Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two big misses at Costco Wholesale

Thumbs down
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It's not often that we're disappointed with the food we buy at Costco Wholesale, but occasionally we bring home a clunker or two.

I bought a 17.6-ounce package of Galil-brand 100% organic Roasted Chestnuts, opened them and then refrigerated them, as the package instructs. But when I opened the package this week, they were slimy and at least one had mold on it.

I don't have the receipt, but the expiration date on the package is 12/08/2012.

The chestnuts were from China, as were those in smaller packages I have purchased in years past from H Mart, the Korean supermarket chain.

Fresh oxtails

On Tuesday, my wife asked me to pick up oxtails at Costco in Hackensack and I brought home a 4 pound-plus package that cost $18.68 ($4.49 a pound).

My mother-in-law trimmed the oxtails and split the bones, but there was so much fat and bone, what began as 4.16 pounds served only three people. I ate fish.

The fresh oxtails were from a company called Rumba ("Foods of the Soul").  

I looked at the company Web site and found out Rumba is part of Cargill, one of the nation's biggest meat processors.

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How much did you say I saved?

ShopRite (United States)
Image via Wikipedia

After a light workout in the new 24 Hour Fitness gym in Paramus this morning, I drove over to the nearby ShopRite and picked up a few things, including thin asparagus, both green and white.

The sign said they were $1.69 a pound, so I bought a bunch of each, not really knowing how much this seasonal vegetable costs.

When I looked at my register receipt, I learned the asparagus were on sale and that I had "saved $2.37" on the white and "$2.44" on the green -- that would mean the regular price is about $4 a pound. 

Each bunch weighed a little over 1 pound ($1.74 for the white, $1.79 for green).

Wow! I'm impressed at the savings, but wonder whether ShopRite is exaggerating just to make the asparagus seem like a good buy.

I saw a package of less desirable thick green asparagus at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack several days ago, but don't remember the price. The package weighed more than 2 pounds.

On Tuesday, my wife bought Readington Farms antibiotic-free poultry, Lean Cuisine dinners, produce, Jello and other items at the Englewood ShopRite, spending a total of $72.53.

The register receipt listed "total savings today" as $12.69, even though my wife didn't bring any coupons with her.

The receipt listed "on sale savings," "manufacturer coupons" and "store coupons."
The logo
Image via Wikipedia

Items on sale included $1 off on each Lean Cuisine dinner, 20 cents off each pound of yellow bananas, $1 off Vicks DayQuil and 4 cents off Jello.

Does ShopRite just pick these numbers out of the air? Do items go on sale every Friday, let's say, or are they randomly discounted? Does the supermarket chain and manufacturers subsidize the sales equally?

Of course, the Readington Farms chicken wasn't on sale, even though ShopRite seems to discount inferior Perdue and Tyson chicken nearly every day.

My wife also bought chocolate and caramel syrups at ShopRite, but we're returning them because the first ingredient listed is high fructose corn syrup. "Cocoa" is listed fourth.

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Travelzoo voucher isn't such a great deal

Image representing Travelzoo as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

We battled rain, cautious drivers, faded lane markings and missing road signs on Friday as we tried to make a 6:30 dinner reservation at Maritime Parc, the expensive seafood restaurant in Jersey City.

I was afraid the restaurant would give away our table if we were late, so I asked my wife to call from the car at 6:15 and tell them we would be delayed. But when we got there, the restaurant was nearly empty.

I had a $65 promotional voucher from Travelzoo, which said it would purchase dinner for two with a total value of "up to $130."

Based on this experience and another voucher I bought from Travelzoo -- then cancelled -- the Internet publisher of travel, entertainment and local deals exaggerates the total value of its vouchers and omits important details.

Our dinner from a special fixed-price menu included two starters ($32 value), two entrees ($48 value), two desserts (up to $9 each), two glasses of wine (up to $12 each) and two coffees or teas ($8 value).

No menu prices

The menu we got listed wines, appetizers and entrees without prices, but included raw-bar items and side dishes for additional charges ranging from $3 to $98. There is no mention of this on the voucher.

