Goodies to bring from BC to DC
August 2, 2022 8:56 PM   Subscribe

We're visiting Victoria, BC from the Washington, DC area. We'd like to bring back some yummy Canadian food items that are easy to find here and would be hard to find in DC. What should we get?
posted by amarynth to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Nanaimo bars
posted by zadcat at 9:18 PM on August 2, 2022 [6 favorites]

Nanimo bars, if the recipients like intensely sweet ... sweets. (They're not very subtle.)

Butter tarts, same considerations.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:22 PM on August 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Candied salmon is what I'd go for personally.

Ketchup or all dressed chips, but that's not really BC specific.
posted by yeahwhatever at 9:31 PM on August 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Canadian Kit Kats have a much higher quality chocolate. They can surprise an American
posted by nickggully at 9:34 PM on August 2, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you travel with Nanaimo bars, please note that they should be refrigerated until firm and served cold! Kinder Eggs have recently become famous as being sold here in Canada but not in the US, however apparently the fines for attempted importation into the US are outrageous so don't mess with Kinder Eggs is what I'm saying.

Go to a grocery store and walk through the aisles with candy/chocolate and chips/snacks and looks for stuff that look unfamiliar and interesting. Coffee Crisp is a popular chocolate bar that doesn't really have an American equivalent. If it's sold in a chain grocery store it's probably pretty decent. And you can also get Nanaimo bars in the bakery!

Kraft Dinner in Canada is a bit different from Kraft Mac & Cheese in the US so if you or someone you love is a fan of the blue box, a comparison is worth a try.

Maple anything, really. Maple glazed donuts will still be good for a day or so after purchase.

Seconding yeahwhatever on the chips, not because I enjoy either but because they are worth a try and so normal and ubiquitous in Canada that most people don't realise they they are so distinctly Canadian in popularity.
posted by chudmonkey at 9:35 PM on August 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer:


You could do a u-pick for yourselves, and also hit a farmers market for some jam to bring home.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:38 PM on August 2, 2022

Kerrs sweets
Sourdough bread
posted by brujita at 9:59 PM on August 2, 2022

Generic Canadian: Cheezies, still made on the same machine since 1949.

If you or someone you know is into tea (or I suppose now coffee), Murchie's (est 1894) is a Victoria institution.
posted by Superilla at 10:23 PM on August 2, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh, and Murchie's is a particularly good pick for someone into the British Royals; they have a number of royal blends, including one harkening back to a blend John Murchie delivered to Queen Victoria back before he emigrated from Scotland. They also have a number of literary and Canadian themed blends.
posted by Superilla at 10:28 PM on August 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

They aren't terribly unique in style but Rogers Chocolates are a Victoria institution. Victoria creams and Empress Squares are their signature items.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:37 PM on August 2, 2022

In my opinion a Crunchie is the best candy bar. They're strictly Canadian.
I also like an Eat-More, for the name, because they have more ingredients than any other processed food, and because the sticky residue they leave on your hands doesn't come off in water. They are not available outside Canada. Americans who have tried them ask questions like, "Do you eat this?" I think they're good.
Also Canadian lottery tickets are good because they're tax free.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 11:33 PM on August 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Honestly, Victoria is kind of a small city and it doesn't have much that I would consider world class or truly unique as far as good goes. The closest that you can get is if you come at the right time of year and are respectful, you can taste camas root.

I will second the suggestion for salmon products. Candied, smoked, canned, whatever your poison. What you can get here is almost certainly better than what you can get in DC.

Nanaimo bars do not travel well. By all means, get one from a nice shop to enjoy while you are here but don't try to transport them unless you can keep them cold (but not frozen!) Also, funny thing about Nanaimo bars are that most of the other small island towns and cities are kind of jealous of their notoriety. So you will often see local challengers trying to make a new regional bar to get that infamy. Look for Victoria bars, Duncan Bars, etc. You'll see people trying to make them happen if you look for it.

Rootside makes some pretty good bitters and mixers. If you picked up some of those along with Phillips tonic and sodas and a local gin then you have pretty much all you need to recreate our local hipster cocktail culture from the comfort of your home. Speaking of alcohol, Macaloney’s Island Whisky was the 2021 winner of best Canadian Single Malt so if you like whisky you might want to stop in there.

