What can I bring from California to my Canadian relatives?
July 2, 2014 10:23 AM   Subscribe

I will be visiting my Canadian relatives and want to bring them some goodies from California. What can I bring that they can't already get there?

I'll be staying with my Canadian relatives in Toronto this summer and want to bring little gifts. My cousins kids are ages 6-18 (boys and girls), my cousins are in their 40s and my aunts and uncles are in their 70s. I live near a Trader Joes, have access to farmers markets and candy shops, all kinds of souvenir shops--what kinds of things would be unique, tasty, hard to find, or just fun?
posted by biscuits to Travel & Transportation (22 answers total)
Personally, I love almost everything from Trader Joe's, and I make a point of stopping there every time I'm in the States. I love their lip balm, shampoo & conditioner, and lots of other toiletry stuff in addition to the food.

The kids will probably like US-only candies - I know I love Spree, which I can't find in Canada. (Although, for the most part Canadian candy/chocolate is superior to American....)
posted by barnoley at 10:44 AM on July 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am from Northern California, and when I think of CA goodies I think of sourdough bread, Dungeness crab, and Ghiradelli chocolates. The bread and chocolate could travel well -- not sure about the crab :). If they're wine drinkers, you could bring some local wine too.
posted by elmay at 10:49 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some TJs products are sold in Canada under President's Choice, oddly enough, but things like chocolate covered Joe Joe's and chocolate covered Pringles are always fun to bring.

How about farmer's market jams or honey? From what I understand, the strawberries in Ontario leave much to be desired this year after such a horrible winter -- so anything preserved (that can travel across the border) from a farmers market would be enjoyed.

IMHO, Canadian chocolate is so much better than American, my family brings loads to me!

My nephews (4 and 8) always enjoy SF themed Legos and toys, since there are some regional variations. I always bring awesome Japanese stickers from Japantown in SF, interesting mochi flavors too.

Enjoy your trip!
posted by mamabear at 10:57 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Ghirardelli chocolates. These are always requested by one of my Canadian buddies.
posted by karbonokapi at 11:03 AM on July 2, 2014

For the kids, go to Cost Plus for goofy little toys and gizmos, and for FLICKS!

Here's what you can import into Canada

Sand Dollars

Rather than packing wine in your suitcase, just buy it at the Duty Free at the airport.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:07 AM on July 2, 2014

There are a number of cosmetic products / lines that aren't available in Canada. So you could ask them what they like & then bring it across. It's not fun but it can be happy-inducing (for some).

Alternatively liquor is much cheaper down there ($80-$100 for patron in Canada) so if they like that kind of thing it could be splurge treat for them.

I don't know where you are in Cali but local, well-made art (to their taste) might be nice as well.

The best thing to bring is the california vibe... maybe it's just me but Toronto is to go-go-go + heat + lack of west coast beauty, so something that brings about the spirit of nature is nice too.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:14 AM on July 2, 2014

If they like Coffee, Peet's and Philz are not available in Canada (that I know of).
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:17 AM on July 2, 2014

Some TJs products are sold in Canada under President's Choice

Sorry for the derail, but....is this true?! Which products?
posted by barnoley at 11:25 AM on July 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

The range of boring consumer stuff that's available in the States but not in Canada is actually pretty large. In your shoes, I would ask the 40somethings if they go to Buffalo/Niagara to shop sometimes, and then what they shop for -- especially as regards the kids.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:27 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in Canada and my local grocery store sells Ghirardelli chocolates.

If you were my relative in California come to visit me I would like oranges from the orange tree in your backyard because they came from your backyard. I would like something that was a souvenir of the place where you live, like a t-shirt with a picture of the Bay or redwoods on it. The trick would be to choose something useful and aesthetically pleasing. Or else I would like a gift from California that had to do with your own specific interests. For example there is a Jane Austen group that does English Country Dance in the Bay area and if you went to the dance group I would love pictures or souvenirs from the Jane Austen group just because YOU areinto Jane Austen era dancing. I don't know what there is in your part of California but a souvenir of a local museum or a local place of interest would go over well should you happen to like the museum or the place of interest.

I don't know if Trader Joe's in California is better than Trader Joe's in DC but when I was in DC I didn't see anything there that was more interesting than at my local grocery store, and I live in a very small city indeed. But since Trader Joe's/President's Choice are chains the only reason why the gift would be interesting would be because you could get it too. When my friend from Texas visited me he was delighted to go to the Dairy Queen because we had Dairy Queen up here in Canada too. So you might want to get a selection of sweets so that the kids or adults could exclaim over what's the same and what's different.

If you get several small gifts - flash light, head band, wallet, jigsaw puzzle of red wood trees, that has a better chance of hitting that sweet spot of delight than one bigger, more expensive gift.

