Monday, November 28, 2011

Hospital salad bar offers pie

Shin Ramyun
Image via Wikipedia
I took a good look at the ingredients listed on the package of my son's favorite ramyun.

Editor's note: This morning, I made a second visit to the cafeteria at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, and stocked up on one of my son's favorite breakfasts.

You never know what you'll find on the cafeteria salad bar at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center -- besides salad, that is.

This morning around 9, the salad bar held more than a dozen slices of pie, and no salad. Although I don't eat pie, they looked as if they were filled with cream cheese.

The first-floor cafeteria -- called the Garden Cafe -- is used by doctors, nurses and other hospital employees, in addition to visitors and other members of the public.

On my initial visit to the cafeteria about three weeks ago, I saw a tray of whipped cream with fresh strawberry slices on the fruit salad bar.

Today, walnuts and small cookies were nestled in the whipped cream, in addition to fresh strawberry slices.

A doctor I spoke to after my first visit said the cafeteria is one of the biggest profit centers at the hospital. 

He also said that when the menu was revamped to offer healthier choices, many employees complained, and the person in charge of that effort was let go.

Korean ramen

One of my 14-year-old son's favorite breakfasts is instant Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup (Gourmet Spicy), a Korean version of ramen, but he ate the last one in the cupboard this morning.

I bought this soup for him a few years ago, because it has one of the lowest sodium contents of such instant soups -- 43% of the recommended daily allowance. 

This morning, after cardiac rehab at the hospital in Englewood, I stopped at H Mart to pick up more. 

The Family Pack offered five 4.2-ounce packages for $4.99 or about $1 each, so I bought a box of 20 for $14.99 or about 75 cents each. They weren't on sale.

Using a Japanese-made soup spoon with fork tines, my son usually eats all the noodles and a little of the soup, throwing away much of the broth.  

The ingredients list is long, but "no MSG is added." 

Some of the ingredients are wheat flour, palm oil, powdered beef fat and beef stock; carmel, corn syrup, dehydrated vegetables, garlic, ginger, powdered sand-lance concentrate (a fish), sugar and tocopherols (antioxidant).

The ramyun is made in the U.S.A. by Nongshim America Inc., and has a "best before" date of November 2012.

I also picked up two H Mart prepared items, stir-fried vermicelli noodles with vegetables ($3.50) and radish kimchi ($2.75), each in a 16-ounce package.

I get the impression H Mart prepared food is cheaper than items from Jinga in Maspeth, N.Y., that are sold by the supermarket chain.

H Mart, 25 Lafayette Ave., Englewood; 
201-871-8822. Open seven days.

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Going in search of fresh local seafood along the New Jersey Shore

Fishing Boat
Image by mcamcamca via Flickr
A fishing boat.


The Garden State is also the Fishing State, with several working ports -- from Belford on Raritan Bay all the way down to Barnegat Light on the Atlantic Ocean.

So, on Saturday, we set off in search of fresh local seafood for lunch, but met with only limited success.

Four of us had a big meal at The Fishery in South Amboy -- fried smelts, steamed Littleneck clams in a scrumptious broth, fried whiting, meaty broiled haddock, large crab cakes and even soft-shell crabs.

I'm not sure how much of it was brought in by New Jersey boats (In 2016, The Fishery was closed).

Pirate's Cove

We had hoped to eat at Pirate's Cove, a restaurant operated by the Belford Seafood Co-op on Raritan Bay, but it was closed for the winter, as I learned when I called the attached retail market.

Fishermen who belong to the co-op catch fluke, porgy and many other kinds of fish in the Atlantic Ocean, and sell much of it wholesale to the Fulton Fish Market and elsewhere along the East Coast.

After lunch, we drove down to the Belford Co-op Fish Market, which is in the same long, low shed as the restaurant, but when I walked in, no one was on duty at the counter. 

However, I could hear someone working in another part of the building.

I saw whole clams and oysters in the fish case along with three kinds of fish fillets, all unlabeled. Some of the fillets were in a metal tray with water (maybe melted ice), which I thought odd.

There was a fishy smell to the place, though it wasn't strong.

On a board on a wall, more than a dozen kinds of fish were listed at prices you don't see in North Jersey fish markets. Many were listed at $2 a pound. Fluke, a terrific fish often eaten raw as sashimi, was listed at $2 to $4 a pound.

