Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Grazing on free food samples at two large Korean supermakets

At $24.99, boxes of sweet potatoes on sale at H&Y Marketplace in Ridgfield still are more expensive than smaller quantities at ShopRite, Costco Wholesale and Trader Joe's.


Fresh fruit, dumplings, tofu and noodles are among the free samples available on weekends at Korean supermarkets in Ridgefield and Little Ferry.

H&Y Marketplace in Ridgefield is smaller than the Super H Mart down the road, but a lot less crowded and easier to navigate on a Sunday.

True, there are fewer samples at H&Y.

But the shopping center at 1 Remsen Place also boasts a storefront where Arirang Kimchi set up shop after many years of turning out preservative-free cabbage, cucumber and other kimchis in Englewood.

H&Y also sells Jun's Tofu, a GMO-free product made in the store, and a refrigerated gochujang, a spicy red-pepper paste made with sugar, not high fructose corn syrup.

I purchased cooked conch, one of the samples I tried ($7.99 a pound).

In a bid to drum up business, H&Y is now offering buy one and get one free on hundreds of items on the first day of every month.

Free samples of fresh fruit, above and below, are among the choices on weekends at H&Y Marketplace, a Korean supermarket at 1 Remsen Place in Ridgefield.

After enjoying fresh fruit, cooked conch and other samples at H&Y, I went next door to buy two jars of cabbage kimchi at Arirang Kimchi. 

At H Mart in Little Ferry, a refrigerated case holding panchan or side dishes that are served at every Korean meal. The price of this prepared food from Jinga and other outside Korean caterers has spiked in the past year.

Free samples at H Mart

The shabby H Mart in Little Ferry probably offers more free samples on weekends than any other store in the chain outside of Super H Mart, but you don't have to fight crowds, just navigate around potholes and floods in the parking lot.

Usually, H Mart also has bigger discounts than H&Y.

Near H Mart's fresh-fish counter on Sunday, I tried cooked whelk and octopus, and raw farmed-salmon sashimi.

Elsewhere, there were samples of cold noodles topped with a bit of ice and thick udon noodles in hot broth; two kinds of meat-free dumplings, small squares of fried tofu, curry with vegetables over white rice and more fresh fruit.

At H Mart in Little Ferry, 15-pound bags of Kokuho Yellow Label Rice, grown in California, are deeply discounted until Dec. 31, below.

Also on sale at H Mart were 16-portion boxes of dry Shin Ramyun Gourmet Spicy Noodles for $9.99.

Free samples of cooked whelk and octopus with a small plate of gochujang, a spicy red-pepper paste.

Three of the side dishes I brought home from H Mart in Little Ferry are Stewed Tofu, bottom right, (a dozen pieces for $4.99); Bu-Chu Dumplings filled with noodles and crumbled tofu, left (eight for $5.99), and Japchae, stir-fried translucent noodles made from yam flour ($5.49). I had them for breakfast with a simple egg-white omelet stuffed with reduced-fat Swiss cheese.

Arirang's Mahk or Cabbage Kimchi. Made by hand without MSG or preservatives, a 64-ounce jar is about $11.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Costco Wholesale in Hackensack will close, re-open as Business Center

In the parking lot of the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack in August.


The store manager I spoke to in September 2014 was right after all -- the Hackensack Costco will close, then re-open as a Business Center.

A month after I reported that conversation, a daily newspaper said the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack would be closing permanently.

Today, the same newspaper corrected that story without admitting the error:

The Hackensack Costco will close on Oct. 13 and then be converted into a Costco Business Center catering to small-business owners.

That means the Hackensack store will carry food and fresh produce for restaurants and catering businesses -- and for Costco members who don't want to drive another 3 miles to the new warehouse in Teterboro.

The bigger Costco will have 148,000 square feet, compared to 127,000 square feet in Hackensack.

The Teterboro store will employ 425, about 100 more than Hackensack.

