Sunday, July 31, 2011

Driving here and there for my weekly fix

Hanjungsik, which is one of the Korean formal ...Image via Wikipedia
Side dishes such as these are one of the best parts of a Korean meal, though no North Jersey restaurant serves them in such abundance.

The vibrant colors and flavors of Korean food are hard to match, and I try to enjoy them every week, keeping prepared items in my refrigerator and eating out in new and old places.

I am also really loving the "The Kimchi Chronicles" on Thirteen, a PBS TV station in New York.

The series explores Korean dishes prepared with meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and tofu -- in restaurants and in the kitchen.

On Saturday, I had dinner at East Seafood Restaurant on Grand Avenue in Palisades Park, where the windowless dining room is below street level, under a billiard hall.

This place is off the beaten path in Palisades Park, which has more Korean restaurants than any other town in North Jersey, but it has been around for years.

Now, it has a new name, and the waitress said it has a new owner.

Unfortunately, the new owner not only just stretched a banner over the old name on the outside of the building, he left untouched the worn interior and linoleum floor I remember from a lunch a few years ago.

That's too bad, because the spicy monk-fish stew, or tang, I chose included eight side dishes, including a small grilled fish in a sweet-and-sour sauce ($14.99).

This is also the only restaurant I know with large tanks of live fish, lobster and abalone. You can ask for a small fluke to be served to you raw as sashimi. 

(The New York Times reported in 2004 it is illegal in the United States to serve raw fish unless it has been frozen first to kill parasites.)

I had hoped I could order one of the live fish and grill it on the table, as I saw Koreans do in the "The Kimchi Chronicles," but I couldn't.

After I ordered the monk-fish stew, I received a small bowl of rice porridge and six side dishes -- cabbage kimchi, seasoned scallions, pickled jalapeno peppers, crunchy cooked broccoli, bean sprouts and sweetened black beans.

Later, the waitress brought me the small, whole fish and steamed rice. The stew contained tofu and a head-on shrimp, in addition to monk fish and vegetables.

"Dong Hae Restaurant" appears on the credit-card slip. Whatever it's called, I won't be going back.

East Seafood Restaurant, 445 Grand Ave., Palisades Park;
 201-461-4447. Valet parking, liquor license.

Korean food at home

Earlier Saturday, I drove to H Mart in Fort Lee for some of my favorite prepared dishes.

Stewed wild-caught Alaska pollock ($5.99) and stewed tofu ($3.49) are seasoned with scallions and onions or garlic; red pepper, sesame oil or soy sauce, and sesame seeds.

Kimbap is a sliced sushi roll of seaweed, seasoned rice, crunchy vegetables and crab, garnished with a few Korean pickles ($4.99).

A few pieces of tofu and kimbap, warmed in the microwave, made for a tasty breakfast today.

Web site:  H Mart

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tell us more -- much more

Picture of Fairway Market - Paramus Location, ...Image via Wikipedia
Fairway Market says the cattle may have been sick but the beef tastes great.

The latest Fairway Market flier offers wild Alaska salmon fillet for $9.99 a pound, but doesn't tell you whether it is coho, sockeye or another type.

The Paramus store devotes a full page to its butcher shop and its USDA Prime 21-Day Dry-Aged Beef, but you won't find any discussion of how the cattle were raised.

You can imagine Master Butcher Ray Venezia talking to the people who write the flier:

"OK. This stuff tastes great, because it has more fat than other grades, but it's a living hell for the animals. Hey. That's between you and me, right?

"We don't want any mention of how they are crowded into feed lots in Chicago and other places, and how they're stuffed full of grain, antibiotics, growth hormones and bits of dead animals to get them to grow fast and to turn them into cash.

"Their stomachs are designed to convert grass into protein, so the steady diet of grain can make them sick, and sometimes they collapse and have to be dragged into the slaughterhouse. But again, that's between you and me, right?

"Just call it, 'The tenderest, best-tasting beef on the planet,' and leave the rest to me."

Mama mia

Mama Mexico in Englewood Cliffs was the first fine-dining Mexican restaurant in North Jersey, and it has prices to match.