I left without buying anything.

I found the history of fishing in Belford at the following link: History of Belford

Belford was officially established in 1891 when a rail station was built here, separating from Port Monmouth (Township of Middletown).
 A menhaden processing plant was built in Belford in the late 1800s, which operated until 1982 (Jones 2004); this was once the town’s largest employer (Township of Middletown).
The presence and stench of the menhaden plant helped maintain Belford as a relatively unchanged fishing port while the rest of the shore around it was subject to intense development and tourism.  Belford has notoriously been home to pirates, blockaders, rum runners, and even through the 1980s, fish poachers.
There is a long tradition among some Belford fishermen of not obeying fisheries regulations (Jones 2004).  Some consider Belford to be the longest continuously operating fishing village on the East Coast.
The Fishery

Earlier, at The Fishery, we ordered way too much and ran up the bill to $100 for four, not including the tip.

The restaurant is basically a seafood shack on a forlorn stretch of Route 35 littered with shuttered businesses. 

There's seating for under 20 people, plus a counter, seafood cases, walls covered with white tiles and a more-or-less open kitchen in back.

We parked behind the small building, near a 5-foot-high bush of rosemary. The energetic young woman behind the counter is the lone server. Basic silverware comes wrapped in small, paper napkins.  

For some reason, the friendly Greek owner charges more for broiled or sauteed fish than for fried, so my wife's two large crab cakes were $18.95 with two sides, compared to $15.95 fried. Still, she complained they tasted "greasy" or oily.

My son wanted soft-shell crabs, which I didn't think were in season, and he wanted them fried with french fries ($19.95). 

My mother-in-law's fried whiting platter had three fish for $12.95.

I saw haddock fillet on ice, so ordered simply broiled haddock with fresh, sauteed spinach and a naked baked potato, a balanced and filling meal for $15.95.

We loved one of our appetizers: a half-pound of headless, fried ocean smelts, which are smaller than sardines but larger than anchovies. We ate them whole, sprinkled with lemon juice or dipped in a spicy red sauce or tartar sauce.

A smelt dinner was listed on a blackboard for $12.95, but I'm not sure how much we were charged for a half pound.

Our other appetizer: a dozen Littleneck clams ($9.95), which came with garlic toast. I ate the pleasantly salty broth with fresh tomato as a soup course. 

Three of us also ordered cups of The Fishery's Manhattan Clam Chowder ($2.50) and Maine Lobster, Clam and Corn Chowder ($3.95).

The Fishery, 1812 Route 35 north, South Amboy; 
732-721-9100. BYO. Closed Mondays.

Belford Seafood Co-op, 901 Port Monmouth Road, Middletown; 732-787-6508 (retail market).

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Mystery centerpiece brightens our meal

Thanksgiving Centerpiece Closeup
Image by Flower Factor via Flickr
Instead of pumpkins, our centerpiece has a single candle.

I overcooked the French-cut green beans, but the turkey came out perfect, and we enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal sitting around a beautiful flower centerpiece that was a gift from I know not who.

The centerpiece, which includes a single candle, was delivered while we were out on Tuesday. I left it on the dining room table after our meal Thursday.

My mother-in-law said a man, who she believes is Asian, came to the front door and said the centerpiece was for me, using my last name. I'm at a complete loss.  There was no card or note with it.

My mother-in-law, wife and son enjoyed turkey, ham, sweet potatoes and green beans, plus turkey gravy and a cranberry salsa with honey and fresh, chopped cilantro. 

I prepared a Korean-style soft-tofu stew with shrimp, kimchi and Enoki mushrooms for myself. I had some of the sweet potatoes and beans as a second course, and drank wine and sparkling white-grape juice.

Modifying a recipe from The New York Times, we assembled six layers of skin-on, thinly sliced sweet potato discs and two layers of scattered dried plum and apricot pieces, adding salt and pepper, and brushing the layers with extra-virgin olive oil.

The turkey was finished earlier than expected, so the brown rice I had soaking in a rice cooker wasn't ready in time. We had lots of leftovers, meaning I'll be nagging my family to eat turkey and ham through the weekend.

I'll eat some brown rice topped with a fried duck egg, sunny side up, for breakfast this morning and with leftover tofu stew for dinner tonight.

