Sunday, March 30, 2014

Favorites: Sweet potatoes and Simply Vietnamese

Boiled slices of sweet potato are the main ingredient in this frittata, which is made with whole eggs and egg whites, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced cheese and prepared pesto. Most ingredients are from Costco Wholesale.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco is spooned on after the frittata is finished under the broiler, above, and removed from the oven.


With Easter in mind, Costco Wholesale in Hackensack has brought back bags of sweet potatoes, which are great baked, mashed or boiled for use in frittatas.

Late last year, Market Fresh-brand sweet potatoes were available in 10-pound bags, but this month, the bags hold only 6.5 pounds ($5.99).

I usually bake a half-dozen of the smallest, reserving the bigger potatoes for slicing, boiling and using in frittatas; or for boiling with peeled California garlic and mashing with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings.

The sweet potatoes are often bruised and don't hold up well at room temperature.  After a day or two, I refrigerate them.

Costco usually offers them around holidays.

Trident Seafoods The Ultimate Fish Stick from Costco, above, served with leftover whole-wheat pasta shells. Chopped Christopher Ranch peeled garlic, fresh tomatoes, celery, scallions, canned sardines, canned anchovies (drained and rinsed), chicken stock and red wine went into the sauce.
The organic whole wheat shells from Italy are $1.39 a pound at Whole Foods Market in Paramus.

Same sticks, lower price

Trident Seafoods' fish sticks, made with wild Alaskan Pollock, have a new panko breading.

A 4-pound bag was on sale last week at Costco Wholesale for $8.99 after $3 off.

Trident says the sticks are 65% fish, and made from fillets of pollock, a cousin of the cod.

The bag my wife brought home last week contains 60 fish sticks, as did the 4-pound bag we purchased from Costco in 2011, when the price was $12.99.

If you follow the cooking instructions for a conventional oven, the fish sticks come out crunchy on the outside.

House Noodle Soup with Ribs ($12.50) at Simply Vietnamese, a BYO with free street parking in downtown Tenafly.

The restaurant's Summer Rolls with Shrimp are stuffed with shredded vegetables and translucent noodles, and served with a small side salad and a vibrant peanut sauce ($8.50).

Simply Vietnamese

We love Asian restaurant for their abundance of seafood, tofu and vegetables, and one of our favorites is Simply Vietnamese, the only reason to dine out in downtown Tenafly.

We stopped in late Saturday afternoon during a rainstorm, and were told we could sit anywhere.

The meat eaters in the family ordered their favorite bowl of noodle soup -- each one a meal in itself -- and I tried something new, Crispy Tofu in a spicy sauce with a side of brown rice.

We also shared a favorite appetizer, Summer Rolls with Shrimp.

K.T. Tran,  the chef owner, came out of the kitchen to say hello, and we spoke to Peter the waiter about his hybrid car.

Another longtime waiter, Joe, was off.

Crispy Tofu in a highly spicy sauce is the perfect entree for non-meat eaters ($15.95). I asked for brown rice ($2). It's also available with a garlic sauce.

Pho noodle soup is the specialty of Simply Vietnamese, and the anise-flavored broth is available with seafood, beef, pork, chicken or tofu and vegetables. The Beef Combo, above, is $14, and a meal in itself.

Crispy shrimp chips with a spicy dipping sauce are complimentary.

Simply Vietnamese, 1 Highwood Ave., Tenafly; 201-568-7770. BYO, free street parking.

Web site: Great Vietnamese food, service

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Shopper's fantasy: One food store that has it all

Wines from all over the world are sold in the liquor department of Costco Wholesale in Wayne, where you can buy bottles carrying the house label, Kirkland Signature, including a complex 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon for only $7.99 (1.5 liter) or less than $4 a bottle.

At home, I am pouring four wines for dinner on a rotating basis, including Costco's Cabernet, right, and two wines from Spain with screw tops, center.


I drove a 40-mile loop today in search of a bottle of wine, and to re-stock my cupboard with Aleppo red pepper and inexpensive Moroccan sardines.

Wouldn't it be great if there was one store that carried all my favorites at the right price?

