Sunday, May 4, 2014

'Never on Monday' is my rule at Hackensack Costco

On Friday at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, some of the free samples contained poultry, such as the mini tacos, above. The samples are prepared and offered by employees of a company called CDS, and I don't know whether it is affiliated with Costco.

 Editor's note: Today's buffet includes a warning about free samples at Costco Wholesale, the simple pleasures of preparing meals at home, a visit to my favorite Korean tofu house and shopping at H Mart in Englewood.


Don't shop for food when you're hungry, especially on Mondays at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, where you'll have a hard time finding any free samples.

Last Monday, the only samples that didn't contain chicken, which I don't eat, were tiny cups of aloe drink.

Two CDS employees confirmed that the fewest samples are provided on the first day of the workweek.

At the Hackensack warehouse store on Friday, I tried a little salad with queso fresco and sweet-and-sour pickles, which gave me gas and a bloated feeling.

Two other free samples I saw, ravioli and mini tacos, contained chicken and cheese.

One CDS employee said fewer samples are offered on Mondays, because they are "slow."

Simple food, simple pleasures

Two Kirkland Signature organic brown eggs served over leftover organic brown rice prepared in an electric cooker with Costco's organic diced tomatoes. One yolk is covered with za'atar thyme mixture, left, and the other has shredded Asiago Cheese and Aleppo pepper. The price for two dozen organic eggs hasn't changed ($6.99), but Costco has reduced the size of the paper label by two-thirds.

Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix and Sunset-brand cucumbers and Campari Tomatoes make a great salad, especially with sodium-free almonds I roast at home and dust with ground cinnamon from Vietnam -- all available at Costco Wholesale. The dressing is extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A 3-pound bag of the almonds went up recently by about $3 to $14.99, likely as the result of the drought in California.

Kirkland Signature 100% Egg Whites and reduced-fat Swiss cheese slices from Costco make a great omelet, especially with bottled Mexican green salsa or salsa verde, above, available at Hackensack Market, ShopRite and other stores.

In the last few weeks, Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix has exploded with the peppery flavor of arugula, above and below. Spring mix over warm organic brown rice adds up to a simple, delicious dinner.

Cinnamon-dusted almonds and a little Kirkland Signature Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese from Italy are a couple of welcome additions to a salad of pre-washed organic spring mix. The Italian cheese, made from part-skimmed cow's milk and aged more than 24 months, is $11.49 a pound at Costco.

What's for breakfast? A wedge of sweet potato frittata with organic brown rice and Mexican green salsa.
I picked up a 6.5-pound bag of sweet potatoes at Costco on Friday ($5.99), baked five of them until the natural sugar bubbled out and sliced two uncooked ones for a sweet-and-savory frittata of whole eggs, whites, shredded cheese, no-salt seasoning and chopped garlic, all topped with bottled La Costena Mexican green salsa.

Holier guacamole

I have enjoyed the preservative-free Wholly Guacamole I've been buying at Costco for the past few years, and it's now organic.

You still get three 16-ounce portions, which freeze beautifully, and the price is $10.99, compared to $9.49 for the non-organic version.

Hass Avocados are used, along with garlic and other ingredients, and the result is a deliciously smooth, thick guacamole perfect for eating on its own, mixing with bottled salsa or spreading on a sandwich.

Also on Friday, we picked up more Coleman Organic Chicken, which is labeled "hatched, raised and harvested in USA."

Drumsticks were $1.99 a pound, but skinless-and-boneless thighs were $4.79 a pound, a very un-Costco-like price.

No tofu tonight

Feeling gassy and bloated from free food samples at Costco on Friday, I stuck with a simple Korean seafood pancake and side dishes that night at our favorite tofu house, So Gong Dong in Palisades Park.

But the meat eaters in the family went to town, ordering Pork Soft Tofu "more spicy" with rice ($9.99) and Beef Barbecue ($15.99).

So Gong Dong serves four free side dishes, including cucumber kimchi, above, and cabbage kimchi, below, and when you finish them, they are replenished without any need to prompt the servers.

Side dishes of seasoned bean sprouts, above, and radish and raw squid, below, the spiciest of the four.

A Korean pancake or pajun with seafood serves four and comes with a dipping sauce, below ($11.99).

A scissor is supplied to cut the beef barbecue.

Part of the place-mat menu.

The second-floor entrance of So Gong Dong, 118 Broad Ave., Palisades Park (201-313-5550). Open seven days.

Wild shrimp from Mexico

At H Mart in Englewood on Saturday, I asked to use the public restroom upstairs, and discovered it wasn't renovated when the store got a welcome makeover.

Still, the food downstairs looked as good as always, and I picked up large, wild shrimp from Mexico ($14.49 a pound), collard greens (99 cents a pound) and from the wide selection of prepared food, Stewed Tofu ($3.99), Stewed Pollock ($6.99) and an Assortment of Pan-Fried Seafood Pancakes ($6.49), all from Jinga, a food company in Queens.

One-pound packages of sweet Driscoll's Strawberries from California were two for $3.99.

At H Mart in Englewood, clockwise from the top, seafood pancakes, seaweed-and-rice rolls called kimbap and spicy fried chicken.
The selection of panchan or side dishes is extensive.

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