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Hostess Gift for Thanksgiving day

For reasons too long to explain, my son and I will be going to a complete stranger's house for Tday dinner. I volunteered to bring something and the response was dessert. I'll probably make a pumpkin pie (unless that is delegated to someone else) and other homemade goodies. But I need to bring the right host/hostess gift for people I don't know anything about.
My default gift is usually wine but that seems...I dunno, ordinary and I don't know if they drink or not or what they like if they do. So, I think wine is out. Something for the home is out too, and I don't want to bring flowers (would need attention when we arrive) or a potted plant (too easy).

I DO have a bottle of chocolate balsamic vinegar and a bag of artisanal chocolate pasta I was going to give as a holiday gift to someone else (which I can easily purchase again if need be). Does that combo seem too much or too weird? Too juvenile? Again, I don't know anything about these people, have no idea what their culinary choices/capabilities are other than they are doing Tday dinner. I have 2 recipes I can include in the gift bag. I made a chocolate pasta dessert for a dinner a few months ago and it went over OK but I had a lot left-over.

I do know the hostess' sister (she invited us) but don't want to pump her for info about her sister. I do want to show we are grateful to be included in their gathering without overdoing it. Oh, and I'm traveling to my son the day before Tgiving.

Thoughts, other suggestions? Many thanks and an early Happy Thanksgiving to all.

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  1. Wine is perfect. That's why you think it is ordinary, because it is the perfect gift to take. If they don't drink it, they can always cook with it. Just make sure it is a decent bottle.

    3 Replies
    1. re: wadejay26

      I have access to alot of (free) decent wine. The hostess's sister is aware of that too...I think. It just would be too easy for me.

      Thanks for the response.

      1. re: wadejay26

        I 100% disagree. If they don't drink they most likely don't use it in cooking either.

        1. re: laliz

          Not true at all. I don't drink wine, but cook with it all the time.

      2. I got a nice gift bag full of good preserves one year when hosting: some sweet, some savory. Since they asked you to bring dessert, they're probably not a sugar-free household. Maybe a good currant jelly, a strawberry rhubarb preserve, a mango chutney, and a pepper relish, or any sweet/savory combo you can think of. Travels well, too. Just my two cents.

        That said, wine is a great gift too...a good pinot grigio or a good merlot is always welcome.

        1 Reply
        1. re: pinehurst

          Normally I'd agree with this but I've got a fridge and cabinet full of preserves, jams, jellies I haven't used. Got maybe two as gifts, bought the rest. I'll never use them all in my lifetime. It seems to me that I could buy something that will end up in their cabinet for a lifetime...or not.

          Ironically I was just looking at Linn's online catalog to see what they have but don't think I'd get anything on time for Tgiving.

          Will have to give this some thought. Thanks for the reply.

        2. Maybe an excellent bottle of olive oil and balsamic? It has the advantage of mass appeal (among salad eaters, at least), yet it's such a treat when someone else gives your pantry a big oil and vinegar upgrade. While the chocolate balsamic and pasta sound cool, I'd say it's a little high-risk for people you don't know. I also like the idea of preserves which someone mentioned. If they're very high quality, they will appeal to foodies and pb&j lovers alike. And, worst case, they make a very nice re-gifted hostess gift. A nice wine sounds good too.

          2 Replies
          1. re: MiriamWoodstock

            Since I've already got the balsamic, what would you recommend as an olive oil (unless you think the chocolate balsamic is too strange)? I actually got both the balsamic and pasta at a store that specializes in OO.

            Thanks for the reply.

            1. re: alwayshungrygal

              I think the olive oil flavors you mentioned below sound great. I think a plain one is great, too. (Plain is what I had in mind when I suggested it.) The chocolate vinegar is a little more of a risk, in my opinion, but that makes it somewhat more fun, too -- your call!

