Friday, October 31, 2014

ShopRite ends payments for bringing reusable bags to store

You can still recycle shopping bags, food wrapping, plastic wrap, dry cleaner bags and other plastic at ShopRite stores, such as the one in Paramus, above.


I got the bad news on Thursday when I stopped at the ShopRite in Paramus to pick up fruit and sweet potatoes.

When the woman at the checkout didn't deduct 5 cents for my reusable bag, I asked her what was up.

It turned out that five days earlier, ShopRite stopped giving customers 2 cents back for plastic shopping bags and 5 cents back for reusable bags, according to a notice hanging nearby.

The notice said the supermarket chain had met its "goal of educating customers and encouraging bag reuse."

That leaves Whole Foods Market as the only supermarket chain I patronize in North Jersey that gives cash back for reusable bags (10 cents per bag).

H Mart, a small chain of Korean supermarkets, discontinued its cash-back program, and Trader Joe's and New York-based Fairway Market never had one.

Costco Wholesale, where I spend most of my food dollars, never bagged customer purchases.

ShopRite claims that "over the past seven years, our customers have reused more than 321 million bags."  

How ShopRite saves money

According to, ShopRite's "Save-A-Bag" program began in 1990, and has saved the supermarket chain $1.5 million by reducing bag purchases.

The savings to consumers is put at $1.2 million.

ShopRite Supermarkets (Wakefern Food Corp.) is the largest retailer owned food cooperative in the United States, with more than 190 stores in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania, according to the Web site.

See: Promoting bag reuse at ShopRite

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Costco is ideal for home cooks, but not so great for takeout

A rainy day at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, where home cooks find many high-quality ingredients at prices that usually beat the competition.


You won't appreciate Costco Wholesale if you spend most of your food dollars on takeout and restaurant meals.

Some of the prepared food at Costco isn't very good, but the warehouse store is filled to the rafters with wild-caught fish, organic poultry, exotic spices and other ingredients at great prices.

Costco is a playground for home cooks, especially those who want to serve more organic and non-GMO foods to their families, including fig bars, spring mix, quinoa and versatile diced tomatoes.

For years, Costco has had the lowest price anywhere for 3 pounds of bananas, only $1.39, but last week, my wife found organically grown bananas next to the conventional ones for only $1.99.

On my home kitchen scale, the bag weighed 3.3 pounds.

Costco's union workers

You can't beat a food store that takes a fixed profit on every item it sells and employs a unionized work force.

Costco could never be confused with greedy Walmart, which peddles low-quality food and fattens its bottom line on the backs of its workers, many of whom earn so little they have to apply for food stamps.

Is the annual Costco membership fee of $55 or $110 a deal breaker?


With a no-fee Costco American Express True Earnings credit card, you earn cash rebates on purchases at Costco and other stores, restaurant meals and gasoline that more than cover the membership fee.

The wine section at the Costco Wholesale in Wayne. You can also find Kirkland Signature's delicious California Cabernet Sauvignon in a 1.5-liter bottle for only $7.99.
You'd do a lot better buying a whole organic chicken at Costco Wholesale and roasting it at home than picking up one of the store's cheap, heavily seasoned and preserved Kirkland Signature Rotisserie Chickens (net weight 3 pounds), which are raised on harmful antibiotics. 

Salmon Milano with Basil Pesto Butter is available at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack for $8.99 a pound, but you have to cook the artificially colored farmed salmon at home. Instead, you can buy wild-caught fish fillets at Costco for about the same price and poach them in Mexican green salsa or bottled marinara, avoiding the butter in the prepared dish.

In addition to whole rotisserie chickens, you can pick up chicken salad and chicken noodle soup, both made with rotisserie chicken, for $4.99, the price for a whole bird. But if you read the list of ingredients, above, you'd pass on this takeout meal.

Costco's cabbage kimchi is only $7.99, but comes in a bottle that is 6 ounces shy of the standard 64-ounce bottle found in Korean supermarkets. The kimchi sold at the warehouse store also contains beef bone extract and added sugar you don't find in other brands. 