Rosa Mexicano in Hackensack was the second. If you attended one of its cooking demonstrations, you saw everything was made from scratch using good ingredients.

Now, Mama Mexico is offering 40% off "the entire menu," as well as lunch specials starting at $7.95, through Sept. 5. The coupon was stuck to the Better Living section of The Record today.

Mama Mexico, 464 Sylvan Ave., 
Englewood Cliffs; 201-871-0555.
Web site: High-end Mexican

Bibi'z in Westwood

On June 9, Bibi'z was reviewed in The Record, rating only a half-star away from "Outstanding." Elisa Ung, the reviewer, said all of the food she tried "was fantastic."

Today, a friend whose judgment I trust said, "Don't waste your time."

She said she ordered one of the expensive restaurant's "small plates," and the portion was thimble-sized. 

And she was disappointed in the dish, which was made with chickpeas, even though the Lebanese owner should know a thing or two about them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wild salmon with ripe mango

Sliced Mexican mangoes.Image via Wikipedia
Adding ripe mango to wild salmon makes for a sweet and savory meal.

The fresh, wild-caught fish came from the northwestern United States, but I found the other ingredients in my kitchen and garden.

I picked up another large fillet of wild sockeye salmon at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack on Monday ($7.99 a pound), and prepared it for dinner with lemon juice, coarsely ground Aleppo red pepper, chopped fresh herbs and slices of intensely sweet Champagne mango.

I took out two rare portions after about 10 minutes in a 375-degree oven and the rest cooked through in 15 minutes.

The sweet mango was delicious hot and contrasted nicely with the bite of the red pepper and the peppery chopped basil, oregano and rosemary.

The skin-on fillet weighed about 1.75 pounds and yielded seven portions, which I placed in a baking pan lined with aluminum foil that was coated with cooking spray. I placed the mango between the portions.

Sockeye salmonImage via Wikipedia
First, I squeezed on lemon juice, then added the ground red pepper, then topped the portions with the chopped herbs. I used mango, because I couldn't find ripe peaches at ShopRite or Costco.

I ate my fish with a big salad, and my wife and son had theirs with leftover yellow rice and sliced cucumber. 

I've been having a love affair with the wild salmon that has been available at Costco since late May. It makes a delicious, nutritious meal I can put on the table in 15  minutes or less.

On my trip to Costco, I also picked up 6 pounds of large white-flesh peaches from California ($8.99), 5.5 pounds of large Gala apples from Washington State ($6.99),  2 pounds of Roma hothouse tomatoes from Canada ($3.29), 1 pound of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix ($4.79) and Manchego sheep's milk cheese from Spain ($8.29 a pound).

Monday, July 25, 2011

In New England, restaurant menus offer seafood galore

It's Legal to Eat Seafood in Boston
There are more than 30 Legal Sea Foods in and around Boston. (Image via Flicker)


Our weekend getaway to Boston went swimmingly -- a reference to all the seafood we ate, not to the soupy heat and humidity we endured.

We enjoyed a monster lobster roll, a twin-lobster dinner for $25 and lobster bisque; fresh trout from Idaho, sea scallops, clams, mussels, New England clam chowder with dill, haddock, shrimp, baby squid and soft-shell crabs.

Here are the details, from highs to lows:

Dolphin  Seafood

In our Boston hotel room, we found an ad for this popular seafood restaurant in Panorama magazine, called  "The Official Guide to Boston."

The restaurant is near Harvard University in Cambridge, just across the Charles River. This was by far the best of four seafood meals we had.

The ad also served as a coupon for $24.95 twin-lobster dinners, normally $28.99. The lobster dinners come with two sides, as do other seafood dinners, such as fresh gray sole or brook trout, both under $15.

Dolphin also has a raw bar and a liquor license. The couple next to us on Saturday night ordered raw oysters and clams, as well as two bottles of wine, prompting my wife to say, "I hope they're walking home."

My wife and son each ordered twin lobsters, which yielded perfectly cooked, moist, delicious meat -- and they generously gave me some of the best lobster I've ever tasted.

