Saturday, January 31, 2015

Food shopping for the Super Bowl can have an immediate payoff

For a Super Bowl Party, I chose naturally raised Niman Ranch St. Louis-Style Pork Ribs from Whole Foods Market in Paramus over the mystery pork spare ribs sold at the nearby ShopRite.


Our son is inviting close to a dozen friends over for a Super Bowl Party, but most of the food shopping fell to me.

I tried to focus on buying food for guests who will eat just about anything, but did manage to pick up fresh fish from the Jersey shore for my dinner and a half-dozen bottles of inexpensive red wine.

Our Super Bowl menu for Sunday includes prepared pork ribs in barbecue sauce, prepared chicken wings, frozen pizzas, mac and cheese; chips, salsa and organic guacamole, fruit juice and ginger ale.

I won't be eating any of it, with the possible exception of the guac (hold the chips).

I started shopping on Thursday at ShopRite in Paramus, where I picked up two sale items, a half-dozen frozen 12-inch DiGiorno Pizzas, with and without meat, for $3.97 each, and 16-ounce jars of Ortega Salsa for $1.79 each.

Blue fish and wine, too

At Whole Foods Market in Paramus on Friday, I found a 3.95-pound package of prepared St. Louis-Style Pork Ribs from the Niman Ranch.

The fully cooked ribs are antibiotic, hormone and preservative free ($7.99 a pound).

But I also picked up locally caught Bluefish fillets that I poached for dinner in Whole Foods' Roasted Chipotle Salsa ($2.69), and served over a combination of organic brown rice, organic quinoa, organic diced tomatoes and chopped garlic.

Whole Foods offers some white and red wines for $5.99 or less per bottle.

I took four bottles of red wine to the checkout counter, only to be told that if I bought six, I would get a 10% discount on all of them.

I bought six bottles of Quail Creek Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon ($4.99 each); and Don Simon Tempranillo ($3.99 each) for $26.91 with the discount.

And Whole Foods still refunds 10 cents for each reusable bag you bring with you.

On the way to the ribs at Whole Foods, I couldn't resist asking the fishmonger to fillet a whole Bluefish from Barnegat Light, one of New Jersey's premier fishing ports. The wild-caught fish was only $3.99 a pound.

No other supermarket or private fish market in North Jersey can match the freshness or variety of seafood at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, and you can always find a few items on sale.

Costco wings, chips and more

I did the rest of my Super Bowl Party shopping on Friday afternoon at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, where we spend most of our food dollars.

In addition to such Super Bowl food as fully cooked chicken wings, I replenished our supply of Organic Eggs (24 for $6.99), 100% Egg Whites (six 16-ounce cartons for $7.49), GMO-free Nature's Bakery Fig Bars ($8.99), Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix (1 pound for $4.89) and Organic Bananas (3 pounds for $1.99), among other items. 

The only prepared Buffalo and BBQ chicken wings available at Costco are from two low-quality producers, Perdue and Tyson. 

Large bags (5 pounds) were $10.49 each with a $4 instant rebate.

I saw Coleman naturally raised breaded chicken tenders, but my son specifically asked for wings.

I couldn't find nachos or similar chips, but bought Kirkland Signature Organic Tortilla Chips ($4.99), Mateo's Gourmet Salsa (32 ounces for $6.39) and refrigerated Organic Fresh Salsa (30 ounces for $7.79).

I may not serve the organic salsa, which would be great with fresh fish or eaten with cooked organic brown rice.

Twenty-four cans of Canada Dry Ginger Ale ("Made from Real Ginger") were $5.59 with an instant $1 rebate.

Two 96-ounce bottles of V8 Splash Tropical Blend (10% juice) were $5.49.

A fresh Bluefish fillet, poached in Roasted Chipotle Salsa, with chopped callaloo and sweet peppers, and an organic brown rice-quinoa combination prepared in an electric cooker.

