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Gifts from California for Relatives in Paris

I am traveling to Paris this summer for my nephew's wedding and seeing my sister and her husband for the first time. I would like to bring some souvenirs for the family. Any suggestions or ideas? Please let me know.... Thanks.

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  1. what part of california?

    we're in northern california and sent to france (provence) this year: locally made chocolates (which were well received, though i didn't like them as well as what was sent from france to us!!), local california honey, california olive oil, pistachios, and, yes, almonds. i also sent some locally made items like citrus salt and dressing - like you would get at the farmers' market. oh, and dried cherries which david lebovitz recommended on his blog as being prohibitively expensive in france. i got those at TJs!

    i understand that most of these things are available in france, but i think it's just nice for the family to compare varieties and quality. i'm sure the french chocolates we received in return, at least, were definitely superior to what i sent..

    if it's your sister you're visiting, perhaps ask in advance and she will have ideas as well.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rmarisco


      Thanks for the reply and tips. I am in Northern California (San Jose).

    2. Wine. Seriously, wine.

      (regular) French people have a _very_ limited access to wines from outside of France (heck even from other European countries).Get a nice Zinfandel.

      6 Replies
        1. re: Maximilien

          +2. Zinfandel isn't grown in Europe, so they'll be quite curious to try it.

          A good one, made by old vines.

          1. re: sunshine842

            We went to Montreal a few years ago. The wine shops had all this amazing French, Italian or Spanish wines. But what our wine steward really loved but couldn't often afford? A good American Zinfandel.

            I thought he was being sweet but now I see - just truthful.

            1. re: happybaker

              Ok Zinfandel... on my list to bring. Thanks!

            2. re: sunshine842

              Where can I buy good Zinfandel at?

          2. This is going to sound insane.....avocados. Seriously. Buy the bag of them before leaving, those are always still a week away from being ripe so they will be fine traveling- attach a simple recipe for guacamole. Mexican food has yet to make inroads in paris.
            Almond butter, local honey, pistachios, locally roasted coffee, pecans (those are $$ in paris), california olive oils.

            Is your sister american? She may appreciate simple items like semi-sweet chocolate chips, peanut butter, and energy bars like larabars and clif bars and ziplock sandwich bags (of all things! I went to four groceries looking for them!)

            9 Replies
            1. re: Ttrockwood

              Before you go out and buy a sack of avocados, check the French and EU regulations about bringing fruits and vegetables into the region.

              I'd bring a couple of bottles of good California wine, probably some Zins.

              1. re: tardigrade

                Would it be possible to ship them ahead so they arrive when OP does?

                Probably expensive, but just wondering.

              2. re: Ttrockwood

                leave the avocados -- they're in steady supply for dead cheap. Pistachios are a fraction of the price they are in the US.

                Same with peanut butter and ziplock bags -- they're easy to find now.

                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  Thanks for the reply. My sister is Asian (Cambodia) and she has 10 kids, so I really have a long list to buy. All this tips and idea will help... Thanks :)

                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    Hello Ttrockwood,

                    Thanks for the tips and idea. My sister is Asian (Cambodia) and she has 10 kids, so I have a long list to buy for and this is my first time to Paris.

                    1. re: soapy4

                      I know san jose has some great asian groceries, maybe ask her if there are items she misses and can't find?

                      1. re: Ttrockwood

                        there are more Asian supermarkets than you can count in Paris -- and I mean supermarkets, as large as many small-town supermarkets in the US, and there are literally dozens of them this size in the Paris region. There are hundreds more small markets across the city.

                        She's likely quite happy to be where she can buy all the things from Cambodia that she misses -- Cambodge was a French colony.

                        1. re: sunshine842

                          I second that. There is a much better selection of Asian
                          fruits at Tang Freres in the 13th arrondissement than
                          you will ever find in San Jose.

                          1. re: bclevy

                            I am so jonesing the mountains of fresh litchis for a song this time of year. *sigh*

                  2. Before you attempt to bring any food products into France, you better check the laws so they don't confiscate it from you at customs. I am quite sure you cannot bring in any fresh produce, such as avocadoes.

