Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Icelandic Wolffish with Jersey corn, fresh tomatoes and ripe peaches

Icelandic Wolffish, one of the ugliest creatures in the sea, yields sweet, flaky fillets, which I baked with Jersey corn, fresh tomatoes, ripe white peaches, fresh spinach and grated reduced-fat cheese.

I assembled all the ingredients in a large pan lined with parchment paper, then popped the Wolffish Medley into a preheated 400-degree oven. Dinner for three was served in about 15 minutes.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Whenever I'm in Closter, I drop into The Fish Dock to try another unfamiliar fish from Iceland.

I've eaten fresh, wild-caught Icelandic cod and haddock for years, thanks to Costco Wholesale.

But tusk, ling and wolffish are three others I've never eaten.

On Tuesday, I bought just under a pound of fresh wolffish fillets to prepare at home as a medley -- a dish of seafood and vegetables modeled on the one you can buy at The Fish Dock and pop into a preheated oven.

The one I made at home included kernels shaved off an ear of corn, fresh spinach drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkled with a little salt; ripe white peaches I grilled for a few minutes on the stove top before cutting them up and adding them to the pan; and fresh lime juice and Aleppo red pepper over the fish.

You also can add pitted olives, mushrooms, thinly sliced eggplant or other vegetables.


The Atlantic Wolffish is also known as the Atlantic Catfish. Only the Monkfish is uglier.

Details

The Fish Dock, 219A Closter Dock Road, Closter; 201-564-7939. Website: The Fish Dock

On Facebook: 

Fish from the pristine waters of Iceland


For the medley I made at home, I cut up The Fish Dock's wolffish fillets into smaller pieces.

On Tuesday, the seafood market also offered a ready to cook Haddock Medley with Spinach, Tomato and Feta Cheese; a Cod and Salmon Fish and Vegetable Medley; and Ling fillets in a Sweet & Spicy Thai Marinade.
I had leftovers of my homemade Wolffish Medley over organic brown rice with organic tomatoes, organic red kidney beans and peeled garlic cloves, all prepared in an electric cooker.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Here's to a glorious week of coaxing sweet lobsters out of their shells

Just about the best deal around is the $19.95 Twin Lobster Special on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at Meson Madrid, a Spanish restaurant in Palisades Park, served with soup or salad, rice, bread and addictive house-made potato chips.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, Jack's Lobster Shack in Edgewater offers a special 1.5-pound Lobster Dinner with salad, corn and coleslaw (market price). Last Tuesday, the dinner was $25.95 a person.

This week, the ShopRite in Paramus had a big sale on live lobsters --only $5.77 a pound for any size, with a limit of 10 pounds. We bought four lobsters totaling 6.15 pounds for dinner last Sunday, and boiled them at home for 15 minutes, above.

Editor's note: I've updated this post with a photo of a Lobster Salad in a Dijon mustard-lime dressing I made at home late this afternoon.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The lobsters were young, the customers old.

In my quest to eat as much luxurious lobster meat as I could this week, I dined out three times and cooked this glorious crustacean twice at home.

At two early dinners and a lunch out, the youngest people there were servers and other staff.

It seems like retired folks with means don't have much else to do in the afternoon but eat out.

On Thursday night at Meson Madrid, which offers a twin-lobster special for $19.95, my wife looked around at the other customers and said she felt like she was eating in a nursing home.

Earlier that day, I met two friends for lunch at Esty Street, a stuffy, dimly lit fine-dining restaurant in Park Ridge that serves a mediocre Lobster Caesar Salad for $24.

We were the only ones seated in the dining room, but a handful of other customers in the bar appeared to be in their Seventies and Eighties. 

The story was the same at around 4 in the afternoon at Jack's Lobster Shack, an informal BYO with a nautical theme that serves lobsters "direct from Maine," but doesn't offer an early bird special.

The big draw at Jack's on Mondays and Tuesdays is a 1.5-pound Lobster Dinner for about $10 less than at other times, and on the day we went, the place was filled with seniors. 


At home last Sunday, we enjoyed a simple dinner of sweet lobster claw and tail meat with greens and a glass of wine. I ate mine with a splash of fresh lime juice. Three of us shared four 1.5-pound lobsters.

At Jack's Lobster Shack in Edgewater, my wife was wowed by her Crab Cake appetizer ($11), served over mixed greens and crowned with lemon aioli. 

