Featured Post

On Clinton, food shopping and more, my local newspaper delivers a warped reality

A BRIDGE TOO FAR: This is what the project to replace the Midtown Bridge linking Hackensack and Bogota looked like on Saturday, above and...

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Record's political focus on governor's race in N.J. is turning off primary voters

Two takes on President Trump's first foreign trip, with his family in tow, from Patrick Chappatte, a Lebanese-Swiss cartoonist who draws for the International Herald Tribune and other newspapers in Europe.


-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

Talk about deja vu all over again.

Charles Stile, The Record's burned-out political columnist, is getting a big kick out of smearing the four Democratic candidates for governor of New Jersey with a bunch of timeworn GOP labels.

In a front-page column on Monday, Stile claimed the Democrats are making a "grand lunge to the left."

He also used such labels as "progressive" and "liberal" to refer to the Democrats vying for the nomination in next Tuesday's primary (Monday's 6A).

And when will Stile and other bored reporters stop claiming every election for governor, U.S. senator and congressman is a referendum on the election of Donald J. Trump?

Most vetoes ever

After nearly eight years of Chris Christie, the November election for governor will be nothing more than a desperate electorate trying to salvage their state from complete ruin. 

The GOP bully set a record for vetoes by a New Jersey governor, giving a lie to his claim of being a "bipartisan compromiser" -- a lie Stile regurgitated in column after column.

He is the most anti-environment and anti-mass transit governor in the state's history, and he vetoed a phase-in of the $15 minimum wage as well as a tax surcharge on millionaires.

Stile's boring columns, and other coverage exploiting the deep partisan divisions in Trenton and Washington, D.C., are big turnoffs to readers and voters.

In New Jersey, those voters are desperately seeking information on such issues as property taxes, and state aid to schools and mass transit.

Voter apathy was one of the factors cited in the election of Trump on Nov. 8. And Christie won his last election in 2013 with the lowest turnout ever in a gubernatorial contest.

Memorial Day

The annual salute to service members from North Jersey killed since 9/11 ran on the Local news front on Memorial Day.

This year, the payroll-slashing Gannett Co. ran an ad from an Englewood car dealer along the bottom of the page, screaming, "We want your current lease!"

How patriotic.

Today's Local front carries this headline:


"A little rain doesn't
stop Memorial Day"

That turns out to be inaccurate, because the weather was cited when the Memorial Day Parade along Palisade Avenue in Englewood was cancelled.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Eating In + Eating Out: Sugary yogurt, pesto with fish, red shrimp, bargain Italian

Hunting for yogurt with less added sugar, I decided to try no-fat Fage Greek yogurt from Costco Wholesale, but the idiotic packaging was a complete turnoff -- with the fruit preparation in a small compartment and thicker-than-usual strained yogurt in a big compartment. Just out of the refrigerator, the fruit mixture was too thick to flow into the yogurt, defeating the package design.
Yoplait Light has only 10 grams of sugar and 90 calories per 6-ounce container, compared with 16 grams of sugar and 120 calories in Fage's 5.3-ounce container. With a doubled coupon, Yoplait Light fat-free yogurt was 40 cents each at ShopRite, Forest Avenue and Route 4 east in Paramus, below.
There are far too many choices in the yogurt aisle.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

With added sugar turning up in dry red wine, bottled pasta sauces and other products, I'm starting to worry about all those sweetened yogurts I've been eating.

Lately, I've started buying non-fat Greek yogurt, which adds a guilt-free creaminess to fish and egg dishes.

If I want to indulge my sweet tooth, I can drizzle a little agave syrup over the plain yogurt.

Most times, I can be just as happy with a savory preparation, such as adding fresh and dried herbs, and extra-virgin olive oil, then eating it off of a plate with a spoon, wrapping it in Armenian lavash or stuffing the yogurt into a Syrian pocket bread.  

A dish I loved as a kid was mejadra -- cooked rice and lentils topped with a thin yogurt sauce containing peeled cucumber pieces and dried mint.


Sugar in wine

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a 5-ounce glass of red table wine typically contains about 0.9 grams of total sugar, which may include added sugar, sugar from unfermented grape juice and sugar that occurs naturally in grapes.

However, the only way to find out how much sugar may have been added is to contact the producer directly, The New York Times reports.

One state, California, bars added sugar at any point in the wine-making process.


How sweet is it?

