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ideas for non-chocolate, non-wine, non-floral hostess gifts?

Trying to think of something new. Have brought quality spices and nice soaps in the past, but I'm not always sure they've been appreciated. But then again, that's the nature of gift giving, sometimes;)

I'm thinking about bring dried fruit & nuts to the next dinner party, but need some new ideas.

What do you like to bring?

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  1. guest towels, coasters, candy dish

    1. I recently gave someone a box of Bequet caramels. They were a HUGE hit!

      http://www.bequetconfections.com/

      1. I have a friend that if she is bringing something to the dinner, she will buy a new serving dish and give that as the hostess gift. I've always enjoyed receiving them.

        1. Picture frames. I've given and received them and they're always appreciated. My sis is very talented and sews. She often gives hand made kitchen towels or napkins and those are a big hit. Sometimes she'll tie the towel around a set of wood spoons or a whisk and give that.

          1. We usually give a small bottle of a nice olive oil. Useful, but doesn't require immediate attention.

            2 Replies
            1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

              along the same lines - small bottle of really good aged balsamic vinegar. It's the kind of thing that people won't necessarily buy for themselves but they really enjoy receiving.

              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                I love that idea. Come to my next dinner party!

              2. Some great muffins and and unusually flavored jam for next day's breakfast? A great (again, unusual flavor) balsamic vinaigrette or olive oil? Check out your local farmer's market or boutique market, you're bound to find something.

                1 Reply
                1. re: rednails

                  I like doing a nice little basket of nut butters (peanut, cashew, almond, or the like), some jams/preserves/marmalades, and some fruit butter (apple, pumpkin etc.).

                  I've also done pretty layered cookie/cake mixes in a glass jar, sealed and tied with ribbon and a card with instructions for adding egg and butter to bake off.

                  And sometimes I'll do a themed basket such as a Southern Hot - favorite chili mix, a favorite cornbread mix, some hot sauce, etc. or Chocolate - truffles, brownies, chocolate covered espresso beans, cocoa powder, etc.

                2. How about a cookbook?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: susan1353

                    Now that's a really good idea! Assuming you know the hostess' preferences and what she already has. Perhaps something hard to find, or specific to the host's area, not available locally, would be appreciated.

                    1. re: susan1353

                      there was a thread on CH a little while back about gifting with cookbooks and how the host was highly offended .

                      1. re: im_nomad

                        Interesting. I've always liked receiving cookbooks as gifts- they're usually books that I wouldn't have bought for myself.

                        1. re: phoenikia

                          I love cookbooks as well, and wouldn't at all be offended, hence my suggestion. Perhaps something small and specific to a different cuisine, so that there's no implication that the host/ess needs to learn how to cook!

                    2. I like the nice olive oil/vinegar idea. Another nice item is a beautiful artisnal honey. I shy away from something they would feel obliged to put out or display. As mentioned previously, a basket of scones or muffins for them to enjoy the next day is a great idea. I also think champagne is a great gift. It is always good to have on hand for a sudden celebration.

                      1. A colorful bouquet of le Crueset silicone spatulas?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Scrapironchef

                          There's an idea I love !!! Can you have too many spatulas ?

                          1. re: im_nomad

                            Spatula City, visit today!

                          2. re: Scrapironchef

                            I totally love this idea (and hope your head is feeling much better!)! You can NEVER have too many spatulas.

                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              I really like it also --- but only for cooks.

                          3. I love spoons of all kinds and I'm a big fan of the WMF brand stainless. I like having a cool little WMF item on hand, such as the stainless drinking straws with a spoon-like scoop at the end . Amazing for ice coffees and such. A cool bottle opener. Ice cream spoons.

                            1. thanks for all these amazing ideas!

                              1. Who are you people!?!? We never get hostess gifts like the ones are you mentioning! Heck it's rare to even get a hostess gift. Your friends are lucky!

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Rick

                                  Must be a Big City Thang. ;-) I've hardly ever seen the custom in practice. My experience has been that the "hostess gifts" are reserved for BIG deals (like being invited to stay at someone's beach cottage as a guest) and the only "gift" expected at a dinner party is a happy affect, a hearty appetite, and a reciprocal invitation.

                                  1. re: Beckyleach

                                    I agree. A hostess gift is given to someone who is hosting you overnight or longer. A dinner guest, IMO is obliged to bring a congenial attitude and to reciprocate the invitation. Nothing else is necessary. If you wish to bring something, however, bring something that doesn't require the host to scramble to accommodate your gift.

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      I would not bring something BIG to a dinner party. I usually bring a bottle of wine, or a box of candy, but for a weekend or something, I tend to bring really nice gifts. (I want to be invited back!)

                                    2. re: Beckyleach

                                      Maybe it's a European thing, but showing up for dinner without a bottle of wine or flowers or some little thing just seems wrong to me. I don't think a big host(ess) gift is necessary, but to show up completely empty-handed (even if you do plan on returning the invitation) .....I just couldn't do it.

                                      1. re: Beckyleach

                                        nah...I'm from the sticks and I don't show up to a party without a token for the hostess. Now, I'm not going to be buying something major, but a bottle of wine, a basket of apples, a little plant...I think you need something to hand over at the door.

                                        regardless...I agree that lots of people don't do it...but lots of people don't do thank you notes for dinner either.

                                      2. re: Rick

                                        yes, some of these "hostess gifts" look like one is "paying" for the dinner. ;-)).