Click on the following link for a description of a Costco Business Center:

Cash and carry plus delivery

Monday, September 28, 2015

Costco offers cash cards to members who join at new Teterboro store

At the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, a large banner shows what the bigger Teterboro store is expected to look like when it opens Oct. 14. The Hackensack warehouse store closes on Oct. 13.

Today, employees in Hackensack handed out pamphlets offering $10 or $20 cash cards to new members who sign up in person in Teterboro.


Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is offering a $10 or $20 cash card to new members who sign up in person at the bigger warehouse store 3 miles away in Teterboro.

The store, in the Teterboro Landing Shopping Center off of Route 46, is scheduled to open on Oct. 14 at 8 a.m.

A Costco membership is $55 a year ($10 cash card) and an Executive Membership is $110 a year ($20 cash card).

Most members get the annual fee and more back in cash rebates on credit-card purchases at Costco as well as at gas stations, restaurants and other stores.

Executive Members get a higher 2% reward (up to $750).

A corner of the parking lot at the Hackensack Costco has been fenced off for construction of a large pump for the city's water system.

Friday, September 25, 2015

On National Lobster Day, throwing caution to the wind at Picnic

The sinfully rich Lobster Roll at Picnic on the Square, a Ridgewood restaurant that offers the contemporary American cuisine of Chef Christine E. Nunn. 


Butter. Full-fat cheese. Mayo. Bread.

For diet or health reasons, the list of foods I avoid is long, but today, I threw caution to the wind and splurged on lunch at Picnic on the Square in Ridgewood with two friends.

We shared a Spinach Artichoke Dip made gooey with plenty of melted cheese ($10), then moaned with pleasure over the Lobster Roll ($22), seasoned with tarragon and a little lemon juice.

I'm happy with just a spritz of lemon on freshly steamed lobster, so these delicious morsels of tail and claw meat, bound in plenty of mayonnaise, were really over the top.

The Lobster Roll wasn't on Picnic's lunch menu, but we had been coveting the roll since Labor Day, when we saw a photo in the food pages of a newspaper, and luckily, the kitchen came through for us.

I used my fork to eat four or five pieces of tender lobster and some salad, then distributed the rest of the meat evenly, picked by the split-top bun and took three or four big bites until it was gone. 


Today also just happens to be National Lobster Day, and I can't think of a better way to celebrate than this wonderful roll.

Spinach Artichoke Dip with fried pocket-bread triangles.

Make a reservation

We made a reservation, a good thing as Picnic on the Square has only about 40 seats and nearly all of them were full today.

We caught a glimpse of Chef Christine E. Nunn behind a curtain between the dining room and kitchen.

Her first Picnic restaurant was in Fair Lawn.

A glass of  unsweetened Iced Tea was $3. A large bottle of Perrier sparkling mineral water was $7. French-press coffee was $3.50 a cup with a refill.

Table accents.

The lunch menu.

In North Jersey's biggest restaurant town, Picnic on the Square has about 40 seats inside and out.


Picnic on the Square, 26 Wilsey Square, Ridgewood; 201-444-4001

BYO, metered parking. Closed Sundays and Mondays. Lunch served Tuesdays through Fridays.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

With bottled marinara, fish-and-pasta dinner is on table in 15 minutes

Fresh wild Atlantic cod all the way from Iceland poaches in minutes once you've heated and seasoned bottled marinara, and the sauce does double duty as a dressing for organic whole wheat pasta. I added a little grated sheep's milk cheese to the fish and pasta.


Here is a fish-and-pasta dinner that is ready in 15 minutes or less.

On a second fruitless trip for wild salmon to the Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, my wife came home with a consolation prize on Monday:

A little over 2 pounds of skinless and boneless Fresh Wild Atlantic Cod, long-line caught in Iceland, for $7.99 a pound. 

I cut the two fillets into serving pieces, divided a 44-ounce bottle of Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce into large and small pots, and put water on the stove to boil a half-pound of organic whole wheat capellini. 

The Tomato & Basil Sauce is indistinguishable from marinara, and next time I'll put all of the sauce into one large pan, poach the fish in it and then ladle extra sauce over the cooked and drained pasta.