My Fried Calamari appetizer was tender and greaselss, but at $9, not as good a deal as the Crab Cake my wife had.

Jack's Lobster Shack

We made our first visit to Jack's in Edgewater to celebrate a special occasion, but were pleased to see we could take advantage of the 1.5-pound Lobster Dinner Special served on Mondays and Tuesdays (market price).

My wife said her Crab Cake appetizer was "to die for," and she's eaten them in Maryland and just about everywhere else.

The lobster, salad, corn and coleslaw were terrific, and we'll definitely go back. We enjoyed a bottle of Prosecco, a sparkling wine from Italy, with the food.

If I have a choice, I always prefer a whole live lobster over a Lobster Roll or Lobster Salad, because I can do without the bread, mayo and butter.


I really enjoyed the premium spring mix in the salad with Jack's Lobster Dinner Special. When you pay full price for the dinner, soup and pickle also are included.

At Jack's, you place you order at this counter and the food is delivered to your table in the dining room, which is decorated with lobster traps and other gear. During our meal, a server cleared a metal dish of shells and brought us more napkins. 

Jack's Lobster Shack is at 1040 River Road, Edgewater; 201-224-2808. BYO, free street parking and a municipal lot with a pay station. 

Open 7 days. Reservations only accepted for parties of 8 or more. Website: Jack's Lobster Shack
Esty Street's classic Lobster Caesar Salad is served as an entree at lunch for $24, but only contains half of a small lobster. In a recent newspaper article, owner Kim Costagliola was quoted as saying that as a dinner appetizer, the same salad includes "half of a 2-pound lobster," but the price wasn't given.

Esty Street

Stuffy restaurants with exaggerated reputations like Esty Street in Park Ridge have never been my cup of tea.

But I was drawn there by a newspaper photo of its classic Lobster Caesar Salad dinner appetizer, which turned out to be made with a bigger crustacean than the same salad served as a lunch entree.

The difference wasn't mentioned in the article, typical of the sloppy reporting by the paper's restaurant reviewer.

The Caesar dressing appealed to me, but hearts of romaine were used, instead of the leafy green part, and they looked and tasted like iceberg lettuce.

The salad also includes roasted peppers, avocado, candied walnuts and crumbled bacon, but I got mine without that last ingredient.

Don't bother

At lunch on Thursday, the dressing had no pizzazz, and I would have liked to see a tablespoonful of the restaurant's arugula pesto crowning the overpriced salad ($24).

Or, the chef could make it with a dressing I use for Alaskan King Crab Salad: Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, ground cumin and other spices.

One of my friends also ordered the Lobster Caesar Salad, and was disappointed. But my second friend wisely chose an entree of Jumbo Sea Scallops ($23), and was very happy. 

There were other problems at Esty Street that have no place in such an expensive restaurant:

My knife was dirty, so I put it aside and used a butter knife to cut my lobster tail; when I ordered coffee, the cup set down in front of me was dirty and had to be replaced; and the coffee, poured from a pot, looked like dishwater and tasted weak ($4 with one refill). 

Where is the nearest Starbucks?

I hate flies in dining rooms, but saw one at Esty Street; Jack's Lobster Shack, where the filthy insect landed inside my empty wine glass; and Meson Madrid.

And although Esty Street offered more than a half-dozen specials, the waiter who recited them was speaking so quickly we had a hard time understanding what he was saying.


Another classic at Esty Street -- the arugula pesto made with pecans and served with the restaurant's bread, according to the newspaper -- was nowhere to be seen at lunch on Thursday. Instead, we got butter.
Esty Street's bread is ordinary, but bearable, if you ask for some extra-virgin olive oil for dipping, above. The restaurant is at 86 Spring Valley Road in Park Ridge; 201-307-1515. Website: Not worth the detour
A glass of smooth House Cabernet is $8 at Meson Madrid, 343 Bergen Boulevard in Palisades Park; 201-947-1038. The salad with the Twin Lobster Special comes with French Dressing, below. Website: For Lobster Lovers

When is the last time you saw dressing served in a boat?

Meson Madrid

This outpost of paella and other classic dishes from Spain hasn't changed since my last visit many years ago.

You can still find a box outside the restaurant for donations of used eyeglasses, cases and so forth.

On Thursday, we returned to Meson Madrid for the unbeatable Twin Lobster Special, served with soup or salad, house-made potato chips, rice and bread for only $19.95.