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugar intake to no more than 10% of daily calories, which is about 12 teaspoons or 50 grams, The Times says.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting intake even further, the newspaper said:

No more than 6 teaspoons (about 25 grams or 100 calories) per day for women, and no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams, 150 calories) per day for men.

So, the 16 grams of sugar in one 5.3-ounce container of that Fage no-fat yogurt with a fruit preparation is more than half of the recommended daily maximum for women under the heart association guidelines.

You won't find a recommended daily limit for sugar listed on any nutrition label -- unlike all the other ingredients.


A homemade mixture of non-fat Greek Yogurt with minced garlic adds creaminess to a pair of organic eggs.
Two 32-ounce containers of non-fat Greek Yogurt were $5.99 at Costco Wholesale in the Teterboro Landing shopping center off of Route 46 in Teterboro.
After I removed the pan from the oven, I added Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto and Greek Yogurt to Monk Fish Fillets prepared with fresh spinach, tomato, pitted black olives, capers, grated cheese and fresh lemon juice (20 minutes in a preheated 400-degree oven). Yogurt, pesto, fish, spinach and tomato were from Costco Wholesale in Teterboro.
I also prepared a pound of Luigi Vitelli-brand Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli ($1.50 at ShopRite) with Costco's Basil Pesto and Organic Pignoli Nuts, as well as fresh herbs from my garden.
Wild-caught jumbo Red Shrimp from Argentina cook quickly in organic chicken stock, sesame oil and sake, getting a shower of chopped fresh mint, oregano and rosemary before they were plated, above and below.
I sauteed cut-up sweet pepper, onion and garlic for several minutes before adding the shrimp, which we had to defrost, peel and devein, and turned them once during the cooking. They were ready when they curled up and turned white. The payoff for all that work is some of the tenderest shrimp I've ever eaten.
Argentinian Red or Pink Shrimp are sold frozen in 4.4 pound boxes for $24.99 at H&Y Marketplace, a Korean supermarket at 1 Remsen Place in Ridgefield. I bought the box on Sunday, but the sign carries April sale dates.
H&Y or Hanyang Marketplace appears to rent out space to independent merchants whose in-store concessions offer tofu, ginseng and other products. 
I steered clear of this display of Korean salt.
H&Y Marketplace sells Korean comfort food for less than H Mart, a bigger chain of supermarkets. Trays of kimbap, a seaweed, vegetable, rice and fish-cake roll, were $3.99 and $4.99, above, and japchae was $4.99, below.
H&Y's japchae is a meatless version of the popular translucent-noodle dish made from yam flour.
I drove to Al Dente Restaurant in Elmwood Park for Italian-American takeout on Saturday afternoon. A generous serving of Fillet of Sole alla Tagame with sauteed black olives, tomatoes, garlic, marsala wine and balsamic vinegar was $18.95 with vegetables, potato and a Caesar Salad. The same preparation of salmon was $19.50, and Jumbo Shrimp Oreganata over linguine was $18.50. 
Al Dente, formerly Giovanni's, also offers a three-course dinner daily from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. -- including entrees of chicken, veal, shrimp or pasta, plus vegetables, potato, salad, coffee or tea and dessert -- for $14.95 cash or $18.95 with a credit card. But the Early Dinner menu is not available for takeout. 
DETAILS: Al Dente Restaurant is a BYO in the Market Place strip mall at 430 Market St., Elmwood Park; 1-201-791-3000. Reservations recommended. A sign with the restaurant's new name is expected to go up in July. Website: New name, same owners

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Trump left Europe without affirming Paris climate accord, seeks to slash EPA at home

Cartoons by Jimmy Margulies, above, and Jeff Darcy of Cleveland.com, below, explore the central role in the Trump administration played by greedy real estate executive Jared Kushner. Margulies is the former editorial cartoonist at The Record of Woodland Park.
President Trump and son-in-law Kushner claim they are innocent in the "stupid" Russia probe.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

In the 2016 presidential election, no one voted for more pollution. 

Yet in his first 100 days, President Trump has established himself as the most anti-environment president in U.S. history.

Among other moves, the GOP thug signed an executive order rolling back President Obama's Clean Power Plan, and promised to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, ratified by 194 nations and supported by 71% of the American people.

