Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Costco return policy is only as good as employees

The return policy is listed on a sign at the front counter of my Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

By Victor E. Sasson

The return policy on merchandise purchased at Costco Wholesale is one of the best in the retail world:

"We guarantee your satisfaction on every product we sell, with a full refund."

But on July 22, at the front counter of my Hackensack warehouse store, I ran into an employee who basically asked me to jump through hoops to return a carton of Tropicana orange juice I bought a week earlier.

No safety seal

I had twisted off the cap of the half-gallon carton, only to find the inner seal missing.

That was strange, considering the inner seals were intact on the 3 other half-gallons in the special Costco pack.

I took the full carton back to the store, along with a bag of Forelle Pears that hadn't ripened on my kitchen counter in the 2 weeks since I bought them.

I got an immediate $7.49 credit on my American Express card for the pears, but the male employee said he couldn't give me credit for a single carton of OJ.

However, he said, if I bought another 4-carton pack of Tropicana ($11.79), he'd take one out and credit me. Go figure.

I didn't need more orange juice, but I did need another pair of fully lined men's shorts, deodorant and Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix.

I left the OJ at the return counter, went home with my purchases and e-mailed about my experience.

A couple of days later, I got a call from the Hackensack store general manager, a woman named Joey, who apologized and said I should come in and she would give me a 4-pack of Tropicana for free.

I did return on Monday, but still didn't need orange juice.

When I checked out with $64.21 in other food -- including fruit, pesto, quinoa and sliced cheese -- I knocked on the office door and asked for the general manager.

She came out and looked over what I had bought, but again said when I buy a 4-pack of OJ, she'll give it to me for free.

This seems too inflexible. Why can't I just get a $10 credit, and finish with this nonsense? 

I returned on Tuesday for fresh wild sockeye salmon, frozen hake fillets and more Organic Spring Mix, but no OJ.

After I checked out, I didn't bother knocking on the office door. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

'Sorry, We're Closed' -- permanently

On Englewood's Grand Avenue, a few blocks from the main shopping street, a Greek restaurant called Nisi Estiatorio held forth for many years as one of the best in the small city, offering fresh seafood displayed on ice in the dining room.The property was sold.

Namaskaar, an Asian Indian restaurant on Grand Avenue in Englewood, has been replaced by Basil. The space, on the ground floor of an apartment building, once was an antique shop.

Free parking on Englewood's Palisade Avenue was available during a three-day sidewalk sale.

Also on Palisade Avenue, Levant Grille has gone out of business, said a waiter next door at It's Greek To Me. Restaurateur Charles Hamade says he wants to open another U Pie Company here.

This Palisade Avenue dump once housed Hamade's Wild Ginger/Wild Nigiri, Mexican restaurant and original U Pie Company.

New restaurants have opened on Palisade Avenue, including Tani, above.

Burgerwood opened next to Solaia, an upscale Italian restaurant, on North Van Brunt Street in Englewood. The name reminds some people of "Peckerwood."

Phoebe's Place on Cedar Lane in Teaneck offered food and live music. It had opened in the same space used by Blast, an art-filled coffeehouse.

On Hackensack's Main Street, Daheen Wang Mandoo, a popular Korean dumpling restaurant in New York City, has given up trying to open a branch where a Korean bakery operated for many years. Neighbors said the city dragged its feet on issuing building permits for the renovation.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A sushi-bar feast at Bel Posto in Hackensack

The Stuffed Squid appetizer, above, from Chef Yoshiharu Suzuki, the sushi master at Bel Posto in Hackensack, below.

Suzuki's credentials include service at three Japanese restaurants in North Jersey: Bushido in Cliffside Park, Wild Ginger/Wild Nigiri in Englewood and Inaho in Ridgewood. All are now closed.

By Victor E. Sasson

With the installation of a sushi bar at Bel Posto, a fine-dining restaurant in Hackensack, a feast of high-quality raw fish is really close to home.

On Saturday night, I drove less than a mile for a  bountiful dinner prepared by Yoshiharu Suzuki, a Japanese chef I first met at Wild Ginger/Wild Nigiri in Englewood more more than 15 years ago.

I was a big fan of Suzuki's artful mix of cooked and raw seafood dishes, including his sumptuous inside-out lobster roll.

At Bel Posto, I started my dinner with a refreshing Seaweed Salad ($6), followed by a whole, tender Stuffed Squid with brown rice ($8).

