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What NYC foods would you want as a gift?

My foodie friend moved from New York City to San Francisco earlier this year and I am going to visit her next week. I want to surprise her with a gift basket of unique NYC goodies (chocolates, pastries, snacks, etc.). This question goes out to former New Yorkers or those who have visited and eaten in the Big Apple--what NYC foods would you want someone to bring you? Keep in mind that I will be flying, so it must be airline-approved. I was thinking maybe chocolates from Kee's or Jacques Torres, coffee beans from Ninth Street Espresso, something from Zabar's . . .

Thanks so much!

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  1. You know your friend's tastes, but stuff I've brought back for friends (and myself) include chocolate sables from Balthazar, sausage from Sikorski Meat Market in Greenpoint, things from Russ & Daughters, Black & White cookies from Zabars, local artisanal cheese from Murray's, H & H Bagels.

    You won't be going through customs, so there are few limitations other than liquids in your carry-on, and you can get one of those $2 insulated bags from Trader Joe's like I did.

    1. Black and White cookies. Yum.

      1. My New York friends bring me bagels from Zabars. I split them and freeze them to toast later. What a treat! I used to request pickles and hot tomatoes from Gus's pickles, but with the liquid restrictions on the airlines, that's no longer possible.

        2 Replies
        1. re: chadders

          There's no restrictions on liquids in checked bags; just be sure you package the pickle jars well.

          1. re: chadders

            Yeah. A pickled tomato can take out an airliner.

          2. Genuine old-school bagels from the Bagel Hole in Brooklyn. (Good bagels are as nonexistent in Manhattan as they are in SF.)

            A pound or three of sable from Russ & Daughters. Nova we got.

            A few mantou sandwiches from Province.

            A few slices from John's of Bleeker St.

            On our last trip we got food for the plane from Zabar's, compared with what we've got here it was pretty lame.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              "(Good bagels are as nonexistent in Manhattan as they are in SF.)"

              That's not true. Both Murray's and Ess-A-Bagel do excellent bagels in Manhattan.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                If good bagels are nonexistent in NY, they there is no such thing as a good bagel period.

              2. Definitely chocolates from Kee's, I'm getting all teary just thinking about them (so much better than Recchuiti). And even though it's not from new york, some Macarons from La Maison au Chocolat. Maybe some brownies from fat witch, preserves from Sarabeths (in my opinion the only good thing there).

                1 Reply
                1. re: jsgjewels

                  Oh, yes, those brownies from Fat Witch!!! Simply marvelous! I'm still dreaming about a couple of those gems a cousin brought over 3 years ago. And I'd love a sampler of (all, if possible) the smoked salmon varieties available at Zabar's. But we've got so many excellent jams, jellies, compotes, etc. in California that it would probably be more appropriate for the OP to take some back to NY. (Also, I've often seen Sarabeth's preserves being sold at discount outlets like Marshall's, so it may be a waste of precious luggage space.)

                2. I'd skip the coffee. I've generally been much more pleased with the coffee I get in SF than NYC.

                  Bagels would be a great choice. My personal favorite is Murray's. Pastries are a little tougher because they go stale so quickly. Maybe some pizza squares from Grandaisy? Another great choice if they've reopened is Ruby et Violet for cookies.

                  PS: How about some cupcakes from Billy's or Two Little Red Hens?

                  1. I know you're flying, but what about shipping something so you don't have to worry? I bought a friend an appetizing package from Russ & Daughters last year. They loved it. It shipped overnight, insulated, and arrived safe and sound.

                    1. I think everyone recommended all the things I'd recommend, which are bagels (and I disagree w/ the person who said that real bagels in Manhattan are nonexistent!), knishes (though those are best eaten fresh, as is NY pizza) and JT chocolate. Definitely bring her JT chocolate-- particularly the drinking chocolate w/ chili. I've looked into ordering JT, and they charge something ridiculous, like $50 shipping, for a $16 box of drinking chocolate. So now I will have to wait till I next go to NY, I guess.

