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Jan 5, 2008 11:19 PM

YODELS: What do you shop for when you leave "the south?" [moved from South board]

Since classes don't begin for another week, I am on a posting roll here...

I went back to New Jersey last week and returned with 5 grocery bags of stuff that either:
1) I cannot get here
2) the quality is not the same here
3) is cheap at home but expensive down here

Keep in mind I have been in the Richmond, VA area for 29 years, so this IS my home. Still, I never miss the chance to stock up. So, what do you crave and bring back?

Here is my current list of stuff:

1) Pork Roll. In some places they call it "Taylor Ham" but in Trenton (home of the Taylor Pork Roll) you can get Case's or Taylor Pork Roll in many forms. I often get a sandwich for breakfast on a fresh baked kaiser roll (with poppy seeds) with cheese and yellow mustard. We even had Pork Roll as a school lunch option! I buy either a chub to slice myself, or lately I am lazy and buy the presliced. It appears on some shelves here, but not regularly and not as cheap as in NJ.

2) Fresh Ricotta Cheese. I get a small can from one of the Italian markets in Trenton. It is hard to get if you are far from where it is produced as it spoils quickly. We eat it for breakfast, or in the summer serve in pasta with fresh tomato sauce and fresh basil leaves.

3) REAL HOT DOGS. They have a skin on them. In the local grocery store (Shop Rite, Acme, etc.) I have a selection of skin on hot dogs and they are very inexpensive. The closest I can get here is at Ukrops, and they are Boars Head, which is outrageously expensive (about 7 dollars a pound) I always have several packages in my freezer and we make as good a "ripper" as you will find south of Philadelphia.

4) Drakes Cakes. Specifically, we get Yodels and Ring Dings, but Yankee Doodles and Devil Dogs are also among my old favorites. They just don't seem to ship this far south, although the old Hannaford's Grocery Stores did carry them in Richmond in the early 90s.

5) Pasta: cheap, dried pasta is a massive staple of our grocery stores. There are at least 4 brands that sell for less than 79 cents a pound and they carry a huge variety of sizes and shapes. This is about selection, price, and bulk. My wife is NEVER happy to see 8-10 lbs of dried pasta bags in the back of the car, but it is GONE within 2 months.

6) Breads and Pastry. This time, baby cream puffs, chocolate dipped cannolis, sfingi, and ricotta pie for the sweets and semolina bread, mini torpedos, and ham breads for sandwiches and snacks. There are italian, polish, and french bakeries all over my county. There are enough that they have to have reasonable prices to compete with each other. In Trenton, across a seven block stretch there is Italian Peoples Bakery, Barberos Italian Bakery, and Little Italy Pastries and Deli. I can get cheese and deli meats there as well...

7) Deli Meats. Not sure why premium deli meats are so much less expensive in NJ, but they are. Geno Salami for 2.99 lb, Mortadella, Cappocola, Prosciutto, Soppresata, Italian Provolone, etc. all make their way back to our deli drawer. The kids pack some might fine lunches from time to time.

8) Sausages and meats. We have BUTCHERS!! Our local polish butcher has a wonderful selection of sausages, pork products, and fresh kielbasa. Sauerkraut and pickles are made on the premises to make sure you get some vegetables with your meats. Italian sausages go we beyond sweet and hot: sausages made with cheese, chilis, garlic, and even broccoli rabe are not available around here. Also some great Pennsylvania Dutch bacons, sausages, and and other farm products.

9) Pierogies...we have a huge polish community and there are fresh pierogies in the supermarkets; stuffed with different cheeses, spinach, potatoes, saurkraut, and even chopped meat, they are not to be found in these parts.

10) Frozen pasta. We have literally dozens of brands and varieties and they are so very affordable. Cavatelli pasta, meat tortellini, different raviolis, and the always delicious stuffed rigatonis come in 1 and 3 lbs frozen bags. It makes travelling with a cooler a neccessity.

