Saturday, September 28, 2013

Starbucks at Target, Jerry's 300-pound cheese and more

An employee of Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood said this provolone cheese from Italy weighs about 300 pounds, above, and came stamped with the store's logo, below.


A licensed Starbucks Coffee opened last Monday at the Target in Hackensack.

The Starbucks at 630 Main St. is the second in Hackensack, joining a company owned store on Essex Street.

We stopped by the Target Starbucks on the first day, and the two employees were  having a rough day.

They couldn't make any espresso drinks, saying the machine needed to be cleaned first.

I ordered a Venti Zen Green Tea, and initially got one sachet of leaves, not the two that are supposed to be used ($2.45).

The Starbucks shares a space with a Pizza Hut concession, and there is seating for about 20 customers.

One big difference is that customers can use their Target credit cards and get 5% off all purchases at Starbucks, including food and whole-bean coffee.


Check out the enormous provolone cheese on display at Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood.

An employee estimated the weight at 300 pounds. That's a lot of cheese for sandwiches and antipasto.

The cheese, imported from Italy, and smaller provolone hanging from the ceiling are stamped with Jerry's logo in red.

Jerry's, at 410 S. Dean St., offers free samples of cheese, cold cuts, bread, olive oil and other food.

Don't miss Jerry's Meals To Go, complete restaurant-quality dinners for $7.99 or $5.99 after 4 p.m.

I picked up Cajun Pork Loin in Pink Sauce. Packaged with it were cavatelli with peas, fava beans and pancetta; roasted potatoes and dumplings. 


Cans of Bear & Wolf Pink Salmon finally reappeared at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack (six 6-ounce cans were $12.99).

I used the skinless and boneless salmon and Genova Solid Light Tuna, also from Costco, to make a salad with diced celery, onion and green pepper, dressing everything in Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice and ground cumin.

I made a sandwich for my wife on toasted Balthazar Bakery baguette with spring mix, sliced tomato, reduced-fat sliced Swiss cheese and Sriracha chili sauce.

I also got a full refund for a partial bag of Della-brand Organic Long Grain Brown Rice from Arkansas I bought at Costco. We found boll weevils in the rice.

And I received the 12 pounds of California-grown Lundberg Organic Long Grain Brown Rice I ordered from  (about $2 a pound).


At Fattal's, 975-77 Main St. in Paterson, I bought 15 cans of Al-Shark Moroccan Sardines in Tomato Sauce (99 cents each), which has far less sodium than the same sardines in oil.

One gallon of Merve Ayran Yogurt Drink with live cultures was $8.99, and 13-ounce cans of Libano Verde Hummos Tahina from Lebanon were 99 cents each.

A 28-ounce jar of Salloum Bros. Fig Marmalade with anise and sugar was $5.99.

A few spoonfuls of marmalade with cheese and cinnamon-dusted roasted almonds is a delicious way to end a good meal.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So Gong Dong in Pal Park: Now there are three

Soft-tofu stew at So Gong Dong in Palisades Park.

By Victor E. Sasson

We had another belly busting dinner at So Gong Dong, the standout soft-tofu house in Palisades Park, home to dozens of Korean restaurants.

On Saturday night, three of us had soft-tofu stew, steamed rice, four side dishes and a fresh egg ($9.99 each, including tax), and I ordered steamed dumplings for the meat eaters ($8.99).

I just managed to finish my Oyster Soft Tofu, which was hot enough to soft boil two small eggs that I ate over the rice. Delicious and comforting.

A seafood pancake.

I noticed a change on the place-mat menu: Three So Gong Dongs are listed now:

  • 118 Broad Ave., Second Floor, Palisades Park; 1-201-313-5550.
  • 6 St. Marks Place (between 2nd and 3rd avenues), Manhattan;  1-212-533-5363.
  • 411 N. Central Ave., Hartsdale, N.Y. (Westchester County); 1-914-397-1790.

Fiery raw squid and raw garlic is one of the free side dishes that come with every soft-tofu stew. The others are cabbage and cucumber kimchis and bean sprouts, and servers will gladly bring you a second set.

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Sweet-potato frittata, fresh wild coho salmon fillet with lime and pesto

Slices of boiled organic sweet potato and a fresh tomato, as well as chunks of Pecorino Romano sheep's milk cheese, set this 10-inch frittata apart.


A thick potato omelet from Spain -- tortilla espanola  -- was my inspiration for adding sliced sweet potatoes to my weekend frittata. 

First, I boiled the organic sweet-potato slices to soften them.