As it is, I stopped at three today:

ShopRite in Paramus for the store brand of 1% lactose-free milk; Costco Wholesale in Wayne, searching for a California wine, Kirkland Signature Old Vine Zinfandel; and Fattal's in Paterson, my source for crushed red pepper and sardines.

Metrokane-brand Rabbit Wine Bottle Stoppers provide an air-tight seal, allowing me to keep four opened bottles of red wine on the counter at one time. I found these on Amazon.con for about $7.50.

Crushed Aleppo red pepper is mildly spicy and a terrific garnish for eggs, above; fish and other dishes. I keep a container in my refrigerator, just a step or two from the stove.

Costco in Wayne

My Costco in Hackensack doesn't have a liquor department, only a liquor store that is not affiliated with the warehouse store and doesn't carry wine with a Kirkland Signature label.  

So, I drove to the Wayne Costco (about 20 miles from my home), where on an earlier visit, I picked up terrific bottles of Kirkland Signature Champagne from France and California Cabernet Sauvignon.

Today, I was in search of Kirkland Signature Old Vine Zinfandel from Sonoma County, California, that I read about in the February 2014 Costco Connection magazine.

But I couldn't find it among the hundreds of bottles of wine, and an employee couldn't help, either.

I cut my losses by picking up another 1.5-liter bottle of Kirkland Signature Cabernet for $7.99; Kirkland Signature Body Soap and Kirkland Signature Body Wash.

I also purchased a 30-roll package of Charmin toilet paper ($19.59 with $2 off), which carries an unforgettable slogan: "We all go. Why not enjoy the go?"

I hope this "ultra soft and absorbent" toilet tissue will help me forget the Scott toilet paper I bought at Costco that was so thin and narrow it looked as if it was used in prisons and mental wards.

Costco Wholesale, 77 Willowbrook Blvd., Wayne; 1-973-812-8661.


At Fattal's, I picked up two dozen cans of Al Shark Moroccan Sardines in Tomato Sauce, the variety that has the least sodium (99 cents each).

I will use two cans tonight to prepare 1 pound of organic whole wheat shells with garlic, vegetables and sardines.

I also bought two 1-liter bottles of Al Shark Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Syria for $4.99 each, one of the few sold at Fattal's with a label that shows the country of origin.

Aleppo red pepper was $6.99 a pound.

Fattal's includes a grocery with cheese and other dairy products, butcher, cafe, bread, prepared food and a jewelry store. 

Fattal's, 975-77 Main St., Paterson; 1-973-742-7125. Open 7 days. Free parking in lot.

"Living" basil reminds me of opening a bottle of red wine to let it "breathe." This sign was in the Paramus ShopRite's produce department this morning. Half-gallons of ShopRite lactose-free milk were $3.49 each; last week, they were on sale.

H Mart

My wife prefers shopping at the H Mart in Englewood, but that Korean supermarket doesn't always have sales that rival another H Mart, the one in Little Ferry.

On Tuesday, when we ran out of Kokuho Yellow Label White Rice from California, she asked me to go to Little Ferry, where I found 15-pound bags on sale for $8.99 or $6 off.

I saw a sign that warned of higher prices caused by the drought in California, and bought two bags.

I also picked up a 16-pack of Shin Ramyun, a spicy instant soup, for $9.99 or $7 off.

H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike, Little Ferry; 1-201-814-0400. Open 7 days.

This morning, I made a fresh-tomato-and-cheese frittata with Kirkland Signature Egg Whites from Costco, several kinds of reduced-fat and full-fat cheeses, pesto from Trader Joe's and Costco; and za'atar, a Middle Eastern thyme mixture available at Fattal's in Paterson.

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's in Paramus is one of the few places I can find antibiotic- and preservative-free bacon and hot dogs for the meat eaters in the family ($4.99 and $4.49, respectively).

The store also carries terrific 100% juices in 64-ounce bottles, such as Garden Patch and Green Plant ($3.49 and $3.99, respectively).

Last Friday, I also picked up grass-fed Angus Beef strip loin steaks from New Zealand (frozen for $10.99 a pound).