And his administration proposed cutting the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency "an unconscionable" 31%, abolishing the jobs of thousands of people who enforce our environmental laws, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

At the G-7 summit last week, Trump left behind deadlocks over trade, climate change and the fate of the global treaty on restricting heat-trapping carbon emissions, USA Today reports.

Today, The Record's disorganized editors scattered coverage of the climate accord, Trump and White House adviser Jared Kushner, running stories on 10A, 13A and 16A.

Page 1

Trump's assaults on the environment didn't make the front page today.

Instead, Editor Richard A. Green is trumpeting far more important stories like casino gambling, and the planned opening of an Eastern European supermarket in Paramus (1A).

After Atlantic City's disastrous experience, only four people in all of northern New Jersey want to see casino gambling in the Meadowlands, and three of them work for The Record:

Editor Green, the racetrack owner who wants to build a casino, Staff Writer John Brennan and the newspaper's advertising manager.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Trump brings his 'America First' campaign to heart of Europe, shaking other leaders

Cartoons by Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Tribune, above, and R.J. Matson of Roll Call, below, comment on President Trump's visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel, where he failed to advance the Mideast peace process.
For more political cartoons, go to Cagle.com.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J. 

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

"A stern lecture. A white-knuckled handshake. Jostling at the group picture. President Trump's day with NATO leaders had its moments."

This is how The New York Times' Top Stories email summed up Trump's confrontational meeting with European leaders at a new NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium:

"President Trump on Thursday punctured any illusions that he was on a fence-mending tour of Europe, declining to explicitly endorse NATO’s mutual defense pledge and lashing out at fellow members for what he called their 'chronic underpayments' to the alliance.
"On a tense day when Mr. Trump brought the 'America first' themes of his presidential campaign to the very heart of Europe, he left European leaders visibly unsettled, with some openly lamenting divisions with the United States on trade, climate and the best way to confront Russia.
"The discord was palpable even in the body language. When Mr. Trump greeted Emmanuel Macron, France’s new president, the two leaders, jaws clenched, grabbed each other’s hands in an extended grip that turned Mr. Trump’s knuckles white. When the leaders lined up to pose for the traditional photograph of leaders at NATO headquarters, Mr. Trump appeared to push aside the Montenegrin prime minister, Dusko Markovic, to get to his assigned place in the front."

The Record

Page 1 of The Record reported Trump's son-in-law and close adviser Jared Kushner "has caught the attention of federal investigators for his contacts with Russian officials" (1A).

But news of Trump's meeting with NATO leaders and related stories are relegated to 9A and 10A.

French kissing

Food Editor Esther Davidowitz developed a convenient case of amnesia in a bid to promote a new French bakery in Elmwood Park.

On Tuesday, Davidowitz plastered the front of Better Living with a photo and story about a couple of transplanted French pastry chefs who say they are bringing "a little taste of Paris to New Jersey."

Of course, in a January story in Better Living, Davidowitz described Balthazar in Englewood as "the highly venerated French bakery." 

In fact, she quoted Armel Joly, a Parisian who lives in River Edge and owns a French restaurant in Manhattan, on Balthazar's signature baguette:

"Their [Bathazar's] baguettes are the closest thing we have to a French baguette from Paris."

Conveniently, there was no mention in Tuesday's story of Balthazar providing "a little taste of Paris" since its retail store opened in late November 2002.

Fast food

In today's Better Living tab, Davidowitz explores a food phenomena that is the polar opposite of a high-quality baguette: low-quality hot-dog joints in North Jersey.

Diets high in such processed meats as hot dogs have been linked to cancer, especially colorectal cancer, but that doesn't concern Davidowitz.

This latest "food crawl" is among the scraps Gannett editors at The Record have been throwing to readers since November, when the weekly restaurant review was eliminated in an economy move.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

From Hackensack to Mexico City, we can't resist the allure of tortillas, moles & salsas

For Mexican-inspired food at home, I poached wild-caught shrimp from Whole Foods Market in the store's 365 Everyday Value Thick & Chunky Salsa.
For sophisticated Mexican food out, I ordered Alambre de Camarones or Veracruz-style grilled wild jumbo shrimp served with achiote rice and salsa verde picante at Rosa Mexicano Restaurant in Hackensack.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

A photo-filled cover story on "modern Mexican" food had my mouth watering as I recalled great meals in Mexico City and Veracruz, and right here at home in northern New Jersey.

"Mexican cuisine has made the leap to the global stage of fine dining," Julia Moskin of The New York Times reported in last week's Food section.