Food at great prices is not the only draw at Costco Wholesale. If you care anything about how you dress, the warehouse store is filled with high-quality clothing and accessories at low prices, such as these Italian top-grain leather belts for only $17.99 each, the same price Costco charges for button-down and spread-collar shirts made from 100% cotton. 

These Kirkland Signature 100% Italian Silk Ties also were $17.99 each, though I find the patterns too conservative. This week, we picked up a wool-and-cashmere overcoat for our growing teenage son for only $69.99.

One of the great ingredients for home cooks is peeled California garlic, which has been in short supply at the Hackensack warehouse store recently. On Tuesday, the refrigerated 3-pound bags reappeared with a modest price increase of 40 cents, a far better choice than peeled garlic from China, which has a terrible food-safety record.

Fresh wild-caught Atlantic cod, long-line caught in Iceland, is only $7.99 a pound at Costco, and can be poached for dinner in under 10 minutes in Roasted Chipotle Salsa from Whole Foods Market. Mashed sweet potatoes from the 10-pound bag sold at Costco help me prepare filling meals while following a no-bread, no pizza diet.

Egg whites, reduced-fat Swiss cheese and smoked wild salmon -- all from Costco -- were poached in bottled pasta sauce and served over mashed sweet potatoes for breakfast.

These aged, sharp cheddar slices were $6.99 when introduced at the Hackensack warehouse store in March. On Monday, they were $7.99, still a good buy for 2 pounds of cheese.

About a month ago, I picked up this 2.2-pound  bag of organic coffee at the Hackensack warehouse store for only $14.99 after trying a sample of coffee brewed from the beans. I also was able to get it ground to my specification -- Turkish.

The Ruta Maya Organic Coffee helps me brew two or three strong, smooth cups in the morning.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Screw you, Fairway. Whole Foods will devein my wild shrimp

Wild-caught shrimp are sometimes available at H Mart in Englewood for about the same price Costco Wholesale in Hackensack charges for previously frozen farmed shrimp from Vietnam.


We've stopped buying the previously frozen farmed shrimp from Costco Wholesale, but we're having trouble finding a steady source of affordable wild shrimp.

On a rare visit to New York-based Fairway Market in Paramus recently, I saw large, wild-caught shrimp for $17.99 a pound, but the fishmonger shook his head "no" when I asked if would devein them for me.

Removing the central vein is a tricky job and, even though I have a special serrated knife, I've often cut myself.

It's not as if the Fairway fishmonger was busy; I was the only customer at the seafood counter.

This is just another way Fairway's New York attitude sucks.

I deveined and shelled these farmed Black Tiger shrimp from Costco Wholesale in Hackensack at home -- using a special, serrated knife and sometimes cutting myself in the process. I poached them in Mexican green salsa and fresh lime juice.

The mall entrance to Whole Foods Market at Bergen Town Center in Paramus,where you will find the best seafood department in North Jersey.

Whole Foods to the rescue

People complain about the prices at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, but I usually go there to shop for sale items and I've always found the employees helpful.

At the seafood counter last week, I saw wild-caught Gulf Shrimp on ice for a little under $20 a pound.

I said to the fishmonger, I wasn't ready to buy any, but when I'm ready, would he devein them.

Sure, he said without hesitation.

So, Fairway, screw you. Go back to New York. You're not wanted or needed in North Jersey.

Click on the links below for previous posts about Fairway, and comments from readers of this blog that back me up:

No answer from Fairway's corporate office

Please be a good neighbor, Fairway

Sticker shock is everywhere on rare visit
to Fairway Market in Paramus

Monday, October 27, 2014

An out-of-state upstart satisfies my hunger for kimchi at home

The long-delayed relocation of Arirang Kimchi to Ridgefield from Englewood remains incomplete.


The jar of kimchi in my refrigerator came all the way from Pennsylvania.

I had hoped to pick up Arirang's handmade cabbage kimchi in Ridgefield on Saturday, but the family owned company hasn't completed its relocation from Englewood.

The storefront in the H&Y Marketplace shopping center looks much the same as it did a couple of months ago.

I  looked under the "COMING SOON" banner covering the plate-glass window, and could see only three or four large refrigerated cases against one wall.