I used a mixture of four whole organic eggs, 8 ounces of liquid egg whites, a little low-fat milk and grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and poured all of it into a hot, non-stick, 10-inch pan with olive oil.

As the crust set over a medium-high flame, I layered sweet-potato and fresh tomato slices into the egg mixture, and added small chunks of Pecorino Romano.

I finished the frittata under the broiler, took it out of the oven and added Aleppo pepper and Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto.

The sweet potatoes were from Trader Joe's, and most of the other ingredients came from Costco Wholesale.

Wild-caught coho salmon fillet accented with Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, both from Costco Wholesale.

Easy wild salmon

My wife brought home a 2-pound fillet of wild Alaskan coho salmon from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack  ($10.99 a pound).

I cut the skin-on fillet into six pieces, put them on parchment paper in a large pan, squeezed on fresh lime juice and added a couple of pinches of Aleppo pepper.

You can also use paprika or another mildy spicy red pepper or even red-pepper flakes in moderation.

The fish went into a preheated, 375-degree oven.

I removed one of the pieces after 8 minutes (rare) and the rest after 12-13 minutes (cooked through).

I spooned on Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto after I took the salmon out of the oven.

I served the salmon with Lundberg Wild Blend Rice prepared in an electric cooker, and finished the meal with a salad.

Simple and delicious.

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Boll weevils in rice, brown mangoes, moldy peaches

Lundberg Organic Brown Long Grain Rice is grown in California, but Della Organic from Costco Wholesale comes from Arkansas. Consumer Reports says some rice growers in the South use old cotton fields, where arsenic was applied to kill boll weevils, leaving traces of the poison in the rice crop.


We're having a run of bad luck with spoiled food -- from boll weevils in organic brown rice to fruit not ripening or sprouting mold.

Most troublesome are the tiny beetles my wife found when she was preparing Della-brand Organic Long Grain Brown Rice from Costco Wholesale.

When she added chicken broth to the brown rice in an electric cooker, she saw live boll weevils floating to the top.

Old cotton fields?

I recall that when Della brown rice first appeared at my Hackensack Costco, I tried unsuccessfully to reach a company official to find out if it came from old cotton fields in Arkansas.

I stopped buying white rice grown in the South many years ago after Consumer Reports told readers about tests that found traces of arsenic from use of the poison to control boll weevils in cotton fields.

H Mart, the Korean supermarket chain, sells several brands of California-grown white rice, including the deeply discounted Kokuho Yellow Label.

Rice from Amazon

This year, I ordered California-grown Lundberg brown rice from when the Della brand disappeared from the shelves at Costco in Hackensack.

Then, when the Lundberg product finished, I bought another 12-pound bag of Della brown rice, and that's the one with the boll weevils.

This morning, I again ordered Lundberg Organic Brown Long Grain Rice from, even though it is more expensive (about $24 for six 2-pound bags).

Spoiling fruit

Last Sunday, I bought a box of eight jumbo mangoes from Brazil at H Mart in Little Ferry for $9.99.

When my wife cut open two of them, they were brown inside, and I plan to return the spoiled fruit for a full refund today.

A second batch of Jersey peaches from the Paramus ShopRite took days to ripen on the kitchen counter -- like the first -- and were mealy or not that sweet.

One got moldy and had to be thrown away.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

A late-summer bounty of tomatoes and black figs

Black figs and tomatoes from our garden with Costco Wholesale's Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix and imported, aged Pecorino Romano sheep's milk cheese.

By Victor E. Sasson

We've managed to rescue a fair number of tomatoes and black figs from the critters that inhabit our garden.

We're having better luck with them than with the peaches from a tree that is very popular with squirrels, and they don't even wait until the fruit grows.

The tomatoes are great in salads and frittatas or paired with a good cheese and dressed simply in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

We cut back the black fig tree every fall, but it comes back stronger every year.

Birds get to many -- but not all -- of the figs before we do.

Sweet and savory.

Transforming the daily salad with organic baby spinach.

I love figs in any form -- dried from Costco Wholesale, in Spanish fig cakes with nuts from Fairway Market and Whole Foods Market, both in Paramus; and in a fig preserve with anise from Fattal's Bakery in Paterson.

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Would you pay $40 for one ostrich egg?

At Whole Foods Market in Paramus on Thursday, shoppers were offered samples of scrambled ostrich egg.

By Victor E. Sasson

I do a lot of gawking when I'm in Whole Foods Market in Paramus -- and not just at the prices.

On Thursday, I saw a California-raised ostrich egg for sale in the produce department.

I wouldn't pay $39.99 for such a huge egg. Would you?

I loved the big-yolk duck eggs sold at Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff, but stopped buying them when the price shot up to about $2 an egg. 

