Heading to someone’s house for dinner or (lucky!) the entire weekend? Surprise and delight your host with one of these easy gifts you can make or buy…
1. Soap Dish, $38.
This soap dish is the kind of thing I’d covet, but never buy for myself. Which is of course, why it’s a perfect gift. (I just got one for my design-y friend who has everything.)
2. Luna Blanket, $84.
How beautiful would this blanket be on a bed or on the grass for a summer picnic? The designer collaborates with traditional textile artisans in Mexico, and her mother makes the leather handles.
3. Cheese Selection, $30-35.
When a close friend inevitably asks “What can I bring?” in response to a dinner invitation, sometimes I’ll reply with a link to Murray’s Cheese. It’s one less thing for me to think about when pulling dinner together and I know she’s grateful to have specific marching orders. Try the Burrata Lovers Collection or Grafton Mini Sampler.
4. A Filled Tote, $25.
Make these sweet bags even sweeter by filling them with cookies or beach reads or cheese or toys or everything you need to make a special cocktail.
5. Next-Day Breakfast Treat
When I’m having people over for dinner, I think it’s so thoughtful when people bring me something I can enjoy for breakfast the next morning. It doesn’t have to be homemade, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. One solid option: Smitten Kitchen’s Perfect Blueberry Muffins. I love her ratio of berries to muffin — heavy on the berries — and the turbinado-sugar crunch on top is, yes, perfect.
6. Hi-Qual Cold Brew, $15.
There is always a stash of these Grady’s cold-brew tins in our pantry — to give and also to make for myself. I love Grady’s subtle chicory flavor and how easy it is to make — you just throw a coffee “pouch” into a pitcher with water and refrigerate the whole thing overnight. Each tin comes with four pouches and each pouch yields 3 to 4 cups of cold brew. Your host will appreciate that, especially after doing the math against her $4 ice coffee from the place around the corner.
7. Kid Games, $15-$20.
Surefire strategy for being invited back as a house guest? Bring something for the hosts’ kids that keeps them busy (and screen-free) for a good chunk of the afternoon: An activity book like Papertoy Monsters (ages 6-10) is a guaranteed hit; and how adorable are these little puzzles? Choose from foods like pizza, cereal, papaya and broccoli. Ok, maybe not broccoli.
8 & 9. Kitchen Accessories, $19-$40.
Pretty things are always appreciated, but pretty and useful? That’s the winning formula, and virtually anything from Fog Linen fits the bill. We like the elegant oven mitten and any one of the linen-coated trays, which seem tailor made to carry an alfresco lunch out to the sun-dappled patio.
10. A Favorite Cookbook, $11-$20.
Virtually anything you bake from Odette Williams’s Simple Cake will be a worthy host gift. (Chocolate Madeleines? Cinnamon Donut Spiced Cake?) Up the ante by wrapping up your baked good with a copy of the cookbook itself. Also recommended: Sarah Copeland’s soon-to-be-published Every Day is Saturday, which oozes the vibe everyone wants on a weekend: sunny, indulgent, warm, happy.
11. Aesop Hand Wash, $39.
Yes, we know we’ve mentioned this before, and we know it’s on the pricey end, but this woodsy, citrusy hand soap smells incredible and lasts forever, so we can’t mention it enough.
Of course, fresh cut flowers are always going to be welcome, but I’m also a big fan of plants that require very little from the dinner party host in terms of care (no unwrapping, finding a vase, and even future watering responsibilities are slim!). Enter succulents, which are so popular now you can find them at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and even local supermarkets.
13. Herb-Infused Simple Syrup
Simple syrup is one of those things that you don’t realize you need until you have a beautiful little glass jar of it in your refrigerator. True to its name, it’s incredibly simple to make — combine one part sugar to one part water (plus optional herb or aromatic); boil until sugar dissolves, then chill. (Here are some variations.) My friend Simone once brought me a stash of simple syrup infused with lavender, which we proceeded to add to our gin and tonics — wowowow.
14. Farm Market Finds
The best place for me to find a dinner host gift that is one-of-a-kind is at our local farmer’s market: a dozen eggs from a farm in the Catskills; a slab of thick-cut smoky bacon from upstate; foraged morels from the Hudson Valley guy who supplies restaurants in Manhattan? Just tie a ribbon around whatever it is, and you’re set.
Have you given or received an especially thoughtful host gift lately?
(Photo illustration by Maud Passini.)