The voucher says no additional payment beyond tax and gratuity is required, but in capital letters urges the purchaser to "PLEASE TIP ON THE FULL VALUE OF THE CHECK."

But Maritime Parc's Travelzoo menu specifies that a 20% gratuity is recommended on the full price of $130. That's $26. 

Good food

Although portions were small, we loved the food and would have been happy with an appetizer and entree, plus wine and coffee or tea. 

My wife asked for her dessert -- Coconut Bread Pudding -- to go and I asked the waitress to serve me only sorbet, instead of the ice cream and sorbet listed on a separate menu.

We also were served complimentary pickled cauliflower with cheese cubes, along with a small bread basket, and we were offered and took seconds on the pickled dish.

Two fingers of wine

Our biggest disappointment was the amount of wine we received. My wife asked for the white wine listed on the menu (Teddy Hall Sauvignon Blanc 2009) and I chose the red (Castillo De Monseran Garnache 2010).

The wine glasses were only one-third full -- about two fingers. When I asked, the waitress insisted that was the amount of wine poured when any customer asks for a single glass.

One-third of a glass of wine for each of us isn't what I expected from the voucher's description of "2 glasses of wine (up to $12 each)."

All-seafood meal

My wife started with a Baby Spinach Salad, Spiced Pine Nuts, Marinated Figs and Crispy Salmon Skin and I had Grilled Octopus a la Plancha, Crispy Potatoes and Leek Puree (hold the Pork Belly).

Our entrees were Black Bass, Sauteed Apples, Brussels Sprouts, Bacon and Brown Butter Vinaigrette (for her) and Black Cod with Lobster Hash (for me).

The waitress suggested we order a side dish to complement the main dishes, so we selected Five Spice, Ginger Glazed Winter Carrot Ragout ($7).

This hearty dish was a perfect foil for the blustery conditions outside, but we couldn't finish it.

I asked for lemon wedges for my fish, which was under-seasoned. The bits of lobster in the lobster hash were tough, in contrast to my appetizer's octopus, which was unusually tender. 

My wife's skin-on fillet was smaller than mine -- I'd guess it weighed only about 3 ounces -- both both fish entrees were moist and beautifully cooked.

Customer's burden

I wanted to leave a smaller tip than the restaurant's recommended 20%, but my wife said I shouldn't penalize the wait staff for how little wine we received.

Somehow, greedy restaurant owners have put the burden on the customer for providing a decent salary to their servers, most of whom are paid the minimum wage.

I resent being placed in a position of having to tip well to supplement what  amounts to slave wages.

When I asked for the check, there was lots of confusion, and I was given a charge slip for $89 from another table.

Finally, I got the right one. I paid $38.04, including that $26 tip, $7 for the side dish and $5.04 in tax. Add that to the $65 I paid for the voucher and my total was $98.04 for two.

We won't return

This was more food that we usually eat out and it cost more than we usually spend.

We won't be returning to Maritime Parc. It is in Liberty State Park, overlooking a marina and facing Liberty House Restaurant across a parking lot -- basically in the middle of nowhere.

I especially didn't like the rough cobblestone road we had to drive over to get there.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Eating out in San Francisco, Part 2

The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, CA a...
Cross the Golden Gate Bridge to visit Sausalito and Tiburon.

San Francisco has too many restaurants -- more than 3,000, according to one estimate -- and I had too little time to try them.

But with my friend Jack at the wheel, we roamed far and wide, visiting restaurants or bars in Burlingame, Daly City, Corte Madera, Santa Cruz, Roseville and Carmel.

We wanted to sample the Vietnamese fare at The Slanted Door, the soup dumplings at Shanghai Dumpling King; and the sauteed calamari at Little Henry's, an Asian-owned Italian-American place, but we never quite got to eat in these city restaurants.

We watched "Check, Please! Bay Area" on public television and mentally listed a bunch of restaurants recommended by residents, but we couldn't agree on going to any of them. 

On the day before I left, I especially wanted to try one of the seafood places we saw on the program, Nettie's Crab Shack on Union Street, but I was too full from a large breakfast, and we planned to cook dinner at home.

