By Marsha Fottler.
It’s official, we’re now entering high season for holiday home entertaining. That means you need to stock up on reliable hostess gifts – those small but welcome treasures that you hand over to your hostess upon arriving for a dinner party.
Three rules for selecting and giving a hostess gift: It should be simple, the presentation should have a wow factor, and it should never disrupt the rhythm of the unfolding evening.
Don’t show up with a bouquet of loose flowers. Your host has to stop, find a vase and put the flowers somewhere to display. Not good. If you bring flowers, they should be in an arrangement or they should be cut flowers in a vase you don’t want back. If the event is quite chi-chi you might want to call a florist and have a tasteful and small arrangement delivered the day before the party. When in doubt about color, select an arrangement made up entirely white, cream and palest apricot colored flowers. Goes with anything.
I like candles. Two high-quality white or ivory unscented tapers wrapped in tissue paper and tied with grosgrain ribbon make a sophisticated and thoughtful token. To make the gift more impressive put the candles in a decorative bag and include a lovely box of matches. A scented pillar candle is fine and so are candles in ornamental glass cups. Some of these come festively boxed so don’t have to do anything except hand them over when entering your host’s dwelling. You can do this for between $5-10, less if you shop the discount stores and put these things aside when you come across great deals.
Another appropriate gift is a pot of fresh herbs. Basil, rosemary, mint, cilantro all work fine. Repot the herb in a clay pot and tie with a ribbon. The ribbon is optional. The cost is under $5.
No hostess turns her nose up at a set of new dish towels. The Williams-Sonoma package of four is reliable, reasonably priced (about $16) and of good quality. Get white. Put them in a decorative bag with tissue and be
assured you’ve done the right thing. If you know your hostess well, a small kitchen gadget such as a bone caviar spoon is an elegant choice and lots more useful than you think since you can use it for jelly, mustard and other condiments on a buffet table. And it looks so classy. You can find one for under $20.
Seasonal fragrant potpourri is agreeable. Most brands come already packaged in clear plastic or in a box with a bow. Put in a tissue-lined gift bag and you’re set to go for about $12.
It’s acceptable to give a doggie toy as a hostess/host gift to passionate pet owners, but not food treats because you can never be sure what dietary restrictions apply to pooch.
A bottle of wine is acceptable but kind of of a dull choice. Instead, bring a bottle of champagne, port or a dessert wine. I like my bachelor friend Bob’s idea. He always presents a bottle of Grey Goose vodka to his hosts. The brand has chic cache and almost everyone wants an extra bottle for the bar. Personally, I say the same about Godiva Chocolate Liqueur. The bottle is stylish and the contents absolutely yummy. I get a lot of sincere smiles when I turn up with this hostess gift.
A final reminder – include with your gift a tag or note with your name. There is nothing more frustrating for a host than spending the morning after the party trying to remember who brought what.
Flavors and More Magazine – November 2009