I cut the two wild-caught Bluefish fillets into four serving pieces and poached them in boiling salsa with added lime juice for 8 minutes in a covered pan. Each serving piece cost about $1.67, not including the salsa.

An Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix salad with Campari Tomatoes ended the meal, dressed simply in organic extra-virgin olive oil from Costco Wholesale and Ponti Balsamic Vinegar from Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood, below.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Vodka Sauce without heavy cream, organic brown rice-quinoa combo

Victoria lists the ingredients in its pasta sauces on the front label.


I'm a big fan of bottled pasta sauces without added sugar, but usually avoid those made with cream, including Vodka Sauce and Alfredo Sauce.

For me, the draw is the taste of red tomatoes, not all that creamy, artery clogging saturated fat and cholesterol.

So, imagine my delight when I found a 40-ounce jar of Victoria Vodka Sauce made without heavy cream on sale at the ShopRite in Paramus.

The ingredients label on the front of the jar listed two cheeses and vodka, but no cream. 

The big jar was $3.99 or half-price, and there is enough sauce here to dress a full pound of organic whole-wheat pasta.

Unfortunately, I could find only one bottle on the shelves.

Costco Wholesale in Hackensack sells the highly rated Victoria Marinara in 40-ounce jars, but I have never seen Victoria Vodka Sauce in the warehouse store.

On the shelf at ShopRite in Paramus, a bottle of Bertolli Vodka Sauce boasts, "Now with More Cream." The label should add, "Now with More Saturated Fat and Cholesterol."

Bertolli Vodka Sauce also has added sugar and xanthan gum.

Seeds of Change organic Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic is already cooked, and only needs to be heated on the stove or in a microwave.

Heat-and-eat Brown Rice and Quinoa

My wife doesn't care for my habit of tossing handfuls of peeled garlic cloves into an electric cooker with organic brown rice or quinoa, even though the cloves turn out creamy.

This week, she found prepared organic Seeds of Change Quinoa & Brown Rice with Garlic at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack.

Six 8.5-ounce pouches in a box -- a total of 3.2 pounds -- were $8.99, and each pouch yields about three servings.

It's a tasty combination of 100% whole grains, but the garlic taste isn't that evident.

The ingredients label lists brown rice first and then quinoa (say KEEN-wah), but the product is called Quinoa & Brown Rice.

Those labels are supposed to list ingredients from greater to lesser amounts.

At the Paramus ShopRite, blemishes in these organic apples might explain why they are labeled, "Manager's Special."

Monday, January 26, 2015

The first challenge at new H Mart Fresh is finding a place to park

A new H Mart Fresh on Broad Avenue and Fort Lee Road in Leonia occupies a building that was home to two other markets, but the store doesn't have a parking lot.

Editor's note: Today, I report on a brief visit to a new H Mart Fresh in Leonia, and compare wine prices at Trader Joe's and ShopRite.


The other day, I drove through downtown Leonia and was surprised to see the food market at Broad Avenue and Fort Lee Road had been transformed into an H Mart Fresh.

Today, on the way back home from Fort Lee, I wanted to take a look inside, but found parking a challenge.

The bad news is the store has no parking lot, but the good news is street parking is free, if you can find a space.

Still, after I found parking in a municipal lot a short block away from the store and took a foot path to Fort Lee Road through a bank lot, there wasn't a single bargain to be had in the store.

On Sunday, I visited the full-size H Mart supermarket in Little Ferry and saw many items on sale, including California-grown Kokuho Yellow Label White Rice, Shin Ramyun Noodle Soup and organic soft tofu.

None of those items were discounted at the Leonia H Mart Fresh, which opened about a month ago and isn't even listed on the company Web site:

In a creative re-use of store signs, H Mart put its logo on the Aisle 6 marker, above, but left the old market's name on the other side, below.

