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Does anyone else do their vacation souvenir shopping at local grocery stores?

Whenever DH an I travel by car, we like to stop in at local grocery stores for snacks, etc. and just to see what differs from our area. We bring a big cooler, and at the end of our trip, we stop back in at the supermarket and buy local products-jams. jellies, syrups, regional beers, etc.) to bring home for souvenirs and gifts. I ask at the store if they have a section w/ local products and when I tell the clerk what I am looking for, they are usually very happy to help me and recommend their favorites. A bonus-prices less tha half than at the gift shops.

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  1. DH and I do the same... I love to shop at the local markets and bring back things I can't get at home. On our last trip to Montreal, I stocked up on coffee filters of all things, so every morning when I make coffee I am reminded of the day I bought them.
    And yes, so many things are cheaper when bought at the grocery/drug stores than at the gift shops! And as a bonus, those places are usually filled with locals, not other tourists.

    6 Replies
    1. re: iluvcookies

      What's unique about Canadian coffee filters?

      1. re: bbqboy

        Bilingual French/English packaging.

          1. re: roxlet

            I wanted to get myself a souvenir that I would actually use, and the packaging was such a pretty green color and full of fancy French words. They work exactly the same as the coffee filters I can get at A&P, but the ones from A&P don't remind me of the long walk I took to the market while drinking hot cocoa and nibbling on a fresh croissant, and of practicing my limited French at the SAQ.

            Don't worry, DH bought me a necklace and two blouses on our trip!

              1. re: wekick

                Same here, and since I'm Canadian (living in the US) I love to have bilingual-labeled products in the house for sentimental reasons. Context is all.

    2. Of course. Doesn't everyone? Just brought back some delicious grits from South Carolina. That was the only souvenir we bought during our 4 day trip to Charleston. And yet, we spent lots of money eating very, very well.

      1. For me it's the local Costco.

        2 Replies
        1. re: monku

          yeah... But grocery stores work well too!
          I got carribean cokacola, Export Sodas... lotta yummy treats.

          1. re: Chowrin

            yeah....But if isn't quite right or I have buyers remorse I can return it to my local Costco.

        2. i always do.
          never will forget my first trip to paris, where i was delighted to find fleur de sel in the grocery store, for about 1/3 the price as i'd seen it in the gourmet shops. same packaging, same stuff. i grabbed a dozen. when the checkout girl gave me a funny look, i explained that they were "jolie cadeaux"--little gifts. boy, then she REALLY gave me a look! a look that said "you are the worst friend EVER!!!"...whatevs...my friends loved them, and i have always tried to squeeze in a trip to the grocery store since, when traveling.

          9 Replies
          1. re: chez cherie

            Silly checkout girl! Must not be a chowhound. I love when my friends bring me tea, spices, oils, coffees etc. from their travels.

            1. re: iluvcookies

              not silly checkout girl -- girl who doesn't realize how godawful expensive that stuff is in the US.

              I've explained the price when I got funny looks -- and they first look shocked, then the light dawns on them that it's a good gift.

            2. re: chez cherie

              did the same on one of my trips to paris - brought back a beautiful rose petal jelly from Fauchon, which i ate by little 1/16 teaspoonfuls, to make it last and last, and also non-food products so that I'd have toothpaste with French writing on it, and in Croatia, contact lens cleaner. Makes the trip last a little longer... I'm about to go to Bolivia (family there) and i'm going to pack light so i can bring back a whole slew of things. my sister just got back and she had no problems at all getting thru customs. i know it's a crap shoot.....

              1. re: mariacarmen

                in Paris I was a sucker for sugar cubes wrapped with the appellation "Cafe Richard" (my given name) on one side and "Daddy Sugar" on the other.

                1. re: mariacarmen

                  You must have extraordinary self-discipline. We rented an apartment in Paris for a week one summer, bought that rose petal jelly from Fauchon (along with some pates de fruits) and ate them all up before we left. Oh, and there was some chocolate, too, I think.
                  "I'm pretty sure you can't take opened jam on the plane."
                  "No, definitely not. Grab a spoon."

                  1. re: Isolda

                    ahahaa! wasn't it just extraordinary? yeah, no, i'm not disciplined at all - just wanted to have that in my fridge for a long time - and i'm not embarrassed to say i did - for probably a good 3 years. (ok, i'm embarrassed.) i'm not a huge sweets person, so it wasn't that difficult. but every single time i took that teensy bit and let it melt on my tongue, aaaaaaaaaahhhh Paris alive in my mouth. But believe me, there were other things that did not even make the plane ride home.

                    1. re: mariacarmen

                      Next time there, given your predilections, have the raspberry and rose sorbet at Berthillon, sweet magic in your mouth.