You can add red wine, drained and rinsed anchovies, lemon juice, black pepper, garlic powder and other seasonings to the sauce -- or not.

But try to use chopped fresh mint or other herbs as a final accent on the cod.

The Luigi Vitelli Organic Whole Wheat Capellini I used takes 3 minutes to 4 minutes in boiling water to cook, and the fish is ready in not much longer.

The cod is translucent when raw, but firms up and turns snowy white when cooked in a gently boiling sauce with the cover on. 

I usually finish dinner with a salad of pre-washed Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix dressed simply with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

DINNER OF LEFTOVERS: The next night, I had the cod with leftover organic whole wheat fusilli made with canned sardines from last week, and sauteed Chinese broccoli.

Bottled marinara also is great for poaching organic eggs, then adding shredded cheese and chopped fresh herbs.
I bake sweet potatoes until the natural sugar comes out of them, and pair one with eggs as a bread substitute at breakfast. Depending on the size, sweet potatoes take 45 minutes to up to 90 minutes at 375 degrees, so it's best to bake a half a dozen or more and refrigerate them.

Trader Joe's

At Trader Joe's in Paramus today, a 3-pound net bag of Organic Sweet Potatoes was $4.49, compared to $5.99 or $6.99 at the Paramus ShopRite.

A 2-pound bag of small Organic Granny Smith Apples was $2.99.

Trader Joe's Dark Roast Coffee, which you can grind in the store, is $4.99 for a 13-ounce canister.

I also bought a low-sodium version of a 100% vegetable juice called Garden Patch ($3.49 for a 64-ounce bottle).

Trader Joe's is at 404 Route 17 north in Paramus (201-265-9624).

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Yuck! What does anyone see (or taste) in farmed Costco salmon?

A PALE IMITATION IN THE OVEN: Costco Wholesale in Hackensack now carries farmed salmon raised without antibiotics, but the fillets' pale color and bland taste are disappointing.

Editor's note: Don't you hate it when food stores run out of your favorite items or their computers aren't updated to give you the sales price at the register? Here are a couple of recent examples.


The wild-salmon season is nearing an end, but that's no excuse for Costco Wholesale in Hackensack to run out of those wonderful sockeye fillets, as the warehouse store did on Friday.

I could have purchased another wild-caught fish, but had my heart set on salmon, and was drawn to a farmed Atlantic salmon raised without antibiotics that I hadn't seen before at Costco.

Drug-free farmed Atlantic Salmon from Norway was $8.99 a pound, above and below, the same price I've been paying for wild-caught sockeye fillets from the United States that are deeper in color and far tastier.

Tomatoes, wine, mint no help

Unfortunately, the artificially colored farmed fish is skinless, as well as boneless, so I didn't want to grill the half-dozen serving pieces on the stove top, as I've been doing with the wonderful wild sockeye from Costco.

So, I added fresh lime juice and a little sea salt, and popped then into a preheated 375-degree oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, I opened a can of Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes, and added them to a small pot with red wine and seasonings, turning up the heat -- with the cover slightly ajar to prevent splatters -- and reducing the mixture until it thickened. 

The finished dish looked great, and the fish was moist under its rich mantle of tomatoes and wine, but also bland and lacking in flavor. 

My conclusion is that farmed salmon is for people who know fish is good for you, yet don't like the bold taste of wild sockeye.

And, sadly, people who eat only farmed salmon may think healthy food can't taste good, too.

Costco closes, then re-opens

The Hackensack Costco I've been shopping in for nearly 20 years is closing on Oct. 13.

A bigger store is scheduled to open on Oct. 14 about 3 miles away in the Teterboro Landing Shopping Center on Route 46 in Teterboro.

The Teterboro Costco will carry private-label Kirkland Signature wines, champagne and prosecco, and have a gas station.

Farmed Atlantic Salmon with a reduction of organic diced tomatoes and red wine, garnished with chopped fresh mint and Aleppo pepper, above. This morning, I used leftover fish to fill wraps made with thin whole-wheat pocket bread, a garlicky hummus, tomato slices and za'atar thyme mixture, below.