I suggested Chez Panisse, the expensive Berkeley restaurant that pioneered seasonal, local and organic cooking, but Jack and his wife, my cousin Rina, had tried it a few months ago. They liked the food, but didn't think the service was attentive enough.

So, my week of eating out in and around San Francisco was informal. We shopped for food and usually prepared breakfast, and a few dinners, at home, focusing on egg-white omelets with smoked wild salmon or fresh fish and vegetables.

And I mostly looked to Jack and Rina to suggest inexpensive places where we could eat well without busting the bank.

Greek omelet

Jack picked me up at the airport on Feb. 13 and drove to one of his favorites, Crepevine Restaurant in nearby Burlingame, where I had a tasty Greek omelet stuffed with lots of feta cheese and spinach, plus potatoes and coffee ($9.25).

Noodle soup

For lunch the next day, we stopped at Kevin's Noodle House in Daly City for a steaming bowl of Vietnamese seafood noodle soup with shrimp, imitation crab and squid. Garnishes were fresh bean sprouts, fresh cilantro and lime wedges.

We ordered the medium bowl for $5.95 and were stuffed. A small bowl is $4.95.

Fish tacos

On Feb. 15, we drove down to the picturesque city of Santa Cruz, stopping at a taqueira for a pair of delicious though messy fish tacos.

Taqueria Los Pericos (The Parrots) is what you'd call a joint, with a well-worn interior and counter service. But the tacos are made to order on a grill and the portions are generous.

Each of us ordered two fish tacos ($3.70 each). Each taco had two corn tortillas completely covered by diced tilapia, tomato, onion and cilantro. When I bit into one end, sauce squirted out of the other end.

Garnishes included lime wedges, whole radishes, two homemade salsas and sliced jalapeno peppers. Wonderful.

Vegetarian lunch

The next day, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to visit Sausalito and Tiburon, then at my suggestion stopped at a chain restaurant, P.F. Chang's China Bistro in Corte Madera, for a vegetarian lunch -- like the one I once had at P.F. Chang's in Hackensack.

In Corte Madera, the menu lists five vegetables under "SIDES" and we chose spicy green beans, stir-friend spinach with garlic and Sichuan-style asparagus (small $2.95, large $4.95). 

We ordered a large size of each, but asked the kitchen to stir fry all the vegetables with garlic to avoid the sauces, which I had found much too salty. We also asked for two bowls of brown rice, which we got for no charge. 

This was a delicious, healthy lunch for about $9.50 each, including tip and tax.

Coffee in Carmel

We also visited Darrell, one of Jack's friends, who lives in the hills above Monterey, then jumped into his Bentley and headed for the dog-friendly Cypress Inn in Carmel to meet his friends for cocktails or coffee.

The landmark hotel, owned by actress Doris Day, keeps a bowl of dog treats at the front desk, and shows her beautifully restored films on flat-screen TVs in the bar and other public spaces. 

Thai food

On Feb. 17, we crossed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and drove about two hours to visit my niece Jenna, who lives in Roseville, where we decided to have lunch at a Thai place she and her boyfriend like.

We could have had an inexpensive lunch by choosing one of the $9.95 specials at Kuhn Suda Thai Cuisine, but each of us wanted to customize the dishes, leading to a mix-up in the kitchen, and we ended up spending more than $110 for five.

Jack and I shared a spicy seafood soup with tofu, a green papaya salad and another salad with tofu, instead of duck. But the server became confused when others wanted to substitute something else for shrimp, and our soup didn't have any seafood in it.

Fish for breakfast

On Feb. 19, we returned to Crepevine for breakfast, and I was surprised to learn a nicoise salad special was available so early in the day ($11.95).

Instead of tuna and anchovy, the salad was topped with melt-in-the-mouth slices of seared ahi tuna with tiny peppercorns, plus hard-boiled egg, boiled potato and green bean, all displayed on a large mound of greens and cabbage in a citrus dressing.

Even though I didn't eat the toasted French bread and butter served with the salad, I was full for a good part of the day.

