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American Food Gifts to bring to French Family

I'm thinking maple syrup might be a good idea. Wondering if you have any other suggestions for products that are hard to come by or expensive in France and would be a real treat. Thank you!

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  1. We've always found that male French friends greatly appreciate a bottle of good American Bourbon Whiskey. Not exactly food, but they sure do like it.

    10 Replies
    1. re: CJT

      Maple syrup is good. Also agreed that Bourbon is nice. Scotch is more easily accessible there. Some things our friends like are: hot dog buns (they can find similar sausage but not buns); American cheddar cheese (if you're feeling like pushing the rules - easy to find English cheddar, but not US); wines (anything they can't get readily is at least "interesting"). We usually bring a small piece of jewelry & a mint set of this years US coins for the kids.

      1. re: DaTulip

        Another thought is unusual (for France) spices or hot sauces. While many French do not prefer spicy food, some do. We've taken Cajun spices, Tabasco, jambalaya mix, and even good Mexican vanilla.

        Oh! Chocolate too. Not Hershey's, but artisan stuff made here. I took Voges (sp?). They make a lot of good ones, but the curious dark choco & bacon bar was a hit. Just like wines it is interesting for them to have a taste of some of our better stuff.

        1. re: DaTulip

          Good lord -- our French friends would stand on their heads on a flagpole for Buffalo wing sauce -- any heat level, but the hotter the better.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Yes a good barbecue sauce, un peu spicy.

            1. re: Parigi

              Here is an old story in my travel life. On a 2 month trip in the Pyrenees many years ago l was staying a few nights with many different families. l decided to bring each of them 3 different BBQ sauces from major BBQ areas of USA. This was before luggage restrictions and filled a suitcase, a large suitcase, with the bottles, some glass, mostly plastic. While going through a high pass in the Pyrenees looking for the concentration camp that was there in Vichy times (Never found it, natives not helpful ) We heard a loud POP, POP, POP, opened the trunk saw nothing, then opened the suitcase and at least 7 of the bottles had exploded due to altitude. l suspect the family that hosted us still has a BBQ ring in his tub which is where we had to hose out the suitcase. In any event all loved the BBQ sauce.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Sumptuous story. In the Pyrénées, there was a camp in Gurs for Spanish Republican Army pow's. There was also an internment camp for Jews in Riversaltes. Were they the camps you were looking for?

                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  heh -- how many years was it before your clothes and luggage didn't smell like BBQ any more?

                  (when I travel, glass jars and bottles go into a plastic bag taped around the bottle, then either bubble wrap taped again or a couple of socks, then buried in the luggage. Doesn't keep them from breaking, although we've had nearly-perfect success rates, but at least it corrals the mess if it *does* break)

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    It was a dedicated suitcase, BBQ sauce only.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      ah...back in the days before bag limits....

        2. re: CJT

          My husband spent some time in Tokyo and said that bourbon was a prized gift.

        3. Not sure about maple syrup... for most of them it's a Quebec (or canadian) thing... so it will maybe not look "typical" like you want.

          Most french are obsessed with New-York... ;) so that might be something to explore. I'd personnaly browse Dean & Deluca website (or other kind of store like this) for ideas.

          These looks really american for example :

          1. Maple syrup is available (usually from Quebec) at every food seller in the country. (so is peanut butter, for that matter -- so scratch that, too)

            A bottle of good wine or liquor is a good idea, as is something that's a specialty of your region (if you live in maple syrup country, look more toward maple candies or something like that)

            5 Replies
            1. re: sunshine842

              In the past I have brought a French friend home made green walnut liqueur, several different citrus wines and even an Obama bracelet. All were received with delight. This spring I took her maple syrup. She just looked at it, read the label and said "Thanks". No enthusiasm. I won't repeat this gift.

              We have taken expensive zin to a winemaker who was tremendously interested in it. Bourbon also sounds like a winner. In season, I've taken Meyer lemons which are always a hit.