                    1. David Lebovitz actually did a blog post on this.

                      Some made total sense (maple syrup! A good Zin!) Some really surprised me - heavy duty aluminum foil : )

                      Take a read, it's fun. And enjoy your trip!


                      4 Replies
                      1. re: happybaker

                        yes -- French aluminum foil is wimpy-wimpy-wimpy.

                        So is the plastic wrap, but it's not quite as bad as the foil.

                        1. re: sunshine842


                          Wow. Thanks!

                          I'll never take my Reynold's for granted again!

                          1. re: happybaker

                            French grocery stores would carry heavy-duty foil for a few weeks in the summer as a barbecue item.

                            Most of us would buy boxes and boxes of it, stockpiling for the rest of the year!

                        2. re: happybaker

                          Thanks happybaker... I read his blog and great ideas.

                        3. Graber Olives. I have never found anything like them in Europe.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Tripeler

                            Great idea. Love those Graeber olives - only draw back is how heavy they are to pack. You reminded me to stock up our own supply because they are my favorite easy last minute appetizer.

                            1. re: Tripeler

                              Tripeler, thanks for mentioning Graber olives. I'd never heard of them, but after looking them up, I'm going to buy some!

                                1. re: soapy4

                                  Gelson's or any higher end super market usually has them among the olives. They are pricey, but worth it. Company is located in eastern LA county, I believe.

                              1. Weight/liquids becomes a problem these days with airline luggage. Mexican foods are still relatively novel - packets of guacamole spices can be good easy pack choice.

                                A box of See's candies is always a hit. Even a set of cups and teaspoon measuring sets along with your favorite US recipes in their land to metric measurements can be handy. Pistachios are very California, though not unknown in EU.

                                Susie Q's Piquinto Beans come with their own seasoning pack inside the bag and are very Santa Maria BBQ unique. You can order these online if you can't find them locally. Their website also has some good western BBQ gift pack items -prepackaged. I believe these are the same people as the Far Western Tavern people in Orcutt, formerly Guadalupe.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: glbtrtr

                                  Packets of guacamole spices are on every supermarket shelf, and prepared guac can be purchased in most of them.

                                  Pistachios are bl**dy everywhere -- every convenience store, every corner shop, every grocery store -- they all have pistachios --- they're not only "not unknown" in the EU, they're far more popular, and far cheaper than in the US.

                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    Times have changed! Thanks for the updates. How about Santa Maria BBQ spices and fixings?

                                    When in doubt, See's candies. Yes, I know EU is famous for their own brands but See's (for me) remains in a class by itself.

                                    1. re: glbtrtr

                                      a specific BBQ fixing would be great -- as long as it's not too spicy -- the French are notoriously phobic of anything chili-hot.

                                2. If you are looking only for food gifts, what about some specialty items from one of the many Asian specialty markets we have here that might be tough to find in France or some very "American" type things like chocolate chip cookies or bagels? It's probably just me, but I would avoid glass bottles or jars, or anything that can melt(especially in the summer) or very heavy cans(think extra baggage charges). Think wine or maple syrup or melted chocolate leaking in your suitcase! No matter how well you pack it, TSA can open it, and the airlines are not known for their gentle handling of baggage.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: cometraveler

                                    France's long history in Indo-China (Vietnam) other South East asian countries and Pacific Islands probably means they have plenty of access to "asian" ingredients too. Malaysian/Indonesian is currently hot in California right now in in our area as the "new" SE Asian cuisine. Small bottled Sambals, shrimp chips?

                                    1. re: glbtrtr

                                      all regularly available at any of the dozens of Asian markets all across France.

                                      They've got Asian covered.

                                  2. northern california olive oil.

                                      1. Santa Maria BBQ gift packs for illustration only (not an advertisement) http://www.susieqbrand.com/cart.php?m...

                                        Sunset Magazine recently featured the Santa Maria BBQ history and recipes on their cover - might make a good addition to the gift along with the cups and teaspoon US measuring sets to match the recipes.

