As a foodie who travels frequently, a key responsibility I have is to bring home cool, local souvenirs from the exotic places I visit. Since my friends and family expect more than a t-shirt or mug, I’ve found gourmet, packaged food is a great gift. It’s fun to get some kind of gourmet food that is typical to a region or country. I always get multiples of things I buy so I can also enjoy them once I return home. Here are three great food gifts I’ve discovered over the course of my recent adventures in Istanbul, Brussels and London:
Tea from Fortnum & Mason in London, England
For foodie travelers to London, Fortnum & Mason (181 Piccadilly, London) has been providing the finest in food and wine since 1707. They have what I think is the best selection of teas in the world and many are packaged as great gift sets. I recommend one of their single estate teas, grown and harvested from a single crop, from a single tea farm. The teas are very rare and only stocked in small quantities. Small packages are about $15. The Fortnum & Mason selection includes wonderful tea accessories like pots, caddies and strainers.
NAR Gourmet from Istanbul, Turkey
NAR Gourmet is a line of premium food products from Turkey. I got some of their items in Istanbul and continue to use them frequently in my own kitchen. Handcrafted from select ingredients from Mediterranean farmers and producers, the delights include delicious olive oils, preserves and marmalades, vinegars and herbs and spices as well. NAR offers serious foodie stuff like single-estate olive oils that capture the essence of this ancient country. Like wine, the olive oils are bottled in their region of origin, offering a range of flavors. NAR products are sold in Istanbul at a beautiful store called Armaggan (Nuruosmaniye Caddesi 65, Istanbul) which is worth a visit on its own. NAR Restaurant, also located at Armaggan, is one of Istanbul’s real foodie delights and I had an amazing meal there. The range of wonderful NAR products are now available in the US, via Amazon and some specialty food retailers. A bottle of olive oil is about $8 and gift sets of vinegar or olive oil start around $30.
Pierre Marcolini chocolate from Brussels, Belgium
I must admit, I love chocolate and one of my favorite destinations is the home of great chocolate, Brussels, Belgium. Master chocolatier Pierre Marcolini buys his cocoa beans directly from the producers, so he can roast them himself and control the whole process. The cocoa beans come from all over the world, from Cuba to the Ivory Coast, and each tastes a bit different, like wines or coffees. A visit to his Brussels shop (1 rue des Minimes, Place du Grand Sablon) can provide a wide variety of great goodies to bring home to friends. Marcolini is also known for his beautiful packaging. A “Malline Decouverte”, which is a box of 34 beautifully packaged specialty chocolates, is $45.
Bringing food back into the US
Any food, packaged, fresh, fruit, nuts, anything that can be eaten, must be declared to Customs and Border Protection upon arriving in the US. For the most part, commercially packaged food is allowed to be brought into the country, with some exceptions. The key tip is to indicate “yes” on the Customs Declaration form if you have food of any kind to avoid any penalties.
Freddy Sherman is a world traveler and editor of the travel blog luxuryfred.com. You can follow him on Twitter -@luxuryfred and on Instagram – @luxuryfred.
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