Wednesday, November 30, 2016

At ShopRite: Spanish cider, organic pasta, grass-fed beef from Australia

SWEET DEAL: At the ShopRite in Englewood on Tuesday, I bought four 25.4-ounce bottles of Sparkling Cider from Spain at $1.88 each, the lowest sale price I've seen in the many years I've enjoyed this non-alcoholic beverage, which is made with 100% apple juice, but has no added sugar. There was a limit of four with store card.

PALE IMITATION: Not far away, but at a higher price, was Goya-brand Sparkling Cider, labeled as an authentic Spanish import, but a check of the label showed this non-alcoholic beverage contains only 35% apple juice. Other ingredients include sugar, apple vinegar, preservatives and caramel color.

ORGANIC IS BETTER: A 1-pound box of Gia Russa-brand 100% Whole Wheat Roman Rigatoni or Penne Rigate from Italy were reduced to $1.39 from $3.29, but at the same ShopRite you can buy Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti and other shapes for $1.29 a pound.

SEAFOOD SHELLS: Whole Foods Market in Paramus also carries imported Organic Whole Wheat Shells and other shapes for $1.49 a pound. Here, I prepared the shells with anchovies and sardines in Victoria Marinara, adding red wine and seasonings to the sauce. Victoria Marinara and Vodka Sauce also were on sale at ShopRite ($3.49 for a 40-ounce jar).

FROM AUSTRALIA: At ShopRites in Rochelle Park and Englewood last Friday and Saturday, Nature's Reserve Grass Fed Beef from Australia was on sale for $2.99 a pound with a $10 additional purchase and a store card. A roast or strip steaks were available with a limit of two packages.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Why the traditional turkey dinner every Thanksgiving is so last century

A generous salad of Red King Crab with diced celery, sweet pepper, onion and carrot -- dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, cumin and other spices -- was the starter at our non-traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner on Thursday.


Numerous news outlets report an estimated 46 million turkeys were killed for Thanksgiving, but no one has explained how Americans could possibly stomach all of that white meat.

The white or breast meat of the domesticated turkey is the least flavorful and the easiest to overcook.

Even before I stopped eating meat or poultry in favor of seafood, I always insisted on getting the drumstick, thigh or wing -- and preferably all three.

On Thursday, I prepared a luscious Red King Crab Salad for an appetizer, and my wife cooked turkey legs and thighs for herself and the other meat eaters in the family.

Like the Red King Crab, our second course came from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro -- Phillips Seafood Restaurants' Maryland-style Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes.

I served them with Costco's Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto.

After a big crab salad and two crab cakes, washed down with prosecco, a sparkling white wine from Italy, I was stuffed.

I didn't have room for sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive or an organic spring mix salad, as planned.

Later, I did have cheese, fruit, nuts, coffee and tea.

Pumpkin pie? Yuck!

My second course: Two golden crab cakes with pesto.

My wife prepared turkey parts from the Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff in barbecue sauce. She seasoned and roasted other thighs and legs in the oven, and prepared rice with peas.
Three Red King Crab Legs and Claws, on an 18-inch-long cutting board, produced a large bowl of crab meat, below. The joints were easy to cut through with a large chef's knife, as were the soft shells with a seafood scissor, but I missed several small pieces of cartilage.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tens of thousands are bitten by a pre-Thanksgiving food-shopping bug

About 20 minutes before the 10 a.m. opening today, Costco Wholesale members were crowding into the vestibule and jockeying for position outside the warehouse in the Teterboro Landing Shopping Center off of Route 46 in Teterboro, above and below.


In a mere two and a half hours this morning, I filled the gas tank of my wife's hybrid car at the Costco Wholesale gas station, had a repair made on one of the tires and bought more than $330 worth of food and flowers.

I've been stopping at my favorite food stores since last Friday. Usually, the pre-Thanksgiving crowds have been manageable, and at one or two places they were non-existent.

My major purchase at Costco today was $59.81 for Wild Cooked Red King Crab Legs at $21.99 a pound, about $2 more a pound than last year, according to the Costco employee who weighed and bagged them.

I'll cut the crab meat into large chunks for a cold salad dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, cumin and other spices -- a luxurious appetizer for our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

For crunch, I'll add diced celery and sweet peppers.

The rest of our Thanksgiving menu includes: 

Maryland-style jumbo lump crab cakes from Phillips Seafood Restaurants, sold frozen at Costco ($16.99 for six 3-ounce cakes).

We'll also roast turkey drumsticks and thighs from the Goffle Road Poultry Farm in Wyckoff. See:

A trip to the turkey farm

And we'll have a side dish of sweet potatoes mashed with extra-virgin olive oil and a salad of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix, also from Costco (1 pound is $4.79).