                                          1. re: glbtrtr

                                            If they bring wild rice, please, please, not the California 'tame' cultivated rice. Ok, I'm from Minnesota.

                                            1. re: glbtrtr

                                              Good idea -- hard to find and VERY expensive when you find it.

                                            2. Dried cranberries, or is that too Oregon?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: glbtrtr

                                                also easy to find. Pricey, but common.

                                              2. K&L Wines has a store in Redwood City. Betramo's
                                                in Menlo Park has also a great selection. But even
                                                Costco might have good zins. Ridge or Ravenswood
                                                make excellent zins, but there are many others like
                                                Rosenblum, Mauritson, Easton, ... Easton and Rosenblum
                                                in particular are cery reasonably priced.

                                                1. Dr. Pepper
                                                  Goldfish crackers
                                                  pink & white circus animals
                                                  Lucky Charms
                                                  Mountain Dew
                                                  Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
                                                  Cracker jack
                                                  Red Solo cups

                                                  I'm not sure if these are available in France but you get the idea. Even if they taste vile they'd still be interesting and novel and a great laugh. You can call it "a taste of America". This is what would get me excited (not to mention the 10 kids!)

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: seamunky

                                                    Dr. Pepper - available in France.
                                                    Goldfish - available.
                                                    Red Solo Cups - available.
                                                    pink and white circus animals - available.

                                                    Please don't bring them any more of the oversugared, overchemicaled crap that leads the world to believe that we all eat at McDonald's 7 days a week, never cook, and spend every spare moment polishing our personal arsenal of firearms.

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      Seriously? These are fun foods that kids would enjoy trying. This is not international diplomatic relations, it's her sister.

                                                      And I am sure as many foreigners believe that about Americans as we believe Russians and Irish are drunks, Brits have terrible food and bad teeth and Aussies all eat " shrimp on the barbie."

                                                      I would absolutely bring moon pies or Little Debbies or some snack cake and let them see what our snack cakes or cereals are like, do they make rice krispie treats there? If not bring the ingredients and make them. Have fun! Why worry about what someone else thinks?

                                                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                                        Europeans are convinced that we live on premanufactured slop, and are quite surprised to find that not only do many of us not eat much processed food, but are accomplished cooks.

                                                        No need to prove their presuppositions-- bring something that opens their eyes and widens their horizons, even if only by a few millimetres.

                                                        And yes, they do make and eat Rice Krispie treats. Premade ones, too.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          How about a subscription to COOKS magazine?

                                                          1. re: glbtrtr

                                                            if they read English, maybe...but make sure you include US measuring cups and spoons, a conversion chart for Fahrenheit to Celsius, and if they're not American, they'll need help finding the equivalent ingredients.

                                                            foreign magazine subs are *crazy* expensive.

                                                          2. re: sunshine842

                                                            I really don't think that she has anything to prove to her sister. I would go lower brow as well-supermarket chocolate bar, wacky chips, unusual sodas, candies....

                                                            1. re: Gloriaa

                                                              If you're going low-brow, take it out of your suitcase and hand it to them, then I'd just ask my sister what she wanted me to bring.

                                                              But since this is the first time she's meeting the brother-in-law, she could either ask the sister, or go for something with at least some shred of decorum, in a gift bag or adorned with a nice ribbon.

                                                              First impressions matter -- and etiquette is extremely important to the French. Why reinforce the idea that we're a tribe of junk-slurping, ill-mannered brutes?

                                                    2. Hello all,

                                                      I just wanted to say thank you for all the inputs. I found it to be very helpful. Just one last thing where would buy great tasting zinfandel at? I live in San Jose. Thanks!

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: soapy4

                                                        The Wine Club in Santa Clara, and you can shop the website ahead of time.

                                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                          And they are having a Zin Tasting on March 8th.

                                                        2. re: soapy4

                                                          How about a bottle of Chateau Montelena, the wine that knocked the socks off the French wines a few decades ago in the famous Judgement In Paris.


                                                          Always fun to tweak our French friends from the colonies, n'est-ce pas?

                                                        3. Blenheim apricots (dried), California figs (dried), toffee from Littlejohns in LA.