But I didn't care for another item, Trader Joe's Organic Oats & Flax Instant Oatmeal (8 servings for $3.49), a sweetened product that wasn't very good made with 2/3 cup of water.

I'll try it again with 1/2 cup of low-fat milk.

Trader Joe's, 404 Route 17 north, Paramus; 201-265-9624. Open daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.


What do you do when Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood runs out of those wonderful restaurant-quality dinners available for takeout ($7.99 or $5.99 after 4 p.m.)?

On Wednesday afternoon, I couldn't find any Meals To Go when I stopped in at around 4:15 p.m., and comforted myself with several cheese samples.

I bought Jerry's Homemade Meat Lasagna ($6.99 a pound) and Jerry's Homemade Small Crabcakes (6 for $4.99), and my family demolished them.

For my dinner, I made baby spinach with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, fried two organic brown eggs from Costco and ate them with leftover organic brown rice and red kidney beans.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Port of Call's all-you-can-eat buffet is just OK

One of the three dinner plates filled with seafood, salad and steamed or sauteed vegetables I had for lunch on Tuesday at Port of Call, an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant in Hackensack. The best item I sampled was a fish salad with fruit and sun-dried tomatoes, front center.


Only the world's fussiest eaters would demand a selection of more than 100 items at lunch.

But that's what I found at Port of Call, the all-you-can eat buffet restaurant that opened in January in Hackensack's Home Depot Shopping Center.

If a price-fixed, three-course lunch of appetizer, entree and dessert is a focused meal, this no-holds-barred format is totally unfocused, confusing and, ultimately, frustrating.

For $13.69 at lunch, plus tax and tip, you get the run of the restaurant's sushi, seafood, salad, meats-and-roasts, pasta, fried-food and dessert stations.

Tea and coffee are available, but they aren't included in the price, though our server neglected to mention that when we asked for them.

I filled a second dinner plate with large green-lip mussels, fish salad, fish-egg and mackerel sushi, and part of a Dungeness crab.
More mussels and sushi, and cooked shrimp that I didn't bother to peel.

Cold meat, coffee

I met two friends for lunch at Port of Call on Tuesday. Both tried meat items, including short ribs, and one sampled three of the desserts.

One friend found only two short ribs available, and the other said his meat was cold. He liked a cookie, but didn't care for his other desserts.

The all-you-can-eat dinner at Port of Call costs almost twice as much as lunch, and the number of items can balloon to 250 on the weekends, a manager said.

When I asked for sashimi -- raw fish without rice -- I was told it is available only at dinner. Broiled eel? Ditto. And I didn't see any raw oysters on the half shell.

For me, the best sushi selections were mackerel and small fish eggs wrapped in seaweed, but I didn't want to fill up on rice.

I didn't try any of the meat, fried food, pasta or desserts.

Salad and sushi stations, above and below.
A sushi chef, cook or other employee is at work behind all of the buffet counters.
Part of the dessert station.
Dungeness crabs are difficult to eat.
Cooked shrimp are on the small side.

Friendly, but slow

Servers and other staff are friendly, but there is no table service or menus. A woman named Amber brought us ice water, and cleared away dishes and uneaten food.

When we asked for tea and coffee, Amber didn't tell us they cost extra. 

She said I could have coffee, an espresso or a latte and I chose the last. She brought over a box of premium tea bags for my friend, and he asked for Egyptian Mint ($2.50).

The coffee took longer than I expected, and it was lukewarm when I got it. I asked for another, and saw Amber go over to a man at the front counter.

She said she would replace the latte and take it off of the bill, but I received a credit of only $2.49. The latte was $4.25.

Even hot, this latte wasn't even close to Starbucks or the ones I make at home.

Skip this port

I don't see any reason to return to Port of Call. 

I felt I got good value, with three plates of salad and seafood for $13.69, but the food is just OK.

And in the absence of table service, why put a tip table at the bottom of the receipt ranging from 15% to 20%?

One of my friends paid for my lunch, and left a tip of 10%.

The receipt says "food is an art" at Port of Call, and "you are the priority." Both are a stretch.

