Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tofu, coffee beans, brown rice and feta cheese

Tofu in an entree, above, and a soup, below, was the star of our dinner at Wondee's in Hackensack, where a small bowl of brown rice is $2.50 extra.

We asked for bowls of Vegetable Soup with tofu from the Vegetarian Menu to be made spicy.

Pra Ram is described as "steamed watercress" topped with tofu and Wondee's peanut sauce. When eaten with rice, this entree served two.

We usually have an early dinner at Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles in Hackensack, never make a reservation and have the place to ourselves.

But on Saturday night, my wife and I didn't get there until 7, and we were the first in a wave of customers that quickly filled the restaurant, disrupting one server's dinner.

Two large parties of 10 or more people put a strain on the kitchen, which forgot one of the entrees we ordered.

It was just as well: We were full after soup, a shared entree and a bowl of rice -- for a grand total of $23, including tax. 

I also drank a bottle of Mexican beer I brought from home.

I don't eat meat or poultry and my wife wanted to go vegetarian, so we ordered a small vegetable soup with tofu for each of us ($3.50), and an entree of vegetables and tofu in a light, flowing peanut sauce ($11). 

When our second tofu entree, Mock Duck Kraprow ($12), didn't arrive, the peanut sauce was perfect with the half bowl of brown rice I had left. 

We love Chef Wandee Suwangbutra for packing her dishes with fresh vegetables and garnishing them with fresh herbs, and when we feel like whole fish or meat, there are plenty of choices from her kitchen.


Wondee's, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700. BYO, small parking lot in rear, reservations taken, no delivery, closed Mondays.

A Starbucks in the Astoria section of Queens has a black-and-white photo mural showing scenes from the early years of the company, right.

The daily grind

I may never again buy a pound of coffee beans from New York-based Fairway Market in Paramus.

I stopped at a Starbucks in Queens on Friday, and took advantage of a coffee-bean promotion: 

2 pounds of Tribute Blend for $14.95, the normal price of 1 pound.

The blend was created to celebrate Starbucks' 40th anniversary, using four coffee beans, according to the company Web site:

"Ethiopian sun-dried beans with an exotic flourish of dark cherry; Aged Sumatra, loved for its syrupy body and cedary spice notes; juicy herbal and complex coffees from Papua New Guinea; and our Colombia coffee, bright, balanced and nutty."

Worth the price

Starbucks coffee beans are more expensive than those at Fairway, but the coffee made from them tastes better, too.

Frequent promotions bring Starbucks beans close to or below the price for Fairway Market beans.

I use a Turkish grind in my drip coffeemaker.


At the Starbucks in the Astoria section, I saw an elderly man with a walker slouched in a chair, enjoying a large cup of coffee.

"I live across the street, and I've been coming here since it opened, 14 or 15 years," said the white-haired man, who appeared to be in his 80s.

He said he drops by "two or three times a day" for coffee.

Hole everything

The day before, I stopped for a takeout cup of coffee at Jackson Hole, the chain hamburger restaurant on Grand Avenue in Englewood.

The cashier refused my credit card as payment for a $1.90 cup of hazelnut coffee, and asked for cash.

That would never happen at Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's or lots of other places I buy coffee.

I've been using Della-brand Organic Brown Rice from Costco Wholesale as a substitute for bread at breakfast, above, and as the foundation for home-cooked entrees like Icelandic flounder poached with organic diced tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil and lime juice, below.

Greek New York

The Astoria section of Queens is known for its many Greek restaurants, and on Friday, I saw people enjoying fantastic-looking seafood at sun-splashed tables outside Taverna Kyclades on Ditmars Boulevard.

The next morning, I incorporated crumbled feta cheese in a frittata with Kirkland Signature smoked wild salmon and Basil Pesto, and fresh and sun-dried tomatoes.

With sodium in the feta cheese, smoked salmon and pesto, there is no need to add salt to the 4 whole eggs and egg whites I mix with a little low-fat milk for fluffiness and season with Costco's Organic No-Salt Seasoning.

The egg-and-milk mixture are poured into a 10-inch, non-stick pan with extra-virgin olive oil that is preheated on the stove. Ideally, the mixture sizzles when it hits the pan. Then, tomatoes, sliced salmon, feta cheese and pesto are added while the crust firms up, The frittata is finished under the low setting of a broiler for about 10 minutes, until the top browns, above.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Worth the detour: 99-cents sardines, cheap wine

Bottles of wine imported from Italy, Spain and Hungary were $3.99 to $5 at Corrado's Family Affair on the Clifton-Paterson border.

