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Any "must get" food items that can travel back to States?

Hi all;

My husband is in London until Thursday for work (we live in Seattle) and I wonder if there's something special foodie treat I can ask him to bring back (must be able to survive long flight and ridiculous U.S. customs, which unfortunately rules out many things I'd love to have.)

Any and all thoughts welcome!



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  1. My son lives near Seattle, and I am always at a loss as to what they might like from England. Tea is an easy choice, but you have that nice British shop at the Pike St. Market! They do like unusual jams that I pack in my suitcase.. or biscuits (cookies) from Fortnum & Mason. If he buys them the day he leaves, your husband could bring back some macarons from Laudurée or Pierre Hermes. I think they would pass Customs but I can't remember. My grandkids enjoy the unusual bags of potato chips.

    1. Yes potato chips - or crisps - as we call them here would be great. I recommend the big bags that marks&spencer do. Actually, it's probably worth him having a good look at marks&spencer's food halls. My friends in america also like "celebrations" chocolates and I have been begged for "curlywurlys". (But then I may have strange friends) Anyway, they are available widely and not expensive.

      1. I know that British products seem like the obvious thing but if he is in London he can also swing by Ladurée, which has a store here in London, and bring you back some macarons.

        1. The slab toffee from a Thornton's shop usually goes down well, especially the fruit and nut and the Brazil nut ones. I always take some bags of Marks and Spencer's toffees with chocolate center. My niece loves curlywurlys as mentioned. She also likes the Crunchy bars which are filled with a honeycomb center. After Eight mints also seem popular there. They are bog standard here though. Bendicks do quite superior ones with mint crisp in them instead of the smooth filling of the After Eights. I've also found that chocolate digestive biscuits always go down well. Dark or light chocolate, depending on your preference. I prefer the dark. A trip to Waitrose would find most of the biscuits and mints. Where is your husband staying?

          I can't remember if you are allowed to bring cheese back or not. Last time I went my bags were x-rayed coming into the US, unlike coming into the UK and I was asked what I had in there. Just jam I said, even though I had cheese and cookies. If you can bring cheese then some hard to find cheese (in Seattle) might be worth bringing back. Good cheddar seems to be hard to find there, in my opinion. I was there 2 years ago and ended up buying some Canadian Cheddar. Or what about some local cheese like Wenseydale, Lancashire or Cheshire. Or Stilton if you like blue cheese.

          5 Replies
          1. re: cathodetube

            oh yes - slab toffee from Thorntons...YUM....do they still do banana split toffee, too. ...that's fabulous

            1. re: cathodetube

              I'm pretty sure that cheese is not allowed into the U.S.

              1. re: zuriga1

                Cheese to US - over 60 days old (matured) yes; fresh (soft) under 60 days then no. And I believe also no un-pasteurised.

                1. re: PhilD

                  Thanks, Phil. I've never taken cheese back and really didn't know the rules.

                  We Yanks are so big on pasteurisation. :-)

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    It's actually a combination of factors Phil listed - unpasteurised cheeses that are >60 old are ok. Pasteurised cheese of any age should be fine as well. The idea is that potentially harmful pathogens get killed by pasteurisation or after ageing the cheese for >60 days.

                    Also see http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/608964

            2. I'm not sure it's a "must get" but Gentlemen's Relish (otherwise known as Patum Peperium) is quintessentially English. It''s not to everyone's taste; a spicy salty anchovy paste and is delicious spread thinly on hot buttered post. You'll find it in Fortnum's and most large supermarkets.


              1. Cheese is fine if you swear it is pasteurized. Believe it or not, Stilton is pasteurized. But usually no one actually asks.

                Oat cakes to go with the cheese.

                Lemon curd.
                Jams (Kentish bramble, anyone?)
                Walker's shortbread.

                9 Replies
                1. re: MonkeyC

                  Believe it or not, Walker's shortbread is in many good U.S. supermarkets. I'm glad you mentioned lemon curd. We're spending Christmas 'over there,' and my brother will love that.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    Whoops. There goes my plan to buy cases of shortbread in the duty free.

                    Prestat chocolates go over well, especially when you point out the "Purveyors of Chocolates to HM the Queen" labels...

                    1. re: MonkeyC

                      I guess it depends where you are headed in the States. I lived near NYC and the supermarkets there carried lots of 'foreign' products. I doubt they have Walkers in Peoria or smaller cities. :-)

                    2. re: zuriga1

                      Try the Duchy Organics Lemon Curd. I have tried quite a few commercial ones and really rate that one.

                      1. re: cathodetube

                        Thanks... will do that and help HRH.

                        1. re: zuriga1

                          They also make really nice marmalade. Seville and Italian citrus fruits. I believe that Waitrose has now taken them over as they were losing lots of money. Another really good preserve maker is Wendy Brandon. She has a website and only a few shops stock her stuff. She used to sell at the Covent Garden Good Market.

                          1. re: cathodetube

                            I love the Duchy Orgaincs with honey comb and chocolate. Also, Neal's Yard Dairy sells great jam and biscuits that would be great to bring home.

                            1. re: Nancy S.

                              i also rate pretty much anything Neil's Yard Dairy. It wouldn't travel well, but good lord their clotted cream butter is special.

                        1. My friend lives in Chicago and we sent food/candy parcels throughout the year (halloween, christmas, birthdays, easter) and the one thing her and her husband always want is Percy Pigs from Marks and Spencer - they love them and end up fighting over them (I've started sending a bag each!)

