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What Classic French Cooking Products Should I Bring Home to the US?

Hi Chow Hounds! My friend is returning from France in a few months and I've asked him to bring me some classic french packaged food products back to the US. This started because I was looking for Chestnut jam and couldn't find any - even in specialty stores! Does anyone have any suggestions on what I should ask him to bring back that can't be easily found in the US? Dijon mustards? Sauces? Baking products? Images of the products would be awesome! Just to note it can't be a meat, raw or dried, or fresh produce products due to US custom regulations. Thank you in advance!

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  1. Bonnat is still the best commercial chocolatier in France. Have your friend go to Lafayette Gourmet and get you its Chuao and Equateur varietals.

    1 Reply
    1. re: 75 percent cacao

      Excellent advice. Bonnat has a number of new single-origin chocolate bars that should absolutely be tried.

    2. He can bring unpasteurized young cheeses that we covet here, but can't be imported in commercial quantities. As much as he can carry. Make a mule out of him! Reblochon should be on the list, and Epoisses.

      1. Lucky you! I'd ask for Michel Cluizel chocolate (my favorite), and baking items such as flour and sugar just to experiment with to see how they differ from what's offered here. If you'll see him soon after he arrives back in the US, Laduree macarons would be another thing to ask for (still on my wishlist!)

        1. I just went to Paris for work in July and cited David Lebowitz' blog post about things to bring back from Paris:
          http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/09/.... The grey salt ended up to be the most commonly used in my kitchen + most different. I also got many different sampler sets of mustard and jams which we use almost daily :) Made a note of my favs and will get big bottles of those next time I'm back.

          I'm also a huge fan of all the different types of bouillon they have in Europe that they don't sell here. Mushroom, parsley/dill/basil (it's 1 cube with all 3, "bouquet garni" or something), veal, Maggi's Kub Or (http://www.coursesenfrance.com/compon...) which is great for adding to quinoa/pasta/whatever cooking water...

          1 Reply
          1. re: bobabear

            Oh and dried mushrooms of different varieties that are dirt cheap compared to the states! I have so many mushrooms...

            Since you mentioned packaged foods, my secret love are the powered sauces that aren't easily available here. Bernaise, chanterelle, etc... Really cheap and really fun to use on different things!

          2. Awesome suggestions so far! Definitely want to hear more! Has anyone tried any of the products from this website? http://www.yumsugar.com/Stocking-Fren...

            1. Regardless of your eventual shopping list, you should visit G. Detou in Paris (rue Tiquetonne), a wholesale/retail shop that carries good brands at exceptionally low prices. We forage before heading home on every visit. Think vanilla beans, mustards, glace chestnuts, confitures, many brands of chocolate, tonka beans, sea salts and on and on.

              2 Replies
              1. re: mangeur

                "G. Detou." Yes, and they have it all -- well, almost. But also, as mangeur was recommended to us, "Bruno" a peach of a fellow, right down the same street, for great spices, including Kari Grosse from Auray, Bretagne. We have been happily using Bruno's spices for the last three weeks …. -- Jake

                1. re: mangeur

                  The brand of confiture Detou carries, Noel Cruzilles, has a peche de vigne that surpasses all others l have previously tried.

                2. My downstairs neighbor - Le Comptoir des Abbayes - sells excellent jams and apéritifs and wines and spirits and even shampoo and, yes, excellent chocotates, produced in monasteries by monks who obviously sublimated their libido, producing these pure and authentic and ace-quality products.
                  Dijon mustards are wonderful but aren't they available world wide including in both Poles and North Korea ?
                  On rue Lepic, two wonderful food stores Epicerie du terroir and Le comptoir colonial sell marvelous products from the provinces. My faves are black cherry (cérises noires) jams from the Basque country and confit d'oignon and various chutneys, fabulous for sausages.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Parigi

                    Agree on Le Comptoir des Abbayes - we loved that place. Thanks to your recommendation, I sure made some girlfriends happy when I showed up with some of those chocolates at a GTG earlier this summer in NY.

                    OK, so this might sound crazy, and it probably has a lot to do with my romantic, rose-colored Francophilia, but I find dried spices & herbs from France to be better than what I typically have here (notice I didn't say better than anything in the U.S., because I know I haven't tried every brand). Herbes de Provence might be obvious, but even things like rosemary - the aroma, the flavor - just so much more intense. I open that bottle now (5 months after we bought it) and it smells like I have a rosemary plant in my kitchen.

                    1. re: Parigi

                      "Le Comptoir des Abbayes"
                      It is a truly cool place; there's another like it called something like products of monks in or near the Square de l'Ave Maria in the 1st.

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Could be the Comptoir's branch, which opened not long ago on rue des Petits Champs.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          I don't think so, this is right near the Seine, some 20 feet from the Quai des Celestins.

                          1. re: John Talbott

                            Perhaps this one, John? Monastica at 11 Rue du Pont Louis-Philippe


                            In the 4th, however, but near Quai des Celestins.

                            Or, Magasin du Monastére, 13 rue des Barres


                            1. re: mangeur

                              Bravo, the second because it's a cobble-stone pedestrian street but the second looks familiar as well. Good honey.

                    2. Mirabelle plum anything--I've had the jams and caramels, and they're sublime. Salts, too--types that I've never found here. Piment d'espelette, pepper powder (like paprika) that has a wonderful smokiness.

                      1. I'm a fan of Bordier's salted butter caramel in a jar -- brilliant with vanilla ice cream!

                        1. There are many varieties of Maille that are not sold in the US, i can't remember the name but its green (!) and a very herby dijon flavor is my favorite.

                          1. Praline paste. I'll be bringing home some Sarassin as well. We have buckwheat flour at home but it's a bit cheaper here and less of a hassle to find in American groceries.

                            1. May not be up your alley but I picked up a rather large can of escargot. Led to the first annual 'snail-a-palooza'