Restaurant list

Crepevine Restaurant, 1310 Burlingame Ave., Burlingame, Calif.;
650-344-1310. Customers order at the counter.

Kevin's Noodle House, also known as Pho Huynh Hiep, 85 Southgate Ave.,
Daly City, Calif.; 650-992-3814.

Taqueria Los Pericos, 139 Water St., Santa Cruz, Calif.;
831-469-7685. Counter service.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro, 301 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte
Madera, Calif.; 415-413-9890.

The Cypress Inn, Lincoln Street and Seventh Avenue, Carmel-By-The-Sea,
Calif.; 800-443-7443. 

Travel notes

My visit to San Francisco was unplanned, but I couldn't resist an air-fare sale on Virgin America -- $119 each way. I was only able to get that low fare one way, so the round-trip total was $414.

I also had to go to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, so the high Air Brook limo fare cut further into my savings, including an extra charge for a pick-up after 11 p.m. on my return this past Monday.

I had two pieces of carry on to avoid a checked luggage fee. Water and coffee or tea were free, but everything else was extra. 

I saw other passengers ordering food and wine from a touch screen in front of them, then swiping their credit cards just below the screen to pay for it. Moments later, a cabin attendant would deliver their order.

It was raining when I arrived, but I got see lots of sunshine, despite temperatures in the 50s and low 60s, and blustery conditions. I was glad I brought a car coat and a corduroy sports jacket to wear underneath it.

In San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood, where I was staying, I went to the 24 Hour Fitness gym in the mornings, and stopped for coffee at Java on Ocean or The Fog Lifter Cafe.

Both places were filled with earnest young men and women working away on their laptops or texting on their smart phones. 

At the Fog Lifter, I watched a conversation among four customers. 

For more than 15 minutes, an attractive young woman spoke to an attractive young man who stood near her table, but never actually sat down, while another seated woman and another man took part.

At one point during the conversation, the first woman brought one of her hands up and thought she had found something in her nose, then proceeded to pick it unselfconsciously.

Got juice?

I rented the the all-electric Nissan Leaf sedan from Hertz for one day, and when I picked it up in a downtown San Francisco garage, the instruments said I had a 98-mile range.

But in the end, I got only 39 miles out of the car, and that required charging the batteries for 3 hours and 40 minutes in my cousin's garage. The charge added "12 miles" to the car's range.

To avoid draining the batteries, I didn't use the air conditioner or play the radio. Of course, the car is quiet, but its optimistic range added an anxiety level akin to running out of gasoline and being stranded far from a refill.

The Chevrolet Volt solves this problem with a gasoline-driven engine that recharges the batteries when you run out of juice.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Food shopping in San Francisco

The Trader Joe's at 301 McLellan Drive in Sout...
A Trader Joe's in South San Francisco, Calif.

Editor's note: Food shopping in San Francisco was only slightly different than in North Jersey, but after a week there I was glad to get back to my familiar stores.
Jack and Rina, my hosts in San Francisco, spend most of their food-shopping dollars at Trader Joe's and Costco Wholesale.

Jack picked me up at the airport on Feb. 13 and, after we had a bite to eat, we headed over to a big Costco store in South San Francisco.

I wanted to buy a few familiar items that would make me feel more at home as well as compare this store to the Costco warehouse store in Hackensack, where I usually shop. 

English: Costco Wholesale Corporate Logo
Image via Wikipedia
The South San Francisco store appears to be bigger than the one in Hackensack, with many more tables and chairs in the food court. And the selection and brand names differ, and so do some of the prices.

I found Costco's Kirkland Signature Smoked Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon for $15.59 or about 20 cents more than I paid the last time I bought the 1-pound package in Hackensack. 

But Earthbound Farm's Organic Spring Mix was only $3.79 -- compared to $4.79 to $4.99 for the 1-pound package in North Jersey.

I also picked up three bottles of organic carrot juice, cartons of egg whites and dried organic Black Mission figs.

But when I went over to the fresh-fish case, I could find only farmed fish, including whole trout.