                      I always come home with as much chocolate as possible and at least one cookbook from France, cookbooks and Biluochun tea from China, cookbooks, Red Rose tea - hello again fondly-remembered emballage bilingue - and old cheddar cheese (aged 5 yrs and up, favourite is 7-yr-old) from Canada, and bath products from wherever.

                      1. re: buttertart

                        We've talked about this before! For me, it was the Berthillon cassis sorbet - like juicy tart garnets.....

                        1. re: mariacarmen

                          Sour cherry...they're all wonderful in their own way. The rose is really special with the raspberry.

              2. when ever we go to orlando/disneyworld..we usually hit the walmart at eastgate...
                they have a large disney section with t-shirts and mostly the same stuff at the disney shops for half or a third of the price..our 3 yo doesnt know the difference between a walmart disney tshirt (for 5 or 6) or a disney one for 25....
                and yes when we are traveling to other areas i do like to hit the local grocery stores...
                like wegmans when we were in new york...or harris teeter when we were in NC

                but i dont bring a lot of things back...unless it is something that i cant find at home..

                1. One of my efforts was 2/3 success and 1/3 disaster. My first introduction to Indonesian ketjap manis was in a chicken dish I really enjoyed on a dive trip to St. Maarten, so I brought 6 bottles back, hastily snuggled into my dive bag. Two broke on the way home. If took forever to clean/ air out my gear, and pick out the broken glass. The stuff is thicker than crude oil and quite pungent. But the surviving 4 made for some good poultry dishes.

                  1. Liquids and condiments.
                    Regional soft drinks, coffees, beer, and wine. Jams and jellies, mustards, BBQ sauces and candies, especially regional candy bars.

                    1. Been doing this for years! We tend to look especially for local hot sauces & barbeque sauce & other condiments, sometimes coffee. And yes, the price differences can be astounding!

                      1. Always.

                        My very favorite thing to do, (since I'm an early bird), is to hit the local grocery stores just after they open and they're still fairly quiet. Spices, hot sauces, marinades, local honey, teas, coffees...

                        Especially fun internationally.

                        Also regional liquors: Sazerac from New Orleans, Sugar Cane Rum from BVI, Oud Genever from Holland, Absinthe from France, etc.

                        I'm not a big drinker really, but I love them uniqueness of the world's various drinks-of-choice.

                        1. Yeah, when I'm in NYC, I like to go to the three important museums. The Met, MoMA, and Dean and DeLuca.

                          2 Replies
                            1. Yes! It's one of my favorite things to do, especially in a foreign country.

                              Some favorites have been an Icelandic supermarket (candy and toiletry aisles were particularly fun), Mexican (Oahaca) (sp?) street markets and Russian food shops. Great foodie souvenirs and gifts. I seem to gravitate toward local honeys and soaps.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: juliasqueezer

                                i'm completely with you, julia! i usually buy snacks, but i also have the bad habit of buying strange mixes and marinades with instructions that i then can't read back at home. thank goodness for google translate, although even that doesn't always work well.

                                i just got back from vietnam, where i raided a supermarket in saigon and bought (among many other things) fried bitter melon chips for my dad. dad loved them, but rest of the family gagged and snacked on the jackfruit chips i brought home instead. was hoping for durian chips but couldn't find any, unfortunately.

                              2. Yes, I once described a local supermarket as a window into their culture. I was fascinated seeing fresh masa at a Phoenix supermarket. Was thinking about bringing some home, but it wouldn't have worked out logistically.

                                However, I do remember being a bit perplexed once when somebody brought me Lindt chocolate from Switzerland. Where I live (NYC), you can find it everywhere, even in most of the drugstores.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  Oh well, the thought is what counts? Yes? Maybe?

                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                    Funny thing is I asked her get me some chocolate when she was in Switzerland and offered to pay her for it.

                                  2. re: Miss Needle

                                    The Lindt chocolate I brought home from Zurich was much better than what I can get here in Canada. It was made fresh at the shop I went to (along with a few-- maybe more than a few-- others).

                                    1. re: Manybears

                                      I'm the happy and proud possessor of masses of Lindt Easter chocolate sent from Mulhouse and can testify that Manybears is 100% right, it's a different breed of cat.

                                      1. re: buttertart

                                        I used to have to exhibit at a tradeshow that was held in Germany every March.

                                        My kid was about 6 before he ever realized that the Easter Bunny didn't bring Lindt bunnies to everybody's house.

                                  3. Last summer we happened to see quite a few farmers markets on our travels and found lots of things at those. Honey, grits, coffee, bread, sauces, granola, plants, cheese. We had to stick with stuff we could transport and hold in a cooler or eat. Depending on the length of the trip and what we can carry we look for butcher shops, especially when they make their own sausages, bakeries, and ethnic stores. Sometimes you might just see a little sign on a road and find something food related.
                                    We bought some really great pecans at the local grocery in Louisiana that had just been processed in town.