11) Farmers Market produce. In the summer we bring back corn, tomatoes, peaches, and eggplants, at the very least. I live near hanover county (famous for tomatoes) but they markets at home are wonderful and CHEAP. We bought bushels of tomatoes for 7 bucks, peaches for 6, and corn for 2.25 a dozen and it was fresh and delicious. Yes, you can find it here, but it seems a bit cheaper and of extremely high quality up there.

12) Scungilli: Canned or frozen whelks, or small conchs are "scungili" to Italians and it is delicious. For what I can get 3 ounces for in a salad in a restaurant I can buy a 28 ounce can. There are three in the house as we speak...

So, that is what I have purchased recently in the last two trips to visit my parents. Where do you go and what do you need to bring home? BBQ and Cheer Wine from NC? Brisket and rock candy from Texas? Bright green relish from Chicago? Bagels? Let me know...I may be visiting your town soon!

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  1. I spent many formative years in the Tampa bay area. I try to bring home real Cuban bread & smoked mullet. Assorted fruit & veggies depending on the season, especially back yard varieties that aren't commercially available. Depending on travel arrangements I sometimes bring back fresh seafood. Most of my other "must haves" have disappeared over the years - keeps the wallet fatter & my waist thinner I guess.

    1. I was born and raised in the South, so I go nowhere "to go home".

      I have butchers and farmers market produce and deli meats and breads and pastries and pasta and "REAL HOT DOGS" where I live, so I don't get your issues.

      In addition, since this is a topic about foods "not in the South", shouldn't it be in another board somewhere else?

      9 Replies
      1. re: fussycouple

        What a lovely post. You sure made me hungry ,chefsalad. I am so fascinated by the region specific foods and cuisines of the U.S. Until you leave your home you really take for granted all those special foods of the area. It really is a lot easier now to find most ingredients you need to make a dish but the quality of the ingredients often leaves much to be desired. When I was cooking on Palm Beach the chefs would fly in greenhouse heirloom tomatoes that tasted like cardboard to me. I didn't understand why they bothered. I grew up in tnorthern Virginia and the Carolinas where warm ripe tomatoes were eaten like apples with a little salt sprinkled on them. The green beans in Washington D.C. had nothing on the Appalachian varieties " greasy cut short" and half runners" and my displaced grandmother would drag me from grocery store to grocery store looking for an adequate substitute in vain. I really hate ordering crab anything outside of the Bay area where my mom is from. Her family is (was) Chesapeake watermen and I grew up on unpasteurized fresh crabmeat that was out of this world good and is never matched by the premium lump crab meat served in top notch restaurants. Thanks for sharing a bit of your food history with us!

        1. re:

          Tomatoes and crab--pure summer on the Chesapeake Bay. My wife is from Va. Beach and I fish the bay probably 90 days a year. The crabs used to be so plentiful that we'd anchor a cheap skiff with a cooler of beverages and squid and catch croakers and then use the croaker (or chicken necks) to get a half a bushel of crabs in a couple of hours. Now, we leave a trap or two for days to get a few small crabs. Thanks for bringing back those memories...

        2. re: fussycouple

          First, where in the south do you live with Italian and Polish neighborhoods? And skin on hot dogs? I can't find them here in the capital of the conferderacy.

          Second, the moderators placed this post here, so feel free to ask them. It was posted under the regional "The South" board. My aploogies if this is out of place.

          Finally, IF you lived somewhere other than the south, wouldn't you miss some things? If so, you would "get my issues."

          No offense meant at all, just wondering who buys what they miss...

          1. re: chefsalad

            chefsalad, I noticed you said "Italian and Polish neighborhoods" - do you think that a neighborhood is essential to being able to get a certain kind of foodstuff/cuisine? I'm not trying to be a smart aleck, I promise - I'm just curious. I've heard many non-locals here in the Triangle area say things like "the food/bread/cookies/cold cuts/etc. are okay, but it's not like buying them in Little Italy/Chinatown etc." Is it truly more a question of the food's quality, or the entire experience?