Second H Mart Fresh

The new H Mart Fresh in Leonia joins the H Mart Fresh near residential high-rises on 16th Street in Fort Lee, a town that also boasts a full-size H Mart supermarket.

H Mart Fresh is an abbreviated version of the bigger stores, designed more for convenience than anything else.

The Leonia H Mart Fresh is in the heart of the borough's downtown, near a few apartment buildings.

I met another shopper who explained why I wasn't able to find a parking space closer to the store.

She said teachers from the school on the next corner lost their lot when an addition was added, and they now park in many of the street spaces.

Unanswered is how borough zoning officials ever approved a food market for a building without a parking lot.

Every other H Mart I have been to, from Fort Lee to Edison, has a parking lot.

And H Mart, part of the Hanahreum Group, also is the only chain I know that doesn't have the same sales in every store, and when an item is on sale in several stores, discounts can vary.

On Sunday, shoppers found the Little Ferry H Mart's parking lot flooded, and the entrance to the store, above and below, as shabby as ever. The entire store, one of H Mart's biggest, is desperately in need of a makeover.

Trader Joe's Wines on 14 Street in Manhattan, near Union Square, offers Charles Shaw Blends from California for $2.99 a bottle, and other red wines for $4.99, $5.49 and $5.99 a bottle.

Hunting for a bathroom

This morning, a part-time job took me into Manhattan, where I parked at a meter and walked to a Starbucks Coffee for a latte.

But the store on 3rd Avenue and East 15th Street doesn't have a bathroom, and I was directed to a Trader Joe's on East 14th Street.

There, a security guard directed me to a Trader Joe's Wine Store a couple of doors down the street, where I did find a bathroom, and a store full of red-wine bargains.

Trader Joe's Two-Buck Chuck (Charles Shaw Blends) now costs $2.99 a bottle for Merlot, Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, and I bought one of each.

I also picked up a bottle of Green Fin organic Cabernet Sauvignon for $4.99, TJ's Growers Reserve Petite Sirah for $5.49 and Grifone Toscana Rosso for $5.99.

Trader Joe's Wine Store, 138 E. 14th St., New York, N.Y.; 1-212-529-6326.

The wine department at the ShopRite is Paramus isn't the place to shop, if you are a wine lover in search of bargains. In a quick walk through the aisles last week, I couldn't find any bottles of red wine in my price range, $3 to $7.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

At BCD in Fort Lee, the soft tofu in that spicy soup is 100% organic

A large green-lipped mussel emerging from the Seafood Tofu Soup at the popular BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee.

A beautifully battered and fried yellow croaker is the standout among the complimentary side dishes served at BCD Tofu House, an international chain based in South Korea. The others are excellent cabbage kimchi, spicy raw squid and iced sour pickle slices any Jewish deli would be proud of.

Editor's note: Calling all garlic lovers. On Friday, we stopped at BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee for a belly busting lunch, and on Saturday, we had dinner at Wondee's in Hackensack, our favorite Thai restaurant, where we tried to ignore the tattered carpet.


I absolutely love the food and service at BCD Tofu House in Fort Lee, but could do without the crowds and the wait for a table.

Having said that, I always look for an excuse to eat there, as I did on Friday afternoon, when I was returning from taking photos of an Edgewater apartment building that was destroyed by fire.

My visits have been infrequent since the restaurant was recommended to me in 2012, but this time, I immediately noticed the place-mat menu declaring only 100% organic tofu is used in the signature soup.

The menu also notes prices have stayed the same now that House Foods-brand organic tofu has been added.

Tofu is made from soybeans, one of the major crops that are being genetically modified. 

Organic tofu is GMO free as are some non-organic tofus that carry a seal from the Non GMO Project, including the House Foods Firm Tofu sold at Costco Wholesale.

On Friday afternoon, the restaurant was packed when we arrived around 1:30, but we got a table in about 5 minutes.

I ordered Seafood Tofu Soup, my wife had Pork Tofu Soup, both prepared "Hot," and we shared a Seafood Pancake.

