Friday, June 27, 2014

Even a lowly McDonald's Restaurant shorts seniors

At the McDonald's in Queensbury, N.Y.


On the long road to Montreal from our home in New Jersey on Thursday, I stopped for coffee to relieve the monotony of driving on Route 87.

Looking for "easy off, easy on," I picked a McDonald's not far from the highway. 

I walked in and up to the counter, and asked a female employee, who looked to be middle age, for a "senior coffee."

"Do you want to add anything to the coffee?"

I said no, I wanted it black.

Still, when I took off the cover, the cup was far from full.

OK. Seniors get a discount, and a small coffee costs only 79 cents with tax. 

But at least fill the cup to the top.

At Starbucks, I ask for coffee with "no room for milk," and I've returned to the counter for more, if the cup isn't full.

Of course, with Starbucks, black coffee has nuances of flavor.

So, I didn't bother to ask for more at the Queensbury, N.Y., McDonald's.

That's just coffee for keeping you from falling asleep at the wheel.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Costco again slices price of fresh Copper River salmon

Fresh wild Copper River sockeye salmon from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack with a reduction of organic diced tomatoes, red wine, garlic, lime juice and fresh herbs, served with Tru Roots Organic Quinoa, also from Costco, prepared in an electric rice cooker with more Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes and extra-virgin olive oil.

Editor's note: We continue to enjoy fresh Copper River salmon from Costco Wholesale, which has trimmed the price for the second time in a month. Today, I also discuss organic quinoa as a substitute for brown rice and whole-wheat pasta, and shopping at Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe's and ShopRite.


Wonderful fresh wild salmon from Alaska's Copper River has become a weekly treat thanks to Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

The price of skin-on sockeye fillets dropped to $11.99 a pound on Sunday, the second downward adjustment in about a month.

When the Copper River salmon run ends, Costco will begin selling fresh wild sockeye or coho salmon from other rivers at an even lower price.

The Copper River fillets cook through in 12 minutes in a 375-degree oven, but remain moist.

I cook the organic-diced-tomato reduction on top of the stove and spoon it over the fish after I remove the roasting pan from the oven.

Garnish with plenty of chopped mint and oregano or any other fresh herb you have. 

The next day, I had a second dinner of Copper River sockeye with mashed yams/sweet potatoes and organic mixed vegetables.

The quinoa is a great substitute for brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, both of which have more carbohydrates. Here, the whole grain stands in for bread at breakfast. A wedge of leftover pesto-and-cheese frittata and choy sum, one of the many greens available at H Mart in Little Ferry, complete the meal.

Sunny side up organic eggs from Costco seasoned with two great spices from the Middle Eastern kitchen, mildly spicy Aleppo pepper and za'atar, top, a pleasantly sour thyme mixture. I also added small pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese as the eggs were cooking, and ate them with organic quinoa.

Shopping for naturally raised meat

At Trader Joe's in Paramus, I shopped for W-brand antibiotic- and nitrite-free bacon ($5.49), and Trader Joe's Uncured Beef Hot Dogs, also antibiotic and hormone free ($4.99).

I also picked up a kitchen basil plant for $3.99.

At Whole Foods Market, also in Paramus, I picked up fully cooked Niman Ranch St. Louis-style Pork Ribs from animals raised on vegetarian feed without antibiotics and hormones ($7.99 a pound). 

An incredible array of salads at Whole Foods Market in Paramus. At $8.49 a pound, it is easy to spend $12 to $15 on salad for lunch.

These Mini Cucumbers were on sale for $1.99 a pound on Friday at the ShopRite in Paramus, and I refrigerated them as soon as I got home. But they spoiled in less than three days, and I returned them for a refund. 

Out of stock at Costco

I'm still puzzled why I can't find everything I need at Costco when I go back for a product I enjoyed.

On Monday, I couldn't track down two Kirkland Signature items in the Hackensack warehouse store, men's briefs and parchment paper.

Still, I was able to cash a $190 rebate check from Costco, representing 2% of my purchases in the last year with my Executive Membership, which costs $110 a year.

That's in addition to two credit-card rebate checks totaling a few hundred dollars I received a couple of months ago from American Express.

One item that seems to be always in stock is Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes, and it's one of the most versatile for preparing meals at home.

