Monday, December 23, 2013

At H Mart, the sea bass doesn't pass the smell test

H Mart, the Korean supermarket on Lafayette Avenue in Englewood, boasts that it gets fresh seafood from the Fulton Fish Market, but doesn't say how often that is. Whole Foods Market in Paramus says it gets seafood deliveries six days a week.

Editor's note: Holiday food shopping is hit or miss, and you have to fight all that traffic and other shoppers who seem to be gathering ingredients for their last meal. Today, I discuss shopping at H Mart, ShopRite, Costco Wholesale and other stores.


I've purchased and enjoyed literally hundreds of whole fresh fish from H Marts in Bergen County in the past dozen years -- whiting, mackerel, sea bass and more.

But three plump sea bass I bought at the Englewood H Mart on Sunday for $4.99 a pound didn't pass the smell test.

Knowing I had a couple of other stops to make on the way home, I asked the man at the fish counter to give me a bag of ice to keep the wild-caught fish cool after he cleaned them.

I picked up two crispy baguettes at Balthazar Bakery on South Dean Street in Englewood that were still warm from the oven ($2 each).

Then, I continued down South Dean, stopping at Jerry's Gourmet & More for a 2.2-pound bag of coffee beans from Torrisi in Italy ($18.99).

The Italian specialty store hasn't had any Lavazza coffee beans for many weeks.

When I got home, I could smell the fish through the closed plastic bag -- not a good sign.

Wild-caught shrimp from Mexico at H Mart in Englewood.

I asked my mother-in-law to look at the fish, and she indicated they seemed to be OK. But when she started to cook them, she didn't like how they fell apart, so she asked me to return them.

The man at the H Mart fish counter apologized, and I got a full refund.

I didn't ask the H Mart employee when the sea bass had come in, but selected that fish because it is one of our favorites.

At home, as my mother-in-law was washing and cleaning parts of the fish the fishmonger had missed, I noticed the eyes weren't as clear as they should be.

After I got my refund of $22.85, I bought wild-caught shrimp from Mexico for $14.49 a pound (under 12 per pound).

Jinga-brand Fish Cake Roll (a seaweed-and-rice roll known as kimbap) was $2.49 or half price after 4 p.m.

I slice Balthazar baguettes and store them in the freezer, toasting them when I want to use them for sandwiches -- from canned fish salad with Dijon mustard, lime juice and cumin to peanut butter and jelly.

At the Rochelle Park ShopRite, a 40-ounce bottle of Victoria Marinara Sauce was $7.99, compared to $8.49 for two 40-ounce bottles of the same pasta sauce at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack. Last month, an instant Costco coupon brought that down to $6.14 for two bottles, and I bought four.

ShopRite v. Costco

At the Hackensack ShopRite on Sunday, I picked up three 25.4-ounce bottles of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider on sale for $1.99 each, a savings of $1.50 a bottle, less than the same apple cider at the nearby Costco Wholesale.

Liter bottles of Adirondack Original Seltzer were two for $1.

Trimmed French green beans from Costco Wholesale can be prepared quickly by blanching in boiling water for about 5 minutes, draining the pan and adding extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lime juice, salt and other seasoning.

Costco's Atlantic cod

Fresh cod fillets showed up at my Costco Wholesale today after an absence of many months.

But this fish is from the Atlantic Ocean, not the Pacific, and comes all the way from Iceland, where it is long-line caught by a fishery certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

The wild-caught fish is from a company called North Coast Seafoods, and the price is an easy to swallow $7.99 a pound.

Atlantic cod is the fish that literally fed the world for hundreds of years before over-fishing prompted regulators to declare a moratorium on large commercial catches.

Other Costco purchases included three 32-ounce bottles of Kirkland Signature Marinara Sauce, made with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh garlic and basil, for $7.99 or about $2.66 a bottle.

A wedge of aged Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy was $10. 69 a pound, the lowest price in North Jersey.

Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano with Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, both from Costco. The delicious, triple-washed salad is $4.99 for a 1-pound package.

At the Seafood Road Show, I saw frozen wild-caught octopus from the Philippines for $3.49 a pound, and enormous frozen Black Tiger shrimp, which are farm raised in Vietnam, for $19.99 a pound. 

I also got a $5.49 refund for a large bag of hard pears that never ripened, even though we ate all but two of them.

Fairway goat meat

Before Fairway Market opened a Paramus store, we would stop at the Harlem outpost on the way back from dining out or seeing a show in Manhattan.

We liked the goat meat on the bone, and purchased it regularly.

But when it opened, the Paramus store never carried goat meat, even though North Jersey is as diverse as Manhattan. 

I was told several years ago I could call the Paramus store and ask the butcher to get the goat meat from Manhattan, but twice today, the phone rang and rang, and no one in that department ever picked up.

Whole Foods Market in Paramus occasionally has frozen organic goat meat, but this afternoon, I could not find a space in the lot, turned around and went home.

COMFORTING BREAKFAST: Eating the broken yolks of organic eggs prepared sunny side up with mashed sweet potatoes, which were plated and reheated in the microwave.

Canned fish salad -- yellowfin tuna, pink salmon and sardines -- dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice and ground cumin, and served with stewed tofu, tomatoes and cucumbers sprinkled with za'atar thyme mixture.


  1. I went to ask where they get their fish and they would not even tell me from whom they get it from!

    1. H Mart has advertised they get their fish from the Fulton Fish Market in New York City. I haven't had a problem with their fish or lobsters since I wrote this in 2013.


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