The mollusk -- moistened with a dark squid sauce -- was wonderful, even though it was prepared in a microwave.

Seaweed Salad.

For my entree, I chose the Sashimi Assortment ($28), a long, rectangular plate filled with raw seafood, rolls and the chef's own sauce and dressing.

The platter was a delight to behold: 

Suzuki fashioned thin slices of white snapper into a flower and watered the petals with a Japanese vinaigrette and olive oil. 

And he shaped and marked the wasabi (horseradish) to resemble a leaf.

Three large, raw scallops -- from Japan -- literally melted in my mouth.

A small bottle of Japanese beer was $6.

The centerpiece of my Sashimi Assortment was a flower of thin-sliced white snapper swimming in a Japanese vinaigrette and olive oil, and white-snapper rolls, above.

Mackerel rolls, left, sliced yellowtail and salmon; and wasabi marked to resembles a leaf.

Melt-in-the-mouth raw scallops from Japan, foreground; a raw shrimp and creamy raw-eel and avocado rolls, center rear.

I drank a small bottle of Japanese beer, and Suzuki treated me to small cup of sake and another of plum wine to end the meal.

I ordered too much food, but finished everything.

It probably wasn't the best night to have dinner at Bel Posto, where the first-floor dining room had been reserved for a wedding reception, complete with defeaning music.

I sat at the sushi bar, and behind me, a D.J. set up, tested his equipment, played loud music and wolfed down a platter of food before the party started.

Sushi World at Bel Posto, 160 Prospect Ave., Hackensack; 201-880-8750.

Japanese Chef Yoshiharu Suzuki serves lunch Tuesdays through Fridays (noon-3 p.m.), Sunday brunch (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays (4 p.m. to 10 p.m.).  


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Black Tiger Shrimp, salty sardines, whole-wheat pasta and more

Farmed Black Tiger Shrimp, above with pasta and below, are imported from Vietnam, sold by Costco Wholesale and labeled "Best Aquaculture Practices Certified."
We shell the deveined shrimp, marinate them in fresh lime juice, a little salt and Organic No-Salt Seasoning, and cook them quickly in olive oil with garlic and sweet pepper, turning them once.

Editor's note: Today, I present an information buffet about Black Tiger Shrimp, sodium in Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines, ShopRite Whole Wheat Pasta, home-grown salad; and visits to the Tick Tock Diner and Trader Joe's, both in Clifton.

By Victor E. Sasson

Farmed-raised Black Tiger Shrimp from Vietnam are one of the most popular seafood items sold at Costco Wholesale, but there is conflicting information on just how safe they are to eat.

If you buy 4 pounds of the previously frozen shrimp, they come in a heavy plastic bag with labels that assure consumers they made "the responsible seafood choice."

The bag also carries the seal of the Best Aquaculture Practices Program, which is an industry group based in St. Louis, and a Web site: 

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch lists Black Tiger Shrimp from Ca Mau Province of Southern Vietnam and other areas of Southeast Asia as a "Best Choice."

But below the chart, this warning appears:

"Most imported farmed shrimp should be avoided due to habitat damage, the risk of pollution and the introduction of non-native species to the surrounding environment."

"An exception is shrimp from farms using fully recirculating ponds in Thailand, which reduce the risk of escapes and disease." 

Costco's Black Tigers

Costco sells deveined Black Tiger Shrimp imported by the Illinois-based Mazzetta Company, which says its SEAMAZZ "shrimp products are farm-raised under the strictest conditions and quick frozen at the peak of freshness."

The SEAMAZZ bag I got from Costco is labeled "Product of Vietnam Farm Raised," "Black Tiger EZ Peel" and "13-15" to the pound. Ingredients listed are "shrimp and salt."

Al Shark-brand Moroccan sardines come in tomato sauce, left, or spicy oil.

Salty sardines

Heart-healthy sardines -- with and without skin and bones -- are great over salads, warmed up and eaten over rice, or chopped up in pasta sauce.

For years, I've been buying Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines for 99 cents a can at Fattal's Bakery and Brothers Produce, both in Paterson.

The mighty little fish come in tomato sauce or lightly smoked in spicy vegetable oil, and I buy both.

This year, I've been draining the sardines in spicy oil and actually rinsing them before I put them in bottled pasta sauce.

