Many years ago — OK, we're inching up into decades now, but who's counting — I had the opportunity to work in a Virginia gift basket boutique. If you've been here for any amount of time, you've probably been the recipient of one, and the contents are variations on a theme: A can of Hubs peanuts, a couple of jars of Graves Mountain preserves, Blue Crab Bay seasoning, Shenandoah apple candy, a bottle of Williamsburg White and, if the giver is feeling particularly flush, an adorable little 3-pound Smithfield Ham in its own wee little brown cloth bag. Lovely stuff, I must admit. But I always felt a little, well, unrepresented — because the bounty was only but so local. Seriously, where was Richmond?
With this in mind, I've assembled a gift basket of 100 percent Richmond-specific items. The perfect welcoming present or gift to say "I miss you" to someone who's managed to escape the mighty gravitational pull of the Lee Monument and move on, this basket has something for everyone:
- Potables, potent or otherwise. If the recipient of your basket imbibes, include a couple of hefty bottles of beer from Legend Brewery. If not, a colorful selection of Fruit 66 all-natural fruit soda will work beautifully. Drink local!
- Because Sally Bell's cupcakes might not travel well. A 10-ounce tin of cheese straws from Carriage House — very Richmond and very delicious.
- Thank you for smoking. A pack of Marlboros, that is. No, seriously. We can't afford to lose another mega-employer in the region, so smoke 'em if you've got 'em — and if you don't got 'em, we'll give 'em to you.
- Don't blame me, I voted for Dirt Woman. A signed poster of Dirty as the Statue of Liberty (a memento of her short-lived run for mayor) is your ticket to freedom when anyone starts grousing about the way the city is run.
- Join the Clean City Commission. A bar of oatmeal cinnamon or lemongrass soap from Row House Soaps. Locally made, and look — Richmond is right there on the label!
- Music City. We're not exactly Nashville or Detroit, but Richmond has produced a respectable number of national acts. Depending on what floats your recipient's boat, throw in a CD by Aimee Mann, D'Angelo, Lamb of God, Pat Benatar, Elliott Yamin, Carbon Leaf, Avail or probably most famously, GWAR — though if you choose GWAR, I'd probably upgrade to a DVD because, c'mon, GWAR without visuals? It's like Smithfield ham without salt.
- A box of Velatis caramels . Now that Cole's has closed up shop, depriving Richmond of their beloved Madame Eva's, Velatis has become the place to get traditional caramels in Richmond. Not for the sugar-shy or anyone with expensive dental work.
- Joe to the world. What goes better with fancy caramels than a good strong cup of black coffee? Throw in a bag of Blanchard's locally roasted "Dark As Dark" java.
- Just say Poe . Speaking of dark, nothing Richmond would be complete without a nod to the original emo kid, Edgar Allan Poe. Five bucks will get you a creepy little 3-inch Edgar in the Poe Museum gift shop; for $10 you can get a bigger one that comes with a raven. Cask of Amontillado sold separately.