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Posts posted by ghostrider

  1. I finally got up to Fairway last night. Their selection of olive oils, which prompted the trip, is excellent, & reasonably priced - huge variety for under $20 / liter. The cheese counter was such a treat. Numerous other delicacies. I don't know of another store in this region that packs such quality & variety at such reasonable prices under one roof.

    Tip: early Sunday evening is a great time to go. Thanks to the Bergen County blue laws, there's very little traffic up that way, which makes it easy to navigate the Fashion Center Mall.

  2. We're in NNJ too, just 8 miles from NYC. I started keeping detailed records of our expenses this spring after my wife was forced to join me in, errr, "retirement."

    For the month of June, we spent $465.47 on groceries & produce. Folded into this is the cost of feeding 6 cats + whatever drugstore-type items we may have bought at the supermarket, I don't track those costs separately. At a very rough guess, it's $60 in cat food & $25 drugstore stuff, so call it $380 for food, paper goods & cleansers.

    We also spent $361.26 on prepared foods. This includes $110 for two actual restaurant dinners, $34 for food at a Greek festival & about $45 for several cheap lunches on the fly in NYC. The remaining $172 is a pretty fair average of what we spend on various takeout meals - Chinese, Thai, pizza, etc. - right here in NJ.

    I buy almost no processed foods apart from canned broth for cooking & deli ham for sandwiches. When I cook, it's from scratch. Otherwise we order out. I don't like the stuff that occupies the middle ground.

    If we have to cut back, we will. Obviously more cooking & less takeout would make a difference.

  3. What about baking soda?

    That's what I used to use in the years before we had a dishwasher - you just make a little paste with baking soda & water & rub it around with a sponge or fingers, depending on pot configuration. Really stubborn stains, let the paste sit on them for a half hour or so.

    The pot into which I pour off my brewed tea is a vintage Hall with a white glaze on the interior. Rinsing it out isn't sufficient, as it gradually accumulates a film that will then flake off into the tea when it gets thick enough, if you let it go that long. I just pop it into the dishwasher when it needs cleaning. I use the mildest possible cycle & don't use the bake-dry setting. This practice has served me well for 15 years now.

  4. ...until I told him I remembered there's an Asian influence in Peruvian cooking--

    Except for the lack of Pisco Sours (Rutherford is a dry town), I'm thrilled to have this little gem nearby.  :wub:


    I watched a travel documentary on Peru last year which went into the history of Chinese immigration there - apparently there was a huge influx 1850s to build the railroads, & once the community became established, more folks came over for the economic opportunities. That part of the show helped me understand the inefluences that persist in Peruvian cuisine.

    Technically, Rutherford isn't a completely dry town, in that wine/beer/liquor stores (there are several good ones) & BYOs are allowed. Bars & service by restaurants are prohibited.

  5. Since this is not a New York thread, let me toss Il Vicino into the mix here. I believe I've mentioned them once or twice in the Heartland forum.

    I've eaten at least 40 pizzas at the St. Louis location over the last decade or so. I shouldn't have to say any more than that, but I will report that (1) the place has nothing to do with "St. Louis-style pizza," which is a peculiar regional abomination & (2) without specifying "well done," I have never had an undercooked pizza there (or, for that matter, one with browned mozz).

    It may be a chain - a small one, with 8 locations scattered around the West & Midwest - but somebody knows what they're doing. With the wood-fired ovens, sensible crust/cheese/toppings proportions & quality of ingrredients, they deliver consistently great pizza with a wonderful smoky flavor & what I consider a proper amount of char on the crust.

    (The crust sounds quite similar to what slkinsey describes at Patsy's. The cheese & toppings on offer sound better.)

  6. I too am an everyday tea drinker. Given how cheap tea is per cup, & how many pots one can get from a half-pound of tea, this is pretty much the last place where I'm willing to compromise in my personal budget; though at the same time, I don't buy a lot of what I consider high-end teas these days.

    Mariage Fréres teas @ $64.00 / lb. are a bit high for what I'd consider an everyday tea, though it's always nice to have a couple of teas like that around for variety. Other teas mentioned in the $28 - $36 per lb. range are more in line with where we should be looking, I'd think, in terms of "budget" teas.