I ordered the fresh brook trout from Idaho, which was butterflied and prepared with extra-virgin olive oil and capers ($14.99). A glass of retsina wine from Greece was $6.25 and seltzer and soft-drink refills were free ($2.25).

As we walked past the tank near the door, the Maine lobsters swam and moved energetically.

Dolphin Seafood, 1105 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617- 661-2937. Reservations recommended. Metered street parking.

Web site: Dolphin Seafood Restaurant & Bar   

Legal Sea Foods

Our waitress said this Legal Sea Foods on Long Wharf, opposite the New England Aquarium, is the busiest of 32 such restaurants in Boston and its suburbs.

But you need only one visit to see it is also poorly designed, with a small entrance area crowded with people lining up to speak with the hostesses or waiting to be called when a table is free, as well as baby strollers.

The revolving doors are used both by customers entering and leaving, and servers bringing food and drink to outside tables. Chaotic.

We were seated after about 15 minutes, and had a great lunch on Saturday, though we did argue over whether we'd share dishes.

I had a terrific, entree-size chopped Greek salad topped with grilled shrimp and incredibly fresh and tender baby squid ($15.95).

My 14-year-old son ordered tempura-dipped soft-shell crabs with skin-on potato salad ($26.95), and loved the Dijon mustard crab garnish -- a first for this mustard hater.

I wanted all of us to share the crabs and the chef's selection of three grilled fish, but then I wouldn't have been able to order the fish medium rare. We couldn't share the salad because my wife and son don't eat squid.

So my wife ordered a bowl of silky lobster bisque ($9.95), and refused to eat anything else.

Refills of seltzer ($1.50) and lemonade ($3.25) were free.

Legal Sea Foods at Long Wharf, 225 State St.,
Boston; 617-742-5300.

Web site: It's all legal

The Black Pearl

On the way back to North Jersey on Sunday, we stopped in Newport, R.I., and toured the The Breakers, a Vanderbilt family mansion, but soon wilted in the heat and humidity.

Newport seemed even more crowded than Boston with vacationing families, but we found a space on the street without a meter about two blocks from The Black Pearl, a seafood restaurant on Bannister's Wharf.

The Black Pearl serves fresh seafood, but almost everything seems to be made with sauces containing butter or cream. Only the gray sole special was dipped in flour and pan-fried.

I suggested my wife try the baked cod with jack cheese, but the waitress said it was "greasy" and prepared ahead of time. My wife didn't want the sole, and ended up ordering a hamburger, but left the bun, tomato and lettuce on her plate ($12.50).

My son zeroed on the barbecued shrimp with two side dishes ($21), because he was in the mood for barbecued chicken wings.

I ordered a cup of Newport chowder -- New England clam chowder made with dill ($5.50) -- and an appetizer of The Black Pearl mussels ($16.50), which turned out to have a broth filled with garlic and cream.

So my chowder had cream and my mussels had cream -- not a good day for someone who is lactose intolerant. Neither my son or wife eat mussels.

We were charged $11 for four seltzers, and $3.50 for a small glass of grapefruit juice, which my wife didn't finish. A cup of strong, black coffee was $3.

Despite the heat and humidity, many customers ate outside, and we had no trouble finding a table inside the air-conditioned Tavern.

The tall, blonde hostess, a young woman of college age, seemed melancholy when we arrived and bored when we left, slouching against the wall near the door.

The Black Pearl, Bannister's Wharf, 
Newport, R.I.; 401-846-5264.

Belle Isle Seafood

On "No Reservations," the Travel Channel show with Anthony Bourdain, Belle Isle Seafood in Boston is called a "classic fish shack with just a few stools next to the Winthrop Bridge."

We drove there directly on Friday, before we checked into our hotel, and found a dive whose sweltering interior had only two ceiling fans and a third fan on top of a refrigerator that actually was blowing hot air, even though outside temperatures approached 100 degrees.

A woman behind a seafood case took our order -- a "lobstermeat" roll ($18.99) and a fried seafood combo (shrimp, scallops, haddock and clams), served with french fries, onion rings, coleslaw and tarter sauce for $17.99.

The lobster roll includes a half-pound of meat -- twice as much as in most other rolls.