I used them again tonight when making a sauce for organic whole wheat capellini with extra-virgin olive oil, white wine, chopped garlic, capers, anchovies and three fresh herbs, mint, oregano and basil (photo below).

Who doesn't love tomatoes? 

We were out of organic chicken stock for the pasta sauce, and I used a half-cup of hot pasta water and more extra-virgin olive oil to add liquid.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Clams, crabs, yams, salads and organic whole-wheat pasta

Hundreds of Cherrystone Clams were shucked under a tree on Saturday, the first day of summer, during Members' Day at American Littoral Society in Highlands, above and below.

The clams came from Virginia, because they were cheaper than New Jersey clams, one of the shuckers said.

The headquarters of the American Littoral Society, a coastal conservation group, is in a former lieutenant's house at Fort Hancock, part of the Sandy Hook national park, above and below.

The front porch overlooks Sandy Hook Bay.

Navesink Fishery, in a shopping center on Route 36 in Navesink, above and below, is a homier version of Seafood Gourmet, the fish market-restaurant in Maywood.

I had hoped to have another lunch of soft-shell crabs, like the one I enjoyed on Friday in Maywood, but Navesink Fishery doesn't serve lunch on Saturdays. (1-732-291-8017).

Are these yams or sweet potatoes? ShopRite in Paramus complicates the answer by selling them as "yams/sweet potatoes" for $1.29 a pound. I boiled them with peeled garlic, drained and mashed them with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, curry powder, cinnamon, red-pepper flakes, black pepper and other seasoning. Yams are starchier and probably have more calories.

A wedge of frittata (egg whites, cheese, fresh tomato, garlic and pesto) served with mashed yams/sweet potatoes and leftover Chinese takeout string beans.

A dinner salad from the cafe at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center includes tofu and mozzarella cheese.

Another dinner salad includes red- and green-leaf lettuce from our garden, smoked wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, organic beets, Campari tomatoes and reduced-fat Jarlsberg Lite Swiss Cheese, all dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, above and below. Most of the ingredients are from Costco Wholesale.

Non-organic whole wheat spaghetti, on sale last week at the ShopRite in Paramus, was no bargain, compared to the $1.39 Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market charges for 1 pound of the organic version. But ShopRite did have a sale on 1-pound packages of Luigi Vitelli-brand organic Whole Wheat Capellini from Italy with a cooking time of 3 minutes ($1.25), a whole-wheat shape I haven't seen anywhere else.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Those succulent crabs are finally giving up their meat

Soft Shell Crab Florentine was a lunch special on Friday at Seafood Gourmet, the wonderful fish market-restaurant hybrid in Maywood.


Seafood lovers have so much to celebrate year-round, but especially now when all of those juicy crabs come out of their shells.

The warm-weather crustaceans answer the prayers of crab lovers, who usually are frustrated by all of the work needed to extract the tasty morsels of meat.

Leave it to humans to swoop in when the crabs are the most vulnerable as they shed their shells in order to grow in size and get fitted with a new set of armor.

The result is great eating and, since every part of the soft shell is edible, no fuss, muss or waste. 

We had lunch on Friday at Seafood Gourmet, the Maywood fish market-restaurant with a kitchen that prepares soft-shell crabs from simple to sophisticated, as it does for all seafood.

Juicy, pan-seared soft-shell crabs with steamed vegetables.

Two preparations

We both wanted to have Soft Shell Crab Florentine, a lunch special, but I decided to try simple, pan-seared crabs with steamed vegetables ($15.99 each).

My wife loved her three crabs, which were layered with sauteed spinach, sun-dried tomato, corn and capers, and I agreed, judging from the few forkfuls I stole.

My three crabs were juicy and, with the vegetables, kept me satisfied until dinner.

My wife drank lemonade ($1.95 with refills), but I wasn't charged for two glasses of seltzer with a wedge of lemon.

Before we left, I asked and was told the soft-shell crab season lasts until September or October.

Fresh, uncooked soft-shell crabs were $6.99 each on Friday in Seafood Gourmet's market.

The dining room seats 38 at tables for two and four. Reservations are recommended for dinner, especially on the weekends.

Seafood Gourmet, 103 W. Pleasant Ave., Maywood; 201-843-8558. Closed Sundays. BYO, free street parking.