BCD prices

BCD's Tofu Soup or Soondubu Jjigae is $10.99 at lunch (10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and $12.99 at dinner, including six side dishes, steamed white or brown rice and a fresh egg to crack open and poach in the bubbling broth.

That's a dollar or two more than So Gong Dong in Palisades Park, our usual go-to place, but BCD serves more free side dishes and the quality of seafood used in the soup is superior.

One of those free side dishes is a beautifully fried small fish, a yellow croaker, that is so good I ate the whole thing, including the head.

So Gong Dong has nothing like it.

The range of spiciness available at BCD are Plain, Mild, Regular, Hot and Danger. Tofu Soup is one of the world's great comfort foods.

BCD, an international chain based in South Korea, also has a more extensive menu of such traditional favorites as stone-bowl bibimbap, spicy raw crab, pork belly and cold noodles called naegmyun.

The complete Tofu Soup meal served at BCD Tofu House is the best in North Jersey. Now, if they only took reservations.


Two of the complimentary side dishes at BCD Tofu House are slices of fried tofu, front, and marinated green beans and mushrooms. The Haemul Pajeon or Korean Seafood Pancake, below, serves four, and we took home leftovers ($8.99).

Seafood Soondubu is $10.99 at lunch.

BCD Tofu House has a playroom for children that parents can monitor from the dining room. 

A takeout order of Pork Soondubu included a fried yellow croaker, above, and Chinese broccoli and bean sprouts, photos below.

Inspired by our delicious lunch at BCD Tofu House, I made Tofu Soup at home on Saturday, using ground red pepper, roasted black sesame seeds, Pulmone-brand Tofu Broth Seasoning and, from Costco, organic chicken stock, firm tofu, and skinless and boneless hake fillets.

BCD Tofu House, 1640 Schlosser St., Fort Lee, hidden away in Fort Lee Towne Center, a small shopping center with a Korean bakery, gym and other businesses; 201-944-2340.

Web site: A dish loved the world over

Ocean of Garlic at Wondee's in Hackensack combines deep-fried shrimp, squid, small scallops and mussels sauteed with black pepper and minced fresh garlic and served with pickled cabbage and other vegetables ($18).

At Wondee's, focus on food

I've always judged restaurants by food and then service, because you can't eat the wallpaper.

At Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, the food and service are still great nearly 18 years after Chef Wandee Suwangbutra opened on Main Street in Hackensack.

I have to just keep on reminding myself I can't eat the carpet at my favorite Thai restaurant.

The restaurant's floor is raised in the back so you have to step up, if you enter through the door off of the rear parking lot.

Then, the floor slopes in places and is flat in the front, but the carpet throughout is worn, faded and crudely patched with tape.

The chairs also have seen better days. The interior is a liability lawsuit waiting to happen.

Two favorites

Wandee is at the top of her game, especially when preparing two of my favorites, Ocean of Garlic and the classic Green Papaya Salad.

The seafood in the Ocean of Garlic is deep-fried, but not greasy, and tender, and I love the contrast with the crunchy pickled vegetables.

The Green Papaya Salad is served over a large romaine lettuce leaf so you can tear some off, wrap up the crunchy strands and pop them into your mouth. 

Now, if only Wandee's landlord could invest in a new carpet for the restaurant, loyal customers like me can focus completely on the wonderful Thai food.

Thai Fried Rice is made with shrimp, pork, egg, scallions and bell pepper ($10.50)

Som Thum or fresh Green Papaya Salad packs plenty of crunch and plenty of heat from chili peppers ($8).

Geuw Nam or Wonton Soup with roast pork and vegetables ($3.50 for small).

Coconut Juice with pulp ($3).

Wondee's is a BYO.

Wondee's Fine Thai Food and Noodles, 296 Main St., Hackensack; 201-883-1700. BYO, parking in rear, no delivery. Closed Mondays.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Portuguese food delivery in Hackensack could be our new Chinese

Grilled Codfish or what the Portuguese call Bacalhau Grelhado from Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack.