We had planned to eat our food there, but it was just too hot inside. The place now has nine stools at a counter built into a corner.

Belle Isle is next to a gas station, and the entrance to the gravel parking lot behind the place is on the other side of the station. The bridge? It's just a street-level road  over some water.

By the time we got to our hotel, checked in and sat down in our room to eat the food, the fresh seafood combo was barely warm. The lobster roll was wonderful, though, and none of us bothered to eat the bread.

Belle Isle Seafood, 1267 Saratoga St., Boston; 
617-567-1619. Cash only.

Travel notes

We stayed in the Best Western Plus Roundhouse Suites, which offers free parking, free breakfast and a free shuttle van to restaurants, shopping and subway stations.

The hotel was built in what used to be called The Roundhouse, a cylindrical brick gas tank dating to 1870 (there were metal tanks inside).

Unfortunately, the hotel is near three hospitals and a busy Massachusetts Avenue intersection, and it's noisy. Homeless people also frequent the area, which is on the edge of an industrial section.

My custom-made ear plugs came in handy to deaden ambulance sirens and the roar of truck traffic, but my wife forgot hers at home.

Breakfast is served in the lobby, and we encountered many families from Europe. Guests and employees went outside to smoke, but often stayed too close to the front doors.

In Boston, we left the car at the hotel, except for when we went to Cambridge for dinner on Saturday night. 

We took the subway to the aquarium and to historic sites downtown after the hotel's free van dropped us at the Back Bay Station (subway fare is $2). The van  also picked us up there.

We returned home after a day trip to Newport, R.I., but made the mistake of taking Route 95 along the coast of Connecticut and then the Cross Bronx Expressway to the George Washington Bridge.

Route 95 switches from two lanes to three or four and back with enough frequency to guarantee nail-biting, stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic every 10 miles or so it seems.

Parts of the highway haven't been improved for more than 40 years, although now there is lots of construction and narrow lanes in the New Haven area that also slow traffic.

Best Western Plus Roundhouse Suites, 
891 Massachusetts Ave., Boston; 617-989-1000.

Web site: A well-rounded hotel

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

A miss, a hit and a cancellation

Sardi'sImage via Wikipedia
Sardi's offers a two-course lunch with coffee for $24.

I was really looking forward to Restaurant Week in Manhattan -- actually two weeks when some of the best restaurants offer a three-course lunch for $24.07. 

The semi-annual restaurant promotion ends Friday, but some restaurants continue to offer special, fixed-price lunches and dinners through Labor Day.

And as I saw last week, restaurants that don't take part in Restaurant Week sometimes offer lunches of similar value -- such as the $24 business lunch at Sardi's, 234 W. 44th St.

Actually, the Sardi's lunch is only two courses, plus coffee, but for someone like me who doesn't eat dessert it's perfect: appetizer, entree and coffee.

For today, my wife and I had made a reservation for a $24.07 lunch at Blue Fin, a seafood restaurant in the W Hotel, Broadway and 46th Street, but I cancelled it because of the excessive heat and humidity.

We had been planning to take the bus into the city, as we did for two lunches last week.

That means I won't get a $20 statement credit for using a registered American Express credit card to purchase three lunches during Restaurant Week.

Our first lunch at Esca was disappointing, mainly because the whole John Dory fish I chose was bony and had little flesh. How a seafood restaurant could list that on the menu is puzzling.

Our second lunch was at Ca Va Brasserie, a Todd English restaurant, and we were much happier. My entree was an enormous prawn served on a tasty bed of small, white beans.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Will my complaint do any good?

Afternoon sky over Hackensack New JerseyImage by Anthony Quintano via Flickr
This Hackensack sky suggests God is watching customers who touch fruit.

I called Costco Wholesale's Customer Service line on Tuesday and spent four or five minutes complaining about fellow shoppers at the Hackensack store who engage in a forensic examination of the fruit.

I passed along a suggestion from a reader of Do You Really Know What You're Eating? that the store supply rubber gloves to customers who want to touch, squeeze and get up close and personal with tomatoes, cherries, peaches, nectarines and other fruit.