At Whole Foods, a cook offered samples of scrambled ostrich egg. He said the yolk was bigger than his fist.

Guess what? It tasted like a chicken egg.

It's a fish-eat-fish world.

At the fish counter, I gawked at the heads of a grouper and a monkfish displayed on a bed of ice.

The monkfish (at right in the photo) came from Barnegat Light, one of New Jersey's premier fishing ports.

Fresh, wild-caught coho salmon fillet was $16.99, compared to the $10.99 a pound my wife paid on Wednesday at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

I bought frozen, antibiotic-free chicken backs and necks for $1.29 a pound and frozen, organic chicken feet for $3.99 a pound (all for soup).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A seafood lover's lunch at Hiura in Fort Lee

At Hiura, a family owned Japanese restaurant in Fort Lee, I was served a welcoming cup of hot green tea after I sat down to wait for a friend, who arrived a few minutes late for lunch. The restaurant has 26 seats at tables and a sushi bar.

By Victor E. Sasson

I've become a big fan of the bento-box lunches at Hiura, a small Japanese restaurant in Fort Lee.

And the lunch I always seem to order is the Hiura Box ($16), which is beautifully composed and served with soup, rice, a tempura dipping sauce and unlimited hot green tea.

The lunch has both raw and cooked fish contributed by Sushi Chef Noboru Hiura and son Shoji Hiura, respectively. Chef Shoji works out of sight in the small kitchen.


The Hiura Box is perfect for seafood lovers: Grilled mackerel or salmon (mackerel shown), pristine slices of raw fish and shrimp tempura. It comes with bowls of miso soup and steamed white rice, and a dipping sauce for the tempura.

In addition to grilled, skin-on  mackerel and four slices of melt-the mouth sashimi, accented by a small sesame leaf, the Hiura Box includes beautifully fried tempura of shrimp and vegetables.
A friend who met me for lunch on Tuesday also ordered the Hiura Box, but he paid a $2 supplement for Cilean sea bass, which he loved.

Shoji Hiura says he marinates the sea bass or black cod in a sweet miso paste before grilling.

Hiura, 400B Main St., near Anderson Avenue, Fort Lee; 201-346-0110. BYO, closed Wednesdays. Reservations are recommended.

Lunch is served Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. Dinner is served from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (except Wednesdays), and to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Trader Joe's in Paramus isn't as all-American as it seems

My basket on a recent trip to Trader Joe's in Paramus (404 Route 17 north).

A mural and a message at another Trader Joe's.

Editor's note: Today's post discusses the ownership of the Trader Joe's chain, missing favorites at Costco Wholesale and other food-shopping tales.


I first shopped at a Trader Joe's more than 20 years ago during a visit to friends in California, where the chain started.

The first New Jersey Trader Joe's opened in Westfield, where wine and beer are sold; followed by stores in Westwood, Paramus, Edgewater and Clifton, and I've visited all of them in recent years.

In Paramus, the colorful interior has signs with local street names, and flowers, produce and dairy are sold under the borough name, as in "Paramus Island Flowers."

Employees and supervisors wear Hawaiian shirts.

But Trader Joe's is no longer American owned.

The Trader Joe's chain is "owned by members of the Albrecht family, the German family that founded Aldi," a so-called discount supermarket chain that has 28 stores in New Jersey, according to a story in my local daily newspaper.

Trader Joe's produce is sold under a "Paramus Produce" sign, above, and dairy products appear under a "Paramus Dairy" sign, below. Are any of the items actually local?


In a story last week, The Record of Woodland Park reported Aldi and Trader Joe's "are operated as completely separate entities."

I like Trader Joe's for its many organic and naturally raised products -- from 100% whole-wheat pasta to uncured, preservative-free hot dogs and bacon -- that you can't find at other stores.

And its prices are hard to beat. But some of the good cheer evident in its stores can be superficial. 

For one thing, Trader Joe's doesn't credit customers for bringing reusable bags.

Moldy figs

On Monday, I drove to the Paramus store to return a package of fresh California Black Figs that began sprouting mold only two days after I brought them home.

I went to what looks like a customer service counter, but was told I couldn't return the figs there.

I waited on line behind other customers with full shopping baskets before the cashier, seeing me with one item in my hand (the package of spoiled figs),  waved me to an express line.

But there was a line there, too, so I returned to the original cashier, who didn't ask me why I was returning the figs.

He just rang a small bell to summon a supervisor, who also couldn't care less why I was there.

I suggested that they give me a $10 store credit to compensate me for having to drive to the store just to return the figs, which cost $4.99, but they ignored me.

