Wednesday, June 29, 2016

We're looking forward to 8 days of great jazz and great food in Montreal

A tour group from Virginia exploring the Place des Arts In Montreal as preparations continue for the city's International Jazz Festival, which begins today and runs through July 9.


MONTREAL -- After a good night's sleep and a big breakfast, we are looking forward to seeing and hearing Gregory Porter, the American who took a 2014 Grammy for best jazz vocal album.

This French-Canadian island city is hosting the 37th edition of what is often called the best jazz festival in the world.

Porter will perform tonight in Theatre Maisonneuve, one of the concert halls in the Place des Arts that make up this city's bigger and better version of Manhattan's Lincoln Center.

We also have tickets to see Joey Alexander, the Indonesian child prodigy who released his first jazz album in 2015 at age 11; singer Lauryn Hill and others through July 7.

We're also looking forward to exploring restaurants and markets in a city with world-renowned food. 

Hundreds of free concerts at outdoor stages and in tents begin at 11 a.m. and end at midnight during the 11-day festival. Ticketed concerts are in halls, nightclubs and other venues in or near the Place des Arts, above.

The Hyatt Regency, headquarters hotel for the festival, is part of the Complexe Desjardins, above, a link in a vast network of shops, restaurants, offices and subway stations known as Underground Montreal. 

A bowl of yogurt, granola, dried fruit and nuts is available as part of a groaning-board breakfast at the hotel.

The breakfast includes made-to-order omelets, ham, string beans and much more.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My 2% Costco reward certificate covers membership fee two times over

The Costco Wholesale Business Center at 80 S. River St. in Hackensack is a stress-free alternative to the bigger, far busier Costco Wholesale warehouse a few miles away in Teterboro, especially if you live nearby and want to pick up only a few things. The warehouse also has a food court.


My 2% Reward Certificate from Costco Wholesale arrived in the mail this week and repaid me more than twice for an annual $110 Executive Membership.

The check for $241 back on Costco purchases in the past year is in addition to the $274 in cash rebates I received in February from American Express for purchases at Costco, gas stations, restaurants and other businesses.

The new Costco Visa credit card will return even more cash back then the displaced American Express card.

On Monday afternoon, I picked up KIND snack bars, mangoes and chewing gum at the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack.

I handed over my 2% Reward Certificate to pay for them, and walked away with about $209 in cash.

What's not to like?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Wild sockeye salmon with organic diced tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs

Fresh wild Copper River Sockeye Salmon from Alaska was $14.99 a pound at the Costco Wholesale in Teterboro on Thursday or $2 less per pound than the week before.


A rich reduction of organic diced tomatoes, sliced garlic and red wine is delicious over grilled wild sockeye salmon fillets.

You'll need a 10-inch non-stick pan to thicken the tomato mixture and a stove-top grill for the skin-on fillets, which cook through in about 7 minutes over a medium-high flame -- less if you like them on the rare side.

A 1.65-pound fillet from Costco Wholesale yielded six serving portions -- plenty of heart-healthy fish to serve four ($24.73).

First, I sauteed thinly sliced garlic in olive oil until it was fragrant, then added a 14.5-ounce can of Kirkland Signature Organic Diced Tomatoes, a couple of ounces of red wine, the juice from one lime and seasonings, including red-pepper flakes and ground black pepper.

I brought that to a boil in a partially covered pan until the tomato juices and wine mostly evaporated, then grilled the salmon.

Once the fish was transferred to a platter, I added the garlicky tomato mixture and chopped herbs from my garden (mint, rosemary and basil).

If you have Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto in the refrigerator, a half teaspoon or more on top of the tomatoes would be a perfect accent.

Salmon, organic diced tomatoes, peeled garlic, pesto and seasonings are available from Costco Wholesale.

A 3-pound bag of peeled Christopher Ranch California Garlic was $7.39 at the Teterboro Costco.

My stove-top grill straddles two burners and easily accommodates six to nine pieces of salmon. I use spray oil and a medium-high flame and turn the fish in the last 2 minutes of cooking.

A platter of heart-healthy wild salmon, organic diced tomatoes and garlic.

Another use for Costco's peeled garlic is a 10-inch frittata with chopped garlic, black olives, grated cheese, fresh tomatoes and pesto, served here with sweet potatoes that were boiled with whole cloves, then mashed, using extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings, including cinnamon, curry powder, red-pepper flakes and black pepper.