Port of Call is Hackensack's biggest restaurant, with 475 seats, including two private rooms that weren't in use Tuesday afternoon, according to the man at the front counter.

But the all-you-can-eat format is a slippery slope I have never really enjoyed, especially after losing more than 40 pounds over the last few years and keeping it off.


Port of Call American Fusion & Sushi, 450 Hackensack Ave., Hackensack, in the Home Depot Shopping Center; 201-488-0888. BYO (wine or beer only). Large parking lot.

Open Mondays to Fridays for lunch, $13.69; Saturdays and Sundays for brunch, $17.69; Mondays to Thursdays for dinner, $24.99; and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for dinner, $27.99.

2018 prices

Now, lunch is $15.69, weekend brunch is $20.69, and dinner ranges from $27.99 to $30.99, depending on the day of the week.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Costco coupons make good prices even better

Four-pound bags of Tru Roots Organic 100% Whole Grain Quinoa ($18.99) returned to the shelves of Costco Wholesale in Hackensack after an absence of a few months. The same 4-pound bag is available on for $27.99. This organic, non-GMO product has fewer carbohydrates than rice or pasta.


As if Costco Wholesale's generally high quality and low prices aren't enough, store coupons sent to members in the mail make good deals even better.

On Monday afternoon, I bought several food and non-food products, got discounts of $2 to $3 at the register and earned cash rebates on my American Express Costco credit card.

A variety pack of 15 Chobani Non-Fat Greek Yogurt with fruit worked out to 63 cents for each 6-ounce cup with a $4 discount (normally $13.49).

Two 1-pound, 4-ounce containers of Kirkland Signature Lobster Bisque were about $4.12 each after a $2.75 discount (usually $10.99).

Three Champion-brand boxer briefs were $3 off the normal price of $12.99.

Ito En 100% Japanese Green Tea (100 bags) was $9.99 or $3 off.

And 3 1-liter bottles of Bolthouse Farms Organic 100% Carrot Juice were only $5.39 after a $2 discount.

Non-coupon purchases included Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes (8 14.5-ounce cans for $5.99), which I use in rice, pasta and quinoa dishes.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto was $7.99 for a 22-ounce plastic jar, and 2 dozen Organic Brown Eggs were $6.99.

I still have unused coupons for Kirkland Signature Wild Caught Hake Loins (frozen, $4 off), Trident Seafoods All Natural Ultimate Fish Sticks ($3 off) and Glad 13-gallon ForceFlex Trash Bags ($3 off).

They expire on March 30. Coupons no longer need to be clipped and brought to the store, and signs in the warehouse show the savings on sale items.

Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto used as a garnish on leftover organic brown rice served with a broiled whole wild-caught sea bass from H Mart in Englewood ($4.99 a pound).

Monday, March 24, 2014

Costco Wholesale v. Trader Joe's: Who has the besto pesto?

The color difference between Trader Joe's prepared pesto (dark green) and Costco Wholesale's pesto is dramatic when used on a smoked wild-salmon frittata just out of the oven, above. Costco's refrigerated product also has more flavor and costs less per ounce.


After Costco Wholesale unveiled its own prepared basil pesto under the Kirkland Signature house brand, I ended the three-decade practice of making my own at home.

I used a blender recipe from Italian chef Marcella Hazan that calls for 2 full cups of fresh basil leaves -- the key to achieving the flavor and aroma that reminds me so much of spring.

I first tasted pesto with pasta in Nice, on the French Riviera, in the early 1970s, and continued to order it in restaurants in Manhattan and New Jersey, but only that first plate rivaled the flavor of Hazan's version.

I even tweaked her recipe by eliminating the butter, making sure I packed the 2 cups of basil leaves and using less salt, given the sodium in the grated cheese used to make the pesto.

Checkout at Trader Joe's in Paramus is really customer friendly. The employee removes items from your cart, scans them, bags them and puts the bag or bags in your cart -- usually. But Trader Joe's doesn't give customers credit for bringing reusable bags. For that, you'll have to go to ShopRite and Whole Foods Market.

False start

Prepared pesto showed up at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack a few years ago. I tried it once and was disappointed. For one thing, it was too salty.