            1. re: Suzy Q

              That is a great question. For me it is about the stuff...but I do love a "neighborhood." Still, if I could get any of the aforementioned goods in any location for the same price and quality, then I wouldn't have to drive 300 miles to get them.

              Richmond is a reasonably large metropolitan area, but I cannot get all the things I'd like. So if I have to go back to an old neighborhood to get them, then that is what I do. But I have done mail ordering, tried local purveyors, and used food service providers for special orders when I was still in the restaurant business.

              So there is a lure of the place itself (a little nostalgia, homesickness, inlated memory, or what have you) but mostly it's about the tastes and flavors that I can't get anymore.

              AND, to be honest, if I lived back in NY/NJ, I'd never have access to things like Cheer Wine, great BBQ, and lots of stuff I get from the Chesapeake Bay. Boiled Peanuts and Northern Neck Ginger Ale are musts for me, and I really do like Smithfield Ham in a different way than I like prosciutto. If I was a southern transplant in NJ, the same logic would apply...I think!?!?! Anyone else have thoughts on location vs. tastes?

              1. re: chefsalad

                I'm from the South and lived in New Jersey back in the 80s. I missed so many things. I was shocked that the groceries there did not have the essentials of life, like grits, smoked ham hocks, and "real" ham.

                But, my bIggest disappointment was no barbecue. I mean real smoked pit barbecue. Once, some locals invited us to eat at their house, where they promised to "barbecue some steak." Why in Heaven's name, I wondered, would someone take a perfectly good cut of meat, smoke it and smother it in barbecue sauce? Of course, they meant they were going to grill it on an outdoor grill.

                So, I bought a Weber smoker, and loaded it up with country ribs (not the foo-foo baby backs they had in NJ) and pork shoulder. I had to have a meat shop cut all this specially for me. It was not without incident; one well-intentioned neighbor called the fire department because of the clouds of hickory smoke rolling out of my back yard patio.

                I invited all my friends over for real barbecue, complete with a selection of red, white and mustard based BBQ sauces. I made sides of hush puppies, collards, and barbecue hash. The reaction was funny. Some eyed my spread with suspicion, others with curiosity, and a couple with looks bordering on downright revulsion.

                But, no one left hungry, or without a desire to have real Southern barbecue again, soon. My smoker and I became local legends.

                1. re: gretske

                  I did not understand the difference between bbq and grilling until it was explained to me by some Texans. We say bbq instead of grilling. Now i love BBQ - especially bbq beef brisket.
                  Can you tell me what hush puppies, collards and bbq hash are? I would have loved an invitation to your bbq :-)

                  1. re: caitlink

                    Hush puppies are so good, but so bad for you :)

                    They're a corn meal and buttermilk-based dough that is dropped by spoonfuls into hot fat and fried. Heavenly dumplings of goodness!


                    Collards are greens - they are part of the cabbage family. They are usually served cooked (often in bacon grease!) to make them more tender.


                    Barbecue hash can vary a lot - it usually involves pork shoulder, and maybe some liver or other meats, mixed with things like vinegar, hot pepper sauce, other spices and various vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes, carrots. It's kind of a 'kitchen sink' dish - put whatever you've got lying around in there.

                    1. re: romansperson

                      Hush puppies vary from the very sweet to the very oniony...but I tend to love them all. Once on a drive to a baseball tournament in Sarasota, FL, I pulled off in Wilson, NC to Bill Ellis' barbecue buffet for a big lunch. One of our players (a great kid) ate 3 plates of hushpuppies with melted butter and a chicken leg. They were THAT good!

        3. You might want to check out some of your local famers' markets for good/inexpensive produce. I don't know where you live exactly, but the Triangle area also has a few good Italian markets and some wonderful French and Italian bakeries. If you're in a small town, that may have more to do with your not being able to find specialty items.

