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What should a New Yorker make sure to bring when moving to London?

Sadly, a wonderful friend and fellow Chowhound, French Culinary Institute grad is leaving NYC to live in London. (Husband's job) What is something she won't be able to find in London that I can send her on her way with as a parting gift? If you've visited NYC, what did you bring back? What do people ask you to bring them when they hear of your travels to NYC?

Many thanks.

(Will also post similar on Manhattan board)

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  1. Dr Brown's Cel-Ray soda .....

    1 Reply
    1. re: Gordito

      That was the first thing that came to my mind while reading the OP and before seeing the responses

    2. There are substitutes for it here, but I still find myself missing Wondra flour - not quite sure why. If your friend uses something like Coffeemate powdered stuff that's flavoured (Hazlenut, French Vanilla etc.) that's not available here except by mail order. Let your friend know there are some excellent sites that sell American products, but at a hefty price.

      I just got a supply of Bumble Bee albacore tuna in spring water. The tuna here can't compare. Too bad she can't bring lots of NYC bagels!

      I think your friend is going to have a ball here in the UK - it's a foodie heaven.

      1. I didn't think I needed anything until a US friend brought me Mexican drinking chocolate. Ibarra in this case.

        1. I can name tons! The thing i miss the most is Vosges chocolate in Spring street, they sell the choco bar here but not the truffles, bacon, wasabi truffle...you wont find these in Europe.
          Dean and deluca cookies, english cookies are not as crunchy.
          Nathan's hot dog are on my list too....

          1 Reply
          1. re: Penpen

            What cookies have you tried here? Lots of crunchy ones available and most people say, after they have been here for a while that they prefer the ones in this part of the world.

          2. Hard to find but easy to pack items include: grits, polenta, brownie mix, pancake mix, cornbread mix, stuffing mix, maple syrup, dried chiles like chipotle. And even if you bring no other kitchen equipment, bring an american measuring cup!

            7 Replies
            1. re: meb81

              Good call on the measuring cups. A good pyrex measuring cup has been invaluable. We also tend to bring back seasoned corn meal as my better half is from Atlanta. Otherwise, its the standard cereals, and candy which you can get here at a premium.

              Note I just discovered Casa Mexico in Bethnal Green which has a variety of dried and canned chilis. Otherwise its cool chili co/Taqueria for the chipotle and other mexican ingredients


              1. re: NYLONDave

                I totally agree with previous posters about USA measuring cups and Casa Mexico. Both have been life savers. Here are what I've imported from the USA:

                - cast iron skillet (the kind you pay $5 for at a local hardware store, not $75 for)
                - indian head cornmeal
                - if you have a favorite chili powder mix, that might be good. But you can get rather standard cumin, oregano, chili pepper mixes from the supermarket.
                - maple sugar

                I'm doing the reverse packing at the moment, and will try to bring molasses sugar back to the states. I'm now addicted and cannot live with out it. But, London's food is fabulous. And every ounce of volume and weight is annoying when moving. Consider a gift certificate to a restaurant here? Or an interesting food store?

                1. re: NYLONDave

                  American measuring cups are pretty easy to find these days - I have two sets.

                2. re: meb81

                  Grits yes. Real maple syrup very easy to find here. If you want the fake stuff, not so easy. US Brownie mixes are also easy to find at major supermarkets if you feel the need. Pancake mix? How is it difficult to make pancakes from scratch, ditto brownies? Easy to find cornmeal here in African and West Indian shops. You would only need leavening, some flour, egg, and milk or buttermilk to make a batch. Can get dried chiles online easily in this country now. Chilli Pepper Pete does many types.

                  I think it is easy to find US measuring cups here, Online, or in dept. stores. I suggest you buy a cooking scale when you get here if you don't bring one over, again, available through Amazon. Most ingredients here are weighed, esp. for baking.

                  1. re: cathodetube

                    "Can get dried chiles online easily in this country now."

