Foodie gift from Chicago
February 22, 2012 7:20 PM   Subscribe

I am returning from Chicago to NY on a foodie's birthday. What, if anything, can I bring back for him? Limitations/details inside.

Pluses: I would probably have time to make a trip within downtown to pick up something special before the day I travel. The foodie is also a good cook, and would enjoy locally-made quality ingredients as well.

Minuses: I will not have access to a refrigerator at all. And I am flying out via O'Hare...from what I've read, options there are nonexistent even before one contemplates the prospect of putting a deepdish through the pornoscanner.

Thanks in advance!
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I would say a nice big bag of Garrett Popcorn, which you actually can get at the airport. I would go for the Caramel Crisp with Pecans but some people are fans of the Chicago mix.
posted by pie_seven at 7:32 PM on February 22, 2012

It's hard to think of things you can get in Chicago that you couldn't get better versions of in New York. (Chicago "pizza" is a case in point.) Perhaps some chocolates from a local chocolatier? Canady Le Chocolatier and Vosges are two well-known Chicago chocolatiers; I haven't been to either but people on Yelp seem to like them.

On preview: oh yeah, Garrett's popcorn. That's a Chicago thing. There's probably also a Nuts on Clark shop in the airport (at least, I know there's one in Midway).
posted by enlarged to show texture at 7:34 PM on February 22, 2012

If you're checking a bag, grab a bottle of North Shore aquavit.
posted by webhund at 7:53 PM on February 22, 2012

Get a gift box at the spice house. Someone gave me sucks thing once and it was a thoughtful and wonderful gift that kept in giving.
posted by devinemissk at 8:11 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Life long Chicagoan here. You can buy frozen Lou Malnati's pizzas. My order of precedence for pizza goes:

Pequod's > Lou's > Giordano's > Gino's > Uno's

I don't believe that Pequod's does frozen pizzas, but if you can somehow smuggle a hot pizza on the plane, your friend will be very happy. Lou's definitely does sell frozen. You can actually ship them internationally.

Garrett's is touristy junk food. Skip it.
posted by deathpanels at 8:26 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

When I was in Chicago, my foodie aunt pointed me to Terry's Toffee, which was probably the best toffee I've ever had. And Terry's a really nice guy. Plus they come in little packages that are easy to transport.
posted by molybdenum at 8:31 PM on February 22, 2012

Seconding Pequod's. I think if you can put it under your seat you are good to go. Maybe get a cheap cooler bag?
posted by bolognius maximus at 9:23 PM on February 22, 2012

You didn't say where you're staying, but there are a lot of vendors scattered throughout the city. Shopping for food downtown isn't actually that convenient.

Pastoral does have a location downtown. They don't specialize in local food, but I'm sure you could find some artisinal Wisconsin aged cheddar. Hard cheese can keep for quite a while unrefrigerated.

Chicago French Market
is just to the west of the Loop and features locally sourced stuff.

The Green City Market runs Saturdays, indoors in the winter, at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum about three miles north of downtown. You'll find local cheese and maybe smoked or cured meats.

Paulina Meat Market orGene's Sausage Shop would be worth checking out for sausage. There are dozens of small shops scattered throughout the neighborhoods that produce traditional ethic varieties.

If you check your luggage you could bring a couple of bombers of small-batch craft beer. I'm sure Goose Island now has distribution everywhere, but look for Half Acre or Three Floyds.

Any Polish deli will have pastries. Kasia's is probably the most well-known. Mmm, kolacky.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:56 PM on February 22, 2012

Garrett's is awesome, but they have a New York location.
posted by Xalf at 3:19 AM on February 23, 2012

Frango Mints!! We are required to get them for our London friends whenever we set foot overseas. They're at Macy's - the store formerly [and to some of us always] known as Marshall Fields. If you haven't had them they're a great combination of salty, sweet, and minty. Warning: they are totally addictive.
posted by hazleweather at 3:32 AM on February 23, 2012

Locally roasted coffee is a fun thing; even though you can get locally roasted coffee in NYC, it's interesting to different local varieties. I believe Intelli has an outpost in NYC now, so Metropolis (available at Kickstand and New Wave off the top of my head) and Dark Matter (available at Star Lounge) might be the way to go.