Three days later, the fish case offered several wild-caught fillets: Pacific rock fish for $5.99 a pound, California halibut for $12.99 a pound, True Pacific Cod for $5.99 a pound and Pacific Sea Bass for $12.99 a pound.

In Hackensack, I usually find cod for a couple of bucks more a pound, haddock from Iceland and flounder -- all wild-caught. Fresh wild salmon is sold in North Jersey from the end of May until October.

The sea bass made a wonderful main dish for dinner at Jack and Rina's, cooked on the stove top for about 15 minutes with a can of organic diced tomatoes, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and organic non-salt seasoning -- all from Costco or Trader Joe's.
English: pic of Trader Joe's bag
Image via Wikipedia

At Trader Joe's, I found a 1-pound package of Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon for $16.99. I checked the sodium content, which is about the same as the cheaper Costco smoked wild salmon for a 2-ounce portion.

Trader Joe's also was selling non-organic Gala apples for 59 cents each, but the store didn't have a produce scale. An employee said Trader Joe's prices on produce were better than at Safeway, one of the big supermarket chains. 

I wanted lactose-free milk at Trader Joe's, but found only Lactaid half-gallons for $3.99. I passed, thinking I could do better at Safeway. I was wrong.

I couldn't find a store brand of lactose-free milk at Safeway, and Lactaid was $4.69 for a half-gallon.

Small Gala apples at Safeway were $1.99 a pound, and when I weighed one, it was 8 ounces, meaning they were about a buck apiece, compared to 59 cents for the larger apples at Trader Joe's.

I also purchased Two Buck Chuck -- $1.99 bottles of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon red wine from Trader Joe's. We opened a bottle at dinner and it was drinkable.

The Trader Joe's we visited was in a shopping center -- one floor below the parking lot. It had up and down escalators for shoppers, and in the middle another up escalator for shopping carts.

Jack mentioned there was a large Korean supermarket in the city, but we never got there, so I can't compare it to the H Marts in North Jersey.

Costco Wholesale, 451 S. Airport Boulevard, South San Francisco, Calif.

Trader Joe's, 265 Winston Drive, San Francisco, Calif.

Safeway, 2350 Noriega St., San Francisco, Calif. 

Jersey bounce

Back in North Jersey,  I resumed visiting my familiar food stores.

On Tuesday, I picked up fresh mustard greens for 69 cents a pound, three blood oranges for $1 and 3 pounds of small Fuji apples for $2.49 at H Mart in Englewood.

Sauder's Cage Free Large Brown Eggs were $2.99 a dozen, and store-prepared stewed tofu was $3.25.

On Wednesday, I found the store brand of 2% lactose-free milk for only $2.89 in the grocery section of Target in Hackensack. A half-gallon of Lactaid 1% milk with added calcium was only $3.59. 

I got 5% off my order for using a Target credit card and 5 cents back for a reusable bag. 

At Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, a trio of large, seedless, pesticide-free cucumbers were only $2.99 -- $1 less than the last time I bought them. Earthbound Farm's Organic Spring Mix was $4.99.

A half-dozen yellow mangoes from Mexico were $5.99. They have a sweet, silky interior that makes them worth the price. Five pounds of Sunset greenhouse-grown beefsteak tomatoes were $6.99.

I also bought 64-ounce cartons of Tropicana 100% Florida Orange Juice, organic 1% milk, wild-caught haddock fillets and 2 pounds of French green beans. 

Rebates and coupons

At my Costco, I used a $489.22 reward coupon from the American Express True Earnings Card -- and left the store with more than $415 in cash. 

The card gives me a 3% rebate on gasoline purchases, 2% back at restaurants and for travel, and 1% back at Costco and everywhere else.

In the mail today, I received a $10 off coupon, if I spend $75 or more at Fairway Market in Paramus -- good until March 1.

The New York-based supermarket is continuing its "shock prices" campaign to lure shoppers to its store in the Fashion Center mall on Route 17 north. 

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Eating out in and around San Francisco

English: Picture of San Francisco at Sunset. F...
It was in the chilly 50s during my week in San Francisco.

On garbage-collection day, I realized I wasn't in New Jersey anymore when I saw residents of San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood putting out a third can filled with compostables.

