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Advice Needed from "France" Chowhounds.

jarona Mar 17, 2011 06:12 AM

Although not about food, I do need some suggestions or advice. In June I'll be back in Paris. I've been there quite a few times over the years. When in Paris, we mostly stay with fiance's aunt. We will be staying with her this time around. I do correspond with her and always send her little items from the US that she requests--and I always bring flowers to her...but.....I would REALLY like to bring her maid something from the States. Her maid is always picking up after us and cooking really great meals and I want to show my appreciation to her. She is just so kind and sweet. I'm racking my brains out because I'm stumped. Totally stumped. I honestly would welcome any suggestions from my chowhound ami's.

Thank you so much--all your suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

  1. mangeur Mar 18, 2011 09:29 AM

    FWIW, on our upcoming visit, I'm taking "the Obama bracelet lady" a 375ml of California late harvest viognier. She is a caramel freak, and this marries beautiful with vanilla, caramel, brulee kinds of flavors.

    1. BlueOx Mar 17, 2011 09:46 AM

      On our yearly bike trip to France, we take a cloth bag with some local motif (Vail usually) on it to give to our hosts (B&B or small inn). Then stuff it with spicy foods made in Colorado that we pick up at the local framers markets. And get small glass jars at Walmart and put in peppers from the Mexican Food isle at our local City Market. Also in the jar we put a detailed description of the each pepper.

      21 Replies
      1. re: BlueOx
        jarona Mar 17, 2011 01:13 PM

        Thank you for your quick responses. I'm getting some ideas from all the suggestions. I'm now thinking of a totally tacky and cheesy box filled with lots trinkets...like a "Florida Orange" mug. A Liberty Bell paperweight or something like that. Lincoln Logs for her grandkids..just goofy fun stuff...what triggered the cheesy factor was the suggestion of portraits of Washington and Lincoln. Again, thank you so far--keep 'em comin!


        1. re: jarona
          boredough Mar 17, 2011 01:38 PM

          ALso consider anything with the NY Yankees logo. Yes, I'm a New Yorker so I might be biased, but keep in mind that "Yankee" means "American" to many non-Americans.

          1. re: boredough
            menton1 Mar 17, 2011 02:03 PM

            The French are more interested in NBA basketball, it's marketed overseas and they have Tony Parker. They usually have no clue about baseball at all. (I know Yankees fans find that hard to believe)

            1. re: menton1
              boredough Mar 17, 2011 03:43 PM

              I didn't mean to suggest that the French know anything about baseball. It's just the name "Yankee" that has a special meaning for a number of my Provençal friends, which is why I suggested it. (And not just for the phrase "Yankee go home!")

            2. re: boredough
              vielleanglaise Mar 17, 2011 02:07 PM

              There must be some genetic explanation, but a lot of Parisians really, really like anything from Abercrombie and Fitch.

              1. re: boredough
                sunshine842 Mar 17, 2011 02:37 PM

                and the Yankees logos largely show up on thugwear -- the crack-revealing, rhinestone-studded "designer" clothing worn by the kids from the tougher neighborhoods. (Not 100%, but more often than not)

                Get something that's decent -- a coffee-table book of your hometown - a hand-crafted something (we gave a friend a hand-turned wooden bowl made from orangewood -- it's handsome, unique to Florida...and it still sits on a shelf in his flat) I 've had people go nuts over a bottle of Key Lime juice and a recipe card...something nice that is useful and unique to your home town.

                Don't bring her cheesy junk -- it cheapens the gesture of bringing her something. (and tips are considered pretty low-class here, so ixnay on the ashcay.)

                1. re: sunshine842
                  tammyps Mar 24, 2011 03:30 PM

                  I agree with you, sunshine842. Being a maid, she may a touch sensitive about the kind of gift she receives. OP: do you know her interests? Does she like food/cooking? I like the Key lime juice idea, heck I love foodie stuff in general, but she might look at it with a question mark...If she has grandkids, she may be a bit old for A&F gear or I heart NYC T-shirts...If you don't know her well enough and don't want to ask her employer about her tastes, then in your position I would go with a small box of artisanal chocolates. Something sweet she can share with others that doesn't take up too much weight or space. Or a beautiful 'American' cream, in the spirit of Burt's Bees but something she can't find in France. (I think I've seen Burt's Bee balm in France...)