                    True, but they're *much* cheaper in the States. I brought back some dried Anchos recently which were a sixth of the price Tesco charges.

                    1. re: FarleyFlavors

                      My source for dried chiles is the Turkish groceries on Green Lanes, Harringay. The one I visit most often is Yasar Halim. They do not always have them, but they are good ones when they do. Can't recall the price, but it was not so very much.

                  2. re: meb81

                    Measuring cups are very easy to find over here, Tesco & ebay do dried chipotles, & polenta is available here too.

                  3. The things I bring back from home are pretty pedestrian: Cream of Wheat, dill relish, Aleve, Creole seasoning. Most staples are pretty easy to find here.

                      1. If your friend bakes cheesecake, she will need graham crackers / graham cracker crumbs. Using tea biscuits is an unacceptable substitute.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: cmillsnyny

                          Over here digestive biscuits are used, not tea biscuits- whatever those are. Perhaps you mean Rich Tea Biscuits. They are not the same as digestives. They are a great substitute for graham crackers. I have seen foreign versions of graham crackers here, in Filipino shops for example, but they are made with hydrogenated fat so am not interested. Digestives are also extremely good spread with a little butter and adorned with a nice hard cheese like cheddar.

                          1. re: cathodetube

                            If you like digestive crackers for the base of your cheesecake, more power to you. However, the fact that you say that digestives are good with butter and cheese on them does indicate that digestives are not the same flavor profile as graham crackers. Doesn't mean digestives can't be used, just that the taste won't be the same. If the poster's friend makes traditional American cheesecake, she'll want to tuck a box of graham crackers in her suitcase.

                            1. re: cmillsnyny

                              Digestives are a pretty close match to graham crackers, and once baked you won't know the difference - I use them in my cheesecake and they are great. No need to bring them with you when there is a perfectly good alternative.

                              1. re: cmillsnyny

                                Have you ever tried a graham cracker with butter and cheese on it? You can find the odd couple of digestives in the biscuit for cheese packs, available both here and in the US. While staying with a friend in Seattle I showed her that the biscuit needed a bit of butter before the cheese was placed on top. Butter on biscuits/crackers here, before adorning with cheese is very common. Cheese and biscuits often served instead of, or as well as dessert, instead of an appetizer like in the US.

                                Digestives are more crumbly than graham crackers. You just need less butter when making the base.

                                1. re: cmillsnyny

                                  You can get 2 types of digestive though. sweet & plain. Id say the sweet was closer if you add a little kosher salt

                                  1. re: psycho_fluff

                                    "You can get 2 types of digestive though. sweet & plain."

                                    Not to my knowledge you can't, unless you're referring to the chocolate coated ones ?

                                    1. re: FarleyFlavors

                                      There are different types the standard "McVities" brand is quite sweet but there are definitely other brands that are plainer - can't recall name (they could be Crawfords) at the moment, but suspect Waitrose is the sort of place to find them.

                                      1. re: PhilD

                                        I think I'd be pretty miffed if someone gave me a packet of graham crackers as a leaving present.

                                        I think we're going off on a tangent here. An approximation of pretty much every baked good in the US can be made using ingredients more commonly found in the UK and using a UK recipe. We've even got some rather good original recipes and ingredients! As the OP's friend is clearly an experienced cook, she might well like the challenge of learning the cuisine of another country, if the two are really different enough to use the terminology.

                                        To answer the original question, I'd be more inclined for a leaving present to be a single product rather than an ingredient. Maybe the OP can tell us what sort of candies, condiments, drinks etc her friend likes and we can tell her if it's easily available over here?

                                        Also, I always bring back those nuclear orange crackers filled with peanut butter.

                                      2. re: FarleyFlavors

                                        "Not to my knowledge you can't, unless you're referring to the chocolate coated ones?"

                                        Ummm, yep. You can. You find the plainer, wheatsheaf digestives in cheese cracker boxes. Harder to find, yet available.

