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Gifts From California for Friends in New York

We will be visiting some close friends in Forest Hills and Albany in a little over a week. New York seems to have most things that are great to eat or drink, but there has to be some local stuff here in California (LA) that would be unique and transportable to our friends back East. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance...

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  1. Sour Dough and something from prop 215? :D

    1 Reply
    1. re: dnm3k

      Sourdough is pretty much a San Francisco thing. OP is from LA.

    2. I don't know what you mean by transportable. King Kelly Marmalade is great stuff and not available on the east coast afaik. Same with Martinelli's apple juice. I know they come in glass, but they are small and could be packed if wrapped properly. Think along the lines of local products like that.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Happy Wanderer

        I buy Martinelli's apple juice at Whole foods in the boston area

        1. re: emilief

          Pick up some chapulines while you're there.

        2. re: Happy Wanderer

          Sorry - by "transportable," I mean goods that travel relatively well. Strawberries are hopping crazy good right now in SoCal, but those don't fall in the "transportable" category to me. They're really ripe, last maybe two days, and are as delicate as a diva's ego.

          The stone fruits are front and center right now as well. Peaches and nectarines are more transportable, but we will have to make a very special effort in packing them - if we decide on these, we will probably fedex them to avoid any TSA hassles.

          1. re: bulavinaka

            i still say go for the moonpillows mochi truffles from the brentwood farmers' market. they're easy to transport because they come in a little gift box.

            i've been craving them ever since i suggested it!!

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Your moonpillows keep haunting me... I think it was you who posted about these on the LA board a while back - they've been in the back of my mind ever since and I truly appreciate the exposure to what looks like a sinfully good treat. Both of us were crazy busy during the week - I wonder if they're available during the weekend...

              1. re: bulavinaka

                yes! actually, according to the moonpillows website, the only place you can get them now is at the brentwood farmers' market on sunday. but i did notice that they've started to offer shipping as well...

        3. I've picked up moles from Guelatzaga and brought it back to NY for myself and to give as gifts. Best moles I've found so far -- much better than the ones in the supermarkets and better than what you'd find in restaurants in NYC as well. I think there are three locations in LA. I would bag it several times so the oil doesn't leak out.

          Just came back from the Bay area this morning with some local, organic stone fruits that I purchased in Napa. Don't know how LA fares with stone fruits but these ones are far better than anything you'd find in the best fruit shops in NYC, including the famous exorbitantly priced one one on Ave. J, Brooklyn. Honestly, I wish I brought some more home. They are so flavorful and succulent. I think it's peak season right now. I would take care so that they don't break (as one plum did for me).

          Just wanted to mention that I think you can find Martinelli's apple juices in NYC.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            Yeah, I tend to snicker when other parts of the country talk about their green markets/farmers' markets. Although different parts of the country may do better on some crops/commodities, overall, just don't come close to a top California farmers' market. Can't beat the combination of the climate and the demand/competition for top quality produce. And yeah, we're at peak season right now, with the early fruits still lingering and the later fruits coming in. Thanks for reminding me to head down to the Ferry Building for the Tuesday noon market.

            On topic, I just took a box of See's to Pennsylvania at the request of my California ex-pat friend.

            We gonna get a report from you, Miss Needle?

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Ruth, you're definitely correct about the California markets being so much better. In NYC, our big farmer's market is the Union Square Greenmarket. Sometimes the stuff is good. But other times it's really not all that. But I see so many people get enamored with not so great produce just either because it's the best we can do or they get caught up in the hype of being at a farmer's market.

              Of course, you guys are getting a report. It's pretty long but I'm working on it on a Word file. I'll be posting it either tonight or tomorrow.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                To be fair, during my recent tour of the LES, a former California chef who has now lived and work in NYC for many years made a big point about how much better the produce situation is now than when she came to NY. If it's so much better than it used to be I think it's understandable that people are "enamoured" of the produce they can get now.

                Looking forward to the report (smart to do it as a Word file first)!

            1. re: laliz

              i and everyone i know from California loves See's, but for some reason, unless you grew up with them, or have been eating them for a long time, people seem to have less of an appreciation or affinity for them. that said, if you do go for See's, definitely don't forget the bordeaux or buttercreams.

              1. re: Emme

                we had See's in the midwest and I always thought it was kinda down-market (alongside Whitman's) although I must admit the pieces from the Market and Sansome SF location were pretty good.