My wife liked her entree, Shrimp in Garlic Sauce with Linguine for $18.95, but couldn't finish it. 

The service was great, and I heard waiters telling customers the Twin Lobster Special was available that night. 


At Meson Madrid, you get enough bread to make two Cuban sandwiches, but it's not worth the calories or carbs.

We didn't touch the rice served with the Twin Lobster Special, but couldn't stop eating the house-made potato chips. I paused only to take this photo. A friend who goes there frequently says you can ask for more.
This morning, I returned to the seafood department at ShopRite, 224 Route 4 east at Forest Avenue in Paramus, to pick up more live wild-caught lobsters for dinner (201-843-6616). The $5.77-a-pound sale ends today.
This afternoon, I boiled five small lobsters from ShopRite for 12 minutes, and extracted the tail, claw and knuckle meat for a Lobster Salad, dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lime juice, ground cumin and coriander, as well as Costco Wholesale's Organic No-Salt Seasoning. Other ingredients were diced sweet pepper, celery, scallion, fresh strawberries, and herbs from my garden, including fresh mint. I served the salad over organic spring mix with tomatoes as a garnish.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

5 easy steps to a healthy fish dinner, cooking with Middle Eastern spices

A pan of Icelandic haddock with fresh spinach, eggplant slices, cherry tomatoes, pitted olives and other ingredients takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook. Complete the meal with a glass of wine and a big salad, below.
 
A 1-pound package of Earthbound Farm Organic Spring Mix was $4.89 at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro. Small cucumbers were $2.50 a pound at ShopRite in Paramus.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

I love the ease of preparing a fish medley -- a fresh, wild-caught fillet cut into serving pieces and combined with fresh spinach, pitted olives, tomato, shredded cheese and other ingredients.

You pop the pan into a preheated 400-degree oven and in 15 minutes or less, dinner is served.

The Fish Dock, owned and operated by Icelanders, is where I first encountered and purchased a medley, but because the seafood market is about 10 miles away, I usually make my own version at home.

See the photos below for how to assemble a medley: 


I lined a large pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and added about a half-pound or more of fresh organic spinach ($3.99 for a 1-pound package at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro), drizzled the spinach with extra-virgin olive oil and added a little sea salt.

I added thin slices of a small eggplant from my garden and brushed them with extra-virgin olive oil.
 
Then, I added pieces from two skinless and boneless fillets of fresh wild-caught Icelandic Haddock ($8.99 a pound at Costco Wholesale), topping the fish with fresh lime juice, Aleppo red pepper, cut up cheery tomatoes from my garden, pitted black olives and a reduced-fat shredded cheese.

Torn basil and mint leaves from my garden were the last touch before I put the pan into a preheated 400-degree oven for up to 15 minutes. This time, I pulled the pan out after 12 minutes and the fish was cooked through. The 2.36-pounds of fish is more than enough for four people, at a cost of about $5.25 each.

The finished dish. The high heat toasted the herbs, but the haddock remained moist and flaked beautifully.

The next day, I enjoyed some of the leftovers over organic brown rice I had prepared in a rice cooker with organic chicken stock, organic diced tomatoes and organic beans.
A breakfast or dinner side dish of fresh spinach is a snap to prepare in a non-stick pan over medium or medium-high heat with a little olive and sesame oils, plus cheap sake or just a little water. Here, I added two Middle Eastern spices -- ground Aleppo red pepper and za'atar, a dried thyme mixture with salt, both of which I buy at Fattal's, a bakery, grocery store and butcher shop at 975-77 Main St. in Paterson.

Aleppo red pepper is a mildly spicy accent for omelets, fish, soups and whole organic eggs. Here, I served the eggs over boiled skin-on sweet potatoes and peeled garlic cloves mashed with extra-virgin olive oil and seasoned with a little salt and just about every spice I have, including ground cinnamon, curry powder, red-pepper flakes and black pepper.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A bargain lunch but no surprises at a Greek temple to fresh seafood

An entree of Shrimp Saganaki, above, and a Mediterranean Meze Plate appetizer, below, were among the choices on the $29 price-fixed lunch menu at Estiatorio Milos, an expensive Greek fish house in midtown Manhattan.

The Meze Plate: Hummus, Tzatziki, Taramosalata, Spinach Pie, Greek Olives, Radish and Cucumber


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

The New York City Restaurant Week lunch menu at Estiatorio Milos hasn't varied much since my first visit to the expensive Greek fish house in August 2011.