We didn't light the candle during our Thanksgiving meal. My 14-year-old son, who has a vivid imagination, said he was afraid the centerpiece was booby trapped.

Still, my thanks goes out to the anonymous gift giver. Hope you had a great holiday. 

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I came, I saw, I sacked

Costco Wholesale warehouse in Ontario, Califor...
Image via Wikipedia
A scene familiar to any Costco Wholesale customer: Other shoppers trying to beat you to the many bargains. I braved the pre-holiday crowd at the warehouse store in Hackensack.

Editor's note: Today, I describe a mob of food shoppers at Costco Wholesale, going to other stores for ingredients, whether it's safe to eat a raw turkey left out on the counter for six hours and a couple of pricey meals out.


Pulling into the turn lane for Costco Wholesale's parking lot, I glanced to my left and noticed the lot was filling up fast -- and it was still a few minutes before the 10 a.m. opening.

Of course, I didn't know the Hackensack warehouse store had opened an hour early on Tuesday to accommodate Thanksgiving shoppers or that I'd encounter shopping-cart gridlock inside.

According to my receipt, it took me only about 30 minutes to pick up 18 food items and a set of flannel sheets, and spend $190.76, including tax. I can sack with the best of them.

My wife and I didn't do a good job of organizing holiday food shopping this year.

Both of us have stopped at the ShopRite in Englewood, and she went to Costco this morning because I forgot sweet potatoes on Tuesday. 

We qualified for a free ShopRite turkey, which I donated as usual to the Center for Food Action in Englewood.

I also went to Whole Foods Markets in Paramus and Edgewater for ingredients.

Bird is the word

And today, I stopped at the H Mart in Englewood for extra-soft tofu, because I'm not eating meat and will have a spicy Korean seafood stew with brown rice while the rest of my family eats turkey and stuffing, green beans and cranberry salsa.

Today at Costco, my wife picked up a 10-pound box of sweet potatoes (79 cents a pound), and on Tuesday, I got a 10-pound bag of organic carrots (69 cents a pound).

Three quarts of organic carrot juice from Costco were $7.29. Four, 64-ounce cartons of Tropicana orange juice were $11.59. Bananas were 3 pounds for $1.39. A large golden pineapple was $2.99.

At the Seafood Road Show, I bought 4 pounds of U-15 farmed Black Tiger shrimp from Vietnam at $10.49 a pound, some of which I will use in my soft-tofu stew. I saw them at H Mart for $13.99 a pound. 

The flannel-sheet set from Costco was queen size, 100% cotton and made in Portugal, yet it was under $30.

Pushing my half-full cart to my car, I told a woman approaching the store, "They're sold out," and for a moment she seemed to believe me. Then, I said I was kidding.

At the Whole Foods in Edgewater, I bought a bunch of organic scallions for my wife's stuffing. The price was 99 cents, compared to three bunches of conventional scallions for $1 at H Mart in Englewood.

I picked up two large, heavy organic yams at Whole Foods, hefted them and figured that at $1.89 a pound, they would cost me about $9, and later told my wife to go to Costco for the sweet potatoes I forgot in my mad rush through the store.

This morning, at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, a woman in cardiac rehab said her granddaughter called and asked if it's OK to cook and eat a turkey that was left out on the counter for six hours.

The woman said she told her granddaughter she didn't know, and to call a turkey hot line for the answer.

I asked, but the woman didn't know whether the Thanksgiving turkey was frozen when the granddaughter's boyfriend brought it home, put it on the counter and went to work without putting the bird in the refrigerator.

She said her granddaughter and the boyfriend are 24 years old. LOL. 

Thanksgiving menus

Our Thanksgiving menu is shaping up this way:

Lobster bisque
Roasted turkey with a stuffing of diced potato, onion and sweet pepper
Cranberry salsa with cilantro and honey
Wedges of thinly sliced, baked sweet-potato slices with prunes and apricots
French-cut green beans
Organic spring mix salad
Fruit and cheese

My menu:

Soft-tofu stew with Black Tiger shrimp, kimchi and a duck egg
Brown rice
Fruit and cheese
Beer and wine

Expensive meals

I rarely have a meal from the cold and hot buffets at Whole Foods in Paramus, as appetizing as they look, but decided to have an early dinner there on Monday, when my wife roasted marinated turkey wings.

