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Heading on a cross-country road trip: What non-perishable food items should I bring back with me?

Hi there,

I'm heading out on a 2-month Cross-Country road trip this summer, and I would love to bring back some gifts for friends back here in Portland, OR that they just can't get any other way. After a friend recommended Chowhound for some good restaurant suggestions from city to city (and boy, did my forum searches turn up some good suggestions!), I thought maybe the fine community here could help me with this quest as well.

I know that some restaurants offer their own jars and bottles of hot sauces, gravies, etc. And in some cases there are simply some local delicacies that aren't found outside of their natural habitat. (Coffee syrup is a good example-- and I plan to pick some up when I'm in Rhode Island, for sure)

The one catch is that anything I pick up to bring home needs to be non-perishable, since I'll need it to stay pretty fresh while sitting in my car for a month or more. (thus, I sadly cannot bring home any east coast pumpernickel loaves!!) In fact, if you know of any tricks to help food travel well, I'd love to hear them.

To narrow things down, here are a few of the cities I'll be visiting:

Topeka, KS
Kansas City, MO
Eureka Springs, AR
Memphis, TN
Nashville, TN
New Orleans, LA
Charlotte, NC
Washington, D.C.
Baltimore, MD
Philadelphia, PA
New York City, NY
Boston, MA
Portland, ME
Buffalo, NY
Mackinac Island, MI
Madison, WI
Chicago, IL
Black HIlls, SD
Billings, MT

So, what do you say? Do any of these cities provoke the feeling of "Ooh, I would totally stop at ______ and pick up some _______!! It's delicious!!"?

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. And I'm certain that my friends' taste buds will appreciate it as well.

Cheers!

- Eric

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  1. The obvious: bottled BBQ sauce and/or dry rub from KS, AR, TN, LA, and NC -- preferably from non-chain joints which frequently sell their products. Between Kansas City and North Carolina, you can get some damn fine barbecue and the places in between are often surprisingly not too shabby either. It would be fun to do as a taste test when you got back!

    My contribution, while you're in the South: Duke's mayo! :)

    I know you said non-perishable, but do yourself a favor and pick up some Anderson-Erickson dairy products while you're in MO or KS, if you can find them, and just eat them on the spot. They make (easily, bar none) the best cottage cheese in the country, and their other products are also super delish.

    7 Replies
      1. re: LaLa

        Big plus two on the Duke's. And should you decide to include Charleston, SC, on your itinerary, get some benne wafers and Anson Mill grits.

        1. re: Sue in Mt P

          Oh man, you've missed me by a day in Charlotte. I'm already in Washington, DC. (and just enjoyed a very fulfilling Ethiopian meal at Etete!) So I've sadly missed out on benne wafers and any grits at all. :(

          I do, however, have a nice, sealed jar of Duke's sitting in my cooler. I can't wait to get it home and try it out. I have a spinach dip recipe that I'm excited to experiment with! :)

          1. re: SabuPDX

            Glad you made it to Etete! That's one of my favorite restaurants in DC. And you get to see nice DC-area summer weather, rather than the sweat bath of the last few weeks!

            1. re: odkaty

              Indeed. Even got a little rain last night. :) But don't you worry-- I've experienced the sweat-bath throughout the rest of the south, and I'm sure I'll be feeling more of it throughout my August travels!

              1. re: SabuPDX

                I can't believe people pay to sweat like this - cracks me up.

                SabuPDX, include us in your next trip. You won't be sorry. So glad you got you some Ethiopian. It's one of the many things I miss about living in DC. And I'm in Charleston! Yowzah.

                1. re: Sue in Mt P

                  Oh my, I'm embarrassed to have read "Charleston" as "Charlotte"-- sorry about that! I think I may just have been a bit loopy from the traveling, and just left Charlotte and everything.

