A Virginia ham? Why, thanks!
June 5, 2009 9:04 PM   Subscribe

What gift can I give my European colleagues that is quintessential Virginia/Washington DC, without straying into "miniature Washington Monument" territory?

In a few days, I am heading to Fairfax, VA for a multiple-week business trip. While there, I will be hosting two colleagues who are visiting from Europe and will be helping me out for two weeks. Our home office is in the Twin Cities, and I know that on past trips, other hosts have given them Minnesota-themed gifts. I'd like to get them each a gift in the $20 range that is unique to Virginia or DC without being cheesy. Food gifts can work if they aren't super perishable.
posted by cabingirl to Shopping (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States?
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 9:37 PM on June 5, 2009

Probably some Ethiopian snacks or other less-perishables which are hard to find outside their home country.
posted by rhizome at 9:40 PM on June 5, 2009

Well, the awesome non-perishable museum-related foodstuff of D.C. is Astronaut Ice Cream from the Air & Space museum.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:41 PM on June 5, 2009

Virginia ham
posted by amyms at 9:46 PM on June 5, 2009

Oops that's in your title, sorry.
posted by amyms at 9:47 PM on June 5, 2009

Take them to one of the awesome museums in the area. Even if you don't want to venture into DC, the Air and Space Museum at Dulles is amazing, and has great flight simulator rides or IMAX movies you can buy for them. AND you can get them Astronaut Ice Cream there.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:53 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

The most delicious non-perishable Virginia food is PEANUTS!
posted by moxiedoll at 9:59 PM on June 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Let's say there are only three places you can get something: trash bins on the Moon, ISS, and the Air and Space Museum. That is the thing to get, and that thing is Astronaut Ice Cream.
posted by soma lkzx at 10:09 PM on June 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

well, it may be overdone, but i've always loved visiting colonial williamsburg. it's fun, honestly, and educational at the same time. what about virginia beach as well, and maybe monticello too.

really, as boring as they may sound, they're both really cool.
posted by wild like kudzu at 10:12 PM on June 5, 2009

oops, shame on me for not reading the question thoroughly. maybe a "virginia is for lovers" shirt?
posted by wild like kudzu at 10:12 PM on June 5, 2009

Something Obama themed?
posted by phrontist at 10:26 PM on June 5, 2009

Seconding Virginia peanuts. A pineapple decorative thing, whether a glass piece to hang in your window or something else, although not "Virginian" is definitely associated with VA, and the south in general. Virginia wine might be a decent gift, depending on the situation.

The Virginia Shop in Old Town Alexandria has a lot of stuff, or you might see something on their website that would be a good idea. The Mount Vernon gift shop has a mixture of Virginia and Washington related stuff might also be worthwhile. (Side note: lunch at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant is pretty good, but somewhat overpriced for dinner.)
posted by skynxnex at 10:38 PM on June 5, 2009

There's an Obama superstore on 7th between D & E Sts. NW. Obama schwag is something they can't get anywhere else.

Place was a madhouse before the inauguration.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:41 PM on June 5, 2009

I'm not 100% sure if it's available yet, but you might be able to get some rye whiskey produced at George Washington's whiskey distillery, from grain processed in his restored grist mill. It's sort of an interesting product on multiple levels; rye is a particularly American (or at least North American) product, Virginia has a tradition of whiskey production, and the George Washington connection makes it unique to the DC area.

Every time I go over there they tell me it'll be in stock "real soon now", so it's probably worth calling first. Contact information for the gift shop is here; phone is (703) 799-8691. The place you'd be going to buy it is at the very southern end of the G.W. Expressway.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:45 PM on June 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's been a while, but the Watergate gift shop used to sell its own vodka (well, vodka with a Watergate label).
posted by C.C. Ryder at 11:50 PM on June 5, 2009

How about a photo collection of places in and around Washington? Perhaps one of these would suit your tastes. I've always liked Maroon on Georgetown.
posted by armage at 3:46 AM on June 6, 2009

Best answer: Can you take them to Eastern Market and have the crab cakes? Or go to Ben's Chili Bowl?
posted by jgirl at 5:52 AM on June 6, 2009

I often fall back on books as a gift -- maybe a book about the history of Washington or "funny political anecdotes" or something like that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:17 AM on June 6, 2009

I've mentioned the gift shop at The International Spy Museum before - it's got all kinds of cool spy-guy stuff for sale.
posted by jquinby at 6:50 AM on June 6, 2009

Best answer: I once saw a gorgeous silk scarf with a cherry blossom motif that incorporated (subtly) a Washington theme as well. I believe it was at a store in Union Station that sells, well, scarves. If your colleagues are female (or have female significant others / family) it could be a lovely gift. Also, very easy to add to luggage, minimal schlep-factor.
posted by charmcityblues at 7:29 AM on June 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's tough, isn't it? I was going to say if it was for a relative, it's almost as if everyone in DC is issued a pair of New Balance sneakers when they move here :)

The material isn't DC-centric but the Smithsonian is such a part of this city, what occurred to me was a CD from the Folkways label, eg
Classic Blues from Smithsonian Folkways
. The Anthology of American Folk Music is amazing but sadly I just discovered you can't buy just one volume and the whole set is like $80..

Also the cherry blossom themed idea is good IMHO. there's a DC theme gift shop at the Fairmont on M Street just before Georgetown (metro: Foggy Bottom/GW) that is pretty nice, not as tacky as some downtown.
posted by citron at 12:21 PM on June 6, 2009

You can find Smithsonian branded merchandise in almost any of the Smithsonian museums - everything from mugs, pens, magnets, scarves, ties, t-shirts, bags, umbrellas, and on and on, and yes, the proverbial freeze dried ice cream at the Air and Space Museum. They usually also have cherry blossom-related merchandise, though most of that is available when the trees are blooming. The Smithsonian even has shops at the airports. Citron's recommendation for Folkways music is also a good one.

If your visit and theirs coincides with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (June 24-June 28 and July 1-5) then there will be tons of music and other stuff for sale there that might work as well.
posted by gudrun at 12:37 PM on June 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the tips! I decided against getting them gifts because nothing really stood out to me. The cherry blossom stuff would have been good, but I didn't get a chance to go shopping, really. We did show them around all weekend, including to Ben's Chili Bowl (which they loved, btw) and they really enjoyed themselves. I feel like I did my job as host.
posted by cabingirl at 3:29 PM on July 6, 2009

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