I have been a loyal Arirang customer for more than a decade, and have loved the crunch of its spicy cabbage, cucumber and radish kimchis.

So many kimchis...

But on Saturday, I had to go into H&Y, a Korean supermarket; look over a dozen brands and purchase a 64-ounce bottle of Mukungwha Mac Kimchi from Joo Young Food Inc. in Willow Grove, Pa. ($8.99).

The ingredients list is short: Cabbage, red pepper, ginger, onion, garlic, salt, fish sauce. 

Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is selling a smaller bottle of cabbage kimchi for $7.99, but I haven't bought any because it contains beef-bone extract and added sugar.

One of my favorite items at H&Y Marketplace is a  2-pound package of Jun's Wild Sesame Seed Tofu ($5), made in the store with non-GMO soybeans. A great snack is a thick slice of this tofu with a little sweet-and-spicy gochujang, below.

A 2.2-pound bottle of refrigerated Sinsong Vinegared Red-Pepper Paste or Gochujang was on sale for $4.99, a discount of $1. I bought two. This brand is made with sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup. The bottles were placed on the shelf above an old, incorrect sign for wasabi.

Mukungwha Mac Kimchi from Pennsylvania.

The cabbage kimchi sold at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is $7.99, but the bottle is smaller, only 58 ounces.

H&Y Marketplace, 1 Remsen Place, Ridgefield; 201-943-7400.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Whole Foods: 10 ways to think outside of bottled pasta sauce

Whole Foods Market suggests poaching two eggs in bottled pasta sauce. I served them over leftover organic quinoa for breakfast, and found using a soup spoon the easiest way to eat the comforting dish.

Instead of grated cheese, I used a vegetable peeler to add shaved Grana Padano from Costco Wholesale. I also used a little extra-virgin olive oil and Italian dried herbs, in addition to the black pepper recommended by Whole Foods.


I stopped at Whole Foods Market in Paramus to pick up naturally raised oxtails for the meat eaters in the family, and grabbed a copy of "The Whole Deal," a store publication with coupons, recipes and other advice.

As I was leafing through it at home, I got a kick out of "10 things to do with pasta sauce (beyond pasta)."

I have lots of bottled sauce around -- 40-ounce bruisers from Victoria and Paesana -- and smaller jars from The Silver Palate and ShopRite.

So on Saturday morning, I tried the first non-pasta suggestion -- Eggs in Purgatory.

I simmered 1 cup of Silver Palate Tomato Basil sauce and a little olive oil in a small pan, cracked open two organic eggs and topped them with shaved Grana Padano Cheese, black pepper and dried Italian herbs.

I found a glass cover for the pan that helped cut the cooking time.

One cup of pasta sauce for two eggs seemed like a lot, but I used an 8-inch, non-stick pan and followed the recipe.

On Saturday morning, I used The Silver Palate Tomato Basil sauce.

Chili, Spanish rice

The next two suggestions are chili -- just add beans and chili powder to pasta sauce -- and Spanish rice.

For the rice dish, Whole Foods suggests cooking 1 cup of rice and substituting 1 cup of pasta sauce for 1 cup of water.

Then, you stir in capers, green olives and chopped green onions.

I might try this with 2 or 3 cups of organic brown rice. I have capers, pitted black olives and scallions in the refrigerator. 

Fish in pasta sauce

Another suggestion I like is poaching fish fillets in pasta sauce, a variation on my own recipe of poaching cod, haddock or wild salmon in Mexican green salsa with added fresh lime juice.

On Thursday, I bought a 24-ounce jar of Whole Foods Roasted Salsa Verde for $3.99, and a 16-ounce jar of Roasted Chipotle Salsa for $2.69.

Both are free of the MSG that is now being added to a onetime favorite, La Costena Mexican Green Salsa.

The frozen Coleman Oxtails were $7.99 a pound, and each of the two packages I bought weighed more than 2 pounds.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Catherine Lombardi meets George Benson in New Brunswick

"Cumare" Nancy's Stuffed Calamari with Spinach at Catherine Lombardi, an Italian-American restaurant in New Brunswick.


We battled horrendous rush-hour traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, but the payoff was a wonderful meal of Italian-American comfort food, and the guitar and vocal magic of jazz giant George Benson.

