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What foods, available in the U.S. and not in Toronto, do you covet? [moved from Ontario board]

On a recent trip to the US, my husband brought me back quite a few butters (both American and European) and some excellent cottage cheese, all of which are not available here. (Plus a few other things that are, but are cheaper there...)

What foods do you make trips across the border for, or make a point of purchasing when you happen to be in the U.S. anyway?

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  1. Hi Tummy,

    One thing I do miss (it's one of my guilty pleasures) and you occassionally see up north is a chicken fried steak . . . whenever I'm down south I try to get my fix in . . . whenever you find one up north it's usually a let down . . .it's usually too greasy and the gravy is usually very dissappointing . . . If anyone knows where you can get a decent one let me know...

    I also miss really good BBQ . . . I have yet to have anything as good as when I lived in Texas

    Having said that . . . I love the variety of foods you get in TO would say we are very fortunate to be able to eat in this city!

    2 Replies
    1. re: snackboy

      I haven't tried it, but everyone in my circles talks about Southern Accent (In Mirvish Villiage, near Markham and Bloor) for the chicken fried steak.

      The best BBQ in TO has to be Phil's Real Barbeque, near Ossington and College. I think he does Carolinia-style rubs and sauces, but it's really good and smoky ( massive backyard smoker, almost unheard of here in TO).

      1. re: Ginsugirl

        Hi Ginsu,

        Thanks for the recs . . . I have tried the CFS at SA but was dissappointed . . . I'm not saying it was bad it (it actually was a pretty good attempt) I just found the steak a little tough and the gravy was very boring (bland)

        As far as Phils goes . . . I have to agree it is the best BBQ I have had in Toronto . . . The baked beans were fantastic . . . and the pork was great! . . . I still miss the great BBQ joints from texas . . . If you are ever near Austin go to the Salt Lick . . . It is awesome!!!

        Here is the link....


      1. The first thing that came to mind when I read the title of your post was butter and cottage cheese!! I bought some wonderful imported butter at Wegmans (don't recall ever seeing the stuff here), along with Friendship Dairy cottage cheese (I had heard US cottage cheese was different, so I was curious). On a more recent visit to Tops I bought Black Forbidden Rice for $3.35 a package, about half the price of here. And a bunch of cereals from the health food section, but for cheap. I And of course, King Arthur Flour. Don't get me started on SuperTarget, of which there is not one within close driving distance!

        2 Replies
        1. re: bigos70

          king arthur flour
          nancy's and brown cow yogurt
          plugra butter
          tiger milk bars

          1. re: bigos70

            Aren't we lucky to be just a 11/2 hr. trip down the road from the nearest Tops and Target and Wegmans!!!! That can't possibly be too long a trip for a Chowhound.

          2. Utz's Dark Russet Chips
            Unique Splitz Extra Salt and Extra Dark Pretzels
            TastyKake Pies

            The last time we crossed the border I sheepishly told the guard I was carrying back about $75 worth of chips and pretzels. She just laughed... well, almost.

            1. jars of pickled okra.
              pecans from Georgia
              pralines from the Savannah Candy Company!

              1 Reply
              1. re: pearlD

                I forgot to add "Vidalia Onion Salad Dressing".......

              2. Entemens Cream Cheese Coffee Cake. I've occationally seen it here, but tastes nothing like in the US..warmed in the microwave and I'm in heaven!

                1. anything from Trader Joe's. Kashi heart-to-heart cereal (i've seen other kashi cereals but can't usually find this one!)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: wontonfm

                    Here. here, Trader Joe's. Just bring the whole store here.....

                    1. re: wontonfm

                      Heart to heart is available in most health food stores, and probably at Whole Foods (on Avenue Rd)

                    2. B&M bread in a can. It's a creepy New England thing. I like the raisin variety.

                      Plus, I am in total horror and envy of American snack cakes (Snowballs, Little Debbies, those super-scary fruit pies). Nobody does junk food like the Americans.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Rabbit

                        Ellio's frozen pizza. They come three sheets which break off into nice "brick" sice pieces. It's frozen pizza that doesn't try to be like real pizza. It was amazing at 3AM after a night of drinking. It's a McCain product now, but not available here.