Fire Pit Barbecue also delivered an aluminum tray holding a whole barbecued chicken (cut up), yellow rice and black beans.

Editor's note: After two solid days of eating out in Manhattan's expensive restaurants and trying to avoid butter, cream and other high-cholesterol and high-calorie food, we returned home, looking forward to simpler meals.


How tired are we of having Chinese food delivered? Don't ask.

We've been loyal customers of Zen Kitchen in Teaneck, but our last few deliveries haven't been up to par.

My wife complains the food we've received lately is "greasy," and we have a hard time getting dishes prepared simply with fresh garlic.

So, after we returned on Monday from spending the weekend in a luxury Manhattan hotel, I called Fire Pit Barbecue on Essex Street, a mile and a half away from our home in Hackensack.

The restaurant's name doesn't hint the menu is filled with Portuguese-style barbecue and other favorites, plus wraps, soups and salads.

Pork with shrimp

When I ate meat, I always loved ordering Pork with Clams at Portuguese restaurants in Newark's Ironbound.

Fire Pit Barbecue in Hackensack lists Pork Cubes with Shrimp on its menu ($16), and Shrimp, Meat and Cod Fish Cakes ($1 to $1.50 each).

For dessert, you'll find Flan and Rice Pudding ($3 each).

I ordered three items from the online menu and had them delivered:

A whole BBQ Chicken with two side dishes ($14), a half-order of BBQ Spare Ribs ($9) and Grilled Codfish with Potatoes, Peppers and Onions ($19).

The whole chicken and grilled codfish came in aluminum trays with barbecue and spicy sauces -- generous portions that were enough for three to four people.

They were a better value than the half-order of spare ribs.

I loved the smoky taste of the salted codfish, and the vegetables that came with it. We got three portions of fish and vegetables from the tray.

Fire Pit Barbecue, 357 Essex St., Hackensack; 201-489-3473. Portuguese food. Eat in, take out and delivery. 

Online menu is being revised and might not match price increases. A second Fire Pit Barbecue is in Kearny.

Web site:

The Grilled Codfish delivered by Fire Pit Barbecue was smothered in green peppers, onions and garlic, and came with steamed broccoli and carrots, and white potatoes, all in a generous pour of extra-virgin olive oil.

Back to egg whites, whole grains

When we checked out of our hotel last Monday, we didn't go to breakfast in Manhattan, but returned home late in the morning and prepared our own meal. 

Open-face omelets made with 100% egg whites and seasoned with Aleppo pepper, za'artar thyme mixture or grated Pecorino Romano, a sheep's milk cheese from Italy, above and below, and served with organic quinoa or an organic quinoa-brown rice combination, both from Costco Wholesale.

Two Costco Wholesale Organic Eggs fried in olive oil with bits of Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, served with mashed sweet potatoes and Kabocha squash made with extra-virgin olive oil. How sweet it is.

Last Sunday evening in Manhattan, the Michelin 3-star restaurant Per Se in the Time Warner Center didn't offer a green salad. On Wednesday, on the way home, I stopped at Jerry's Gourmet & More in Englewood for a Kale Salad with dried cranberries, pignoli nuts and shredded cheese ($3.99), added the salad to Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix and Campari Tomatoes, and dressed them in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

For tourists in Manhattan, breakfast, lunch and dinner can be pricey

On Saturday evening, the Catch of the Day at the uptown branch of Landmarc in Manhattan was roasted Long Island Fluke. The restaurant serves "contemporary bistro fare that blends French and Italian favorites," according to its Web site.

Landmarc is popular with families, probably because it is one of the most affordable restaurants in the Time Warner Center, home to Per Se and Masa, where you can easily spend many hundreds of dollars on dinner.