A bottle of Charles Shaw California Cabernet Sauvignon (Two-buck Chuck) from Trader Joe's, left, supposedly contains the same 750 milliliters as the imported bottle next to it. The Charles Shaw bottle costs $2.98 at the Westfield store.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss a shopping trip to Paterson's Middle Eastern food bazaar; a canned-fish salad with chick peas, feta cheese and spinach; and plastic-bag recycling.

I still jump into my hybrid car and drive 10 miles to Paterson's Middle Eastern food-shopping district for the best prices on sardines, wine, yogurt drink and other products.

At Fattal's Bakery on Sunday, I picked up 20 cans of Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines in spicy oil or tomato sauce for 99 cents a can (4.23 ounces and 4.38 ounces, respectively).

A 1-gallon container of Merve Ayran Yogurt Drink was $8.69.

Parking at Fattal's (975-77 Main St.) is far easier than at Brothers Produce in the Paterson Farmers' Market, another source of 99-cents sardines.

Then, I drove a short distance to just over the Paterson-Clifton border and Corrado's  Family Affair for 1-pound bags of salted cod fish, but the store didn't have any.

So, I picked up store-made crumbled feta cheese ($2.99 a pound) and a bunch of fresh spinach ($1.69 a pound) I needed for a recipe.

In Corrado's liquor store, I bought 5 bottles of imported red wine ($3.99 to $5 each).

Canned-fish salad with chick peas, apple, feta cheese and spinach, served over fresh spinach leaves dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Fishing for salad

I had seen a tuna salad with chick peas, feta cheese and spinach on the cold food bar at the Whole Foods Market in Paramus, and decided to try it with the items I got at Corrado's.

But I didn't stop at tuna, adding cans of pink salmon and sardines with their liquid to my canned-fish salad.

Then, I diced a Gala Apple and celery, including the leaves; drained, rinsed and added a can of chick peas; and crumbled feta cheese.

I washed the fresh spinach leaves and cut them into ribbons and added that to the salad with spinach stems.

The dressing was Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice and ground cumin, all added to taste. 

Canned-fish salad with organic spring mix, beefsteak tomato, olives and garlic cloves.

Recycling bags   

ShopRite is the only supermarket chain in North Jersey that accepts plastic bags for recycling, but we also put plastic food wrapping, plastic food seals and any other flexible plastic in the same bag.

ShopRite in Paramus has two large bins for recycled plastic bags.
Golden Pineapples were 2 for $5.

I didn't go home empty handed, picking up 2 Golden Pineapples for $5

When I told the cashier I would take the pineapples without a plastic bag, she gave me the 10-cent credit for customers who bring a re-usable bag.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Rose Restaurant: A garden of Persian delights

Persian rug runners, cloth napkins and table coverings, and chandeliers dress up the interior of Rose Persian Restaurant in Teaneck. A new owner opened the restaurant about a month ago in the space formerly occupied by Honey, another Persian restaurant, which was little more than a grocery store with tables and chairs.

A closeup of the Shrimp Kabab with grilled vegetables and yogurt, the one disappointing dish we tried on Saturday evening.

Basmati rice with sweet and sour cherries and grilled chicken is served on a long, rectangular platter.

Lamb shank with basmati rice and fava beans.

After visiting Newark's Branch Brook Park on Saturday to see the glorious cherry blossom trees and a profusion of tulips, it seemed natural to stop for dinner at a new restaurant named Rose.

Food businesses on this block of Teaneck Road in Teaneck, between Forest Avenue and Route 4, have come and gone in recent years.

Honey, a Persian restaurant, and a small Korean cafe opened, served a lot of good food, then closed.  The Korean place was replaced by a deli.

Not long ago, Coffeecol, a Colombian arepa bar and grill, took over the storefront of Jamaica Grill, which moved into a smaller space.

There are a few free parking spaces in front of Coffeecol, so you can stop and get a takeout espresso in a small cardboard cup ($1.50), if you're feeling a little drowsy in mid-afternoon, as I did the other day before driving into the city.

Rose Persian Restaurant was opened by a chef who owned restaurants in Iran, the waiter told us.

Olives and yogurt with cucumbers, above, and warm pocket bread, below, are complimentary.

The Shirazi Salad of diced cucumber, tomato and onion is familiar to anyone who has eaten in a Middle Eastern or Turkish restaurant.