          2. I was just thinking how much I appreciated a bottle of very good blood orange infused olive oil that I received last year as a Christmas gift from someone I knew only slightly. It's the kind of thing that is easy to use if you are an avid cook, but also can just make an easy salad dressing or drizzle. Another nice household gift that I gave my husband a few years ago is a soft throw blanket, this one is embroidered with the name of the area where we live. It was not too expensive, is super soft, and is just great for watching tv on chilly winter nights.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Kathleen M

              I like the idea of a specialty OO (see my response above). I would love to find recipes that would incorporate it. Do you have any recipes for the one you got?

              A blanket wouldn't work (tho I love the idea) as we'll be in Southern California. Not much use for it there, not too many chilly nights there. When I lived there (for 7 years) I didn't need a winter coat. Now in the Bay Area, I've got blankets all around the house, in the car and have more than one winter coat.

              Thanks for the response.

              1. re: alwayshungrygal

                hmmmm. I live in Southern California and cover with a light blanket in my chair every evening.

            2. how about making something for her? i know you're already bringing dessert for dinner, but as a frequent hostess i can tell you that it's very much appreciated when someone clearly makes an effort, even if it's simple.

              if she's expecting a large crowd for dinner she may not want to have to deal with breakfast/brunch the next day...so why not buy a lovely basket and fill it with an assortment of goodies (you can combine store-bought and homemade items). i'm thinking granola, quick breads (muffins, scones, fruited loaves), jams/preserves...or you can go more savory with bagels or bialys, bagel chips, spreads, unusual nut butter, trail mix or spiced nuts...

              just a thought.

              1. Since you were asked to bring dessert, I would ask the sister if the hostess had a favorite cookie(don't think this would be considered pumping her for info). Make a dessert for T Day and a tin of cookies w/ a pretty ribbon for "later". A pretty scented candle is a safe choice for a stranger and although technically for the home, it isn't in the same category as a decorative vase or a set of dish towels.

                2 Replies
                1. re: sherriberry

                  I was thinking about bringing a tin of cookies (an easy one that I make all the time, and just made for a dinner last week where the hostess's sister and family came). I guess "pump" is the wrong word, I just don't want to pester the sister about what to bring as she'll surely say "oh please don't bother" but I DO want to bother. I kind of like the surprise factor of something different and unusual but of course that runs the risk of "different, weird and unusable."

                  I hope I'm not overthinking this......I tend to do that sometimes.

                  Thanks for the reply.

                  1. re: alwayshungrygal

                    I am saying kindly that you may be overthinking this so I would vote for the sending a gift later if that is within your budget. Spending time with this family in their own home should certainly give you an idea what they would like...and if you can come up with nothing else, flowers always say "thank you" in a big way......and you'll know what colors they like!

                2. This is where I got the balsamic vinegar and pasta. They have alot of flavored EVOO but I think one of these flavors might work best--basil, blood orange, chipotle, meyer lemon. Any thoughts about them?



                  1 Reply
                  1. re: alwayshungrygal

                    Meyer lemon would be nice, as lemon is versatile, can be used to cook/dress vegetables, on salad, with pasta, etc., and is pretty universally liked. I definitely wouldn't get chipotle if you don't know whether they enjoy spicy foods.

                  2. I've brought artisan baked rolls for those turkey sandwiches later that are a huge hit..
                    Mayo and kettle chips too.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      Flowers! I'm always delighted when guests bring flowers. Pick some up to take with you or have some sent to arrive the day before (proflowers.com is reliable, reasonable, has good internet coupons and is my go to source).

                    2. Why not wait until after the dinner. See what the household needs/uses/avoids, and then act. Who knows about things like flower allergies, food intolerance? and such? Doing it afterwards is rather an old-fashioned idea but I think it indicates "I had such a good time I'm still thinking about it."

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: lemons

                        If you go this route, one idea is something like Harry and David for a box of succulent fruit. I wouldn't do this right beforehand because they will preparing so much food, and the fruit could go to waste (and they'd feel like they have to serve it, perhaps), but afterwards could be good timing.