That's because I finally looked at the label and saw 1 can contains 603 mg of sodium or 25% of the recommended daily intake.

On Monday, I went to Fattal's to replenish my supply and took a look at the label on Al Shark sardines in tomato sauce.

I was pleasantly surprised to see they contain nearly a third less sodium than the ones in spicy oil: 220 mg or 9% of the daily recommended intake.

I bought 11 cans with tomato sauce, 3 with spicy oil and 1 pound of crushed red Aleppo pepper ($6.99 a pound) for seasoning eggs, fish, hummus and other dishes.

The boxes of 100% Whole Wheat Pasta at ShopRite are not what they seem.

Shrinking pasta

Since I switched from regular pasta to whole wheat a couple of years ago, I really haven't looked at ShopRite's offerings.

In the past, I've only seen "whole grain" pastas that were more expensive than 100% whole wheat and came in boxes of around 13 ounces.

On Monday, I stopped at the Hackensack store and for the first time saw ShopRite 100% Whole Wheat Spaghetti, Thin Spaghetti and other shapes for $1.49 a box -- only 10 cents more than Trader Joe's whole wheat pasta.

But there's a catch: When I looked at the ShopRite boxes, I saw they contain only 12 ounces, and the price isn't being cut during the Summer Can Can Sale.

At Trader Joe's, the whole wheat pasta is organic and comes in a 16-ounce package for only $1.39.

What I did find on sale at ShopRite were 4 BPA-free plastic Ziploc containers for leftovers (9.5-cup capacity) at $1 each after the Can Can Sale discount and a $1 instant coupon on the package.

And I continue to stock up on 1-liter bottles of Adirondack Seltzer at 4 for $2, a better buy than the Adirondack Seltzer 12-pack (cans) that is also on sale.

A salad of green-leaf and red-leaf lettuce from our garden, dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

A cucumber flower like the one we were served this month at Vanhorne Restaurant in Montreal. We're still waiting for the cucumbers.

Herbs and lettuce from our garden.

I stopped at the Tick Tock Diner in Clifton on Monday for soup, but the waitress said Yankee Bean, the soup of the day, was made with beef broth, and that split pea is served only on Thursdays.

Is the Route 3 diner the only one in the state that sells its own T-shirts?

The clock was running about 30 minutes slow.

I eat a lot of seafood, but I'm not familiar with a fish called "sol," which was on the Tick Tock lunch menu on Monday.

If you consistently make the wrong choices at the Tick Tock, you could end up in the cemetery across Allwood Road long before your time.

The clock is ticking

The consolation prize for not being able to find a vegetarian soup at the Tick Tock Diner was a visit to a new-to-me Trader Joe's next door.

I picked up:

A 3-pound bag of organic sweet potatoes for $3.69; 2 28-ounce cans of Trader Joe's Marinara with Extra Virgin Olive Oil at $1.99 each; 2 pounds of Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Pasta (Fusilli and Spaghetti) at $1.39 each; and a bottle of fruit and vegetable wash for $3.99.

Rib-sticking breakfast: Mashed Trader Joe's organic sweet potatoes and Costco Wholesale's purple fingerling potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, upper right, served with a fried organic brown egg (I broke the yoke), stewed tofu and Costco's Tasty Bite Channa Masala, prepared chick peas in Asian Indian spices.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bagels are boring: Just go wild at breakfast

A delicious blend of brown, black and wild rices served with Chana Masala, chickpeas with Asian Indian spices, both available at Costco Wholesale.

Looking into an open 4-pound bag of Lundberg Wild Rice Blend reveals a colorful mixture: Long Grain Brown Rice, Sweet Brown Rice, Wild Rice, Whole Grain Wehani Rice and Whole Grain Black Japonica Rice. It's non-GMO, too, and the re-closable bag uses Velcro.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss two new-to-me items from Costco Wholesale, and my attempt to add body to Kirkland Signature's thin, watery Egg Whites.

By Victor E. Sasson

Once, I was a big fan of those enormous North Jersey bagels, which I bought by the dozen, sliced and stored in the freezer.

Every morning, I'd toast my favorite Pumpernickle-Rye bagel, spread it with pesto and build a multi-layered sandwich with smoked wild salmon, cheese, spring mix and whatever else would fit.

The bagels -- from my favorite shop on Englewood's Palisade Avenue -- were twice the size and about half the price of the mediocre H&H bagel from Manhattan.