                                        1. re: psycho_fluff

                                          "You find the plainer, wheatsheaf digestives in cheese cracker boxes. "


                                          So the standard "plain" digestive is the sweet version but "plainer" ones can be found in cheese cracker boxes ?

                                          Who makes these "plainer" digestives ?

                                          I had a packet of these recently (http://bit.ly/pf6OIX). They came in a cracker box (and were delicious) but they weren't any less sweet than a standard "plain" digestive.

                                          1. re: FarleyFlavors

                                            The hovis ones that come in mixed cracker selections are less sweet than normal digestives, they come in individual packets too but dont see them too often.

                                            1. re: lipgloss

                                              Hovis digestives are my favourites ! They are quite tricky to track down but a large Tesco nearby stocks them.

                                              Not really convinced that they are so much less sweet that you'd notice the difference in a cheesecake base though.

                                2. re: cmillsnyny

                                  I think ginger nut biscuits work a lot better than anything else mentioned here. Of course, graham crackers are the ultimate for cheesecake.

                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                    Why of course? I have used ginger nuts for a crisp topping. It was ok, but I prefer oats and flour. Graham crackers are supposed to be made out of wholewheat flour but often aren't.

                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                    Why would you bring American chocolate to the UK? You can get very good chocolate here, superior to a lot of the muck from the States!

                                    1. re: pj26

                                      Here here! By unsweetened chocolate do you mean for baking? Just buy 80% cocoa chocolate from Lidl or Aldi. Perfect for brownies. And usually costing about one English pound.

                                      1. re: cathodetube

                                        In no way is 80% chocolate an acceptable sub for unsweetened chocolate in baking recipes.

                                        1. re: cathodetube

                                          just use the Green & Black's recipe for chocolate brownies - it's an amazing recipe, and you'll never go back to Hershey's (ptooey) again.

                                          If Europe is known for its chocolate desserts, and doesn't see a need to sell unsweetened chocolate on the market, there's an argument that maybe unsweetened chocolate isn't all that much of a necessity.

                                        2. re: pj26

                                          Unsweetened chocolate is an ingredient called for in many American dessert recipes. There is no British equivalent, mucky or not.

                                          1. re: pikawicca

                                            Apparently you can mix 1 T of veg oil with 3 T of cocoa which equals 1 block of unsweetened. Or Lindt does a 99% cocoa bar. Or just reduce the sugar in the recipe if you use an 80 % bar. Green and Black's also do an 80% bar.

                                            1. re: cathodetube

                                              You can't simply reduce sugar in a baking recipe: sugar does more than just add sweetness, it also greatly affects the structure/texture of the baked item.

                                              1. re: pikawicca

                                                I am always fiddling about with sugar in cake recipes and haven't had any problems. I usually read the comments following a recipe to see what other people have done first.

                                            2. re: pikawicca

                                              One used to be able to buy unsweetened chocolate in Selfridge's. I'm not sure if they still sell it, but a man named Willy had his own brand made from his own Venezuelan beans. I used to make hot chocolate with it.

                                          2. re: pikawicca

                                            Rabot Estate sells chocolate that has no sugar added. e.g. various 100% bars. Superb flavour.

                                            1. re: limster

                                              And their hot chocolates are divine, had one yesterday and ended up walking out of the store with a bag full of chocolate. It's dangerous (I don't really even like chocolate that much!).

                                              1. re: pj26

                                                I often buy their little bags of small chocolate pieces to bring as gifts to people. They're always a big hit. Thanks again to limster for originally talking about this place.

                                                1. re: zuriga1

                                                  Have either of you tried their cocoa tea yet?

                                                  1. re: limster

                                                    I have never had time to stop there for a drink, but I suspect it's time I should! The tea is good?

                                                    1. re: limster

                                                      No I haven't, but I pass through there a lot so it will be next on my list (after buying their chilli chocolate bars)

                                                      1. re: limster

                                                        Was given a sample of their chocolate tea. I bought some of the chocolate used to make it. Haven't had it at home yet.