                                    1. We just returned from a getaway to a family cabin in Lake Isabella, CA. We brought home local blackberry syrup, "breakfast blend" hot sauce and dill pickles. I decided that "Breakfast Blend" was code for "very, very mild." But it was still nifty to bring home some local flavor.

                                      1. Absolutely! I always go to local grocery stores (little bodegas, not corporate owned places) and pharmacies, places where people live their everyday lives. One of the organizing principles of my trips is markets and farmer's markets--it's how much of the rest of the world buys not only food but general dry goods and household stuff. You actually interact with vendors and people who live there, you don't just run bar codes over a reader.

                                        These days, my edible bring-backs tend to be cookies and candies because they don't cause problems at airport security. However, if it's a road trip, all rules are off!

                                        1. Great thread and idea -- I don't do this regularly but a few years back I was in a supermarket in Providence and picked up some jars of tomato sauce with real local flavor, including "The Mayor's Own' sauce -- created by former mayor and convicted felon Buddy Cianci. Wish I had saved those jars but it was good sauce!

                                          1. Absolutely - I am currently planning a trip to Belgium (I am in the UK) and my research has focussed on specialist food shops and supermarkets as well as restaurants and sightseeing.
                                            Just walking round a big supermarket in a new place is a highlight of any trip for me. The only problems I've ever had were in Prague, where the language was so alien to me that I couldn't even guess what was in some of the cans and packets.

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: Peg

                                              "Just walking round a big supermarket in a new place is a highlight of any trip for me."
                                              Same here, Peg - (almost) never happier when on the prowl in a supermarket or food shop away from home. The ones in Lisbon were particularly fun (wine, wine). My husband made sure my first stop after breakfast the first day (of an 18-mionth stay) we were in Taipei was a supermarket.

                                              1. re: Peg

                                                Peg

                                                Are you driving - and going via Dover? If so, there's very large Carrefour at Calais which we always visit.

                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  I'm going Eurostar - but there are Carrefours in Belgium too. However I've found that hypermarkets are not better than ordinary supermarkets for browsing; there is rarely more choice - just bigger packets (which are of no use to me) and they have no hint of that 'shopping with the locals' atmosphere!

                                                  My Belgium research tells me to aim at the Delhaize branded shops - my only problem at the moment is finding what I should be looking out for apart from chocolate and gin!

                                                  1. re: Peg

                                                    I found a wonderful small shop in Belgium for mustards. They scooped it out of a large vat into a small ceramic container with a cork lid. Yummy mustard!

                                                  2. re: Harters

                                                    I saw something that amused me just this morning at a supermarket in Canterbury, where I'm vacationing. In the egg aisle (not refrigerated, by the way) were six-packs of eggs labeled "Happy Eggs." So I wonder -- do they come from happy chickens?

                                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                                      of course they're happy eggs - they got laid.

                                                        1. re: CindyJ

                                                          Why would eggs be refigerated on a supermarket shelf?

                                                          As for the chickens, then, yes, they're happy (assuming when you mention Canterbury you meanthe one in the UK). Although the company's supplier farms are not registered organic, the chickens are free range and reared to RSPCA "Freedom Food" standard (in itself, that's no great shakes, but coupled with a declared "free range" policy, it is far better than factory laid eggs. )

                                                          There has been recent contraversy about farming practices which suggest that all is not as "happy" as the advertising suggests. Jury is still out. Difficulty here is that "Happy Eggs" are a brand of the leading egg producer, Noble Foods, which has very many factory egg producing units. No great record there, I'm afraid.

                                                          On the occasions when I dont buy eggs from the farmers market and have to use the supermarket I tend to buy the Clarence Court eggs which come from named breeds of poultry like the Cotswold Legbar and Burford Brown. The company only prodcues free range e

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            Yes, I'm in Canterbury in the UK, in a cottage looking out on the Tower House at Westgate Gardens, as I write.

                                                            Eggs are always in the refrigerated section of the supermarkets in the US, right next to the milk and packaged cheeses, so I just assumed they required refrigeration. I learned something new today. Can eggs be safely left out at room temperature on the kitchen counter, or is it "safer" to keep them in a cooler place?

                                                            So "Happy Eggs" is a brand, not a state of being, eh? I should have guessed.

                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                              US eggs are kept in the refrigerated section because they've been (aggressively) washed, which removes their natural protective coating and leaves them very susceptible to contamination and rapid spoilage.

                                                              The rest of the world rinses the worst of the dirt off, but leaves the protective natural coatings in place, so eggs last a very long time at room temperature.

                                                              (US eggs will actually spoil in the fridge...go figure)

                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                So does that mean that non-US eggs should be washed before you crack them open so as to avoid getting dirt into the egg?