I've always been a big fan of the food in Mexico, which I explored on vacations starting in the 1970s, for its French and Spanish influences, abundant seafood, complex sauces or moles, and spicy salsas.

On a family vacation to Mexico City in 2008, we enjoyed casual taquerias, and fine-dining restaurants for breakfast and dinner, and visited the enormous produce and seafood market, La Central de Abasto.

Mexican in the Garden State

For tacos in New Jersey, we started going to Brenda Lee in the city of Passaic, but Taqueria Los Gueros opened fast-casual restaurants in Englewood and other towns, and does a better job of sanitation.

The city of Passaic also has Mexican wholesale warehouses that are open to the public.

We've also been loyal to Rosa Mexicano, a fine-dining restaurant in Hackensack where just about everything is made from scratch.

A guilty pleasure is asking for another complimentary order of the scrumptious corn tortillas made in the dining room, because almost everything tastes better wrapped in one of them.

Here are links reporting on great Mexican meals here and in Mexico:




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pope and Europeans lecture The Donald on importance of saving our environment

In this photo from Getty Images, everyone but President Trump looks like they just heard about a death in the family. Of course, as usual, Trump is behaving inappropriately after meeting Pope Francis in Rome.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

After their meeting today in Rome, Pope Francis gave climate-denying President Trump an encyclical urging action to slow climate change.

And at the G-7 summit in Sicily the president plans to attend later, worried European leaders are expected to push back against Trump's threat to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

The pope also appeared to refer disdainfully to how heavy the 70-year-old president is from stuffing his face with ice cream, fried chicken and Diet Coke.

As he shook the hand of first lady Melania Trump, the pope glanced at Trump, who dwarfed Francis, and asked, "What do you give him to eat, potica?" referring to a high-calorie Slovenian cake.  

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Pope Francis called those who build barriers "not Christian," referring to the then-GOP candidate's desire to build a wall on our southern border.

Trump said the comments were "disgraceful."


At the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, President Trump says, "Impressive! How did you get Mexico to pay for it?" The cartoon is from Nate Beeler of The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trump lurches to next disaster in Rome; Christie slams critics, claims a great job

Cartoonist John Cole of The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa., lampoons President Trump for sharing classified Israeli intelligence on ISIS in an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials. Speaking to reporters on Monday, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nearby, Trump claimed he "never mentioned the word ... Israel." Netanyahu had a stricken look on his face.

-- HACKENSACK, N.J.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

In February, President Trump abandoned the bedrock principle that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will come from establishing two states for two people, but still wanted to reach "the ultimate deal."

This week, he failed miserably to advance the peace process one bit despite separate meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"I've heard it's one of the toughest deals in the world," Trump said of Mideast peace before leaving Israel for Rome. "But I'm sure we're going to get there eventually."

What a miserable failure. The liar, con man and tax dodger -- who rode a wave of racism and misogyny to victory on Nov. 8 -- proves once again he's all talk, no action.

Still, USA Today's dated report in The Record of Woodland Park raves Trump "became the first sitting president to pray at Jerusalem's Western Wall on Monday" (1A).

Big deal.


In February, President Trump destroyed the Palestinians' hope for their own state. In this AFP photo from Trump's meeting today with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president grins and bears it. Trump looks constipated.



Christie bluster

The Record's front-page report on Governor Christie's 90-minute press conference on Monday is quite a contrast to the one Salvador Rizzo filed for Observer.com.

Bob Jordan of Gannett's Asbury Park Press focused on the so-called controversy over the bond issue Christie authorized for the $300 million renovation of the State House (1A).

Rizzo, who worked at The Record until March, had a different take:
"For old times' sake, Christie gave one last stem-winder news conference, going on and on about this and that for nearly an hour and a half. He bantered. He snapped at reporters. He critiqued all his predecessors over the last four decades and all the candidates hoping to succeed him" in January.
"He dared the assembled press to write nice things about New Jersey's recent upsurge in jobs.... He disclosed his thoughts about President Trump's Twitter account. I'm trying to encourage him [Trump] not to tweet."
Christie also said he would have never hired Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security adviser, who was fired for lying about his ties to Russia during the campaign, or even let him the White House.

In response, Preet Bharara, another former U.S. attorney, tweeted in a reference to the Bridgegate trial convictions of two of Christie's former aides:

"Yes, we all know that Chris Christie is great at spotting & screening out problematic top staff."