New Brunswick, a vibrant center for the arts, has a lot of great restaurants, and we chose Catherine Lombardi on the second floor of Stage Left, just down the street from the 8 p.m. concert at the State Theater.

Late Friday afternoon, we figured we could drive from our home to the restaurant in an hour, but it took nearly 90 minutes to cover less than 45 miles.

Arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano Salad.

Cold antipasto and salads

We started with a trio of cold appetizers for $10 -- chilled marinated fresh sardines and white anchovies in olive oil, and cubes of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese aged 1 year.

The sardines were fresh, and the anchovies weren't overly salted, perfect with crusts of the dinner rolls in the bread basket.

The menu lists 18 cold antipasti -- three for $10, six for $16 and nine for $20. You could make a meal of them.

We moved onto salads, which are listed last on the menu and usually served last, as is the custom in Italy.

I loved the tart, lemony dressing of my peppery Arugula and Parmigiano Reggiano Salad ($10.95), this one with cheese aged 24 months and shaved to show off its full flavor.

My wife enjoyed her Caesar Salad (also $10.95), but left the croutons.

A trio of cold appetizers -- fresh sardines, white anchovies and Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese.

Baby squid, meatballs, wine

Our entrees were Spaghetti & Meatballs in Marinara ($19.95), and "Cumare" Nancy's Stuffed Calamari with Spinach, a small school of tender baby squid stuffed with a creamy mixture of bread crumbs, olives and cheese that squirted out when I cut into the tubes (also $19.95).

My wife couldn't finish her entree, and when we asked the waiter to pack it up, he said the restaurant would hold the food in the refrigerator until after our concert.

A carafe holding 8 ounces of a young Chianti was $12, though a better choice would have been the smoother Chianti Classico.

Spaghetti & Meatballs in Marinara.

We were seated at one of the tables for two in front of the fireplace.

The busy bar held champagne on ice and a Spanish ham whose thin slices, we were told, would melt in our mouths.

Earnest servers in dark suits and ties had a hard time keeping up after the dining room filled up.

Coffee and service

We didn't bother looking at the dessert menu, and ordered coffee, which was terrific with a little milk.

But getting a server's attention for a refill proved difficult once the dining room filled up with customers and noise.

The racket from the bar and tables reminded us of Cassie's, a family oriented pizzeria we once patronized in Englewood, where we loved the food, but not the unending din.

We had a wonderful meal at Carherine Lombardi, notwithstanding our first impression of the restaurant -- a dirty, musty smelling carpet on the stairs we had to climb to the dining room.

Catherine Lombardi Restaurant, 5 Livingston St., New Brunswick; 1-732-828-4444. Reservations  recommended.

George Benson

Given his energy and musicianship, it's hard to believe jazz guitarist George Benson is 71 years old.

At the State Theater on Friday night, he belted out one tune after another in front of his driving band for about 90 minutes, including encores.

The sextet includes a rare congera, a woman who plays conga and bongo drums, and percussion instruments, and provides high-decibel background vocals.

But Benson's voice and the words of his songs often were obscured by his band's electrified instruments, and I missed him singing, accompanied only by his guitar.

Our tickets were free -- one of the perks for joining the Jazz Leadership Society at WBGO-FM, the jazz station in Newark.

Parking tip

The State Theater, a former vaudeville and silent movie palace at 15 Livingston Ave. in New Brunswick, recommends patrons park in the Morris Street Parking Deck a couple of blocks away.

Be sure to buy a $9 parking voucher at the theater or you will have to stand on a long line of more than 100 people we saw paying for their parking at the garage after the concert.

The voucher gives you up to 12 hours of parking, and allows you to go straight to your car, head for the exit, pay and leave.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Where you don't have to go fishing for a healthy breakfast

Two eggs sunny side up with a fresh whiting fillet and home fries at Golden Grill Restaurant in Teaneck.


I don't eat breakfast out much, and haven't been to the Golden Grill in Teaneck for many months.

But on Friday, I had another great meal of fish and eggs there.

The breakfast menu offers alternatives to bacon, sausage and other unhealthy sides.

You can get two eggs any style with whiting, the restaurant's own fish cakes or sardines.

