Flavor Excursions: Super H-Mart Korean Grocery

BY  |  Thursday, Mar 28, 2013 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (1)

Super H-MartWith each new ethnic market in New Jersey I discover on my Flavor Excursion trips,  I get more excited about the Jersey food scene. My most recent discovery left my heart pounding, stomach full, kids thrilled and wallet thinner. Welcome to Super H-Mart on Grande Street in Ridgefield NJ, a Korean grocery packed to the gills with unusual, exotic and tasty fare!

You don’t have to be a Korean barbecue fan to love this place— there’s an endless array of delicacies and ingredients which are guaranteed to liven up your home cooking repertoire. And what I may have found exciting on my first trip is just the tip of the iceberg of this culinary gem.

First wander through the vegetable aisles and you’ll see Shanghai scallions, Durian (which I’m afraid to try because of the dirty sock smell rumor), king Oyster mushrooms which look like mushrooms on steroids, dried radish leaves and Chinese chives. Continue meandering through aisles packed with fresh, frozen, dried and canned delights.

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Flavor Excursions: Peppery Passaic

BY  |  Friday, Feb 15, 2013 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (2)

passaicBored of the same old foods you serve your family? Get ready for some inspiration! Our Flavor Excursions series is back. Alison Bermack, local food writer and the founder of Cooking With Friends, will share the culinary inspiration she collects from regular visits to ethnic neighborhoods and markets. These excursions will deliver an infusion of family friendly flavors, and they’re all just a short jaunt from Baristaville! 

Mexican food is one of my absolute favorite cuisines. Fajitas, tacos, burritos, salsa and guacamole are part of my cooking repertoire for my family. So when I stumbled upon an exceptional street taco joint (first in NJ for me!) and an outstanding Mexican grocery store only a few miles from here, I was beyond ecstatic.  And both happen to be in Passaic, just a few miles North on Main Street from the Clifton Costco—very easy to find.

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Flavor Excursions: The Greek Store

BY  |  Friday, Jun 01, 2012 3:30pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

When Georgette asked me to find a Greek market for a Flavor Excursion, I knew I couldn’t let her down. And find I did just off the Garden State Parkway exit 138 in Kenilworth, a real gem of a store with most things Greek. Don’t be put off by the somewhat tacky storefront; just forge right past without paying too close attention to the fading photographs of Greek ruins, plastic (or stale) loaves of bread and an unseasonal Happy Easter sign in the front window. Step inside The Greek Store and you’ll discover an extraordinary market worth traveling the 20 minutes south.

This Mediterranean market is packed with specialty foods imported from Greece — from olive oil to pistachio nuts, Nescafe coffee (they even have a Nescafe shaker to make those fabulous iced coffee frappé drinks Georgette just wrote about) to banana and chocolate Pamellina (our version of Nutella), home baked breads and multiple types of pita, a bakery section with just baked cookies such as Kourambiethes and sweet filo treats like baklava.

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Flavor Excursions: From Argentina to Cuba to Mexico and then Back to Montclair

BY  |  Thursday, May 17, 2012 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (3)

Georgette’s going to love this Flavor Excursion since we’re heading to the North Bergen area (Hudson County), where she went to high school. And since my mom grew up there, it’s special for me. This now Spanish speaking pocket of New Jersey, with its majestic views of New York City and one of the last exits before you head into the Lincoln tunnel, is a vibrant community exploding with flavor. From Argentinian, to Cuban, Colombian and Mexican, it’s a culinary delight to explore.

I used to love visiting my grandparents on 79th Street, a few blocks off Bergenline Avenue, where my grandfather used to have his dental office. So when my friend Jackie told me about the sophisticated Argentine café her mother was raving about, we called our friend Debbie to put a date on the calendar.

And what an amazing outing we had! I was spoiled for this trip since Jackie took the reins and meticulously planned the trip. Bergenline Avenue is a one way street heading south, so we traveled North on Kennedy Blvd and then turned East on 66th Street to our first stop, Dulce de Leche a remarkable Argentine bakery in West New York with a tantalizing display of sweet and savory treats.  They have flaky croissants, plain or stuffed with crème caramel and chocolate, crusty loaves of freshly baked bread, golden empanadas stuffed with cheese, spinach or meat and traditional Argentine tea sandwiches so fluffy your teeth sink into each bite like a head into a down pillow.

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Flavor Excursions: Scottish Meat Pies and Fish Fries

BY  |  Saturday, Apr 28, 2012 8:30am  |  COMMENTS (4)

I’m on a roll with Flavor Excursions, finding unique and tasty Jersey spots to explore new culinary horizons. So if you know some places I haven’t hit yet, feel free to let me know so I can add them to my list.

This time I got a tip from a friend who was interested in my last outing to Wallington for Polish fare. While agreeing how fun it is to venture to ethnic neighborhoods, she mentioned her husband’s favorite outing to Kearny, a trip which connects him with his family’s Scottish roots. Of course my ears perked up, not knowing of a Scottish pocket so close to Montclair (or even one at all!). So I did a bit of research and headed East on Rt. 3 to Kearny. My friend Debbie, who is hooked on these outings and describes them as a much needed break from her mundane drives shuttling her kids to and from various sports, was once again my travel mate. This time, instead of pierogi and sausage, we were on a quest for traditional meat pies, shortbread and fish and chips.

And boy did we did find a pot of gold at the end of our drive, which proved to be a vestige of days long gone in “Soccer Town USA,” a name given to this Scottish settlement in New Jersey after an influx of Scottish and Irish immigrants arrived with the opening of two Scottish factories in the mid 1870’s.