                                        we will typically ask our hosts if they'd like us to bring some wine, for a dinner.

                                        for a special friend, we might take a crystal-topped wine stopper as a gift-y kind of thing for a holiday party. i'll also take a large can of our favorite fried virginia peanuts, "golden gourmets" from the peanut roaster company, wrapped in that colored clear plastic wrap you get at michael's craft store. http://www.peanut.com/productlist.asp...

                                        for weekend visits or the like, i usually take a yankee candle housewarmer candle (when i know they like candles). also, we'll pick up some wine and cheese and/or breakfast croissants, strudels and a pound of good coffee. if we go out to dinner, we'll pick up the tab.

                                        i always write thank you notes for dinner parties and gifts. must be a lost art.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          I was starting to wonder if I was the only one who thought gifts like these were over the top for a dinner. Typically among my friends we offer to bring a component of the meal-- say desert or appetizers. If that's refused, then a bottle of wine will likely come along. But honestly I don't expect *anything* other than their company. And lordy what would I do with more than one crystal candy bowl or multiple sets of hostess napkins or coasters? I still have plenty of holiday napkins from my sunday school students for Christmas gifts years ago!

                                          1. re: DGresh

                                            to me, an expensive dinner "hostess" gift is -- in a way -- a bit show-off-y, and i don't want my hostess to feel uncomfortable.

                                            i don't want to start any big discussion about this, but i just think it is a bit excessive.

                                            (just thought of another nice little gift: those trader joe's french truffles).

                                            in the years i've made jalapeño jelly, i'll give that. btw, it's really easy to make and very pretty for the holidays. i think everyone loves it -- whether as a meat glaze, or on cream cheese and crackers, or in a baked stuffed brie.

                                            1. re: alkapal

                                              It might be a regional thing, or maybe it just depends on the circle. Or maybe it's cultural.

                                              I have noticed my Greek Canadian, Italian Canadian, Jewish and Chinese Canadian friends are much more likely to bring generous hostess gifts than some of my Canadian friends from other ethnic/cultural backgrounds. Not naming the other backgrounds because I don't want to start up any negative stereotyping on this thread.

                                              Getting invited to someone's house for a meal is relatively rare in my circle- so I guess people want to be generous when a hostess is taking the effort to invite guests into her house.

                                              I recently was at a brunch, and I had asked the hostess if I could bring anything, and she said no. So I didn't bring anything. The other 6 guests each brought something ( 2 brought pastries for the group, and the others brought gift bags for the hostess to enjoy later), and I ended up feeling cheap for showing up empty handed.

                                              I'm just talking about something in the $15-$40 range, depending on the type of party. I don't think that's show-offy if the hostess is spending $30-$75 pp, once you add everything up, plus the added effort of planning everything and cleaning up afterwards.

                                      3. A bottle of great olive oil or vinegar (or both, if you want to be really nice).

                                        1. Some specialty salts? Here's a nice gift assortment:

                                          http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/s...

                                          1. for cooks and bakers: non-refrigerated pantry staples--homemade jellies or pickles, nice single-source honey, good maple syrup, homemade vanilla extract in dark rum, heirloom tomatoes, nice sea salt, hand-harvested wild rice, a pound of dh's bbq rub, etc. dh has become notorious for showing up to a party with a pound of high-end bacon, this is a nice thing because you can just tuck it away in the freezer and have it for breakfast the next day or the next week.

                                            for non-food-type people a bottle of booze.

                                            i like the op's idea of dried fruit and nuts. i'd like to get that as a gift.

                                            for people i know really really well i sometimes bring something really specialized, gadget-wise, that i know they'll use until they die. we brought a stainless steel funnel as a gift recently to friends who do a lot of home brewing and they just loved it, apparently they use it regularly. sometimes you just refuse to spring for a $15 funnel for yourself but it's awesome to get it as a gift from a friend, and they'll think of you each time they use it.

                                            1. If it's a party I like to take a box of breakfast pastry for Sunday (or whatever next) morning's breakfast on the theory that all recent culinary activity has been party-centered and the hosts will welcome something nice for breakfast as they relax over coffee and re-hash the party. But label it clearly so the hostess won't mistakenly add it to the party grub.

                                              1. I have gotten, and appreciated, those little wine charms you put around the glasses so you can tell them apart. They come in seasonal themes, and are really cute.

                                                1. Lots of good ideas already.

                                                  Also--Good quality coffee. For more of a theme gift, a nice travel mug could round it out.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: rweater

                                                    nice idea!

                                                  2. I agree with the coffee or tea idea. Friends dropped by with Pumpkin Spice coffee the other day and I was really touched by their thoughtfulness. Something super special can be affordable, personal and smaller than a bread box.

                                                    1. Three pretty dish towels, tied together with a ribbon.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                        subtle message: "hey lady, clean up!"

                                                        <JUST kidding, cindy!>

                                                      2. I've enjoyed receiving funny cocktail napkins...here are some good ones! The "wiener" ones are especially humorous. :)
                                                        http://www.floridakeysstore.net/cona....

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: kattyeyes

                                                          I was about to say cocktail napkins too You can find such nice ones in museum shops or stationery stores. These are the kinds of things I never seem to have enough of, and I would think most people who entertain a lot can really use them.

                                                          1. re: Catherine C in NYC

                                                            that makes me think of giving cute little note cards with a pretty writing pen -- maybe as part of a little hostess gift basket for a weekend visit.