Unless you're a tourist who is willing to settle for fast food with mysterious ingredients, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner out in Manhattan can be pricey.

After we checked into the Park Hyatt New York on West 57th Street on Saturday afternoon and rested, we walked a few blocks to the Time Warner Center for dinner at Landmarc.

Our reservation was for 5 p.m. to give us plenty of time to eat before a 7 p.m. jazz concert a couple of floors above the restaurant.

We ate dinner at Landmarc in May 2011, when I described the experience this way:

"Crowds. Noise. Great food and service."

But Landmarc has changed.

I didn't recall the industrial-chic decor: 

Walls covered with black metal, lots of natural wood planks and exposed rebar -- steel reinforcing rods used in concrete construction.

The restaurant is the first in New York I've encountered that doesn't serve bread, and if you want a glass of wine, you're out of luck, because only half- and full bottles are available.

2011 and 2015

In 2011, we were seated at a table for two sandwiched between two other couples whose every word I could easily overhear; on Saturday night, we were shown to a booth.

The food is still really good, but Traver, our waiter, left a lot to be desired.

We ordered one small grapefruit juice, an appetizer to share and two entrees (fish and a burger), and when my wife saw the bill, she was shocked: $85.47, including tax, but not tip.

I left a $12 tip, a couple of dollars short of the recommended 18% shown on the credit-card slip, bringing the total to nearly $100.

A Landmarc Chopped Salad of beets, cucumber, tomato and other ingredients with added shrimp.

The Landmarc Hamburger.

The dining room gets noisy when full.

Where is the serving spoon?

At Landmarc, we started by sharing an appetizer portion of Chopped Salad for $16, and asked for grilled shrimp as an add on for $7 more.

The crunchy salad and the tender, barely cooked shrimp in a large soup bowl couldn't be faulted, but the food runner brought the dish without a serving spoon, making it difficult to share.

I couldn't get the waiter's attention until we had almost finished the appetizer, and he seemed miffed when I pointed out the lack of a serving spoon -- a problem I've encountered many times before.

Traver also seemed impatient when my wife couldn't decide what to order, and she complained the rim of the water glasses and some of the plates could have been cleaner.

My entree was a wonderful roasted fillet of Long Island Fluke served over Mediterranean Farro (grains of wheat) with black-and-green olives, oven-roasted tomatoes and parsley pesto ($31).

Fluke is a great eating fish cooked or raw, and this moist, flaky fillet was no exception.

My wife's Landmarc Burger was $20, including an extra $3 for blue cheese.

Landmarc, 10 Columbus Circle, in the Time Warner Center, New York, N.Y.; 1-212-823-6123.

The Parisian Combination at Cafe Europa in Manhattan included a Wild Mushroom and Swiss Cheese Omelet with home fries, mini bagels, coffee and tomato juice ($14.95). My wife's All American Combination included OJ, tea, scrambled eggs, French toast and sausage ($15.25).

This branch of Cafe Europe, which is popular with foreign tourists, judging from the languages I heard, is at 205 W. 57th St. in Manhattan.

Breakfast at the hotel?

On a rainy Sunday morning, we took one look at our luxury hotel's menu of breakfast entrees, each costing more than $20, and decided to eat out.

We borrowed two umbrellas from the doorman, and walked less than a block to Cafe Europa at Seventh Avenue and West 57th Street.

We ordered two breakfast combinations and with tax and a $5 tip, the total came to $37.88.

For a light lunch, we tried Le Pain Quotidien (The Daily Bread) on the next block.

A bowl of soup, glass of wine and salad with smoked salmon set us back $42.22, including tax and a $4.50 tip. 

A large Organic Minestrone is served with two kinds of bread at Le Pain Quotidien in Manhattan ($8.95). I also ordered a glass of red wine ($8.50).

My wife's Salad with Smoked Salmon was $17.20 at this branch of Le Pain Quotidien, 922 Seventh Ave. in Manhattan.