                                                                1. re: CindyJ

                                                                  No - I said that they do rinse them.

                                                                2. re: sunshine842

                                                                  thanks for the reminder, I'm going to visit a friend in "The City" and need to call our "egg lady" for a fix to bring along. and while I'm going off-topic, if it's factory produced eggs, I WANT them pasteurized, if it's a neighbor near us that has maybe 16 free-ranging hens, I am just fine as is.

                                                          2. re: Peg

                                                            I too enjoy just walking areoun in the supermarkets. Even though we don't travel much outside of th US, I find great variety in different regions of the country. My coworkers thought I was crazy going grocery shopping on vacation, but when I explained the difference between the same bottle of maple syrup in Maine at the market vs. the gift shop-10.00 vx. 36.00 for same size/brand, they began to see the method in my madness.

                                                            1. re: Peg

                                                              I love your love of grocery-store hunting!

                                                              1. re: Peg

                                                                If you've not already taken your trip, look out for Speculoos paste. It's made by a company called Lotus, and it's basically a spreadable version of the biscuits (think Nutella that tastes of gingernuts). Absolutely gorgeous on toasted crumpets!

                                                              2. I also love to hit the supermarkets while traveling. First to grab snacks to have with our afternoon drinks in our hotel rooms; and then as the trip goes on, to collect souvenirs both for ourselves and for friends. I remember when we visited Greece many years ago I was working in a pretty good size office. I stopped into the market across from the hotel and picked out these great candy bars (all labeled in Greek, of course) for everyone in the office and left one on each person's desk on my return. People got more of a smile than they would have with a postcard and at no more of the cost. Over time we've shopped with varying results, done well in Asia and South America, pretty well in Central America and the Mid East, not so well in East Africa. Fun to keep trying.

                                                                1. I like going to foreign grocery stores and markets as a tourist attraction, too. It's fun to look at the strange vegetables, new soft drinks and candies, unusual spices and teas and so on.

                                                                  What I actually buy tends to be limited by customs regulations and weight, but spices, teas, and candies are good bets.

                                                                  As far as souvenirs go, I've learned not to buy the random tourist stuff, or logoed t-shirts and the like. I get food stuffs, wearable clothing, or decent art work and not much else.

                                                                  1. We've always done that. Our honeymoon in Spain included stops at the central market in Valencia and a grocery store in Madrid. We found fabulous snacks and treats that we brought home from Brazil. The kids loved having their souvenirs for lunch at school when we returned. We've done the local stores around the US and Canada too. You can't beat the prices and the feeling that the locals really know where the good stuff can be found!!

                                                                    1. Don't laugh CHers. When in France I buy kitchen sponges. Beats the crappy Cello brand in the states.
                                                                      I could spend hours in French grocery stores.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: EWSflash

                                                                          EWSflash and 512, the brand is Spontex Tradition Super Absorbante (Eponges vegetales) from the package. They're about 1 1/4 in thick and about 4 x 3 in and yellow. They're not dehydrated ones. I got them at Monoprix in Nice two years ago. I got a couple of packages and down to one package. They get really nice and clean in the dishwasher, don't get disgusting and dirty looking like the Cello ones do after a couple of weeks of use and washing. I'm going to France again next week and bringing a bunch back for the rest of my life. Ha ha I sound like an informercial.

                                                                          1. re: noodlepoodle

                                                                            Thanks for the great tip NP! Looking forward to bringing back a bunch of these the next time I am there. Just wondering, what material are they made of that makes them different from our Cello ones? I thought "eponges végétales" are also made from cellulose. I also have a problem of my regular dish sponges turning to muck on me.

                                                                            I love Monoprix, especially for stashing up on their chocolate bars and madeleines (made with real butter). Saucissons too, but it is hard to cross the border with those because it does not even take a sniffer dog to detect them.

                                                                        2. re: noodlepoodle

                                                                          Are the sponges the dehydrated ones? Those are great.

                                                                          I got laughed at for bringing my teenage son potato chips (aka crisps) back from London. He liked them of course. They were just such strange flavors - we can't get prawn cocktail flavored potato chips here.

                                                                          1. re: noodlepoodle

                                                                            Yes! When I go to Mexico, I buy some of their kitchen things also (including drain traps, which are much cheaper there!).

                                                                          2. Yep, always. And the only time I was disappointed was when I bought a bag of Kona coffee from the Lahaina starbucks to take to my coworkers. It was grossly overpriced and not good coffee. Since many of my coworkers are real coffee snobs I thought it would be a good gift- not so much.

                                                                            1. yes I bring back honeys, jams, but also cheeses when I can, English chocolate when in London, smoked salmon, kippers.

                                                                              I love giving food gifts and love getting them too.