Then, it was replaced by Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto, which uses 100% Genovese basil from Italy, extra-virgin olive oil; Pecorino Romano, a sheep's milk cheese, also from Italy; and the pine nuts that are used in every Italian recipe.

Trader Joe's or Trader Giotto's Genova Pesto doesn't indicate where its basil comes from, and it uses "olive oil" and walnuts, instead of pine nuts.

Genova is Genoa, the Italian port city where pesto originated.

Trader Giotto's pesto has less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrates than Costco's pesto.

But it also has less flavor, and when I prepared organic whole-wheat shells with Trader Joe's pesto, I felt the dish needed salt. I added freshly cracked black pepper instead.

Organic whole-wheat shells from Whole Foods Market with Trader Giotto's Genova Pesto.

More fiber, protein

Besides more flavor, Costco's pesto has more fiber and more protein than Trader Joe's pesto, and costs less per ounce. 

Both are refrigerated products, and Costco's version has a "use or freeze by" date clearly visible on the side of the plastic jar. I can't read the date in smaller type on the bottom of the Trader Joe's plastic container, especially against the dark-green pesto.

Trader Giotto's Genova Pesto comes in a 7-ounce container for $2.99 -- probably not enough to dress a pound of its own organic whole-wheat pasta.

You can also use pesto as a sandwich spread, and to garnish frittatas, omelets and other egg dishes; broiled fish, baked sweet potatoes and more.

If you buy three containers of Trader Joe's pesto (21 ounces) for about $9, you'd be an ounce shy of Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto's 22-ounce jar, which costs $7.99.

A need to restrict your salt intake is the only reason I can see for buying Trader Giotto's pesto instead of Costco's version. 

A wedge of frittata with Trader Joe's pesto on top of leftover organic whole-wheat spaghetti with garlic and spinach makes for a filling breakfast.

Fresh, wild-caught Atlantic cod fillets from Costco Wholesale ($7.99 a pound) coated in a Super Spice Mixture, and roasted at 375 degrees for 10 minutes to 15 minutes, depending on their thickness. You also could dispense with the spices, cook the fish with a spritz of fresh lime juice and spoon on pesto when you take the fillets out of the oven. More pesto could go on the organic brown rice with canned kidney beans I prepared in an electric cooker.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Costco's Christopher Ranch garlic with spuds, pasta

Christopher Ranch peeled California garlic cloves and skin-on sweet potatoes, both from Costco Wholesale, can be boiled together for mashing with avocado and extra-virgin olive oils, and such seasonings as cinnamon, black pepper, red-pepper flakes and a little salt.


Google "Can you eat too much garlic?" and you'll discover a lively Internet discussion of the many health benefits of this onion-related bulb.

You'll also find a few cautionary tales, such as "garlic breath" and a warning that garlic is a blood thinner and shouldn't be eaten in large quantities after surgery.

One food blogger mellows chopped raw garlic by blending it with butter or sour cream, neither of which I eat.

I love cooking with Christopher Ranch garlic from California that I buy at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, and use it freely when mashing sweet potatoes and preparing pasta with oil-and-garlic.

We recently started buying the refrigerated peeled variety in 3-pound bags for $5.99 that are stamped with a "best before" date that isn't as inflexible as the one found on Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix.

Garlic mashed sweet potatoes and leftover baby spinach with chopped fresh garlic make great side dishes for two organic brown eggs with prepared pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, a thin slice of French-style cheese and Aleppo pepper.

Organic whole-wheat spaghetti from Whole Foods Market forms the basis of this twist on oil-and-garlic pasta with the addition of diced organic tomatoes, a can of drained and rinsed anchovies, fresh organic baby spinach, chicken stock, red wine and such seasonings as black pepper, red-pepper flakes and dried Italian herbs. I used about three dozen garlic cloves,1 pound of spaghetti and a half-pound of pre-washed spinach. Most of the ingredients were from Costco.

I enjoyed the last of the garlic sweet potatoes this morning with two fried organic brown eggs seasoned with a little salt, curry powder and shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

More all-you-can-eat sushi comes to Hackensack

All-you-can eat sushi is $29 per person at Oyishi Sushi in downtown Hackensack.


