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What product would you buy an Italian foodie from Italy?

This is my first time writing on chowhound.

Firstly, I would like to thank the board at large for having answered so many of my questions over the past year. I don't want to single anyone out in particular, but there are some real genuine foodies on here who are astoundingly generous with their knowledge and time. Any time I have a query about food in Montreal, I check chowhound, and I inevitably get my answer in seconds from reading earlier threads. So much terrain has been covered, it is quite remarkable really.

That being said, I have a question that I have not found a completely satisfactory answer to based on web research. I do not think there is a past chowhound thread that answers it either, as it is quite specific. If I've missed something please let me know.

Here is my question: What Mtl/Quebec/Canadian product would you buy an Italian foodie from Italy? Besides ice wine, smoked salmon, maple syrup, and gooseberry jam, is there anything else you would highly recommend? It has to make it overseas. It doesn't have to be a speciality item either, but maybe a versatile food item that is not readily found in Italy. It could be any number of things, big or small, as I will most likely create a basket. It will be given as a BIG thank you gift.

This foodie cooks, and is the type that will drive an hour to buy specific bread from a specific bakery.

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  1. In addition to maple syrup, how about Ice Cider and and wild blueberries if in season?

    2 Replies
    1. re: ScoobySnacks20

      Chocolate covered blueberries from the Trappist Monks (but I think it's a highly seasonal product).

      1. re: Maximilien

        I think the wild blueberry season is just around the corner (mid to end of July), so I just may get lucky with my timing. Thank you for the suggestion. And I think ice cider over ice wine. Scooby Snacks I just read a past thread that you participated in dealing with my food gift issue. Thanks!

        Another 2 items that came out of that discussion were: Perron aged port-aged cheddar and cuban cigars!

    2. Canadian Whisky, Tortiere from APDC or Maison du Roti, a brisket from Quebec Smoked Meat

      1 Reply
      1. re: EaterBob

        I will definitely be visiting Quebec Smoked Meat, I just read all about it. Great suggestion - thanks! I also happen work nearby, so i am very excited about the new discovery.

      2. I brought a Catalonian some Sortilege. While it's not the best whiskey, it does have a unique charm and imparts a strong maple flavour. As for bringing a can of maple syrup, many southern europeans wouldn't know what to do with the stuff.

        Some Labrador tea would also be nice as well as some smoked game meat. There is a Nunavut tea company that markets foraged teas. I've seen it at various health food stores, including the one across from snowdon metro.

        Another good idea would be an assortment of wild canadian mushrooms

        9 Replies
        1. re: catroast

          I think the Nunavet tea company (more tea project initiative) you may be referring to is called Northern Lights. Just checked it out. If so, their products are widely available in Montreal at the following retail outlets: http://www.deliceboreal.com/en/herbal...
          I am an avid tea drinker, and so I will check this out for sure. Thanks!

          As for my gift basket, I think the whiskey and mushrooms would really be nice additions.

              1. re: catroast

                I am not a beer drinker myself, and I am not sure about including an item I cannot vouch for personally. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to include a bottle though. I am certainly broadening my initial scope with the many suggestions here.

                1. re: neetzer

                  It's soda, not beer. And the spruce beer at Paul's Patates is much better.

                  1. re: neetzer

                    Spruce beer doesn't have alcohol (about the same level as root beer :)

              2. re: neetzer

                From that company, the cloudberry tea is my favourite but there is also a variety pack available. I have found it for sale at Gourmet Laurier.

                1. re: heliotrope

                  Thank you for the tip heliotrope!

              3. re: catroast

                Catroast, where would you suggest buying smoke game meat?

              4. I dont know if that can be of help, but once i got a request from a scandinavian foodie for Canadian wild rice. Its a very long grain, brown, and the one i found was from Alberta. I tought it was great to make a change from the usual maple syrup as a gift.

                5 Replies
                1. re: sophie.brunet

                  Yes, a good idea! Wild rice is a common thing I bring with me overseas for gifts, along with dried cranberries (also very Canadian). I have a recipe that uses the two together, so that they know what to do with it. Both easily available in grocery stores. For fancier more local cranberries, try these: http://en.nutra-fruit.com/

                  1. re: heliotrope

                    I looked into the wild rice and I hadn't realize how exclusively Canadian it is, with the exception of Minnesota (USA). This is a super idea! Any idea where I could pick up the authentic Candadian stuff, as opposed to the so-called wild rice that comes from China that is no where near the same thing.

                    1. re: heliotrope

                      Heliotrope, I am thinking of including cranberries and pecans in the basket as well. Here is a nice salad from a very trusty blog that includes all 3 items: http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/...

                      1. re: neetzer

                        Yeah, I didn't know about wild rice being a real Canadian thing until I started going overseas and wanting to bring Canadian foody things as gifts. It's also great, along with the dried cranberries, because it packs well - won't break.

                        You asked about where to pick up authentic Canadian wild rice. I actually have never seen anything BUT, so I don't think you should have any difficulty. The brands I usually find are called "Canoe" or "Oh Canada" (which can come in a cute bag). I haven't grabbed some in a while, so I don't want to lead you astray as to any particular store in Montreal. I usually just get it at a grocery store, but probably you'll find it at Marché des saveurs if you're going there for the other things, or somewhere else at the market there. If I'm around any stores and spot it, I'll report back to tell you. But usually I have no problem getting it at a regular grocery store.

