some crunch and the salad contained romaine lettuce, shredded carrots and fat grape tomatoes.

The waitress said the buffet included dessert, either rice pudding or chocolate mousse, but we're not dessert eaters. I asked for a cup of coffee instead, but she said it wasn't included. 

Sanducci's Trattoria, 620 Kinderkamack Road,
River Edge; 201-599-0600. BYO. Open seven days.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Organic spring mix is frozen out

CostcoImage via Wikipedia

Costco in Hackensack has been out of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix at least since Sunday, and an employee said today he doesn't expect any for the rest of the week.

This most delicious salad mix is a mainstay in our home, appearing at breakfast topped with cheese and smoked wild salmon and at dinner dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I've been eating organic baby spinach instead.

ShopRite and other stores sell a one-pound package of the organic spring mix for $6.99, compared to Costco's price of $4.99.

The Costco employee said the shortage has been caused by cold weather in Mexico, where some of the product is grown, damaging the lettuce, arugula and other leafy greens that go into it.

Bisque and stew

I picked up more Kirkland Signature-brand Lobster Bisque ($10.89 for two portions totaling 40 ounces), and found a new item, Stonewall Kitchen Vegetable Stew ($7.99 for two 20-ounce portions). 

I hope it's as good as the StockPot Organic Vegetarian Chili with beans I bought recently that proved to be filling and delicious ($9.99 for two portions totaling 48 ounces.)

Meanwhile, the price has risen on Kirkland Signature-brand 100% whole grain bread, to $4.19 from $3.99 for two 28-ounce loaves.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Triple washed is good enough for me

Clagett Farm CSA 2008 Week 2Image by via Flickr

If you prepare family meals five or six times a week, as we do, convenience and speed are paramount. My wife and I don't have the time or patience to use long, elaborate recipes for dinner.

Two of the most convenient products I know are Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix and Boskovich Farms Organically Grown Baby Spinach, both sold at Costco and both pre-washed, so I don't have to use a salad spinner.

I literally grab some and place it in the bowl for an instant salad with my own prepared dressing, which I keep in the refrigerator. 

The triple-washed spinach makes a fine addition to pasta with garlic, anchovies and grated cheese. (The base of the sauce is chicken stock.)

For dinner tonight, I baked almost two pounds of fresh Pacific True Cod Fillets I bought at Costco in Hackensack on Sunday for $6.99 a pound, prepared instant mash potatoes and dressed a spinach salad. The meal was on the table in under 30 minutes.

On Sunday night, I marinated a pound and a half of farmed Tiger Prawns, also from Costco, then sauteed them with garlic and extra-virgin olive oil for about five minutes. I served them with Costco guacamole topped by Goya Salsa Taquera, leftover organic spinach-and-cheese ravioli and a spinach salad. 

The U-15 prawns come cleaned (under 15 to the pound) and cost $9.99 a pound.

A pound of organic baby spinach is $3.99. The last time I bought the organic spring mix at Costco, it was $4.79 or $4.99 -- still the lowest retail price I have found.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

A restaurant with staying power

A variety of Uma-Jirushi designs, taken from t...Image via Wikipedia
You can now buy Wild Ginger's unusual miso-and-citrus salad dressing at the restaurant.


Wild Ginger is special. If it wasn't for the eclectic mix of tables and chairs, you'd think this jewel-box of a restaurant on Englewood's main street is another one of the city's art galleries. 

But the real art practiced here is serving wonderful seafood -- both raw and cooked -- to a loyal group of customers who lend the small, high-end room an intimate feel as they are welcomed by Owner Charles Hamade and Chef and Co-Owner Yoshiharu Suzuki, and receive their personal attention. 

A man who drove in from Staten Island declared to others enjoying dinner: "Best sushi in the world." 

A woman sat down at the sushi bar and didn't have to ask for her regular order: A lobster roll followed by a sundae.

Wild Ginger opened 16 years ago. With only about 35 seats at the sushi bar and tables, you can watch Suzuki preparing raw fish or catch a glimpse of a waiter in the small kitchen ladling green tea into a pot.