Web site: Where seafood is king

Friday, June 20, 2014

Looking for parking at MS Sushi, Joyce Chinese Cuisine

A leafy Hwae Dup Bap at MS Sushi in River Edge is a Korean twist on Chirasi, where raw fish is served over sushi rice. A squeeze bottle of gochujang, a spicy red-pepper paste, is served on the side.


When you try a new restaurant or one that is new to you, you might be worried about food, service and prices.

But at MS Sushi Japanese Restaurant and Joyce Chinese Cuisine in River Edge, limited parking is the biggest concern.

The restaurants are in a strip mall on antiquated Kinderkamack Road, an often-congested, major north-south route that is only one lane in each direction much of the time.

In front, customers of the restaurants and other businesses compete for about 30 diagonal spaces, and a big vehicle doesn't always fit between the lines.

Confusing signs warn of a 30-minute time limit or restrict parking to a couple of shops.

There are more spaces behind the restaurants, but you cannot enter any of the businesses from the rear.

When I met two friends for lunch on Thursday, one of us got a space in front and two parked in the back.

A friend ordered three pieces of tuna sushi, three pieces of eel sushi and a California roll cut into eight pieces.

Another friend ordered the Chicken Teriyaki lunch special.

Worth the detour

The family run MS Sushi has been open for about a year, and I enjoyed the food and reasonable prices.

The sushi chef is Chung Lee, this is his first restaurant and his wife and daughter assist him.

The small restaurant would be a great place to introduce someone to a healthy meal of raw fish.

My lunch selection, Hwae Dub Bap, included raw fish with lettuce, shredded vegetables and seaweed -- all of it layered on top of steamed rice ($9.50 and $15.95 at dinner).

One friend ordered three pieces of tuna sushi ($2.95), three pieces of eel sushi ($3.25) and a California Roll ($3.95).

The other friend's Chicken Teriyaki lunch special was $6.95. Pork Teriyaki also was available.

During our meal, the waitress at MS Sushi came over and set down a plate of Tuna Tataki with other fish, explaining it was a gift from the sushi chef. The plate held seared and raw tuna; raw salmon and fish eggs bathed in a sweet ponzu sauce made by the chef.

MS Sushi Japanese Restaurant.

MS Sushi Japanese Restaurant, 494 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge; 201-523-9090. Open for lunch and dinner; closed Sundays. BYO. Minimum of $25  for delivery.

An $8 pot of tea

Before I had lunch at MS Sushi, I ducked into the far larger and glitzier Joyce Chinese Cuisine for a takeout menu.

One of the friends I met for lunch related that he, his wife and another couple had dinner there soon after the fine-dining restaurant opened recently, and was charged an introductory price of $6 for a pot of tea.

When they said they didn't want an entire pot of tea, just individual cups, they were told they were free, but were served four weak cups of tea made from a single bag.

Sure enough, a pot of Chinese Tea is listed on the menu for $8.

I can't recall another Chinese restaurant I've eaten in -- in New York, New Jersey, Hong Kong or anywhere else -- that charged for a pot of tea.

This is a serious restaurant with a large selection of Szechuan or Sichuan dishes marked with from one to three red peppers (hot & spicy, extra hot & spicy and very hot & spicy).

A section of the menu is headed "American Chinese Food" with General Tso's Chicken, Chow Fun, Egg Drop Soup and so forth.

The lunch menu is far more limited and doesn't include many of the classic cold or hot Szechuan dishes.

Prices are a little on the high side, judging from selections with whole fish and a $5 supplement for tilapia or sea bass ($31). 

I am looking forward to eating there, but might skip the tea and ask for a glass of water.

Joyce Chinese Cuisine, 478 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge; 201-261-8858 or 8818. Open 7 days for lunch and dinner, but closed between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays. BYO, delivery available.

With only about 30 spaces in front of the strip mall on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge, potential customers might be discouraged and turn away. Four of the storefronts are empty, remnants of failed businesses.

Parking signs don't help the situation, above and below.

This large NJ Transit truck couldn't fit between the lines of a parking space, and I didn't want to risk parking next to it, fearing damage to my car when the driver's door was opened or worse.

The rear lot had plenty of free spaces on Thursday afternoon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

It's wild-caught and really cheap, but will it taste good?

