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Easy, simple but impressive hostess gift?

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I've been invited to a dinner party Saturday (informal) with friends who are very much into wine (they work for a winery) and enjoy good food. I want to bring a gift but I have been working late all week and have to work all Friday and half of Saturday. I'd love ideas for a good homemade hostess gift that won't take a lot of time but they will like. Last time I made chocolate chip cookies so I don't want to repeat it. Thanks in advance for suggestions!

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  1. Would you be opposed to buying something? When I'm in this situation, and don't have time to cook, I buy a bottle of good olive oil. Agrumato makes olive oils that are pressed with lemons or oranges. Such a gift has been well received by my foodie- and not-so-foodie friends.

    1. Zuni Cafe's Gateau Victoire recipe is easy to find on line. Many call it the best flourless cake in the world, and I tend to agree. I haven't made it, but the instructions seem simple enough and the topping is just whipped cream. Bring a bottle of good heavy cream along with the cake and they can whip it up whenever they're ready to eat the cake.

      I made toffee last night and it took me about an hour. And even though I had a few missteps, the finished product was VERY tasty and impressive looking (more like a praline than toffee, but delish).

      Salted caramels were very easy last time I made them. But wrapping them individually takes longer than making them in the first place. You probably don't have time at this point to let them cool for 24 hours and then wrap them.

      I like everyone else's suggestions of buying food gifts, but if you really do want to make something yourself I think a one layer cake that requires no frosting will be your best bet. The gateau victoire, a white cake embedded with seasonal fruit, etc.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Pei

        I think I posted this reply to the wrong person, so, since I hope for a return reply, I will repost this to the appropriate poster. So sorry! I loved your idea of the Zuni Cafe's Gateau Victoire recipe, and have an occasion to make it in a few days, but, I am having NO LUCK finding it on line. I Googled it, Yahood it, even went to Zuni Cafe's website, Epicurious, etc... it is mentioned, but no recipe!!! I would really appreciate it if you would post it. Thank you so much.

        1. re: bjamesrn

          I found it here :) Enjoy!
          http://breadnjamforfrances.blogspot.c...

          1. re: MeowMixx

            Yep - just found the recipe on the same website... It sounds great!

            Do you (or does anyone) know if this is the original recipe from Zuni Cafe?

      2. not sure if you want actual food they can enjoy that night or not- so here are a few ideas...

        -basket/tray of cheeses to go with wine
        -a jar filled with dry cookie or other baked good ingredients with the recipe attached
        -homemade bread or iced cinnamon rolls
        -gourmet popcorn spicd/flavored
        -homemade fudge, so many yummy flavors
        -a dish filled with recipes for using that dish (like trifle dish with trifle recipes, pie dish with pie recipes, small ceramic bowl with dip/salsa recipes, etc...)
        -gourmet coffee or tea in pretty mugs
        -assortment of great mixed nuts and/or dried fruit
        -dried or fresh fruit dipped in chocolate (hardened)

        1 Reply
        1. re: pamd

          Along with the coffee/tea idea, maybe something to go with coffee or tea. I picked up some wonderful flavored sugar from a tea shop recently. I got lemon sugar and orange sugar. There was also vanilla sugar available. Another similar item would be chocolate covered spoons meant to go with coffee.

          I also like the olive oil idea. To tuen it into something homemade, maybe try infusing the olive oil yourself.

        2. the last time i did this i got a wooden salad bowl at a kitchen supply store (it cost like $2) - then added pretzels, chips, crackers and 1 or 2 really nice things - like olive oil, olives, spreads, or something like that. wrap it up in some colored plastic and you're set.

          1. Truffles...

            Incredibly easy to make.

            CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

            8 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, chopped (buy the best you can find... this is everything for these truffles! I like Scharfenberger)

            1/2 cup heavy cream
            2 tablespoons liqueur such as Cognac or Grand Marnier or plain vanilla extract
            1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted

            1. Place chocolate in a bowl. Bring cream to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Pour cream over chocolate. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes; gently stir until smooth. Add liqueur and stir to combine. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.

            2. Sift cocoa into a bowl. Using a measuring spoon, scoop up 1 teaspoon of chocolate, and quickly roll into a ball about 3/4 inch across. Drop into cocoa; roll each truffle in cocoa to coat. Chill until firm. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

            Makes about 30.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jennalynn

              Ah, yes--with a bottle of late harvest zin.
              (You could buy truffles if you don't have time...?)

            2. I would go with either homemade granola or choc-dipped pretzels.

              1. I am usually reluctant to bring prepared food when I am invited to a dinner party. It might be awkward for the host/hostess that the food I brought has to be served that evening. Of course if the dinner is very informal and they are good friends, it might not matter. I think something like tea, coffee, champagne, brandy are always welcome.

