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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Food shopping: Going in circles at Trader Joe's, a nicer H Mart, ShopRite and more

You'll see plenty of signs at Trader Joe's, 404 Route 17 north in Paramus, above and below, but few of them tell you where to find the item you are looking for.
I had a longer shopping list than usual, so I found myself walking in circles and encountering  other shoppers who also were lost. A sure way to find what you are looking for is to ask an employee, if you can find one.



I like shopping at Trader Joe's in Paramus only when I have a few things to buy, including organic sweet potatoes, antibiotic-free cold cuts and hot dogs, and 100% vegetable juices. 

But on Tuesday, my list had swelled to more than a dozen items after I received Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer in the mail.

The booklet is filled with superlatives, making almost everything the store sells sound like the best in the world.

I've bought Trader Joe's packaged and prepared food that didn't live up to the hype, but hope springs eternal.

Still, the store was crowded on Tuesday, and I found myself walking in circles through narrow aisles, only finding some items when I asked an employee to show me were they were located.

In the case of the Smoked Peppered Mackerel on my list (6 ounces for a pricey $4.49), one of the Trader Joe's workers checked the computer in the back of the store, and told me it was out of stock.

Maybe it's time for this popular Trader Joe's to expand into the space left vacant by the closing of the Office Depot next door.

A 2-pound bag of Organic Carrots of Many Colors was $2.79, but the dirty gill below the price sign was a turnoff. I trimmed the carrots, cut the bigger ones in half lengthwise, brushed them with olive oil, seasoned them and roasted them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes to 40 minutes. Delicious.
I love olive oil for dressing salads and cooking, so I picked up President's Reserve Extra Virgin Olive Oil, even though $7.99 is more than I like to pay for a liter bottle. Trader Joe's justifies the price ($2 less than last year) by saying this oil is a product of Italy that uses only Italian olives.
Trader Joe's Organic French Baguette is baked in Canada ($1.99). It doesn't equal the $2 baguette sold in the retail store of Balthazar Bakery in Englewood.
"Veggie Patties Loaded with Veggies" is how Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer describes Carrot & Pea Vegetable Patties and Cauliflower & Broccoli Vegetable Patties, both made in Italy. For $1.99, you get 4 patties weighing a total of 7 ounces.
I also bought a bag of Trader Joe's Organic Sweet Potatoes for $4.49. My other purchases included uncured and antibiotic-free Applegate Sliced Ham (7 ounces for $3.99), Organic Tricolor Quinoa (1 pound for $3.99), Jazz Apples (2 pounds for $2.79), Cara Cara Navel Oranges (3 pounds for $3.99), and Organic Power of 7 Juice (1 liter for $3.99). 
At the H Mart in Englewood, I bought prepared Korean food for our Sunday dinner: Japchae or stir-fried vermicelli noodles with vegetables ($5.99), Whole Grilled Mackerel ($6.29); and kimbap, a rice, vegetable, egg and seaweed roll ($6.79) -- all from Jinga, an outside caterer.
I bought the grilled mackerel after I saw Jinga is now adding MSG to its Stewed Alaska Pollack. In the fish department, I found large wild-caught, head-on Red Shrimp for $7.99 a pound. We shelled and deveined them for dinner on Monday night and, despite being previously frozen, they were some of the tenderest I've had.
The Englewood H Mart at 25 Lafayette Place, above and below, is smaller than the H Mart in Little Ferry, and offers fewer free food samples on the weekends, but the renovated store is far nicer for shoppers. One quirk is that Little Ferry prices sometimes are lower for the same item in Englewood and at other H Marts.

While in Englewood, I stopped at Balthazar Bakery, 214 S. Dean St., for two of its signature baguettes, still $2 each more than 14 years after the retail store opened. Dipping the heels of the bread into extra-virgin olive oil is one of my guilty pleasures.
I slice each baguette into four pieces for sandwiches, and store them in the freezer.
This morning, when I saw an unfamiliar Victoria label in the pasta aisle at ShopRite, Forest Avenue and Route 4 in Paramus, I looked closer and discovered a bottle containing 1.5 pounds of pasta and sauce, reduced from $5.99 to $3.99 (just heat and serve, the label says). I passed.
You'll pay more than twice as much for a 16-ounce carton of 100% liquid egg whites, left, at ShopRite in Paramus than at Costco Wholesale, 2 Teterboro Landing in Teterboro, where the egg whites are cage-free (about $1.50 for each of six cartons, which can be frozen).
The Costco Wholesale Business Center, 80 S. River St. in Hackensack, delivers to restaurants, caterers and other small businesses, so you'll find such kitchen essentials as aprons and tongs along with whole-bean coffee and organic spring mix. I bought two white kitchen aprons for $8.89, and a pair of above-the-elbow chef mitts for $4.99 that will protect my arms when I'm steaming lobsters at home.
A 3-pound bag of Colombian Supremo medium-roast coffee beans worked out to only about $5.20 a pound, and you can grind them in a coffee mill in the Hackensack warehouse, below.
All 3 pounds of beans will just fit in the grinder at once. I select a Turkish grind for a more robust cup of coffee. Grinding all 3 pounds took about 20 minutes. You can borrow a scissor from the staff to open the bag, and after you finish grinding the beans, a large rubber band brought from home will keep it closed.
The Costco Business Center carries about 30 percent of the consumer items stocked in the larger Teterboro warehouse, but 5-gallon tubs of soy sauce isn't one of them.