              1. re: mangeur

                Totally get the citrus wines -- different is always interesting, and I know lots of people who are oenophiles and absolutely love the chance to try *good* American wines, as most of the CA wines on the shelves here in France are of the supermarket-Gallo variety. They're generally quite impressed at the calibre of American wines, because they've never tasted anything but "run of the mill" stuff on the rare event it makes it to a French store.

                I'm a little surprised about the green-walnut liqueur, though -- only because it's so commonly made in several different areas of France, I would have thought it would be a non-plussed reaction. Probably the fact that it's homemade makes the difference.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  G-W L: probably because it was so unexpected for a crazy American woman to make the stuff. Several of the recipients were avid home aperitif and liquour makers, so our gift would prompt a "show and tell" of their herbal and fruit based concoctions. One man even made home made chartreuse from a plant he had slipped from the Grande Chartreuse monastery. Good stories, all.

                  1. re: mangeur

                    heh -- it'd be worth making your own just to get a taste of the homemade stuff! But yes, most French folks are pretty surprised to find out that there are genuine gourmets and cooks in the US...they half-believe the stereotype that we're all chowing down at McDo three meals a day every day, so they're a little stunned (and pleased) to find out that we're not all like that!

                    (cross your fingers for me -- THIS crazy American woman is starting batches of mirabelle and apricot liqueurs tomorrow...hopefully we'll have some good stuff by Christmas)

              1. I also agree that a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon and a really well aged VT cheddar would be winners.

                11 Replies
                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    That said, if you decided to bring it, nobody would stop you. Clearing customs at CDG involves walking out an unmonitored door into the terminal.

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      I also half wonder if the customs agents might not just laugh out loud at the idea of confiscating a cheese made from pasteurized cheese and stored in plastic.....

                      It's fairly easy to find British variations on the Red Leicester (what we'd call yellow cheddar in the US).

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        I share that sentiment, although to be fair any well-aged Vermont cheddar worthy of bringing to friends in France would be made with raw milk. If they were to care.

                        Mr Taster

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            There are plenty of AOC pasteurised-milk cheeses. Still, it's hard to see the logistics of bringing a cheese on an eight-hour flight from New York (eleven from Los Angeles) and transport to wherever the OP is going without a significant decline in quality.

                            Thus speaks the voice of experience—except going the other way.

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              True, logistics are a bit of a pain. I take a small soft sided cooler in my carryon. I have a large ziploc filled with ice. I dump it before security & refill on the secure side then again once or twice on the plane. Stays beautifully!

                            2. re: sunshine842

                              I meant if the customs officials were to care to check your luggage for contraband fromage.

                              Mr Taster

                          2. re: sunshine842

                            No offense to the Brits, but their cheddar (and I've tried the Red Leicester) just isn't the same as a Vermont or Wisconsin cheddar. Pasturized yes, but still good quality cheese.

                            1. re: DaTulip

                              Perhaps you should try a Montgomery or Keen's English Cheddar. Only American product that comes close is Jasper Hills aging of a Cabot cloth wrapped and that is raw milk. Canada is another matter, great product from there, 6,8,10,12 year cheddars are available but only on that side of the border. The ones brought to US are their second team.

                              1. re: DaTulip

                                DaTulip - Red Leicester isn't a Cheddar...! And I agree with DCM don't judge good English Cheddar against the mass produced rubbish that masquerades as cheese - lots of great small producers now making unpasteurised craft cheeses. I read some marketing hype that Britain now has more variety of unpasteurised cheese than France - I don't believe it but it indicative of the momentum in the "cottage" cheese industry (pun intended)

                      2. D & D on their website or store has small carriers for picnics, wine, caviar that have always been appreciated and even more, still in use years later.As well as Williams-Sonoma, something with an iconic American presence.If they are wine people bring red zin as mentioned, but bring in one of USA stryofoam cases that are still unheard of there and is another long lasting gift.

