Great Holiday Gifts for Foodies

Give the gift of food and drink from these shops in Arlington, Falls Church and McLean.

For: The Home Cook

6712 Old Dominion Drive, McLean, 703-790-8300;

A gift certificate to The Organic Butcher is a passport to some of the best protein the region has to offer, and owner Don Roden sells more than awesome Angus. His counter also includes top specimens of wild game, domestic Wagyu beef and sustainable seafood.

“We’ve been open 10 years and each year, our wild game grows more popular,” Roden says, with a nod to flavorful options such as bison, wild boar and venison. Then there’s the Wagyu beef, luxuriously striped with ribbons of fat. (The fact that it comes from the Lone Star State, rather than Kobe, Japan, makes it relatively affordable.) “It’s not an everyday kind of thing, but a great treat for yourself. Or a carnivore you love,” he says.

Roden also brings in fresh seafood daily, like beautiful bronzino, which even the humblest of home chefs can toss in the oven whole. Gift certificates can be purchased in person or by phone.

4017-B Campbell Ave.(Shirlington Village), Arlington, 703-820-2210; 2910 District Ave., Suite 165, Merrifield (Mosaic District), 703-992-7000;

Splashes of the right olive oil and vinegar can elevate a quiet dinner at home to a feast worthy of a special occasion. And there are plenty to choose from (and taste test) at Ah Love Oil & Vinegar. Owner Cary Kelly offers a few suggestions:

  • Sets of two small olive oils and two vinegars that come in three flavor profiles: Herb, Savory and Fruit & Chocolate ($24.99 per set).
  • A premium duo comprising olive oil from Greek producer Laconiko and a 20-year-old balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy ($44).
  • Three seasonal balsamics in cozy flavors like maple, cranberry and red apple ($18.99 each).
  • Gourmet salt from James Beard Award winner Mark Bitterman ($5-$15).
  • Tunisian olive-wood kitchen tools ($5-$50).

2200 North Westmoreland St., #101, Arlington, 703-300-9746;

Freshen up your favorite home chef’s arsenal of recipes with a visit to One More Page Books. The store’s cookbook selection leans a little gourmet, thanks to its habit of inviting cookbook authors in with some frequency for demos and wine tastings.

Owner Eileen McGervey recommends these tasty tomes by local authors:

  • Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Flavors for the Contemporary Kitchen, by Monica Bhide.
  • Beyond the Red Sauce: Classic Italian Cooking Without Tomatoes, by Matt Finarelli.
  • Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life, by Marcia A. Friedman.

110 Pleasant St. NW, Vienna; 703-865-7920;

This small but mighty cooking school offers classes spanning all cuisines and skill categories. It’s a passion project of CEO and co-founder Stephen P. Sands, who can be found teaching lessons near and dear to his heritage, including the “Piatto d’Argento” class on Italian cuisine.

In addition to demos, there are also couples’ classes that break “date night” monotony, wine-pairing dinners, pop-culture-themed dinners (imagine eats inspired by Downton Abbey), and hands-on skills classes—all capped at 20 people. “The hardest thing to teach people [about cooking] is the timing,” Sands says. “When the lightbulb goes on and people get it, it’s a good feeling.”

Classes range from $75-$150 and gift certificates are available for purchase on Culinaria’s website.

For: Wine & Spirits Lovers

4508 Lee Highway, Arlington, 703-525-0990;

Picking up a bottle at Arrowine is almost as good as buying a plane ticket. That’s because the shop’s president, Doug Rosen, has traveled to the world’s finest wine-producing regions to hand-select vintages most representative of each terroir. “It’s all about quality—not the price or packaging,” he says. “If it’s not the best that I can find, I’m not interested.”
Rosen’s wine philosophy has earned his Arlington shop beaucoup accolades. Try one of these for the oenophile in your life:
•    2010 Les Beaux Regards Champagne—a single-vineyard estate-bottled wine from Domaine Bérèche, made with 100 percent Chardonnay grapes ($89.99).
•    2011 Domaine Ancely Minervois—a heavy red blend hailing from one of the most desirable plots in the Languedoc region ($19.99).
•    2012 Eric Forest Pouilly-Fuissé—a Chardonnay from the Maconnais region of Southern Burgundy, produced by an up-and-coming winemaker ($40-$60).