No-bread diet

If the bagels were big, I was bigger, and I soon downsized to a sliced health loaf from Zabar's that I found at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Bagels and other forms of bread are no longer part of my diet, but brown rice is, and 100% whole grain Lundberg Wild Blend Rice is the ultimate brown rice and a great bread substitute.

Last week, I prepared 2 cups of the brown, black and wild rice blend in an electric cooker with a 15-ounce can of Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes and chicken broth.

I tried it for dinner first, then for breakfast the next day, and I can't think of a more flavorful rice.

Lundberg Wild Blend Rice reminds me of Korean 7 Grains without the beans and without the need to soak it for hours before you cook it.

Although the rice blend isn't organic, it is certified non-GMO. 

Click on the following link to the Organic Authority Web site for a discussion of GMOs:

 8 reasons GMOs are bad for you

Wild Blend Rice with wild salmon, peaches and tomatoes.

A refrigerated Sweet Potato Salad from Costco Wholesale can be eaten cold or hot.

A four-fish salad: Homemade canned-fish salad (yellowfin tuna, pink salmon and sardines); smoked wild salmon and Menino Brothers Sweet Potato Salad over Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, all from Costco.

Potato salad

A refrigerated Sweet Potato Salad I found at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack last week tastes like a keeper.

The ingredients: Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Crunchy Jicama, Fresh Kale and Red Quinoa in a dressing of Rice Vinegar, Canola Oil, Sugar, Dijon Mustard and spices.

It is produced by Menino Bros. in Massachusetts, and carries a sell-by date.

I tried the salad right out of the fridge with my homemade canned-fish salad for breakfast over Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix.

It also tasted good plated and warmed briefly in a microwave.

Ideally, I'd tone down the taste of rice vinegar and let the sweetness of the diced potatoes come through.

The price is $6.99 for 1 pound 12 ounces.

A 3-Tomato Frittata with Pesto sounded like a good idea, but my attempt to add body and color to Kirkland Signature's thin, watery 100% Egg Whites failed.

A heavy hand

I thought I could add body and color to Kirkland Signature's watery Egg Whites by using another Kirkland Signature item, Organic Tomato Sauce.

So I combined half of a 15-ounce can of the thick sauce with about 8 ounces of Egg Whites, 3 whole brown organic eggs and a few ounces of grated Italian cheese.

I poured the mixture into a preheated 10-inch non-stick pan with oil, and added sun-dried and sliced beefsteak tomatoes, and homemade pesto.

When the mixture set, I moved the pan to the oven and continued cooking it under the broiler for about 10 minutes (low setting).

Right out of the oven, it fell apart: I used much too much tomato sauce. 

A 3-Tomato Frittata with Pesto tasted good, but had no body. Next time, I'll use 1 or 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce in the egg mixture or simply spoon it on top.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Clothes too big? Rush down to Costco Wholesale

This week, Costco Wholesale in Hackensack dropped the price of fresh, wild-caught sockeye salmon fillets by $1 a pound, above and below.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss a store with quality clothing and great food; a sale on live lobsters, and my favorite place for breakfast.

By Victor E. Sasson

When you find a diet that works, you'll lose weight and start running out of clothes that fit, as I did this summer in northern New Jersey.

The heat wave we're enduring had me rifling through a dozen pair of shorts, and only 3 had 38-inch waists.

The rest swam on me -- with 40- and 42-inch waists. 

So on Thursday, I headed for Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, where I found a polo shirt and 3 pairs of shorts for me; a dress shirt for my teenage son; and for dinner, fresh, wild sockeye salmon at a new, lower price.

Wild salmon with ripe peaches and tomatoes, cinnamon and garden herbs.

Herbs and fresh lime juice go well with wild salmon.

My no-bread, no-pizza diet, suggested by a trainer at my old gym, has worked beautifully, and I've shed more than 45 pounds over 3 years and cut my waist size 4 inches.

I eat brown rice, whole-wheat pasta and sweet potatoes as bread substitutes.

Click on the following link to assemble Wild Salmon with Ripe Peaches and Tomatoes:

Rich fish, sweet fruit and cinnamon

Roast wild salmon at 375 degrees for 9 minutes (rare) or 12 minutes (cooked through).

Costco clothing

One of the shorts was a blue plaid, fully lined, for only $14.99. The others were $19.99 each. A bright orange performance polo shirt was also $14.99, and the 100% cotton, spread-collar dress shirt was only $17.99.