                        1. Paul Newman cookies, M. and M.'s, Cape Cod potato chips, Wisconsin cheddar...
                          stop being such a snob and have fun with the gift

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: portiabes

                            I think Bourbon and maple syrup are the winners. (and I'm not a snob)

                            1. re: DaisyM

                              I was just trying to figure out which part of your post shows you to be a snob. Mystery. :-)

                          2. Wild rice, but be sure that there are instructions on how to prepare it as they don't understand that it isn't really rice and needs much longer cooking.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: beaulieu

                              A friend gave us a bag of Minnesota wild rice. Indeed it is one of the gifts that we appreciate most. Incomparable for pilaf.

                                1. re: Parigi

                                  Haha no I'm not ! :)

                                  But I really noticed a lot of friends love the flavor of Big Red chewing gums, and you can't find them in France.
                                  As for beef jerky, I recently tasted an "organic" beef jerky which was really good, the meat was tender, the seasoning not too aggressive and with some nice asian inspired aromas, so it doesn't have to be the really tough salty stuff from the gas station, and I can imagine french people being intrigued by a dried meat they've never heard of.

                                  1. re: Rio Yeti

                                    I myself mainline Taiwanese beef jerky.

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      In my experience Taiwanese jerky is usually made from pork. I love it.

                                      Mr Taster

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        Never tasted it, but sounds good.

                                        1. re: Rio Yeti

                                          With the last Taiwanese beef jerky supply, toward the end of the package, I started rationing the dwindling portions, very much like Mme Jake Dear's description of the Dears' treatment of Génin pastry.

                                2. Carolina rice; pralines. Cafe duMonde (chicory coffee).

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Rella

                                    Chicory coffee is on every grocer's shelf -- so other than being a novelty because it's from another country, not really a novelty. (You can even buy jars of instant chicory to add to your instant coffee)

                                  2. Daisy, you're from Philly, so I suggest two things: 1) TastyKakes - just for a giggle. I brought some to a gathering for some visiting British guests, and they were over the moon about them. One of the other people in attendance was an English guy who had been in the country for over a decade and he demanded to know why I hadn't told him about them sooner. 2) Saltwater Taffy from the Jersey shore.

                                    Otherwise, just go to Reading Market and browse on through:) Maybe some barbecue rubs/spice blends?

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Heatherb

                                      But salt water taffy is just so awful! Tastykakes were given by someone I know to a family in Spain. They seemed a little frightened by them! I think there are some things that if you haven't grown up with, they really aren't very appealing.

                                    2. I'll add my voice to the folks saying bourbon... or, while not strictly American, a bottle of very good tequila. Both are absurdly expensive in France and the selection is awful there. They sell this Godawful San Jose mixto that tastes like sugary hangover for 15€ and a bottle of Cuervo mixto is 40€. Even just a $22 bottle of Corralejo is a good idea.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        Bienvenu en France, Ubergeek. Have always enjoyed your posts.

                                      2. Peanut butter? My cousins say they just LOVE American peanut butter!!!

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: MRS

                                          Peanut butter is available in most larger markets (Auchan, Monoprix, E. Leclerc, Carrefour, etc.) but it's quite expensive—about 10€/kg—and damn skippy it ain't Skippy.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            and even most smaller markets -- even the little epiceries in my small town have it.

                                            I can find it for about 2,30 for a regular-sized jar -- and it's better than Skippy. (and cheaper than Nutella or Speculoos paste)

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              But Speculoos crunchy deserves a thread of it's own.

                                              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                Although it's not yet available in the US!

                                                1. re: Nancy S.

                                                  Actually it is, under a different name.In Manhattan Wafels and Dinges sells it off their truck, and is available by mail order.

                                                2. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                  Speculoos is sold as Biscoff in the States (I've never quite understood the logic behind the brand shift)

                                                  I don't care for the crunchy, but I'm dangerous when left alone with a jar of the smooth.

                                                  And Lotus brand ONLY -- I'm not a big brand maven, but on this product, it matters. I bought a jar of "artisanal" speculoos pate a tartiner here, and it was vile -- sugared mud.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Only reason to fly Delta, that is their snack.

                                                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                      Right, but just the cookies on Delta, not the pâte à tartiner.