During the holidays, ShopRite supermarkets are selling 5-pound boxes of sweet potatoes for only $2.49.

We'll drink Kirkland Signature Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy sold at the Wayne Costco; and have fruit and cheese for dessert, including Lake Country Asiago, a hard, reduced-fat cheese from Wisconsin made with part-skimmed cow's milk ($5.69 a pound at Costco).

Mostly favorites

Most of the food I bought today were items we use year-round, including two dozen Kirkland Signature Organic Cage Free Eggs for $5.99 or $1 less than before.

A 22-ounce jar of Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto was $7.79, an 18-ounce package of fresh Blueberries from Peru was $6.99 and a pound of Wild Alaskan Smoked Sockeye Salmon was $14.89.

A dozen 10-ounce bottles of Naked 100% Juice Smoothies, with no added sugar, were $10.59 with an instant coupon; and a 64-ounce bottle of Naked Green Machine was $5.99.

A pound of fresh Organic Spinach was $3.99 and 3 pounds of Organic Bananas were $1.99.

Shopping tip

The Costco warehouse in Teterboro is too large for a shopper who makes a list and goes looking for individual items on it.

Instead, with list in hand, walk methodically up and down each aisle and when you see a item you need, grab it.

I leave produce, milk, eggs (moved to the cold room marked "Dairy") and fresh fish for last, then head for the checkout lanes.

Red King Crab Legs and Claws at Costco's Seafood Road Show.

I stopped buying Costco's farmed Black Tiger Shrimp from Vietnam, above and below, even though they are a good buy at about $10 a pound, compared to wild Gulf Shrimp from Whole Foods Market. Costco provides no information about how the farmed shrimp are raised.

Nor do I buy Costco's wildly popular but low-quality Seasoned Rotisserie Chickens, which are raised on antibiotics. See: Chicken makes good dog food.

Costco's pre-seasoned chickens arrive in boxes. They are fully cooked at the warehouse, although members complain about bloody and under-cooked birds. Ingredients include sodium phosphate, carrageenan, sugar and dextrose.

From Costco's small selection of hard cheeses, I chose Lake Country Asiago from Wisconsin.

Imagine-brand Organic Free Range Chicken Broth has less sodium than the Kirkland Signature Organic Cage Free Chicken Broth sold at Costco (1 cup contains 5% of the daily recommended intake of sodium compared to 18% in the Costco brand). Six liter containers were $11.49. Both brands have an easy to open screw top, below:

It doesn't happen often, but Costco's price for two 40-ounce jars of Victoria Marinara is a lot higher than the sale price I found at the ShopRite in Englewood on Monday, where each jar was $3.49. Victoria Vodka Sauce, which is free of artery clogging cream, also was $3.49 for a 40-ounce jar. 

I got a good deal at Costco on a 3-pound bag of medium-to-dark-roast coffee beans from Guatemala ($5.26 a pound), but grinding them in a coffee mill near the food court took a lot longer than I expected, below. 

All 3 pounds of beans wouldn't fit into one coffee mill, and they were oily so I had to keep pushing them down with a plastic spoon from the food court. I chose a Turkish grind to expose as much of the coffee to hot water during the brewing process at home.

Regular gasoline for my wife's Toyota Prius was $2.04.9 today, and a friendly Costco employee did the pumping. New Jersey recently raised the gas tax by 23 cents a gallon.

There was only one car ahead of me. The Costco gas station and tire store open before the warehouse.
The fish counter at the Super H Mart at 321 Broad Ave. in Ridgefield offers too much choice. This supermarket is the biggest Bergen County store in the Korean chain. On Thursday, I bought whole wild-caught Porgy for $2.99 a pound.
Tonight, my wife prepared the Porgies in a Fish Masala, a mixture of spices sold at Asian-Indian groceries, and made a sauce using organic chicken broth. I ate mine over organic brown rice prepared in an electric cooker with black-eyed peas and organic diced tomatoes.

Last week, I used the Fish Masala spices to coat pieces of fresh wild-caught Haddock fillet from Iceland ($8.99 a pound at Costco), and prepared a medley with organic spinach, pitted olives, organic diced tomatoes, grated cheese, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh lime juice. My side dish was mashed sweet potatoes.
Once you assemble all of the ingredients in a foil-lined pan, the haddock cooks in about 12 minutes in a pre-heated 400-degree oven.

A 5-pound box of Bagu Clementines from Spain were $5.99 at the Super H Mart, compared to $7.99 for the same clementines I bought at the H Mart in Little Ferry on Nov. 6.

Two 5-ounce containers of Olivia's Organic Spring Mix were $3.99.