The Kirkland Signature clothing is made in Jordan, Vietnam and China.

I also saw beautifully lined slacks made in Italy of light-weight wool for only $49.99.

I already have 2 pairs of the Kirkland Signature dress pants, but plan on buying some for my son. 

A bowl of fresh lobster tails and claws.

Lime juice is all I use to accent the buttery lobster meat.

Lobster feast

Costco Wholesale doesn't sell live lobsters, but ShopRite does and they are $5.99 a pound during the Summer Can Can Sale.

I bought 3 lobsters averaging 1.4 pound each for just under $30 at the Englewood ShopRite on Wednesday.

I boiled them in a large, covered pan for 10 minutes; twisted off the tails, claws and legs, and served them with a wild-brown rice blend I found at Costco.

A bottle of Mexican hot sauce is on every table at the Golden Grill in Teaneck.

Broiled fresh whiting with an egg-white omelet. Hold the toast, and enjoy the Golden Grill's wonderful home fries.

My son's sausage-and-vegetable omelet.

Golden Grill

My 16-year-old son had to fast for a blood test -- a good excuse to have breakfast out at the Golden Grill in Teaneck, the only place I know that serves fresh fish or homemade fish cakes with eggs.

I ordered the whiting broiled, not fried, and asked for an egg-white omelet and no toast ($7).

My son went with a sausage-and-vegetable omelet with home fries and buttered toast ($7.50).

If you're not on a diet, the French bakery on the same side of the street can satisfy any sweet tooth.

Golden Grill Restaurant, 1379 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck; 201-837-1078. Open for breakfast and lunch.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Two real time savers: Cooking ahead and leftovers

A 10-inch frittata with smoked wild salmon and sun-dried tomatoes is enough for several meals, especially when you serve it with such leftovers as brown rice and pasta.

Here, a wedge of the frittata made a filling breakfast with leftover brown rice and garlic-sauteed Black Tiger Shrimp.

For dinner, I enjoyed a wedge of another frittata, with reduced-fat cheese and homemade pesto, above, over leftover whole-wheat fusilli and sardines, below.

For the frittata, I used a mixture of 8 ounces of Kirkland Signature Egg Whites, 4 Organic Brown Eggs, grated Pecorino-Romano Cheese and low-fat organic milk, all available from Costco Wholesale. I added slices of reduced-fat cheese and spoons of pesto once the mixture had set in a 10-inch non-stick pan on the stove, then finished the frittata under a low broiler setting in the oven.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss real time savers in the kitchen, Costco Wholesale's Greek Yogurt, the Summer Can Can Sale at ShopRite and other food-related matters.

By Victor E. Sasson

I buy good ingredients -- including organic eggs, brown rice and pasta -- and I cook them in quantity, ensuring leftovers.

Those leftovers cut down on meal-preparation time, allowing me to plate them and reheat them in a microwave in just 2 or 3 minutes.

I use 2 full cups when I prepare brown rice in an electric cooker, and 1 pound of pasta when I make whole-wheat spirals with sardines.

If I'm making mashed sweet potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, I use 2 pounds or one bag from Trader Joe's.

Then, I can enjoy rice, pasta or sweet potatoes at breakfast or dinner in the next week with a main dish I prepare fresh -- such as wild salmon with ripe peaches and tomato.

My wife and teenage son nag me about many things, but I nag them about only one thing: Eat the leftovers.

My wife bought six fresh, wild-caught sea bass at H Mart in Englewood for $4.99 a pound, and we enjoyed the leftovers over the next couple of days.
When boiling 1 pound of Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli or other pasta, use  only enough water to cover. It isn't necessary to salt the water, because bottled sauce and other ingredients already contain plenty of sodium.

A 24-ounce bottle of vodka sauce, an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce, a drained and rinsed can of anchovies; and four plump Moroccan sardines, from 2 cans, also drained and rinsed, go into the preparation of fusilli with sardines. I chop the sardines with a wooden spatula, and also use a few ounces of extra-virgin olive oil, a little red-pepper flakes and dried Italian herbs.

The selection of vinegars and olive oils at Jerry's Gourmet and More in Englewood, above, and part of the dried pasta section, below.