We started our meal with terrific soups, a thick Lentil Soup with chopped carrot, potato, onion and celery, and an unsual Chicken Soup with milk and lemon juice ($4 each).

Three of us then shared a diced cucumber and tomato salad with dried mint ($5).

Chicken Soup contained pieces of chicken.

The restaurant offers three vegetarian dishes and two seafood dishes for non-meat eaters, so I chose the Shrimp Kabab ($17), and asked for vegetables in place of rice or potatoes.

The half-dozen shrimp were small, and salt was added with a heavy hand.  

The shrimp and the crunchy vegetables also showed black specks, and had a strong, unpleasant taste from the gas grill.

The thick Lentil Soup is delightful.

My wife and mother-in-law did a lot better with Albaloo Polo with Chicken and Baghali Polo with Lamb Shank from the Gourmet Rice section of the menu ($15 each).

They loved the juicy chicken and tender lamb, and the basmati rice with fresh fava beans or sweet and sour cherries, and they took home leftovers.

I ended my meal with strong, brewed Persian tea and a free refill ($2).

Rose Persian Restaurant is not to be confused with two Rose's Lebanese Restaurants in Englewood and Fair Lawn.

Rose Persian Restaurant, Kabab House & Catering, 1150 Teaneck Road, Teaneck; 201-569-3600.

BYO, small parking lot in rear, no American Express cards. Web site:

A garden of Persian delights

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Where to find straight talk about mercury in seafood

A monk fish at Whole Foods Market in Paramus. Monk fish are known for their succulent tails, which cook up with the consistency of lobster, but unfortunately, they are one of the ugliest creatures in the sea.

Editor's note: Today's stew includes mercury in fish, antibiotics in farmed salmon, another side dish that is a good bread substitute and more on dress shirts from Costco Wholesale.

In researching who rates fish, I came across Blue Ocean Institute, and signed up for its e-mails, including one I received recently on mercury in seafood.

Click on the following link to read more about mercury:

Fish size and your health

Here is an introduction:
"It’s this simple: seafood is good for you; mercury is bad for you. Some seafood contains a lot of mercury and some has very little. We’ve analyzed the research and explained the findings in a way that is relevant and makes sense. Our simple rules of thumb help you choose seafood that’s low in mercury."

The bigger the fish, the bigger the mercury dose. Bigger fish eat smaller fish, and absorb their mercury.

One- or 2-pound fish are safer than such big fish as grouper, Chilean sea bass and giant bluefin tuna.

That's one reason we eat a lot of sardines, anchovies, sea bass, porgies and whiting.

A pan-fried porgy with vinegared sweet pepper, onion and carrot, served with boiled sweet potatoes and carrots mashed with extra-virgin olive oil and a touch of cinnamon.

Stewed Alaskan pollock with translucent noodles, both from H Mart, the Korean supermarket in Englewood, Little Ferry, Fort Lee and Ridgefield.
A frittata with Costco Wholesale's smoked wild salmon, reduced-fat sliced cheese, fresh tomato slices and sun-dried tomato fluffs up under the broiler thanks to a little low-fat milk in the mixture of egg whites and whole eggs.

I ate the frittata with leftover sauteed cabbage, sweet pepper and tomato.

Fish antibiotics

The use of antibiotics to raise farmed fish is another concern, and Whole Foods Market is one of the few retailers that address it.

Fresh farmed salmon from Canada is on sale for $10.99 a pound at the Paramus store until April 23, and the flier notes:

"Raised according to our strict standards for aquaculture with no antibiotics or added hormones."

Another way to avoid bread

My wife came home with a package of bulgur or cracked wheat, and it couldn't be simpler to prepare. 

Most "recipes" call for you to add hot water to the bulgur, allow it to absorb the liquid and pour off any excess. 

My wife boiled 2 cups of nutty bulgur in 3 cups of water until all of it was absorbed.

Bulgur wheat, right, is another side dish with protein and dietary fiber that helps you avoid bread and lose weight. Here it is served with ackee and salted cod fish.

Before heating up leftover bulgur, I sprinkled on Hemp Hearts from Costco Wholesale, then ate them for breakfast with two organic brown eggs, also from Costco.

Dressing up, dressing down

Last week, I found two more Kirkland Signature all-cotton, spread-collar dress shirts at Costco in Hackensack at $17.99, a price that can't be beat.

But I'll bet Costco could slice a dollar off, if some of the packing material -- paper, cardboard, plastic, string, fabric and pins -- was eliminated.