The Super H Mart has one of the biggest selection of prepared Korean food, including pancakes, below.

A package of Pan-Fried Seafood and Chive Pancakes was $5.99.

The Super H Mart was a pleasure to shop in on Monday afternoon around 2:15.

At the Englewood ShopRite, 40 Nathaniel Place in the Palisades Court shopping center, where I went later Monday afternoon to fill a prescription, three 15.5-ounce cans of Goya Blackeye Peas, marked non-GMO, were $2. I also bought organic and conventional whole-wheat pasta and two 40-ounce jars of Victoria Vodka Sauce ($3.49 each). The store was mobbed.

Around lunchtime on Friday, Jerry's Gourmet & More at 410 S. Dean St. in Englewood was busier than usual. On the way there, I braved the crowd jammed into the small retail store at Balthazar Bakery, 214 S. Dean St., for a pair of $2 baguettes.

Jerry's complete restaurant-quality Meals To Go are $7.99 and $5.99 after 4 p.m. I bought one fish and two chicken dinners.

I gladly paid full price for my Tilapia Marechiaro Dinner with Linguine in White Clam Sauce, Roasted Potatoes, Broccoli with Garlic and Zucchini Stuffed with Vegetable, above and below.

Dinner was complete with a glass of red wine and an organic spring mix salad.

Ignore the overpriced wine and beer at the International Food Warehouse at 370 Essex St. in Lodi. I only bought a couple of items, including a 3-liter tin of Artemis-brand Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from Greece ($20.99).

Sasoon Lavash, a thin, chewy, addictive Armenian bread, comes all the way from Glendale, Calif., but contains only flour, filtered water and salt. I like to make lavash roll-ups with Greek yogurt, a dried-thyme mixture called za'atar and extra-virgin olive oil. 

Also at the International Food Warehouse, a Whole Wheat Lavash from Damascus Bakeries is labeled "natural," but has a long list of ingredients, including sugar and corn starch, below.

Monday, November 21, 2016

A great meal in Newark's Ironbound depends on finding a parking space

Grilled Large Prawns with Garlic Sauce at Tony da Caneca, a Portuguese restaurant that opened in 1965 and calls itself one of the three originals in Newark's Ironbound section.


Allowing 2 hours for dinner before a jazz concert would seem like enough, but not when you plan to eat in one of the Portuguese restaurants in the Ironbound section of Newark.

Late Saturday afternoon, we stopped at the two Pic-Nic Portuguese barbecue restaurants, one in East Newark, a suburb of Newark, and the second on Ferry Street in the Ironbound.

The lot next to the East Newark restaurant was full and at the second, I didn't see a lot next to the building.

So, we fell back on one of the original Portuguese restaurants in the city, Tony da Caneca, which is far from Ferry Street and has a comparatively large parking lot to accommodate a brisk party business.

The interior appears to have been completely renovated to accommodate large groups, and that has changed the restaurant and the Old World service I remembered from a 2009 visit.

But we were happy with the seafood we ordered, especially the unusually large shrimp from Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony.

My wife ordered the Large Grilled Prawns, as they are described on the menu, and they appeared to be 8 inches and 6 inches long.

They were served with rice and house-made potato chips ($32). 

Entree prices included a bowl of chicken soup for my wife and a mixed salad to share.

My Grilled Seafood Combination ($21) included fish, scallops, shrimp, a small lobster tail, vegetables and boiled potatoes. Two small glasses of Portuguese red wine were $6 each. 

The complimentary mixed salad for two looked great, but once we ate the top layer of tomato and cucumber slices, olives and a little spring mix, the foundation was all iceberg lettuce.

My undoing was filling up on the spongy, soft-crusted bread, which I used to soak up extra-virgin olive oil with herbs and garlic.

When we arrived around 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, one large celebration had just finished. And when we were leaving about an hour later, guests started arriving for a second party, below.

After dinner at Tony da Caneca, we drove to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center for a Sarah Vaughan Celebration. Three jazz singers -- Dianne Reeves, Sheila Jordan and Lisa Fischer -- paid homage to the Newark native. The street in front of NJPAC is now called Sarah Vaughan Way.

On Sunday afternoon, we returned to NJPAC for the 5th annual Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition, co-presented by WBGO-FM, the jazz station in Newark. Five finalists were chosen from among hundreds of audition tapes to perform, above. The Sassy Award went to Deelee Dube (pronounced "Do-bay"), a singer-songwriter from London, far right.


Tony da Caneca, 72 Elm Road, Newark; 1-973-589-6882. Website: Authentic Portuguese Cuisine

New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 1 Center St., Newark. Website: NJPAC