                1 Reply
                1. re: PBSF

                  One of the most thoughtful hostess gifts I received was croissant/pastries and some nice jam for breakfast from a good bakery. Great for eating the next morning before I faced the dishes.

                  If you wanted to make something - you could whip up some muffins or a frittata for breakfast.

                2. Chocolate-dipped potato chips. Decadent and easy to make.

                  Anne

                  1. How about a liquer? Or a beautiful bottle of Canadian icewine?

                    1. I'd skip edibles altogether and bring flowers!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Allstonian

                        When I have a party, I'd rather not receive flowers - not to be churlish - but for two reasons:

                        1. I've already bought flowers for the party and arranged them and put them out.
                        2. When I'm busy greeting guests and finishing up the cooking, I don't want to have to arrange flowers and find a place to display them. I could stick them in the bedroom, but would think that would be rude to the giver to stash them away, but the available surfaces for displaying flowers in my living/dining room probably already have flowers on them.

                        1. re: MMRuth

                          Different strokes, for sure. Lots of people don't do their own flowers. I do, but even still when I'm entertaining I can always find a spot for more, and it's always a pleasant surprise.

                      2. Part of my problem is that I have a *tiny* (unfortunately open) kitchen - and just manuevering to get down a vase, fill it with water, cut the stems, etc. when the counters are full is an issue - as is the general size of NY apts etc.

                        Now, if I had a flower arranging room, I'd be all set ;-).

                        1. A couple more suggestions.....
                          Rosemary cashews or Marinated, spiced olives

                          Neither are difficult or time consuming and both can be nibbled on that evening, or stashed away by the hosts for their own consumption!!!

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: LoN

                            That's the best idea yet.
                            You can lemon roast almonds with salt, rosemary cashews sound great, or honey roasted peacans... whatever, it takes longer to decide what to do than actually making it.

                            1. re: Ida Red

                              lemon roast almonds? can you elaborate? I've got a lemon tree; these sound good!

                              1. re: toodie jane

                                A great and simple idea I got from Rosemary Barron's Flavors of Greece years ago.

                                Salted Almonds
                                (for 2 cups)
                                2 c. unblanched almonds
                                juice of 2 lemons
                                3 Tbsp. coarse-grain salt

                                Simply soak the almonds in the lemon juice, stirring occasionally, (she says 10 min but I do it longer).
                                Preheat oven 325, (hoter than that and it may be difficult to keep them from burning.)
                                I lightly oil a baking sheet, lay out the almonds in a single layer, sprinkle with the salt and bake for about 20 min.- stiring occasionally to keep an even browning.
                                Stored in an airtight container, they will keep one month.

                                Now that I'm thinking about, rosemary would be nice in the mix.

                          2. I tend to find bringing a gift of food to a dinner party tricky, especially when the hosts are probably well versed in wines/foods.

                            Unless you already know the menu, I would not bring anything that needs to be consumed the same night. Try something that stores well, like parmesan fricos (melted shaved parmesan crackers, unbelievably easy to make), or a delicate cookie, like madeleines and a jar of tea leaves.

                            Alternatively, you can also go with something like a stunning port. You can get a lovely 15 year old tawny port from Cockburns for about $30.

                            1. I bake some sort of a bunt type coffee cake.

                              However, I present it in a new decorative shaped bunt pan that was purchased for this purpose.

                              The hostess gets to keep the pan when the cake is gone.

                              1. Thanks all. These are great ideas and I'm definitely going to bookmark this thread for future parties. I prefer to bring gifts for the hosts' consumption later so that there is no pressure for them to serve my gift (including wine gifts). If I bring flowers, I bring them already arranged in an inexpensive vase from IKEA so that all they have to do is set down the vase somewhere.

                                It looks like I'm not going to have more than 20 minutes to make anything (although truffles and Zuni's Gateau Victoire, which is one of my favorites, are both tempting) so I'm going to do make spiced nuts and also buy some June Taylor jam and get some croissants from the bakery to go with it, for their breakfast on Sunday. http://www.junetaylorjams.com/index.htm

                                1. You could always check your local farmer's market for homemade jellies, sauces or chow chow, then bring bread or pound cake along. You could buy some fancy butter, or make some herb butter or cinn/sugar butter.
                                  A standard hostess gift for me, is a cute olive dish loaded and ready to serve, deviled eggs with a deviled egg tray or the Riedel Stemless glasses.

                                  Dessert wine is always a good choice with a box of dark chocolate. Moscato di Asti is a sweeter, light sparkling from Italy. Perfect for dessert.