The flavors of the seafood are pure. Order the black cod with sweet miso and when it's placed on the table, you might think the kitchen forgot the sauce. But the subtle miso flavor comes through as you bite into a perfect piece of barely cooked fish.  

On Friday night, Hamade invited me and Jason and Rachel Perlow of the Off The Broiler food blog to sample a dressing and sauces he is bottling and selling to the public. 

He served us a sumptuous meal of raw tuna and salmon, as well as cooked lobster, scallops and cod. 

Everything was on the house, but in the past, I have gladly paid for many meals that were as good as this dinner.

We started with a simple red-leaf lettuce salad in a homemade orange-miso dressing. Hamade is selling 12-ounce bottles of his preservative-free Baba Charles Celebration Salad Dressing at the restaurant for $6.

Next, we received a mound of -melt-in-your mouth tuna tartare in a spicy aioli sauce, another product he will be selling soon under the Baba Charles label. 

A salad of cooked lobster in his third planned product -- a mango sauce-- followed. Salmon sashimi came with a simple ponzu dressing he also plans to sell.

Suzuki sent us three fat, inside-out rolls: spicy tuna, cooked lobster and a mix of white tuna and cooked eel. Our entrees were cod and scallops, and I ordered a soft-shell crab appetizer. 

The Perlows tried one of Hamade's parfaits with dried mango and a dusting of red-pepper powder.

Wild Ginger/Wild Nigiri Hassun Sushi Bar, 6 E. Palisade Ave., Englewood; 201-567-2660. BYO, no reservations accepted. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Web site and menu
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Korean supermarket issues rebate card

NJ - Bergen County - Ridgefield: Super H-Mart ...Image by wallyg via Flickr
The Super H Mart in Ridgefield is the largest Korean supermarket in Bergen County.

H Mart, the Korean supermarket company with four stores in Bergen County, is now issuing a Smart Savings Card that rewards customers with a $10 gift certificate for every $1,000 spent -- effectively a rebate of 1%.

The card also entitles holders to discounts on four items every week. This week's items are SPAM, olive oil, red-pepper powder and pickled radish.

I was at the Little Ferry store on Tuesday and heard a store announcement for the very first time, alerting shoppers to a sale on Organic Valley milk for $2.99 per half-gallon, compared to $3.99 or more elsewhere, but the lactose-free variety wasn't available.

The Smart Savings Card is presented at checkout and shoppers accumulate one point for every dollar spent.

I rely on H Mart for fresh seafood, greens and other produce, California-grown rice and prepared Korean food, including stewed tofu and Alaska pollock, both prepared in a spicy red-pepper sauce.

Lyndhurst-based Hanahreum Group operates supermarkets in 10 states. Other New Jersey stores are in Fort Lee, Ridgefield, Englewood, Edison and Cherry Hill.

American Express Costco card

I received a $322 rebate check from American Express for purchases I made in 2010, including 3% back at restaurants and on gasoline purchases, 1% back for Costco purchases; 2% back for travel purchases and 1% everywhere else.

As an executive member, I will receive another 2% rebate on Costco purchases with the card, which is called the Costco True Earnings Card. The warehouse store only accepts American Express cards.

Second look at fish sticks

We tried The Ultimate Fish Stick from Costco for dinner again last night, and found they are "crunchy," as advertised on the package.

I preheated the oven to 475 degrees, not the 400 degrees I used last time when I misread the package directions, and turned them half-way through the 11 to 13 minutes cooking time. I cooked them a little longer.

The finger-long fish sticks are made by Trident Seafoods from fillets of wild-caught Alaska pollock, a cod-like fish. 

I still think "ultimate" is going overboard, but these are delicious fish sticks.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Searching for fiber in my food

Logo of the United States National Cancer Inst...Image via Wikipedia

The newspaper has a story on how "roughage" and "more fiber" in our diet can extend our lives, but it's short on information about what foods have them.

The daily recommendation is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, the Associated Press story, which equates "roughage" and "fiber," only mentions one food source: grains.

The National Cancer Institute study is called the largest of its kind. "It finds the overall benefit to be strongest for diets high in fiber from grains." 

