Allow me to fill you in. When it comes to parties, you name it, I’ve hosted it. Super Bowl? Every year, without fail. Triple Crown race? Twice, in fact, for 30 people each. New Year’s Day soirees, spring fling cocktail parties, Thanksgiving for 24 (two turkeys, seven pies), and even a Kentucky Derby/Cinco de Mayo combo.
8 Unexpected Housewarming Gifts a Hostess Will Never Forget
| Nov 30, 2016
As a result, I’m an expert in hostess gifts. From the good and the bad to the downright ugly, I’ve gotten it all and I’m here to say: No one wants your cast-off bottle of chardonnay. Same goes for that rancid candle in a jar. Instead, do the right thing and offer up something your hostess reallywants.
Here are eight perfect picks that are all but guaranteed to result in a return invitation.
Breakfast the next day
It sounds obvious, but almost no one offers up this godsend: After a late night of wiping up spills, doing mountains of dishes, and putting away every piece of glassware I own, I’m exhausted. The next day, all I want is to sleep in and enjoy a ready-to-go meal. It doesn’t have to be homemade jam or granola (though both are excellent choices). Instead, a yummy loaf to slice and slather with butter is ideal, especially if it’s an almond stollen from Red Truck Rural Bakery ($31).
New dish towels
I use at least two or three every day, which means after a few months they end up looking stained and frayed and downright nasty. A guest who brings a pretty tea towel or dishcloth gets extra meatballs and the top-shelf bourbon in her Old-Fashioned. I literally leap for joy when I see this gift coming. These beauties from CypressInk ($10 each) are a good place to start. (I love the jellyfish and the octopus!)
My husband loathes fancy cursive monograms, but he’ll live with personalization at home if it’s a very simple version. Coasters or cocktail napkins with the host’s last initial are very welcome. Even better is this useful and unusual gift ribbon from Namemaker ($21) for the endless holiday wrapping that’s coming up. Personalized ribbon is also a two-fer, eliminating the need for a name tag.
I don’t mean boring white tapers or those 100-pack votives, though I do stock a cabinet full of each. Instead, seek out something really beautiful—maybe one that’s shaped like the pear below ($6), or a couple of big pine cones or sparkling silver Christmas trees. Anyone who entertains with any frequency goes through a ton of candles in every shape and size.
A better bottle
Guests bring wine because they think it’s appropriate, plus it’s easy to just grab a bottle and go. But if I’m throwing a party, I’ve definitely ordered a case or two already. If you must bring vino, up the ante and make it Champagne, which I don’t normally keep around. Or be more interesting and choose mezcal for a friend who likes tequila or sherry (which you can cook with if you don’t drink much), or for the Manhattan lover, pick up some Hella bitters ($15.50).
One of the best housewarming presents I received was an inexpensive juicer and a bag of oranges. The couple who gave it knew this was a smart midwinter gift (and they’d just returned from Florida).
Other two-in-ones: popcorn kernels and sea salt, or apples and a wedge of cheddar. I’m crazy for figs, especially with cheese from the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company. Try the Ewe’s Blue ($35 a pound).
Don’t forget pets when considering a hostess gift. You’ll be my friend for life if you bring my pup a squeaky chew toy or some yummy biscuits from a nearby bakery. Or make it easy and get these from Food52 ($28 for two bags). If your host has a kitty, consider toting along a new scratching post, cat nip toys, or a container of cat grass.
Something to share
A group gift the whole family can enjoy is another good option. One year a friend brought the most adorable pencils carved to look like tree branches and tied them with a piece of twine. The kids flipped for them—and I squirreled away a few for my own personal fun. Other ideas include a new game or a big batch of candy, like this jar of Swedish fish ($8.50) that we can dive into on movie night.