Good gifts from Boston?
July 22, 2009 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Looking for ideas for interesting gifts/souvenirs/foods that I can buy in the Boston area and bring to friends and relatives in other parts of the country.

I moved here recently – it's my first time living in this part of the country, and I'm not completely sure what you can get here that you can't get anywhere else. I'm going out of town this weekend to visit some friends, and will be attending a party so I'd at least like to bring a bottle of wine. The following weekend a friend from my hometown is visiting me and is willing to take gifts to my family when she returns home.

What lovely gifts can I get them from around here? Either things that are unique to Boston or New England or things that are just generally hard to find would work.

I'm especially looking for food or wine, though I'm open to other ideas. I'd like to keep things affordable, maybe $15 tops for a bottle of wine or so.

Whatever I get should be able to survive a 10-12 hour car ride. (I may also be sending a care package or two in the future, so I'm looking for shippable stuff too.)

I live in Somerville and can get to Cambridge very easily, so anything close by would be ideal. I can walk to Savenor's and the Wine and Cheese Cask, and will probably find some stuff there, but I'd love other suggestions.

Thanks as always!
posted by Metroid Baby to Shopping (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you can get out to the Nashoba Winery, they have some really interesting fruit wines and spirits.
posted by cider at 10:15 AM on July 22, 2009

If it doesn't have to be from Boston but just from New England, there are some neat wineries in Newport, RI that have very good wines (plus you get the winery visit/tasting, plus the mansions are nearby...).

Teuscher on Newbury Street has crazy good chocolates, if you're willing to take the T in to the city. I've taken those to family get togethers and they've been received very well.

Are you stuck doing only wine, or can you do beer? There are tons of great microbreweries in New England.
posted by olinerd at 10:19 AM on July 22, 2009

You can't go wrong with authentic Maple Syrup...
posted by Hanuman1960 at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2009

I'd recommend getting your hands on some Autocrat Coffee Syrup (for making coffee milk with) -- although this is a Rhode Island thing, not a Massachusetts/Boston thing, and I don't know where you'd get it in Boston. But if you're going down to Newport for wine anyway, it's delicious, and the state drink of Rhode Island!
posted by brainmouse at 10:22 AM on July 22, 2009

I always bring maple syrup (or real maple sugar candy for the kids) if I'm going places that don't have it. Sometimes if I'm feeling extra spunky I'll toss in a pancake mix or something nifty from the King Arthur Flour people. Many people don't know that those fruit slices come from Boston. There used to be a store in Davis Square that sold seconds but I don't think there is anymore.
posted by jessamyn at 10:26 AM on July 22, 2009

Other things I'm thinking of now, if you're willing to make it a general New England thing (though a lot of these you can probably by at stores here in Boston):

-- Real maple syrup (as Hanuman1960 said)
-- 100% maple sugar candy from Vermont or New Hampshire (there's the light colored stuff that's available in the rest of the country, but the dark stuff is so, so much better)
-- Anything blueberry from Maine. Jam and preserves are the best for gifts.
posted by olinerd at 10:27 AM on July 22, 2009

Response by poster: Oh yeah, I can do beer!

I should also clarify - I'm (for the most part) mass transit-dependent and have a busy couple of weeks ahead of me, so I probably won't be able to venture outside of the metro area in the near future. By "from New England" I mean that I'd be happy to give a gift made in, say, Maine, but I'd have to buy it in Boston.

I will be hitting Newbury Street with my out-of-town friend, so that does help!
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:30 AM on July 22, 2009

I had this problem when I was visiting some relatives in Japan and needed to bring some omiyage (souvenirs) with me. Finding something Boston-related stressed me out a little since I'd only moved here a couple months before, and I ended up bringing Harvard schwag, mainly because it was relevant to my situation, easily purchased, easily packed, non-perishable, and able to be lugged around internationally without any problems. Red Sox gear was also high on my list.

Given that you're looking for tasty eats, although I haven't gone myself, I've heard quite fantastic things about Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge. They have their own cheese cave and are said to be one of the best cheese shops in the country. Taza Chocolate, in Somerville, has textured, Mexican-style chocolate and L.A. Burdick in Cambridge has some awesome, European-style chocolates. I have tried both of these and can vouch for the tastiness.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:32 AM on July 22, 2009

You can blow peoples' minds with brown bread. It's not nearly as weird/gross as you might assume - it's really good toasted with butter or cream cheese.

Keep an eye out for canned Indian Pudding, too. Look's Gourmet Food makes a tasty one.

