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The wild and wonderful, heart-healthy sockeye salmon is available year-round at Costco -- fresh, frozen or smoked.
Editor's note: Today, I discuss ShopRite's Can Can Sale, which isn't what it used to be; a new place for Chinese take-out, and problems with the premium produce from Costco Wholesale.
I shopped the first day of ShopRite's "World's Greatest Can Can Sale" in Hackensack today, but found a lot of items weren't on sale or weren't good buys even at the lower prices.
I wait for the Can Can Sale to stock up on Adirondack seltzer, air freshener, ShopRite extra-virgin olive oil from Italy and other items. The sales flier claims "over 2,000 items [are] on sale."
Today, I bought three 12-can packs of Adirondack seltzer at $1.99 each, a savings of $1.60 each; eight cans of Airwick Air Freshener at 89 cents each or 25 cents off, but usually 99 cents each; five small cans of ShopRite tomato sauce for $2, and a dozen Eggland's Best Large White Eggs for $1.99 or 70 cents off.
Lysol-brand air freshener also was on sale for $2.99 for a 19-ounce can, but the shelf label showed it cost more per pound than the 8-ounce Airwick cans.
There was no limit on the seltzer, but I could find only two packs of my preferred flavor, Lemon-Lime, so I bought one pack of Original.
Canned red salmon from Alaska isn't on sale. The flier lists a half-liter of ShopRite 100% Italian Extra-Virgin Olive Oil at $2.99 -- or $6.98 a liter -- but in the store, I saw the liter bottle of the same olive oil for $7.99.
It doesn't have to be in a bottle or can to be on sale. But the only poultry at deep discount is the crappy stuff from Tyson. The Can Can Sale is on through Jan. 14, but is usually extended.
New year, new place
We tried a new place for Chinese take-out on Saturday night, Empire Hunan in Teaneck.
I called in the order and drove the 2 miles to pick it up to avoid a $1.50 delivery charge. The BYO also doesn't accept credit cards.
The dining room is pleasant and tables are covered with white cloths. I also saw tuna and other raw fish in a sushi case and a sushi chef working behind the counter.
We loved the food, but portions were small -- less than we would receive in an order from our usual take-out place, Zen Kitchen, also in Teaneck.
I had an Empire Hunan menu with 21st-anniversary coupons for $10 off on any check of $20 or more for pick-up or dining in, but they had expired.
Four of us tried steamed shrimp dumplings, six for $5.50; spinach with fresh garlic, instead of the listed garlic sauce, $8.75; Crispy Fillet of Fish with Hunan Sauce, $12.95; and Sesame Chicken, extra spicy, $10.95.
One takeout container was full of wonderful water spinach, another with chicken, but the fish container was far from full. My 14-year-old son told me to order more food next time.
I asked Alice, the woman who took my order, about the fish and was told striped bass was used. The fillets were breaded and beautifully fried, but they were small and thin, maybe 1 ounce each, and there were about eight of them.
The Hunan Sauce, in a separate container, was too sweet for me and appeared to be thickened with corn starch. The spinach was terrific with brown rice, but I didn't have the chicken.
Empire Hunan, 444 Cedar Lane, Teaneck; 201-801-0096.
Web site: Dine In or Take Out
Zen Kitchen, 1443 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck; 201-837-7322.
Web site: Take-Out Only
Thanks to Costco Wholesale, I can enjoy wild-caught sockeye salmon year-round -- either fresh, frozen or smoked.
The Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon originally was sliced and sold by the pound in a single package that varied by weight.
But last year, the preservative-free wild salmon started showing up in two connected packages weighing exactly 1 pound. I still don't know how they do it.
The slices in the last package I purchased for $15.39 were difficult to handle when I tried to pick the fish off of its cardboard base, with tiny pieces breaking off that stuck to my fingers or the board.
I use the smoked salmon in omelets and salads, usually with reduced-fat Swiss cheese slices, or simply roll up salmon and cheese for a snack.
Costco also sells three large cantaloupes for $5.99, but the last two times I've bought them, quarter-size soft spots developed when I left them out on the counter to ripen.
When I cut into them, the interiors usually were ripe, even though the exteriors were still green.
I've also found that those large, seedless hothouse cucumbers aren't created equal.
Lately, I've been buying the Euro Fresh Farms brand, which is labeled pesticide-free, over the Sunset brand. Both are three for $3.99.
The Sunset cucumbers appear bigger, but haven't held up as well in my refrigerator, and sometimes they rot or soften after several days. I haven't had the same problem with the other brand.
But I couldn't be happier with Sunset's beefsteak tomatoes, which are sold in an open 5-pound box -- usually, you get nine or 10, and the cashier sometimes counts them to make sure customers aren't adding more to the box.
The prices for Campari and Roma tomatoes are around $2.25 to $2.50 a pound. But at $5.99 a box or about $1.20 a pound, the beefsteaks are a better buy and taste great, too.