Then, a three-course lunch cost only $24.07, and one of the entrees you could choose on the limited menu was a thick lamb chop.

By August 2013, the same fixed-price lunch, featuring pretty much the same appetizers and entrees, went up to $25.

At the end of July, the price had jumped again -- to $29, plus tax and tip.

Last Thursday at Milos, the lamb chop was a $10 supplement, and you could even get Lobster Pasta in a light garlic tomato sauce for an extra $15.

All-year lunch menu

The Summer Restaurant Week promotion ended last Friday, but Milos serves this $29 three-course lunch year-round.

You might find other Manhattan restaurants extending the promotion until Labor Day. Restaurant Week returns in January.

The New York City Restaurant Week promotion began in 1992 at lunch only (3 courses for $19.92, plus tax and tip).

Each year, the price jumped 1 cent, but in 2010, the lunch went up to $24.07; in 2013, three courses cost $25. 

Last week, lunch for two at Milos cost $74.75, including tax and a 20% tip, but I paid with a registered American Express card and will be getting a $5 statement credit. 


My appetizer at Milos last week: Two perfectly grilled Canadian Scallops served with orange and mint salad. They were smaller than the scallops I was served in 2011.

The open kitchen at Milos boned, butterflied and grilled a whole Dorade Royale or Mediterranean Sea Bream, serving the wild-caught fish with steamed broccoli crown, and extra-virgin olive oil and capers.

My wife chose the Shrimp Saganaki with couscous, Mediterranean Meze Plate and Karidopita or Walnut Cake with ice cream for dessert.


My dessert was Fresh Fruit of the Season, including a wonderfully sweet slice of cantaloupe. Below, the fresh-fruit I was served in August 2013.

On Thursday, deep-sea Cardinal Prawns or Carabineros at $95 a pound were one of the choices from what Milos refers to as the restaurant's fish market, below.

If you love seafood, the display is a feast for the eyes. But who are the customers willing to pay $50, $60 and more for a pound of fresh fish or shellfish, if they aren't on an expense account? The a la carte menu says Milos will grill or fry fish, or serve it as sashimi or tartare.
Small Red Mullet were $61 a pound on Thursday.

We were seated in the dimly lit bar area of Milos, a cavernous space with plenty of exposed concrete, ceiling beams and electrical lines that do little to muffle noise. The wine cellar is on the second level, above right.


After you are seated, a server pours extra-virgin olive oil into a small bowl, snips leaves from an oregano plant on the table and takes both away. But this bottle of My Sister's Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the next table was easily within reach, and I used it once or twice.

A large basket of toasted bread disappeared quickly. We were offered more, but declined.
Estiatorio Milos at 125 W. 55th St. in Manhattan (between 6th and 7th avenues) occupies the first two or three floors of an office building. Milos has branches around the world, including a luxurious yacht called Milos at Sea. Website: The freshest fish on ice

Friday, August 19, 2016

Choripan, a popular Argentinian grill restaurant, reopens in Hackensack

Choripan Rodizio reopened about a month ago at 10 Sussex St. in Hackensack, a little over a block from the original location on the ground floor of a Main Street building destroyed in a fire on April 26, 2015.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Choripan Rodizio in Hackensack appealed to both meat eaters and salad lovers before the grill restaurant was destroyed in a fire nearly 16 months ago.

Now, the popular Argentinian steak house is back in business at 10 Sussex St., near the Bergen County Courthouse.

A woman who was unlocking the front door about 20 minutes before today's 11:30 a.m. lunch service explained the restaurant reopened about a month ago, but the owners haven't been able to update their website.


One of the restaurant windows calls Choripan an Argentinian steakhouse, which also offers empanadas and pasta, the last reflecting heavy Italian immigration to the South American country. 

Open 7 days

I picked up a copy of the lunch menu, which is served from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Five salads are listed, four of them for $6.95 each; and All You Can Eat Rodizio with two side dishes runs $20. 

Choripan, a grilled Argentinian-style sausage sandwich, is $10.

The Choripan Burger is served with french fries and includes bacon, egg and American cheese, also $10.


Details

Choripan Rodizio, 10 Sussex St., Hackensack; 201-880-7941. BYO, open 7 days from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. A parking lot is behind the restaurant.

See: 

You can easily skip the meat

A welcome sign of renewal