Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thumbs down, thumbs up on items from Costco in Canada

Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinaigrette from Costco Wholesale in Montreal. In late June, two bottles were only $4.99 Canadian after a $3 instant coupon.


At home, my everyday salad dressing has only two ingredients -- extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar of Modena from Italy.

I'm very happy using the simple dressing on a big mound of organic spring mix or salads with greens, cheese, almonds, blueberries and other ingredients.

During a visit to Montreal in late June and early July, we visited a Costco Wholesale, where I found Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Two 709-milliliter bottles were only $4.99 Canadian.

I opened one bottle, but don't like how the dressing tastes. 

There is just too much balsamic in proportion to the canola and extra-virgin olive oils, and when I tasted a half-spoonful, the sweetness of the molasses came through, not the fresh garlic in the dressing. 

The bottled dressing also contains sea salt and Dijon mustard. 

When I make a salad, I use balsamic vinegar sparingly, allowing the extra-virgin oil to be the predominate taste.

Can I return an item I bought at the Montreal Costco for a refund at the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack? Stay tuned.


When I mentioned to my wife I was returning the balsamic vinaigrette for a refund, she said she likes how the dressing tastes.

We kept it.

A salad dressed simply with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

In brief

However, I love the men's briefs I bought at the Montreal Costco, and find them much more comfortable than the Kirkland Signature Men's Briefs I bought for years in Hackensack.

They are made by Stanfield's Limited in Nova Scotia, and come in white, gray and black.

A package of five 100% combed cotton briefs were $19.99 Canadian (one U.S. dollar was worth about $1.05 Canadian).

They were especially welcome because I couldn't find the Kirkland Signature Men's Brief on several visits to the Hackensack Costco. 


The Stanfield's briefs are more comfortable because they are roomier and longer than the Kirkland Signature briefs, which were made in Vietnam.

I find the waistbands of my Kirkland Signature briefs stretch or sometimes holes appear in the fabric away from a seam, and I throw them away (9/26/2014).

Friday, August 29, 2014

Peaches you bought here got moldy? No comment

Mold growing on a Jersey peach this morning, two days after I purchased the fruit at the ShopRite in Paramus.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss Jersey peaches, triple-washed sweet potatoes for only $1 a pound; and Parmigiano Reggiano, often called the "King of Cheeses."


I returned several Jersey peaches that had turned moldy to the ShopRite in Paramus today -- only two days after I bought them and left them on the counter to soften.

The employee at the customer service counter asked if I wanted a store credit or the $2.70 back on my credit card, but otherwise had no comment on the spoiled fruit.

Instead of buying more Jersey peaches, I picked up a medium seedless watermelon on sale for $3.99.

California peaches and other premium fruit at Costco Wholesale may sometimes cost more than at the ShopRite or H Mart, but I haven't had as many problems with them. 

ShopRite in Paramus has one of the best buys in sweet potatoes, which I boiled with peeled garlic cloves and mashed with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, cinnamon and other seasoning. Here, I enjoyed them this morning with a wedge of pesto frittata.

Sweet breakfasts

On Wednesday, the same day I bought the peaches, I bought a second 3-pound bag of sweet potatoes at ShopRite in Paramus for $2.99 -- about $1 a pound, the best price around.

Southern's 10 in 1 Sweet Potatoes are triple washed and all about the same size.

The first bag hid a rotten, inedible sweet potato, but the new bag held perfect spuds.

I cut them up with the skin, boil them with garlic cloves and mash them with plenty of extra-virgin olive oil.

At breakfast, I like to break the yolk of a fried egg over the sweet potatoes, and eat them together.

For dinner, mashed sweet potatoes with grilled wild salmon are even more delicious when I spoon on the rich red-wine sauce I prepare for the fish. 

Kirkland Signature Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy is a reduced-fat cow's milk cheese that is sold at Costco Wholesale shredded or in wedges. The shredded cheese and a few pinches of Aleppo pepper turn organic eggs from Costco into a real treat.

Shredded cheese with eggs

Kirkland Signature Parmigiano Reggiano from Costco Wholesale is especially user friendly in shredded form.