Rather than rely on the Associated Press, it's probably best to read a summary of the study on the Web site of the Archives of Internal Medicine at the following link: 

I took a look at some of the food in my cupboard and refrigerator to see which has dietary fiber.

My breakfast this morning included two foods with dietary fiber: Bob's Red Mill 100% Whole Grain Hot Cereal (10-Grain), which I prepared with dried blueberries and honey; and sun-dried tomatoes, which I paired with buffalo-milk mozzarella cheese.

Lundberg Organic Short-Grain Brown Rice also is 100% whole grain, but other brown rice has fiber, too. You can get more fiber from fully cooked, canned kidney beans or Madras-style lentils.

A half-cup of ShopRite's Organic Dark-Red Kidney Beans contains 6 grams of dietary fiber; 5 ounces of Tasty Bite Madras Lentils contain 5 grams of fiber, and one-quarter cup of organic brown rice has 3 grams of fiber.

Although I am cutting down on bread to lose weight and giving up that fiber, I make up for it by eating pasta and almonds, both of which contain dietary fiber, as do fruits and vegetables.

You can find a fact sheet on dietary fiber, including a listing of foods, at the following link:

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Monday, February 14, 2011

A new way to kill chickens

Sunset at the Chicken FarmImage by V'ron via Flickr
Is the sun setting on inhumane methods at factory chicken farms?

Pennsylvania-based Bell & Evans raises chickens without antibiotics and gives them room to roam, according to its Web site. 

Now, the producer is adopting a method to kill chickens that is called far less stressful than the conventional practice of hanging them by their feet and slitting their throats while they are still alive.

Below is a link to a story in The New York Times on the new method. Contrast it with the video from the Humane Society of the United States taken inside Perdue Farms that you'll find in a previous post, Video: Humane Society sues Perdue Farms.

New way to help chickens cross to the other side

Whole Story, the official blog of Whole Foods Market, has a video showing some of the farms where it buys meat and the supermarket chain's animal-welfare standards:

What makes our meat different

On Sunday afternoon, I purchased $20 worth of frozen organic chicken feet and discounted antibiotic-free chicken quarters -- priced at $1.50 to $2.04 a pound -- at Whole Foods in Paramus, and used a $5-off coupon at checkout. It's nice to get a deal on food that is good for you.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

A happy family goes out to dinner

Chinese New YearImage by yewenyi via Flickr
Chinese New Year Parade in Sydney, Australia.

We returned to Lotus Cafe in Hackensack on Saturday night to try two more of the dishes from the Year of the Rabbit menu we sampled a week before. The six Chinese New Year's specials will be served through today, Feb. 13.

We had another good meal, but it was preceded by an argument with my 13-year-old son, who wanted to order the same lobster dish we had last time, Dragon & Phoenix, which has boneless fried chicken on the side.

I wanted to order two of the four dishes we hadn't sampled -- either Tangerine Braised Duck, with steamed buns, or Happy Family Meat Ball Casserole for my wife and son to share, and Walnut Scallops for me.

Happy family, indeed. I am not eating meat, but my son and wife are. I felt two entrees with the soup and two stir-fried greens we planned to order would have been enough.  

But my son didn't want duck and buns. He also didn't want the pork meatballs, cellophane noodles, fish tempura and quail eggs in the casserole, either. He wanted lobster. My wife stayed out of the argument, and wouldn't express a preference.

Finally, I ordered: sea scallops and walnuts in a sweet-and-sour sauce for me ($18) and X.O. Shrimp & Steak Kew ($25) for them -- cubes of filet mignon and jumbo shrimp in a sauce made with dried scallops, shrimp roe and anchovies.

I tried a couple of the shrimp, and they tasted really fresh, as good as any I've had before. The scallops in my dish were cooked perfectly and were a nice foil to the sweet, crunchy walnuts.

From the regular menu, we ordered stir-fried water spinach ($8.95) and snow pea leaves ($10.95), both with fresh garlic slices; and a seafood soup for two, but the waiter forgot to bring us the soup. 