127 South Washington St., Falls Church, 703-533-9463;

You can continue to bring good cheer well after the holidays by gifting a wine club membership from a local shop. “It’s a way to expand your wine horizons,” says James Roth, manager of Red White & Bleu in Falls Church. “Just set your parameters for price, bottle count, duration and style, which can be as tight as ‘California reds and Oregon whites’ or as loose as ‘no sweet wines.’ ” Three- and six-month packages are popular.

2727 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, 703-812-0906;

Clarendon’s Grateful Red Wine Shop also offers an attractive wine club. In its case, all of the wine club selections hail from California. A $39.99-per-month membership includes two bottles a month, valued at $40 or greater, plus a cheese or charcuterie pairing. For added value, jump to the $59.99-per-month deal, which takes the wine caliber up a notch. The shop also builds custom, onetime gift baskets.

120 West Main St., Purcellville, 540-751-8404;

If your loved one leans a little more toward sipping spirits, support Virginia distillers by wrapping up a premium bottle of regional liquor. Purcellville’s Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. crafts kosher and organic spirits, such as its award-winning Roundstone Rye. The owners, husband-and-wife Scott and Becky Harris, also produce brandies bursting with flavors of fruit from Loudoun County orchards; “Smokin Chips” for grilling, made from retired whiskey barrels; and more. Catoctin Creek spirits are available in Virginia ABC stores and at the distillery.


For: The Sweet Tooth

2810 Dorr Ave., Fairfax, 703-688-3422;

Got history buffs in the family? Stuff their stockings with chocolate replicas of Virginia landmarks such as the Pentagon, Governor’s Palace, Mount Vernon and Monticello. Proud alumni can also munch on models of UVA’s Rotunda or Virginia Tech’s Burruss Hall.

Barbara Post, the talent behind the cool confections of Historical Chocolate Co., got her start making historically shaped soaps. “Chocolate’s a little more friendly, plus you can eat your mistakes,” jokes Post, who makes about 100 different molds. “But you can’t just melt a Hershey bar,” she explains. The key is using “couverture chocolate,” a variety that yields the perfect consistency and a detail-rich, shiny finish. Each piece runs about $2.50, and orders can be placed via phone or e-mail.

1025 North Fillmore St., Arlington,703-524-0007; 2910 District Ave., Merrifield (Mosaic District), 703-992-6130;

If you’re shopping for a serious chocolate aficionado who appreciates complex flavor profiles, head straight to Artisan Confections, where ingredients such as local fresh mint, Venezuelan dark chocolate and Scotch whiskey often come into play. Owner Jason Andelman, a culinary school grad and former pastry chef, is the chocolatier behind the magic, which includes masterpieces such as an “Old-Fashioned” bonbon made with real rye whiskey, bitters and orange zest; or “S’mores” loaded with marshmallows and graham crackers. The only downside is that his creations look like painted mosaic tiles—almost too pretty to eat. You can buy them online, or visit one of his two local shops.

2900 South Quincy St. (Shirlington Village), Arlington, 703-671-8700;

The Curious Grape may be a wine shop and quaint café, but the owners know their chocolate, too, and they stock more than 40 bars of fine chocolate from faraway lands. If you’re buying sweets for someone with an adventurous palate, try bars boosted with what owner Suzanne McGrath calls chocolate “inclusions” such as toasted coconut, figs, bacon, honeycomb, pink caramelized sesame seeds, fiery chilies or even potato chips. The store can also sweeten the deal by recommending wine pairings to go with the chocolate you select.

For: Serious Foodies

277 South Washington St., Alexandria, 703-683-3247;  

One step into this gourmet gift mecca from restaurateurs Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong is like finding the X marked on a buried treasure map. Society Fair is a true epicurean emporium, co-owned by Eat Good Food Group, and it has you covered regardless of price point or foodie predilection.

Bar legend Todd Thrasher is behind most of the bar giftables, like a handsome leather bar kit ($185) containing the tools to turn a casual cocktail hour into an impressive mixology session—especially if you toss in his Spiced Rum Kit ($25).

Gift baskets range from a $30 “Sweet Tooth” bucket—stocked with cavity-tickling goodies like hazelnut coffee brittle and JK dark chocolate caramel truffles with Hawaiian red salt—to a higher-end “Ultimate Foodie Basket,” which starts at $275 and boasts an undisputed champion of olive oil, Domaine Rocheville Huile d’Olive de Nyons.