                      2. Corned Beef hash - it's just different there.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ElizabethS

                          See's peanut brittle. Wonderful....and normally I'm not even all that fond of the stuff. This is different though.

                        2. Butter - as you so rightly point out.
                          And duck bacon - in fact most of the d'Artagnan line.
                          And 'exotic' meat - ESPECIALLY Beaver (no jokes please - I mean the authentic real thing).
                          Unfortunately ALL of the above are likely to be confiscated. Apparently packaged imported butter (specifically Italian) is a virulent source of foot-and-mouth disease
                          and must be incinerated on the spot (or so I was told as they condfiscated it).

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: estufarian

                            Are you saying that I cannot bring imported butter into Canada? Every year, on our way back from Cape Cod, we stock up on Irish or French unsalted butter... we never actually tell anyone we have it - but I didn't know it was confiscational material.... GULP.

                            1. re: maisonbistro

                              Well, my husband said he had over $100.00 worth of groceries in the car, and the Customs fellow waved him by, with no difficulty. (I can't believe I spent almost $100.00 on butter!)

                              1. Oh, how I crave food from New Mexico. It's not Mexcian, and not Tex-Mex. I have found nothing that tastes like it in these parts. Yes, I have been to Burrito Boys for their bean and cheese burritos. Last weekend I was in Toronto and enjoyed the halibut burrito as recommended through this forum. They have a nice product -- it doesn't taste like NM.

                                1. Considering the amount of time I spend traveling back and forth across the US-Canadian border, this is a great thread.

                                  For a while, you couldn't find light soy milk anywhere in Toronto, but it was available widely in the U.S. That situation is now resolved, so I need some more goodies to transport.

                                  1. I'd love to get my hands on some KA Flour and Penzey spices.

                                    1. Much of the stuff mentioned on this page can be had in Canada - some at higher prices, some by online ordering, and some by assiduous looking around. Some things are available quite widely.

                                      I'm surprised about the dairy stuff. There are issues related to milk quotas that make importing some dairy products a major hassle, if not impossible. But I'm surprised that a butter legal for sale in the US would be banned here for health related reasons. (I believe they have even stricter regulations governing things such as raw milk cheeses.)

                                      My things are Nathan's and HN hotdogs (in casings), numerous Haagen Dazs and B&J ice cream flavours, IBC root beer, and Blenheim hot ginger ale.

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: embee

                                        Well, that just takes the fun out of it, doesn't it - ordering on line and such. I love a clandestine getaway to Plattsburg or Burlington, and just perusing the grocery store aisles for stuff I can't get at home. That's the fun of it all.

                                        And I know I can find it in someplaces, once in a while, but why OH why can we not get Jif here ALL THE TIME??????

                                        1. re: maisonbistro

                                          Can't dispute your first point, can I? :-)

                                          Jif seems to be available all the time in Toronto. I don't whether it is different in Canada - I find it too sweet, so don't have it often. Skippy is very different in Canada and in the US.

                                          1. re: embee

                                            Well, I'm in MOntreal and I can't find it all the time. Sometimes Walmart has it, sometimes don't. But what I don't get is why do I have to go to Walmart?? Why can't the usual grocery chains carry it??? It's like Tropicana years ago - you had to smuggle it into Canada. What gives???

                                            1. re: maisonbistro

                                              Sometimes the manufacturer doesn't want to offer it; sometimes the retailers just don't want to buy it. Without going too far afield, there are, generally speaking, two kinds of items in most supermarkets: those for which great consumer demand exists, so they must stock it (Coke and Tide good examples), and everything else. For the "everything else", shelf space is scarce and manufacturers must essentially rent it, often by paying "listing allowances" and funding "co-op promotions". When their shelf rental period runs out, there is no guarantee the product will ever be ordered again.

                                              P&G decided, in the 1980s, that there was no room for Jif in the Canadian market. (Kraft was a major player here; they weren't in the US.) Then the makers of Skippy decided to enter Canada. They did so by hanging a jar of Skippy on almost every doorknob in urban Canada and they did very well. But the Canadian Skippy product didn't even resemble the same brand name in the US. Jif has been creeping into stores over the last few years, but I don't think it sells very well.