                  1. re: tammyps
                    toodie jane Oct 20, 2011 10:48 AM

                    If she gardens, you couldn't go wrong with some better (ahem) American brands of vegetable seed packets. (not multinational companies)Lightweight, easy to pack, etc. I think, but not sure, they'd go through French customs. I know a lot of my company's seeds go to Asia via tourists. If there is a regional seed company in your area, great, but bear in mind the climate of your host.

                    Seed packets are my No 1 request when someone asks "what can I bring you back?"

                    1. re: toodie jane
                      Parigi Oct 20, 2011 11:02 AM

                      " I think, but not sure, they'd go through French customs. "


                      1. re: Parigi
                        sunshine842 Oct 20, 2011 12:37 PM

                        not unless accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate....

                        1. re: sunshine842
                          menton1 Oct 20, 2011 08:54 PM

                          Vegetable seeds are a GIANT no-no!

                          1. re: menton1
                            DaTulip Oct 20, 2011 09:22 PM

                            I agree & wouldn't bring in anything agricultural myself. That being said, some have suggested that Meyer lemons are a treat. Is produce with seeds somehow viewed differently in Frace?

                            1. re: menton1
                              mangeur Oct 21, 2011 07:44 AM

                              As always, a subject of some confusion.


                              "These small quantities are the following ones:

                              *Per traveller coming from third countries into the European or the Mediterranean zone (for the list of the concerned countries, refer to the amended decision of 22nd November 2002), the following quantities are tolerated:up to 5 plants;

                              - up to 2 kg of bulbs, rhizomes, tubers, with the exception of the tubers of potatoes which are prohibited;
                              - up to 2 kg of fruit and vegetable, with the exception of potatoes which are prohibited;
                              - 1 bouquet of cut flowers or foliages;
                              - up to 5 bags of seeds, with the exception of potatoes.

                              *Per traveller coming from third countries others than those above mentioned, the following quantities are tolerated:

                              - Up to 2 kg of fruit;
                              - 1 bouquet of cut flowers or foliages;
                              - up to 5 bags of seeds, with the exception of potatoes."

                              1. re: mangeur
                                DaTulip Oct 21, 2011 05:51 PM

                                Very interesting indeed! Thank you for the information.

                                1. re: DaTulip
                                  mangeur Oct 21, 2011 05:59 PM

                                  Be aware that custom rules at any entry point, any country, are subject to the interpretation of the customs officer. (In other words, aaaarrrrrgggghhhh!)

                                  1. re: mangeur
                                    DaTulip Oct 21, 2011 06:08 PM

                                    So be ready to play the stupid American and/or to enjoy the French prison system!?! JK, but you are right it seems it depends on whois looking as to what you can bring. I try to follow the rules, but...you know.

                                    1. re: DaTulip
                                      sunshine842 Oct 26, 2011 02:30 AM

                                      Most of the time prison isn't even a thought...they just confiscate the offending item (real or perceived offense) and send you on your merry way.

                2. re: jarona
                  Parigi Mar 17, 2011 05:04 PM

                  Talking about presidential faces, anything with Obama's face on it is a big hit.

                  1. re: Parigi
                    mangeur Mar 17, 2011 05:55 PM

                    At markets and aperos, our hostess was the toast of the village with this:

                    1. re: mangeur
                      Delucacheesemonger Mar 17, 2011 05:57 PM

                      Love it

                      1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                        boredough Mar 17, 2011 06:31 PM

                        Very cool

              2. Delucacheesemonger Mar 17, 2011 09:26 AM

                Easy one and always welcome are bags for carrying groceries, fussy or plain. As long as there is a store, supermarket( e.g. W(T)F 'green' bags),or even local library bags.