Fresh fruit is always fine, but you know, depending on your travel arrangements and travel time there is always a risk that you could get better California fruit at the local supermarket which had been shipped in refrigerated containers than if the peaches and strawberries spend two hours in your suitcase in the sun on the tarmac at your layover.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:36 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

TCHO chocolate >>>> Ghirardelli. More expensive, but maybe more interesting.

You could ask if they like hot sauces. There are several good ones that might be different from what they have nearby (Pepper Plant, Melinda's).

If you browse a Whole Foods (or, even better, an actual farmers' market), they often have interesting locally made items like soaps, sauces, hard candies, jams, and so on.
posted by wintersweet at 12:01 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

California Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Many (most?) European olive oils use olives from multiple countries or aren't olive oil at all, because they're adulterated with other, non-olive oils. They also sometimes mix in oxidated or even old-rancid oils. Many people may have never had real extra virgin olive oil! More info here and infographic here.

California EVOO has far, far fewer of these problems. Trader Joes markets a nice variety that's branded with their name. I also like California Olive Ranch and Stone House.

Ghirardelli and Sees chocolates are available everywhere (though there aren't Sees stores in Canada), so I wouldn't necessarily bring those. I'm a fan of TCHO, which is made in San Francisco, but there are others.

Not sure if you can import beer, but Lagunitas, Anchor Steam, Russian River and Sierra Nevada are all well-regarded, Northern California breweries.

Go to your farmer's market and buy some local, Northern California honey. If you're lucky, you'll see orange blossom, wildflower or maybe lavender honeys. I like orange blossom the best.

Blue Bottle Coffee in San Francisco is very well-regarded and locally roasted. They also sell coffee beans online.

I also like the idea above of berry jams. It's blackberry season right now, so if you can find a blackberry jam, go for it!
posted by cnc at 12:06 PM on July 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would suggest See's Candies if you can get to a shop, a real shop.
Not at the Airport but a real shop where you can pick out your flavors.
posted by calgirl at 12:10 PM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

(barnoley -- some of their boxed crackers -- can't find a link to help verify but I've seen identical products myself)
posted by mamabear at 12:36 PM on July 2, 2014

There's not much you can't get in Toronto, but two of my favourite treats from a friend of mine in California are See's chocolates and Mexican candy.
posted by northernish at 12:53 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Blenheim apricot jam from We Love Jam is the best jam in the world. Blenheim apricots are an heirloom, easily bruised variety that used to be grown widely in the Santa Clara Valley (aka, the Valley of Heart's Delight), but now has largely fallen victim to neighborhoods of tract housing in excellent school districts. You can get a jar for $10 at Whole Foods. It is worth it.

*NorCal people: there will likely be fresh Blenheims at the farmers markets this weekend; our guy at the San Mateo market said it would be the last weekend. They sometimes look a little green and unimpressive; that doesn't matter. Don't be so shallow. Buy them! Eat them! Thank me later!
posted by purpleclover at 1:43 PM on July 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Nthing those who say you can pretty much get it all in Canada, especially in Toronto. Go local! Like you alluded to in your post, farmers markets are gold for this stuff, especially crafts, coffee, preserves, etc (make sure it is clearly labelled according to this).

And yeah, I nearly keeled over the last time I was in a liquor store in the US. Everything was dirt cheap. Like, not even comparable. So there's that.

Not sure about the kids, but I always loved it when people brought me cool rocks/shells/sand from other places. Actually still do.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:53 PM on July 2, 2014

Seconding See's Chocolates. I also love the Horseradish and Cheddar chips from TJs. Come to think of it, anything from TJs is excellent.

Alcohol is also an inspired idea. Good tequila is much cheaper in California. Bring them some Don Julio and they'll be forever in your debt.
posted by Muppetattack at 7:11 PM on July 2, 2014

Thanks everyone! It's very helpful to know, for instance, that you can get Ghirardelli in Canada but alcohol is cheaper in the US. All great answers--I'm marking best on the ones with specific products that I want to remember when I go shopping. Keep 'em coming if you have more!
posted by biscuits at 8:45 PM on July 2, 2014

Another vote for See's Candy. And an old coworker who moved back to Canada makes a monthly trek back over the border to shop at Trader Joe's. Just make sure to bring some Tim Horton's back with you.

For non-food related items, there's no better (or maybe I should say Amazing!) way of introducing them to the real California than through some Huell Howser DVDs.
posted by green_flash at 9:08 PM on July 2, 2014

In-N-Out Burger stuff? The kids might like it, and there are plenty of things to choose from.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:35 PM on July 2, 2014

My wife and I are in Ontario, and we do bi-annual gift exchanges with our friends in SF. We always ask for TCHO chocolate, snacks from Trader Joe's, and Cheezits. And no, Cheezits are not specifically Californian, but they are far above the bland Cheese Nips available here.
posted by gox3r at 9:51 AM on July 3, 2014

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