I feel a visual examination is enough, especially when the fruit comes in a plastic, see-through container that allows you to examine the bottom, sides and so forth.

The woman at Customer Service said maybe better packaging is needed. 

I replied even closed boxes wouldn't stop someone determined to examine every orb, every sphere and every globe in order to get perfect, ready-to-eat fruit.

She took my customer number and said she'd pass along my rubber-glove suggestion.

H Mart coupons

At the H Mart in Fort Lee today, I picked up a box of 16 champagne mangoes from Mexico for $9.99 -- three dollars less than the same box I saw at the Little Ferry store on Sunday.

I also bought the addictive sushi roll Koreans call kimbap -- made with seaweed, rice, vegetables, egg and crab for $4.99 (16 ounces, including a few Korean pickles). 

Two pounds of mussels from Maine were on sale for $1.89. Normally, they are $2.99, compared to $5.99 for the same amount of Canadian mussels at Whole Foods Market in Paramus.

When I got home, I found another H Mart coupon book in the mail. 

I started getting the coupons after I applied for a store card, which rebates 1% after you spend $1,000. 

These coupons are good from July 23 to Aug. 21, and on the back of the booklet, I see that a second, smaller store, called H Mart Fresh, has opened in Fort Lee at 1379 16th St. I'll have to check it out one day.

Update: When I cooked and ate the mussels, I found a few with sand in them, an unpleasant experience at the table. The Whole Food Market mussels were perfectly clean, so they might be worth the extra cost.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tomato tester almost ruins my day

Tomato slices.Image via Wikipedia
Costco employees say they can't stop customers from touching fruit.

We needed a few things from Costco Wholesale on Friday, including more wild-caught salmon, after we returned from our $24.07 lunch in Manhattan (see previous post).

We jumped into the car, which was parked near the bus stop, and drove over to the Hackensack store, which is only 1.5 miles away.

Inside, we bought a new, four-extension house phone, looked at digital cameras and picked up a wild-salmon fillet for dinner ($7.99 a pound, compared to $6.99 a pound for artificially colored farmed salmon).

We also needed tomatoes, and lately, we've been eating Sunset-brand, hothouse-grown beefsteak tomatoes from Canada ($5.99 for 5 pounds).

I pushed my cart over to where the open cartons were stacked and saw a middle-aged man in a baseball cap completely absorbed in picking up and squeezing the beefsteaks.

I'm sure he had no idea I was there, but I had to duck around him to the right and pluck a carton in the second row, away from his squeezing hands. 

I pushed my cart to the other side of the island and watched as he seemingly touched every tomato in the box, then moved on to another box. My wife hushed me, but I couldn't contain myself and, in a loud voice, said, "Do you have to touch every tomato?"

He didn't even look up. "I want to make sure they're ripe," he said. Of course, they're not ripe. You have to leave them out a day or so to ripen.

I appealed to an employee, but he said it wasn't his role to say anything. After we checked out, a manager we spoke to said customers can't be blamed for touching the fruit, especially if they lived far away and didn't want to return for a refund.

What are you going to do?

We also picked 10 pounds of Earthbound Farm organic carrots for juicing ($6.99).

The wild-salmon fillet yielded six portions. I prepared them with lemon juice, ground Aleppo pepper and chopped fresh herbs, and baked them for 10 minutes in a preheated 350-degree over for medium.

Reheating a piece requires just under a minute in the microwave.

Food intersection

Two new places have opened up near Queen Anne Road and DeGraw Avenue in Teaneck, the culinary intersection of ethnic eateries and such long-lived restaurants as Classic Quiche and Victoria's.

Peck Peck Chicken at 250 DeGraw (201-530-5858) offers twice-fried, Korean-style  chicken, and if you like it spicy, this is the place to go.

Starfish Seafood & More at 267 DeGraw (201-801-9174) prepares fish, chicken and shrimp with such side dishes as mac and cheese, collard greens, and rice and peas.

They occupy buildings where other ethnic eateries have come and gone. A great Afghan restaurant operated on DeGraw for many years, serving wonderful food in a dining room filled with oriental rugs. 