Pour about 3 cups of liquid whites or whole eggs -- including plenty of chopped garlic, grated cheese and olives -- into a 10-inch pan over medium-high heat until the crust sets, then move the pan to the oven, where the top of the frittata will set and brown nicely under the broiler. Add Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto and chopped fresh herbs after you take the pan out of the oven.

You can prepare whole garlic cloves, organic diced tomatoes and organic brown rice in an electric cooker. The cloves will turn creamy.

On Friday, Baby Bok Choy was on sale for 88 cents a pound or half price at the H Mart, 25 Lafayette Ave., in Englewood. I sauteed nearly 2 pounds with olive and sesame oils, sake and seasonings.

For a dinner salad, I enjoy Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix with hothouse tomatoes and cucumbers -- dressed in extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar -- over reheated organic brown rice.

Friday, June 24, 2016

As thousands were fasting, I enjoyed a filling Syrian lunch in Paterson

At Aleppo Restaurant in Paterson, an appetizer spread called Muhammara is made from a red pepper that has been described as having "a vivid taste, sweet and smoky and faintly pungent" ($6).

Meat Arayes, another appetizer, invites you to add Muhammara and Hummus spreads to the seasoned beef inside the toasted pocket bread ($6).


You can have Paterson's bustling Middle Eastern bazaar pretty much to yourself during the holy month of Ramadan.

On a sunny and hot Tuesday afternoon, there was barely any foot traffic on Main Street in South Paterson, but Muslim and Christian merchants kept their restaurants, bakeries and produce markets open.

Outside some restaurants, banners advertise Ramadan Buffets.

Customers paying for their purchases at Brothers Produce on East Railway Avenue see a sign wishing them "Happy Ramadan."

At Aleppo Restaurant on Main Street, owner Mohamed K. Jello (pronounced JILL-lo) said he has been fasting from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day, then filling his tables with customers who clamor for his Syrian specialties, including a special dish made with quince.

"I'm feeling a little woozy," he said after handing menus to me and my son, and noting he is forbidden to eat or drink water and coffee during the fast.

It doesn't seem fair that Orthodox Jews only have to fast on one day each year while Muslims fast for 30 days during Ramadan, which ends this year after sundown on July 5.

Aleppo's peppers

In a February 2010 review, David Corcoran of The New York Times noted the restaurant is named after the city of Aleppo, a major stop on an ancient trade route.

"The city gives its name to a red pepper with a vivid taste, sweet and smoky and faintly pungent," Corcoran wrote.

Then -- before the civil war destroyed large parts of the city -- one of Mohamed Jello's daughters dried Aleppo peppers "on the sun-washed roof of her house, preserves them and sends them to Paterson."

"The chef takes it from there, mincing them to a fine dice and whipping them with chopped walnuts, olive oil and spices into a vibrant, stop-sign red version of the appetizer spread called muhammara."

The red-pepper spread is the spiciest dish to emerge from the Syrian kitchen, where much of the food is prepared with tamarind, anise-like licorice root, lemon, fresh parsley, cumin, garlic, allspice and other aromatic seasonings. 

A freshly made Arabic Salad is lightly dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and chopped parsley ($5).

Hummus gets a drizzle of olive oil, a dusting of ground Aleppo pepper and cumin, and chopped parsley ($5).

A small plate of pickles and a basket of pocket bread for scooping up spreads are complimentary.

Turkish coffee ended our filling lunch.

The 60-seat dining room is filled at 8:30 p.m., when Jello serves Muslims who are ending their daily fast during the holiest period on their calendar. Two flat-screen TVs broadcast live from Mecca, the holy city in Saudi Arabia. Ramadan is said to be the month in which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Aleppo's menu includes more substantial fare, including whole red snappers, kebabs and other entrees. The restaurant is at 939 Main St. in Paterson at Thomas Street; 1-973-977-2244. Open daily.

In the Paterson Farmers Market, Brothers Produce at 327 E. Railway Ave. appears to have doubled in size, and now has nine checkout lanes to handle the crush of customers -- three times as many registers as before.

The popular store also has a second, much larger parking lot across Knickerbocker Avenue.

Brothers Produce is open daily; 1-973-684-4461.

Monday, June 20, 2016

First day for Costco Visa credit card, basket full of bargains at H Mart

Starting today, the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack is among the hundreds of Costco warehouses in the United States that accept only Visa Credit Cards, including the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, replacing the American Express True Earnings card.