I picked up a green plastic bowl and selected three items -- half of a large roasted red pepper, plus onions and carrots; a soybean salad and tofu squares with sun-dried tomatoes.

At $7.99 a pound, my light dinner from the "cold food bar" cost $11.91. I also had an 8-ounce container of Winter Harvest vegetable soup for $2.99, so my total was over $15.

After I had been home for an hour or two, I was hungry and prepared a small salad with cheese and smoked wild salmon.

In Edgewater on Tuesday, I had lunch at Greek Taverna in the City Place Mall (55 The Promenade, 201-945-8998), but the prices seemed more appropriate for dinner.

I shared a half-dozen rice-stuffed grape leaves with a friend ($7.25), then had a bowl of lentil soup ($5) and an arugula salad with feta cheese and raisins ($8.50). My friend's chicken souvlaki wrap was $9.25.

The delicious, chunky soup was served in an oversized bowl, but I would have been just as happy if a cup was available. The salad also was terrific, but there was enough for two people.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Waitress, there's a bug in my salad

Hotel Caesar's in Tijuana, built in 1929 or 19...
Image via Wikipedia
Hotel Caesar's in Tijuana, Mexico, built for Italian-born Caesar Cardini, a restaurateur who moved to Mexico and is commonly credited with creation of the lovely Caesar Salad.

Editor's note: Today, I describe a return visit to Amici Family Restaurant in Bergenfield, preparations for Thanksgiving, and free-range, grass-fed Australian beef.

If you go to Amici Family Restaurant, a BYO that serves big portions at reasonable prices, it makes sense to share dishes to keep the final bill down.

We tried that Saturday evening, but ran into a couple of problems with sanitation and food in a busy dining room, and I'm not sure we'll return.

We started with a well-dressed, family style Caesar Salad, combining two portions at $6.95 each, but the romaine lettuce was cut into confetti-like strands that were hard to eat. 

We loved all the grated cheese, but not the over abundance of croutons.

A bigger problem was the tiny bug my mother-in-law found as she ate her first serving of the salad. When she put it aside, it fell, jumped or flew to the floor, and she couldn't find it again.

My wife and her mother also shared two menu items, an appetizer of Jumbo Lump Crab Cake ($8.95) and an entree of Red Snapper Amici with vegetables  ($17.95), plus a side order of linguine in tomato sauce ($6.95).

They loved the large, moist crab cake and all the crab used in it, but found the thick fish fillet tough, even chewy, as if it had been frozen, precooked or overcooked. My wife said it wasn't red snapper. I tried a piece and agreed.

I also ordered an entree from the regular menu, Zuppa di Pesce in a fra diavolo sauce, but chose the gluten-free penne instead of regular linguine ($17.95).

I loved the spicy tomato sauce, the delicious, fresh-tasting shellfish, scallops and shrimp; and my first gluten-free pasta, which was cooked al dente -- all served in an oversized soup bowl. 

Service was terrific. The restaurant has added at least two servers to handle the crowds that responded to a favorable review in the newspaper, and the dining room was full when we left around 6:30.

We told our waitress about the fish, but not the bug. When I looked over the bill at home, I didn't see a charge for the salad we had shared.

Amici Family Restaurant, 127 S. Washington St., 
Bergenfield; 201-374-1996. BYO, off-street parking.

Thanksgiving meal

We drove to Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff on Friday to pick up the fresh-killed turkey I ordered over the phone, and left with a few other items.

The turkey, raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics, weighs just under 14 pounds at $2.39 a pound, bigger than the 10-12 pound bird I had ordered. 

We also asked for eight split turkey wings ($16.65) and a half-dozen duck eggs ($1.25 each). Duck eggs have really large yolks, but at this price, I probably won't buy them again.

An 18-ounce bottle of Uncle Dougie's Chicago-Style Chicken Wing Marinade -- a wickedly spicy sauce that's great with turkey wings, too -- was $5. 49.

In the past, we've ordered only turkey drumsticks, thighs and wings from the farm, but this year, we needed a whole turkey to serve white meat to my mother-in-law.

At nearly 14 pounds, I don't think it will fit into our electric rotisserie, so I asked my wife to pick up a turkey roaster while she was shopping at the mall on Saturday morning.