Two 44-ounce jars of Classico Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce, which has less than 2% of added sugar, were on sale at ShopRite in Paramus for $6.19 with a store card. The "Club Size Savings" and "No Membership Fees" are references to such warehouse stores as Costco Wholesale.

Also on sale at the Paramus ShopRite were 24-ounce jars of Classico Spicy Red Pepper Pasta Sauce for $1.49 each, but the store's register wasn't updated and that delayed what I had hoped would be a quick shopping trip. Unlike Tomato & Basil, the Spicy Red Pepper Pasta Sauce has no added sugar.

Price mix-up at checkout

Do I expect the ShopRite in Paramus and every other store to update their computers when they put food on sale?

Of course, but on Friday morning, I got stuck at the checkout register while a manager went to the shelf to see if two jars of pasta sauce were on sale for $1.49 each, as I said they were.

I took a photo of the Classico Spicy Red Pepper jars and the shelf tag showing the reduction to $1.49 from $2.39, but that wasn't good enough for the man who was summoned over when they rang up at the higher price.

He had to see it with his own eyes.

When he returned, he gave me one jar for free and rang up the other one at $1.49. I thought both should have been free, but I guess the store was saying my time isn't that valuable.

I had planned a quick stop on the way home from the gym to recycle plastic bags and buy sweet potatoes.

But the store had no conventional sweet potatoes, so I bought organic whole-wheat pasta and bottled pasta sauce to avoid a total waste of time.

At Jerry's Gourmet & More, 410 S. Dean St., Englewood, 2.2-pound bags of Gimoka Whole Coffee Beans from Italy were only $9.99 last Wednesday, less than half of the usual price for beans from Lavazza and other companies.
Jerry's was out of restaurant-quality Meals To Go, complete takeout dinners with an entree, vegetables and pasta that can be plated and re-heated in a microwave. This fresh artichoke salad came with Grouper Oreganata, a dinner I bought for my wife a few weeks ago. The dinners are $7.99 ($5.99 after 4 p.m., if there are any left).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Little Ferry H Mart may look like it is closing, but the opposite is true

LAKE H MART: Last Friday, visitors to the Korean supermarket in Little Ferry found the potholed entrance to the parking lot flooded again. The store occupies only one-third of a much larger building.

Valley Fair, a discount store, once occupied most of the space in the Bergen Turnpike building. After Valley Fair left in 2008, more than 30 small merchants moved in and the store was renamed Value Fair.


The H Mart in Little Ferry, one of the biggest Korean supermarkets in North Jersey, is part of a Lyndhurst-based chain with stores in 11 states.

But while the Hanahreum Group has renovated other stores and opened new ones, the Little Ferry market gets shabbier by the day.

Still, customers shop here for some of the best sales around, ignoring the potholes and floods in the parking lot, and the deteriorated entrance way.

The store is so worn many customers think it will be closing.

But last week, an employee said H Mart plans to move into the space formerly occupied by Value Fair and Valley Fair in the sprawling, one story building on Bergen Turnpike.

The move is to begin next year.

I spoke to three other employees at Hanahreum headquarters, but none were willing to provide any details, such as when the new store will open and whether it will have a food court.

Apparently, H Mart is a tenant, not owner of the building.

H Mart v. Costco

A bigger, newer store in Little Ferry will allow H Mart to compete more effectively against Costco Wholesale, which is opening a bigger warehouse store in Teterboro next month.

In recent years, the Hackensack store has added a wide array of food products designed to appeal to the large number of Korean-American Costco members in North Jersey.

Last Thursday at the Hackensack Costco, I tried a sample of noodles in black-bean sauce, a refrigerated product from Pulmone, a South Korean company with U.S. headquarters in California.

A Pulmone representatives said two pouches of the ready-to-heat noodles will sell for about $8.99 at Costco, compared to H Mart's price of one pouch for $7.

Asked about the flooding in the parking lot, the employee in Little Ferry said H Mart has no control over the condition of the lot.