I chose whiting and asked the cook to grill or broil the fish, which is usually fried.

The eggs and whiting were served with the restaurant's wonderful home fries, and I told the waitress to hold the toast that comes with the breakfast ($7).

I don't go to the Golden Grill in Teaneck's West Englewood neighborhood for service or atmosphere.

Today, I got the tea with milk I ordered right away, but there was a long wait for my breakfast.

Golden Grill, 1379 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck; 201-837-1078. Free street parking.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Some of my favorite things at Costco are ready for their closeup

You might know pesto as a wonderful dressing for pasta, but the refrigerated product sold at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack also can be used as a sandwich spread or as a garnish for omelets, frittatas and soups, below. All the basil in Kirkland Signature Bail Pesto is imported from Italy.

Parmigiano Reggiano has been called the "King of Cheeses." At $10.59 a pound, the aged Kirkland Signature cheese, imported from Italy, is selling for less than at other retailers. The nutty cheese is wonderful with dried or fresh fruit, and shaved over eggs. Costco also sells the same cheese shredded for adding to pasta and egg dishes.

On Tuesday, I bought a wedge of another aged cow's milk cheese, Kirkland Signature Grana Padano, said to Italy's most popular cheese. Tiny print on the wrapper says this cheese has been made since Roman times.

Grana Padano shaved over two organic eggs from Costco, above, and in a salad made with Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, below.

Even at a higher price, Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon is cheaper at Costco than at any other retailer in North Jersey. Smoked farmed salmon doesn't even come close to the color or robust taste of the wild-caught fish.

The price of Jarlsberg Lite Swiss Cheese has jumped about a dollar, but the reduced-fat slices are great in sandwiches or as snack food, whether eaten alone or with smoked wild salmon, canned-fish salad and red-leaf lettuce, below.

Sweet potatoes have reappeared at Costco in Hackensack for the holidays. A 10-pound bag was only $7.99 or about 80 cents a pound, compared to a 3-pound bag of the same sweet potatoes at the Paramus ShopRite for about $1 a pound. They are terrific baked or cut up, boiled with peeled garlic and mashed, using extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings.

The price for 100 bags of Japanese Green Tea from Ito En, sold under the Kirkland Signature label, has risen, but the bagged leaves and matcha powder make a soothing cup of tea.

One of the cheapest items at Costco travels the farthest. We use Ground Saigon Cinnamon from Vietnam to dust raw, salt-free almonds we roast at home; and in coffee and hot milk.

Costco says Himalayan Pink Salt is the purest form of sea salt available because it is harvested in the mountains, not from potentially polluted ocean water. A 13-ounce grinder was $3.99.

There is only 1 gram of La Mancha Spanish Saffron in the jar, but the label says you have to use "only a few threads" in rice, soup, sauces and other dishes to make them come alive with the unique flavor. The jar was $11.99, but La Mancha Saffron offered on appears to cost less.

Organic No-Salt Seasoning is a flavorful blend of 21 organic spices and ingredients that help you cut down on the use of sodium in home-cooked meals. A 14.5-ounce jar was $8.29.

These addictive sheets of Roasted Seasoned Seaweed from South Korea have less salt than other brands. Each package contains nearly three times as much seaweed as Korean brands.

Kirkland Signature Minoxidil (Foam) is a better deal than Rogaine hair-regrowth treatment. A four-month supply of the name-brand foam is $49.99 ($39.99 on sale), compared to $48.99 for a six-month supply of Costco's Minoxidil.

These sun-dried organic figs are unsulfured and free of GMOs. They are terrific with cheese or in salads. A 2.5-pound package was $10.99.

At ShopRite in Paramus, a deep discount on Paesana Marinara pasta sauce in a 40-ounce jar manages to just beat Costco's sale price for Victoria Marinara, below. Neither has added sugar.

This week, Paramus ShopRite's sales price also is undercutting Costco's price for Tropicana Pure Premium Orange Juice in the 89-ounce container. A geezer who saw me putting two bottles of the OJ in my cart on Tuesday denounced the product as "sugar water," insisting Tropicana would never give consumers 100% juice, despite what the label says.