Because of all the time it takes to "unpack" the shirt, I do it the day before I plan to wear it. 

The card on the right unfolds to reveal two spare collar stays, but the string is wound so tight around a button that it has to be cut with a scissor.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Argentinian grill restaurant is a welcome sign of renewal in Hackensack

Choripan Rodizio, a new restaurant on Main Street in Hackensack, is a temple of grilled meat, but non-meat eaters will find great salads and a limited seafood selection.
Steaks and other grilled items are available a la carte or as all you can eat -- $30 for adults and $20 for children under 12 after 3:30 p.m., with two side dishes.
The brick walls remind me of Habana Casual Cafe, a great Cuban restaurant on the next block, and both restaurants are BYOs.
Thanks to a huge number of Argentines with Italian ancestry, Choripan Rodizio also serves pasta, pizza and other traditional Argentine-Italian dishes.


Nearly all of our favorite restaurants are Asian -- Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese -- but we were looking for a change of pace on  Saturday.

We decided to drive downtown to Choripan Rodizio, a new Argentinian grill restaurant that opened about 11 weeks ago, making its block one of the nicest on Main Street.

The owner is Pablo Spadavecchia, a native of Argentina who said that he and his business partner wanted to open their first restaurant in Hoboken, but decided "to take a chance on Hackensack."

The restaurant's name is a combination of chorizo and pan -- choripan is an Argentinian-style sausage sandwich, and it's served here on Italian bread with french fries or a salad ($9 t0 $10.50).

Steak, pork, sausage and other meats are grilled over wood charcoal.

Three of us began our meal with complimentary bruschetta, then shared two large, wonderful salads, Beets, String Beans and Boiled Egg ($8.25) and Fresh Spinach, Pears, Walnuts and Blue Cheese ($8.50).

You can hear the crunch of the bruschetta.

Fresh beets and string beans go into this beautiful salad.

We loved the big leaves of fresh spinach and a light touch with the balsamic dressing.

My entree was breaded Fillet of Sole Oreganata with sauteed vegetables and mashed potatoes or french fries ($18.75), but I asked the waiter if I could get sauteed spinach instead of the potatoes, and the fish was served on top of the spinach. Nice.

My wife had Linguini and Shrimp in Vodka Sauce ($16) -- a delicious dish with firm pasta. And my mother-in-law ordered the Grilled Sirloin Strip Steak with a side of mashed potatoes ($19).

The vegetables with my sole appeared to have been sauteed with butter, which I try to avoid. That should be noted on the menu.

Plump shrimp and a homemade vodka sauce pleased my fussy wife.

The sirloin strip steak came medium-well, as ordered, with a small bowl of garlic-and-parsley chimichurri sauce.

My mother-in-law loved the carrots in the mashed potatoes, and that inspired me to mash skin-on sweet potatoes and carrots with extra-virgin olive oil for dinner at home on Sunday night.

None of us were able to finish our entrees, and we took home the leftovers.

That night, my ravenous teenage son raided the fridge, ate the steak and linguine, then ordered a delivery of takeout Chinese food.

Early dinner

We had arrived around 5 p.m. on Saturday, and got a table easily, but the restaurant soon filled up with families and friends who had made reservations.

Adults soon uncorked their bottles of red wine, and the place resounded with lively music and the hubub of families enjoying good food around the dinner table.

Three TVs on the wall showed Argentinian soccer, but the sound was turned off.

We had a few minor complaints. Even before the place filled up, we had to wait for our salads and I had to ask to get my water glass refilled.

Our table for 4 was too small to handle the two big salad platters and our plates, so we decided to give back a basket of bread.

A server brought the steak, but not the other entrees, and my mother-in-law's side dish of mashed potatoes didn't follow until 5 minutes later.  

We also had to wait for the bill.  

And although Choripan has a large menu, a couple of items are missing: whole chicken and whole fish roasted over wood.

Choripan is a welcome addition in an area that offers a variety of ethnic food.

The restaurant, at Bridge Street, is diagonally across from Pollos Mario. Greek Island Grill and Super Rico, a Colombian fast-food cafe, are across Main Street.

Next door, M&P Biancamano's of Hoboken, a deli famed for its fresh mozzarella, has finally opened. 

Choripan Rodizio, 72 Main St., Hackensack; 201-880-4832. Closed Mondays, BYO; metered street parking until 6 p.m., except Sundays.

Web site: Charcoal-grilled meat isn't the only draw