Oyishi Sushi is at the opposite end of the size scale from Port of Call, the "mega" buffet restaurant that opened this year in the Home Depot Shopping Center in Hackensack.

But the idea is the same: All the raw fish you can eat for a set price.

At Oyishi Sushi, in downtown Hackensack, all-you-can-eat sushi is $29 per person.

But the small restaurant also serves lunch specials for $10 to $15, including sushi-sashimi combinations, and such other dishes as seaweed salad, dumplings, shumai and miso soup.

I spoke with Jesse Jiang, a Chinese-American, who said Oyishi Sushi opened last week.

Lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and dinner hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sundays.

Super Rico, a Colombian fast-food restaurant, once occupied the space, which is next to Greek Island Grill.

Oyishi Sushi, 75 Main St., Hackensack; 201-546-8655. BYO. Metered parking until 6 p.m., except Sundays. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fresh-fish deal, rude worker at Whole Foods Market

At Whole Foods Market in Paramus, an employee at the Allegro coffee counter hides, leaving only her store cap visible, left. Earlier, she wouldn't allow me to pay for store-made chili at the counter, even though I have paid for soup and coffee there on numerous visits. When I complained to a supervisor, I got the chili for free.


I stopped at Whole Foods Market on Monday to buy more of the store's terrific organic whole-wheat shells and spaghetti from Italy, but found only shells.

I put two 1-pound boxes in my reusable shopping bag ($1.39 each), and wandered over to the fresh fish counter, where a display included bluefish and porgies landed in New Jersey for only $4.99 a pound.

With prices like that -- about what I would pay at a Korean supermarket -- I picked up a whole, wild-caught porgy for dinner.

At home, I squeezed lime juice over the fish and seasoned it while heating up leftover bottled marinara sauce, a can of organic diced tomatoes from Costco Wholesale and a few ounces of extra-virgin olive oil.

Meanwhile, I boiled water to cook 2 cups of the 365 Everyday Value whole wheat pasta shells, which were al dente in less time than listed on the box.

I placed the whole fish over the sauce, covered the pan and cooked it for about 15 minutes. I removed the fish, added the drained shells and mixed them well with the sauce.

The sweet porgy was terrific with the pasta and a glass of red wine. A salad of simply dressed Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix and Sunset-brand Gourmet Cucumbers finished the meal. 

Wild-caught porgy with organic pasta shells, both from Whole Foods Market. I ate the rest of the fish on Tuesday night and finished the shells this morning with an omelet of egg whites, smoked wild salmon, reduced-fat Swiss cheese and pesto, the last four from Costco Wholesale.

The porgy cooked in a covered pan on top of the sauce. I sprinkled Organic No-Salt Seasoning from Costco over the fish, and black pepper and a few red-pepper flakes over the sauce.

At Whole Foods Market, "local" porgies, fluke and other wild-caught fish were landed in New Jersey.

Customer disservice

I returned to Whole Foods Market in Paramus around lunchtime on Tuesday, looking for 365 Everyday Value Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti, which was out of stock the day before.

I couldn't resist a 16-0unce cup of vegan Heirloom Bean Chili from the store's hot soup bar ($5.99 plus tax).

But when I saw long checkout lines and no customers at the Allegro coffee counter, I went there to pay for my chili.

The employee refused, saying it was "store policy." 

I mentioned that I had paid for coffee and soup there before, but didn't want to have coffee until later. She still refused.

"That's some customer service," I told her.

I went to a checkout line, paid $6.41 for the chili and stopped at a small desk beyond the registers, telling a supervisor what happened at the coffee counter.

He apologized, said "store policy" is to allow customers to pay for one non-coffee item at the Allegro counter and told me to go to customer service for a refund of the $6.41.

That was a delicious cup of mildly spicy chili.

Before I left the store, I bought three 1-pound boxes of 365 Everyday Value Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti ($1.39 each).

