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what to bring back?

I am heading to London for a business trip and would love to bring back some specialty foodie items that you can't buy in the U.S. ....unusual jams, spices, teas, chocolates.

Any suggestions?


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  1. Boring but nice _ I'd head to Fortnum and Mason's fantastic food hall. They've got the lovliest teas and jams, many of which are the house brand, and they're beautifully packaged so great for gifts.
    Having said that, whenever I go home to Canada I always have to bring some of M&S' finest (at Christmas, I think I had six kilograms of puddings and shortbread with me) _ but if any of the fabulous hounds have suggestions for my next round of gifts, I'd be grateful, too.

    1. Thornton's Chocolates are great, made in the UK, their toffee is particularly fine and you get a goodly amount for your cash.

      How about cheeses? Fortnum's or M&S would be good places, a current trendy favourite is White Stilton with Apricots, it's lovely with rich fruit cake such as Dundee cake, which you will also be able to get at somewhere like Fortnum's or M&S or indeed Harrods food hall.

      Smoked fish is another idea, such as Salcombe Smokies or Manx Kippers, I am afraid that I don't know where you would get them in London, but if you were to come across them in one of the above listed places, they are great! Beware that the word 'smokies' can have an altogether different meaning in other contexts!!!

      Whittards are good for speciality teas, they have shops all over the place
      and they do nice gift selections so very good for presents.


      Ms T

      1. You'll find a lot of interesting things at any of the major supermarkets, such as Sainsbury's and Tesco. And at the cornershop, you might find even more in ethnic variety.

        1. There are a great condiments available in any supermarket - Ploughman's Pickle is a particlar fave of mine - delicious with bread and cheese - but the range and variety of these chutneys - which the Brits calls 'pickles' is really astounding.
          I travel to the UK regularly - the most popular - make that wildly popular - item I bring back is Tunnock's Caramel Wafers. They usually last about 3 minutes when placed by the office coffee machine. Another is Cadbury's Flakes - a very delicate chocolate bar which breaks easilly - the airports have got wise to this and actually sell them in boxes which keep them intact during flights. The tradition is to stick them into an ice cream cone - that is called a '99' - no idea why.
          Lastly - but a little more bulky and again rather delicate - the UK has a mind-boggling array of flavours of potato chips - again I have brought bags of these to the office and it has been a conversation piece for days. Just as an example of some of the flavors -
          Sausage and Tomato
          Roast Chicken
          Feta Cheese
          Donner Kebab
          Pickled Onion
          Chicken Tikka Masala
          Cheese n Onion
          Thai Red Curry
          Chip Buttie (i.e. french fries on buttered bread - tastes exactly like it too)
          and many many others - go to a supermarket and check out the potato chips (crisps) aisle.

          5 Replies
          1. re: butterchicken2nan

            Funny - Because the one thing my husband asks to be brought back is crisps. I hope the ones you listed are available when we go over in May. I have never had a chip buttie crisp - but I want one desperately! (I'll pass on the doner kebab, thank you.) My favorite "classic" flavors are smokey bacon and prawn cocktail.

            1. re: cackalackie

              They were all available in my mum's local Morrison's supermarket in Glasgow - I think that chain is fairly widespread in the U.K. I love smokey bacon too - Americans just never seemed to get the crisp thing - although Herr's Tomato Ketchup flavoured crisps are really great.

            2. re: butterchicken2nan

              I must shop in the wrong places. In 3 years of living in the UK, I have never seen Donner Kebab, Chip Buttie or Roast Chicken crisps. Pringles makes some nice lower-fat versions with Thai or Greek flavorings.

              1. re: butterchicken2nan

                What a flashback to my exchange student days when I was given Chip Butties by the family I lived with in (of all places) Wolverhampton.

                1. re: butterchicken2nan

                  Just a note on the awesome potato chip flavors -- note that a LOT of them contain saccharin or aspartame. I personally hate the taste of those artificial sweeteners and avoid them. So read your labels!

