Great Hostess Gift Ideas When You Don’t Want to Bring Wine
Inspiration abounds at terrific stores like Pottery Barn, picture shown above, of a selection of cheeseboards and bowls that are perfect for any host or hotess.
by Erin Henderson
I’m writing this post, fuelled by a delicious, deeply aromatic Italian coffee. It’s the popular Lavazza brand, one that you can find on any corner café in Italy.
I received both the coffee along with some biscotti last weekend as a hostess gift. I was throwing a small dinner party for some close friends, and, knowing I had just returned from Bologna, my bestie graciously and thoughtfully picked up some Italian treats just in case I was missing my travels abroad. Another showed up with a gorgeous long-petalled, potted Chrysanthemum, one of my favourite flowers, for my fall garden.
My friends aren’t enthusiastic about bringing wine to my place, probably for good reason. I would be equally as eager to bring a carburetor to a dinner party hosted by a master mechanic.
While I never expect guests to show up with gifts in tow, in the past I have received fabulous presents: cozy reading socks, elegantly scented candles, glittering Christmas ornaments, a pretty cooking apron that regularly makes appearances on The Wine Sisters’ You Tube channel.
Naturally, you might grab a bottle of Champagne as an offering to your dinner host, and that would be quite fine. But you aren’t obliged to give wine at all. In fact, you might even make a more lasting and impressive impression with thoughtful gifts that are not related to wine, at all. Here are some ideas.
Hostess Gifts for the Cook
Truffles. This could be divisive, so do make sure you know your host before splurging on this delicacy. As much as some gourmands adore truffles, others hate them with the same fervor. But a lovely bottle of truffle oil or truffle salt, and perhaps a nice package of good-quality pasta would be elegant and appreciated by the right foodie.
Artisan chocolates. Last Christmas I stocked up on loads of Italian bonbons that come in a range of flavours from pistachio to Stracciatella. Packaged in a simple cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon closing the top, these were a favoured and easy gift to give – and get.
Good olive oil and salt. You can never beat a bottle of excellent extra virgin olive oil. Add in a box of Maldon or Fleur de Sel and it’s a gift that is useful, practical, and appreciated.
Seasonal fruit. A friend once offered a basket of farm-fresh peaches at a summer soiree a few years back and I thought it was gorgeous. A quick rinse and I set them out as both a centre piece during the al fresco dinner, and as dessert after. As we move into the cooler months, figs, pomegranates, and clementines are all charming presents.
Coffee, tea, or espresso. Just like my friend graciously gifted me last weekend, a basket of good quality treats for the early morning routine or afternoon break is so thoughtful.
Gifts for the Foodie, That Aren’t Food.
Cookbooks. Sure, you can get any recipe you need off the internet, but home cooks and foodies also cherish a well-curated collection of cookbooks. Not only are they a useful resource, but look fabulous in a kitchen library or on a coffee table. Current best sellers are an easy find, or consider classic collections of recipes. The Essential New York Times Cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, Saveur: The New Classics, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking are just a few that serious cooks want in their repertoire.
Cheese knives and a cheeseboard. No, you can never have too many.
Really great measuring cups and spoons. You’ve seen them in fancy cookware shops, but probably thought they were too indulgent for you to buy for yourself. In shining gold and copper, these gleaming kitchen utensils go beyond the utilitarian and offer a sense of luxury to the nightly kitchen dinner routine. Sure, they may be a smidge too pricey to justify spending on yourself, but just right for a very welcome gift.
Linen napkins and kitchen towels. These don’t have to be monogrammed, but no one says you can’t (especially if this is a cute gift for the newlyweds celebrating the happy hyphen of me-to-we.) Gorgeous French linens elevate the dining table and leave a lasting memory for future occasions.
Gifts that Have Nothing to Do with Food
Candles. Good quality, long burning candles are a staple in any host’s entertaining arsenal. Scented or not (I like to set out gently scented candles in the powder room during parties but scent free at the dinner table), nice quality, smokeless and even-burning are always appreciated.
Cozy throw. No one will ever be upset they were given a nice blanket. I have a basket of throws beside my back door and near my couch. Cuddling for movie night, wrapped outside in the fall chill, as a base for a summer picnic, these get a lot of use with households busy with frequent entertaining.
Potted plants. Cut flowers are a nice touch but leave them to send the day after the party as a thank you. A busy host will be forced to stop what they’re doing (pouring drinks, greeting guests at the door, basting the turkey etc.) to dig out a vase and arrange the beautiful bouquet you brought. Best bet is to offer something already potted so the host can simply place on the counter and not have to fuss.
Serving tray. Metallics, wicker, bamboo all make for great statement pieces, regardless of if they’re being used to actually serve. As a base for candles, an attractive catch all for keys and incoming mail, a grounding element to a vase of flowers, these are stylish and useful items to have a plenty.