                                                                              1. oh yes, the one time I went to Aruba I think I spent more time in the Dutch-Caribbean grocery store than at the beach. no trip to SF is complete without a stop at the Nihonmachi supermarket and a stroll through the wet markets of Kearny. it doesn't feel like I was really in NYC if I don't hit Zabar's.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                  whoops, not Kearny, Stockton Street.

                                                                                2. Woo-hoo! Me too!!!

                                                                                  My DH and I plan our trips around Costco and grocery stores. Two weeks ago we went to Albuquerque and Santa Fe and brought back 35 lbs of frozen green chile and dried red chile in our luggage. We paid $8.69 at Costco for 4 lbs of chopped frozen green chile. Those chiles are $98 w/shipping on-line!

                                                                                  This winter we went to France and brought back supplies from a professional baking supply store, Speculoos paste, store brand dark chocolate, walnut liquor, aged calvados, fleur de sel, and many, many other things.

                                                                                  We've brought back pasta, aged cheese and rice for risotto from Italy. Flavored Kit Kats, kombu, and homemade miso paste from Japan. Hots sauces from the Carribean. Salami from San Fransciso. Frozen buffalo meat from Denver. Macadamia nut candy in bulk from a Costco in Hawaii - great gifts.

                                                                                  We now pack an empty flight bag and a luggage scale when ever we travel. My co-workers think its funny but they never complain when they are munching on food I brought back from my travels.

                                                                                  Forgot to add that we do know what we are allowed to bring back and don't break the law. However, I have shed a tear or two over some fabulous salami or other fresh item that is not allowed to be brought into the US.

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: rosepoint

                                                                                    rosepoint, would you mind sharing how you got the frozen chiles home? i would love to do that but don't know how i'd manage to keep them frozen en route. TIA!

                                                                                    1. re: jhuston

                                                                                      We pack a flexible cooler bag and pack the bag full. That's how I bring meat back from Denver too. The belly of the plane is VERY cold and we have never had anything come back defrosted! I even have thrown in blocks of cheese with the frozen food to keep it cold and it works great!

                                                                                      BTW, we always rent a house or apt and the frozen food stays in the freezer up until the minute we head out the door to the airport.

                                                                                      1. re: rosepoint

                                                                                        Thank you rosepoint, the cooler bag sounds genius, I'll have to try this (if I can think ahead and break my habit of procrastinating until the last minute when I have to pack).

                                                                                    2. re: rosepoint

                                                                                      I did that the last time I was in Santa Fe. Bought frozen Hatch from the Whole Foods that was new at the time.
                                                                                      I still dream of going back and getting more.
                                                                                      The Cost Co idea is brilliant.

                                                                                    3. I do the same thing! I love regional grocery stores.
                                                                                      I was sooooo mad when I had to leave my Dukes Mayo in the airport. I argued that it wasn't a liquid...they didn't care. They took it.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: sedimental

                                                                                        u know u can order it from amazon?

                                                                                      2. Does the ABC Stores in the Islands count?
                                                                                        I can get a sixer of Hinano beers from Tahiti to drink on the beach, macadamia nuts for the kids, t-shirts for the crew and any other kitschy stuff that I can't get enough of.
                                                                                        Aloha

                                                                                        1. ALWAYS. We love frequenting the markets, specialty food shops and grocery stores in other countries. We bring back everything from Adriatic fig spreads, preserves, mustards, sea salts, spices, ajvar, honeys (whatever is allowed on flights!). It's a treat bringing things home from grocery stores we cannot possibly get here. We also hit bookstores to bring back regional cookbooks.

                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: chefathome

                                                                                            I've been buying regional cookbooks as souvenirs for the past few years. So much fun. I look for those smaller, local ones...Junior League cookbooks and the like. I love those. I need to have a better understanding of what I can bring back on a plane because I avoid buying preserves, honey, etc because I think they will just take it away from me and break my heart.

                                                                                            1. re: Boudleaux

                                                                                              I know what you mean! We've always declared our jarred items (we live in Canada and regularly travel to Europe) and so far we've never had anything confiscated. We pack them in bubble wrap or towels to protect them. But there have been times I've been concerned and have been lucky thus far!!

                                                                                              I've purchased a few non-English cookbooks to sort of teach myself the language. It's interesting but definitely requires planning ahead when cooking from them!

                                                                                              1. re: Boudleaux

                                                                                                I always buy a few cookbooks in India (hub's family is there). Also buy tons of textbooks, too--India has ridiculously low prices on the same texts in the US (just thinner paper and runny inks). Love grocery shopping there, too. I always load up on good quality saffron.

                                                                                            2. You bet. From "gourmet" (black and red salt from Hawai'i) to hearty (ribbon cane syrup from Alabama) to funky (a can of fluorescent green Batchelors mushy peas from a grocery in a British enclave near - no kidding - Orlando, Florida). And that's just the US...