On some restaurant checks, I paid a small surcharge to fund city health insurance programs.

San Francisco -- where the farm-to-table movement got its start -- is most commonly called Fog City, but it could just as well go by the name of Food City.

I just spent a week there, sightseeing and exploring cheap ethnic eats in the multicultural city and beyond. Jack, my cousin's husband, who has lived in San Francisco for more than 50 years, was my guide and companion.

We shared a mutual goal of eating well, but not blowing the big bucks on restaurant meals. We sampled Mexican, Vietnamese and Japanese fare, among others.

Although I stopped eating meat two years ago, I was perfectly happy with all the great seafood San Francisco has to offer.

On past trips, I always visited Fisherman's Wharf, where I would pick up a whole steamed Dungeness crab, a can of beer and a sourdough roll for an al fresco lunch on a bench near the water.

Big splurge

This time, I made sure to get to the airport in plenty of time before my flight home on Monday to have a lavish seafood lunch at Lark Creek Grill in Terminal 2, where I blew $56.32 on two courses, a glass of red wine, seltzer and coffee.

Luckily, Lark Creek Grill is part of a restaurant group that is throwing its 23rd annual Dungeness Crab Festival through Feb. 29. (See the Web site: Seasonal Ocean-Fresh Dining)
SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 17:  A Dungeness Crab...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

I started with a sumptuous roasted cauliflower soup topped with a nice piece of shelled crab leg and other sweet meat ($9.95), and sipped a California red zinfandel ($8.50).

My main course was a magnificent San Francisco Cioppino ($22.95) -- shellfish, jumbo shrimp and snapper in a tasty tomato broth with olive oil, onion and fresh basil.

Besides a dozen small clams and plump mussels, the broth held three big shrimp and two meat-filled Dungeness crab legs.

Although I was alone, I was seated at a table for four near a busboy's station.  The dining room is open to the busy concourse, and two children wailed at the table behind me, mixing with the clatter of used dishes and silverware a busboy was placing in bins.

The service was good, but an off note was the waiter calling me "Boss" when he spoke to me, as in, "Can I get you some dessert, Boss?"

Heart-healthy dinner

I had another good seafood meal at Pacific Catch Fresh Fish Grill in San Francisco, which residents often refer to as "The City," just as we do when speaking about Manhattan.

But we -- my cousin Rina, Jack and myself -- made the mistake of going there for dinner on Valentine's Day without a reservation. 

We had to wait about 30 minutes to be seated, wait some more for the food we ordered and then received everything at once. The place was packed and the staff in the open kitchen and the servers simply couldn't cope with the crush.

We chose from the special Valentine Day's menu -- a soup that paired a clear but salty broth with crab, asparagus and ginger ($7) and an entree of wild-caught escolar fillet from Hawaii with sauteed vegetables in a mild curry sauce, apple salad and sushi rice ($18.50).

I drank a glass of California pinot noir ($7). I paid the bill -- $100.20 for three, including a $14 tip, $6.75 tax and a San Francisco Health surcharge of $1.95.


We chose another popular restaurant for dinner this past Saturday, Tomo Sushi & Teriyaki, which is just over the border in neighboring Daly City.

The restaurant, which serves Japanese and Korean fare, is near a multiplex theater, an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and a pizzeria.

Despite a full dining room, the service was fast and efficient, and the young woman who served us actually broke out into a trot at one point as she tried to please my demanding cousin.

I started with Agedashi Tofu ($5.50), which was served in bite-size pieces of deep-fried tofu in a soy-based sauce instead of the usual large block, allowing Jack and Rina to try some.

My entree was the Hamachi Sashimi Platter ($13.95), with melt-in-your-mouth slices of raw fish, salad, miso soup and rice.

We shared an order of edamame ($3.75) and a large hot sake ($6), and I drank a bottle of Asahi draft beer ($3.75).

Jack had a large bowl of thick udon noodles with seafood ($13.95) and Rina chose a combination dinner with tempura, California roll and gyoza ($17.95).
The tab for three was $70.20, including the tax but not the tip.


