Sunday, October 23, 2011

Breakfast with a soul-food accent

Teaneck Municipal BuildingImage via Wikipedia
Big demographic changes haven't obliterated the flavor of Teaneck. 

Editor's note: The bill of fare today includes an eye-opening breakfast in Teaneck, a strong contender in the battle of Korean soft-tofu houses and a visit to Whole Foods Market that didn't break the bank.

The Golden Grill is one of those places that have been there "forever."

It's a lively spot on a stretch of Queen Anne Road that is filled with glatt kosher food businesses -- a restaurant that reflects an older Teaneck, as does the French patisserie down the block.

When I walked in a little before 10 on Friday morning, the place was nearly full, and the two waitresses were overwhelmed, serving predominately African-American men. 

Looking over the menu, I immediately realized this is my kind of breakfast place, with combinations of two eggs and home fries or grits accompanied by whiting, a homemade fish cake or sardines. Toast and a small glass of juice are  included.

I made the mistake of ordering an egg-white omelet and a fish cake, and I was charged the a la carte price for each, a total of $10.95. Combo breakfasts are about $7.

I loved the tasty fish cake, especially with a splash or two of hot sauce from the bottle on the table, and the potatoes were the best home fries I've ever had. I told the waitress to hold the toast.

Still, the servers couldn't handle the crowd or change gears for the tea me and a friend had ordered; they kept on coming over with a coffee pot to refill our cups instead of a pot of hot water. 

The Golden Grill also serves lunch.

The Golden Grill Family Restaurant, 1379 Queen Anne Road, 
Teaneck; 201-837-1078. Free street parking, credit cards accepted.

More information: The Golden Grill

Organic soft tofu

We found a Korean soft-tofu stew restaurant with a difference -- actually, a few things that set it apart from the places that sling soondooboo jigae in Palisades Park and Fort Lee.

The Organic Tofu House in Ridgewood has an unusually large menu of soft-tofu stews and other Korean specialties, including hot stone-bowl bibimbap, barbecue and stir-fried vermicelli noodles, as well as slightly lower prices.

This is a great place for people who want Korean comfort food and don't eat meat. 

The tofu-stew broth is vegetarian, and the stir-fried, yam-flour noodles are made with vegetables, not meat. Vegetable dumplings and vegetable-and-seafood pancakes also are available.

Unfortunately, service is weak, especially when compared to other Korean restaurants. 

The small restaurant wasn't busy on Saturday evening, but the waitresses were in no rush to refill our tea glasses or to replace the free side dishes we finished before our stews were ready.

Four of us received the standard set of four small side dishes, and the quality was good -- cabbage kimchi, crunchy bean sprouts, fried tofu slices with onion and a small iceberg-lettuce salad. We also got an extra salad.

At our favorite soft-tofu house, So Gong Dong in Palisades Park, the four side dishes are replaced without prompting, and glasses are kept filled. In Ridgewood, I had to ask for more kimchi and more hot tea. Other side dishes weren't replaced.

The Ridgewood menu lists 19 soft-tofu stews, including some you don't see elsewhere, such  as curry, cheese, dumpling, tuna, "real" crab meat and chicken, and they can be made plain to very spicy.

Almost all are priced at $8.99, compared to $9.99 at So Gong Dong, but the latter price includes tax. Portions in Ridgewood are smaller.

In addition to organic soft tofu, the restaurant uses "alkaline water," which has health benefits, according to the menu. 

My wonderful, very spicy oyster stew was bubbling furiously in its stone bowl, so I could crack a fresh egg into it and cook the yolk softly, breaking it deliciously over steamed white rice.

I was pleasantly full from the side dishes, tofu stew and white rice. I split a second white rice with my son at no extra charge.

We also ordered sliced, marinated prime beef short ribs or kalbi, which came with wonderful grilled onions ($14.99). I tried the onions, not the meat.

Organic Tofu Stew House, 88 Godwin Ave., Ridgewood 
(in a strip mall near Whole Foods Market);
 201-251-7734. Closed Sundays.

Whole Foods in Paramus

On Saturday afternoon, we stopped at Whole Foods Market in Paramus to pick up some fruit for me and steaks for the rest of the family's Sunday dinner.

I was happy to find conventional Macoun apples and a 5.33-pound tote bag of Bosc pears, the latter from Red Apple Orchards in Geneva, N.Y. Both were a reasonable 99 cents a pound.

My wife picked up three naturally raised beef chuck shoulder steaks for $10.14 ($6.99 a pound), and the store brand of uncured, preservative-free and antibiotic-free sliced bacon ($3.99 for 12 ounces).

Sardine crisis

Ten cans of those plump Moroccan sardines (99 cents a can) lasted only about 10 days.

I know I used four cans to make a pound of whole-wheat spaghetti with sardines in a red sauce last week, but I'm not sure what happened to the rest. 

All I know is I wanted to make canned fish salad the other night and could find only yellow-fin tuna and pink salmon in the cupboard.

So, I dashed out to Paterson today and picked up another two dozen cans of Sultan-brand sardines at Brothers Produce, 327 E. Railway Ave., in the Farmers' Market.

While I was there, I bought yellow, red and green peppers (99 cents a pound) and three romaine hearts, also 99 cents.

At Fattal's Syrian Bakery, 975-77 Main St., I picked up a package of fresh Syrian bread ($1.50); a half-dozen store-made, 6-inch meat pies ($8.99) and a 15.8-ounce jar of fig marmalade with anise from Lebanon ($2.39).

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