                                                                                              1. Looks like I'm in good company! We do it all the time. Whether it's products I got use to when I lived in Rhode Island, but can't find in Syracuse or some food DW likes from the Philly area, we stock up on those trips. In a new area for the first time? The local supermarket or farmers market is a great way to get a glimpse of the local culture. So much better than those tacky souvenir shops. Almost everywhere has a local product or two we have to try.

                                                                                                1. When we vacation in North Carolina (with stops in Virginia), I generally find some local condiments or dressings or jellies, etc., to bring home. And I always bring home an extra jar of Duke's Mayo.

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: jmckee

                                                                                                    Yes - Duke's mayo!! Big packs of Cheerwine is another big Southern fave that I bring back with me to NY!

                                                                                                    1. re: Sra. Swanky

                                                                                                      On my last trip to NC from Atlanta, I realized I forgot to buy Cheerwine and Diet Cheerwine right as I hit southern SC on my return leg. I am still angry at myself for that one.

                                                                                                      1. re: neel2004

                                                                                                        I have had cheerwine shipped to my son for his birthday and Christmas. He loves the stuff.

                                                                                                  2. I have always done this when traveling abroad. But, I found myself in St. Louis for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and had great fun looking through and picking out barbecue sauce. It was only b/c of Chowhound that I realized how much it varied around the country, so I picked up some there. I don't know if St. Louis is particularly well known for barbecue, but they had some varieties that looked quite different from what we get back east. Still haven't tried it.

                                                                                                    I had some great sandwiches in St. Louis also - never knew they did sandwiches so well!

                                                                                                    8 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Cachetes

                                                                                                      There's a distinctive style of ribs from STL - served also at Blue Smoke in NYC, owned by Danny Meyer, who's from there. Good they are, too!

                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                        there's a cut of rib called STL-style, but that mostly refers to the piece of meat, not the method. STL BBQ is usually just pork steaks (more or less pork butt sliced) or chicken parts and thrown on the grill over hickory smoke and slathered in sauce until the sauce caramelizes. (we DO like ribs and rib tips, but we're also a thrifty lot and don't like paying for all those bones)

                                                                                                        1. re: hill food

                                                                                                          Aha! Since I don't really have a dog in this hunt, I shouldn't have entered it. Nice cut of ribs, though!

                                                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                            bt: it's a good point that bears repeating, I used to always cringe in other cities when I saw a Tony Roma's ad thinking (grumbling really) "that aint STL BBQ" until I learned it's the way the rib is cut. now I can look away without reaction.

                                                                                                          2. re: hill food

                                                                                                            Now hang on just a second. Maybe it's not what most folks who live there cook every day, but Arthur Bryant's ribs are the definition of "St. Louis BBQ" for a lot of the world.

                                                                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                              Mr.. Barnes, with all due respect to my love of your posts, you have just committed the cardinal sin of confusing Kansas City, a Western kinda town, with St. Louis, an Eastern Kinda town.
                                                                                                              Like calling Pittsburgh Philadelphia.
                                                                                                              Civil War might break out. :)

                                                                                                              1. re: bbqboy

                                                                                                                Aaack. Sorry. And I have no excuse, having grown up in Tulsa (a Western kinda town). Please attribute my error to overenthusiastic appreciation of malted beverages popular on both sides of the Mississippi.

                                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                                  I was going to just let alan wallow in his error. (smirk) but bbqboy summed it up nicely and politely. same analogy I've always used.

                                                                                                      2. ha, I thought it was just me! I buy everything from specialty stuff (dried mushrooms, certain pasta shapes, etc) to "regular" stuff, just to have the stuff around. Reminds me of my travels each and every day!

                                                                                                        1. sheri, this is a thread i wrote for visitors to boston looking for food souvenirs:

                                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/781171

                                                                                                          1. I'd love to but I rarely take road trips and don't often have enough room to bring home lots of souvenirs. Last summer I was in Transnistria and I managed to bring home a bottle of Kvint cognac (it's cognac from a country that doesn't exist!), but I have nothing else to show for seven weeks on the road in Turkey, Moldova, Romania and Hungary. Except photos! I do tend to stop in lots of grocery stores on my holidays though, and will often eat local foods while I'm there. One day, in Chisinau, I went to three grocery stores in one day (air-conditioning!)! I was in Turda, Romania and accidentally entered the grocery store through the exit turnstile. The security guard FREAKED OUT at me, until I said, "Tourist! Excuse me!" Suddenly we were BFFs- he grabbed my hand, dragged me around the store, showed me his favorite foods... all the while I just wanted to grab a bottle of water and get going!