The reduced-fat shredded cheese gives extra body to 100% Egg Whites or I sprinkle it over whole eggs fried sunny side up in extra-virgin olive oil.

I'm planning to add some to sweet potatoes the next time I mash them with garlic and olive oil.

The cheese is aged for 24 months.

Shredded Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese with three organic eggs. When using the cheese, there is no need to add salt.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wild salmon with organic diced tomatoes and pesto

Wild Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack with Organic Diced Tomatoes, Pesto and Grilled Peach.


For the first time since fresh wild salmon appeared at my Costco Wholesale in late May, the skin-on sockeye fillet my wife picked up on Monday was harvested in Canada.

The wild salmon looked and tasted as good as all of the ones I've been enjoying from Alaska and other parts of the United States.

Costco identified the origin of the fillets in the first few weeks as coming from Alaska's Copper River, and sold them at a premium of $14.99 a pound.

The rest of the salmon was labeled as a product of the U.S.A.

The price for Canadian sockeye was $8.99 a pound, only a dollar more a pound than the pale, artificially colored farmed salmon sold at Costco in Hackensack. 

A 1.52-pound fillet yielded six serving pieces.

The salmon spent a total of about 8 minutes on a pre-heated grill pan with spray oil that covered two burners of my stove turned to medium high. It should sizzle when you first place it on the grill skin-side down. I then turned the heat down to medium. The serving pieces came out medium rare, but continued cooking after the grill pan was taken off of the heat for members of my family who prefer the fish cooked through.

I flipped the serving portions after about 5 minutes.

Delicious right off the grill

Nearly all of the ingredients for the dish are available from Costco.

The wild salmon is terrific right off the grill with just a little Himalayan Pink Salt and fresh lime juice.

On another burner, I prepared a reduction of extra-virgin olive oil, lots of chopped fresh garlic, Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes, red wine, lime juice and fresh oregano from my garden.

After I plated the fish with the diced-tomato sauce, I added a little Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto.

With the fish, I drank a glass of Kirkland Signature 2012 California Cabernet Sauvignon.



Tonight, I enjoyed a leftover portion of wild salmon served with leftover organic brown rice and lentils, and vegetables, two other dishes that rely heavily on fresh garlic.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Today's special at H Mart: $2.99 each or two for $6

Seen on Saturday morning at the H Mart in Englewood, part of a chain of Korean supermarkets celebrating its 30th anniversary in the United States.


Price signs continue to be a problem for food shoppers, whether they patronize a ShopRite or an H Mart.

On lower shelves, the signs are unreadable unless you get down on your hands and knees.

Often, products are misplaced on the shelf over the wrong sign, and instead of a deal, you get sticker shock at the register.

H Mart, formerly Han Ah Reum, is a chain of Korean supermarkets in New Jersey that is celebrating its 30th anniversary in America.

But the five H Marts I patronize in Englewood, Little Ferry, Fort Lee (2) and Ridgefield act as independent stores -- with different retail and sales prices, coupons, late-day discounts and sales.

Sign, label confusion

On Saturday at the Englewood H Mart, I saw Rico Garlic Paste for $2.99 each, according to the shelf sign, or a "special" of two for $6, according to a sticker on the jar.

The Englewood store also offers prepared food, and one of my favorites is spicy stewed Alaskan pollock, a cousin of the cod.

Jinga, one of the caterers that supplies H Mart, recently hiked the price for a 1-pound package of stewed pollock to $8.49 from $6.99.

Next to it on the shelf was a similar package of stewed pollock from Pinocchio, another outside company, for $7.49, but I couldn't compare the two, because the Pinocchio label listed the weight as "0 lb. 2 oz."

Shin Ramyun, a spicy instant noodles soup, is available in individual 2.6-ounce cups, above, and "Family Packs" of 4.2-ounce servings, below. The cups were on sale Saturday at the Englewood H Mart, but each serving contains 66% of the daily recommended sodium intake, compared to 43% for the larger portions.

The label on Pinocchio Catering's Stewed Alaskan Pollock has shoppers guessing at the correct weight.