Rogers Chocolates is an institution, but if you like chocolate you should stop in at The Chocolate Project. The man that runs it is very particular about chocolate and imports all sorts of rare chocolates. There is also a good selection of locally produced chocolate at more reasonable price points, like Sirene. TCP is also located at the Public Market, which is a good place to go if you want to peruse local artisan foods. BTW, many of the local food tours start at the public market so if you are doing something like that you may be going there anyways.

This one is kind of extra niche, but supposedly Saltspring Island lamb has a unique terroir and is a high end specialty meat. I can't say that I have noticed anything different about it, but ymmv.

There is a fermented drink produced by Babe's Honey Farm called Mermaid's Tears. I have not been at a social gathering in at least 5 years where someone didn't bring a bottle of this stuff. It is kind of like Kombucha, but it has a different kind of culture and it is fermented honey not tea. They have some other flavours, but Mermaid's Tears are the one people are diehard fans of.

If you want candy or snack foods then check out Tout de Sweet. They make small batch candy, but also stock some other BC-made snack foods like Hardbite potato chips. Though, fyi, you can get hardbite at any grocery store and for cheaper.

Speaking of grocery, it might be worth your time to wander through The Root Cellar. It is kind of like a locally focused Whole Foods, but the reason I suggest having a look is they almost exclusively stock locally produced versions of things so you will find a lot of stuff that is only available via street market or knowing the right person to message on social media.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 11:40 PM on August 2, 2022 [9 favorites]

Aero chocolate bars are very good and not something we have in the US.

Canadian rye bread is a different kind of rye that I always grab when I’m there.

If you do want to take Nanaimo bars home—I’m probably going to get clobbered for saying this, but—M&M Food Markets (national frozen food store) has a frozen version you can get. It’s not going to be quite the same but it’s still quite good.
posted by tubedogg at 11:52 PM on August 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

however apparently the fines for attempted importation into the US are outrageous so don't mess with Kinder Eggs is what I'm saying

I don’t know the story behind this, but I did see Kinder eggs for sale at Vancouver airport, on a flight to Portland. Not that unusual you might think, except this was past the US customs, so any US visitors would have been able to buy them and pop them into their carryon, no questions asked. I have to assume this critical homeland security loophole has since been closed, but worth keeping an eye out.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:28 AM on August 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

One CAN bring meat products back to the USA for personal consumption.
posted by brujita at 3:15 AM on August 3, 2022

Best answer: If you can't get peppermint Aero bars in the US, definitely get some peppermint Aeros. Other flavours of Aero exist and are worth trying, but the peppermint Aero reigns supreme.

Other than that... things that I brought back from Canada to the UK, which might be equally unavailable in DC: Coffee Crisp bars, maple cream sandwich cookies, maple fudge, maple candy.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:23 AM on August 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Lays ketchup potato chips

Ruffles all-dressed potato chips - apparently Canada’s number one flavour - is like barbecue mixed with salt and vinegar.

Any chocolate bar you’re not used to seeing

If you’re getting maple syrup, always get the darkest kind (labelled “very dark, strong taste”). Maple syrup is made by evaporating the water out of maple sap. The darker kind has less water and a noticeably better taste.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:08 AM on August 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Maynard’s winegums and Macintosh toffee - although I was just in Winnipeg and did not see either of them at the corner store, so maybe tastes have changed.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 4:36 AM on August 3, 2022

Maple candy is alway on my to-buy list since it’s almost impossible to find here
posted by Mchelly at 4:44 AM on August 3, 2022

My go-to treat for crossing the border is Coffee Crisp. Skip the ketchup chip, though.
posted by Gray Duck at 5:35 AM on August 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Nanaimo bars do not travel well. By all means, get one from a nice shop to enjoy while you are here but don't try to transport them unless you can keep them cold (but not frozen!)

This is not my experience at all. We used to make big batches of Nanaimo Bars and mail them to people and never had much trouble with them not traveling well. They do need to be packaged in a rigid container in seperated layers - wax paper or a bit of cut up boxboard works between the layers. I wouldn't put them in your checked baggage in the height of summer, because they will melt if they get very hot but typical room temoerature is fine. But I have transported plenty of them in carry on and they were always okay.