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Flavor Excursions: Wild for Wallington

BY  |  Monday, Apr 16, 2012 11:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Rye, wheat and sourdough, braided, twisted and baked into crumb covered, poppy crusted and crunchy loaves of bread. Sugar dusted and glazed, marbled and layered, sweet and savory pastries filled with rosehip and plum jams, whipped cream, creamy chocolate or farmer’s cheese. Shelves of homemade cookies topped with glistening sugar and rainbow colored crystals; cream cheese pastries hand rolled in poppy seeds and chocolate. Shelves of cake, with glorious mounds of whipped cream, layered and swirled cheese, chunky morsels of apple and fruit.

Can you tell I am excited? No photograph can adequately capture my impression of Banas, a Polish bakeshop just seven miles east of Montclair in New Jersey’s Polish enclave of Wallington. Located in a residential neighborhood at 84 Wallington Avenue, Banas Bakery is easy to get to nestled inside one of the elbows of the Passaic River, a bit north of Route 3 East off Route 21.

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Flavor Excursions: On the Boardwalk (in the East Village)

BY  |  Saturday, Mar 24, 2012 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (2)

Back when I was a kid, my parents would take me “junking it” on the boardwalk at the Delaware beaches. Thrashers fries, thick and creamy milk shakes, Gus n Gus burgers and creamy chocolate and vanilla soft serve twists were the culinary glories of my childhood. Ahh . . . you’ve gotta love summer! We’d wander from food stand to food stand filling our bellies with a sampling of our favorite foods.

And now, fast forward a few decades, and we’re repeating history with my own kids. But instead of flip flops upon splintered planks, with ocean breezes and seagulls, we’re walking in hard soles on concrete, with the background hum of car engines and perching pigeons, our urban board walk. Welcome to the East Village of New York City, where store front after store front offers tantalizing nibbles and bites to taste (or “junk”) your way around a neighborhood with intense flavors.

It’s impossible not to include New York City in our Flavor Excursion series, since that’s where so many of my culinary adventures occur. Not to mention, it’s just a hop, skip and a big jump from here. So, get there how you wish — by car, bus, train or subway — but land somewhere close to Saint Marks place near Second Avenue.

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Flavor Excursions: Patel Brothers Grocery

BY  |  Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012 10:30am  |  COMMENTS (6)

Spending a few minutes in an ethnic grocery store always inspires me to make something new. The exotic fruits and vegetables and unusual herbs and spices instantly trigger my brain to start thinking in different ways. Take Route 46 west to Patel Brothers in Parsippany on this Flavor Excursions trip where you’ll find a grocery store flaunting the flavors of India. Invite a friend to join you and together you can shop, share ingredients and costs.

That’s exactly what my friend Suzy and I did a few weeks ago.

Tiring of the winter meals we’ve been serving our families week after week, we thought we needed to jazz things up a bit in the dinner department. So, we planned a field trip to Patel Brothers followed by an après-shopping cooking date.

We wandered the aisles of this exceptionally clean and tidy market, marveling at the colorful stacks of spices and a refrigerator full of fresh yogurt and cheese (paneer). There’s also a frozen section with an array of breads and bite sized foods, and a pantry stocked with dried beans and lentils of every size and color and jars and jars of exotic chutneys and sauces. The selection is astounding and truly gets our creativity flowing.

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Flavor Excursions: Koreatown

BY  |  Thursday, Feb 09, 2012 11:00am  |  COMMENTS (1)

Pop Soda!

You’ll have to leave the Garden State for this Flavor Excursion adventure, but I can assure you it’s worth it.  Just across the river (okay, maybe two rivers) and into Queens you’ll be transported halfway around the world.

Head to Flushing’s “Little Korea” or “Koreatown” and after traveling less than thirty minutes by car from Baristaville, you’ll feel like you’re in the East Asia. Looking for some great Korean BBQ and bubble tea, we took a field trip with another family over winter break and ended up immersed in a vibrant culture which brightened an otherwise dreary December day.

We parked just off Main Street near 41st Avenue and meandered around for a few blocks. First stop was an Asian market that absolutely blew us away. Don’t expect Whole Foods. Instead, think Bloomfield’s East West Asian Market on steroids. There were foods I’ve never laid eyes on. And live fish, crabs, frogs and turtles (you heard me right) are there for the picking, just sitting there in large plastic bins set on the floor in front of the cases of fresh (though dead) fish of all shapes, sizes and colors. I had to back track when my friend told me there were live turtles for sale. I walked by their little box, not realizing what was going on inside.  By the way, these aren’t the pretty rainbow-colored kind you’d find in Petco.

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Flavor Excursions: Head East for Inspiration

BY  |  Saturday, Jan 21, 2012 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

Your little ones may have to hold their noses for this Flavor Excursions trip, but it’s the best little Asian market you’ll find in the area. For years, I’ve been going to East West Asian Gourmet Market to stock up on ingredients to make dumplings, wontons and stir fries – staples in my family meal repertoire. The prices are so reasonable you’ll never buy another jar of soy sauce or sesame oil at a mainstream grocery store again. Often times I’ll coerce my kids to come with me to the “smelly store” and let them ogle the live crabs and fish in the seafood department. It’s a bit slimy and stinky, but it feels like we’ve just stepped into a market in Chinatown. But you’re really in Bloomfield on Belleville Avenue in a nondescript strip mall and it takes less than ten minutes to get there.

I’ll load up on canned and jarred staples like oils, sauces, water chestnuts, coconut milk and bamboo shoots and then head to the fridge and freezer section for the wrappers I need to make spring rolls, wontons and dumplings. You would think I’m part Asian with all the east/west cooking I do in my house! But the sweet and spicy flavors please everyone in my family. I make and freeze big batches of wontons, dumplings and spring rolls with friends and then pull them out for quick snacks and lunch box items for the kids. We survive on what I find at the Asian market!

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