H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike, Little Ferry; 201-814-0400. Open 7 days.

Web site: H Mart celebrates 33 years in the U.S.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Freshly shucked New Jersey shore oysters are well worth the detour

ON THE HALF SHELL: Oysters from New Jersey and Massachusetts were slurped down by the hundreds on Sunday at Oysterfest 2015 in Cranford.


You might say I met fresh oysters from the Jersey shore more than half way.

In Cranford, 100 Steps Supper Club & Raw Bar was one of the restaurants celebrating the revival of New Jersey oysters from Barnegat and Delaware Bays.

The restaurant also was the one closest to my home, a 52-mile round trip.

Oysterfest 2015 on Sunday afternoon included freshly shucked oysters, wine, beer and soft drinks, plus made-to-order items like an Oyster Slider and a creamy Clam Chowder, all served under a tent and accompanied by music.

The Jersey shore and Massachusetts oysters I tried tasted different, and after sampling all four types, I decided I like the briny Cape May Salt best.

At Oysterfest 2015, three freshly shucked fried oysters, pickle slices and an aioli went into this scrumptious slider ($5). A drink ticket ($15) bought two glasses of wine, including the Carmenere Reserva from Chile I drank with the sandwich.

Four freshly shucked oysters needed only a few drops of fresh lemon juice. With them, I drank a chilled Muscadet from France. A general admission ticket included a dozen oysters ($25).

One of the four oyster shuckers.

Shells from Cape May Salt Oysters, which are raised in Delaware Bay.

A duo entertained the crowd with "Mrs. Robinson" and other songs.

CULINARY HOT SPOTS: Oysterfest 2015 is expected to become an annual event at 100 Steps Supper Club & Raw Bar in Cranford. 100 Steps gets its name from its approximate distance from A Toute Heure, a farm-to-table bistro, below.

The two restaurants are owned by Chef Andrea Carbine and husband Jim. A Toute Heure opened in 2007, emphasizing vegetables from local farms and seafood from the Jersey shore.


100 Steps Supper Club & Raw Bar, 215 Centennial Ave., and A Toute Heure, 232 Centennial Ave., Cranford.

Web site for both: Well worth the detour

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Enjoying a leisurely dinner and our wine at Bocconi in Hackensack

We started a leisurely dinner at Bocconi Restaurant in Hackensack with Asparagus Gratinato ($9.95), above, and Caesar Salad ($6.50), below. The cooked asparagus, under a blanket of melted cheese, came with pitted olives in a crisp raddichio leaf.


We love the food, service and moderate prices at our favorite restaurants, but we also love that they're close to home.

On Saturday, hunger pangs hit early, in late afternoon, so we grabbed a bottle of red wine and drove less than 2 miles to Boconni Restaurant in Hackensack.

Bocconi, which is across the street from a huge hospital complex, does a brisk lunch trade.

In late afternoon and in the evening, you don't need a reservation.

On Saturday, Frank, one of the owners, recognized us from previous visits and showed us to our favorite table, brought us menus and then a plate of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar so I could dip bread crusts into it. 

Portions at Bocconi are generous and prices are moderate.

So, we ordered two salads, and split an order of fresh pasta and an entree of fillet of sole with vegetables and potatoes.

We took our time, sipped a half bottle of wine and enjoyed our nicely prepared food, chatting with Frank between courses.

When we finished, we accepted Frank's offer of sambuca, an anise-flavored liqueur, a nice way to end the meal.

After our salads, we split a full order of Fettuccini Putanesca, made with fresh noodles and listed under Home Made Pasta on the regular menu ($12.95). This is a half-portion.

Bocconi also split our entree, Grey Sole Oreganata, which came with shrimp, vegetables and potatoes ($18.95), and is a fixture on the specials menu.

Bocconi is  a 50-seat BYO with a simple but appealing red-and-white dining room, above and below.


Bocconi Restaurant, 363 Essex St., near Prospect Avenue, Hackensack; 201-342-3888. Open for lunch and dinner Mondays to Saturdays. Closed Sundays. 