Still, we had plenty to eat, and took home leftovers.

I was flooded with memories of meals in Manhattan's Chinatown when I noticed one of the waiters cleaning a bare tabletop with leftover tea and a cloth. Lotus Cafe uses white tablecloths after 5 p.m.

And the waiters know that when you open the top of your teapot, you want hot tea. They'll whisk it away and refill it, and when it's set down, you can thank them by tapping two fingers on the table two or three times.

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack,
in the Home Depot Shopping Center; 201-488-7070. 

BYO. Open seven days. Reservations recommended on weekends.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Video: Humane Society sues Perdue Farms

WASHINGTON - JULY 27: President and CEO of The...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States.

If you continue to buy and eat Perdue chicken after seeing this video, you have a strong stomach.

The Humane Society of the United States filed suit in New Jersey against Maryland-based Perdue Farms late last year after labels on chicken sold at a warehouse store claimed the poultry had been "humanely raised." It is seeking class-action status.

The suit was brought on behalf of a New Jersey woman who bought chicken at a BJ's Wholesale Club bearing the Harvestland label, a trade name used by Perdue for birds raised in Kentucky and marketed as "purely all-natural" and "humanely raised."

The suit alleges that the poultry producer's marketing violates New Jersey's consumer fraud law. The complaint seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against Perdue, as well as an injunction barring it from making claims that it treats its birds humanely.

The label is similar to those you see in the supermarket that omit any mention of Perdue's use of antibiotics to raise chickens. The Humane Society says Perdue processes 3 billion pounds of chicken a year.

Warning: The content of this video is graphic. Here is the link:

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Say cheese at least 54 times

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, the true "par...Image via Wikipedia
Costco sells Parmigiano-Reggiano and more than 50 other cheeses.

Or maybe 55 or 56 times. This afternoon, I tried to count all the cheeses offered in a long refrigerated case at Costco in Hackensack, but now remember, as I write this, there is more cheese in another case I didn't look at.

So let's just say the warehouse store with the high-quality food at low prices -- on everything from soup to nuts -- carries more than 50 cheeses, in slices, wedges, wheels and blocks, as well as grated and shredded.

They are imported from Italy, Ireland, England, France and other countries or made in the United States for foreign dairies.

I love cheese, but have tried to avoid the full-fat ones, so I've gravitated toward skim-milk Parmigiano-Reggiano ($11.99 a pound) and Grana Padano ($8.99 a pound), both from Italy, and reduced-fat Jarlsberg Lite slices ($8.99 for two pounds).

Occasionally, I've brought home sheep's milk Manchego from Spain ($8.29 a pound), but I don't think I'm ready for a French cheese I saw today -- La Delice Saint Faron Triple Cream cow's-milk cheese ($9.49).

I plan to try a new cheese every two weeks, now that I have cut down on bread and pizza, and lost more than 20 pounds. So I bought Bufala Mozzarella from Italy, four balls of buffalo-milk cheese in milky water, for $11.99 (17.6 ounces).

Others I noticed today were Smoked Gouda ($5.49 a pound); Cave-Aged Taleggio from Italy ($8.29); and Cabot White Cheddar, aged for 14 months ($7.99 a pound). 

Fresh mozzarella was $3.99 a pound and grated Pecorino Romano from Italy was $10.99 for two pounds.

Parmigiano reggiano 5Image via Wikipedia

Price fluctuations

Costco's smoked wild sockeye salmon, sold under the Kirkland Signature label, is now $15.39 a pound, and Earthbound Farm organic spring mix has edged up to $4.99 a pound, but no other food store can match these prices.

Items that have held the line include fresh, wild-caught haddock fillets from Iceland ($8.49 a pound); Legal Sea Foods Alaskan King Crab and Sweet Corn Chowder ($9.79 for two 20-ounce containers) and organic, triple-washed spinach ($3.99 a pound). 

Annoying practices

I stopped at H Mart, the Korean supermarket in Fort Lee, did my shopping, waited in the checkout line and started to leave the store when I noticed all the large bags of rice against the window.