                2. Good suggestions all. One question _ can you bring cheeses back into the States? I think it's a no-no to Canada. There's some very innocent looking beagles wandering around Pearson airport sniffing bags, looking for sausages and the like. Check before you buy, otherwise you'll have to be like a friend of mine and eat an entire ham in the customs hall. Using a pen knife.

                  1. Duchy biscuits (various flavours, both sweet and savoury) are pretty good, too. Also any of the more expensive jams (apart from strawberry). I think Whittard's teas and coffees arfe a bit feeble. If you like strong tea, go for the cheaper brands such as Typhoo. There are some good Fairtrade coffees, but you may be able to get these in the US.
                    How about chocloate? Either the posh kind such as Green & Black or the humble Mars or Crunchie Bar.
                    Crisps are a great idea, if you can transport them without crushing them to crumbs.I'm always surprised that American manmufactureres aren't more enterprising with their flavours.
                    As well as Fortnums, you could go to Selfridges Food Hall, possibly even better. And there's an excellent spice shop in Blenheim Crescent, near Portobello Road, opposite the Books for Cooks shop.

                    1. I second the recommendation of Duchy Original products. Waitrose carries a big selection and I usually find they are of a very good standard

                      Whenever I head off to NYC, I am asked to mule in two things

                      1) Hobnobs and choccy digestives ( must be Mc Vitie's ) which get devoured in the office within about 30 seconds of my arriving

                      2) Kit Kats - if I am correct, the US version ( made under licence ) is very different in taste and, according to my US based colleagues "disgusting" Again, a box of these disappears quicker than I do when it is my turn to buy a round of drinks


                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Simon Majumdar

                        >>>choccy digestives ( must be Mc Vitie's )

                        and should be plain chocolate. I've found these nearly impossible to find in the U.S., and the thing I miss most about my time in London. God, do I love those things. And really, *must* be McVitties (or however it's spelled). The chips/crisps are also a nice idea (unique and all). A lot of the specialty stuff (e.g. goodies from fortnum and mason) is neat and all, but a well-stocked exclusive grocer in the U.S. will have similar stuff (maybe not identical, but similar).

                        But the digestives and crisps, those are unique and worth carrying back. JMHO.

                        1. re: Smokey

                          Smokey - I don't know where you're based, but I get my (plain chocolate) digestive fix at the local Indian shop. They also have lots of the chocolate bars. You can also find them at the World Market, if you have one of those.

                          1. re: cackalackie

                            Wow, and Indian shop? I've shopped at a LOT of the local Indian markets near me (and I'm defining near pretty broadly!) and I've NEVER seen digestives or any other clear signs of the british colonization in them.

                            I think there is a World Market somewhere near me, and will have to check it out..

                            Thanks for the heads up!

                            1. re: Smokey

                              What a shame! I even used to get Ribena at a Chinese/Asian shop (via the Hong Kong connection, I suppose). All "my" Indian shops have PG Tips, Robinsons drinks, Heinz beans, HP Sauce, even Dettol! And all the biscuits and chocolate bars. Even my local Harris Teeter supermarket now sells mushy peas, custard, and Spotted Dick!

                              1. re: cackalackie

                                I've seen McVitties at quite a few stores in NYC! They're always quite a treat!

                                1. re: chompchomp

                                  If you have a Trinidadian store near you - anywhere in the world - I can just about guarantee you they will sell Tunnock's Caramel Wafers - and if they don't its because they are sold out.

                              2. re: Smokey

                                Where are you based, Smokey? I've been seeing more and more chocolate digestives and Hob Nobs as the years go by. I grew up in London and used to miss all my English biscuits when we moved back to the States. But lately I've been seeing all my old favorites in more and more ordinary spots. If you're anywhere near New York stop by Fairway (both locations), they have all kinds of English biscuits, sweets and condiments. I've yet to find the crisps, though...however, my English buddy down the hall tells me they have them at Myer's of Keswick (and they mail order). www.myersofkeswick.com

                        2. Not exactly chowish ... but I always request a few boxes of LemSip. Magic for keeping colds at bay and it's not sold in the States. I prefer the lemon flavor (to the blackcurrent) that disolves on your tongue (like a medicinal lik-a-maid). Also comes as a powder to disolve in hot water but haven't tried it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: SLO

                            and Pimm's!!! (can you get Pimm's here in the US??) I remember living in London and my coworkers telling me that Pimm's "is the drink of the English summer." delicious!