At the H Mart in Englewood, I bought a 56-ounce tin of Kadoya Pure Sesame Oil from Japan on sale, but had to return to the store for a lesson on how to close it. The can has a three pictographs instructing you on how to open the can, but none on how to close it. The sale ends today.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

30% discount at Lan Garden continues until Sept. 1

Seafood Chow Fun at Lan Garden in Ridgefield contains shrimp, scallops and tender squid with broad rice noodles.


On my third visit to Lan Garden, a new Chinese restaurant in Ridgefield, I tried a noodle dish and ordered a whole fish steamed, not fried.

The restaurant's soft opening has been extended, and the grand opening is now set for Sept. 1.

Until then, all food is 30% off, and until Lan Garden gets its liquor license, customers can bring their own beer or wine.

That's contrary to what I was told on my previous visit.

The food is good, but service is still a bit slow, and the kitchen is having trouble filling orders, even when the restaurant isn't full.

On Saturday night, me and my wife ordered four dishes and a fifth one to go, hoping to have a lot of leftovers to bring home to other family members.

We did.

I wanted to order the delicious Lobster with Ginger and Scallion I had on my last visit, but the waiter said the lobsters weighed about 3 pounds and were priced at $19.95 a pound.

So, I asked for a whole flounder to be steamed with ginger and scallion ($26.95).

Steamed Whole Flounder with Ginger and Scallion.

Sweet and Sour Chicken.

String beans came out first

Of the four dishes we ordered, Szechuan Style String Beans ($13.95) came out first, followed by Seafood Chow Fun ($16.95), Sweet and Sour Chicken ($14.95) and the large whole flounder ($26.95).

Those are the prices before the 30% discount.

Lan Garden ran a newspaper ad Friday, claiming it serves food from "China's 8 Classic Regions."

But the limited menu we were given on Saturday night was written on two side of one page with even fewer choices than on my previous visits. 

Szechuan Style String Beans.

The servers and kitchen are still trying to get their acts together.

Lan Garden, 88 Route 46 west, Ridgefield; 201-840-8688. Call for hours during the soft opening.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

More images from the lush, green island of Jamaica

This small but powerful waterfall, which I visited on a Jeep 4X4 Safari with Chukka Tours, feeds the Great River on the island of Jamaica, below. The waterfall once was the source of power for a sugar mill on a plantation with slave labor.

Birds of Paradise growing in the shadows near the falls.

Beautiful flowers abound.

A banana spider.

Dairy cattle.

A former slave hospital was converted into an Anglican church in 1847, above and below.

The building's exterior was made from ballast stone, which helped stabilized ships sailing to Jamaica from England. The stone also was used to build bridges and other buildings, such as the slave master's house on the sugar plantation.

Bamboo, a member of the grass family, grows four to six inches a day.

When the sugar-plantation slaves revolted, they burned the slave master's house and broke into his safe, which was filled with money.

The national dish in Jamaica combines a bland fruit called ackee and salted cod fish with hot peppers thrown into the mix. The Iberostar Grand Hotel Montego Bay served the dish for breakfast with the traditional side of boiled green bananas. The fresh ackee used in Jamaica is a rarity in New Jersey.

The sun setting near Montego Bay.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Toasting the king of inexpensive wines, oversized cantaloupes

This 1.5 liter bottle of 2012 California Cabernet Sauvignon from Costco Wholesale costs the equivalent of about $4 a bottle, but its smoothness and complexity set it apart from other inexpensive red wines.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss Kirkland Signature California Cabernet Sauvignon and peeled Christopher Ranch garlic, both from Costco Wholesale, and compare cantaloupes from ShopRite and the Teaneck Farmers' Market.


"Black currant with broad, red fruit notes that linger on the palate and are surrounded by hints of spice and sweet smoke with a graceful finish of cherry and mocha."

I'll take your word for it, Costco Wholesale.

But I'd describe your Kirkland Signature 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon as one of the smoothest, most delicious red wines I have ever tasted.

And I've tasted a lot of cheap, red wine from around the world -- routinely ordering introductory cases from wine clubs that usually cost $5 to $7 a bottle, including shipping.