                                                                                                            1. You can't go wrong by going to the BBQ sauce section of a local (especially local-owned) grocery store.

                                                                                                              1. If you are in France, stroll around a Grande Surface (Big Supermarket), you would not believe the things you will find that seem unusual in the kitchen/cooking department, bottle stoppers,measuring jugs, knives for every occasion, bags of corks, all with a French charm ,usually costing less than €5..

                                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: Naguere

                                                                                                                  While I will agree that a lot of things that are pretty pricey in French tourist shops are far more affordable at the hypermarkets, I'm not sure how much French Charm you're really going to find, especially when you see how much of it is made in the same Chinese factory as the stuff you buy at home.

                                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                    ahh but the freezer section of French supermarkets is fascinating compared to ones in the US, even if I'm not buying anything.

                                                                                                                    1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                      next time you're in France, find yourself a Picard -- it's a smallish supermarket but EVERYTHING is frozen -- soups, sauces, vegetables, meats, quick meals, appetizers....EVERYTHING. The whole store is chock-full of chest freezers with the sliding tops.

                                                                                                                      It's weird -- but the calibre of their frozen foods is actually really excellent (a little pricey, though).

                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                        http://www.whitetoque.com/
                                                                                                                        French frozen food is available on line in the States (I work in Secaucus and shop at their store occasionally).

                                                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                          ordering it online just can't quite duplicate standing in a 1500 sq ft store stuffed full of chest freezers.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            Well, no. And being in Secaucus is nothing whatsoever like being in Paris, believe you me. One does what one must.

                                                                                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                              nah if it's night and you squint, almost anyplace looks just like Paris

                                                                                                                              1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                Especially after enough vin ordinaire...

                                                                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                  Hang on,

                                                                                                                                  I am squinting here now.

                                                                                                                                  Oh ! Poutine, am i in Paris ?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                    No amount of squinting or vin ordinaire ou pas could make Secaucus look like Paris, never ever ever. Thankfully I just work here.

                                                                                                                    2. I certainly do. If I'm driving in Canada I'll bring back potato chips and candy bars. I recently came back from a road trip covering NC, Va, and WV. I stopped by a few farmers markets, and roadside stores and brought back fresh cantaloupe, bacon, local honey,jams & cheese, pork belly, liver mush and a few canned goods.

                                                                                                                      1. Absolutely!

                                                                                                                        Until I found it locally, I'd bring back 10 - 15 pounds of white lilly flour from Florida. Canada I bring back cans of maple syrup (so much more fun, and cheaper, than bottles). Mexico I bring back vanilla and bars of Nivea bath soap.

                                                                                                                        I have friend who swears by the walmart and costco in Hawaii for food and food gifts.

                                                                                                                        And my uber cheap thrill? Go to the towns set price shop and see what's different. In canada it's Dollarama - and I got boiled wool shoe liners for my dad that were AMAZING in the midwestern winters. And one of my favorite gifts is a very pretty scarf - that turned out to be from a Euro store in Italy!

                                                                                                                        1. Absolutely! Everything from fancy speciality produce to basics, because they're better value/more exciting than at home. Monoprix in France do excellent chocolate, my favourite being the caramel filled one with fleur de sel. A recent trip to Berlin yielded blocks of Black Forest ham, own brand Jagermeister, salad dressing and even Philadelphia cheese with Milka milk chocolate! It makes my holiday last a little bit longer, and it's much more useful than touristy tsotchkes! It's really the only form of souvenir shopping I do.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: babybat

                                                                                                                            We on this side of the Pond have to be more circumspect in what we bring in, damnit! Even the French Nestlé cooking chocolate is worth bringing home, and it's legal to do so to the US.

                                                                                                                          2. Absolutely. Spain: saffron. England: tinned sardines, tea, chocolate. Montreal: boil-in-the-bag couscous and English jams. Toronto: maple syrup. Holland: coffee. BTW in the chocolate-buying countries, chocolates and chocolate bars cost less in supermarkets than in downtown tourist shops.

                                                                                                                            1. Absolutely. Haven't read the entire thread, but I've long done this exact thing. My stepbrother and his wife in England know I *love* going to local markets or even their regular supermarket(s) and poke around. What is ordinary to them is often never-seen by me. If it's importable (via my suitcase) back into the States and it interests me, it gets bought.

                                                                                                                              Even if I go to a different city to visit with friends (Seattle, Charlotte, wherever) I'll want to visit markets or specialty food stores to see what *they've* got that I don't have. ;-)

                                                                                                                              My sister and mother also know to look for food items for me when they travel. I've trained them well.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                                                I also love other parts of the US groceries for the same reason - you never know what you're going to find. In the Midwest (the part of it I know, the Quad Cities area) almond paste is much cheaper than in NJ for example. Bing! 4 tins.

                                                                                                                              2. As a corollary to this topic, it has become a routine for me to schlep my out of town visitors to one or more of the many excellent ethnic groceries in my neighborhood here in Houston.