                        Marché des saveurs also has sold the Maple sugar mentioned by Plateaumaman below. I like the one packaged in a handy shaker bottle so that you can sprinkle it on buttered toast. It's also plastic - easy to pack.

                        Thanks for the recipe link, will have to try! Seems like this recipe is lighter, so it would work well for this hot summer weather. My usual recipe uses only wild rice (not a mix of varieties), so it packs a punch. And it's not a salad, but served hot so it would probably be heavier, and it goes really well with stronger meats.

                        Actually, it is a super simple recipe I started making when I was a young teenager. I just tried to find out if it might be available online - it got passed onto a computer from a cookbook ages ago. I am in luck! Here is a link: http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/c...

                        1. re: heliotrope

                          Everytime I bought what seemed or was called wild rice, it did not come out looking or tasting like the stuff I had tried in restaurants - very long, aldente spikes that keep their form (they don't split and become mushy). I was perplexed about this and always assumed I didn't cook them properly. I just learned that I had never bought the authentic Canadian stuff, which is supposed to be quite pricey. You may be right about it being available in most grocery stores, and I just never bothered to pay attention to where it was made. But there are defintely 2 versions around - one great-tasting and the other gruelish.

                  2. Granulated maple sugar (I like the one that comes in a grinder, check that it is made from 100% pure maple sugar)
                    Maple butter (my parents finished a jar of this in less than a week - again, check that it is 100% pure maple syrup)
                    Cans of feves au lard (could buy a couple of different versions in the small cans)
                    Spices mixes that are specific to Montreal/Quebec eg Montreal steak spice mix, poutine gravy mix, spices mix for tourtiere etc
                    Homestyle fruit ketchup
                    +1 on the Sortilege! There is also a blueberry liquer from the same producer I think, that might be nice.

                    With some of these things, it might be nice to print out or pre-source some recipes to accompany the basket (eg for sugar pie, tourtiere etc)

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: unlaced

                      Do you know where I could pick up an authentic Tourtiere mix? I have never seen one. That could be interesting along with a recipe and a fruit ketchup.

                      1. re: neetzer

                        I have seen them in supermarkets here, but I have never purchased one. Maybe someone else can comment if they have a favourite version?

                          1. re: neetzer

                            I'm from "tourtière land" (Lac-Saint-Jean) and never heard of a tourtière mix. So I'm guessing this is a Montreal creation. Very odd. Would need to try it and see.

                            Sortilège is a great idea =)

                            1. re: Werzoth

                              I decided not to get the mix as I wanted something more versatile. I went with mixes for game meat instead. Tourtiere mix is nothing more than a blend of spices that commonly go into a Tourtiere aimed at curious tourists or unadventurous home cooks I'm sure - it's not very exciting or inventive, it is just meant to capture the essence of tradition. They even have a pizza mix for heaven's sake - now that says it all!

                              1. re: Werzoth

                                I cooked a simple beef stew on Friday (Marcella Hazan recipe) and I tested the Kamouraska spice from Epices de Cru, which is supposed to be a traditional Quebec blend, and it was very tasty - a very interesting and legit-tasting blend!

                                I purchased a Farmed Game Spice Blend to give as a gift, and it has a much more complex ingredient profile, including Labrador tea leaves. Should be very nice.

                                I regret not taking a closer look at the Tourtiere mix, I kind of passed it off as gimmicky.
                                If you ever try it, please let us know what you think. And if ever I attempt to make Tourtiere, I will certainly try it and report back.

                          2. apple butter might also work. i love the stuff.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: catroast

                              ooh I like that idea! Try and get a jar of Preservation Society's apple butter - it is fantastic!

                                1. re: catroast

                                  Here is her list of stockists. Not sure if the apple butter will be available at all, would be better to call and check. I just cracked open a jar last night and it is already half gone!


                                  1. re: unlaced

                                    I just sent them an email in regards to the apple butter. I will report back with their answer. Maybe it is a discontinued product and they will provide the recipe instead!! Thank you for your awesome suggestions!

                                    1. re: neetzer

                                      I am happy to report that apple butter is available for purchasing. Vieux Velo in Little Italy carries it exclusively. http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/67/159910...
                                      Very helpful suggestion guys! I will be at JTM tomorrow, and can definitely swing by to pick some up. Italians (the ones I know at least) like their breakfasts simple with a little biscuit/cracker/toast with jam and coffee. Apple butter will be a welcome deviation I'm sure! Grazie mille!

                                      1. re: neetzer

                                        I went to Preservation Society today. Definitely worth visiting first if you are interested in jams in general. Camilla had a bunch of different stuff on hand. I bought an apricot/honey/camomille jam (newest product) and a jam called Fall Sweater (last jar) with apples/pears/pumpkin beer among the ingredients. As for the apple butter, it really isn't buttery at all nor does it contain any, it is more of a really thick apple sauce - a bit of a misnomer really.