Korean food samples

I needed a few things for our Korean-style prawn dinner tonight, so I drove to H Mart in Little Ferry.

Bilingual Korean women serve free food samples on the weekends, and I enjoyed pan-fried, mung-bean pancakes, vegetable dumplings, three kinds of noodles in cold or hot broth, a tart red-vinegar drink , fresh mango and papaya, and fruit ices.

For dinner, I picked up stewed tofu in red-pepper sauce ($3.99), seasoned beansprouts ($2.99) and cabbage kimchi ($2.99). 

I also needed scallions to shred and season, and wrap in lettuce with the grilled, butterflied prawns (20 cents a bunch).

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

A lunch in the city lifts our spritis

Night on 42nd Street in Manhattan showing sign...Image via Wikipedia
West 42nd Street in Manhattan is kinder and gentler than it was in the 1960s.

For our second Restaurant Week meal in Manhattan, my wife and I went to the year-old Ca Va Brasserie on West 44th Street, in the Theater District.

We enjoyed our three-course, $24.07 lunch at this year-old Todd English restaurant, which is in the InterContinental Hotel, across from Birdland, a jazz club.

Our first course on Friday was a wonderfully rich lobster bisque, with a delicious miniature lobster-salad sandwich on the side. 

The bread service was a small baguette in a bag, accompanied by a ramekin of butter.

My wife noted the bisque didn't have any lobster pieces, but thought it was the best she has had. Her opinion of the barbecue sauce with her entree of roasted, dark-meat chicken on the bone wasn't as high.

Her juicy chicken came with a cold salad of greens and sliced potatoes.

Grilled octopus was listed as another entree choice, but when I ordered it, I was told the kitchen was serving something else instead. The waiter, Eduardo, who is  from Brazil, read from a note, "P-R-A-W-N."

The prawn was at least 4 inches long, including the tail and head, and it rested on a generous bed of tasty, small white beans with zucchini pieces and micro herbs. I demolished it, leaving only the beady eyes.

I recalled the emaciated, bony, whole John Dory fish I ordered at our first $24.07 lunch at Esca a few days earlier. The next day, during my annual physical, my doctor put it succinctly, calling Esca "overrated and overpriced."

For dessert at Ca Va (pronounced SAH VAH), my wife chose a small cheesecake topped with a fresh blueberry compote, and I enjoyed sweet mango and pineapple sorbets.

The dining room is all glass, metal and polished stone, with a bar along one wall, a smaller dining space behind large, sliding, glass-and-metal doors, and a separate cafe and market. 

We had a reservation, but the place was only one-third full. Service was excellent, and I gave Eduardo an 18% tip.

After our lunch, we strolled to Times Square, purchased two coffees at a Starbucks on Broadway and sat on chairs under an umbrella in the middle of the street, now  part of a pedestrian mall in the heart of the city.

Later, we looked over the new TKTS office, where half-price tickets to Broadway shows are available on the day of the performance. Credit cards are accepted now, in contrast to the old, cash-only days.

We returned to the bus terminal along 42nd Street, and I reminisced about my summers as a teen-ager working at D.C. Record City, which specialized in oldies from the Fifties (rock-and-roll 45s) and jazz LPs.

We had a wonderful afternoon in a great city. I even remembered to ask for the senior round-trip fare when we board the Manhattan-bound bus in Hackensack ($3.80 v. $8.50).

Ca Va Brasserie, 310 W. 44th St., Manhattan; 212-803-4545.

Web site: Ca Va Todd English

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A good excuse to go food shopping

LavazzaImage via Wikipedia

High gasoline prices make combining trips a good idea, so after my annual physical in Englewood today, I set off for three food stores in a city well-known to foodies.

I felt great when I left the doctor's office: My weight is 196 pounds, compared to 227 pounds a year or so ago; my blood pressure is low and a blood test likely will result in another low cholesterol reading since I stopped eating meat about 18 months ago.

The physical also included a chest X-ray, an electrocardiogram, a breath test and a rectal exam, all paid for by Medicare, not Medicaid, as I wrote earlier. Not even a co-pay. God bless America.