Also, Sky Bars.
posted by usonian at 10:37 AM on July 22, 2009

Sam Adams may have some limited-run beers that are not nationally available, although they do tend towards the weird end of the spectrum.
posted by smackfu at 10:42 AM on July 22, 2009

Any candies from Necco (like Necco wafers, which are kind of like candy communion wafers) are very Boston-specific.

Also, even though they sell everywhere now, Sam Adam's Beer says "Boston" to a lot of folks.
posted by xingcat at 10:43 AM on July 22, 2009

I'd recommend getting your hands on some Autocrat Coffee Syrup (for making coffee milk with)

Yes! Actually our preferred brand is Eclipse and we get it at Stop & Shop in the Boston area. It's with the ice cream toppings, not in the beverage aisle.

Necco wafers? (New England Confectionery Company - headquartered in Revere, MA)

Maybe something from one of the Italian markets in the North End.
posted by lakeroon at 10:47 AM on July 22, 2009

Definitely real (grade B) maple syrup and maple sugar candy! There are plenty of sugar shacks out in Western MA that should sell here in Boston if you want to get something made in MA. I like North Hadley Sugar Shack a lot, and it looks like you can buy it online.

If you want to buy in person, you should be able to buy syrup at most of the farmer's markets (there are a bunch of T-accessible ones), or a good local grocery store. Pemberton Farms on Mass Ave should have a good selection. I've seen real, local syrup at the Shaw's in Porter Sq, but I think they only had grade A. You can probably get it at those Boston tourist shops but I would guess it'll be more expensive.

Taza is great too.
posted by min at 11:10 AM on July 22, 2009

I was just thinking that there's also a lot of Portuguese food stuffs around that I've never really seen outside of New England and Hawaii. It's not the kind of thing that necessarily screams Boston or New England to me, but I think it's definitely a bit of local flavor.
posted by Diagonalize at 11:30 AM on July 22, 2009

if you go to the kitschy tourist trap shops near the Common, they have containers of tea themed to the Boston Tea Party....there's even no tax on the tea :)

If theres a kid involved, grab a copy of Make Way For Ducklings!
posted by legotech at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2009

Nthing the maple products. You can buy great vermonth or maine maple products online. a particular fav with my family is Maple Butter.

Also, Stonewall Kitchen is a Maine based company, and make great gourmet jams and preserves. Products can be bought online, or at the 'Best of Boston' store in Faneil Hall, and I believe in Whole Foods. Am sure in other places too. Their dessert sauces are yummalicious. They also have great marinades, dressings etc. Blueberries (and blueberry jam) are very New England :)
posted by darsh at 11:41 AM on July 22, 2009

the pride of wicked pissah somerville, MARSHMALLOW FLUFF?

more seriously, nthing taza and maple stuff. maple sugar might travel better than syrup, depending.

a friend of mine loves top-split hot dog buns and always brings some back when she visits the east coast. (i'm not sure if it's an east coast thing or a new england thing, but you can't get 'em in seattle). that's probably kind of a niche product, tho.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:10 PM on July 22, 2009

Boston Baked Beans (in candy form) could be good. A lot/most candy-type stores will have them. Cranberry based food could work, if they're not super common where you're visiting back.

Necco wafers is a good idea. Fluff is a good idea, even more if the people you're giving it to live in a region of the country that is fluffless (such enclaves do exist, sadly). There's always lobster related stuff...
posted by skynxnex at 12:30 PM on July 22, 2009

I'd get Berkshire Brewing Co. or Mayflower Brewing Co. beer instead of the Sam Adams. Very local, and much yummier. Chocolate mice from L.A.Burdick's and maple sugar candy (In college, I was horrified when I met people who'd never tasted maple syrup or maple sugar!) would be great choices as well.
posted by ubersturm at 4:56 PM on July 22, 2009

Well, it's food and Boston related: Johnny Cupcake's on Newbury Street doesn't sell cupcakes but they have pretty cool t-shirts (cupcakes with skull heads, etc.).

posted by dzaz at 5:14 PM on July 22, 2009

Savenors is carrying Taza chocolate these days and the Wine and Cheese cask might carry Nashoba Valley Winery products. If not, the Liquor World in Porter Square does since I saw a bottle or two there yesterday. It's all fruit-based wine though, but their Cranberry Apple wine if you can find it, does go down like Ocean Spray.
posted by FreezBoy at 7:53 AM on July 24, 2009

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