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.

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