My first stop was Jerry's Gourmet & More on South Dean Street, where I had my first food of the day -- a bunch of free cheese samples, such as ricotta salata,  pecorino romano and brie.

I picked up Ponti balsamic and chianti vinegars for $1.99 and 99 cents, respectively. Ponti, not Primo, as I wrote earlier, is the brand I was served in restaurants in Italy last September.

Espresso beans

I also bought 2.2 pounds of Lavazza espresso beans labeled "Crema e Aroma" for $19.99, a couple of dollars less than the Lavazza's "Super Crema" beans I've been getting from

My next stop was H Mart, the Korean supermarket on Lafayette Avenue, where 20 pounds of Kokuho Yellow Label short-grain white rice grown in California was on sale for $11.99.

I also picked up 2.21 pounds of live blue crabs at $2.99 a pound. (They're cooking now in a spicy boil for dinner tonight.) Two dozen large brown, cage-free eggs were $4 with a coupon.

ShopRite (United States)Image via Wikipedia
I also took advantage of ShopRite's Can Can Sale to stock up on 12-ounce cans of Adirondack Seltzer (Mandarin Orange, Lemon-Lime and Original). A pack of 12 is $1.99, a savings of $1.60, with a store card.

At the Hackensack ShopRite, I bought more Adirondack Seltzer, as well as Sparkling 100% Apple Cider from Spain; two 25.4-ounce glass bottles were $4.

Coleman organic chicken legs were $1.99 a pound and antibiotic-free Readington Farms chicken thighs were $1.89 a pound.

Tonight's dinner

Korean bibimbap is one of our favorite dishes -- a stone bowl filled with steamed rice and vegetables, and topped with a fried egg (hold the ground beef). A hot red-pepper sauce livens up the party.

The idea is to mix everything up, add the spicy sauce and go to town.
A fried egg, sunny side up.Image via Wikipedia
Tonight, I'm trying bibimbap at home, using organic brown rice and seasoned vegetables I bought at H Mart in Fort Lee on Monday ($5.99 for 14 ounces of spinach, bellflower, fernrake and bean sprouts).

After the rice is ready, I'm going to dump the vegetables in the rice cooker and mix the whole thing up. I'll plate it and top it with two fried eggs, sunny side up, and hot-pepper sauce.

My wife and son are having the blue crabs.

I'll serve two side dishes I found at H Mart -- a Korean omelet with seaweed ($4.99) and stewed Alaska pollock in a spicy sauce ($5.99) -- both from Jinga in Maspeth, N.Y.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

An ugly fish shows up at lunch

John Dory. Drawing by William MacGillivray.Image via Wikipedia
John Dory is a fish designed to eat, not to be eaten.

We love whole fish -- my wife takes the head, my son slices off the tail section and I devour all that delicious flesh in the mid-section.

So I didn't know what to make of the scrawny specimen that was put down in front of me today at Esca, a seafood restaurant in Manhattan where my wife and I had a $24.07 lunch.

Looking at the Restaurant Week menu, I thought offering a whole fish was generous in view of the price. Boy, was I wrong. 

I ordered the first course -- a crudo of Spanish mackerel -- because I had never eaten that fish raw, but the two pieces were the size of postage stamps.

My wife had a salad of wonderful greens with a whole-pistachio vinaigrette, and we both enjoyed the complimentary two dozen Gaeta olives and some marinated white beans on toasted Italian slices.

The oven-roasted, whole John Dory fish (photo above) was one of three entree choices -- my wife chose homemade tagliatelle with rock shrimp in a pesto sauce. She said it was a bit  salty. 

I have never seen such an ugly fish. It looked like it had gone on a crash diet before it was caught. The delicate, white flesh was delicious; there just wasn't very much of it. It was mostly bones, with an ugly head.

And it wasn't hot when I got it.

There was only one choice for dessert, a small lemon cake with fresh berries and an odd-tasting custard. The waiter said the kitchen was unable to fill my request for berries only.

This was my third visit to Esca, but I was disappointed. I left only a 15% tip.

Esca , 402 W. 43rd St., Manhattan; 212-564-7272.

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