'Crappy column'

Rizzo also reported Christie slammed his news media critics, including political Columnist Charles Stile, Rizzo's former colleague at The Record:

Christie took questions from Stile "without cutting him off for once or complaining about his crappy column."

That surprised me, because Stile was Christie's chief booster at The Record for all of his first term (2010-14), and stuck with him way up until the shocking revelations about the GOP thug at last year's Bridgegate trial.

In fact, Stile's column on Monday's front page seemed to echo Christie as the reporter tried to destroy the candidacy of Jim Johnson of Montclair, one of the Democrats seeking to succeed the governor.

The headline was damning:

"Johnson's 
liberal vision
overlooks
sacrifices" 

Of course, the only ones who would have to sacrifice anything would be millionaires, whom Christie has shielded from a tax surcharge since 2010.

Stile also labeled Johnson's proposals, including a minimum wage of $15, "utopia."

Monday, May 22, 2017

At a spring fling for auto writers, you could hear the death rattle of the big gas engine

The 2017 Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle, above, was one of the environmentally conscious cars available to drive last week at the International Motor Press Association's Spring Brake in Bear Mountain State Park.
And Toyota's luxury division brought the 2018 Lexus LC 500h, a lightning-fast gas-electric hybrid with a sticker price of $100,225, and a V-6 gasoline engine paired with an electric motor instead of the V-8 in the non-hybrid version.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

BEAR MOUNTAIN, N.Y. -- I was very happy driving only gas-electric hybrids and a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle at an annual event where other auto writers tear up park roads in far more powerful cars.

I had to laugh when I saw one of those graying lead foots hang out the back end of a 503-horsepower Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 S Cabriolet after he stomped on the accelerator in Bear Mountain State Park. 

After 2-plus years of effortless and near-silent driving in an all-electric Tesla Model S, I can't tell you how tired I am of loud cars and motorcycles, and fellow writers in their 50s, 60s and 70s who still haven't grown up.

The International Motor Press Association or IMPA calls itself the nation's oldest organization of "automotive journalists and public relations professionals."

IMPA's spring driving event, Spring Brake, is misnamed, because many members get carried away, and spend more time speeding than braking.

As an IMPA email sent out a day before the event last Thursday observed:

"Every year, several ... members contribute involuntarily to local and state treasuries. Mind the speed limits, please."






The 2017 Toyota Prius Prime is a plug-in hybrid with a 25-mile range in EV mode (battery and electric motor), but as often happens at IMPA events, the car's handlers didn't plug it in to charge the battery, so I had to drive it in gas-electric mode. Still, the Prius is tight, quiet and gets 54 mpg.
A pad on the console of the Toyota Prius Prime charges your cellphone. Below, two more views of the Lexus LC 500h.




The push-button transmission controls inside the Honda Clarity Fuel Cell Vehicle, which is available for lease only. When you use the turn signal on this and other Hondas, a great safety feature shows you the lane you're merging into on the back-up camera screen.

Sound of silence

The heat (90-plus degrees) prompted me to leave the event early, but in the 4 hours or so I was there, I was able to drive only environmentally responsible cars.

I might have been able to drive all-electric cars, but Chevrolet was the only manufacturer to show up with one, the Bolt EV, which I drove in late January during the auto show in Washington, D.C.

Hyundai brought the Ionic hybrid, not the Ionic EV; Honda offered the unusually quiet hydrogen fuel-cell version of the Clarity, not the EV; Chrysler brought a hybrid version of its Pacifica minivan; and Ford offered its quiet Fusion Energi Plug-In Hybrid.

Toyota and Lexus don't have pure electric vehicles yet, but did bring hybrids both mild and wild.

Nissan and BMW didn't bother bringing their EVs.

Still, I could hear the death rattle of the big, powerful gasoline engine the industry is so fond of -- despite all the premature deaths caused every year by auto emissions.

On Thursday, the Lexus LC 500h was the first hybrid I drove, and I was taken aback when I pushed the start/stop button, and heard nothing.

Like all Toyota hybrids the word "Ready" lit up on the instrument panel, indicating I could drive off silently, using the battery and electric motor.

When I depressed the accelerator pedal, the noisy gasoline engine kicked in.



Breathtaking scenery from an overlook at Bear Mountain State Park, above and below.