                                                        1. re: cathodetube

                                                          Love to hear more when any one of you tries it -- I had probably over a year ago and enjoyed the raw flavours, but an update is due.

                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                  If you go to a proper Jewish bakery you will get proper Jewish Beigels! The original & by far the superior of the mispronounced 'bagel'. Softer, proper milk bread & cooked the authentic way. If you are lucky enough to live near a Jewish Bakery (IMO the best is the one in Bethnal Green at the top of Club Row) you will get loafs of milk bread (prayer bread) on Fridays. US & any other form of these bread products should not even be put in the same realm. Its insulting to those of us who grew up eating the authentic product.

                                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                                    I think if you are from New York then you have a certain expectation about bagels. There are lots of places in the US that don't have proper Jewish bakeries to buy them. I was lucky enough to grow up adjacent to a Jewish area in the Midwest and we had a great supply of bagels. It's really what you are used to but there is no point in dissing other country's bagel tradiitons unless of course it is the supermarkets jumping on the bandwagon and selling rolls with a hole in the middle.

                                                    I took a Jewish friend from NYC to Brick Lane and she did not like the bagels available. They were not what she was used to. Not a big deal though.

                                                    What about flagels? Is that the correct spelling? I am interested in trying some of those. Flatter and less doughy inside I believe.

                                                    I went to Selfridges last week and Grodzinski bakery had quite a few items in there, including platzels, bagels and mini bagels. The latter were tiny and more expensive than the bagels. Can't say the bagels looked very nice, very bready, and the sell by date was a few days hence. Anyone ever try them?

                                                    1. re: cathodetube

                                                      I grew up in Phila. where the bagels were terrible. Luckily, I spent most of my adult life near NYC, so yes, I guess that's my standard. I didn't like the bagels at Brick Lane, but the ones at that large bakery in Golders Green were fine... sadly I live too far away to get there. I once lived in Cincinnati and those bagels and the Jewish food was very good.

                                                      I've never heard of Flagels... sounds a bit too much like another word a doctor friend of mine used to use. :-)

                                                    2. re: psycho_fluff

                                                      I don't think there's anything gained by saying that one immigrant population's version is better or more authentic than another immigrant population's version of something. Bagels/beigels didn't originate in either the UK or the US. NYC-style bagels are definitely distinctive, and preferred by most Americans over other regional styles for their dense, glutinous texture. I'm not aware of milk being part of the recipe at all.

                                                      I agree with cathodetube, though: it's all about what you were raised with that sets the standard for what is "good". Having said that, I love the beigels at Brick Lane Beigel Bake, and I also love NYC-style bagels. They are both their own (great) thing. (I am, however, curious about your claim that they are pronounced differently. What's the difference?)

                                                      I've never heard of a "flagel", cathodetube. Are you talking about a bialy?

                                                      1. re: gemuse

                                                        Flagel is meant to be a flat bagel, or flatter bagel. Isn't a bialy like a platzel? A roll, sometimes with onion?

                                                        A few months ago I read a lot on NY bagels. It might have been on the David Lebovitz website. Then I started doing further research. I used to bring them back from NYC on an overnight flight, then have one or two for breakfast, along with some melted cheese, then freeze the rest.

                                                        There is no regulation bagel there either so it's best to sample, sample and then sample some more.

                                                        1. re: cathodetube

                                                          I like bagel chips, too, although they are too addicting. Waitrose sells a pastrami tasting bagel chip bag, but I try to avoid looking at them!

                                                          1. re: cathodetube

                                                            A bialy is very much like a bagel, but there isn't a hole! They are indeed usually onion, though other flavors exist.

                                                            1. re: brokentelephone

                                                              Think you must mean a platzel then - that is what they are called here. Don't think they are particularly like bagels though, as they are rolls. Is a bialy boiled?

                                                              1. re: cathodetube

                                                                Are you talking to me cathodetube? If so, I am not sure...