                1. re: hill food

                  Seems unlikely that what you remember in the Midwest is See's -- they only have two stores west of Colorado, both in Illinois, and they don't sell through other retailers, although I've read that they now have seasonal kiosks in some department stores. Maybe you're conflating them with EthelM, which is a similar style but nowhere near as good.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I think See's strength is in their dark chocolate. It has a nice balance of sweet with a little bitter on the back palate. Their Nuts & Chews in the dark chocolate kicks booty, especially anything with almonds, caramel or toffee. Even their chocolate bars made of dark chocolate are great...

                      Ironically, some of the friends who we are visiting are averse to dark chocolate. They associate milk chocolate with chocolate, saying dark is too bitter. The strange thing is they are accustomed to some of the most bitter food in the world - bitter melon. They are Chinese, and we've found this to be the case with many other Chinese friends and relatives on my wife's side of the family...

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        I don't know about the Chinese, but I know a lot of Koreans LOVE the See's milk chocolate nuts and chews. Koreans don't seem to be a big fan of the dark as well.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          This sounds like an interesting example of how palates are trained. It could be that the bitter flavors need to be combined with certain other flavors in order to be "right." Or maybe bitterness combined with sweetness doesn't suit.

                          1. re: jlafler

                            Yeah - it confounds me. And your reasoning is mine as well.

              2. What about California olive oil? There are some really good ones. An other option would dates.

                5 Replies
                1. re: breadzone

                  How about freshly pressed walnut oil from CA?

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Walnut oil is pretty specialized, what would they use it in, I beleive it would be one of those things the reciever will say thanks for and put it on a back shelf,saving of for a special reason, that will never surface in imho.

                    1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                      My wife picked up some walnut oil from the Santa Monica farmers market the other day. She sampled some at the stand, and was really wowed by it. She's so impressed that she's bringing some along with some dry salad fixings and plans on picking up some (hopefully good) greens to make her friends salads over there. We'll keep our fingers crossed that it doesn't end up as a dust collector in their pantry...

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        one of my favorite uses for walnut oil:

                        whisk up a vinaigrette using the oil, minced shallot, S&P, and acid [sherry vinegar, OJ or lemon juice].

                        serve over salad of greens [arugula, endive, radicchio], roasted beets, haricots vert, and cheese [goat, manchego, blue or feta].

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Jotting this down... sounds delish - thanks!

                2. California wines and nuts (Blue Diamond almonds) would be local. Although I am quite sure both are available in New York.

                  1. Meyer lemons. It's probably possible to find them in New York, but they're rarely sold commercially because they don't ship well, so they're probably extremely expensive. Of course, they're not really in season here, but you probably know somebody with a tree that still has a few.
                    Southern California isn't in the light-brown apple moth quarantine area, so it should be safe to transport them.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: jlafler

                      I would be in 7th heaven if someone brought me some Meyer lemons - we only get them for maybe two months or so in the winter, and they are expensive.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        We have access to two Meyer lemon trees, but they're cosmetically in the Miss Congeniality category... We're still considering it though - thanks...

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          take Caltrain to Menlo Park - tons of Meyer lemons un-plucked for the plucking.

                    2. if you can get to the brentwood farmers' market on sunday morning, pick up some "moonpillows" mochi truffles. they're insanely good, and i've never found anything like them in NYC.

                      you can even place an advance order to make sure you get what you want...


                      1 Reply
                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Geez - very unique - I think folks in SoCal would consider this a great and rare food gift as well... We live in the Westside but not sure if we have the time to run over there... Will definitely consider this... Thanks!

                      2. It's kind of boring, but I usually just bring See's candy to east coast friends. Easy to pack. Another easily packable option is California pistachios...although they clearly have pistachios in NY.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Nicole

                          I lived in CA for 25 years until 8 years ago when I had to return to take care of Mom. Anyone could bring me sourdough, pistachios, and Napa Wine. ANYTIME! I know it's mostly a northern CA thing, but I know they sell it in southern CA. I know pistachios are available here on the east coast, but trust me they're not the same.

                          1. re: othervoice

                            Wow, that's interesting. I am not a pistachio afficionado, so I had no idea!

                            1. re: othervoice

                              My wife swung by the Wednesday farmers market in Santa Monica, tried the pistachios, and you're right - awesome. She picked up eight pounds. Thanks for the push...