Now, you also can use your Visa credit card to pay for fresh-baked pizzas and other purchases at the Hackensack food court, which was cash only (80 S. River St., Hackensack; warehouse is closed Sundays).


At the Costco Wholesale Business Center in Hackensack today, the switch to Visa credit cards from longtime partner American Express was imperceptible.

You could describe the shopping experience at the Hackensack warehouse as Costco Lite -- plenty of empty parking spaces in the lot, only a handful of customers pushing shopping carts through the cavernous space and no waiting to check out.

The warehouse delivers orders placed online by restaurants, caterers and other small businesses, and has only about 30% of the consumer items you'll find at the bigger, far busier Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.

Today, the Hackensack warehouse was the same oasis of calm it has been since its March 15 opening.

I used my Costco Visa credit card to pay for:

Three large cans of Dole Pineapple Juice ($4.19 with an instant coupon); Premier Protein Shake (18 11-ounce containers for $19.99 with an instant coupon); 3 pounds of premium Apricots from California ($5.49); 1 pound of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix ($4.49) and a large cup of non-fat vanilla yogurt from the food court ($1.35).

More cash back

The new Costco Visa credit card gives you more cash back than did the American Express card: 

You get 4% cash back instead of 3% on gasoline, including Costco gas; 3% back instead of 2% on restaurant meals and travel purchases worldwide, and 2% back on purchases at Costco.

If you use the Costco Visa card to buy gasoline and charge restaurant meals, you easily recoup the annual Costco membership fee of $55 or $110, and much more.

Thanks to an instant Costco coupon, three 46-ounce cans of Dole 100% Pineapple Juice (not from concentrate) were a better buy per ounce than 24 8.4-ounce cans, below. The bigger cans are marked non-GMO, meaning they don't contain genetically modified or engineered ingredients.

At H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike in Little Ferry, Baby Mustard Greens were reduced to 68 cents a pound, and cans of Moroccan Sardines in Olive Oil were about $1 each, below. 

Sabri-brand Sardines also were available in vegetable oil and in tomato sauce.

Fresh fish and fruit

Just about everything I bought on Sunday at H Mart in Little Ferry was reduced or a good buy.

Some of the deals require you to have the store's loyalty card, which gives you $10 off after you spend $1,000 (1% rebate).

Our Sunday dinner included fresh wild-caught whole whiting ($2.99 a pound) that we dredged in cornmeal and pan fried; and big bunches of Baby Mustard Greens (68 cents a pound) we washed, cut up and sauteed with chopped fresh garlic.  

A 15-pound bag of Kokuho Yellow Label White Rice from California was reduced to $10.99; a large Seedless Watermelon was $4.99; and a box of 14 sugar-sweet Ataulfo or Champagne Mangoes from Mexico was $9.99 or $1 more than a week earlier. 

That compares to $5.49 for six Ataulfo Mangoes at the Hackensack Costco.

Two packages of Nature's Soy Fried Tofu, which is packed with protein, were $3 or half price.

Marinades for pork and beef also were on sale, but I couldn't find any without monosodium glutamate (MSG). I settled for one with a low sodium content.

While I waited for my fish to be cleaned, I walked over to the table where free seafood samples were available, including a broiled mussel topped with fish eggs, snow-crab meat, boiled octopus and fried smelts; then stopped for free samples of cold noodles in broth and a kimchi dumpling on the way to the register.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Visits to ShopRite and H Mart are bearing more fruit, fish, grass-fed beef

CALIFORNIA EATING: Good buys this week included California fruit at ShopRite, above, and Mexican mangoes bursting with sweetness at H Mart.

GRASS-FED FILET MIGNON: On Monday, I went to ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east in Paramus, to buy naturally raised, grass-fed Nature's Reserve Australian beef, which was on sale for only $6.99 a pound with a store card, and picked up California peaches for 99 cents a pound and apricots for $2.99 a pound that ripened after a day or two on the kitchen counter. 

MISSING QUALITY: At the Paramus ShopRite, Pat LaFrieda sells "restaurant quality" beef, but makes no claim the meat was raised naturally without harmful antibiotics and growth hormones.

LESS IS LESS: There is nothing on the package of Pat LaFrieda Original Blend Chopped Beef that tells you whether it was naturally raised, above.