                                              This is true of many products, BTW. Most major brands of candy and pop in Canada taste very different from the items sold under the same brand name in the US.

                                              1. re: embee

                                                Thanks- I find that weird though about Jif - because I know many people who love it.

                                                It's also weird about candies - when I mentioned to friends in the states that I prefer M & Ms to Smarties, they thought I was comparies apples and oranges. Turns out Smarties in the states are what we call Rockets here (popular at Hallow'een) - and Smarties as we know them don't exist over there.

                                                Thanks for the info.

                                                1. re: maisonbistro

                                                  I was addicted to Jif when I moved here from the US in the sixties. I actually wrote to P&G, asking why it wasn't available here. Customer centred folks that they were (sarcasm), they sent me a form letter that read something like "sorry, this product is not sold in Canada". Thanks folks, I kind of knew that...

                                                  I used to bring back a bunch of jars every trip south but, over the years, my taste for sweet foods has diminished. By the time Jif became available here, I didn't like it any more.

                                          1. re: Full tummy

                                            Yikes, there are so many that I couldn't even begin to list them. Even plain coffee, one of the core Haagen Dazs flavours, is frequently unobtainable. I probably would find I don't even like many of them, but I would like the opportunity to so find...

                                            HD Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle sounds worth a try. But, then, they don't have Greg's roasted marshmallow.

                                            1. re: embee

                                              Haagen Dazs 'Rum and Raisin'! Don't understand why even a place like Hong Kong has it but not up here in Canada?!

                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                I remember when Haagen Dazs was Riviera ice cream made by a guy named Ruby in the Bronx. I THINK I can actually answer that. When Haagen Dazs was first introduced here, a bit over twenty years ago, we only got their "core" flavours, the ones local licensees were required to sell. I'm not sure I remember everything, but I think it was vanilla, chocolate, coffee, strawberry, rum raisin, and boysenberry sherbet. The rum raisin and boysenberry didn't sell, and eventually disappeared. I remember going to stores for coffee ice cream and finding only rum raisin and boysenberry on the shelves. I guess Canadians just didn't like it.

                                        2. Also Skippy Peanut Butter with the orange top which is Honey Roasted. yum! Alternately, a Whole Foods that lets you grind your own Honey Roasted.

                                          1. Good wine. I hate the LCBO.

                                            1. Wow, how much time do you have??

                                              Among the favourites that Mrs. Sippi and I bring back are:

                                              Bulk pork sausage (Either Jimmy Dean of Tennessee Pride)
                                              Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce (Especially the Hickory Brown Sugar)
                                              Folgers Coffee Singles
                                              Rotel Tomatoes
                                              Zatarain's Creole Mustard
                                              Hominy (You can get it here if you look. Down yonder it's in every store)
                                              Grits (Especially stone ground grits)
                                              Savoie Andouille (Again, available with some hunting here but very easy to get down there)
                                              Yogurt Cheerios

                                              I could go on.


                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Davwud

                                                Try Cajun Corner for the New Orlean's stuff.

                                                1. re: embee

                                                  Yes. I'm not sure about the Creole mustard though.
                                                  I have bought the sausage there though. The thing is, it's just not that convenient


                                                  1. re: Davwud

                                                    You can call and they will hold stuff for you. They are VERY nice people. But don't just go there if it isn't convenient. Posted opening hours are not reliable.

                                                    1. re: embee

                                                      I always spend more time talking to them than I do actually buying stuff when I go there.
                                                      I used to buy Cajun Power Sauce from them too but Katrina had a way with hampering their ability to buy stuff.

                                                      More to the point is, when I'm "Down yonder" at the inlaws, I can go to the local grocery store and get this stuff. No big deal. I'm at the inlaws 4 times a year. It works out just fine for me.


                                              2. East coast Clambake
                                                Genuine Southern Fried Chicken
                                                Corn beef hash
                                                'Large size' live Alaskan King Crab. The ones available in TO are 'Small'!!
                                                Live crawfish

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                  Decent cottage cheese - I have written about this a few times - next to the U.S. version, the usual stuff we get here is just lumps in anm unappetizing white goo.