I buy your Cabernet in a 1.5 liter bottle for $7.99 -- or the equivalent of less than $4 a bottle -- at the Costco in Wayne.

This week, I opened a bottle I bought in March to eat with spicy fried fish and was bowled over again by the smoothness and complex, mouth-filling flavors. 

I'll drink to you, Costco.

I used a few fistfuls of peeled Christopher Ranch Monviso Garlic from California, a refrigerated product from Costco Wholesale, for this dish of store-bought bok choy (79 cents a pound at the Englewood H Mart) and string beans from our garden with sherry, salt, black pepper and other seasoning. I blanched the vegetables first in boiling water and sauteed the chopped garlic in extra-virgin olive oil.

Facing a garlic deadline

I'm using a lot of garlic in my cooking, especially in view of the "BEST BY" date of Sept. 6 on my latest 3-pound bag of peeled Christopher Ranch Monviso Garlic from Costco Wholesale.

On Thursday night, I chopped up a few fistfuls of garlic and sauteed them with extra-virgin olive oil for a side dish of bok choy and string beans.

This week, I also used lots of garlic in mashed sweet potatoes.

About 10 days ago, I threw three or four handfuls of whole peeled cloves into an electric cooker with organic chicken stock, brown rice, a trio of lentils and diced tomatoes, and the garlic cooked beautifully.

Now, I am again having a problem re-closing the bag of garlic I have in the refrigerator, and I'm using a rubber band to keep air out.

Some of the garlic in a previous bag got moldy before the "BEST BY" date.

A simple salad of red-leaf and romaine lettuces with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I bought the two large heads of lettuce for $1.99 each on Thursday at the Teaneck Farmers' Market.

The cantaloupe I bought for $4 at the Teaneck Farmers' Market, right, next to two others from ShopRite in Paramus, where they were 99 cents each on Tuesday.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Teaneck Farmers' Market, sweet potatoes with garlic and more

On my first visit to the Teaneck Farmers' Market this summer, I bought fruit and lettuce from Sunden's Stone Pointe Farm in Old Tappan.

Editor's note: I won't make a special trip to a farmers' market to shop for pricey fruits and vegetables, but will stop at one if I happen to be passing by. Today, I also discuss garlic mashed sweet potatoes, and how I've come to rely on Costco Wholesale's pure egg whites to make a quick open-face omelet. 


New Jersey farmers' markets are terrific, but their higher prices discourage me from making a special trip to one.

When I lived in Englewood, I loved the downtown farmers' market, and even Hackensack had one for the first couple of years I lived here.

Closter's market is one of the bigger and better ones, but I've been there only two or three times on Sundays, when I've driven up for a haircut at a Korean barber shop.

Now, the closest market to me is in Teaneck. Today, I stopped in on the way home from doing an errand in town.

Two farms set up stands at Garrison Avenue and Beverly Road in Teaneck on Thursdays, and Sunden's Stone Pointe Farm from Old Tappan seems to have better produce.

Two ears for $1

You know I haven't been to a farmers' market in years when I tell you I was shocked that $1 now buys only two ears of sweet Jersey corn.

Sunden's cantaloupes were much bigger than the other vendor's, and they were $4 each, compared to $4 each or two for $7.

I also picked up beautiful Jersey peaches with the fuzz still on them for $1.99 a pound, and big heads of romaine and red-leaf lettuce for $1.99 each.

One good thing about a farmers' market is that produce generally looks better and is bigger than what you find in a ShopRite or other supermarket.

More signs needed

One disadvantage is a lack of signs. Most items I saw at around 10:30 this morning were unlabeled -- no prices and nothing on where they were grown.

After I wrote this, I got a call informing me the hours of the market are noon to 6 p.m., but vendors will sell to you before the official opening.

I only want Jersey produce when I go to a farmers' market, yet I saw boxes of pineapples, bananas and other fruit that clearly aren't from the Garden State.

And all that other stuff they sell -- Amish pies, fresh mozzarella, empanadas and whatever -- why bother?

This year, the market's last day will be Oct. 30.

Don't spare peeled California garlic from Costco Wholesale when making mashed sweet potatoes, a terrific substitute for a bagel or bread at breakfast, below.