I gave her a J.C. Penney circular, and she came home with a Philippe Richard-brand, 2-piece, nonstick steel roasting pan for $18.89 -- with a mail-in rebate of $10.

Of course, it's made in China, which doesn't have a great record for food safety, but I hand-washed the pieces and put them away for use on Thursday.

On the way to the farm on Friday, we stopped at Whole Foods Market in Paramus for a fully cooked, naturally raised Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Ham to serve with the turkey ($7.99 a pound), but could find only a drug-free Wellshire Farms Virginia Baked Deli Ham ($6.99 a pound).

Then, I couldn't find the credit card I had used, so returned to the store on Saturday. I didn't find the card, but did find the Niman Ranch ham, which is raised without antibiotics, growth hormones or animal by-products. 

Beef from Australia

The ShopRite circular is advertising Nature's Reserve Boneless Rib Eye Roasts from Australia at $5.99 a pound under the words "All Natural, Free Range, Grass Fed."

For several months now, I've been trying to get updated information on how cattle and sheep are raised in Australia, especially those destined for export.

At ShopRite, Costco Wholesale and elsewhere, Australian lamb often is labeled in the store, and the words "All Natural" and "Grass Fed" don't appear on the labels.

ShopRite is the only North Jersey supermarket I know that sells Australian beef, and it's marketed under the Nature's Reserve label, but the words "Grass Fed" don't appear there, either.

I've been referred to the Web site of Meat and Livestock Australia, a ranchers group, and have found extensive discussions of cattle and sheep being raised on pasture, including the methane gas released by grass-eating animals.

Here's is a link to the Web site: Grazing and Pasture Management

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Friday, November 18, 2011

A glass of wine, a crying baby and a clucking chicken

Vineyards in Napa Valley.
There's a Napa Valley Grille in Westwood, Calif.; Bloomington, Minn., and Paramus.

In North Jersey, why do you find a California-style wine restaurant at the mall? 

Napa Valley Grille opened at Garden State Plaza in Paramus at least a decade ago, and the owners still haven't corrected the misspelling of grill (an automobile or SUV has a grille).

On my first-ever visit this evening, the hostess seemed friendly enough, but I soon found myself sitting alone in an empty room, one of three with tables.

My back was to a serving station, where bread was cut and plated with a shallow dish of olive oil, and beyond that, the open kitchen.

I was startled to hear one server say to another in a loud voice, "What's up, Bro?" Then, I heard what sounded like a clucking chicken. Another server broke into song, and it was no better than the rock-and-roll soundtrack, which seemed out of place.

Why not the Beach Boys and other California groups?

It was early, around 5:15 or 5:30. The large staff didn't have much to do. One passed the time polishing wine glasses with a napkin, but others talked, clucked or sang. The males wore jeans. 

All of this didn't make a good impression on me in a fine-dining restaurant.

I declined the bread to stay on my diet, and ordered a roasted pear salad with walnuts and blue cheese, but I don't eat meat, so I asked the waitress to hold the pancetta ($10). 

I also asked for a glass of pinot noir, and it turned out to be a half-glass ($8). It was drinkable, and got smoother during the meal.

My entree was that night's special: mahi-mahi in a white-wine reduction with spinach and potatoes ($24), and I asked for it without the usual "touch of butter."

The waitress took my order, but the salad was brought to me by another server.

The greens had been mounded on the plate and topped with a circle of grilled pancetta. I looked around for the waitress, then saw an employee in a sports jacket.

He took the salad away and said he'd get me another. I asked if I could be seated elsewhere, someplace without so much noise, so he took me into another room and gave me a booth. A young couple with two small children were directly behind me.

The boy was younger than the girl, and he soon started to wail. I just stared at the wine-country mural in front of me, and tried to enjoy my new salad, even though the roasted pear wedges weren't warm, as I had expected.

After I finished, another server brought me the fish -- three pieces of grilled mahi-mahi stacked on top of steamed fresh spinach and framed by skin-on potato wedges.

The fresh fish was cooked perfectly, but it needed lemon, so I fished a wedge out of my water glass. Later, a male server brought me more lemon to squeeze over the mahi-mahi.

Twice, the waitress walked by, asking, "You OK?" The second time, she added, "Enjoy."