                                                  But most of all, and you have to have spent some time in New York City to know what I am talking about, bialys. We have dozens of bagel outlets in Toronto, but nobody seems to have heard of them.

                                                  BTW, the perosn who mentioned New Mexico green chiles. I think you can get them sent to you, via the Internet, from Hatch's.

                                                  1. re: ekammin

                                                    We'll never agree on the cottage cheese. Most of our brands - and their brands - are as awful as you describe. You can get Breakstone's in most Jewish-oriented stores, including major supermarkets, but I don't consider Breakstone's to be special. It's just another major corporate product (Kraft??) - Sam has been gone for a very long time. In Toronto, Western and Daiter's are excellent - better than almost any US brand.

                                                    No, there aren't any bialys here. I grew up with them and miss them. But I think that bialys are virtually local to New York City. You won't find them available in most of the US either.

                                                2. Hey, I'll throw a reverse of this on you, i had several,ok almost a whole raisin pie at the Irving big stop in Pembroke Ontario ...never seen it down here in Fl, would give anything for a slice of that now...the poutine...you can keep : )

                                                  6 Replies
                                                  1. re: jword2001

                                                    - canned corn beef hash/roast beef hash
                                                    - Diet Cherry Coke
                                                    - diet black cherry pop (various brands)
                                                    - Payday candy bars (peanuts with a white nougat centre)
                                                    - peanut butter and jam in a jar (can't remember the brand)
                                                    - peach ice cream

                                                    1. re: Bigtigger

                                                      My favourite response to a flight attendant's query of "Beverage?" is "Yes, I'd like a caffeine-free Diet Cherry Coke". They always look like a deer caught in the headlights.

                                                      And, having lived in Windsor for a number of years, I miss Vernor's. Sometimes they have it in the Toronto groceries, but not often.

                                                      1. re: KevinB

                                                        Check around the following stores....Dominion, Loblaws, Shopper''s, Sobeys...petty much all of the 'chains' are now carrying Vernors (both Regular and Diet) on a regular basis.

                                                      2. re: Bigtigger

                                                        > peanut butter and jam in a jar (can't remember the brand)

                                                        Goober Grape?

                                                      3. re: jword2001

                                                        I'd like to do a reverse of this thread - or not quite, not limiting compared country to the US. Don't know where to put it though...

                                                        I do hope some of you from both sides of the border try our artisanal butter in Québec!

                                                        1. re: lagatta

                                                          Where can we buy it? I'm from Toronto...

                                                      4. Yuengling Traditional Lager.

                                                        Oh it's good stuff.


                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                          Embee is right aboput bialys (although I still think Western cottage cheese is the usual lumps in goo). I have never found them anywhere outside of New York City except, for some reason, Greensboro, North Carolina.

                                                          1. re: ekammin

                                                            All the Western cottage cheese that I've seen is wrapped in paper.

                                                            1. re: ekammin

                                                              NO NO NO you can get bialys in Cape Cod. We look forward to them every year when we go there on Vacation. We get them at the Stop and Shop (or shop and save or whatever it's called) in Orleans. THere is also a "bagel" place that sells them there, but both the bagels and bialys are horrendous.

                                                          2. Rabbit is right! Nobody does junk food like the Americans! I recently got hooked on Oreo Cakesters which are soft oreo cakes with cream in the middle. Other great treats are; Ghirardelli Caramel Turtle Brownie Mix (you can only find the plain ones at Costco in Canada, but those are delicious as well), Lemon Icing, Triple Chocolate Icing, Cookie Crisp Cereal, Reese Peanut Butter Cups Cookies (to die for!!!!), spiral Cheetos (incredibly HUGE!). We also stocked up on frozen artichokes (surprisingly good), and frozen pearl onions (incredibly convenient). Now we make a point of going to Tops everytime we are doing some shopping down in Buffalo!

                                                            1. I don't know if anyone has mentioned this but when I was reading the question kept coming up "why can the states get this and we can't?" Canada has banned the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup. That is why your Ketchup, peanut butter, candies etc. taste different. I was born in Canada and now live in FL and I miss the good old taste of sugar as opposed to HFCS products that we have here!