A simple, open-face omelet with a slice of reduced-fat Swiss cheese takes only minutes when you use Kirkland Signature Egg Whites from Costco Wholesale.

Sweet potatoes and garlic

I stopped at the Paramus ShopRite looking for sweet potatoes on Tuesday, and saw only loose yams, which are starchier and probably have more calories.

In the week since my last visit, some produce department fixtures were moved.

Then, on a low shelf, I saw net bags of Southern's 10 in 1 Sweet Potatoes, a reference to 10 ways they can be prepared as shown on the label (3 pounds for $2.99).

They are triple washed, and all about the same size.

When I opened the bag the next day, one of the sweet potatoes was rotten and inedible, but I cut up the rest -- skin and all -- and boiled them with fistfuls of peeled Christopher Ranch Monviso Garlic from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

They take about 45 minutes to soften. 

After I drained them and returned them to the pot, I added liberal amounts of extra-virgin olive oil, a little salt and just about any other seasoning I had around:

Black pepper, red-pepper flakes, cinnamon, dried onion and no-salt seasoning.

Then, I mashed and served them. There were plenty of leftovers.

An egg-white omelet with sliced reduced-fat cheese, Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale and Aleppo pepper.

An egg white-smoked wild salmon omelet with leftover organic whole wheat spaghetti in bottled pasta sauce with added anchovies, sardines, red wine and organic diced tomatoes, below.

My wife used more peeled garlic from Costco when she made escoveitched fish on Wednesday, frying fresh whole porgy she bought at H Mart in Englewood for $2.49 a pound. Onions, sweet pepper, garlic and whole peppercorns are stewed separately in vinegar, then spooned over the plated fish.

Teaneck Farmers' Market.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why you should take Costco Wholesale on your next vacation

The soaring lobby of Iberostar Grand Hotel Rose Hall, an ultra-expensive, all-inclusive, adults-only resort near Montego Bay, Jamaica. I booked a three-night stay through Costco Travel, saved money and received some valuable extras.

The hotel has 285 rooms, a presidential suite, four specialty restaurants, two buffets, a cigar bar and a nightclub. Two family oriented hotels are next door, Iberostar Suites Hotel and Iberostar Beach Hotel.


I appreciated the money Costco Travel saved me on my flight and three-night stay at a 5-star hotel in Jamaica last week, but really loved all the time I saved at the airport before boarding the flight home.

Montego Bay's departure terminal is notorious for long, serpentine lines you have to join to check in for your flight, and then more lines that take you through security.

Even after you leave security, you can be selected for extra screening inside a room, where your hands are examined for drug residue.

Those searches can really ruin a vacation. Last year, a bottle of homemade jerk sauce was removed from my carry on and tossed in the garbage.

Costco's 'fast track'

I didn't have to worry about any of that with Costco Travel's "VIP fast-track access" through immigration and security, and admission to Club Mobay, a VIP airport lounge with an open bar, sandwiches, wraps, patties and coffee.

I lucked out when a terminal worker herding me and an endless line of others checking in for a United Airlines flight to Newark got me a boarding pass at a kiosk.

Then, I was through immigration and security in minutes, and made a beeline to the VIP lounge for a rum punch.

The Costco package also included a $100 credit on Chukka Tours' Jeep 4X4 Safari to a beautiful waterfall.

The guided tour was part thrill ride over dirt roads, part nature lesson on the lush island's beautiful trees and plants, and part history lesson in an old sugar-cane plantation hit by a slave revolt. 

On a hot and humid day, a hazy view of Montego Bay from an elevation of 1,300 feet during Chukka Tours' Jeep 4X4 Safari. The nature-and-history tour cost me and my wife $89 per person before Costco's $100 credit.

Our guide took coconuts off of a tree to provide us with a refreshing drink. Four couples belted themselves into seats in the covered bed of a Toyota 4X4. Other refreshments during the 4 hour-plus tour were rum punch and bottled water.

The corner balcony of our oceanfront junior suite afforded a sweeping view of the Jamaican coast.

The lobby of Iberostar Suites Hotel Rose Hall, which is connected to the Spanish hotel company's Grand Hotel Rose Hall.