                            2. re: Nicole

                              Yup- plus a couple bottles of cheap local grocery store hot sauces like Tapatio, the one with the wooden lid part (Cholula?), or Pico Pica

                              1. re: torty

                                You can find Choula hot sauce in many supermarket's nowadays throughout Queens. I've got a couple bottles at home :)

                            3. I was just in LA (and I live here in NYC in Forest Hills!) and the things we liked bringing back were See's candies - the toffees are so good - and pistachios from the SM farmer's market.

                              If there was any way to bring back strawberries I'd vote for that too though I don't know how that works with security and all sorts of other regulations. We ate strawberries out there that have ruined us for the time being.

                              Enjoy your visit to FH! If you stay local for dinner any of your nights here, hope your friends bring you to Danny Brown's Wine Bar which is the only restaurant aside from Nick's that is worth it in the neighborhood.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: pellegrino31

                                See's is difficult to get in NYC, but I have to say that I actually found a See's stand in NYC last week. It was not a store, but just a display case (like in airports) that sold See's products. Unfortunately, I can't remember for the life of me where I saw it as I don't really eat the stuff and wasn't paying that much attention. But I used to love their nuts and chews when I was younger.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  Mmm. Wonder where that might have been. I think you can actually get See's at Lord & Taylor - I vaguely remember seeing it there but this is a few years back and I haven't checked back since.

                                  1. re: pellegrino31

                                    I don't think I was at Lord and Taylors last week. But it may have been as I live close to one and sometimes walk through if I need to escape the oppressive humidity and heat. Honestly, I was running around at so many different locations last week that I just don't remember. But when I walk through a L&T again, I'll report back as to whether there's a See's.

                                2. re: pellegrino31

                                  See above response to othervoice - thanks for the rec!

                                  The strawberries are so tempting, but I don't think we can ship them without major compromises. Those berries are so so good right now, but are so ripe that I don't know how we purchase them, have them last a couple of days, pack them up without damaging them, and make the trip either via our luggage or Fedex... We're considering peaches, nectarines, and maybe even apricots. All are killer right now...

                                  We'll jot down the name of Danny Brown's and Nick's - thank you!

                                3. I would suggest a hard to find Napa wine like Swansonor Freemark Abbey, and Avocados, and flour tortillas or a bottle of Tequila..

                                  You would need to pack both in your luggage. Depending on the time in between, would depend on bringing the avocados. You would be the hit of the party if you said, "Lets have some chips and guac and a margaritas." Depending on where you live, Kalua is a good gift. If you live in San Diego, you can get it a the duty free strore, or youy can also find it in Cosco.

                                  A friend recently brought some tequilla in his carry on, and he could not take it with him on the plane.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                    Ooh! That reminds me -- fresh masa! Impossible to get in NYC. I've looked for it -- doesn't exist yet. Probably not the most transportable though.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      While fresh masa is a treat for tortillas, it would be like transporting wet cement, and just pray that it does not start to expand in your bag. I was once at event where everyone was given extra dough to take home, the room was warm, and everyones little package started to grow.

                                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                        Ha ha. That would have been kind of funny to watch. What kind of event does one get extra dough?

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          I was at an in Washington State and where a Totem Pole was being debuted, and the dough was from the unused fry bread.

                                    2. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                      Yup. Remember no liquids in your carry on, and consider that "pastes/creams/sauces/purees" may be rejected as well. These considerations apply to things you buy to take back as well -- I ended up having to check my bag on the way home because of a couple of things I'd purchased.

                                      1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                        Yes, I was going to suggest avocados as well. I know you can get them in NY, but if you buy from the farmer's market they will be fresher, better and cheaper than anything you can get in NY. And the best thing about them is if you buy them hard, they will travel well and ripen later on.

                                        1. re: DanaB

                                          Avocados? Hmmm - that's a great idea... Didn't know good avocados were hard to come by in NYC... thanks!

                                      2. Dried fruits from the central valley.

                                        Preferbably, without the salmonella.

                                        1. I had a friend from California who moved to Baltimore for graduate school. The two things he asked me to bring him when I visited were avocados and artichokes--he said he'd never found decent ones there. I don't know if New York is similarly challenged, but a few giant, perfect globe artichokes would be a treat in any case.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: MsMaryMc

                                            Walnuts, pistachios, dates, almonds, plus really decadent treats.