Since classes don't begin for another week, I am on a posting roll here...
I went back to New Jersey last week and returned with 5 grocery bags of stuff that either:
1) I cannot get here
2) the quality is not the same here
3) is cheap at home but expensive down here
Keep in mind I have been in the Richmond, VA area for 29 years, so this IS my home. Still, I never miss the chance to stock up. So, what do you crave and bring back?
Here is my current list of stuff:
1) Pork Roll. In some places they call it "Taylor Ham" but in Trenton (home of the Taylor Pork Roll) you can get Case's or Taylor Pork Roll in many forms. I often get a sandwich for breakfast on a fresh baked kaiser roll (with poppy seeds) with cheese and yellow mustard. We even had Pork Roll as a school lunch option! I buy either a chub to slice myself, or lately I am lazy and buy the presliced. It appears on some shelves here, but not regularly and not as cheap as in NJ.
2) Fresh Ricotta Cheese. I get a small can from one of the Italian markets in Trenton. It is hard to get if you are far from where it is produced as it spoils quickly. We eat it for breakfast, or in the summer serve in pasta with fresh tomato sauce and fresh basil leaves.
3) REAL HOT DOGS. They have a skin on them. In the local grocery store (Shop Rite, Acme, etc.) I have a selection of skin on hot dogs and they are very inexpensive. The closest I can get here is at Ukrops, and they are Boars Head, which is outrageously expensive (about 7 dollars a pound) I always have several packages in my freezer and we make as good a "ripper" as you will find south of Philadelphia.
4) Drakes Cakes. Specifically, we get Yodels and Ring Dings, but Yankee Doodles and Devil Dogs are also among my old favorites. They just don't seem to ship this far south, although the old Hannaford's Grocery Stores did carry them in Richmond in the early 90s.
5) Pasta: cheap, dried pasta is a massive staple of our grocery stores. There are at least 4 brands that sell for less than 79 cents a pound and they carry a huge variety of sizes and shapes. This is about selection, price, and bulk. My wife is NEVER happy to see 8-10 lbs of dried pasta bags in the back of the car, but it is GONE within 2 months.
6) Breads and Pastry. This time, baby cream puffs, chocolate dipped cannolis, sfingi, and ricotta pie for the sweets and semolina bread, mini torpedos, and ham breads for sandwiches and snacks. There are italian, polish, and french bakeries all over my county. There are enough that they have to have reasonable prices to compete with each other. In Trenton, across a seven block stretch there is Italian Peoples Bakery, Barberos Italian Bakery, and Little Italy Pastries and Deli. I can get cheese and deli meats there as well...
7) Deli Meats. Not sure why premium deli meats are so much less expensive in NJ, but they are. Geno Salami for 2.99 lb, Mortadella, Cappocola, Prosciutto, Soppresata, Italian Provolone, etc. all make their way back to our deli drawer. The kids pack some might fine lunches from time to time.
8) Sausages and meats. We have BUTCHERS!! Our local polish butcher has a wonderful selection of sausages, pork products, and fresh kielbasa. Sauerkraut and pickles are made on the premises to make sure you get some vegetables with your meats. Italian sausages go we beyond sweet and hot: sausages made with cheese, chilis, garlic, and even broccoli rabe are not available around here. Also some great Pennsylvania Dutch bacons, sausages, and and other farm products.
9) Pierogies...we have a huge polish community and there are fresh pierogies in the supermarkets; stuffed with different cheeses, spinach, potatoes, saurkraut, and even chopped meat, they are not to be found in these parts.
10) Frozen pasta. We have literally dozens of brands and varieties and they are so very affordable. Cavatelli pasta, meat tortellini, different raviolis, and the always delicious stuffed rigatonis come in 1 and 3 lbs frozen bags. It makes travelling with a cooler a neccessity.
11) Farmers Market produce. In the summer we bring back corn, tomatoes, peaches, and eggplants, at the very least. I live near hanover county (famous for tomatoes) but they markets at home are wonderful and CHEAP. We bought bushels of tomatoes for 7 bucks, peaches for 6, and corn for 2.25 a dozen and it was fresh and delicious. Yes, you can find it here, but it seems a bit cheaper and of extremely high quality up there.
12) Scungilli: Canned or frozen whelks, or small conchs are "scungili" to Italians and it is delicious. For what I can get 3 ounces for in a salad in a restaurant I can buy a 28 ounce can. There are three in the house as we speak...
So, that is what I have purchased recently in the last two trips to visit my parents. Where do you go and what do you need to bring home? BBQ and Cheer Wine from NC? Brisket and rock candy from Texas? Bright green relish from Chicago? Bagels? Let me know...I may be visiting your town soon!