                                                              13 Replies
                                                              1. re: Judy Loves Entertaining

                                                                That would be great if it was true, but I haven't been able to find anything that corroborates that hfcs is banned in Canada.

                                                                1. re: Full tummy

                                                                  I've never heard that either. A quick look in the pantry yielded no evidence of HFCS. That included in ketchup, coke and spaghetti sauce.
                                                                  The sauce did have "Liquid sugar" in it though. I wonder......


                                                                  1. re: Davwud

                                                                    I've been looking into this "ban" and haven't found anything. But having just moved from NYC to Toronto I have noticed that grocery shopping is A LOT easier because I don't have to worry about HFCS.

                                                                    What I have noticed is that while American products contain HFCS many Canadian products contain glucose-fructose. Not sure what the correlation is between the two but I'm sure there is some sort of chemical explanation that is way too deep for me to delve into at 1am.

                                                                    1. re: wontonfm

                                                                      The little that I was able to glean from the Inernet is that it's something to do with the cost of sugar, corn subsidies in the U.S., etc., which is way over my head...

                                                                2. re: Judy Loves Entertaining

                                                                  I can't find where I know that from but I can tell you that my heinz ketchupin Florida has HFCS and my sisters in Canada doesn't. I did have something that told me this before...trust me I will dig it up. HFCS is a huge issue to me! Stay tuned...

                                                                  1. re: Judy Loves Entertaining

                                                                    Okay, so Montreal here again. My Heinz ketchup has "liquid sugar" listed as an ingredient. My no name brand (Loblaws) peanut butter has corn syrup solids (yuck), and the jar of Jif that I brought back from Massachussetts only has sugar - no corn syrup or corn syrup solids.

                                                                    1. re: Judy Loves Entertaining

                                                                      Well..I as well have looked and looked and looked and I cannot come up with a source on that bad information. So sorry...Maybe they should ban HFCS???

                                                                    2. re: Judy Loves Entertaining

                                                                      HFCS is not banned in Canada. My understanding is that HFCS production in the US is very highly subsidized. This makes it a popular choice with food producers. I often see HFCS listed as an ingredient. I suspect that it is less used in Canadian food production than in the US because it isn't the cheapest alternative. But very similar substances take its place. For example, US Coke contains HFCS. Mexican Coke is said to contain cane sugar (I haven't verified this). But even kosher for Passover Canadian Coke (corn is an unacceptable ingredient) did not contain cane sugar. The ingredient listed on the label was "glucose-fructose".

                                                                      1. re: Judy Loves Entertaining

                                                                        I did a little research and came across possibly the most boring site on the internet (the things I do for you people!) HFCS are NOT banned in Canada. This is from the government site Agriculture Canada, it's their page on the soft drink industry:

                                                                        **As well, the Canadian soft drink industry has undergone significant change during the last decade including responding to the Canada-United States Free Trade
                                                                        Agreement (FTA), government regulations and guidelines to reduce or recycle packaging waste, a shift to PET (plastic) bottles and metal cans, consolidation in both the brand holding and bottling functions in the industry and the adoption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as an alternative sweetener in place of sugar in non-diet soft drinks.**

                                                                        So according to the Canadian government, the use of HFCS is actually increasing. In addition, someone asked if "glucose-fructose" is the same as HFCS, it is. This is from the same site:

                                                                        **Glucose/fructose is a generic term for high fructose corn syrup or HFCS. The industry uses about 20 times as much HFCS as it does sugar as the sweetening agent.**

                                                                        I got this from http://www4.agr.gc.ca/AAFC-AAC/displa...

                                                                        1. re: writergirl

                                                                          All HFCS is, therefore, glucose/fructose, but all glucose/fructose is not necessarily from corn. (I suspect that, unless allergic to corn, our bodies don't much care.

                                                                          1. re: embee

                                                                            this is sad. i've been bragging to my american friends that grocery shopping in canada is so much easier than in the US because you don't have to worry about HFCS!

                                                                            Thanks for the research!