A 20-pound bag of Kokuho Yellow Label, a California-grown rice we use, was on sale for $10.99, almost half-price, and the sale ended that day. Even though we needed white rice, I didn't want to wait on line again, and left, thinking if I returned in a week, this rice or another one would be on deep discount.

No such luck when I returned Wednesday, so, after keeping an appointment, I drove to H Mart in Little Ferry. The best I could do was the same 20-pound bag for $16.99.

A friend looking for snow melt said Home Depot in Hackensack only had 50-pound bags -- too much for him to handle. So he went to Pathmark in the same shopping center to do some food shopping and checked out, only to find smaller bags of snow melt on the other side of the register.

When he asked, he was told the store wasn't big enough to display them inside. Give me a break.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Warning: These colors run

Picture of Fairway Market - Paramus Location, ...Image via Wikipedia
The color-fastness of Fairway Market's plastic bags is nothing to celebrate.

A River Edge woman complains the black color on the plastic bags used by Fairway Market in Paramus runs, if the bag touches any moisture, such as a wet counter top or a snow bank.

She said she called the Paramus store, as well as calling and e-mailing executives in New York, but no one responded. Some of the black color stained her counter and she had to use bleach to remove it.

To avoid the plastic bags, bring re-usable bags. Unfortunately, Fairway is one of the few stores that doesn't reward customers who bring their own bags.

Sliced and diced

This same shopper noticed the low-calorie rye bread she buys at ShopRite isn't so low-calorie anymore.

Without notice, a slice went from 50 calories to 60 calories, and from 3 grams of fiber to 2 grams. She tracked down the bakery that makes the bread for ShopRite, Weight Watchers and Manischewitz and was told the changes made the bread taste better.

Only the low-calorie rye made for Stop & Shop wasn't altered, she said.

For meat lovers

On Tuesday, I bought four organic Pinata apples that were on sale for 99 cents a pound at Whole Food Markets in Paramus, compared to $1.29 a pound for conventional apples at ShopRite in Rochelle Park.

At checkout, I received a $5-off coupon on a purchase of $20 through Feb. 14. It's labeled "Cook for Your Valentine," but it's good only on meat purchases.

Why no coupon for non-meat eaters? 

Pacific Sardine (Sardinops sagax)Image via Wikipedia

Sardines in the Sahara

Sahara Fine Food in Hackensack continues to offer Al Shark-brand Moroccan sardines for 99 cents a can (not skinless and boneless). Each can contains four and three-eighths ounces. 

I bought 18 cans with spicy oil, and plan to eat them in canned-fish salads, with rice and pasta, or over salad greens. The sardines also come in non-spicy oil. Sahara is at 242 S. Summit Ave. (201-487-7222.)

No rhyme or reason

I found another item on sale at ShopRite that wasn't discounted during the recent 40th anniversary Can Can Sale. The 100% sparkling juice from Spain is $1.99 a bottle, compared to $2.49, with a limit of four.

Last week, my wife bought four, one-pound boxes of Barilla pasta for 77 cents each. They weren't on sale during the Can Can sale, either.

Non-meat chili

Among the lobster bisque and king crab soup at Costco in Hackensack, I found a Stockpot-brand four-bean, organic, vegetarian chili. The chili is fully cooked. For $9.99, you get two 24-ounce tubs and each is enough to serve three as a first course.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Our super bowl of noodle soup

The bond Street in the Lower ManhattanImage via Wikipedia
Steaming bowls of Chinese noodle soup are served on Bond Street in Manhattan.

At Hung Ry in Manhattan, you might think the man in kitchen whites is jumping rope as he holds his arms out wide and swings a thick, springy band of noodle dough. But his feet never leave the ground.

The specialty here is made-to-order, Chinese-style soups filled with meat, seafood or vegetables and hand-stretched organic noodles prepared in the open kitchen. You can smell the flavorful broth as a bowl is delivered to another customer nearby.

On Sunday night, I chose a special -- lobster, hake, hen-of-the-woods mushrooms and long, thick noodles in a lobster broth, with veal stock "for color," our waiter said. My wife had a soup filled with ox tail, brisket, sun choke and thinner noodles. Soups range from $14 to $20.