    I get most of my teas from Upton Tea Imports, as I've mentioned many times. I drink mostly Assams & Ceylons by preference, with sporadic pots of Darjeeling or similar for variety.

    Upton sells its teas in metric quantities. Doing some quick conversions on my favorites, I see that I've been paying $28 - $30 / lb. for the Assams (which I usually buy in 200-gram packets) that I drink daily, and about 25% - 30% less than that for the Ceylons. Add on a $4.00 shipping charge for an order that will last me 4-5 months, and it still seems to me that I'm getting a good value while drinking some fine teas every day.

    This bit of research has also led me to find that 3 of my past favorite Assams are permanently sold out at Upton, right when I'm running low & needing more! :sad: Ah well, there's always something new to be found.

  7. Sounds very good and best of all, close to me!  did you, by chance, try their dessert pies?

    Nope, did not, though I expect I will. I was talking with the lady behind the counter, she said they do lots of seasonal fruit pies. She mentioned peach pies in summertime, I'm going to try to hold out till then.

    BTW the Shepherd's Pie was fabulous too - ground beef, in an apparent nod to American tastes, peas, a bit of onion, lovely gravy & wonderfully buttery mashed potatoes on top. So far they've gotten every little detail perfectly right, at least to my tastes. :smile:

  8. The Pie Store

    Although this wonderful shop had opened last year - it's a spinoff from the London Food Company (downtown Montclair, Bloomfield Ave. between Fullerton & Seymour), where the pies were originally sold - I was somehow, inexplicably, unaware of it till yesterday.

    We were over in Montclair for the fab spring book sale. (Beard On Pasta, yes!) Afterwards we stopped by the London Food Company looking for pies & were informed of these developments. So we drove on over to the Pie Store, which is conveniently located on our route out of Montclair to get back home.

    Got a chicken pie and a potato/cheese/onion pie. FABULOUS!!! The chicken pie was absolutely delicious, well peppered, full of chicken & mushrooms & veggies & FLAVOR.

    I often have digestive/gas problems with standard chicken pot pies; not so with this one, I think because it has only their excellent puff pastry crust on top & lacks the heavier bottom crust you often find. An extraordinarily well composed pie. I'll be back for more!

    The potato/cheese/onion pie was also delicious, but heavy & rich. We have a lot left; I think we're gonna get 3-4 meals out of this one as a side dish.

    We also have a big Shepherd's Pie in the icebox, awaiting consumption this week, or perhaps later on, in which case it will go into the freezer.

    BTW the "small" pies are big enough for a dinner for two if you have a salad or something to go with one. (And/or a cheesy oniony potato pie to pick at. :raz: ) The large pies are truly family-sized.

  9. Spring Grill is close to my house and I've been there a bunch of times, though admittedly a few years ago. We found it just meh, nothing special, and haven't been back since 2005. I'm amazed that you are saying it can compete with Wondee's up in Hackensack, so based on your recommendation I'll give it another try.

    Well, you can sort of glean my history with the place from this thread. I do think that they've gotten substantially better since they revamped the menu. Maybe I'm exaggerating in ranking them with Wondee, maybe in part that's my hometown bias showing. I'll be interested in your evaluation.

  10. I've had some serious Thai cravings over the past couple of months & have been sating them at Spring Grill, a Thai place with a history, some of which is noted above. Over the last few years they have really stepped up their game. After four meals there in this New Year, I've concluded that Spring Grill can compete with any Thai place in the region (defining "the region" as a westward semi-circle with a 15-mile radius centered on the Meadowlands) & will likely do it just a little better.

    Spring Grill opened in fall of 2004 as a pan-Asian place with an emphasis on Frenchified Thai & Vietnamese dishes. They've always had a knack for presentation. Out of the gate, they did some dishes well, but too many of their offerings seemed bland, with flavors toned down in an attempt to meet a particular view of the American palate. Still, we continued to dine & order takeout there sporadically, sticking with the dishes that we knew we liked.