Two cups of Whole Foods Market 365 Everyday Value Organic Whole Wheat Shells were enough for three meals, including this morning's omelet breakfast.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Costco tomato squeezer, Han Dynasty and ShopRite

Soup with Pickled Vegetable and Flounder at Han Dynasty in Manhattan, a branch of a Philadelphia restaurant known for its spicy, Sichuan-style Chinese food. The soup is rated 4 on a spice-level scale of 1 to 10. Servers wear black T-shirts with "(10)" printed on the back.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss an exchange with a Costco Wholesale shopper who was opening packages of Campari Tomatoes and squeezing them; a Sunday lunch at Han Dynasty, a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan popular with Asians; and a few sale items at the ShopRite in Paramus.


Before I spoke, I watched a man opening two or three plastic clam-shell packages of Campari Tomatoes at the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, squeezing the fruit and closing them.

"Do you mind my asking why you are touching all of those tomatoes," I said.

"I want to make sure they aren't soft," he replied.

Thinking the only "soft" thing was his head, I asked him if he would want other people touching the food he buys.

"Don't you think people touch the tomatoes when they put them into the packages?"

I said it is probably done by machine, but as he left, I noticed the big letters "EMT" on his jacket and hoped he shows better judgment in a medical emergency.

You don't have to touch Campari Tomatoes to see if they are soft. The redder they are, the riper and softer they are.

If you want a harder tomato, choose those that are a paler red. And they ripen when left out on your kitchen counter; refrigerating them destroys the rich, tomatoey flavor.

Then, because the beefsteak tomatoes didn't look that good, I took his place in front of the Campari Tomatoes and tried to find a 2-pound package with fruit he hadn't touched.

Organic chicken

My Hackensack warehouse store has added antibiotic-free Coleman Organic chicken drumsticks ($1.99 a pound) and thighs to the whole Coleman Organic chickens ($2.49 a pound) it has sold for the last few years.

They are in free-standing refrigerated cases near the produce section. As with all organic products, they contain no genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Costco Wholesale usually carries sweet potatoes only around the holidays, but I found these in a 6.5 pound bag at my Hackensack warehouse store on Friday for $5.99. A 10-pound bag of Earthbound Farm Organic Carrots was $7.99.

At Costco in Hackensack on Friday afternoon, my haul included 3 pounds of bananas ($1.39), 2 pounds of salted cod-fish fillets from Canada ($11.99),  and two loaves of Kirkland Signature All Natural Multigrain 100% Whole Grain Bread ($4.49). Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.79 (1 pound).
On Sunday afternoon, we had lunch at Han Dynasty, 90 3rd Ave. in Manhattan's East Village (212-390-8685), and many of the other customers were young Asian couples with big bowls of noodles in front of them.

Han Dynasty

Our lunch at Han Dynasty in Manhattan on Sunday started with the tasty fish soup that was part of my takeout order from the original in Philadelphia last year.

The mildly spicy Soup with Pickled Vegetable and Flounder (4) includes lots of fresh garlic and ginger ($9.95).

Our entree was a non-spicy Scallion Style Shrimp ($19.95), and we also ordered Peas Leaves with Garlic ($12.95).

Brown rice was $1 extra. The serving is generous, much larger than in other Chinese restaurants.

The food was terrific, but the restaurant was full and service was a bit slow. 

We were brought a pot of tea and glasses of ice water when we sat down. I had to ask twice for extra napkins and we never got the fork my wife wanted.

Luckily, the utensil with one end buried under the pea leaves turned out to be a fork.

Scallion Style Shrimp at Han Dynasty.

Pea Leaves with Garlic: A simple, delicious and healthy dish.

Paramus ShopRite

On Monday, I ran out of 1% lactose-free milk and stopped at the Shop Rite in Paramus, where half-gallons of the store brand were $3.29 each, a discount of 20 cents.

Two Golden Pineapples were on sale for $5, and a 5-pound bag of Golden Delicious Apples was $3.99.

The biggest surprise was a 15-ounce container of Smart Balance Original for $1.75 or about half-price.
The sale price was $3.20 with $1.45 off.

At the Englewood ShopRite on Sunday, my wife bought 15 ounces of Smart Balance Original with Flaxseed Oil "on sale" for $3.59.