My total was $44.94, but I had a LivingSocial voucher for $40 (I paid $20). I added a $7 tip to the $4.94 balance.

I probably won't return. When buying a voucher from Groupon, LivingSocial and other sites, I guess you have to ask yourself why are these restaurants selling their meals at roughly 50% off.

Napa Valley Grille, Westfield Garden State Plaza, Routes 4 and 17, 
near California Pizza Kitchen and J.C. Penney; 201-845-5555. 
Open seven days for lunch or Sunday brunch and dinner.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Checking out the price of turkey

Ipomoea batatas, Convolvulaceae, Sweet Potato,...
Why microwave a sweet potato in plastic wrap?

Editor's note: Today, I discuss turkey prices, shrink-wrapped sweet potatoes, clementines from Morocco and reusable-bag credits.

In the week before Thanksgiving, I've started to think of a holiday menu for the meat eaters in my family and for the non-meat eater -- me.

On Monday, I saw fresh Washington State organic turkeys at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack for $2.69 a pound.

At Whole Foods Market in Parmaus on Tuesday, free-range turkeys were $2.29 a pound and free-range organic turkeys were $3.99 a pound.

There were no organic turkeys out at Fairway Market in Paramus, but Murray's all-natural turkeys were $3.99 a pound.

All of the turkeys at the three stores were raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics. Federal law prohibits the use of hormones in poultry.

At ShopRite in Englewood on Tuesday, frozen turkeys were $1.29 a pound and fresh turkeys were $1.99 a pound. I didn't see any organic turkeys.

Live turkeys

At Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff, the price of a live turkey was $2.39 a pound. By today, the fresh-killed poultry operation had sold out all of its live wild turkeys.

The farm says fresh-killed poultry results in a "juicier, moister, more succulent and tastier bird, with no residual sour fats."

All of the turkeys are allowed to roam. They are raised on vegetarian feed and without antibiotics, according to the farm. Here's a link to the Web site: Live poultry farm

My wife and son have asked for a turkey and a small ham for Thanksgiving. I've decided to make a spicy, Korean-style soft-tofu stew with shrimp and kimchi for my holiday dinner.

I saw a recipe for thinly sliced sweet potatoes and prunes I might try, but will substitute extra-virgin olive oil for the butter listed. I also might try making a cranberry salsa with tequila, plus steam a bunch of fresh green beans or broccoli florets.

Plastic potatoes

On Tuesday, I was looking for sweet potatoes at the ShopRite in Englewood. I saw a sign for them at $1.29 a pound, but the only ones I found were shrink wrapped in plastic.

Odd, I thought. When I took them to the register, they rang up as "Microwave Yam" at two for $3. The three I had weighed about a half-pound each, so that works out to $3 a pound.

At home, I read the small print on the wrapper: "Chef's Pride, microwave in the wrapper, triple washed, flavor-seal wrap, microwave on high 6-8 minutes."

That's ridiculous. Microwaving a sweet potato in plastic surely would result in the transfer of chemicals to the potato. 

That's why it's never a good idea to microwave food in a plastic container. Transfer it first to a glass plate or bowl and cover it with a paper towel, not plastic wrap.

I also have a microwave with a quick-cook setting that bakes potatoes in 8 to 10 minutes, without plastic wrap.

Today, I took the shrink-wrapped potatoes back for a refund, but couldn't find any loose sweet potatoes in the produce section.

On Tuesday, I did pick up a 5-pound box of clementines from Morocco for $4.99 that I passed up on Monday. They are bigger than the Spanish clementines from Spain I found at Costco for $5.99.

No credit for bag

Today and last week, a cashier at the Englewood ShopRite failed to give me a 5-cent credit for a reusable bag and said I would have to go to the customer service counter to get it.

Both times, I did so just to get my nickle. Is this a new, deliberate policy that hopes many customers simply won't bother?

Whole Foods Market and H Mart, the Korean supermarket chain, give customers a 10-cent credit for each reusable bag. Trader Joe's and New York-based Fairway Market give nothing.

Until recently, H Mart gave a credit of 20 cents a bag.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

When it's time to go to Costco

CostcoImage via Wikipedia

When it's time to go to Costco Wholesale, my wife always seems to have something else to do.

