Whether I'm traveling near or far, my very favorite part of visiting a new city is exploring local supermarkets. Slowly making my way up and down the aisles, taking in all of the regional specialties in chip flavors, sauce varieties, and even cleaning goods, is not only an easy window into a culture's idiosyncrasies, but a jackpot for (often edible) souvenirs, as well.
Seems I'm not the only one who thinks this way. My coterie of like-minded colleagues are all in the same boat when it comes to navigating markets big and small, close to home and in far-flung reaches of the globe.
My favorite? Côte d'Or dark chocolate with almond bars from Monoprix in France. They may not be fancy, but they're dang good! (And you can find them here stateside now, too, but often at a premium.) Read through to see what other special goodies we're making sure to leave space for in our baggage.
"After living in Ireland, I become obsessed with their brown bread and soda bread. Now when I visit, I like to get a loaf of McCambridge bread from either Aldi, Dunnes Store, or Centras when I’m there." —Megan Güntaş, digital designer
"All sorts of tinned fish from Portugal, tubes of nduja, and jars of Calabrian chile paste from Italy. Also from Italy, dried pici pasta—it's mostly from Tuscany but you can get it all over (like Emiglia Romagna). I rarely see pici here so love to stock up!" —Ella Quittner, food writer & recipe developer
"Holy moly, this bar from Swiss company Sprungli is amaaazing (there are like 100 whole hazelnuts in there). I dream about it, and rationed one for almost a year." —Joanna Sciarrino, executive editor
"A friend recently brought back honey from Djibouti. It's thick like molasses and tastes like smoke and salt. I've never had anything like it before." —Alayna Reum, junior retoucher
"Salt from France. Fleur de sel, especially, is a great thing to pick up because the prices are so great. I also will hop on the chocolate train and add that I love grabbing a few big bars of Cailler chocolate in Swiss supermarkets." —Annalee Leggett, strategy and finance manager
"Not necessarily a souvenir, but I look forward to exploring different chip flavors in foreign supermarkets. Shrimp in Vietnam and Jamón Jamón in Spain come to mind." —Peter Romero, senior account executive
"I always bring salt back from France, and chocolate from any place that isn't the U.S. I'm also a big flavored-chip fan. You have to try all the weird flavors. My favorite is All Dressed from Canada (which I never remember to bring to the office)." —Victoria Maynard, director of finance
"I like the short steel cooking spoons at Publix in Florida." —Amanda Hesser, co-founder and CEO
"When I’m in Turkey, I like to buy towels and coffee. For a perfect small gift, I like to bring back a nazar boncuğu (eye-shaped amulets believed to protect against the evil eye) to give to people." —Megan Güntaş, digital designer
"I like to get little kitchen gadgets from different places: cooking chopsticks from China; vegetable slicers and stem splitters from Vietnam, are just a few of my favorites." —Victoria Maynard, director of finance
What are your favorite souvenirs to pick up on your travels? Share them with us below!