And I thought about coming in here yesterday specifically to say NOT to get Garrett's Popcorn. It's not Chicago food, it's Chicago tourist food...but that might just be me being a snob.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:32 AM on February 23, 2012

Oh, fuck, why has no one said this yet. MALŌRT.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:34 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Frango Mints!! We are required to get them for our London friends whenever we set foot overseas. They're at Macy's - the store formerly [and to some of us always] known as Marshall Fields. If you haven't had them they're a great combination of salty, sweet, and minty. Warning: they are totally addictive.

Just a head's up that further evidence of the evilness of Macy's (from a Chicago perspective) is that Frangos are pretty much available everywhere now. Not in the sort of selection that you'd get at Marshall Field's, but you see the boxes in a couple of different varieties, at least at Christmas. (In Minneapolis, they'll put a display in the aisle you walk through from the Skyway to target people just walking through the store, rather than shopping. So I don't know if they actually stock them year round.)
posted by hoyland at 6:21 AM on February 23, 2012

Seconding Malort!

As a former Chicagoan living in NYC, the things I'd love to get have all been mentioned here:

- Garrett's Popcorn (the NY location is just a few blocks from my office, but there's something ineffably different about the Chicago version - plus I guess the love that goes into bringing it on a plane for all those hours and yet not succumbing and eating the whole thing.)
- Fruits, veggies, herbs from the Green City Market, especially all from one farm.
- Pastries from Floriole
- Sausage from Paulina Meat Market

I haven't been back to town since Publican Quality Meats opened, but I'm dying to go there, as well as to Butcher and Larder. Maybe you could bring him some super top-notch indie-hipster cured meats? You definitely can't get Paul Kahan and Rob Leavitt's stuff in NYC. I'd fully kiss on the mouth anyone who brought me some. (Maybe that's not what you're going for?)
posted by firstbest at 6:30 AM on February 23, 2012

Garrett's is nasty

I'd give Lion's Pride from Koval distillery or something from North Shore.

If you go with Vosges, skip the chocolate bars or the cocoa mixes and go with the actual truffles. The bars and mixes are the more shelf-stable, mass market goods (perfectly delicious and I give them as gifts all the time), so the actual truffles are much more flavorful and impressive. Vosges ships and is in New York now, so like most things, it's not really a need-to-be-local-treat, but it is a Chicago business. If you have time, you should get a cocoa at the Lincoln Park location (or, I guess, when you get to NYC, go to the one in SoHo).

I agree that something from Paulina Meat Market is a good choice.

seriously, Garrett's is nasty.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:16 AM on February 23, 2012

I should add: the distillery stuff is stocked at Pastoral, which has a location in the Loop and at the French Market downtown, and at Binny's which is on Grand Avenue, near the Merchandise Mart. Vosges is just north of the river on Michigan in the mall with Nordstrom's.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:51 AM on February 23, 2012

Nicole's Divine Crackers. No kidding. I make gift boxes of Chicago foods for my out of town family members and these are by far the biggest hit. The weirder the flavor sounds, the better in general. The cranberry-black pepper flavor is insanely good with goat cheese.
posted by BibiRose at 9:23 AM on February 23, 2012

As far as procuring Nicole's Crackers other than at their bakery, I'm thinking Fox & Obel. (If they're even open any more, poor people.)
posted by BibiRose at 9:30 AM on February 23, 2012

Seconding Frango Mints. I've twice been the lucky recipient of these, courtesy of Youngergirl44 and they are divine.
posted by essexjan at 11:35 AM on February 23, 2012

I would suggest checking out Chicago's Downtown Farmstand near Millennium Park - they carry Spice House spices, Rare Bird Preserves, and many more portable, local treats!
posted by crepesofwrath at 2:20 PM on February 23, 2012

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