                            1. re: chompchomp

                              both pimm's and stone's ginger wine are pretty readily available (at least in bigger cities) in the us, in my experience.

                          2. A straw poll of US friends and colleagues brought up the following suggestions

                            Walnut whips
                            Curly Wurlys
                            Hobnobs ( almost a universal request )
                            Choccy Digestives
                            Stones Ginger wine

                            And, oddly enough, one request for a Fray Bentos Steak & Mushroom Pie


                            11 Replies
                            1. re: Simon Majumdar

                              A couple more that spring to mind

                              Boil-in-the-can heavy treacle pudding
                              Victory V lozenges
                              Cremola Foam
                              Jaffa Cakes
                              Jacob's Club biscuits
                              Heinz Toast Toppers
                              Tuc crackers
                              Lee's Macaroon Bars and Snowballs
                              Edinburgh Rock

                              1. re: butterchicken2nan

                                I've seen Jaffa Cakes at Cost Plus World Market. Only the orange variety...none of the other flavors I saw the last time I was in the UK.

                              2. re: Simon Majumdar

                                Please God, not Fray Bentos pies - someone'll suggest Vesta dried curries next. Between them, they are the nadir of English food "manufacturing" (thinking about it, though, maybe that honour rests with W***'s Gala Pies or their sausages).

                                1. re: SpikeyD

                                  couldn't agree more, but it is funny the things you crave when you no longer have access to them.

                                  The person who made the specific request used to live on them as a student in the 80's.

                                  I did have some weird looks from customs when I last muled some in for him. "it's a pie? In a tin? and it's got Kidneys in, right?"

                                  I had very definite visions of cavity searches in case I had secreted a Steak & Mushroom pie up my jacksie, but they did let me through. Friend in question devoured it in one sitting from the tin.

                                2. re: Simon Majumdar

                                  are these nyc-based colleagues asking for this stuff? if so, tell them to do their own shopping! all of this stuff can be purchased either at specialty shops like myers of keswick or else at many of the anglo-indian and even korean delis in the east village (and probably loads of places in sunnyside/woodside). astor wines carries stone's ginger wine.

                                  1. re: wleatherette

                                    Everyone seems pretty gung ho on Stone's Green Ginger wine - no Crabbie's fans here?

                                    1. re: butterchicken2nan

                                      i've only had stone's. i was really excited about it, but when i told an english friend he reacted with horror, saying that it was what the village drunk favored where he came from.

                                      1. re: wleatherette

                                        I just started a thread on Green Ginger Wine in the Home Cooking forum

                                        btw - love the handle - I'm assuming the w stands for 'warm'

                                  2. re: Simon Majumdar

                                    TWIGLETS!! Oh my gosh, I just had a tastebud rush reading the word.

                                    1. re: Simon Majumdar

                                      Especially Marmite! There's nothing like it. Don't let the Aussies kid you that Vegamite is superior. It's probably good for laying bricks!

                                    2. Cafferey's Irish ale - for some reason you can't get it over here!

                                      Other than that I tend to find the majority of what I miss at various British or Indian stores - oh except some versions of canned soup, a decent (as decent as a can can ever be!) can of muligtawny, curried parsnip...there are others. Last time I went 'Home' I stocked my parents cupbaords with lots of soup with the intention of eating it all - I'll bet most of it is still sitting on the shelves next time we head over.

                                        1. Check out two delis selling predominatly UK produced and sourced items:

                                          A.Gold, 42 Brushfield Street (just off Bishopsgate in the City of London)
                                          Melrose and Morgan, Gloucester Avenue, Primrose Hill, North West London

                                          Contrasting styles, the former old world, the latter more modern but both with very impressive and delicious selections.

                                          1. They are NY based ( for the most part ) and they do go to Myers and have been to places like Tea & Symapthy etc. But it is cheaper if I bring them in for them. Mind you, that may be because I don't ever ask for any money just ask them to get me stuff in return to take home

                                            1 Reply