                            2. I would get the beautiful products from Société Orignal (available at Marché des Saveurs). These are great quality gift for a foodie.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Glaff

                                Would you recommend anything specifically? I looked at the product list and I am not sure how I would use many of the products. Do you know if they come with recipes or cooking suggestions?

                                1. re: neetzer

                                  The line of products for retail is more "simple" (the other products are for restaurants). They have an amazing churned honey from Gaspésie, a sunflower oil, an apple vinegar and a wild flowers "tea" from la Matapédia.

                                  1. re: Glaff

                                    I will definitely be purchasing the tea for myself. It sounds right up my alley and I will check out the honey as a potential gift item. Thank you Glaff!

                                    1. re: neetzer

                                      No problem! If you go to the Marché des saveurs, look for Simon Turcotte jams too. They're the best jams made in Québec. The blueberry/maple one would make a good gift. http://www.confiture.ca/produits/peti...

                              2. It's not food, but since you said he enjoys to cook, a great gift to put into that basket would be either a APDC Joe Beef cookbook.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Jaetee

                                  The person recieving the basket has limited English skills, therefore a cookbook is not an option. I could translate a recipe, but an entire cookbook, holy crap... thankfully I'm not that indebted!

                                2. Just thought of another idea... the products from Au Verger du Clocher : http://www.auvergerduclocher.com/

                                  La carminée is a really interesting and unique product that should please a curious foodie who loves to cook.

                                  1. I would really like to thank all of you for your suggestions. MTL Hounds - UR the BEST!!!

                                    I really have to spend more time on here. I learned oodles of stuff in just one day.

                                    I took everything into account and synthesized it all into a final coherent theme: wild/hunter-style basket. It will contain smoked salmon and game meat, game-meat spice blends, Canadian wild rice, dried lobster mushrooms (not found in Europe), blueberry/maple jam, apple butter, Quebec-style jardiniere (with fiddleheads), spruce beer and chocolate-coated wild bluberries if I can get them. I will forgo the whiskey and tea because I don't think he drinks either. I have 3 weeks until departure, so if anyone thinks of anything else, surely let me know.

                                    1. My Italian friend sends peanut butter to his family in Italy every Christmas. They can only get Nutella where they live and they LOVE peanut butter!

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: tolja

                                        You are spot on about that! I have certainly brought tubs of peanut butter to my relatives in the past however, I needed something a couple notches more special, sophisticated and personalized for a specific thank you gift.

                                        1. re: neetzer

                                          I brought maple sugar to some foodie friends in Indonesia and they had a lot of fun researching it and coming up with some recipes for it. Montreal steak spice is a classic too, very good for grilling meat. Chocolate covered blueberries don't travel that well in my experience. Friends in France always ask me to bring nut butters, not peanut, but some of the others they sell at Rachelle Bery and Tau, like Cashew or Hazelnut. There must be a good cheese or two that would travel well?

                                          1. re: Plateaumaman

                                            I had wondered about nut butters. I don't think that Europeans have many options for dressing a piece of morning toast. I'm not sure about this, but I don't think they have exciting jams either, which is why I thought the apple butter (which is more of an apple jam really) and wild blueberry/maple jam would be nice. A nut butter would certainly be a complementary addition. Thank you for confirming this for me!

                                            1. re: neetzer

                                              I know the Dutch have some very good apple syrups they put on their toast in the morning, and they might be the only Europeans that enjoy a bit of peanut butter now and then. Maple butter is wonderful on toast too. Depending on how you are transporting your surprises, some bagels might be a fun idea? You could also always go to Au Pied du Cochon and buy Duck in a Can. That would impress the foodie in me!

                                      2. I think the wild rice is a great idea. What about Canadian cheeses? Down here in Wisconsin we now have many very fine "artisinal" cheeses. Do Quebec Province and Ontario Province produce distinctive cheeses?

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Father Kitchen

                                          Artisanal cheeses is one thing Quebec is surely known for and our cheeses often win top honors at Canadian and even North American competitions I do believe. I think we are best known for our cheddars. Look for past threads on this, as there are plenty and I am no expert.

                                        2. Shipping may cost an arm and a leg (and if there's a way to insure it in some way or make sure it does get to its destination, get it... the Italian post has a bad rep)... but my suggestion, if you can send off booze, is a bottle of Ungava Gin, which is made in Quebec using northern wild crafted aromatics.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: TheSnowpea

                                            Thank you Snowpea! I will be flying to Italy, so I am not intending to ship anything via post. I am not including any hard stuff for 2 reasons: 1) I am uncertain whether the person recieving the basket enjoys it, I think he is all about wine 2) I don't know if it would be that appreciated seeing as at least some hard stuff (eg: brandy) is dirt-cheap in Italy. But I will certainly keep the gin and whiskey (as others have mentionned) idea in mind for future gift-giving, as I do know of others that would certainly appreciate it.

                                          2. I just got back from a 3-week trip to Italy and I had the hardest time explaining how I use cranberries when I cook since they don't have them. I find them pretty versatile too - make it into sauces, bake with cheese etc. - that I suggest you consider adding them to the basket.