When my soup was set down in front of me, I leaned over and took a deep breath of the steam rising from it. The dark broth was delicious. My wife doesn't use chopsticks, so she asked for a fork, and I noticed she had easier time of eating her noodles by twirling them on her fork then I did with chopsticks.

Besides being long, the noodles are firm but chewy. Two of the small bottles on the table hold spicy sauces you can squeeze into a small dish. I dipped the tender lobster claw meat and noodles in mine. I drank gunpowder green tea and my wife enjoyed a zingy, lichee-flavored organic soda ($4.50 each.)

The interior of Hung Ry has an unfinished feel, with reclaimed wood and exposed ducts, water pipes and fire sprinklers. In the rear, there's a bar, counter seating and the open kitchen. Outside a unisex bathroom is a sink with soap and thick, terry washcloths to dry your hands. 

The name of the restaurant sounds as if it's Chinese, but I'm wondering if it isn't just a play on the word "hungry."

After our filling meal, we wanted to stop at X'ian Famous Foods in Chinatown to take out more of these hand-pulled noodles, this time in a stir-fry with dried chilies. But I couldn't find a parking space, not unusual for a Sunday. 

So, we drove to a branch of X'ian Famous Foods on St. Marks Place, in the East Village, and found parking even worse than in Chinatown. 

Bike lanes on the avenues have eliminated hundreds of parking spaces, and I saw numerous traffic cones on side streets, placed in empty parking spaces to reserve them, presumably for residents. 

Sundays are great for going into the city, because you can park just about anywhere and don't have to feed the meters. But Super Bowl Sunday is no longer the free ride it used to be for visiting Manhattan. 

We did get a table at Hung Ry without a reservation, even though it was featured in The New York Times last week. But now, the city with eight million stories also seems to have a million pot holes and a severe shortage of street parking.

Hung Ry, 55 Bond St., between Broadway and Lafayette Street,
Manhattan; 212-677-4864. Web site:
Chewy, hand-pulled Chinese noodles

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dragon & Pheonix come to dinner

Chinese New Year [Year Of The Rabbit] - DublinImage by infomatique via Flickr
Year of the Rabbit celebration in Dublin.

Lotus Cafe in Hackensack is serving a special menu for the Year of the Rabbit (4709), with seafood and meat options sure to please any Chinese New Year celebrant.

We enjoyed a bountiful meal Saturday night -- with lobster, shrimp, scallops and other seafood; chicken, greens, tofu and noodles (for longevity). 

We started with a soup from the regular menu -- spinach and creamy tofu for two ($4.95) -- and it was enough for three of us. Then, the waiter brought our two entrees from the New Year's menu and a noodle dish from the regular menu:
  • Dragon & Pheonix -- Maine lobster in a ginger-and-scallion sauce with five-spice fried chicken on the side ($29).
  • Fish & Leaves -- flounder fillet and velvet egg white mounded over sauteed snow-pea shoots ($18).
  • X.O. Seafood E-Mein -- braised noodles with shrimp, scallop, squid, and fish cake in an X.O. sauce of anchovies, shrimp roe and dried scallops ($14.95).

Service was excellent, as usual, and I sipped my own Korean soju during the meal at our favorite Chinese restaurant.

We ordered two of the six dishes on the special menu, which is being served through Feb. 13, so we'll have the chance to go back and try the others.

My wife and son are eating meat, but I'm not, so I'm looking forward to sweet-and-spicy Walnut Scallops. They can choose from Tangerine-Braised Duck with steamed buns, X.O. Shrimp and Steak Kew, or Happy Family Meat-Ball Casserole with fish tempura, quail eggs and crab stick.

If you go on the weekend, reservations are recommended. You'll have to ask for the special New Year menu when you sit down.

You'll find a wonderful discussion of the Chinese New Year at Diva Indoors: Food, with love. Click on the following link:

Enter the Year of the Rabbit!

Lotus Cafe, 450 Hackensack Ave., in the Home Depot Shopping Center, 
Hackensack; 201-488-7070. BYO.
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