                          I also get them things from Hotel Chocolat (for example the Halloween care package this year had some Tiddly Vampires chocolates), and she loved the Spotted Dick chocoalte I got her from Hope and Greenwood in Covent Garden. They are a treasure trove for old fashioned sweets that Americans seem to love (I sent some to another friend in Boston and she was v.impressed).

                          Finally, I love the childrens biscuits from Artisan Biscuits (http://www.artisanbiscuits.co.uk/two_...) available from Waitrose which adults and kids love. And as a Scottish girl I can't fail to mention Tunnocks Teacakes - another favourite when I send them!

                          1. Jacque Selosse champagnes are extremely hard to find in the US. Totally worth getting. ~£80 for the blanc de blnac version originale.

                            Single malts are another possibility.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: limster

                              On that note you can try and take back a bottle of Żubrówka which is banned in the US. :)
                              Not sure if it is ok to take a bottle through customs, though.

                              1. My British husband always brings back large quantities of Cadbury's chocolate bars, claiming that the authentic British ones are FAR superior to those made in the U.S. I'm partial to the cheap grocery store cookies...things like digestives and rich tea. Yes, you can find them in the U.S, but at great cost compared to in England...and they have more variety than you can find here.

                                  1. We currently live in Dubai and will be stopping in London on the way back to the US for the Christmas holidays. I had thought of picking up several plum puddies from the Emporium bakery in Islington and carrying it back with us to give away as gifts. But will we have a problem taking plum pudding through customs? I seem to remember reading that fruitcake was a no go at one point due to it being "dense organic matter."

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Roland Parker

                                      Probably OK as thy are already cooked so no food quarantine issues with Dept of Agriculture or Customs. But they should be in the check-in baggage not carry-on. If you try to carry-on you will probably lose them as you can't take liquids/gels etc through airport security (which seems to catch most food).

                                      I am afraid the advice: "I think you can pretty much take anything through customs if you have it vacuum packed beforehand" isn't really correct. First it only applies to checked bags, second if a food stuff is on the prohibited goods list you won't get it through period, this would include un-pasteurised cheese under a certain age, uncooked meats, and often uncooked seeds and other organic matter that can harbour insects and bugs. This is a bio-security issue because foreign insects and bugs can devastate agricultural industries i.e. fruit fly imported into California or food & mouth imported via raw meets/dairy.

                                    2. I think you can pretty much take anything through customs if you have it vacuum packed beforehand. Any good deli or even supermarket deli counter will vacuum pack fresh food products for you. When my friend and I were visiting Boston a couple of years ago we brought fresh potatoes and other veg from her brother's garden and customs officers took them all off us (boo! hiss!) One of them remarked to us as we were walking away that if we had washed the veg they would have allowed them through! So, obviously the problem was the soil adhering to it (to keep them fresh was our reasoning for leaving them dirty). But the sausages, bacon and smoked salmon we brought we were allowed to keep as they were all vacuum packed.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Vonny

                                        Last year I bought a load of cured sausages and cheeses in Germany to bring back to my family in the US. All the meat was cooked and vacuum packed and seized from me at customs in Dulles Airport (hurrah for the USDA's Beagle Brigade), the cheese was ok. They said if it had been canned (yuck) it would have been okay but no meat whatsoever. And for my next three trips back through Dulles I somehow got tagged and had to go through special inspections of my stuff. Just my experience.

                                        1. re: colonelcrunch

                                          What a bummer old chap.

                                          German sausage.
                                          German cheese .

                                          How dare they !

                                          Edited : just to say that German sausage is my delight as is the cheese.

                                          1. re: colonelcrunch

                                            There was a really good thread a couple years ago, about what you can and cannot bring into the US. It was an actual customs agent who posted and answered people's questions. I keep it bookmarked:

                                            According to that post, "Sausage is cooked in a way that doesn't kill the pathogen we are concerned about so it isn't allowed from virtually anywhere."

                                        2. I love Bovril -- its a Marmite-esque spread (with the addition of beefy goodness) which can be used in a multitude of ways. I love it spread w/butter on toast (its amazing), used to richen stocks and sauces, and finally, mixed w/boiling water and drunk (which I've never tried).

                                          The South African bovril is actually better than the UK, but they're both excellent if you like that sort of thing.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: brokentelephone

                                            I think Bovril has always been sold in the States, but I'm not 100% sure.

                                            1. re: zuriga1

                                              The Bovril sold in the USA/Canada is actually a liquid boullion, and not a thick spread as it is here -- during the british beef ban I spent a lot of time trying to source it (this is pre-internet days where I couldn't just order it from some reseller).

                                              1. re: brokentelephone

                                                Aha... I knew the name but didn't realize it was a different sort of thing. I sure learn a lot in this place. :-)

                                                1. re: zuriga1

                                                  Knowledge is power, and power is EVERYTHING!

                                                  1. re: brokentelephone

                                                    >Knowledge is power, and power is EVERYTHING!<

                                                    That sounds like something from either the Talmud or Donald Trump. :-)

                                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                                      My shul believes that Donald Trump wrote the Talmud so you're doubly correct!

                                            2. re: brokentelephone

                                              I have tried it in all the ways you describe. The Marmite lovers seem to hate it but it has a deeper flavour. Only encountered it when I moved here. Very good on granary/wholemeal toast with a cup of tea after a cold day outside.

                                            3. My friends always bring back "tubes" of Keens Hot Mustard - it's the best and you can't get the prepared in a tube over here, just the powder you have to mix.

                                              1. "ridiculous U.S. customs, which unfortunately rules out many things I'd love to have.) "

                                                Trip long over but I'm wondering what those items were that were ruled out.