These days it seems like you need to be making your own charcuterie or canning your own home-grown vegetables to even be somebody. For people who are busy or who have long commutes, or have no money for craft supplies (upcycling things you find in your house can take a not-so-surprising amount of new supplies), the host(ess) gift in the age of the DIY blogosphere can pose a challenge.
Unpopular Opinion: Most people don’t really want your hand-crafted tschotchkes.
Let me rephrase that: I would not want your hand-crafted tschotchkes. I have nowhere to put them. I live in a condo, and I hate clutter. Unless an object is inherently useful, or edible, it really could end up in the free box on the sidewalk. Save the effort and frustration of making a snow globe out of a jar, and bring one of these always-welcome gifts to the next dinner party you attend.
Best part is, all of these can be purchased at the last minute, even in-between work and the event.
- Pie: Pie is delicious and unless someone is allergic to the ingredients, even a store-bought pie is a nice gift. Even if the host(ess) is on a poorly timed diet and won’t eat the pie, the guests will probably love it.
- Cookies: If there is a dynamite bakery near your office, a box of scrumptious cookies will never go unloved.
- High quality nuts: Little nibbles that can either be served immediately or stashed away for the future are always appropriate as a gift. Nobody ever thinks to bring pistachios to a dinner party, but let me tell you, nobody without a nut allergy would pass up some good pistachios. Containers of chocolate covered nuts, shelled and unshelled nuts, and flavoured nuts are a fantastic gift, especially when presented in abundance.
- Flavored seltzers: While wine is the standard (and for good reason), exotic sodas or flavoured seltzers are always a nice surprise. They are especially great when you know that the host or hostess will be abstaining for the evening.
- A potted plant: Small potted plants are a long-lasting alternative to cut flowers, which are also perfectly acceptable. The advantage of a small potted plant is that it will last a while. Bonus points for edible plants, like rosemary or basil.
- A stainless steel water bottle: Anyone who works out will appreciate having an extra high-end water bottle around.
- Beautiful produce: Did the corn look amazing at the market? Is it strawberry season? Some especially high-quality seasonal produce is always a good choice.
- High quality store bought pickles: I am not talking here about run-of-the-mill pickles. I am talking about bringing a few jars of artisan pickles. If you know that your host or hostess loves half sour pickles, then by all means stop at a deli that has scrumptious pickles and bring a container of them as a gift.
- Pet treats: Of course, this is only appropriate if there’s a pet around. Otherwise it is a bit of a dig, isn’t it?
- An empty photo album: Much like blank note cards, the empty photo album in a classic design is probably something they probably wouldn’t buy for themselves, but would enjoy using.
- A cutting board: A small cheese board or inexpensive-but-nice bamboo cutting board make fine gifts. They’re useful, and easy to regift if there’s no room for them in the kitchen.
- A great book: Have you read a book recently that you just couldn’t put down? Bring a copy of it and share the love.
- A loaf of great bread: As long as they eat gluten, a tasty baguette or a loaf of wood-oven-baked sourdough is usually a welcome gift.
- A cocktail recipe book: While many people have great collections of cookbooks, there are fewer people who have great collections of cocktail recipe books. A cocktail recipe book is a fun and whimsical gift.
- A bottle of nice olive oil: A nice bottle of extra virgin olive oil presented as a gift says, “I have my act together, but I’m still unique, and so are you.” The great part is that good EVOO is pretty widely available; even in supermarkets. Pair it with a flavoured balsamic for extra points.
- Gourmet coffee beans: Of course, this works if you know that your host(ess) drinks coffee. If you have a favourite coffee roaster near your job, swing by and pick up a bag of beans after work. Avoid flavoured coffee beans; stick to basic roasts.
- Flavoured alcohol: Depending on the preferences of the host/hostess, a bottle of something like Limoncello, very peaty single malt whiskey, or flavoured vodka could be a special and welcome gift. This is a great alternative to wine (and a way to regift unopened bottles of flavored alcohol that others have gifted to you).
- Tea towels: Neutral-colored tea towels are a cute as can be, as are potholders.
- A unique bottle opener: A well-crafted bottle opener is a great gift for the person who has everything, especially when bottle openers have a weird way of disappearing mid-party.
- A jar of gourmet jam: Locally-made preserves are fair game as gifts. They’re especially nice when presented with muffins from a favourite bakery. If you’re culinarily inclined, feel free to make these yourself.
- High end sea salt: Once again, you might be able to purchase nice sea salt in a well-stocked supermarket or health food store. Grey sea salt from Guarande, France is particularly tasty, and is available in most health food stores.
- Good cheese: Most well-stocked supermarkets offer a selection of good cheeses. Maybe they don’t have the selection found in fancy cheese shops, but coming to a dinner party bearing some aged cheddar, goat cheese, or some fresh mozzarella is rarely a faux pas.