 Lark Creek Grill, Terminal 2 at San Francisco International Airport;
650-821-9315. Opens at 5 a.m.

Pacific Catch, 1200 9th Ave., San Francisco, Calif.; 415-504-6905.
Web site: Fresh Fish Grill

Tomo Sushi & Teriyaki, 1901 Junipero Serra Blvd., Daly City, Calif.;
650-991-1045. Web site:

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Sunday, February 12, 2012

A real time-saver at the supermarket

The original Stop and Shop logo used until 2008.
Image via Wikipedia
You can save time shopping in Teaneck. 

I stopped at the Stop & Shop in Teaneck for a half-gallon of lactose-free milk on Friday and discovered a real time-saver -- a portable scanner that allows you to check out and bag your groceries as you walk up and down the aisles.

When you have everything you need, all you have to do is scan another bar code in the self-checkout lane, swipe your credit card and sign -- and you're on your way.

You also can get credit for reusable bags and redeem coupons. 

The system -- called "EasyShop" -- has been in place for more than a year in Teaneck, according to another shopper. You pick up your handheld scanner just inside the entrance by scanning your store card.

The system is ideal if you shop once a week for a large number of items, which you can scan and place in reusable bags as you guide your shopping cart through the store.

I bought a half-gallon of Stop & Shop Lactose-Free Milk ($3.49), Nature's Promise Organic Lemonade ($2.99) and naturally raised Australian Lamb Chops ($6.49 a pound). 

Nothing was on sale, and I paid more than I would have at my usual supermarket, ShopRite.

I also noticed that items on sale, such as Tropicana Premium Orange Juice, cost more than ShopRite sale items. For example, two 59-ounce bottles of Tropicana were $6, compared to $5 at ShopRite.

But Stop & Shop has a much larger selection of organic and naturally grown or raised items than ShopRite -- all sold under the Nature's Promise label.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

I fell hook, line and sinker

Nederlands: Plateau van zeevruchten
Image via Wikipedia
From Holland, a platter of heart-healthy seafood.

Heart disease kills nearly 1,400 people a day in the United States -- 500,000 every year -- so you have to wonder whether we are eating ourselves into the grave. 

I had open-heart surgery last September to repair damage from a heart murmur, which isn't diet related. But I didn't require bypasses to get around blockages in my coronary arteries from an over-consumption of animal proteins.

I have always loved fish, and two years ago, I stopped eating meat and poultry. I haven't had butter or cream for decades, and fruit satisfies my sweet tooth.

A monthly newsletter from an importer, the Mazzetta Co. in Highland Park, discusses heart-healthy seafood and increasing shortages of beef and poultry. 

February is National Heart Month, according to the company. "Protect your heart by eating seafood," the newsletter says. 

I've fallen for that argument hook, line and sinker.

Mazzetta imports the farmed Black Tiger Shrimp I buy at Costco Wholesale under the "Seamazz" name. Here are excerpts from the newsletter:

"Every year, heart disease takes the lives of over half a million Americans, and it remains the leading cause of death in the United States.  This devastating epidemic leaves no one untouched; its victims are fathers and daughters, grandparents and siblings, and friends.  Every February, we remember the steps each of us can take to reduce the risk of heart disease and recommit to better heart health for all Americans.

"People with heart disease tend to have something in common: Many have spent decades eating too much saturated fat and not consuming enough fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins like seafood.  Many people with heart disease try to banish fats, but they're missing out on lots of foods that can protect the heart. Fish, avocados, nuts, and olive oil-they're all fatty, and they can all help keep you alive.  In fact, Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish have been shown to prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure, and slow the buildup of plaque in the arteries.  Large studies suggest that Omega-3 fatty acids from seafoods can lower the risk of heart disease by more than 35% and can reduce the risk of sudden death from heart attack by more than 50%."

Rising beef prices

"The price of beef has hit an all-time high in each of the last four months, and experts expect cattle prices to rise even more throughout the year.  An agricultural economist at the University of Missouri has projected an average price $5.10 - $5.15 per pound of beef in 2012.  The rising price of beef began in 2011 when blistering heat and drought killed cows and grass and also sparked wildfires that consumed 4 million acres of pasture in Texas and Oklahoma.  At the same time, U.S. beef exports grew 23 percent while beef imports fell 12 percent - adding even more pressure on an already tight supply chain.

