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Suggestions for portable fresh Bay Area food as gifts?


I'm frequently in the position of travelling and staying with friends, typically former residents of the Bay Area, and I try to bring some tasty food they might miss from their time here. What suggestions do you all have? Please point me in the right direction if you happen to recall any previous threads on this subject--my searching only turned up discussions of packaged things (wine, oil, jam, etc.), which are fine but are not what I'm seeking here.

I'll begin with what I've done in the past:

--Baked goods: If leaving in the morning, I've brought a bag of pastries from La Farine, especially to former residents of North Oakland. (Other nice bakeries occasionally if it fits with my pre-flight itinerary).

--I used to bring the marzipan-like macaroons from the now-closed Phoenix Pastificio on Shattuck, which are pretty durable and are good for longer than pastries. I haven't been to their new restaurant-less location--do they make macaroons there?

--Produce: If it's during one of the periods when Berkeley Bowl is awash in some seasonal fruit, I've brought one of each (for instance, one fall I brought 22 kinds of pears to a friend in Cambridge).

--A query rather than a report: I've considered bringing a half-baked pie from the Cheese Board. Has anyone tried this? Did it survive ok? Since it's bulky, I've refrained from doing so, lest I carry it awkwardly three thousand miles to have it fall apart on me. Anyone know how long can you wait to bake before they go downhill? How are they the next day?


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  1. Phoenix still makes macaroons, I see them at the farmers market every week.

    1. This would have to go in your checked luggage for the reason the person above mentioned, but I'd consider bringing Frog Hollow jams and Marshall Farms honey. The honey in particular would make a nice gift because a) it's awesome and b) you could get whatever variety from which neighborhood (Bzzerkeley, Honey from the 'Hood, Marin Wildflower) would resonate with your hosts. The Bowl has it, or buy direct from the Berkeley and SF farmers markets (the markets have cute samplers, too).

      1. Oh add a dozen of the excellent local bagels to that pizza ... ok, joking ... but will you be my friend and bring me some bagels if flying back from NY?

        That's oddly a difficult question, a lot of what I'd want would be packaged or from a farmers market. The only thing I can think of is cheese rolls and scones from the Cheeseboard. At this time of year I love their fruit cake that has good fruit like apricots & figs ... full of all kinds of nuts and three types of booze.

        Not a lot of stuff from Acme would keep well, IMO.

        A lot of other stuff would require some refrigeration ... like cheese or be be kind of fragile or both, like Bay Bread's quiche lorraine. Lots of people like the canneles & almond croissants at Bay Bread.

        Maybe cookies from Emporio Rulli. At this time of year, one of Rulli's pannetones. Although it is sort of packaged, XOX chocolates. That Berkeley Bowl thing is good with whatever is seasonal and varied produce-wise.

        Oh wait ... pork buns ... I think those would travel ... baked pork buns from Golden Gate Bakery ... I know others are into the egg tarts which might not make it ... but for me it is all about those pork buns.

        2 Replies
        1. re: rworange

          Funny you should ask that, but a day too late! I was prompted to ask the question because I brought back bagels, knishes, and lox from New York last night for a midnight gathering when my plane came in; all long gone, though. :(

          1. re: rworange

            Yep, depending on the season & climate of the destination, I've done Chinese bakery/deli items like pork buns, cha siu soh & gah lei so (bbq pork flakey pastry & curry flakey pastry), sesame balls, jung, chung yau beng (green onion pancake -- both the deep fried as well as baked).

            Every time I came home on a college break, I'd be sure to schedule my departure flight for the afternoon so I could hit Chinatown and gather these "necessities", carefully arranging them in a carry-on bag or parcel (except for the jung, that is bought a few days before and placed in the freezer for placement into check-in baggage at the last moment). Living in a college town with the nearest dim-sum a 2 hr drive away, I pulled out the refrozen jung for special occasions / get togethers with friends.

          2. If you don't mind lugging around a cooler, most of Fatted Calf's products will travel extremely well, as will fresh cheese (Andante? Cowgirl? Cheeseboard?).

            1. Yup, depends where you're going.

              When going to SoCal I bring bread. The only thing reasonable in LA according to my sister (who moved there 4 years ago) is La Brea.

              When I go to NYC, I bring real burritos. Even reheated they kill anything there. (You can order a plato to go and it stays less soggy.)

              Going east beyond Nev, a extra fancy box of California oranges during the winter is pretty fail safe.

              1. How about foccacia from Liguria Bakery? Doesn't need refrigeration, although you might want to put the bread into one or two plastic bags (gets kinda greasy).

                1 Reply
                1. re: Cindy

                  I thought of that, but Liguiria foccacia is not a good traveler, due mainly to the olive oil in the crust. By the end of the day it is less than optimal and the next day it is rancid to me. There was some discussion a while back about keeping it fresh, but whatever it was that was suggested, it didn't work for me.

                2. Canneles from Bay Bread are an awesome gift that everyone loves.

                  This time of year, you can also go to the asian supermarkets or chinatown and pick up a case of asian pears... they are HUGE (bigger than a softball) and sweet, so they make a great gift.

                  1. My east coast relatives love California Hass avocados, Satsuma mandarines and navel oranges. Actually they love any citrus fruit gift. Persimmons are always welcome and the Fuyus in particular travel very well.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: farmersdaughter

                      There you go. The price of avocados in the Midwest and East Coast is just nuts and the quality sort of inconsistent.

                    2. For someone that has lived here, you're likely on a nostalgia trip.

                      My personal bread-product memory-trip would be Grace's morning buns and coissants.

                      But here's an idea yet unmentioned: a pound of carnitas, in sturdy tupperware, maybe with some fresh tortillas and salsa. Pick your favorite carnitas.

                      1. a pound of the pearl mint tea chocolates from Rechiutti and a chunk of Humboldt Fog wrapped up real well.

                        which reminds me of a cheeese transporting story from Holland to Germany that i will have to tell you some other time since it is totally off topic, but funny none the less....

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jupiter

                          How about an assortment of salumi from Fra Mani?