ShopRite is selling wild-caught Silverbrite Salmon for only $3.99 a pound or $2 off per pound, but the fillet I saw on Tuesday at the Paramus store didn't look very appetizing, above. Silverbrite is another name for chum or keta salmon.

Compare the color of Silverbrite to Copper River Sockeye Salmon from Alaska, bottom. Costco Wholesale is now selling fresh, wild-caught sockeye fillets for $12.99 a pound or $2 less a pound than when they first appeared.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss really cheap wild-caught salmon, a version of Smart Balance with fewer calories, less fat and less salt than Original; leftovers and the repaving of the rough entrance road at H Mart in Little Ferry.


Wild-caught salmon for $3.99 a pound sounds like a great deal, but the Silverbrite fillets on sale at ShopRite supermarkets don't have much eye appeal.

If your ingredients don't look good, how will the finished dish taste?

I'm not about to find out. 

I'm sticking with wild-caught Copper River Sockeye Salmon fillets from Alaska, even though they are selling for $12.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

A 1.58-pound sockeye salmon fillet we bought this week yielded six serving pieces, enough for four with leftovers (about $5 a person). 

Copper River Sockeye Salmon with Pesto, Lime and Fresh Mint and Oregano. I used Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale, and herbs from my garden.

Smart Balance Spread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, above, has fewer calories, less fat and less salt than the Original version of the butter substitute, below. It was on sale for less than half-price at the Paramus ShopRite on Tuesday.

Imported organic whole wheat spaghetti from Whole Food Market prepared with Moroccan sardines, anchovies, organic diced tomatoes, chopped garlic, capers, red wine and bottled Classico pasta sauce. Most of the ingredients come from Costco.

After two small portions of the pasta and a glass or two of Chianti, I finished the meal with a simple Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix salad dressed with Italian extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Pasta and eggs. Two organic brown eggs from Costco with smoked wild sockeye salmon, Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and Aleppo pepper made a great breakfast eaten over leftover spaghetti.

I emptied five small containers of leftovers for breakfast this week. Clockwise from top: Whole wheat pappardelle with Basil Pesto from Costco and pine nuts; ackee, a Jamaican fruit, which has the consistency of scrambled eggs; broccoli with garlic and steamed carrots; and chopped callaloo, a spinach-like green, prepared with sweet pepper.

Fresh Choy Sum was on sale for 98 cents a pound on Tuesday at H Mart in Little Ferry, where I also picked up prepared Korean Stewed Tofu ($3.99), Stewed Alaskan Pollock ($6.99) and Japchae ($5.49), translucent yam-flour noodles with vegetables. The potholed entrance road to the supermarket has been paved, but the parking lot is still prone to flooding.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nibbling around the edges of our incredible food world

The view from Starbucks Coffee in Chappaqua, the New York State hamlet that former President Bill Clinton -- and future President Hillary Clinton -- call home. A Starbucks employee says the president comes in when he is walking his dogs, accompanied by at least two Secret Service agents.
At a Whole Foods Market in Manhattan, the store's "core values" are posted near the checkout counters. Compare them to the hysterical hype you'll find at Fairway Market's many branches in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Fresh Direct will deliver cage-free eggs to your door in Manhattan for $3.79 a dozen. Organic cage-free eggs cost more.
Port of Call, an upscale, all-you-can-eat Asian fusion buffet in Hackensack, getting a delivery from Sysco, one of the big restaurant suppliers.
I saw this U.S. Foods truck at a service area on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Does Main Produce in Dumont shop for fruit mainly at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, above and below?
On East 48th Street in Manhattan, a homeless man collected recyclable bottles and cans from trash receptacles on Sunday evening, explaining he gets 5 cents each or $50 for 1,000, a goal he said is easily attainable. He smelled as if he hadn't showered in days. 
A moveable feast in Manhattan, where a food vendor towed his cart home at the end of a long day.
On East 47th Street in Manhattan, Dainobu Japanese Deli and a second business, Snafu Bar, which was showing World Cup matches on Sunday evening.
On the lower level of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, Shake Shack was doing a brisk business serving antibiotic- and hormone-free Angus burgers on Sunday evening.
But the terminal's famed Oyster Bar was closed, above and below. The restaurant's dining room is under a vaulted ceiling.
Are there any good restaurants in Forks, Pa.? I just passed through on Monday, and didn't have a chance to explore.