This March, we're taking you on a tour of the Old World, with a focus on how traditional European dishes are influencing modern cuisine.
More important than the centuries-old cobblestone streets and towering monuments are the snacks you discover when ambling through Europe. But you can smuggle only so many packages of cookies back without testing the bag weight limit. Luckily, America has its act together, and some of Europe's best snacks can be found in supermarkets among us.
Be warned: These are primarily sweets. Dessert is my version of a snack—the only chips I like have the prefix "chocolate." If you're in New York, you can buy a lot of these at Fairway or at British trove Myers of Keswick. When all else fails, you always have the Internet.
? Jaffa Cakes, UK
England gets a bad name for its food, but based off its snacks alone, that's ridiculous. The British have snack time (afternoon tea, the refined call it) built into their daily schedule, something every culture should take note from. They're not cakes, they're biscuits—but a biscuit is really a cookie, so just forget everything you think you know. Anyone who can turn sponge cake into a packaged good deserves due respect.
? Hit Biscuits, UK
Again, not biscuits. Cookies. Specifically, cookies filled with creamy chocolate filling, like an inside-out Oreo that actually works. Other staple British treats include Walkers shortbread—a bit too buttery for my taste, but the Scottie Dog-shaped ones are cute enough that I wouldn't say no.
? Hans Freitag Cookies, Germany
"Cookie assortment" is such a beautiful juxtaposition of words. The best in the bag are the chocolaty layered wafers: If you eat them with a top-down approach, it's like you have infinite cookies.
? LU Cookies, France
I used to call these "the little boy cookies" growing up, due to the chocolate schoolboy on top of each one. Ingredients include silky milk chocolate and a pleasantly scalloped cookie base, but no essence of small child.
? Looza Juice, Belgium
It's not chewable, but there's so much delightful sugar in a bottle of this drink that I'm ruling it a snack. Mango and pear are always good choices, but if you see the clouded apple flavor, let me know. It makes me feel both intrigued and confused.
? Kinder Chocolate, Germany and Italy
I'll never forget my first Kinder egg. My sister brought it back from her exchange program in France, and I was marginally more excited for the snack (and toy inside) than her return. The contraband eggs are illegal here, which makes sense: The toy capsule is just asking for a choking incident. Then the candy-filled Disney Wonder Ball happened, and everything changed. Because while toys are fun, they're not edible. But all of Kinder's milky chocolate treats remain delicious, and few culinary experiences are as fun as eating a Happy Hippo.
? McVitie's Digestives, UK
McVitie's is the don of British snacks and is the same company that makes Jaffa Cakes. The name belies these slightly sugary cookies' versatility. There's also a sweet version, coated with a "nuzzle of smooth milk chocolate." In case you forgot they were British.
? Jules Destrooper Cookies, Belgium
If you have a free 30 minutes, try pronouncing sinaasappelkoekjes—the crispy orange-flavored cookies are a lot easier to eat than to talk about. The almond and ginger thins are perfection embodied as well, and their tiny stature makes it necessary to eat at least five at a time.
? Finn Crisp, Finland
These fiber-loaded flatbreads are the one non-dessert item to make the cut. But I tend to drown the crunchy rusks with softened ice cream and a drizzle of honey rather than slices of pickled herring.
? Bamba Snacks, Israel
OK, Israel is not Europe, but what's life without a wild card here and there? These can be tough to find, but I've seen them at ShopRite. They're like cheese puffs but with fewer orange-stained casualties and peanut butter instead of cheese.
? Balconi Cakes, Italy
You might think unrefrigerated tiramisu wrapped in plastic couldn't possibly taste good. Wrong. Revolutionary might be a strong word for a handheld piece of cake, but I feel boldly about dessert, and this is a game changer for something you can usually get only in a restaurant. Besides, the CEO's name is Giuseppe. You should always eat any Italian snack spearheaded by a man with that name.
? Pan di Stelle, Italy
Take a peek inside the file cabinet below my desk. Among the box of crayons—adult coloring books are having a moment—and various honeys, you'll find a half-eaten bag of these celestial snacks.
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