A steel-drum band and dancers entertained guests of Grand Hotel Rose Hall during an afternoon beach party, where lunch was served. In view of the hot and humid weather -- with temperatures in the low 90s -- and limited protection from the sun, I watched from my balcony.

Guests lined up for coconuts.

Endless food and drink

With four specialty restaurants, breakfast and lunch buffets open four hours at a time; "snacks" available near the pool, at least three bars and room service, guests of the Grand Hotel can eat and drink all day and late into the night.

There is no limit on bottles of inexpensive Spanish and Argentinian wine.

Guests also have access to a restaurant in the adjacent Suites Hotel that serves food all night long. 

It was a bit much, and I gained 3 pounds on my first night, even though I didn't touch bread or dessert. When I got home, I was 5 pounds heavier than when I left. 

We told the hotel staff we were celebrating our anniversary and my wife's birthday.

On Saturday night, a female staffer brought us a bottle of Spanish sparkling wine in an ice bucket and two champagne glasses.

We finished another bottle of wine during dinner in the hotel's Es Palau Gourmet Restaurant.

Then, I had cognac and coffee in the nightclub, where we watched a hilarious couples competition.

When we got back to our suite, we found the butler had drawn a hot bubble bath strewn with rose petals in our whirlpool tub.

From the lobby of the Grand Hotel, marble staircases bring you to the main buffet and restaurant level.

At the breakfast buffet, I started with a plate of Jamaican fruit, including intensely sweet nesberries, and a glass of freshly squeezed sour sop juice.

Jamaican specialties included Ackee and Salt Fish, the national dish, and Mackerel Rundown or salted fish cooked in coconut milk. The buffet also has two omelet stations and another station for smoothies and freshly squeezed juices.

A selection of cheeses at breakfast, above and below. 

Freshly squeezed mango-carrot juice.

One of the tastiest salads I encountered at the lunch buffet was shrimp, provolone and parmesan cheese.

A platter of European cheeses at lunch.

One of my lunch plates included, clockwise from upper left, boiled shrimp, fish in pepper sauce, quinoa salad, zucchini with cooked onion and crab salad on toast.

The kitchen tended to overcook fish, such as this wild-caught snapper available at lunch one day. The buffet also served farmed fish, including tilapia and basa fillet, despite all the wild fish available locally.

On Sunday morning, I enjoyed marinated tuna, above, and smoked marlin, below.

Goat cheese with fruit was another breakfast selection.

More attention to detail needed

Jamaican officials give 5 stars to Iberostar's Grand Hotel Rose Hall, but the all-inclusive resort loses points for several exceptions to its all-inclusive policy. See:

There also is a puzzling lack of attention to detail, such as not providing a corkscrew for a welcome bottle of wine, and being slow to replenish items in the free minibar.

The luxurious junior suites are about 30 feet long, not counting the balcony, with a marble bathroom, a bedroom and a sitting room.

When you enter the suite, you are flanked by a wardrobe on your left that hides a safe, minibar and coffee maker.

The bathroom on your right has two sinks, separate stalls for the toilet and shower, with a 12-inch shower head, and a whirlpool tub.

The two sinks are about 15 feet apart, but only one box of tissues and one wastebasket were provided initially.

And the rack for the bath towels was awkwardly placed on the wall above the whirlpool bath, requiring a long reach and stretching over the tub to get them.   

A hot bubble bath awaited us when we returned from the hotel nightclub. To get a bath towel when we weren't taking a bath, we had to reach over the tub to a rack on the wall.

Admission to Club Mobay, a VIP departure lounge at the Montego Bay airport, was included in the Costco Travel package I bought.

Transfers need work

The most disappointing part of the Costco Travel vacation package I bought were the transfers to and from the hotel provided by Jamaica Tours LTD, which seemed overwhelmed trying to handle large numbers of vacationers.

The trip from the airport to the hotel was delayed about 30 minutes, and I was asked to stand outside in the hot, humid weather to wait for a vehicle.

The pickup also was late in arriving at my hotel and at the airport, and the driver couldn't find vacationers on his list.