                      I don't think I've had a good cannoli here, either, but they're kindof hard to transport.

                      1. Those custard filled peaches from Balducci's! I took them home to PA one weekend when my Mom was going to be hosting her canasta club and turned that whole group of women on to them, too.

                        I live on the West Coast now and haven't had one for a long time. Maybe I should see if they still sell them and order some,

                        6 Replies
                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            They're not real peaches. They're sponge cake that's been soaked in liqueur and filled with custard and now that I re-read the OP, I realize that they aren't a very practical idea for an airplane trip. I read responses before I replied and in the meantime, I forgot how far the OP is traveling and started thinking instead about the car trips I made from NYC to PA years ago. I had more flexibility in what treats I took back with me. Balducci's does ship them, though.

                            1. re: mercyteapot

                              Was that the "old" Balducci's or the "new" Balducci's?

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                The old Balducci's. I didn't even know they had a new site. This was in the 1980s that I was talking about... I haven't been back for such a long time. I'd love to see the city again.

                                1. re: mercyteapot

                                  The Balducci's on Sixth Avenue closed, and is now a Citarella. Sutton Place Gourmet (DC area) bought the Balducci name, and now all of its stores, including two (I think) in NYC are called Balducci's.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Time marches on, I guess. That's a shame (for me), because I loved that place, but if I ever do get back to NYC, I'll visit the new shop.

                        1. Looks like my earlier reply didn't post.

                          Black and White cookies (small-sized ones from Zabar's which come nicely packaged in a round container) and rugelach, also from Zabar's. Both travel well.

                          1. Whenever I'm in New York, I always bring back a Junior's cheesecake for my husband who is originally from NY and some Teusher truffles for myself. If I visit my family at the Jersey shore on the same trip, I used to stop at Ess a Bagel and bring bagels and bialeys since they can't get anything good where they live. But I know on my next visit I'll be stopping at Russ and Daughters. Ever since I sent my brother a b-day pckg from there he hasn't stopped talking about that place and how great everything was. I know they'll be alot happier to see me if thats possible with a care pckg from there.

                            Rugelach from NYC would also be nice to bring.

                            P.S. Recently, I've been flying alot out West to visit my husband when he can't get home. I've brought bagels and lox on every visit since he's also in a place where they don't have great delli's. I bring a few ice packs and everything has stayed fine for atleast 7hrs. Think your also allowed to take dry ice on board.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: chocolate

                              Junior's cheesecake is very good, but you can order it online.

                              If you don't have a sentimental attachment to Junior's, you can do just as well or better locally in the San Francisco area.

                              1. re: chocolate

                                Junior's really isn't that good.

                                If you want an exceptional NY cheesecake, you should get an S&S cheesecake (from the Bronx, but Zabar's often carries them).

                              2. Here's what I would want:

                                Rugelach from William Greenberg
                                Chocolate chip cookies from Jacques Torres
                                Scones from Levain Bakery
                                NYS Ice Wine--make sure its a good one, most people in SF dont know Ice Wine

                                I used to take a West Indian spiced bun to Jamaican friend in SF since the caribbean food scene there is non-existent. He used to snatch it out of hand upon arrival!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Ora

                                  rugelach and not brownies from William Greenberg?

                                  1. re: Ora

                                    I think people in SF that know Ice Wine know that the good stuff comes from Canada, not NYS.

                                    1. re: Xiao Yang

                                      I don't like brownies uws, so I never have them from anywhere :)

                                      Xiao--I just had a truly outstanding NYS Ice Wine at Compass, so unless you've taste ALL from NYC, maybe your missing out :)

                                  2. Rye bread. Oh, how I miss it!!

                                    1. me, i'd want Russ&Daughters and lots of it!

                                      1. Salami from Katz-it travels well in luggage but buy just before you leave so it doesnt get sweaty.