                                                                                                                                Phoenicia, (a Mediterranean grocery), and Hong Kong Market are in my usual rotation, and along the way I have drug my friends through them so much that they now insist whenever they are in town.

                                                                                                                                Not necessarily "souvenir shopping" but "must-sees" nonetheless!

                                                                                                                                1. It's the only way to travel - and speaking of travel, if anyone is headed to Japan (or lived there and wants a nostalgia hit) check out this site -

                                                                                                                                  http://japanesesnackreviews.blogspot....

                                                                                                                                  Personally I have a yen for the roast sweet potato flavored kit-kat...

                                                                                                                                  1. I just brought back 12 cans of Vienna sausage and a large jar of ajiaco (capers) from an Exita in Bogota, Colombia.

                                                                                                                                    1. I thought I would refresh this thread, as I am planning a visit to London and most of my planning involves figuring out how much room I can leave in my suitcase for souvenir food. My daughter favors mushy peas and brown sauce. I tend much more toward the packaged cakes and cookies (much lighter to transport, too) like Millionnair's Shortbread and Mr. Kipling's Cherry Bakewells. Does anyone have any favorite British souvenir foods to suggest, especially in category of sweets and baked goods?

                                                                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                                                                      1. re: khoffdenver

                                                                                                                                        Oh! I know there is a not too pricy line of chocolates in Britain that uses fresh cream. They are dated as in "best by" and it's weeks rather than months. Pricier than Hersheys, way cheaper than Godiva - that's all I know! (Um, except that I love them when my friends bring them : )

                                                                                                                                        1. re: happybaker

                                                                                                                                          ALL food has a 'best before' date, it's the law.
                                                                                                                                          You may be thnking of Hotel Chocolat?
                                                                                                                                          Or a bit down-market from that is Thorntons.
                                                                                                                                          (BTW - Mr Kipling is VERY down-market, I'm sure you can do better!)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Peg

                                                                                                                                            Yes, I know Mr. Kipling is the British equivalent of Little Debbie cakes, but I happen to like "down-market" junk food. Don't worry -- I'll look for better stuff as well.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Peg

                                                                                                                                              It's Thorntons!

                                                                                                                                              And yes that was the thrill, from what my friend said, it didn't cost much more than most mass produced chocolate - but was SO much better.

                                                                                                                                              All I know is that when they brought me some, I was very happy : )

                                                                                                                                          2. re: khoffdenver

                                                                                                                                            My last visit to London was a little over ten years ago, and I stayed in Camberwell where I found a little neighborhood bakery that sold wonderful mincemeat tarts (with and without brandy) for something like three for a quid. I brought back about two dozen of them. I bought them on my last full day there, froze them overnight, packed them flat in the middle of folded clothes, and they arrived perfectly. Lord, were those good!

                                                                                                                                          3. ALL THE TIME, LOL! I even go so far as to mail my clothing home so I can bring home more food stuffs in my luggage. Clothes weigh less then food so it's cost effective that way. :)

                                                                                                                                            Boy, you should see me when I go home to Hawaii. The hubby knows better then to complain though.

                                                                                                                                            1. I wouldn't say "always" but I would say "As often as I can."

                                                                                                                                              And here's the proof - I just got back from a fast trip to Florida. My gifts for my friends? Bags of stone ground, self rising corn meal mix - great packages, great reviews and quality - $1.39 a bag from Publix.

                                                                                                                                              Pretty hard to beat that fun and value : )

                                                                                                                                              1. And for those of you who bring home bottles of condiments, liquor, etc. -- how do you pack them? (besides "very carefully," please!)

                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: khoffdenver

                                                                                                                                                  Wrapped in dirty laundry, usually. Yes, I know - gross - but it works.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: khoffdenver

                                                                                                                                                    Wrapped in clean laundry if possible : )

                                                                                                                                                    Also if they are small bottles wrapped in plastic bags and then placed in shoes. That's a big help. We'll also pick up sturdy cardboard boxes at liquor stores or groceries and use them to wrap/protect as well...

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: khoffdenver

                                                                                                                                                      double layer of thick socks dirty or not - who cares, glass and plastic wipe clean. 30 years of this and nothing broken yet.

                                                                                                                                                    2. Oh, yeah, me, too. Red salt from Hawai'i long before it became chic, fruit jellies from Monoprix, XO sauce from Hong Kong for a pal. Those fabulous Italian bouillion cubes.

                                                                                                                                                      I think the absolute apex of it was when I was visiting a pal in Cardiff in very early December. I love her but she's just not a CH. I could have stayed there four hours looking at Christmas cakes and the other specialty foods. London was where I first figured out that Tesco beats Harrods. And then Marks & Sparks put in food sections and I was a goner.