The BYO shares eight parking spaces with another restaurant, so you might want to take your chances in the large parking lot across the street, where you'll also find a Starbucks.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Costco Wholesale's drug-free tilapia, A&S Fine Foods, Total Wine

Seafood Salad, top, and Roasted Red Peppers are two of the high-quality specialties prepared by A&S Fine Foods in Wyckoff. I paid $15 for an Amazon Local voucher that entitled me to purchase $30 worth of food at the Italian-American pork store, below.


A seemingly remarkable farmed fish stars this month in Costco Wholesale's lifestyle magazine for members.

A special section on Costco's private label, Kirkland Signature, describes tilapia fillets that may forever change my opinion of this common fish:

"Kirkland Signature Tilapia is raised by Regal Springs in pristine lakes ... in Mexico and Indonesia without chemicals, growth hormones or antibiotics," the September issue of The Costco Connection says.

I've been careful to buy wild-caught fish at Costco and other stores to avoid just those harmful additives, which are commonly found in tilapia and other farmed fish.

But on Thursday, when I went looking for this tilapia at my Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, I couldn't find any.

Tilapia also is known as St. Peter's Fish, and I first encountered the wild variety in the late 1970s at a kibbutz restaurant on the Sea of Galilee in Isreal.

Elusive shrimp

Another item I saw in the magazine, Kirkland Signature Cilantro Lime Shrimp, wasn't available when my wife went to Costco on Tuesday.

The magazine said the shrimp used are "free of chemicals and antibiotic residues," and Costco makes sure they meet "our microbial, chemical and quality standards."

Instead of Cilantro Lime Shrimp, my wife came home with Kirkland Signature Shrimp Salad, which has a dressing made from cultured cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar, corn starch and other ingredients.

I returned that salad for a refund on Thursday.

Foods carrying the Kirkland Signature label usually, but not always, are of high quality.

This what Kirkland Signature Shrimp Salad looks like in the container.

Ingredients in the Kirkland Signature Shrimp Salad include guar gum, carageenan, calcium sulfate and other preservatives.

Kirkland Signature Shrimp Salad is $9.99 a pound.

A&S Fine Foods

The A&S Fine Foods in a small shopping center on Cedar Hill Avenue in Wyckoff is one of 26 stores in the Northeast that were started by Italian immigrant Anthony Scicchitano.

Scicchitano sold the Wyckoff store to the present owners.

I loved the fresh garlic, celery and red onion that gave crunch to the wonderful Seafood Salad, and the fresh herbs in the lovely Roasted Red Peppers I bought there.

Using an Amazon Local voucher meant I paid half-price for the food I purchased, including organic dried pasta from bronze dies and store-made marinara.

Would I pay full price? That's a good question.

A&S Fine Foods, 525 Cedar Hill Ave., Wyckoff; 1-201-447-0800. Open 7 days.

The Seafood Salad I purchased at A&S Fine Foods on Labor Day was made with tender small shrimp, squid and baby octopus, and had plenty of crunch from celery and red onions ($16.99 a pound).

I used my $15 Amazon Local voucher to purchase a 1.1-pound box of imported Organic Fusilli made from farro, a type of hulled wheat ($6.49); a 32-ounce container of Marinara Sauce prepared in the store ($7.99), a half-pound of Seafood Salad and a half-pound of Roasted Red Peppers. My total was $31.72, so I paid $16.72 for the food.

Total Wine & More

Total Wine & More in River Edge offers a discount of 10% on six bottles with prices that end in "9."

Late last month, I bought six bottles of red wine, including cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot and shiraz for $4.99 to $6.99 a bottle.

The total for six bottles with the so-called Mix 6 Discount was $31.44, plus tax, or about $5.20 per bottle.

Today, a Total Wine newspaper flier included a coupon for 15% off six bottles of wine with prices that end in "9." 

The coupon is good until Oct. 4.

Whole Foods Market in Paramus also offers a 10% discount on six bottle of wine.

Total Wine & More, 135 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge; 1-201-968-1777.