A REASON TO SMILE: Laura's Lean Beef, on the other hand, boasts that it was raised without harmful hormones or antibiotics, lending credibility to the "all natural" label.
SUNDAY DINNER: Fresh wild-caught whole Black Sea Bass were $5.99 a pound at H Mart, 260 Bergen Turnpike, Little Ferry. Here, I plated the fish with two side dishes, brown bulgur wheat with small beans and sauteed cabbage with sweet peppers.

ASIAN-INSPIRED SAUCE: In a covered pan, I poached four Black Sea Bass in a sauce of boiling organic chicken stock, soybean paste, sake, minced garlic, five-spice powder, ground ginger and ground star aniseed powder.

SWEETEST MANGOES: In Little Ferry, I enjoyed free seafood samples while I waited for my fish to be cleaned at the nearby fresh fish counter. Last Sunday, the Korean supermarket also was selling Northwest Cherries for $3.99 a pound, and a box of 14 large, super-sweet Ataulfo or Honey Mangoes from Mexico for $8.99, a savings of $4.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fresh sockeye salmon with spinach, tomatoes, peaches and olives

Fresh Wild Sockeye Salmon from the Copper River in Alaska has been in short supply at Costco Wholesale in the Teterboro Landing shopping center, but on Wednesday, my wife found a fillet for $16.99 a pound -- or $12 to $18 a pound less than at other stores.


Ten minutes of preparation and 15 minutes in a preheated oven yield a delicious wild-salmon dinner for four with leftovers.

After striking out on three previous visits to Costco Wholesale in Teterboro, my wife found a 1.83-pound fillet of fresh wild sockeye salmon from the Copper River in Alaska ($16.99 a pound).

She also brought home 1 pound of fresh organic spinach ($3.99), and a 5-pound bag of limes ($4.99), both of which I needed to prepare the salmon.

I assembled serving portions of fish and the other ingredients in a pan, and placed it in a preheated 400-degree oven.

If you like your wild salmon on the rare side, pull out the pan in 10 minutes, but the oily fish will cook through in 15 minutes and remain moist.

I tried cooking the salmon portions skin-side up, but had to turn them over to get them to cook through, so I'd recommend leaving the skin side down from the outset.

The dish offers the interplay of sweet ripe peaches with savory pitted olives accenting wild sockeye salmon, one of the world's greatest fish for eating.

I lined a large pan with aluminum foil, added about a half-pound of fresh spinach, extra-virgin olive oil, seven serving portions of salmon seasoned with a little sea salt, sliced beefsteak tomatoes, ripe peach sections, pitted black and green olives, fresh orange and lime juices, and organic no-salt seasoning. Many of the ingredients are available at Costco.
The Costco Wholesale label.

The deep red color of fresh wild sockeye salmon has undeniable eye appeal, especially when compared to pale, artificially colored farmed salmon, and no farmed fish can match the taste.
On Wednesday night, I enjoyed my fresh wild sockeye salmon with a glass of red wine, then had a big salad, but this is a fish I love at any meal. Today, I ate salmon for breakfast, smothered in tomatoes, with a baked sweet potato.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Small portions and high prices at Angelo's Greek Taverna in Maywood

On Saturday night, we ordered takeout from Angelo's Greek Taverna in Maywood, including this pricey appetizer of Homemade Stuffed Dolmades without chopped meat. We got five small dolmades for $7.95 or $1.59 each.

A special included five large shrimp, but they were badly overcooked. My wife complained they were "hard as a rock." The entree came with side dishes of vegetables and roasted potatoes, above, plus a small soup, but was priced at $25.95, which seems high. A small Avgolemono Soup was $4.95.


Is it fair to judge a restaurant by its takeout? 

Let's put it this way. After we had a bad experience ordering takeout from Angelo's Greek Taverna in Maywood, we certainly have no interest in dining out there.

Late Saturday afternoon, tired from a day trip to the shore, we looked at an online menu; ordered a soup, appetizer and entree, and picked up the order.

Over the phone, the server gave me the total of $41.57, which seemed like a lot, because most entrees listed online were about $15 to $17.

My wife wanted orzo with shrimp, a dish she fell in love with when we patronized It's Greek To Me in Englewood.

But the server said the restaurant had a special of orzo with lamb shank, and couldn't make us orzo with shrimp.

That's how we got the skewered shrimp special for $25.95.

To make matters worse, the restaurant overcooked the shrimp, and my wife hated them.

Angelo's Greek Taverna is at 245 Maywood Ave., next to Maywood's historic train station or about a dozen blocks from West Pleasant Avenue, the main business district where Seafood Gourmet and other restaurants operate.