          I often wonder why we don't see more restaurants around here that serve some of the other items you mentioned - I grew up in the South and never heard of a pork roll until I heard some of my "imported" neighbors talking about it. With the number of imports we have in the Triangle area, it's a shame that we don't have a good Jewish deli, too. My husband has, on occasion, brought back cookies from a few of the the Italian bakeries in NY, and if I could figure out how to import a good Cuban sandwich from Ybor City in Tampa, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Suzy Q

            The grass is always greaner. I hail from PGH PA (now live in SC)so when I do get home up North, I grab me some pepperoni rolls, Clark bars, Hoffmanns hotdogs ( for DH from upstate NY) and those yummy buns split at the top as opposed to the side. Then I can't forget to get some Dairy Bar baked ham chipped for the ride home. And a stop at Sarris's candy is a must for the coconut clusters. I could go on and on....

            1. re: chocchipcookie

              I definitely agree with Pepperoni Rolls. I lived in Boston for 10 years and was amazed that they never made their way into other areas (I've only seen them in WV where I'm from). I had a WV product table at my wedding and handed out pepperoni rolls- there's really nothing funnier than watching my friends from New England debate whether it was safe to eat something that contains meat but that isn't refrigerated (they were fresh, BTW).

              1. re: lhb78

                Too funny! I tried making them from scratch once but they really didn't turn out that well. I guess I just don't have the touch or patience to let the dough rise. Coming from WV is what makes them so good! (Must be something in the water I say...)

          2. Hail to the garden state! where ya from? I'm living in NOLA and heading back to SJ next month. I bring back soft pretzels, pork roll, tastycakes, sub rolls and pepper shooters. Ever have a crusher sub? Basic italian meats/cheeses, onion, lettuce and crushed pepper shooters with the olive oil they've been soaked in...really good.

            Diet canada dry ginger ale. I found it at a Kosher supermarket here in NOLA for $5.55 a six pack. After tax it's close to $30 a case! Fedexing it from Jersey is about $14/case.

            In the summer it's tomatoes. I know it sounds silly but nothing tastes like a Jersey tomato...even after 1375 miles at 30,000 feet!

            Can't wait to have some good pizza and a proper italian sub...3 weeks and counting!

            3 Replies
            1. re: chef4hire

              You FedEx yourself diet Canada Dry ginger ale? Why not just ask a reasonably priced local market to consider stocking it? It's not like it's a fringe brand or specialty item.

              1. re: Suzy Q

                you betcha...when I need a fix I have it sent down...mylimited research told me that the canada dry products are delivered by a cadbury/schwepps route driver and there are none of these delivering in the metro area

                the 7up (same company) comes from a different driver so it's easier to get

                I'm not getting crazy...but sometimes a girl needs a vodka and diet ginger ale and I don't leave those moments up to chance

              2. re: chef4hire

                Lived in NYC for 5 years, Philly for 3, and then the greater Trenton area (dad still lives there) until 1980. I yearn for a DeLorenzo's tomato pie (pizza) and your SO right about Jersey Tomatoes. I bring home bushels every year and we eat tomato sandwiches with DUKES mayonaisse--culture blending!!

                I can get Tastycakes here--hail to the Wawa chain for bringing softpretzels and tastycakes. I have a butterscotch krimpet or a candycake at least every couple of days.

                Crusher sub sounds like a Muffelata or what we called a super in Trenton.

                AND PEOPLE, you MUST go to Hoagie Haven on Nassau St. in Princeton. Get the souvlaki their way and a cheese steak.

                Again, we can all go on and on...which is why I am asking!!

              3. Our grocery has started carrying it again, but a few years ago, I brought back Duke's mayonnaise every trip.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mamaciita

                  If I moved away from the south, I'd have to have friends ship me Dukes mayo!

                  Boiled peanuts and Blenheim Gingerale.

                  To mail order your fix go to for The Lee Bros catalog.

                  1. re: BlueHerons

                    I am pretty sure that I have seen shipping info on my bottle of Dukes Mayo. I will check and see if there is a website for them. Well what do you know...

                    1. re: Sam at Novas

                      CF Sauer is right here in Richmond...Dukes is the cheapest mayo we have, as well as being super creamy!