There is now less beef on grocery shelves and in restaurants, per American, than there has been since 1952.  Likewise, the U.S. supply of poultry, pork, and turkey continues to decline albeit far less dramatically than beef.

Unlike these other proteins, seafood is experiencing increases in production.  Pangasius and shrimp farming in Southeast Asia continues to grow and higher volumes are expected through 2013. Additionally, Chilean and Norwegian salmon farming will continue to experience greater outputs which will allow more affordable market prices.  The seafood industry as well as retailers, restaurants, distributors, and foodservice organizations need to be prepared to take advantage of this opportunity to promote seafood as a cost-effective, nutritious, delicious, and readily available protein."
Here is a link to the newsletter:
Seamazz Newsletter

According to its Web site, Mazzetta was founded in 1987 and is "one of the world's leading, fully integrated, direct importers of premium-frozen seafood."

"The company manages all of the intricate steps involved in identifying, harvesting, processing and delivering an uninterrupted supply of fish and shellfish from sustainable resources worldwide.  

"Mazzetta's customers include restaurants, retailers, distributors, hospitality and foodservice organizations across North America."

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I brake for fish -- not bread

Deutsch: Rosenkohl English: Brussels sprouts
Image via Wikipedia
Brussels sprouts are a frequent side dish to the fish, chicken, veal and pork in Jerry's Meals To Go. They are a low $7.99.

As I drove past Balthazar Bakery in Englewood the other day -- without lifting my foot off the accelerator -- I reviewed how drastically my diet has changed, and the benefits I've received.

When Balthazar opened a retail store in its production bakery just before Thanksgiving in 2002, I lived around the corner.

I'd walk over to pick up a wonderfully crusty baguette or a dozen dinner rolls and, once in a blue moon, an extraordinary fruit tart.

Even after I moved to Hackensack, Balthazar remained my main source for bread, and I'd stop in every couple of weeks to stock my freezer with dinner rolls and cut-up baguette for sandwiches.

I supplemented that with pocket bread, za'atar bread and spinach pies from the Syrian bakeries in Paterson -- I always had them in my freezer or refrigerator. 

But I gave up bread more than a year ago to lose weight, so on Monday, I kept on driving until I reached Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood, where I bought a $7.99 Meal To Go -- a multi-course, restaurant-quality dinner.

And because this month marks the 2nd anniversary since I stopped eating meat and poultry, I bought a Jerry's meal with blackened fillet of sole, rather than one with pork, chicken or veal.

The side dishes were a half-dozen grilled shrimp in the shell, Brussels sprouts, vegetable frittata and a small block of macaroni and cheese. All I needed to complete my dinner was a home-made salad and a glass of wine.

The next night, I prepared green-shell mussels from New Zealand I had purchased at H Mart -- they are blanched on the half shell and frozen. I sprinkled on some grated cheese and dried herbs and baked them in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Tonight, we're having fresh wild-caught haddock fillets from Iceland that I picked up today at Costco Wholesale ($7.99 a pound).

I went to Costco after meeting friends for lunch at the Grant Street Cafe in Dumont. I had a Greek salad and black coffee, and they had sandwiches or an omelet with lots of bread and french fries.

At Costco, I also purchased 4 pounds of frozen, cleaned U-15 farmed shrimp from Vietnam (13 to 15 shrimp to the pound) for $36.99 or about $9.25 a pound with a $5 instant Costco coupon.

By giving up bread and meat, and going to the gym five days a week, I've lost a lot of weight. I weigh 190 pounds, compared to a high of 228, and my cholesterol is around 140 -- much lower than before, when I ate meat and took a cholesterol-lowering pill.. 

Balthazar Bakery, 214 S. Dean St., Englewood; 201-503-9717.

Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood; 201-871-7108.

Costco Wholesale, 80 S. River St., Hackensack; 201- 487-5471.

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