    A couple of years ago, Sping Grill had an obvious change in the FOH, & perhaps in management & kitchen as well. They also expanded their menu, dropping many of the Francophile / Vietnamese offerings & adding many more traditional Thai dishes. The result seems to have been an upswing in both their food & their fortunes. The other night, when I was in to pick up a takeout order, I noticed two large Thai families there having celebratory meals of some sort. You like to see that, recession or not.

    A few of their standout dishes:

    Green papaya salad - fresh, crunchy, fiery & invigorating. They get the balance of flavors right.

    Vegetable dumpling - "Panfried vegetable (chives) dumpling served with Thai chili soy sauce." Two large gooey dumplings, nicely browned & crisped on the outside, stuffed with what seems a mixture of spniach & chives. Nice hoisin-like dipping sauce with some bite. Never had anything like these elsewhere. Chewy & delicious.

    Tom Yum - the traditional soup, enhanced with a nice handful of meaty mushroom halves & a proper dollop of chili oil.

    Evil Jungle Thai noodle salad - "Grilled beef with noodles, avocado, mango & mint over green salad" It's not filet mignon, but the beef chunks are nicely grilled & the combination of flavors is as superb as the presentation.

    Thail basil fried rice - simple, fragrant, a nice chili-pepper kick to it. Immensely satisfying.

    Kow Mok Gai - "Grilled tender breast of chicken with yellow curry coconut rice." Three chicken filets, dusted with Thai spices & beautifully grilled. The mildly peppery, aromatic rice is one of my favorite things here, pressed into a huge heart-shaped wedge that tastes as good as it looks.

    Penang curry - you know what it is. Fragrant (there's that word again) with lime leaf. It'll warm your innards. A fine rendition.

    Not everything on the menu works. The Pad Khing is inexplicably sweet, syrupy & cloying; when I crave that, I'll still drive up the road to Hackensack for Wondee's more rustic version. But a couple of years ago, I'd have ranked Wondee's as the area's destination Thai place and Spring Grill as a nice place to have close at hand. Today, I'd rate Spring Grill as the destination. Most of their dishes equal or top anything I've had in restaurants from Montclair to Ridgewood. They've put a lot of thought into their food and have created an extraordinary restaurant.

  11. Went by Riverside Market today, planning to buy a whole bunch of stuff for a party tomorrow. Hadn't been there in a couple months. Place was dark. Big sign on the door, "Under Repair." Peered through the glass, the store is empty, nothing remains but bare shelves & 3 brand-new kids' bicycles right inside the doors.

    I guess the recession got 'em. Pity, they were a reliable destination.

  12. Odd thing is, I haven't seen Maine shrimp anywhere this season. Last year they were very easy to find in NNJ.

    They were back at Whole Foods last week. They seem to be available alternate weeks starting on Thursdays, has been the recent pattern.

    Today's Portland Press Herald 2.1.09 features an interview with Fisherman Craig Pendleton (see his pics in post #22) who is contemplating life without fishing on the Maine Coast,
    Pendleton, 48, is trying to sell his boat, and last month started taking classes toward a business degree at Husson University in South Portland. For the third-generation fisherman, it is more than a career change. It's the end of a way of life and a family heritage.

    "I'm the last Pendleton to fish out of Camp Ellis," he said. "I held out for as long as I could."

    The Mainers who still drag nets for cod, haddock, flounder and other groundfish are the survivors, the most resilient of a hardy breed. But, like Pendleton, many of them are re-evaluating their futures and contemplating new careers, even in the midst of a historic recession.

    Man, that's a sobering story.

    Again I will recommend Colin Woodard's The Lobster Coast to anyone who's interested in how the Maine fishery got to this point.

  13. I discovered fresh water chestnuts 35 years ago in NYC's Chinatown. You are right, they are so superior to the canned variety. Sadly, my Chinese cooking has fallen by the wayside in the last decade.

    I would slice them thinly & stir-fry with snow peas, dried mushrooms & a few other ingredients which now escape me, probably scallions & a rice wine / garlic sauce.

    They also worked well chopped into rough cubes in a chicken / cashew recipe I had that involved hoisin sauce.