                      2. Whynot see if ther family includes a pet. If so s gift for Fluffy or Fido would be quite welcome and a bit differant.

                        1. Thanks for all the responses. Lots of great ideas! I understand the idea of sending something afterward but the last time I did that, I felt guilty for showing up empty handed (even tho I'd brought a dish for dinner---semi pot luck) and swore I'd never do that again.

                          I actually stopped in at TJ Maxx on the way home from work tonight (intending to clothes shop) and of course ended up in the gourmet section, where I've had luck before. Lady Luck definitely smiled on me tonight as I found flavored chocolate coffee spoons which I've been looking for since last winter (I bought 4 boxes). Then I found a sampler box of flavored syrups for coffee. So depending on how much time I have next week, I'll either get a nice bottle of olive oil to go with the balsamic vinegar or do the coffee duet.

                          Thanks again for all the responses, I've got a barrel-ful of ideas to keep me going for awhile.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: alwayshungrygal

                            Another place that has premade little gifts that are similar to what you're thinking, is Market 1, they have special coffees and teas. Unusual little biscuits. I have a recipe for the most darling little sugar stars (a sugar cookie that's not too sweet) if you want.

                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              Not familiar with that resource. Is it a bricks/mortar place and where is it located? I'd love to find new resources in So Cal.


                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  My son lives in Valencia but I'd drive as far south as Santa Monica, I guess. I'm very familiar with the San Fernando Valley (from when I lived there) and the Westside of LA. Not as familiar with the east side towns. Easy parking would be helpful if I'm in an unfamiliar area.

                                  I'd love to take a nice, loong drive down the beach towns (Hermosa, Manhattan, Redondo) over the weekend. As long as I have my GPS on I could probably detour somewhere. If I have time I'll hit the Farmers Market but fear it will be a zoo with holiday shoppers. Must get back to Magees for more fresh peanut butter!

                                  I've checked out most of the Valencia area for supermarkets etc. Much better selection than where I am in the Bay Area.

                                  Any suggestions are helpful, thanks!

                                  1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                    you probably already know about the Cheese Store of Silverlake, but just a reminder that it's great for gifts.

                                    and have you ever been to Cube Marketplace on La Brea? the website offers a much more extensive selection, but it's still worth stopping in:

                                    my favorite specialty nut butter purveyor from San Diego opened a small Hollywood outpost earlier this year. their stuff is *dangerously* good. the shop is at 7350 Melrose Ave, Hollywood, CA 90048, and here's the company's online catalog:

                                    there are also some terrific chocolatiers around town, including L'Artisan du Chocolat in Silverlake and Compartes in Brentwood.

                                    hope that helps!

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      All of these are great suggestions! I'm not familiar with any of them as I've only been an occasional visitor back to LA since I left in 1984 (my son just moved this past summer). I MUST get to Cube, I'm drooling over their menu!


                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        The nut butter's from spreadtherestaurant just made Oprah's O' list of holiday gifts... they look divine!

                            2. I personally love gifts the giver made. Pickles, vinegar, jam, you name it. Recently got spicy pickled veggies, loved it. I found a cookie recipe that sounded outstanding. Triple chocolate cookies. A tin of these or homemade candy/fudge/pralines,just to name a few would be beautiful. Thoughtful and tasty gift from the heart for them to snack on later.

                              1. Two things: 1) When I am hostess I do not like to get cut flowers as a gift because I am already busy enough without having to stop and find a vase and arrange flowers just as guests are arriving and I am am getting ready to serve. 2) A gift I like to take is a box of fancy breakfast pastry, specifying that this is FOR TOMORROW MORNING. All domestic effort will have gone into the dinner or party and tomorrow when the hosts are knocked out they will welcome a leisurely breakfast with something nice to have with coffee.

                                2 Replies
                                  1. re: Querencia

                                    +2 - that is exactly the gift I was thinking of as I scrolled through this post - breakfast pasteries or really good English muffins maybe a spread or two.