The cashier asked me if I had a penny, and handed me a $5 bill.

I passed up 5-pound jars of peeled garlic from China at the H Mart in Little Ferry, because of that country's poor food-safety record. Costco Wholesale also sells peeled garlic, but it must be refrigerated. The 3-pound bags of garlic from the Christopher Ranch in California cost $4.99 at the Hackensack warehouse store.

Costco lost and found

On Monday, I walked into the cold room at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, and searched in vain for Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix.

The store had run out, an employee said. That was a first.

But in my last few visits, I couldn't find any Kirkland Signature Marinara or canned pink salmon, either.

That reminded me of the few weeks this year when Kirkland Signature Organic Strawberry Spread or Della-brand Organic Brown Rice were nowhere to be found.

In the cheese case, I couldn't find Kirkland Signature shredded Parmigiano Reggiano.

These wonderful, hand-made egg noodles from Italy showed up again at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack after an absence of many months.
Some of the seafood sold at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is labeled "previously frozen." We like the once-frozen crab legs and farmed shrimp, but not the large Dungeness crabs, right.

Three great cheeses

I did find three reduced-fat cheeses -- Jarslberg Lite Deli-Thin Sliced Swiss (2 pounds for $8.59); a wedge of imported Parmigiano Reggiano ($10.69 a pound, aged 24 months), and a wedge of imported, sheep's milk Pecorino Romano ($6.79 a pound, aged 9 months).

I also was delighted to find Filotea-brand Tagliatelle, an artisanal egg noodle from Italy that is ready in 4 minutes and is wonderful tossed with Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto.

These handmade noodles have a 2-year shelf life (without refrigeration). Three 8.8-ounce portions are $7.49.

Instead of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, I picked up 1 pound of Organic Baby Spinach for $4.49.

Three-pound bags of raw, salt-free almonds were $12.99 each, perfect for roasting at home and dusting with plenty of sweet-hot Ground Saigon Cinnamon from Costco.

H Mart shopping

At the Little Ferry H Mart on Sunday, I picked up Gala apples for 99 cents a pound, and a 28-ounce squeeze bottle of Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce for $2.99, a savings of $1.

A 17.98-ounce squeeze bottle of Hot Pepper Paste (gochujang) isn't the cheapest at $4.69, but it is the only brand made with sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup.

I also bought 3 bundles of large sesame leaves ($1.99) for wrapping Korean barbecue or sliced smoke salmon.

Lives lobsters were on sale for $4.79 a pound. See:

Organic chicken

At the Paramus ShopRite on Monday, Coleman Organic Drumsticks were on sale for $1.99 a pound, only a dime more per pound than antibiotic-free Readington Farms chicken legs.

Jersey peaches were $1.29 a pound or $1.09 a pound for 5 pounds or more.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Cheap lobster yields a rich dish of pasta

I bought two lobsters that were on sale at H Mart in Little Ferry and tossed the cooked meat with whole-wheat pappardelle and refrigerated pesto sauce, above.

By Victor E. Sasson

The seed was planted by a pasta recipe I saw in the food section of The New York Times last week that urged readers to take advantage of a lobster glut and lower prices.

This summer, I bought live lobsters on sale at ShopRite for $5.99 or $6.99 a pound.

But when I stopped at H Mart in Little Ferry on Sunday, I saw a dozen live lobsters squirming on a bed of ice for only $4.79 a pound.

I asked one of fish-counter employees to give me two lobsters from a tank of water, and they weighed a total of 2.75 pounds.

The Times recipe called for ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, garlic and shallots, but I wanted to prepare my lobster pasta with what I had on hand.

I used Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, a refrigerated sauce from Costco Wholesale.

I had 8 ounces of 100% whole wheat Garofalo Pappardelle -- wide, thick, mouth-filling ribbons of pasta -- and a recently opened bottle of Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale.

The refrigerated pesto is a luxurious sauce with extra-virgin olive oil and imported basil, a perfect match for the buttery lobster meat.

I boiled the lobsters in a large, covered pan for about 10 minutes, then extracted the meat from the claws and tails, and cut it into bite-size morsels.

Cooking time for the imported Garofalo pasta -- 8 minutes -- is unreliable, so I cooked it for another 2 minutes, but 3 more minutes would have been better.

The finished dish was terrific, nevertheless.

My wife likes to eat food when it's piping hot, so she heated her portion in the microwave for about 1 minute.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Great seafood and going organic to avoid GMOs

Two organic brown eggs served over organic quinoa prepared in an electric cooker with organic diced tomatoes and organic chicken stock, all from Costco Wholesale. In the absence of a labeling law in the United States, going organic is the only sure way to avoid genetically modified foods and the safety issues they raise.