The ones we kept, we froze. I like them much better when they are still frozen, personally.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:03 AM on August 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Shreddies are like Wheat Chex, but good. (Nestlé Smarties are also unavailable in the US.)
posted by holgate at 7:49 AM on August 3, 2022

It's not posh, but my Canadian-born colleagues often bring back all dressed chips and smarties to meetings when they return. That may not be as exciting for people who don't have childhood nostalgia for them.
posted by eotvos at 8:57 AM on August 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

I’d get the aforementioned all dressed and ketchup chips and Coffee Crisp bars for novelty Canadian snacks, but also don’t miss the chance to pick up some over the counter, no questions asked, cold and flu medicine with pseudoephedrine from one of the many Shoppers Drug Marts.
posted by rodlymight at 9:44 AM on August 3, 2022

This is not Victoria-specific, but is only available in Canada. It is also not technically a food item, but you do put it in your mouth and it will change your life, so I think it should be allowed under the spirit, if not the letter, of your ask:
Robax, purple container (or the generic store-brand version thereof, which is also usually labelled in purple). The green or red versions are not nearly as good.
You're welcome.
posted by Dorinda at 10:01 AM on August 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

I have to second Murchie's tea and coffee.

Not only is it really good quality, but they have specific blends that celabrate different facets of Canada. Here is a link to their Canadian Collection:

My personal favorite is the Jubilee Selection, in honor of the Queen:
posted by spinifex23 at 11:16 AM on August 3, 2022

Generic Canadian: Cheezies, still made on the same machine since 1949.

If you like cheese-puff type things, Cheese Pleesers are also excellent and only available in Canada from Manitoba west.

If you're into alcoholic beverages, you could bring home a bottle of craft distilled liquor. For instance, Victoria's Devine Distillery just won Canadian Spirit of the Year for 2022 for their Ancient Grains and you should be able to find it at a store in downtown Victoria.

Otherwise, local products. Places like the Local General Store in Victoria have a bunch of locally-made pantry items you could browse through and choose some to take back.
posted by urbanlenny at 11:22 AM on August 3, 2022

In my opinion a Crunchie is the best candy bar. They're strictly Canadian.

This Crunchie?
posted by zamboni at 5:16 PM on August 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

> Maple candy is alway on my to-buy list since it’s almost impossible to find here

Also maple butter.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:04 PM on August 3, 2022

> but I did see Kinder eggs for sale at Vancouver airport [past customs]

There are Kinder eggs available in the US, too, just made differently so the toys aren't as small. I wonder if that's what was for sale there in the airport. I would not try to buy Kinder eggs from just anyplace in Canada and take them across the border, though. That said I don't think they're that great, anyway.
posted by tubedogg at 8:58 PM on August 3, 2022

I wonder if that's what was for sale there in the airport.

Not impossible! I didn’t inspect closely, but the rest of their stock was Canadian, w dual English/French packaging - they’d have to specifically import US kinder egg stock into Canada, then get it across the internal airport US border, which seems unlikely. I am curious about what the customs process is for them, but I’m guessing they bring bulk lots across and don’t always give it a super close inspection. I’ll ask next time I’m there!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 6:28 PM on August 4, 2022

If you do want to buy kinder eggs, just make sure to open them up before you bring them to the US. It's fine to bring the toys back, just not while they're still inside the chocolate. (The kinder eggs made for the US have toy on one side and candy on the other, to follow US rules.)

And this may go without saying, but if you choose to pick blueberries, don't bring them back to the US, just like any other produce, it can't pass the border. Only pick what you can eat while you're on your trip.

I like the wine gummies and Nanaimo bars. A lot of candy is fun, just browsing to see what's different. You might also just enjoy picking out snacks in one of the small Asian grocery stores, like onion rice crackers and mango jelly snacks. Or going to the British import shop (if you don't have one) and getting some of those treats too.
posted by blueberry monster at 9:34 PM on August 6, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks, all! These are all great suggestions. We ended up picking up Nanaimo bars, smarties, all dressed chips, coffee crisps, Kit-Kats, maple cream cookies, and Sirene chocolate during our BC stay, and added in smoked salmon, u-pick blueberries and my aunt's apricot kolache from our vacation home-base near Seattle. Our friends/cat-sitters were very appreciative!
posted by amarynth at 10:56 AM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

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