                                                                            1. re: embee

                                                                              And as someone who is severely allergic to corn, I try to avoid both 'glucose' & 'fructose' unless I can confirm it is from a non-corn source here in the US. If you only realized just how much corn byproducts you are still getting even if you avoid anything with HFCS, corn syrup, corn starch, etc, you would be shocked. Living in Michigan, I always have to read up on Canadian labeling before I head over the boarder to shop- http://cornfree.ca/

                                                                              1. re: anniemax

                                                                                Thank you - that is a very useful site (without any axe to grind). You should check if there is a thread on the board about food allergies. There is a lot of hidden "stuff" in our foods.

                                                                        2. My husband forgot a few things but the one that I miss is during the summer is Peach Ice Cream. Breyers is my favorite but any would do.
                                                                          Pull that one out of your hat.

                                                                          Mrs. Sippi

                                                                          1. Fage yogurt with honey. I buy as much as I can carry, and bring it all back in my car.

                                                                            1. The shortlist:

                                                                              Fage 0% yogurt
                                                                              Boca burgers
                                                                              Turkey Hill lowfat ice cream
                                                                              All TJ's house brand (especially the naan)

                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                1. re: foodie_expat

                                                                                  Oooh no kidding! I forgot about Quorn - I didn't use it very much, but now that I can't have it, I'm obsessed...

                                                                                  1. re: piccola

                                                                                    Okay, I'm an idjit. What's Quorn???? And why is it that all of a sudden I really want some?

                                                                                    1. re: maisonbistro

                                                                                      Quorn is a vegetarian meat substitute from England, made from some sort of fungus derivative. I find it fairly tasty especially since soy products are now being questioned. It has come under some controversy because they were saying it was a mushroom-based product, but it's fairly processed and thus a long way from actual mushrooms.

                                                                                      1. re: Chowpatty


                                                                                        WIth that, I think I'll pass LOL

                                                                                2. re: piccola

                                                                                  Boca burgers are definitely available in Canada - I've seen them often here in Montréal. Perhaps they are more generally available in the States.

                                                                                  1. re: lagatta

                                                                                    Where? What supermarkets? Because I've looked at Loblaws/Superstore, Loeb, Sobey's and Dominion, with no luck.

                                                                                    1. re: piccola

                                                                                      Piccola, I know I've seen them - could it be at Frenco's? It is not something I would have imagined, because I wasn't looking for them, having no experience of that particular brand of veggie burger.

                                                                                      1. re: piccola

                                                                                        I've seen them a while ago in the Toronto area, but not recently. They used to carry the family size at Costco, but haven't seen them there in years. The small packs used to be generally available, but those too are no longer widely distributed. If anyone knows where I could get some, pls. post.

                                                                                    2. re: piccola

                                                                                      Boca burgers are around, if not common. But I feel the PC veggie burgers (if you like veggie burgers that taste like veggie burgers) and Licks Nature Burgers (if you want veggies masquerading as meat) are better.

                                                                                      1. re: embee

                                                                                        I already have a couple veggie-tasting burgers I like - both the PC and the Lick's ones, plus the Morningstar Farms veggie ones - but once in a while, I really want a Boca burger for variety.

                                                                                        Plus they're awesome broken up into sauces and casseroles - the texture is much better than for the veggie-tasting ones.

                                                                                    3. a decent fish taco
                                                                                      unsweetened ice tea
                                                                                      Vitamin Water

                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: spades

                                                                                        Vitamin water is available at many natural food stores and convenience stores, and possibly in larger supermarkets. Unsweetened ice tea is fairly widely available. (It's hard to find unsweetened tea in entire regions of the US.) However, you aren't likely to find either one in a vending machine. Aleve is available at every pharmacy, but you need a script in Canada.

                                                                                        Decent fish tacos are another matter...

                                                                                        1. re: embee

                                                                                          Really? Glaceau brand VitaminWater? Where am I shopping?? I haven't seen it in the grocery and convenience stores that I frequent in Toronto.

                                                                                          1. re: spades

                                                                                            I'm not familiar with brand names. I've no idea about Glaceau. Sorry I can't be more helpful. But I drank some "vitamin water", within the last couple of months, in Toronto. I'll post if I can remember.