                                                                A bialy is baked, not boiled -- it looks like a bagel but has a depression in the middle instead of a whole, and the flavour is more yeasty.

                                                                Platzels are just onion rolls basically, no? Bialys definitely have a unique flavour of their own and are quite different to any platzels i've tried.

                                                                1. re: brokentelephone

                                                                  Yes, bt, I was talking to you! Do they have bialys here or is it a US thing? If so where? Platzels are definitely onion rolls...

                                                                  1. re: cathodetube

                                                                    I don't know about bt, but I have never seen a bialy in the London area. They're very good and baked as said above.. a very different consistency than a bagel. Usually, the little depression in the center is filled with cooked onion.

                                                                    1. re: zuriga1

                                                                      That sounds like a platzel.


                                                                      There is a pic of one on their site.

                                                                      Never tried one from them, only North London ones.

                                                                      1. re: cathodetube

                                                                        Looks a bit like a bialy, but I'd have to see and taste one to know for sure. Send me about 10. :-)

                                                                        1. re: zuriga1

                                                                          So you haven't seen any in London yet? Which bagel places have you been to?

                                                                          I just checked and Rinkoff's has 2 sites

                                                                          One at E1 3BS; the other at E1 5BS. The Vallance St. branch has a larger selection of food evidently. Closed Sat. Open Sunday. Weekday closes at 4 pm - aargh so early.

                                                                          I think I will be making a visit soon.

                                                                          1. re: cathodetube

                                                                            I've only ever seen them in US/Canada. That said, they could have been exactly the same thing at one point, but have evolved differently to suit local tastes (akin the the beigel/bagel scism of 2011).

                                                            1. re: psycho_fluff

                                                              I think everyone here is familiar enough with the English language to figure that out without an explanation, and "beigel" is given on multiple reference sites as an alternative spelling of "bagel". (well, those that don't just say it's not a word, including www.oxforddictionaries.com)

                                                              While your persistence would be admirable under other circumstances, it really just isn't nice at all to continue to hold that non-UK Jews have any less heritage or are any less "authentic" (whatever that means) than those in the UK.

                                                        2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                          I sent my brother 60 NY bagels for his big 6-0 birthday (he lives in Denver). He horded them.

                                                        3. -- your favorite hot sauce...the selection in most London places is laughable...

                                                          -- as mentioned above, unsweetened dark chocolate (i don't bake, but i like to eat w/ fresh fruit for dessert and i couldn't find it)...

                                                          -- in view of the recent riots, i'd recommend a good American-made shotgun...Sturm Ruger makes a fine one...

                                                          1. tortilla presses, mexican ingredients and GOOD corningware and tupperware are all MUCH cheaper in the US. I would consider these in your leaving package if you were doing a hamper style thing

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: ShekhaV

                                                              You also have to think of the weight of luggage. Unless you are shipping a container over, then it doesn't matter.

                                                              I used to bring far more stuff back with me than I do or can now. If you have to pay for extra luggage then it isn't really worth it.

                                                              1. re: cathodetube

                                                                yes, especially if they're moving, they're probably already paying for excess airline baggage -- it ain't cheap, but it's cheaper than air freight or sending the stuff they need right away in the mail. Most expats end up hauling a bunch of stuff on the plane with them, then having an air-freight shipment of stuff they need soon but not immediately, and THEN having an ocean shipment of big stuff. Most expats end up living in a hotel or a tiny little flat for weeks or even months while they get their visas in order and find a more-permanent place to live.

                                                                You might also want to let them get there -- get settled (because chances are they aren't going straight into the home they'll be living in for the next few years) THEN send them a care package when they've had a chance to figure out their right from their left, or offer to bring them whatever they want if and as you go to visit.

                                                                International relocations are an enormous cultural shock, even when you've got some notion of the culture you're entering -- and you don't want to load them down with stuff they have no use for in those shell-shocked first few months.