Garofalo 100% Whole Wheat farfalle, left, and pappardelle, right, are more expensive than the organic whole-wheat pasta available at Trader Joe's, but the latter is available in only three shapes.The farfalle was $1.99 a pound at Jerry's and the mouth-filling papardelle was $2.59. Trader Joe's spaghetti, fusilli and penne are $1.39 a pound.

Imported clementines in July? These 5-pound boxes I saw at H Mart in Little Ferry were from South Africa, not Spain or Morocco.

I bought a 3-pound bag of salt-free, raw almonds at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack on Monday ($12.99), and roasted them at 275 degrees on parchment paper for 1 hour and 20 minutes. After they cooled, I dusted them with Saigon Ground Cinnamon, also from Costco. The warehouse store now offers plastic jars of roasted mixed nuts without sodium.

Also at Costco, a 6-pound box of large California peaches was $8.99, and a 5-pound box of Beefsteak Tomatoes was $6.29. When they are ripe, I'll use them to prepare wild sockeye salmon with cinnamon (suggested by my teenage son), capers and garden herbs. A 1-pound package of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.79, little to pay for the best-tasting, store-bought salad in the world.

On Saturday, 11-ounce dry pints of New Jersey blueberries were 2 for $4 at a D'Agostino in Manhattan, the same price I paid at H Mart in Little Ferry on Sunday ($1.99 a pint) and ShopRite in Paramus on Monday (2 for $4).

Pricey Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is strained -- so it's thicker and more concentrated than other yogurts, and has more protein. 

Is that why it's so expensive? 

Does a 6-ounce cup of Greek yogurt have "more" yogurt and less whey than a 6-ounce cup of ShopRite yogurt, which is about half the price?

At Costco Wholesale on Monday, I picked up 15 6-ounce cups of non-fat Chobani Greek Yogurt with peaches, blueberries or strawberries for $13.69 after an instant coupon of $4.20.

That's about 91 cents each.

Costco also sells its own Kirkland Signature  plain non-fat Greek Yogurt in a 32-ounce size (2 for $6.99) that I use in smoothies with bananas, frozen strawberries and juice, all from Costco.

Four boxes of Ziploc Gallon Freezer Bags at Costco contain 152 bags for a total of $11.99 or less than 8 cents each. They also are BPA-free.

A poster inside a Starbucks at Spring and Crosby streets in the SoHo section of Manhattan.

Three men hunched over their fast-food meals appear to be ignoring the suggestion they "Savor Each Moment" on the idealized photos inside a Burger King near the New Jersey entrance to the Holland Tunnel. I had stopped for coffee.

Summer Can Can Sale

The Can Can Sales aren't what they used to be at ShopRite, the dominant chain in North Jersey and the acknowledged low-price leader.

Manufacturers aren't subsidizing the sale as they did in the past, and that's reflected in higher prices.

The Summer Can Can Sale, which began on Sunday, is offering 12-can packs of Adirondack Seltzer at 2 for $5 or $2.50 each, compared to $1.99 in the past.

But 33.8-ounce bottles of Adirondack Seltzer are 5 for $2, a better buy than packs of 12-ounce cans.

Buying the bottles also addresses my chief complaint about the cans -- 12 ounces really isn't enough for one meal and 2 cans are too much. Half a 33.8-ounce bottle is just right.

I stopped drinking teeth-corroding Coke and Pepsi in the early 1970s, and lost a lot of weight.

My waist size dropped to 34 inches, and I recall buying the last two bathing suits in that size at Bloomingdale's in Manhattan, as two other customers who flanked me at the counter waited in vain.

Poland Seltzer

At the Paramus ShopRite, I saw 33.8-ounce bottles of Polar Seltzer for 80 cents each -- twice the sale price of the Adirondack Seltzer.

I also noticed Polar Quinine Water contains high-fructose corn syrup.

Also at the Summer Can Can Sale, red grapes were 99 cents a pound, a discount of 50 cents a pound.

Pure Instant Tea

But I searched in vain for ShopRite Pure Instant Tea, a black powder I've been using for years to make iced tea, adding water, fresh lime juice and mint from the garden.

A 3-ounce jar makes 30 quarts of unsweetened tea, according to the label on a half-empty bottle I have left from last year.

A ShopRite employee said the item has been discontinued, which I confirmed today in a call to Wakefern Food Corp., an Elizabeth-based, retailer-owned cooperative that supplies many ShopRites.