                1. o
                  Oakglen Mar 17, 2011 09:04 AM

                  What could be wrong with a picture of Ben Franklin or Ulysses Grant? Our service providers love those portraits.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Oakglen
                    fanoffrance Mar 17, 2011 09:18 AM

                    Hmm, I always prefer to give away portraits of Washington and Lincoln--after all, they're on the February calendar as well as Mount Rushmore ; )

                  2. fanoffrance Mar 17, 2011 07:58 AM

                    Snyder's Olde Tyme Pretzels? "Oregonzola" cheese? Indian dream-catcher, Hopi sand picture? Zinfandel wine from California (mentioned on a recent thread)? Grade B Maple Syrup (more flavorful than Grade A)? Salt water taffy?

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: fanoffrance
                      menton1 Mar 17, 2011 09:01 AM

                      On the same theme as the mugs, the French also love American T Shirts. Also something with a hometown motif, or sports-oriented also.

                      I also immediately thought of Maple Syrup, Vermont or Canadian, not widely available in France. Something in a maple-leaf shaped glass container is a great gift.

                      1. re: menton1
                        sunshine842 Mar 17, 2011 02:31 PM

                        oh, it's widely available -- for a king's ransom. Seriously, it's almost 6 euros for an 8-ounce bottle. Yike.

                        (For the rest of us here, try a health-food store -- my local Biocoop has very good maple syrup for 23E per litre...still not cheap, but a darned site easier than ransoming a few drops at a time)

                        1. re: sunshine842
                          menton1 Mar 17, 2011 02:41 PM

                          About $3.99 for a 20 oz bottle here in the States...

                          1. re: menton1
                            sunshine842 Mar 17, 2011 03:09 PM

                            If I have space and weight in my luggage, I bring a bottle back...but the natural foods store is not a horrible price, especially when you figure in the extra-luggage fees.

                            1. re: sunshine842
                              menton1 Mar 17, 2011 03:14 PM

                              This bottle should weigh about a pound. I think you're allowed 50 lb. But you could also consider T shirts, much lighter...

                              You'd think with the tremendous spike in airfares this year they'd give one a break on luggage!

                              1. re: menton1
                                sunshine842 Mar 17, 2011 03:36 PM

                                why would I buy tshirts to put on my pancakes?

                                I live in France. I like *real* maple syrup ($3.99 will let you buy Mrs. Butterworth, but Grade A dark Amber will set you back considerably more than that for 20 oz.). Maple syrup is insanely expensive at most groceries in France, so sometimes I buy maple syrup in the US to bring back to France...you know, for my pancakes.

                                1. re: sunshine842
                                  menton1 Mar 18, 2011 07:27 AM

                                  Sorry, mixed you up with the OP...

                                  Mrs. Butterworth??? Ugh, no, that's just water, sugar, and artificial flavors. No relation to Maple Syrup!

                            2. re: menton1
                              ChefJune Mar 18, 2011 08:53 AM

                              <About $3.99 for a 20 oz bottle here in the States...>

                              ??? That's not REAL maple syrup!

                              1. re: ChefJune
                                menton1 Mar 18, 2011 09:14 AM

                                Sorry, it's about $10-$18 bucks a pint...

                                1. re: menton1
                                  mangeur Mar 18, 2011 09:26 AM

                                  Excellent prices on maple syrup at Costco or Trader Joe's.

                                  1. re: mangeur
                                    sunshine842 Mar 18, 2011 02:25 PM

                                    Best price on maple syrup in the US I've found was at the farmer's market in Madison, WI -- local maple syrup (from a Madison suburb) for about $13 a quart.

                                    I found it at the Salon du Mer, Vigne, et Peche a few weeks ago for 21 euros per litre...pricey (twice the price, actually) , but easier than dragging it halfway round the world. (I'm getting tired of dragging crap back and forth.)

                      2. Parigi Mar 17, 2011 06:21 AM

                        mods have a shit-fit re threads like yours.
                        The kind of presents that my French friends have liked are:
                        - special texmex chili (but spicy condiment may not be everyone's cup of tea)
                        - peanut butter (but it is widely available now in France)
                        - Americana-style table cloth, napkins, i.e. with native American motifs
                        - mugs with your hometown's motifs. My French friends are crazy about mugs, think they are très exotiques. Go figure.

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