                                                              2. re: ShekhaV

                                                                you can get tortilla presses here - the Mexican store in Bethnal Green has a selection.

                                                              3. I always bring:

                                                                -Peanut Butter (Skippy available here, but I love Maranatha brand)
                                                                -Glad Freezer Bags in various sizes
                                                                -Lowrys Seasoning Salt
                                                                -Sliced Sandwich Peppers
                                                                -Toll House Chocolate Chips (a MUST -- the ones here cannot compare and the imported ones are massively expensive)
                                                                -Cereal (I like Kashi GoLean Crunch and no one imports it nor would I pay 8 pounds)
                                                                -Wild Lox or Smoked Salmon if you have a freezer bag in your luggage
                                                                - Pickles

                                                                6 Replies
                                                                1. re: brokentelephone

                                                                  BT (giggling at the abbreviation*) -- if you run out of TH chocolate chips, chop up a couple of dark chocolate bars for baking -- Green & Black's or similar. Actually makes better choc chip cookies! Next time you're in Paris, head to G. Detou on rue Tiquetonne and pick up some of their dark chocolate chunks -- better and cheaper than dragging them back from the states in your already-overweight luggage.

                                                                  You bring smoked salmon, when Scottish and Irish smoked salmon are so easy to come by? Interesting.

                                                                  *for non-UK folks, BT is also the abbreviation for British Telecom...which my British friends will swear is frequently a synonym for Broken Telephone.

                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                    I prefer Pacific Ocean salmon to farm Atlantic, hence I bring my own. I like the wild sockeye from BC, and unfortunately, Waitrose has discontinued their Alaskan Sockeye and Coho smoked salmon (which was excellent).

                                                                      1. re: brokentelephone

                                                                        Once someone has had Pacific salmon, it's very difficult to enjoy the Atlantic variety. I'm lucky to have a son who lives near Seattle.

                                                                        1. re: zuriga1

                                                                          Are you speaking of the difference between hot- and cold-smoked salmon, or something else?

                                                                          1. re: pikawicca


                                                                            There are 5 or 6 different varieties of salmon in the Pacific Ocean which vary wildly in taste, texture, colouring, and fat content, as opposed to a single type of fish available in the Altantic. BC/Alaska are very well known for their sockeye salmon, both in its fresh and smoked carnations. It is bright red/orange and is very very tasty, especially as sushi or sashimi.

                                                                            The main difference is that Pacific salmon is typically available caught wild (as opposed to farmed) which means less mercury and other toxins. Further, they are almost always leaner than farmed atlantic, and, in most peoples opinion, more delicious.

                                                                            Pacific salmon is available both hot and cold smoked with the majority of hot smoked being a Native American/Canadian/Indigenous Indian speciality.

                                                                  2. Wait until they are here for a while then send a care package once they know what they miss. I've been in London for 3 years and the things I get sent from home (NZ) are Marmite (the Kiwi/Aussie version), dried onion soup for dip, a NZ brand of chocolate, sometimes sweets. Almost all of the things I want that could feasibly be sent are avaible here at SANZA stores, but that's not the point.

                                                                    I'm not going to wade into an argument about which country makes real bagels or what actually constitutes unsweetened chocolate - the whole point is showing that you care and offering someone a little taste of home.

                                                                    1. How about a favorite U.S. foodie magazine subscription? A friend of mine, originally from England but now living in San Francisco Bay Area, gets subscription from England; unfortunately name escapes me. Looked it up for possible purchase but it was $90 yr...yikes!

                                                                      Or an English magazine subscription to help your friend on her new journey?

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: ceekskat

                                                                        That's a really lovely idea - my parents have given me a subscription to a New Zealand food magazine every Christmas for the past 10 years I have been in London and I love it. Even though the seasons are upside down and it's a bit depressing reading about BBQ recipes in the cold darkness of January!

                                                                      2. NY bagels...black & white cookies...can't think of how to pack or ship it, but NY pizza