    I don't remember any clear tricks for peeling them, just had at them with a paring knife.

  14. Does using a light, filtered olive oil work better at this?

    I use Carapelli Extra Light oil for sauteeing meats & fish - not because of the smoke point issue, but for reasons of taste. I can't see using EVOO as my go-to cooking oil. I've tried it in just about everyting that I habitually cook. I found that the flavor is often too fruity or peppery, & the texture of the oil too heavy, for what I'm trying to do with my food. The Carapelli has a nice light flavor, it goes on sale at a local supermarket every month or so; it works for me.

    (Yes, I've read the labels carefully, I know that it's a mixture of Mediterranean oils that aren't cold-pressed. Last time we had this conversation I got some pompous lectures on these subjects. Let's see if we can avoid them here.)

    The Extra Virgin, I use on salads, for drizzling on finished dishes, & for cooking those few dishes where I think that the flavor is appropriate.

  15. Last week, I spent about 5 minutes figuring out how to carry two very hot bowls of cream of tomato soup, a can of soda, a bag of soup crackers. twp spoons and a couple of paper towels from the kitchen to the living room all in one go. The solution involved a couple strategically placed kitchen towels, a steady pace and a 50% chance of severe burning, which gladly did not come to be (my 3 pets were luckily asleep). 

    For me that's just 2-3 trips to the kitchen, no time for thought required.

    I don't understand the obsession that some folks (including my SO) have with reducing the # of trips to the ktichen. What's the big deal, unless there are stairs involved? We all need the exercise, little though it is in this case.

    My SO will pile up dishes in ways that seem to defy the law of gravity & carry them into the kitchen, a pile in each hand, while I sit cringing, waiting for the big crash. I will make 3 or 4 trips, feeling smug all the while that I am burning 3.2 calories in the process.

  16. Canned taters probably hark back to an earlier generation. My late FIL loved them, particularly after he could no longer peel fresh potatoes a/c his arthritis but could still operate the electric can opener. He wasn't a great cook but he still enjoyed preparing his own meals after his wife passed on.

  17. For a couple of years I've been working at an independent deli / "sandwich shop" in a town of 30,000 in suburban NJ. (I'm the delivery guy, so I'm not there hands-on with the food, but as a retired systems analyst I'm pretty observant.) I'll try to give you some insights based on that experience + some others as a customer.

    First, a question: are you planning a sit-down cafe type of place, or strictly takeaway? I ask because the place where I work is strictly takeaway. It's been something of a revelation to me that such a place can survive without offering an in-store place to eat; I wouldn't have thought it possible before seeing the operation from the inside.

    The place has been in business for 25 years. It was started by two Italian immigrants, who largely did things the way they did in the Old Country, so it's always had that authentic-Italian cachet going for it. They sold the business last year & the shop has undergone some changes under the new owners, but at the core it's still the same operation with the same food prepared by the same people. They still pull a mixture of the ultra-rich folks in town who are looking for the "real Italian" stuff as they perceive it, & the blue-collar guys with big appetities who are looking for a good, reasonably priced lunch.

    The sandwiches: made to order, cold cuts & cheese sliced directly onto your sandwich, toppings & dressings added to your specifications. The shop's in-store marinated roasted peppers & hot peppers are some of the key attractions.

    The breads & rolls are baked overnight at a bakery in a nearby town & delivered to the shop every morning. The guys arrive at the shop early to make a fresh batch of mozz every morning - another key item which makes the shop a foodie destination as well as a handy place for the locals.

    There's also a rotating selection of standard hot Italian sandwiches, prepared with sausages & meatballs that are made right in the store's back kitchen. Soups in winter. There's a small grill in the kitchen for grilling chicken breasts for sandwiches & salads, which form a substantial portion of the shop's daily trade.

    That's the picture. The shop was doing better business a decade ago according to the original owners, & things began to slow down years before the current recession/depression due to increased competition in town. But the place survives. As does the Quiznos down the street, & the newer Italian deli 3 blocks away that offers an experience similar to what you get in the shop where I work.

