Unconventional Host/Hostess Gifts
Be the thoughtful, creative guest all year.user rating
Chances are, with the holidays safely behind you, your ideas for clever gift-giving have run dry. The thing is, the party invitations aren’t going to stop. So we’ve come up with more than 15 hostess gifts that are sure to get you invited back. Rather than showing up with the expected bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers, try out infused olive oil or Bloody Mary mixer. Each of these gifts is sure to make your host feel special.—Denise Shoukas
If you bring wine, they slurp it down in an evening. If you bring olive oil, it lasts much longer, and they’ll think of you every time they use it. Canaan Fair Trade’s Infused Olive Oils (pictured right; $10/250-ml bottle; canaanusa.com) are enhanced with dried garlic, chili peppers or mixed peppercorns. Elegant transparent bottles and labeling let the spices show through. The olive oil is USDA organic, extra virgin, cold pressed and certified Fair Trade.
Pickles are healthy, quick and crowd-pleasing snacks, and terrific for cheese and charcuterie platters. Plus, with all the rich, heavy foods during the holiday season, pickles provide a welcome relief from calorie-rich chocolate, nuts and other sweets. Gift any host with the award-winning New York City-based Rick’s Pick’s Phat Beets ($9.99/15-ounce jar; rickspicksnyc.com), tangy-sweet pickled beets with accents of rosemary, ginger and fresh lemon. For bolder flavor, give the Hotties (pictured right; $7.99/24-ounce jar), crinkle-cut spicy pickle chips with notes of dried habanero and sriracha—plus, the brine can be used for out-of-the-ordinary cocktails.
Surprise holiday hosts with a trio of succulent, kettle-simmered sauces. A gourmet flavor anchor for pastas, pizzas and soups, Cucina Fresca’s rich and tangy Tomato Vodka, rustic Spanish-style Smoked Tomato and classic Marinara (pictured top left;$8.95; cucinafresca.com) are made from scratch with fresh, all-natural ingredients. Cucina Fresca, a family-owned gourmet foods producer based in the Pacific Northwest, has been making its line for nearly 30 years. Order directly from cucinafresca.com or at costco.com.
Hosts who love to cook will appreciate Terra Sonoma Verjus ($15/500-ml bottle; terrasonoma.com), an acidulant for cooking that can be used in place of lemon juice or vinegars such as balsamic, red or rice wine. This centuries-old ingredient can be used in a favorite vinaigrette recipe, splashed over fresh-cut seasonal fruit, in place of water for steaming vegetables or light white fish, and for deglazing pans—to name just a few culinary options. Not only beautiful and useful, it helps this family vineyard in Northern California’s Alexander Valley not to waste anything from their harvest.
Give a case of personal-size Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixers (pictured right; $2.99/5-oz. bottle; bluecrabbay.com). They fit nicely in the door of a refrigerator and are great to have on hand for surprise guests or for relief from an unexpected hangover after a fun dinner party. These single-serving bottles also work as an ingredient when cooking various recipes like pasta sauce. Buy these and other Blue Crab Bay Co. products and you’ll be supporting Bay Beyond, a Virginia certified women’s small-business enterprise.
East Shore’s Classic and Contemporary Gifts Sets ($15; eastshorefoods.com) combine East Shore’s top-selling pretzels and mustards in a distinctively designed, windowed carton with a convenient handle for an easy grab-and-go gift. The Wisconsin-based company’s Classic Celebration Gift Set contains an 8-ounce bag of Seasoned Pretzels paired with 5-ounce jars of Sweet and Tangy and Coarse with Dill mustards. The Contemporary Celebration Gift Set pairs a 12-ounce bag of Dipping Pretzels with 5-ounce jars of Chipotle Jalapeño and Garlic and Pepper Dipping mustards.
Your host doesn’t have to be a pumpkin fanatic to fall for New Hampshire–based Village Mixes Pumpkin Spice Spread ($6; villagemixes.com). Inside is a delicious spread/dip mix that is easy to make—just add cream cheese and use on bagels or as a party dip. No need to wrap it—the charming packaging, designed by Lisa Carpenter, a renowned artist whose work is on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., will feel like a gift in itself.
A Raven’s Nest Specialties Party Pack ($11.95; ravensoriginal.com) is an easy and delicious gift. Each Party Pack comes with a unique design hand-drawn by owner Monica Smith’s mother, Raven, who started the business in North Carolina 30 years ago. Based on her mother’s award-winning mulling spices, Smith has expanded to include spice blends and gifts. Each pack includes a spreader, created to match the design on the box, Raven’s Original award-winning mulling spice and Raven’s Original garden party mix (to make dip or cheese balls).