                  I would love to visit Charleston sometime, as I hear that it's absolutely beautiful. Plus, I really do love the south. I will count on it for my next trip in, say, 2013 or so! :)

    1. Sadly, the Mackinac Island fudge wouldn't handle large amounts of time in a hot car, but northern lower Michigan is a huge cherry-producing region. And, okay, the Cherry Republic is a bit of a tourist trap, they really do have a lot of cherry-specific product.

      http://www.cherryrepublic.com/

      I suspect that some of the Mackinac fudge shops would ship product for you if you wanted to share the island's flagship food. My Midwestern-born and bred self just wouldn't feel right not bring back fudge from the Island for co-workers and/or house-sitters. It's tradition.

      1 Reply
      1. re: beachmouse

        ITA with beachmouse re: fudge and cherry products.

        There are smoked fish places in Mackinaw City that you might want to visit, although I can't recall seeing any vacuum packed fish a la PNW salmon.

        A bottle of cherry wine or hard cider, lots of local beers of course.

        Are you driving Buffalo to Mackinac via Canada, Sabu? Canadian stuff too, then...Aero bars, Peak Frean cookies...

      2. Chicago would be Hot Giardiniera. Should be multiple varieties in any major grocery store, and most minor ones as well. It will be in a shelf stable jar in the condiment section.

        1 Reply
        1. re: gordeaux

          That was my thought.

          OP, here is a recent thread on the same subject (concerning Chicago) which may be helpful:
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/776472

        2. Sadly, the "exclusivity" of regional foods is a thing of the past in many instances. Using your coffee syrup example, I regularly buy the Autocrat syrup from their website. Even with shipping it ends up being a good deal. A lot of the foods we'd have to travel for in the past can now come to us.

          1. Hey Everyone,

            Thanks so much for all of the great responses so far!

            Laura: I'll do my best to get some good dry rub. You wouldn't happen to know the names of any good places, would you? I'd love to be steered in the direction of somewhere really memorable. As for Duke's, I will be sure to pick some up! Sounds perfect!

            I'm not much of a cottage cheese person, but maybe that's because I just haven't ever had it the way it was meant to be made. I'll see if I can stop by somewhere for the good stuff while I'm in the area.

            BeachMouse: I've heard great stuff about the Mackinac fudge, and I'm really looking forward to trying it. I was hoping there would be a way it would stay in a car for three weeks, but you're right, that's probably a too much to ask.

            I wasn't aware of the Cherry Republic, so perhaps a bit of Cherry Wine or Cherry Cider would be very nice indeed. :)

            Coney: If you have a recommendation for any particular beers in that area, I'd love to bring them back to friends at home. I don't drink, so it's difficult for me to know what is good and what isn't-- I have many friends here, though, who appreciate the finer brews. :)

            I won't be traveling through Canada, but I know a few places here in Portland where I can get Aero bars. And Smarties!! Don't know about Peak Frean cookies, though-- sounds like I may be missing out on those.

            Gordeaux: Ooh, that sounds... spicy?? I don't even know what that is. hehe But if you say to check it out, I'm sure I know some spice-lovers that would dig it.

            Lily: Thanks for the link-- I'll browse through that thread very shortly!

            Ferret: Yeah, it's kind of a shame (and kind of awesome) that everything you could want is right there at your fingertips these days. Still, I'm hoping that there are some out-of-the-way places that the internet hasn't touched yet. :)

            Thanks again, everyone! I look forward to hearing more if there are more suggestions. I leave on Friday, but I'll be checking e-mail and such from the road. It's gonna be an awesome trip, thanks in no small part to Chowhound!

            2 Replies
            1. re: SabuPDX

              1) Credit Card w/ a good charge limit
              2) What's wrong w/shipping stuff home/to your friends or to someone who will handle it appropriately that you can't pass over? Why does it NEED to sit in your hot car? (scratching head)

              1. re: huiray

                Well, logistically you're right, of course. Maybe it's something old fashioned in me, or whatever...

                I just like the poetry of personally transporting something over weeks of hill and dale and effort and whatnot. The result is the same, but the gesture carries a little more weight. Even if it's a bit restrictive. :)