We live only 2 miles from the warehouse store in Hackensack -- and the ShopRite is farther from our home -- so we often drop in to pick up a few things once or twice a week.

But when we have a longer list .... This is the second week in a row my wife was unavailable. 

Today, I picked up 2 pounds of fresh Pacific cod at $7.99 a pound; Kirkland Signature Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon at $15.39 for 1 pound; Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix at $4.49 for 1 pound, a slightly lower price; and clementines from Spain at $5.99 for a 5-pound box.

1974–2000 ShopRite logo, still in use at some ...Image via Wikipedia
Earlier, on the way home from cardiac rehab at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, I stopped at the ShopRite in that city to renew a prescription.

Clementines were $4.99 or $2 off, but they were from Morocco and I passed.

I did pick up two half-gallons of ShopRite 2% Lactose-Free Milk at $2.99 each (40 cents off). That compared to $4.19 for Lactaid-brand milk and $4.99 for Organic Valley Lactose-Free Milk.

Jenny-brand Kalamata String Figs from Greece were $2.99 for 14 ounces ($1 off). They are sun dried and preservative free.

At Costco, 3 pounds of broccoli florets were $4.99 and three half-gallons of organic milk were $8.99. Thirty Kashi Trail Mix Chewy Granola Bars were $11.79.

The prices of hothouse-grown Roma and Campari tomatoes have gone up to $2.50 and $3 a pound, so I picked up a 5-pound box of Sunset-brand beefsteak tomatoes for $6.99 or about $1.20 a pound.

I also bought toothbrushes, body soap, vegetarian barley-and-vegetable soup, Naked Juice Mighty Mango smoothies and cranberry juice.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kimchi is the star of a Korean meal for 10 in Palisades Park

Broad Avenue at downtown Palisades ParkImage via Wikipedia

Palisades Park has the biggest concentration of Korean restaurants in North Jersey, from soft-tofu and barbecue houses to restaurants specializing in hand-made noodles.

Editor's note: This branch of Gam Mee Ok closed, but the stylish original still thrives in Fort Lee.


I put together a group of 10 to check out Gam Mee Ok in Palisades Park, a branch of the popular, 24-hour restaurant in Fort Lee with a unique kimchi service.

The stylish restaurant, hidden away on the second floor of a building on Broad Avenue, opened without fanfare early this year. 

The original Gam Mee Ok (pronounced GAM-yo) is in Manhattan.

A server brings cabbage and radish kimchis to the table in what looks like a small vase, cuts the long pieces of cabbage with a scissor and places them in a dish, adding more red-pepper sauce from a metal tea pot.

The cabbage kimchi, in particular, combines a pleasant sweetness with the usual spicy notes, adding an unusual accent to the meal.

The restaurant doesn't serve the variety of free side dishes found at most other Korean places, but does put out cabbage leaves and hot green peppers.

During our meal, we also got shredded radish kimchi and bowls of the restaurant's signature beef-bone soup, a bland, milky white broth you season with salt and chopped scallions from containers on the table.

Dumplings, kalbi

Other members of the group tried a variety of dishes from the open kitchen, including steamed pork-and-vegetable dumplings ($7.95) and barbecued kalbi or short ribs ($16.95), which they ate out of hand or wrapped in the tender cabbage leaves, instead of the usual red-leaf lettuce.

I ordered a seafood pancake ($12.95), as well as dolsot bibimbap ($13.95), a one-dish meal of rice, vegetables and egg served in a hot stone bowl, asking the kitchen to hold the ground beef and cook the raw egg that usually come with it.

You add a mildly spicy red-pepper sauce call gochujang and mix up all the ingredients before eating it with a spoon. True comfort food.

My wife and son tried a spicier version of bibimbap with kimchi and pork, and loved it (also $13.95).

I also tried a ring from a large squid served on a hot metal plate, but found it too chewy ($19.95). We brought our own wine and beer to this BYO.

We paid about $23 each, including tax and a 20% tip. I also took home a large container of Gam Mee Ok's delicious cabbage kimchi ($7.44).

There is seating for about 40 between wood-beam walls that display modern art. The sound system played jazz from WBGO-FM in Newark. Cool.


Gam Mee Ok, 110 Broad Ave., Second Floor, next to Chinese Mandarin Restaurant; 201-945-6300.

BYO, free parking on side streets.

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