Gourmands should hold out for a special cheese that the Armstrongs import from Paris. They only get one 11-pound wheel per year for the holidays and pre-sell portions online. The Brie de Meaux aux Truffes has layers of brie and mascarpone cheeses studded with a black truffle core.

4056 Campbell Ave. (Shirlington Village), Arlington, 703-933-8787;

Pop into this darling of a cheese shop to pick something up for a holiday party and you’re sure to be invited back to the same party next year. “I have it on good authority that cheeses sold at Cheesetique—such as a soft-ripened triple-crème brie or a white Stilton elevated by mango and ginger—are the first to disappear [from the buffet],” owner Jill Erber says with no pretense of modesty.

Plus, there are the accompaniments, such as charcuterie with zesty mustards or dried fruits. For a hostess gift that lasts longer, Erber recommends filling a bucket with wine or bubbly and other nonperishables, along with a gift card that allows recipients to visit the shop and select their own cheeses.

2150 North Culpeper St., Arlington, 703-527-8394;

This family-run bakery and deli has been in operation since 1975, and it boasts a great love story, given that owner Wolfgang Büchler married one of his first hires. Today, he and Carla Büchler still run the shop with the help of their children. These are the time-tested hands you want to entrust with your holiday treats.

Around Christmas, Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe is popular for stollen, a traditional German fruitcake, along with gingerbread houses, cookie trays and “things German grandmothers used to make,” Carla says.
She and her team also put together customized gift baskets, which can be shaped by parameters such as perishables, nonperishables and price point. Another option is a gift card, available in multiple denominations, which can be picked up or mailed.

3123 Lee Highway, Arlington, 703-528-6266 (plus a new store coming soon to Westover);

The Italian Store is bursting at the seams with vittles ranging from an impressive wine selection to packaged foods such as jet-black squid-ink pasta, gourmet cookies and briny anchovies, all auditioning to be included in a molto bene gift basket. Gift cards are also available for those who dream not of sugar plums, but rather of the next time they can stop by for one of the store’s legendary Philly-style subs, loaded with cured meats, provolone and Italian spices.

For: The Locavore

9627 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, 703-759-2119;

“Feel this; is it too squishy?” a farmworker asks Potomac Vegetable Farms co-owner Hana Newcomb. A nod of her head means the pepper isn’t cut out for the farm’s CSA shareholders. CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture, a program connecting consumers with local farms. Buying or gifting CSA “memberships” or “shares” has become increasingly popular because it provides farm-to-table access to fresh veggies, without a grocer or market as the middleman.

Potomac Vegetable Farms has been in operation since 1961. What stands out about its CSA program, which launched in 2000, is the variety. “We don’t want to give you squash 12 weeks in a row, even though we can—our mantra here is diversity,” Newcomb says. Summer shareholders might find a combination of leafy greens, ruby-hued tomatoes, snap peas, sweet corn, watermelon and purple okra in the mix. (Produce is not available in colder months, but winter is the best time to register for a summer CSA membership.)

For CSA members, the farm offers produce pickups in McLean, Falls Church, Arlington, Alexandria, Springfield, Fairfax, Ashburn, Herndon and Reston. The 16-week summer share comes in three sizes: mini, regular and robust ($400, $512 and $720 respectively). There’s also a shorter autumn share option. To register a loved one for a gift, visit the Potomac Vegetable Farms website.

4362 Highpoint Lane, The Plains, 703-754-4005;

Bull Run Mountain Farm is the oldest CSA in the area and offers pickups in Falls Church, Centreville, Fairfax City and other Northern Virginia locations. “We grow everything that can possibly grow in this area, including produce that people have never seen before—like ground cherries and 30 kinds of tomatoes,” says owner Leigh Hauter, who has been harvesting for 19 years.

Shareholders also enjoy other perks, Hauter adds. At the end of every season, anyone who participated in the CSA gets to pillage what’s left by visiting the farm for a fun afternoon. (Sometimes these hauls can amount to more tomatoes than Pizza Hut goes through in a week, or 50 bulbs of fresh garlic.) To gift a CSA share, visit the Bull Run Mountain Farm website. The season runs from June through October.

Laura Hayes is a freelance food writer and founder of Best Thing on the Menu. Follow her adventures @BTMenu.

Categories: Food & Drink