Wild-caught Pacific halibut is the most expensive fresh fish sold at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, but it's a breeze to prepare and the taste is worth every penny.

By Victor E. Sasson

I've seen fresh, wild-caught halibut in the cold case at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack for at least a couple of years, but the price has always stopped me -- until last week.

At $16.99 a pound, the fillets are only $2 or $3 more a pound than the Copper River sockeye salmon that I enjoyed this year.

When I got it home, I didn't have to do much more than slice the 1.16-pound skinless fillet into four serving pieces, place them on parchment paper in a large pan, squeeze lime juice over them and add a few pinches of Aleppo pepper.

Then, I put them in a 375-degree oven for about 10 minutes, took out the pan and spooned refrigerated Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto on each fillet.

My snowy fillet flaked beautifully and tasted wonderful. I served the fish with boiled sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive oil and seasoning.

A halibut snack reheated in the microwave for 1 minute.

Here is more about halibut from the Environmental Defense Fund:

"Halibut are flatfish (like flounders and soles) and can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh 800 pounds. They have both eyes on the same side of their head, which enables them to better see predators and prey as they lay camouflaged on the sea bottom."

EDF gives its "Best-eco" rating to Pacific halibut (sold at Costco), notes it contains a "moderate" amount of mercury and advises adults to limit their consumption to about 4 times a month.

A takeout dinner of calamari stuffed with shrimp and crab meat; spaghetti with red-clam sauce and whole shrimp; crab cake, broccoli and beets was only $5.99 after 4 p.m. at Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood.

A serving of jumbo shrimp with vegetables; dry sauteed string beans and brown rice delivered by Zen Kitchen, 1443 Teaneck Road, Teaneck.

Avoiding GMOs

The European Union has a law calling for labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but the United States doesn't.

Going organic is the only sure way to avoid GMOs, but in the United States there are some organic and non-organic foods that carry a label from the NON GMO Project.

The NON GMO Project Verified label appears on Tru Roots Organic Quinoa, right, and  non-organic Lundberg Wild Blend Rice.

Click on the following link:

The European Union's Web site is: GMO Compass

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lox around the clock with Costco Wholesale's smoked wild salmon

The selection of cheeses at Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood, above, is among the largest in North Jersey, but no other store matches Jerry's unlimited free samples.
Jerry's Meals To Go are restaurant-quality takeout, such as this dinner of grilled shrimp, pasta salad with chicken, fava-bean salad and broccoli, above. They are reduced to $5.99 after 4 p.m.

Editor's note: Today's buffet includes versatile Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale, Jerry's Gourmet in Englewood and more.


This is probably the last month for fresh, wild-caught salmon at Costco Wholesale, but you can continue to lox around the clock with smoked and sliced sockeye.

Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon, available year-round, is appropriate at any meal, and you don't need a bagel with a schmear to enjoy it.

I add the fatty, heart-healthy fish to dinner salads and frittatas or for a snack, simply roll it up with a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese and organic spring mix, two other items you can find at Costco.

Costco's smoked wild salmon is terrific snack food. Here, I rolled it up in Romaine lettuce with reduced-fat cheese, Dijon mustard and herbs from the garden.

No bread or pizza

Before I went on a no-bread, no-pizza diet, I loved to layer the smoked salmon in sandwiches with cheese, greens and pesto.

One pound of the smoked wild salmon comes in two half-pound pouches for $15.59, reflecting a 20-cents price increase this year.

This is less than what you'd pay for smoked farmed salmon, which is artificially colored.

Smoked wild sockeye salmon added to a takeout dinner salad.

You won't find the deep red-orange color of smoked wild salmon in farmed counterparts.

Jerry's dinners

I picked up Grilled Shrimp, Chicken Milanese and Stuffed Squid takeout dinners at Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood after 4 p.m., when they are marked down to $5.99 each.

My first stop on Wednesday was Balthazar Bakery, 214 S. Dean St. in Englewood, for a pair of its wonderful baguettes ($2 each).

The baguettes are made with unbleached wheat flour, water, rye flour, sea salt, yeast and barley malt, and weigh 8 ounces.

Parking challenge

Leaving Balthazar's small parking lot is still dangerous, even with a round, convex mirror attached to a utility pole at the exit.

Vehicles, including buses and tractor-trailers, are larger and much closer than they appear in the mirror.

And cars parked at the curb in front of the building block the view of drivers who are trying to exit the lot safely.

Unfortunately, there is little street parking available.

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