    What makes our sandwiches great? To me, it's the freshness, the quality of the mozz & the roasted peppers, the imported prosciutto, the store-roasted pork & beef.

    On a different note - my SO & I travel to Maine several times every year a/c family & vacation, & as customers we've come to know 2 favorite places up there, in the towns of Augusta & Bath. They bill themselves as cafes rather than "sandwich shops," but we go there for their sandwiches. Both are located in downtown business districts; the district in Augusta has been struggling for years, while Bath's is in better shape, in part because they're on the summertime tourist trail up Route 1. Both shops seem to thrive & have been around for well over a decade.

    I think that they draw most of their business from local folks who work in the area. We like them & keep going back because everything they offer is of good-to-high quality, particularly the breads, & made with a distinctive touch.

    I'm mentioning these places because it occurs to me that they all offer something else that's great, in addition to their sandwiches, to attract a different bloc of customers. In Augusta, it's great, freshly roasted coffee & pastries for a quick breakfast or snack; in Bath, it's a full breakfast menu; at the shop where I work, it's the store-made fresh pasta & the full stock of imported Italian goods.

    My take is that it's difficult to keep an independent business thriving on sandwiches alone, unless your demographics & location happen to be exactly right, & it looks like most such places have to develop a second specialty that will pull folks in at times other than the lunch hours.

  18. They hit my local Whole Foods on Friday for the first time, headless shell-on @ $4.99.

    I liked the way they had special "Sale!" signs printed up saying Regular Price: $6.99, as if the Maine shrimp were a routine item.

    Alas this is not a cooking weekend for me, This seems to happen every year, the shrimp are plentiful in the Jersey markets when my life is too crazed to deal with them & then when things calm down, the shrimp disappear. Karma, it's a bitch.

  19. Am I the only one who likes a little char on some of the popped corn?  Just a hint of it . .

    I like a lot of char! I would deliberately burn the stuff & shake the pot to make sure the batch was evenly burnt.

  20. Since I am not drinking any right now, I'll post here about what I bought today at The Cultured Cup

    Ceylon Sultane

    French Breakfast

    Darjeeling Castleton

    Oolong, Blue Spring

    Is your Castleton a first flush or second? Either way, that's one of my favorites.

    I'm not very precise in my measurements. I have a 3-cup pot & a 5-cup, in which I use 2 measuring teaspoons & 1 measuring tablespoon of tea, respectively. I listen to my kettle for the sound that it's boiled to the riight point. I'm not sure what each pot holds in terms of fl. oz. but I know how to get a good brew out of each. From experience, I can determine by eye, based on leaf size & variety, whether I need to use less than a full spoon, a flat spoon or a heaping one, at least as a starting point. Once I've tasted a new tea, I'll adjust my measurements and brew time accordingly.

    As the other folks have said, the more tea you make, the more instinctive the whole routine will become. You'll find the approach that works best for you, which likely won't be the same as mine or anyone else's. That's part of the fun. Enjoy!

  21. I have a pot similar to a BB made by Pristine. On the bottom it simply says "PRISTINE ENGLAND." Perhaps that means it was not made in Malaysia like the new ones. I guess I've had it for close to 30 years now.

    The pottery feels a bit lighter & thinner than the real Brown Bettys that I've handled. It still brews a nice cup. Though I'm of the opinion that my vintage McCormick pots do a better job because they're made of really heavy pottery & thus really hold the heat.

  22. The Nahorhabi FTGFOP1 Assam that I mentioned in the purveyor thread. (I think Upton has a couple of Nahorhabi teas on offer, the designation is to distinguish this one.)

    It's one of the tippier Assams I've encountered, has a somewhat lighter flavor & more floral aroma than most of them. It's a very refreshing morning tea.

  23. I know I've mentioned them before, but this is a new thread so I will recommend Upton Teas again.

    I've found their selection of Assams to be particularly good; the Nahorhabi & the Khagorjian, both in the middle of their price range, are my current favorites. The Harmutty estate produces nice lower-priced teas, not as complex in flavor but excellent values. Upton have also had some wonderful Ceylons over the years. No question that their Darjeelings are good too.

    I'm off Chinese teas so can't speak for those.

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